Guest Post By Rebecca Kase, Founder — Kase & CO

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, among many other things, helps high-level athletes and executives break past performance blocks and unlock their true capacity. Like them, you can use this tool to overcome paralyzing indecisiveness, imposter syndrome, and fear of failure. It can enable you to rise above whatever is in your way and achieve your goals.

What is EMDR therapy?

EMDR is a powerful therapy that relies on the nervous system’s innate ability to heal. An EMDR therapist works with the client to identify their specific blocks and uses a researched protocol to target the experience. The client is asked to focus on the images, thoughts, feelings, and sensations that accompany that block while bilateral stimulation is provided. Bilateral stimulation (or BLS) can be provided in the form of eye movements, tapping, or alternating tones and is a way to help the nervous system process information. EMDR treatment is helpful for working through past stressful or traumatic experiences, present-day blocks, and even future anticipatory events. 

While BLS may sound strange, a lot of research supports the use of BLS as a key component for effective EMDR therapy. BLS helps both hemispheres of the brain to integrate information. It also works by taxing working memory, by causing a distraction from the memory or block. This distraction effect results in a distressing memory or anxiety-producing block losing its emotional charge. It’s a highly researched technique that has a big effect on neurobiology.

Why EMDR can help us get out of our heads

Our past experiences can create blocks that get in our way of success. Trauma, embarrassing moments, experiences that felt like “failure,” or receiving harsh criticisms can trip us up. When these past experiences get in our way, we can encounter situations in the present that activate all of that past yuck. We’re giving a presentation at work, and some part of us feels like we’re in middle school again, getting shamed by our teacher for a bad math test. Or we can’t stop thinking we’re going to fail at something because that’s what our parents used to tell us. 

The past influences the present. This is how the nervous system is built and how our memory systems work. If there are past experiences that feel “unresolved,” we can re-experience them in the present through ruminating thoughts, anxiety, overwhelm, catastrophizing, sleep disturbances, panic attacks, and negative self-talk. If you’re a high performer and you feel tripped up by any of these symptoms, EMDR can help you get out of your head and back into the game. 

How mental blocks get in our way

Some common issues people bring to EMDR therapy are performance blocks, fear of failure, doubts about their self-worth, and competition anxiety. These issues can affect anyone, but they especially impact high-performing individuals who must be at their best under pressure.

In business and sports, blocks get in the way of our success. Blocks can be internal, external, or a combination of the two. For example, past traumatic experiences often set up recurring negative memories. If you failed when attempting a goal before, chances are high that you will remember that moment just as you attempt a similar challenge. Just when your mind should be clear and focused, it becomes highjacked by intrusive thoughts that trigger your body’s physical fight or flight symptoms, such as shallow breathing, shaking, and rapid heart rate. 

Whether you’re an athlete or entrepreneur, clearing your mind is the key to being more successful. As a professional, you can use EMDR therapy to address blocks that occur while speaking in front of a crowd, negotiating with clients, or asking for a raise. As an athlete, you can use EMDR therapy to address performance blocks resulting from fear of failure and competition anxiety.

How EMDR can help with professional challenges

When you’re working at your best in any field, your body is relaxed and balanced; you feel confident and capable; your mind is clear of distractions or negativity, and you’re focused on what matters most. This feeling is how you were born to operate, but sometimes work deadlines or the stress of family life get in the way of accessing this state of optimal performance.

Your first step is finding a licensed therapist trained in EMDR. You can easily start this process by contacting your primary care provider or by searching online. Talk to your therapist about your goals and ask whether they have worked with patients experiencing similar blocks.

Together, you’ll determine if EMDR is the right fit and identify the specific memories to target with the EMDR protocol. This life-changing therapy has impacted hundreds of thousands of clients around the world and can be a game-changer for you and your success.