If you are looking to address long-standing patterns in your behaviour, the answer is yes, more often than not. If you have been doing well for most of your life, and have developed anxiety or mood issues in response to a recent triggering event, than not necessarily.
The majority of clients I see fall into the former category. They sometimes ask - why do we need to talk about the past, if what is bothering me is about the present? That is a very good question, and sometimes it’s hard to see the connection between past events and present responses as it is often outside of our awareness.
Our brains, while often very active, also use shortcuts. The way our memory works is contextual. That is, when we are in any given situation, we tend to respond to it based on our prior experiences. We also tend to filter through the information we are exposed to, and generally interpret it to fit with our prior beliefs.
If I believe that I am worthless, or unlovable, I am going to look at the world through that lens, and keep finding what I see as "evidence" to confirm those beliefs. This is going to perpetuate my difficulties in relationships with others and myself.
To make things even more complex, as an adult you may rationally understand that you are not worthless, however you still feel that way inside. That is because our memories are not just cognitive, they have emotional and somatic components.
Now if we ask where and how did I learn that about myself? When was the first time I felt worthless or insignificant? How do I feel in my body when I am thinking this? Then most likely you will be taken back to your childhood experiences, that formed the foundation of this learning about yourself, that is, of course, untrue.
Unfortunately, as children we have so little control of the world around us, that one way to feel a little bit more in control is to internalise. If the adults are treating me this way, there must be something wrong with me. And if I figure out what it is, I can change, and they will love me.
With therapy, including EMDR therapy, we can start looking at the origins of those core beliefs, and help you process the underlying memories beyond the cognitive level. Then you can not just know that you are worthy and loveable, but feel it too.
So yes, we often do need to talk about your childhood and your parents, not to place blame, but to correct those faulty early learning experiences, so that they don’t distort your experience of the present.
One of the most frequently asked questions during EMDR sessions is "Am I Doing It Right?". In this post I would like to offer reassurance and clarify expectations around "what is supposed to happen" during EMDR processing.
The short answer is - there is no wrong way to process a memory or a painful experience. There is also no one particular way in which the processing happens for everyone. Your experience is your experience, and that it OK.
However, since EMDR is quite different from traditional talk therapy, it requires an adjustment in our expectations. The idea behind EMDR is that it activates and accelerates new learning on a neurological level. The main requirement for this process to happen is to trust your brain to do the processing, which can mean stepping back and letting go.
During the processing phase (when we use bilateral stimulation, such as eye moments, to target a memory) you can feel that the memory is close, or more distant. Other memories often emerge, that are likely to be connected to the same neural network. There may be sets where you are more aware of the feelings in your body, there may be sets where you are more aware of your thoughts. Whatever is coming up, I will help guide you through it, and support you in your learning style.