What Do EMDR, Running, and Drumming Have in Common?

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• September 1, 2015 By Lisa Danylchuk, EdM, LMFT, E-RYT, Topic Expert

Nope, this isn’t a strange riddle where someone is found in the desert in a scuba suit. The answer to the question posed above is actually pretty simple: brain integration.

What is that? Excellent question; I am glad you asked. As you may know, we have two hemispheres of the brain. Neuroscience is a relatively young field, and we are continuing to learn more about the complexity of the brain and its function with time and as research evolves. We do know that there are different roles played by different sides and areas of the brain, and that integrating neural networks appears to be helpful in resolving traumatic memories.

The success of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) in treating trauma and mental health challenges teaches us that alternating right- and left-brain stimulation, via visual, auditory, or tactile experience, helps facilitate emotional processing. Through the simple act of holding something that buzzes between your right and left hand, or listening to something shifting from your right to left ear, a memory that was once charged with emotion can become less distressing. During the process, it is common for relevant associations to arise, for memories of thoughts and body sensations to arise. With support, this process can facilitate lasting and integrated healing.

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Right-left brain stimulation may sound like a scary, science fiction-like process, but I assure you there is no electricity involved in this type of therapy. Your body receives input in the form of sound, touch, or sight, without any added energy.

Along with helping us process emotions, EMDR can help build up positive memories, experience, thoughts, and feelings. We call this resourcing, and use imagined or real resources to cultivate feelings of peace, nurturing, protection, and wisdom. In addition to and as part of processing negative experiences, it is crucial to cultivate the positive, sometimes the opposite of what occurred in the experience of trauma.

Think about your life for a moment and ask yourself: when do I engage in an activity that engages my right and left brain in alternating rhythm? How do I feel before, during, and after the fact? How can I incorporate this information into my healing path?

How do walking, running, and drumming factor in? Think about it for a moment. When you walk, run, or drum, you are using your body in a rhythmic way, alternating the stimulation or use of your right and left brain throughout the activity. Have you ever gone on a hike or run and felt that you were sorting through your thoughts, developing new insights, or becoming less distressed about something? We know that exercise has many benefits; EMDR highlights for us some of the mental and emotional benefits.

There are a million ways to alternate right- and left-brain activation, including dance, yoga, and some tai chi moves. People have naturally gravitated toward right-left movements in many healing rituals across the world. Think of how many sacred rituals involve drums, movement, or voyages on foot. Understanding brain integration, plasticity, and resilience gives us some insight into why these rituals have been effective and why they continue to be passed down through generations.

Think about your life for a moment and ask yourself: when do I engage in an activity that engages my right and left brain in alternating rhythm? How do I feel before, during, and after the fact? How can I incorporate this information into my healing path?

If you are looking to heal from specific traumatic memories, I highly recommend working with a skilled EMDR professional who can provide structure and guide you toward health and resolution. Consider how your own choices outside of therapy can support your process as well. Perhaps you will choose to walk or bike to your therapist’s office this week, or do a little dance after your session. Whatever you choose, may it serve your healing and integration.

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The fog

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We have reached the top of the mountain, and are preparing to walk down again. There is only one problem:  Fog is enveloping the mountain, making it difficult to orient ourselves as we start making our way back. We have to turn around a lot of times, and try new paths. Me and my best friend, do our best. We ask people walking upwards, where they come from and continue optimistically. But still, we get lost. A sign points us in a direction that goes nowhere. Suddenly we are surrounded by threes, and my friend remarks that this is what she loves about walking in the mountain. The unrealistic and somewhat dreamy quality of the landscape. The fog makes it even more beautiful. I nod in agreement. It is truly mesmerizing, and I feel alive even if I am a bit afraid that we won`t find the right path and eventually arrive somewhere far away from where we started walking. We pull out our cellphones, and try to let the GPS point us in the wrong direction. After walking around in a circle and through some muddy waters, we finally find a path. And as if in a miracle, we come down not where we started, but a bit further to the right. As it happens, this is actually closer to where we had parked the car, and we sigh in relief. I tell her, that this was the best thing that could happen: We got lost, but found a new way that was actually better. She tells me it was a great trip. For her, mediation is walking.

