At recent talk I was giving, I started to explain how Francine Shapiro founded EMDR, with the “Walk in the Park” story. Immediately one of the participants exclaimed, “Oh, I’ve heard that story.” Facilitator that I am, I invited her to tell us what she knew and maybe fill some the gaps that I didn’t know about. What followed was, to me, new, interesting and amazing.
In her version, in 1987, Francine Shapiro was walking through a park and she saw some squirrels above, up in the trees playing and running. As she looked at one, it started running back and forth across one of the branches, and then as her eyes followed the squirrel as it went back and forth across the branch, a disturbing thought she was having became less disturbing, and hence the beginning of eye-movements and the miracle of EMDR.
I was amazed and said I hadn’t heard that before, but I’d have to look into it. (Actually, later Angel, my training assistant, told me someone told the same story in an EMDR training but I guess I was so amazed that my vagal parasympathetic freeze response kicked in and I blocked it out, now sure).
So, in the subsequent investigation (aka google search) about what really happened, I came across this article, “In the Spotlight: Francine Shapiro Interviewed by Marilyn Luber Ph.D.”.
In the interview Francine tells the story in her own words and alas, no squirrel.
Here is the quote:
“EMDR is based on a chance observation I made in May 1987. While walking through the park one day, I noticed that some disturbing thoughts I was having suddenly disappeared. I also noticed that when I brought these thoughts back to mind, they were not as upsetting or as valid as before. Previous experience had taught me that disturbing thoughts generally have a certain “loop” to them; that is, they tend to play themselves over and over until you consciously do something to stop or change them. What caught my attention that day was that my disturbing thoughts were disappearing and changing without any conscious effort. Fascinated, I started paying very close attention to what was going on. I noticed that when disturbing thoughts came into my mind, my eyes spontaneously started moving very rapidly back and forth in an upward diagonal. Again the thoughts disappeared, and when I brought them back to mind, their negative charge was greatly reduced. At that point I started making the eye movements deliberately while concentrating on a variety of disturbing thoughts and memories, and I found that these thoughts also disappeared and lost their charge. My excitement grew as I began to see the potential benefits of this effect” (Shapiro, 1995).
Here is the entire article: EMDR, Walk in the Park, It’s a really well done article, very interesting and engaging.
More Park Stuff
While I’m at it on the Park Theme, for some reason I often think about Eckhart Tolle, when in “The Power of Now” he talks about sitting in Stanly Park in Vancouver, watching ducks get in a fight in then “shaking it off” as they parted. This is a good example of shaking off trauma or anger, and I think Peter Levine refers to bears, or other animals that do that same type of thing.
That isn’t what interests me, however. What I wonder about is what was Eckhart wearing? I mean did he have proper rain gear? You gotta know that sitting in Stanly park, hour after hour, no matter what time of year, would mean lots of rain. Shower after shower.
I just keep wondering that maybe if you’re enlightened you don’t get wet.