The Butterfly Hug: A Sensory-Based EMDR Method for Bilateral Stimulation

butterfly hug

The Butterfly Hug

We all need a little self-love sometimes. I used to hug my pillow sometimes. In today’s blog post, I’m going to show you how to give yourself a big ol’ hug!

That’s right, physically hugging yourself is a great way to show some self-care. It might sound silly, but it’s actually backed by science.

A study found that people who hugged themselves for 30 seconds had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

But why stop at just one hug?

What is EMDR?

EMDR Therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy) is a form of psychotherapy recommended by the World Health Organisation as a first-line treatment for PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is based on the adaptive information processing (AIP) model and uses alternating bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements, tactile stimulation, auditory stimulation, and butterfly hug, to help reprocess the traumatic event.

It helps to restore the natural way of processing the information in memory and create new, more functional connections that lead to an adaptive resolution. EMDR helps to equip people with the skill set to think about the most stressful parts of their lives in a less distressing way. There are eight stages to the EMDR process which include taking a history, preparation, assessment, desensitization, installation, body scan, closure and assessment, and evaluation.

What are the benefits of bilateral stimulation in EMDR?

The use of bilateral stimulation in EMDR can provide a range of benefits. It can help reduce disturbing emotions and physical sensations associated with traumatic events, increase functional connections between neural networks, and promote accelerated reprocessing of dysfunctional memory.

It is also used to facilitate the desensitization and installation stages of treatment, which can be conducted virtually by using the Butterfly Hug technique and other forms of bilateral stimulation such as tapping alternating knees, looking between corners of a room, and following a light on a computer screen.

The Butterfly Hug Method

The Butterfly Hug method of providing bilateral stimulation in EMDR is a simple and easy relaxation technique. It works through the act of crossing your arms across your chest, while gently tapping both sides of your body. It is an effective way to bring yourself back to the present moment and to calm your emotional state.

The butterfly hug consists of four basic steps. First, cross your arms across your chest. Second, Cross your thumbs, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to begin the relaxation process. Third, begin the hand-waving technique, tap your chest lightly with your fingertips. And fourth, make sure to tap both sides of your body for the same amount of time. This ensures that both hemispheres of the brain receive the same stimulation, which is beneficial for reducing stress and anxiety.

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The tapping motions should be slow and rhythmic – it is important to pay attention to breath and the physical sensations in your body as you tap. You can also focus on positive affirmations such as “it’s okay to not be okay” to further relax and promote self-love.

One example of how to apply the butterfly hug is to use it when feeling overwhelmed. Recognizing the signs of feeling triggered, such as an increased heart rate, sweating, nausea, stomach cramps, feeling paralysed, racing thoughts, and an inability to calm yourself, is the first step. Then, apply the butterfly hug technique to ease anxiety and bring yourself back to the present moment.

Using this method, you can focus on the rhythm of your breathing, while thinking of calming images or phrases, such as ‘I am safe’ or ‘I am here’. The use of affirmations can also be beneficial in calming and re-centering yourself, allowing you to process difficult emotions more effectively. By combining the Butterfly Hug with positive statements and deep breathing, you can cultivate a sense of self-awareness and better regulate your emotions. Repeat the affirmations to yourself in your head as you tap, and to further relax your emotional state.

What is the Butterfly Hug technique?

The Butterfly Hug technique is a form of self-soothing and emotional healing developed by Lucina Artigas in 1998. This technique involves crossing your arms across your chest and hugging yourself closely, while tapping your body gently. Mirroring movement provides bilateral stimulation in EMDR by utilizing the Butterfly Hug technique. This form of bilateral stimulation can help to bring you back to the present moment and calm your emotional state.

It is an effective grounding technique and can be used in any situation, even if you are alone. When you desperately need a hug, but don’t have anyone. We all need a hug from time to time. If you’re feeling lonely, there are several tips you can use to practice self-compassion.

Be kind to yourself and use self-compassion phrases like “I’m having a moment of suffering” to acknowledge your emotions. Positive affirmations such as “it’s okay to not be okay” can be used to provide further comfort and acceptance.

The Butterfly Hug is a hug of self-love, and it can help to manage negative emotions and achieve better mental wellbeing.

The Butterfly Hug method

What are the benefits of the Butterfly Hug technique?

The Butterfly Hug technique is an easy relaxation technique that can be used anywhere, at any time. It is a useful grounding tool that can help bring you back to the present moment and calm your emotional state. The practice of the Butterfly Hug provides many benefits, including:

  1. Reducing stress and lowering anxiety.
  2. Enhancing mindfulness and providing a sense of grounding.
  3. Helping to manage negative emotions.
  4. Providing comfort and assurance.
  5. Allowing for self-love and acceptance.
  6. Acting as an emotional first aid method.
  7. Allowing for positive affirmations and picturing positive resources.
  8. Helping to reset and restore emotional wellbeing.

History of the Butterfly Hug

The Butterfly Hug (BH) is a self-bilateral stimulation method of EMDR Therapy that was developed in 1998 by Mexico City EMDR Therapists Lucina (Lucy) Artigas and her husband Ignacio (Nacho) Jarero in the aftermath of Hurricane Pauline in Mexico.

