The overpowering drive to restore control during a panic episode can be all-consuming. Breathing exercises and other techniques can help, but brainspotting, which makes use of the intriguing connection between eye location and brain activity, is a relatively unknown but effective alternative. Derived from eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, brainspotting holds promise in regulating emotions and physical responses.
The foundation of brainspotting
Psychologist David Grand, Ph.D., pioneered brainspotting as an extension of EMDR, focused specifically on trauma treatment. The underlying principle is based on the idea that trauma stays in the body. Brainspotting uses the mind-body connection to control the midbrain, which is responsible for sensory processing, motor control, and parts of vision, hearing, and attentiveness. This approach effectively tackles the activation of the fight-or-flight response following traumatic experiences by restoring nervous system homeostasis.
The eyes as a healing pathway
Because of their close relationship with the brain, the eyes play an important part in brainspotting. “EMDR activates various parts of the brain associated with trauma,” trauma therapist Lauren Auer explains, “whereas brainspotting is more precise—it pinpoints the exact brain areas where the trauma resides.” Auer emphasizes the eyes as a conduit for external inputs and internal emotional responses, highlighting that what we see visually has a profound influence on our nervous system.
Unveiling the power of brainspotting
Although brainspotting research is still in its early stages, a 2017 study published in the Mediterranean Journal of Clinical Psychology revealed its efficacy as an alternate technique for trauma and PTSD treatment. Unlike other techniques such as EMDR and cognitive behavioral therapy, where symptoms occasionally reappear, brainspotting produced long-term favorable benefits.
Using brainspotting to fight panic attacks
Follow these methods to stop a panic attack using brainspotting:
1. Concentrate on an object in front of you (either stationary or portable).
2. Gently move your sight away from the object.
3. Return your attention to the original object.
4. Continue to alternate between near and far look.
This approach redirects your attention away from disturbing ideas and toward a peaceful focus. According to trauma therapist Auer, the process stimulates the oculocardiac reflex, which calms the vagus nerve (associated with stress alleviation) and regulates respiration. Importantly, visual acuity is less important than eye location.
A multipurpose solution
Brainspotting is useful for more than just panic attacks:
– It might help when you’re feeling overwhelmed by giving a means to refocus your attention.
– It relieves eye strain caused by prolonged screen use.
– It acts as a preventative measure, keeping panic attacks at bay.
Auer suggests practicing brainspotting before a crisis occurs to ensure that it is ready to use when it is most needed. This therapy method offers a new viewpoint on panic management, harnessing the interplay between our eyes and minds to promote calm.