Nancy Celtin, Ed.D.
Fear of Public Speaking Coach
EMDR is one of the most exciting and powerful methods for overcoming fear and trauma in use today. Its remarkable results with trauma victims all over the world have brought continuous demand for its use, and awards from numerous countries for its tremendous effectiveness in reducing the aftereffects of catastrophes like earthquakes, tsunamis, war, and personal trauma. Research on EMDR shows that these positive results hold over time. Many research studies have shown that after EMDR, "the painful event or trauma becomes an unfortunate memory but no longer produces the emotional pain that it did before."
EMDR, Fear of Public Speaking, and your �hijacked brain�. So, what does this �trauma technique� have to do with fear of public speaking? Believe it or not, trauma reactions and fear reactions involve exactly the same mechanisms in your brain. At some point in your life, something happened to create that fear, probably an incident that wouldn�t be the least bit terrifying to you now. But at the time, you were younger and more easily scared, and your brain recorded this incident as terrifying.
A more primitive part of the brain underneath the cortex called the limbic system, isn�t very smart, but is very powerful. This mechanism in the brain is responsible for survival of the species, and it does a good job when you are in real imminent danger. The trouble is that this limbic system can�t distinguish one fear from another; it treats all fear as life threatening. And to make sure that the cortex will not delay life saving �fight or flight� responses by analyzing the situation, it quickly and automatically shuts the cortex right off, hijacking your thinking brain until the threat is gone. You may have experienced this very same feeling of having no speech or brain power in anxiety provoking situations.
The brain is supposed to process and deposit new experiences and new knowledge into the appropriate cortical locations during REM sleep, but sometimes, these fright reactions seem too big for the REM sleep process to work, and they remain stuck in the limbic system. Then, fear reactions can occur over and over, triggered by mere reminders of the original incident and arousing equally intense terror. Thus, an embarrassing moment at age 12, can turn into fear of public speaking. Then fear that the fear will reoccur develops, and the fear cycle can intensify over time.
To achieve presentation success, those emergency reactions must be absorbed into the cortex, just like ordinary life experience. Public speaking might still make you a little nervous, but it no longer feels like a threat to your very existence. EMDR is famous for taking over where REM sleep left off, and accomplishing this goal.
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