It is noticing all the small details around her, and I agree. I have tried Yoga, but somehow it does not appeal to me. I like reading, I like walking and I like having time to think while also doing something else. Some people say that walking in the mountains and listening to music at the same time, is not really relaxing. But who can decide what is relaxation?  People are different and have different needs. After the trip, I felt great. Like some part of me had awoken from a slumber. The fog did not confuse me. It reminded me that being lost means having a opportunity to find new paths. To arrive somewhere we could not imagine before we started. Being shrouded in mysteries, gives us perspective. By feeling confused, our brain have an unique opportunity to look at things a different way.

And we found our way. Just not in the way we imagined.


Protected: Yoga on the mountain 

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The sound of running

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Feet hitting the ground, pummeling forward. Leaving everything else behind. One step closer to the goal. Painful steps, after running for hours. People cheering, urging them on. My camera clicking, freezing moments in time. Their emotions captured forever, no matter how far they run.



Protected: The sound of Walking down memory lane

Protected: The sound of running in my mental maze

The sound of boots made for walking


The sound of skydiving

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I have always wanted to fly. When I was a little girl, I would watch the birds with rapt attention, dreaming about being there with them. Some people are afraid of heights, as I can be. But being up there, so far away from the ground, has always felt safe. Being in a plane, soaring over landscapes, is the most magnificent feeling in the world. Being so high up that the objects underneath you look like miniature figures in a doll-house, reduces the fear . The objects just dont LOOK real, and this feeling of unreality is what makes it safer for me. I like to be in a place where I see everything from a new perspective.

Unfortunately, I have no wings. I have two slightly wobbly legs, trying their best not to stumble, and some flapping arms cushioning the fall when it eventually comes. But still, sometimes it feels like I have wings and that they can take me anywhere.

Today I fulfilled one of my dreams: I got the chance to fly.

I went together with two friends to Voss, a place in Norway where they have a wind tunnel. When we arrived there, my eyes first met the lines of «blowing in the wind» and I immediately knew that I had no reason to be afraid. My anticipatory terror went away like feathers in the wind, and I walked into the building with self-assured steps.


When we came in, a man was in the wind tunnel, and my heart skipped a beat when I saw him disappear up in the wind like he was catapulted upwards. But then he came down, safe and unharmed, and I relaxed. We bought the ticket for the ride, and changed our clothes. I had to wait an hour before I went in, and spent that hour preparing myself. Watching my friends inside, was wonderful. They had done it before, and looked so happy and carefree that I could`t wait to go in there myself. When the instructor had talked with me and the little boy who would go into the tunnel together with me, I was as prepared as I could be.

The experience was wonderful. I just had six minutes, but they were some of the best minutes of my life. At first, I struggled with following the instructions, but when I came in for the second try, my body took over and it really felt like like I was flying. For the first time in my life, I was a bird. My hands and feet were weightless, and the strong wind protected me. I could not fall, as it held my body in a strong embrace that I never wanted to let go off. My body was in free fall, but I felt as safe as never before.

The answer is blowing in the wind


Free as a bird

When we drove home, they convinced me to try skydiving next week. When they said I did not have to fear the free fall, I told them: «I don`t want to call it a free fall. I want to look at it as flying. It is not a fall, it is actually reaching for the sky».

The sound of steps in the snow

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  • I have found a new app that I really liked. It makes what you write, stylish and beautiful, and I am a bit fascinated by feats like that.

    Today has been a mellow, calm day. I woke up at 10.00 after sleeping as many hours, had breakfast and went to swim for half an hour. It was lovely to use energy and feel I got as much as I spent. 


After that I`ve been looking through a book about psychopathy (read all the personal stories, and skimmed through the rest) and preparing my apartment for this evening. Will have some friends over, and hopefully have a good time. I wish you all a good weekend, and will probably post more posts tomorrow. Thought I could check in on what you find interesting on my blog, and what you don`t like so much. I love feedback (like all people do).

you find the app here, if you are curious: