It is in your Eyes – A 21st Century Approach to dissolving Trauma and Emotional Based issues
In my professional career specialising in healing Trauma and Emotion based issues, I had the privilege of helping individuals who had depression, anxiety, been sexually assaulted, experienced marital trauma to even being a witness to murder. As a Neuroscience informed therapist, I understood their struggles and how the brain, or to be more precise, how their Limbic System was trying to ‘protect’ them. With knowledge of how the brain works, I facilitated a 21st century intervention called “Multichannel Eye Movement Integration (MEMI)” which consists of a set of eye movements aimed at calming the Limbic System and recoding the memory correctly. At the end of the Eye Movements, the typical responses were “I feel so calm”, “wow, I feel as if a huge dark cloud has been lifted”, “I feel like I can live again” to “What you did is fantastic – I am so free now.”
Recent brain research has informed many on just how the survival part of the brain- the limbic system response to trauma and/or emotionally based issues. When we are affected by emotions or past trauma memories that appears to be intruding into daily life, the key in recovery lies with the limbic system and not a sign of a psychological weakness. The limbic system is responsible for interpreting emotions, facilitating memory storage, and regulating hormones. Another function of the limbic system is to keep the individual safe- it’s the automatic responses when there is danger. It detects and respond to real or imagine threats to our wellbeing. Basically, the limbic system is responsible for the fight, flight and freeze response.
When an overwhelming emotional charge experience, whether real or imagined is re-experienced and repeatedly relived, the experience is internalised and it creates an automatic respond which is then is encoded in the limbic system (see figure 1)– the part of our in-built, natural innate ability for self-preservation. The parts of the limbic system involved in the threat assessment/self-preservation are the amygdala, thalamus, hippocampus, and hypothalamus. The amygdala’s main purpose is to detect the presence of danger. The amygdala receives input about threats from the thalamus, whose role is to share sensory data as quickly and widely as possible with other parts of the brain. The amygdala sends a message to the hippocampus requesting an immediate assessment of the sensory input’s threat level. The hippocampus plays an important role in memory and learning and is the store house of explicit memories.
From a brain natural processing viewpoint – the hippocampus reviews its collection of items/memories of the same type and responds to the amygdala with a threat assessment. Concurrently, the amygdala reviews its own storage of sensory (implicit) memories and determines whether to trigger the fight or flight response.
The drama is played out in the limbic system – if the fight or flight response is triggered, the amygdala fires the secretion of hormones that stops communications between the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, thus preventing memory development and preventing the logical brain to think and respond objectively. Images in the hippocampus become distorted and no longer panoramic. Basically, the hippocampus encodes a distorted image/explicit memory and sends that signal to the amygdala as a threat. In the words that is used so often in neuroscience, “when you become emotional (activation of the limbic system), you become stupid because you just cannot think”. (Figure 2)
Numerous research findings (see references below) point to the correlation between the reactivity of the limbic system, the physiological arousal (intense fear-anxiety, depressive symptoms, crying, anger) and the and the development of trauma symptoms following a traumatic experience, for example having had an abusive childhood, being humiliated by someone to even being rejected by a loved one.
Understanding just how the brain functions means that when we calm the limbic system, the trauma symptoms will subside and disappear. Numerous neuroscience research supports the findings – when the limbic system is desensitised from the traumatic experience, the brain resets to pre-trauma functioning or what I prefer to call, the original baseline. Dr Deninger among many 21st century experts in the field of Trauma recovery concluded that the eye movements used in trauma intervention are an effective tool that integrates the understanding of just how the brain can easily assist in its own memory reconsolidation without the need for long drawn processing of emotions and history of the trauma.
Joachim Lee is the leading practitioner and trainer of MEMI in Singapore and Southeast Asia. He has help resolve and reconsolidated distorted memories of individuals and marriages, working with all from different strata of humanity – with individuals – from the homeless, to member of the Royal family to Hollywood personality alike – all with the same positive outcomes. It is all in the eyes and your eyes can help you regain executive functioning of your thinking and actions.
About the Creator of MEMI:
Dr Deninger is the Creator of the Multichannel Eye Movement Integration (MEMI) and his approach is used all around the world in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Joachim Lee specialises in Trauma recovery and he is Southeast Asia’s first appointed trainer and leading MEMI practitioner.
In the words of Dr Deninger:
“Of the hundreds of MEMI practitioners I have trained, Joachim Lee stands out as one of the most skilled. I have observed the remarkable results he achieves when using MEMI with severe trauma cases, phobias and other emotion-based issues. I have great confidence in his work, am proud to count him as an associate and to have him represent me as an appointed MEMI trainer in Singapore and Southeast Asia.”
Mike Deninger, PhD, MA
Creator of Multichannel Eye Movement Integration (MEMI)
1) Brain imaging studies of PTSD patients while re-experiencing a trauma confirm an increase in amygdala reactivity and a failure of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex to activate (Bremner, Elzinga, Schmahl & Vermetten, 2008). Structural and functional plasticity of the human brain in posttraumatic stress disorder. Progress in Brain Research, 167, 171-186
2) Heightened amygdala reactivity and decreased anterior cingulate cortex activity correlate with the persistence of PTSD symptoms (Stevens, et al., 2017). Amygdala reactivity and anterior cingulate habituation predict posttraumatic stress disorder symptom maintenance after acute civilian trauma. Biological Psychiatry, 81(12), 1023-1029
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