How EMDR Can Help Manage the Threats of War


No, therapy can’t stop a war from happening. However, therapy can help you ground yourself so you can live through wartime without panicking at every turn.

In a world as globalized as we know it today, the most persistent threats tend to take up space on the news, even if they’re not near us. Because of this, we can constantly find reasons to worry.

Just because the threats are there doesn’t mean they’re helpful to hold in our minds. Let’s explore how EMDR can give your mind the space to respond to threats with emotional balance and mental clarity.

The Argument Against Worrying

While preparing for danger helps us navigate it, worrying about danger is not productive. The act of worrying itself does nothing for our sense of security besides acknowledging our desperate need for it.

Of course, knowing logically that we shouldn’t worry hardly ever helps us stop doing it. However, this small argument may be all you need to accept that over-worrying may be more of a problem than the current danger. Moreover, you may also assess that an inability to rein in your anxiety could be a call to seek professional treatment.

How Your Past Affects Your Ability to Predict the Future

If you had a secure, loving upbringing, the thought of an unknown future may be exciting or, at least, less problematic for you. There are people to mee, experiences to have, and more. However, if you had a chaotic upbringing, you may have developed hyper-vigilant tendencies, the future may only be filled with threats for you.

That said, PTSD and C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder) can cause you to anticipate disaster even when there’s no proof that it’s coming. Living with unpredictable parents or dating an unpredictable person who harmed you may have taught you to expect the worst. War, even in a distant place, may seem a fulfillment of that dread.

Using EMDR to Reduce Feelings of Intense Fear

There are certainly times when threats of danger are entirely plausible. However, panic will not decrease your chances of being impacted by it. It will only ruin your ability to accurately process the present moment and decrease your quality of life.

With a 24-news cycle about Ukraine being under attack, many people feel deeply connected to the unfolding events. Intense fear for Ukrainians and the possibility of war touching our lives is not unwarranted. Unfortunately, we can’t change the world, however, can change the way we respond to it.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy) can help you calm persistent, irrational fear. It can also resolve doubts that impact your outlook on life and help you manage your overall wellbeing. This style of therapy typically helps those who suffer from PTSD. If you’ve ever experienced prejudice, harassment, sexual assault, medical dilemmas, chronic illness, or physical violence, your mind and body may be reacting to current events, images, and discussions of war. In other words, your nervous system may be anticipating such personal emotional pain and insecurity to return in the form of war. 

To cope, it’s important to realize that we cannot mentally and logically prepare for danger without capably calming ourselves first. Anticipating disaster causes our bodies to relive the trauma we’ve already felt and ruminate unhelpfully on the unknown. We may become irritable, physically depleted, prone to nightmares and flashbacks, or experience a crash in our self-esteem and ability to prepare for the future.

How EMDR Works

EMDR is a proven therapy that helps resolve roiling emotions and provides some perspective, regardless of the circumstances. Through a series of eye movements, hand buzzers, or sounds, therapists trigger bilateral stimulation in the brain. This same stimulation happens when we reach REM sleep and our brain processes and organizes a day’s worth of information. 

By stimulating it with a key trigger or traumatic moment in mind, our brain removes the memory from the emotionally threatening place we hold it in our minds. For a moment, we’re able to sit neutrally with our memory in a safe space where it is no longer hurting us.

Over several sessions, you and your therapist measure the reduction in your sensitivity to the thought. Once it reaches a certain level, together, you work to re-align the memory with a more positive affirmation. 

For example, you might think, “War is terrifying, but I will act on the side of justice.” Now, you’ve turned a trauma-related fear into a new value: to fight for what is fair and good. This is how EMDR helps patients turn post-traumatic stress into post-traumatic growth. Something nearly 50% of trauma survivors experience when they take steps to fully recover.

Interested in getting started? I’m here to help. Please read more about EMDR therapy and schedule an appointment with me today.