EMDR For the Highly Sensitive Person: A Path to Healing 

Written by Rachel H.

March 18, 2024

If one more person tells you to “just stop overthinking things” and “calm down,” you might lose it (although, to be fair, “losing it” tends to be more of an internal temper tantrum for you). It’s not that you don’t want to feel calm and stop overanalyzing everything. You fantasize daily about being the kind of person who can let things just roll off their shoulders and get on with their life. 

Instead, you spend much of your time painstakingly reviewing that awkward conversation with your coworker or beating yourself up for turning down the invitation to your kind-of-friend’s birthday party. Everyone else seems to be able to handle social interactions smoothly and keep up with the frenetic pace of life, so the problem must be you. 

This nagging sense of feeling like you just don’t quite fit in anywhere, the feeling of being “too much” and “not enough” at the same time are humming along pretty much constantly in the background of your life’s soundtrack. 

At times, the volume on this channel of “not enough/too much-ness” gets turned up to 11 and stops you in your tracks, sending you into a shame spiral that no amount of Brene Brown youtube videos can save you from.

What if there was a way to turn down the volume? To access and strengthen a new soundtrack of self-acceptance, compassion, calm and confidence?

EMDR therapy for HSP’s in Philadelphia can help.

Highly sensitive people (HSPs) have the innate traits of heightened awareness of their surroundings and emotions. Chances are that your sensitivity has not always, if ever, been celebrated. Early life experiences of invalidation and mis-attunement can leave HSPs more vulnerable to stress, anxiety, and trauma.

Fortunately, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy offers a powerful tool for healing and empowerment. 

Using bilateral stimulation (alternately stimulating the left and right hemispheres of your brain via eye movements, tapping or auditory stimulation), which mimics what happens in REM sleep, EMDR taps into the emotional centers of the brain to help reprocess and integrate distressing memories and experiences.

EMDR therapy for HSP’s might be a powerful modality for you if:

Talk therapy has only gotten you so far

Don’t get me wrong. Talk therapy can be super helpful for unpacking your history and coming to a better understanding of how your life experiences have impacted you. Even if you’re going to EMDR therapy, there is likely going to be a certain amount of talking as you share your understanding of what’s happening and begin to build a trusting relationship with your therapist.

The problem is that talk therapy primarily works with our prefrontal cortex, or “thinking brain.” As an HSP you are already gifted in your ability to analyze, make connections and find meaning in experiences. EMDR can help you access the part of your brain that holds the felt experiences that have gotten “stuck” in the body without overwhelm or overstimulation.

You want to take a gentle yet effective approach to healing trauma

Contrary to what you might have heard, EMDR therapy is about so much more than focusing on painful life experiences. The bilateral stimulation can just as powerfully strengthen positive resources as it can reduce the charge of traumatic memories.

Your EMDR therapist will work with you to tailor the treatment to a pace that fits your nervous system, assuring that you have the tools to come back to a place that feels tolerable if you do ever feel flooded by intense emotions and body sensations.

I’ve also found that integrating Internal Family Systems (IFS) into EMDR treatment helps folks access qualities like self-compassion, calm and curiosity. When we do this, it can make it easier to stay present with what’s painful and bring about powerful healing. We can’t change the past, but we can change how it’s stored in our brains and bodies in the present. 

You’re ready to reclaim your sensitivity as a strength

Perhaps you already have some awareness of how your sensitivity is a strength: your increased capacity for empathizing with others, expansive creativity and heightened intuition, to name a few. However, I don’t know many HSPs who make it through life, and especially their childhood, unimpacted by the harshness and mis-attunement of certain environments, relationships and experiences. 

EMDR can help you fully acknowledge, witness and grieve all the ways that you’ve been misunderstood and not seen by others. It can also help you gain the clarity and confidence you need to feel empowered in your present day to actively seek out the people, places and things that align with your heightened sensitivity, and to let go of those that don’t. 

Ready to see if EMDR therapy for HSPs in Philadelphia might be a good fit for you? Reach out to schedule a free consultation with Rachel today.

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