In our experience, with clients and in life, anxiety is almost always at some level a learned behaviour, even when – like the gnarled and tide-beaten tree trunk captured above at Bruce Bay in New Zealand’s South Island – it can feel at times completely embedded and stuck.
That’s why when supporting people who struggle with persistent, sometimes free-floating anxiety that won’t go away, we approach it together rather as we might tackle the impact of trauma, using EMDR as a tool to work down into the roots of experiences, usually in childhood, when you first began to respond to the world in this way.
It might be something you remember easily, and relatively straightforward to deal with.
Indeed, with some in the acting profession, we’ve found that moderate stage nerves can on occasion be shifted in just a few sessions.
Sometimes, though, the roots take us back to events only half-remembered, if at all, and not previously understood for the impact they had.
Think of persistent anxiety – rather like depression – as the body’s and psyche’s voiceless way of signalling that they’re in distress and want attention and help.
If you give the anxiety the respect for which it longs, and as you would with a distressed child listen to what the symptoms are saying, then things can begin to shift.
Using EMDR – cautiously, gently and with consistent attention to your emotional safety-in-the-moment – we identify what we call the key- or touchstone memories that allow us to track back to the causes of this wounding.
Then, as we in effect clean out the old emotional injury, the body can begin to bring its natural healing capacity into play and carry you forward, sometimes through transient but old pain and emotional turbulence, to a place of balance and self-acceptance.