EMM Sessions are, in essence, experiential. So it is difficult (if not impossible) to convey in words what actually happens in any given session. But we will do our best to shed some light on the process.
Basically, we bring mindfulness to our present moment experience (whatever that present moment experience is). So the first question becomes: What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is, quite simply, the process of intentionally focusing one’s attention on “what is” in the present moment (rather than focusing one’s attention on what has happened in the past, what might happen in the future, or finding some other way to avoid what is happening in the present). And mindfulness is, quite simply, intentionally focusing one’s attention on what is occurring in the present moment, and doing so without judgment. In mindfulness, we replace our tendency to judge and/or analyze with a sense of curiosity and with a willingness to experience what is happening in the here-and-now.
In large part, one can deduce what happens in a private EMM session by reading the entry page to this site. The central focus in self-awareness, and what one becomes aware of in private EMM Sessions, is listed on that page. So, here I will simply provide you with a little more detail, so that you can get even a clearer sense of what occurs in a private EMM session. Also keep in mind that awareness alone is often not enough for you to achieve your desired end - hence the other surrounding circles (Attitude, Affect Tolerance, and Aggression). So here I will say a little more about those components as well.
What happens in EMM sessions?
- EMM sessions bring awareness to unwanted (and usually subconscious) conditioned responses. These subconscious and conditioned responses usually lie at the heart of habitual and unwanted behaviors (as well as many chronic pain conditions and many stress-related conditions). In EMM sessions, we bring awareness to these conditioned responses, not through any kind of “talk therapy” process but rather through tracking, moment to moment, various components of the human experience (including, most importantly, what is occurring within one's own body).
Once an individual becomes aware of the sequence (a sequence, for example, of sensations, images, thoughts, and emotions) that lead to the unwanted behavior or symptoms, steps are taken to dismantle that sequence.
Suppose, for example, that every time you saw the color red, you had a very uncomfortable sensation in your chest. Further suppose that this uncomfortable sensation in your chest, in turn, led to a thought and that the thought, in turn, led to an emotion. Imagine that this sequence then prompted an unwanted behavior or a symptom flare-up of some sort (e.g., pain).
Now suppose that you were unaware of that sequence. You might not even be aware of the “first domino”. You might not even be aware that “seeing the color red” is setting off this chain reaction that is resulting in the unwanted behavior or symptom flare-up. So first, we must heighten your awareness of that sequence.
We would then proceed to dismantle that sequence (using specific techniques). Ultimately, then, you would be able see the color red without having that uncomfortable sensation in your chest. We would continue this dismantling process, so you could have that uncomfortable feeling in your chest without it leading to the thought – without the thought leading to the emotion, and so on. Ultimately, of course, you would be able to see red and none of the chain link reaction would occur. This would leave you free to behave spontaneously rather than habitually, and ultimately reduce, if not eliminate, symptom flare-ups.
- EMM Sessions help one to discover and dismantle hidden meanings. Often times we are attaching a “meaning” to something that someone did or said, but we are unaware, “in the moment,” that we are doing so. Therefore, we are unaware of why we are responding as strongly as we are.
For example, suppose you trip over something left on the floor. If you believed that someone left it there on purpose to make you fall, you might attach a meaning to their action. It “means” that they don’t care about you. Or it “means” that they hurt you on purpose. In either case you might respond with anger . . . perhaps even intense anger. But if you believed it was an accident, and therefore attached no such meaning, you might not get angry at all. Very often we attach such meanings to the words or actions of others, but the meanings we attach are not in our conscious awareness. They are what I call “implicit meanings.” But they influence our behaviors nonetheless.
In EMM Sessions, one is guided through a process that brings to light, these hidden (implicit) meanings. Once one becomes aware of the hidden meaning(s), the level of re-activity or the intensity of the emotional response decreases. This is because, most often, it is not the action of the other person, or the words the other person speaks, per se, that we are responding to, but rather the meaning.
