The Development and Vision of the EMDR All-Ireland Association
Gus Murray, President, EMDR All-Ireland Association
The launch of the EMDR All-Ireland Association on April 1st, 2020 was the culmination of a journey that had started many years earlier and took on an added momentum when I was invited to join the EMDR UK & Ireland board as the Ireland representative in 2016. At that stage we had 7 accredited EMDR Practitioners and one EMDR Consultant in the whole of Southern Ireland
Following EMDR Europe guidelines that each country would have its own EMDR National Association, the Board of EMDR UK and Ireland initiated a process to facilitate the establishment of an independent EMDR Association for Ireland. This process was also supported by the Board of EMDR Europe.
It was agreed that the development of the National Association would proceed in two stages:
- Establish EMDR Ireland as a National Regional group (2018 – 2020).
During this period
- the infrastructure for the National Association would be prepared
- the relationship with EMDR Northern Ireland would be explored & discussions would take place about the possibility of establishing an All-Ireland EMDR association.
- Migrate to a National Association (2020)
The National Regional group was established, and officers elected at a full meeting of members held in Cork in October 2018. Discussions were then initiated with the committee of EMDR Northern Ireland.
In June 2019, parallel ballots among EMDR members, North & South, resulted in the unanimous decision to form an All-Ireland EMDR Association.
Following that mandate, the two committees came together to form a joint All-Ireland EMDR committee to progress the formation of the EMDR All-Ireland Association.
On April 1st, the stage was reached to formally migrate to the EMDR All-Ireland Association, with the joint EMDR All-Ireland committee as the transitional board and an AGM planned for early 2021.
EMDR All-Ireland – the launch
The launch of EMDR All-Ireland on April 1st, 2020 took place in the most surreal circumstances imaginable, in the depth of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.
The celebrations & fanfare that had been anticipated to mark the launch during the EMDR UK and Ireland conference in Cardiff were replaced by warm words of support & encouragement and an emotional send-off at the end of a 7-hour online EMDR UK and Ireland board meeting on March 29. We promised to crack the champagne when brighter days arrive!
On Sunday June 7th, at a meeting of EMDR Europe board, EMDR All-Ireland was ratified as a member country of EMDR Europe. I was sent to the virtual waiting room while the 40 or so member countries voted on our application. It was a very proud and moving moment going back into the meeting and seeing the screen flashing 100% support for the EMDR All-Ireland application, accompanied by virtual clapping from the representatives of the member countries. Ireland had indeed ‘taken her place among the nations of the earth’
I want to acknowledge and express my gratitude and appreciation to the board of EMDR UK and Ireland individually and collectively for everything they have done to facilitate the development of EMDR All-Ireland. Their individual and collective friendship, welcome, support, encouragement, consultation and guidance are greatly appreciated.
EMDR All-Ireland – the Vision
The courageous & visionary decision to form an All-Ireland EMDR Association clearly reflects the deep desire among EMDR communities, north and south, to make our contribution to healing divisions and to building a shared home for all our people on the island of Ireland. The decision is made against the backdrop of deep wounds of hatred, division and distrust that have become embedded in our communities arising from centuries of prolonged and bloody conflict. The Northern Ireland Conflict which erupted in 1969 and lasted until the Belfast Good Friday agreement in 1998 is the most recent and acute phase of the larger Irish Conflict. A 2008 World mental health study found that Northern Ireland had the highest level of PTSD among all comparable studies undertaken across the world including other areas of conflict.
However, the Northern Troubles are but the most recent chapter in the Anglo-Irish conflict that stretches back over many centuries. The Republic of Ireland is currently commemorating the 100th anniversary of the war of independence, another ferocious and bloody war with massive loss of life. This culminated in the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921 and the partition of Ireland, leaving the Republic with 26 counties and six counties of Northern Ireland remaining in the Union with Britain. Conflict between those who supported the treaty and those who opposed it led to an extremely brutal and bloody civil war in Southern Ireland with huge loss of life. In Northern Ireland, the society remained polarised, with deep hostility, division, distrust and fear finally erupting into open conflict in 1969.
The larger backdrop, spanning several centuries, includes invasions, plantation of lands, repeated insurrections and rebellions as well as a major potato famine which decimated the population through death and emigration. The legacy of transgenerational trauma runs very deep indeed.
Acknowledging the multi layered patterns of trauma, EMDR All-Ireland aims to be a creative force, transcending divisions and borders and offering itself as an agent of healing and growth. It aims to facilitate a response to the immense legacy of trauma which has impacted individuals, families and communities across the island of Ireland over many generations. As well as responding to individual trauma survivors, EMDR All-Ireland also aims to develop creative responses to facilitate healing and resolution in families and communities where the wounds of trauma are deeply embedded.
The formation of EMDR All-Ireland creates the opportunity and challenge to develop a new relationship with our nearest neighbour, EMDR UK. The relationship between Ireland and Britain is deeply complex. We are linked through a network of profound historical, political, economic, and social factors. We need to acknowledge and face the transgenerational wounds that have arisen from the very troubled historical relationship between our two countries over many centuries. I have seen and experienced these at first hand during my own lifetime. Relations have greatly improved in more recent years supported by courageous leadership and some very helpful initiatives on both sides. My vision is that EMDR All-Ireland would seek to form an ongoing collaborative relationship with EMDR UK to promote mutual understanding, dialogue, ongoing healing and post-traumatic growth and transformation.
The Role of EMDR Therapy
Through the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model (Shapiro, 2017) EMDR therapy provides comprehensive framework for understanding the complex traumatic issues I have outlined as well as offering a pathway towards resolution, healing and growth. The following four elements summaries some of the important contributions of EMDR Therapy:
- EMDR therapy, through the AIP model, provides a rationale to explain post-traumatic symptoms as well as proposing strategies for resolving them. This trauma-informed understanding can help individuals, families and communities to develop a deeper understanding and awareness of the emotional, behavioural and psychosomatic patterns which have been found to be a widespread and embedded legacy of transgenerational conflict. This includes the more recent discovery that trauma can arise not just from the direct impact of overwhelming experiences but can also be passed on to the next generation.
- EMDR therapy can facilitate individuals, families and communities to access their inherent drive towards wholeness and growth. As Francine Shapiro (2018) wrote “There is a system inherent in all of us that is physiologically geared to process information to a state of mental health” We salute the courage and leadership of those who have helped to break the cycle of conflict and begin to build the foundations of peace. EMDR therapy can play a major role in facilitating resilience, courage and hope, building on the progress that has been achieved and enhancing the resources that are needed for trauma resolution and healing.
- EMDR therapy can facilitate individuals, families and communities to face and resolve their embedded traumatic experiences. It can enable them to step back from their trauma so that they can acknowledge, witness, validate and process it with support and facilitation. It can enable them to call up their current capacities and resources and bring these to bear on their traumatic wounds to enable healing and growth.
- EMDR therapy acknowledges and enables the personal and social transformation that can occur during and following the resolution of trauma. This post-traumatic growth at a personal and family level can be manifest in a new resilience, enabling a greater appreciation of life and its possibilities, including relationships with others.
At community level, it can be seen in the variety of initiatives to transcend the old divisions and differences and reach out in dialogue and mutual tolerance.
In conclusion, I want EMDR All-Ireland to be a place of welcome and inclusion of diversity and difference. Above all, I aspire for it to be a place of acceptance and mutual tolerance, especially of outlooks that may be different to our own.
As the poet Rumi puts it, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”
June 27th, 2020