- EMM sessions help one to discover and challenge distorted perceptions. Here again, much of our reactivity/emotional response/stress response occurs because of what we are perceiving, and what we are perceiving is most often distorted. This is true for a number of reasons. In EMM sessions, one is guided through a process that brings these distorted perceptions to light. And again, once these distorted perceptions are brought to light, and one starts to become aware “in the moment” that their perception is distorted, the level of re-activity, or the intensity of the emotional response, decreases.
- EMM Sessions bring awareness to the habitual ways that we respond to stress. For example:
- When we feel stressed, we "run away" (e.g., avoidance behaviors).
- When we feel stressed, we "fight" (e.g., get angry, and blame others).
- When we feel stressed, we "freeze" (e.g., behave as if we are helpless).
- When we feel stressed, we "run away" (e.g., avoidance behaviors).
- EMM Sessions bring awareness to outworn and habitual coping mechanisms. These “ways of coping” with distress were “learned” when we were wholly dependent on particular caregivers for our physical, psychological, and emotional well-being and survival. These "learnings" are, for the most part, implicit (i.e., not in our conscious awareness). As mature adults, we are no longer wholly dependent on particular caregivers. Nonetheless, we often continue to behave as if we were. So we use the same strategies in relationships that we learned when we were wholly dependent. These strategies may have been deemed necessary for survival early on, but now they only limit our sense of freedom and choice, our spontaneous self-expression, and our ability to connect with ourselves and with others.
Again, once one becomes aware of these habitual coping mechanisms, the sessions are carried out in such a manner that individuals learn experientially that these coping mechanisms are no longer needed. That is, individuals have the embodied experience that these coping mechanisms are no longer needed (rather than simply having a fleeting thought - a momentary intellectual awareness - that these coping mechanisms are no longer needed).
- EMM Sessions bring awareness to Interpersonal Behavioral Patterns (IBP's). Especially within the first year of life, the baby's brain becomes wired in the same pattern as the mother. If the mother herself experienced a secure attachment with her caregivers, most likely she will be - for the most part - responsive to the needs of her infant. In these cases, an "implicit template" will form in the child's brain about what to expect in relationships. As adults, for example:
- They will likely come to expect that their needs will be met.
- They will likely come to expect that the "other" will be relatively kind, safe, and consistent.
- They might come to expect that their needs will go unmet.
- They might come to expect that the "other" will ultimately abandon them, that the "other" cannot be counted on.
- They might come to expect that the "other" will be unsafe, actively hostile, or even physically abusive.
- They will likely come to expect that their needs will be met.
- EMM Sessions help individuals increase their tolerance for strong feeling states (positive or negative).
This is a very important component, because it is most often our belief that we won’t be able to tolerate, cope, or manage the strong feelings that come up as we interact with others or when we find ourselves in certain situations, which leads us to our habitual responses to stress and which leads to our habitual coping mechanisms. When we learn to tolerate intense feelings states (sensations and emotions), we no longer fear them. When we no longer fear them, the strategies that we have used to avoid them become unnecessary. Furthermore, it is the inability to tolerate intense feeling states that often leads to chronic pain conditions and other physical symptoms that have no organic cause. So, when you increase your capacity to tolerate intense feeling states, chances are your chronic pain will be substantially reduced and even totally eliminated. The same is true for any other physical symptoms you may have that have no organic cause.
- In private EMM sessions, one can become aware of how their attitude, in and of itself, can be related to their symptoms.
Basically, any "attitude" that causes one to constrict will likely contribute to any physical symptoms that have no organic cause (including, but not limited to, chronic pain). For example, if we approach a particular situation or person with a sense of dread, rather than with a sense of excited anticipation, quite likely our bodies will constrict in some way. This constriction alone can be the source of a flare-up of a symptom. The same is true for our judgments. When we judge ourselves, for example, quite likely there will be an associated constriction pattern. This constriction pattern, will in turn, be the source of a flare-up of a symptom.
- Part of what we do in EMM sessions is restore access to one's natural aggressive instincts and help individuals to integrate and utilize healthy aggression.
By healthy aggression, I am referring to a forward-moving energy that leads to a self-expressive drive to create. Healthy aggression is a force within all of us. It is a motivational force. It is a force that leads to assertive and bold behavior. It is the energy responsible for our determination. This healthy aggression is a transformational energy. It is the energy that leads us to take effective action - that moves us energetically forward in pursuit of our goals. This healthy aggression, in short, is our vitality and our aliveness.
If you were to liken this aggressive instinct to a faucet, for many individuals, the handle or knob that is used to turn the faucet "on" is stuck in the "off" position. When the handle or knob used to turn the faucet on is stuck in the "off" position, the faucet is no longer able to produce water. And we need water in order to survive. So it is with our aggressive instinct. We may not physically die if our "aggressive faucet" is not working properly. But when the handle or know to our "aggressive faucet" is stuck in the "off" position, it will likely manifest in all sorts of symptoms (physical, psychological, and emotional).
It is very often a component in chronic pain conditions and chronic fatigue. Though depression has many possible causes, quite likely a lack of access to one's aggression is a very important contributing factor. It is also quite likely a factor in much of the "free floating anxiety" that people suffer from. The anxiety often comes when there is a realization (metaphorically speaking) that the "aggressive faucet" has been turned on . . . and the aggression is thus starting to emerge. Because we often perceive this aggression as negative, undesirable, and - for some individuals - even threatening, we will start to feel anxious if there is a chance that it might be "un-leashed", so to speak. Of course, much of this will happen without our awareness.
So part of what happens in EMM sessions is that one is guided through a process that results in the "aggressive faucet" working properly again. But this is done in a way that feels safe and manageable to the individuals. What results is that the individual will often feel a greater sense of strength and vitality. In other cases, the individual may feel less depressed, less anxious, and/or less fatigued. Individuals will also likely feel more courageous, motivated and determined when faced with life challenges.
- In EMM Sessions, we use movement to expand one's self-image.
We all have an unconscious self-image, and our movement - and thus our behavior - is limited by that unconscious self-image. That unconscious self-image, in other words, dictates for us, without our knowing, what we can and cannot do. To state it another way, that unconscious self-image reduces the realm of possible behaviors. In EMM, we use movement lessons to clarify and expand that self-image. The result is that our sense of freedom and choice increases, the range and spontaneity of our behaviors increases, and our connection to our self and others increases.
Note that I say unconscious self-image. We might have a conscious self-image, born of our self-judgments, that also limits our behaviors. We might, for example, look in the mirror and have the thought that we are fat, or that our ears are too big, or that we are too short, or too tall, or that we are unattractive in some way. These self-judgments also limit our behaviors, of course. But far more limiting is our unconscious self-image. And it is our unconscious self-image that is altered in EMM sessions.
Imagine for example, that a man looked in the mirror and he saw this attractive man:
Now imagine that the same man looked in the mirror and instead of seeing what he could see with his eyes, he was able to see his “internal/subconscious” self-image. Imagine that his internal/subconscious self-image looked like this:
Do you imagine that this man would go out into life full of confidence and courage – with a sense that he was ready for anything that life could throw his way? Not likely. Do you imagine that he would be the “life of the party”? Not likely. Do you imagine that he would start each day feeling calm and joyful? Not likely.
It is the image we have of our self in our brain (which is unconscious), far more than the image we see in the mirror (which is conscious), that limits our freedom and choice, that leads to habitual rather than spontaneous behavior, and that keeps us from having a deeper connection to our self and to others.
It strikes me, then, that it is far more important to alter and expand our internal self-image (the image we have of ourselves in our brain) than it is to alter and expand the conscious self-image (the image we see when we look in the mirror). Remember, there are a lot of physically attractive people in the world who are highly anxious, depressed, and insecure, despite the fact that they look in the mirror and see a relatively attractive person, or despite the fact that they are constantly complimented for their physical attractiveness. Again, altering our internal self-image is what happens in EMM Sessions.