When 5 members of the EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Project (HAP) team arrived at the Acapulco’s Cultural Center, they were overwhelmed by the numbers of survivors requesting treatment.

After the last group self-soothing exercise of the day lead by Nacho, Lucy was playing with a 4 year old boy who had lost all his family, and in the middle of the hugging and laughing he asked her who would embrace him when she returned home. In response, Lucy prayed for God to help her and then raised one hand up, facing herself. She asked the participants to do the same, then crossed her arms and put her fingers on her chest, under the collarbone. With this movement, the Butterfly Hug was born.

How to do the Butterfly Hug

The Butterfly Hug method is an easy-to-learn relaxation technique that can be employed whenever you feel anxious, agitated or overwhelmed. It was designed to provide emotional healing and self-soothing. The steps are simple and can be done on your own, even if there is no one around. Here is a step-by-step guide:

  1. Recognise the symptoms when you feel triggered. These may include a rapid heartbeat, excessive sweating, nausea, stomach cramps, feeling paralysed, thoughts racing, etc.
  2. Cross your arms over your chest and hug yourself tightly. This is a hug of self-love, to comfort your inner child.
  3. Tap your chest with your hands in a gentle, rhythmic manner. This stimulates both sides of your brain and helps to bring you back to the present moment.
  4. Assure yourself with positive affirmations such as “It’s okay to not be okay” or “I am safe.”
  5. Take deep breaths and focus on the sensations you are feeling in your body.

Once you have done this, you should feel calmer and more centered. The Butterfly Hug method is a great way to provide yourself with emotional first aid and take control of your emotions. It is also an effective tool to help reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

The Butterfly Hug method

How does The Butterfly Hug method work?

The Butterfly Hug works via self-love. By crossing hands over chest and hugging yourself closely, it is like embracing your inner child. The tapping actions add a nice therapeutic touch, so that you can soothe yourself. Additionally, assuring yourself with positive affirmations creates acceptance and peace.

When you feel relaxed and grounded, a gradual release of the hug is recommended. It is important to take some deep breaths, allowing the body to adjust to the shift in energy.

The Butterfly Hug method can be highly beneficial in therapy sessions as well, as it can help to reduce feelings of tension and stress while providing a physical connection that is comforting and reassuring. By repeating positive affirmations, you can create a sense of acceptance and peace that can help you to move through bad moments with greater ease.

How does butterfly tapping work?

Butterfly tapping works by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to slow down heart rate and digestion. It also helps to activate the entire brain and potentially file memories in a more helpful way. Butterfly tapping can be used by anyone during times of stress or anxiety, making it a helpful tool to cope with mental health issues.

To do the butterfly tap, begin by taking a few deep breaths, then cross your arms over your chest and place your middle fingers tips just below your collarbone. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing, and then tap both hands slowly, alternating sides, in a manner that resembles a butterfly flapping its wings. Practicing the butterfly hug regularly can help you connect to your body, reduce stress, and bring emotional healing to yourself.

The Butterfly tapping, self hug

As an example, if you feel triggered and overwhelmed by an experience that reminds you of your trauma, you can do the Butterfly Hug technique to try and manage your emotional state. The tapping motion, combined with focusing on the present moment and letting go of the trauma-related thoughts and emotions, can help you to relax and feel more present.


What other techniques are used in combination with the Butterfly Hug technique?

The Butterfly Hug technique is often used in combination with other grounding and relaxation techniques. Examples of these include

  • positive affirmations,
  • progressive muscle relaxation,
  • belly breathing,
  • DEARMAN (which is a technique to ask for support),
  • grounding rocks.
  • mindfulness,
  • relaxation techniques such as guided imagery
  • listening to music
  • meditation
  • yoga nidra

For instance, when feeling triggered, one may use the Butterfly Hug technique with positive affirmations in order to achieve better mental wellbeing.

These techniques are often used in combination to help reduce stress, anxiety and other negative emotions.

How does the Butterfly Hug technique compare to other trauma treatment methods?

The Butterfly Hug technique is a simple bi-lateral stimulation (BLS) exercise that is used to help trauma survivors to reprocess and store memories in a more positive and helpful way.

It is typically used with EMDR therapy and is one of the 8 phases of this approach.

Compared to other trauma treatment methods, it is relatively easy to learn and is highly effective. The Butterfly Hug is something that can be used in person or remotely, with or without the assistance of a professional therapist. It is often used by trauma survivors to help them to relax and calm themselves, particularly when they feel overwhelmed or have had a flashback to traumatic events.

Other trauma treatment methods include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychotherapy, and psychodrama therapy.

  • CBT is a structured approach that focuses on challenging and changing unhelpful thoughts and behaviors. It involves working on specific goals and skills with the aim of helping the individual to better manage their current and future mental health difficulties.
  • Psychotherapy looks at the causes of psychological distress, providing a supportive environment to enable the individual to develop awareness and understanding of their difficulties and work towards positive change.
  • Psychodrama therapy is a type of group therapy that uses role play and action methods to help the group to explore and express difficult emotions.

In comparison to these methods, the Butterfly Hug technique is less structured and can be used independently or with the help of a therapist.

It is particularly effective when used remotely, with no specialist tools or input from a second person required. It is designed to help people to deal with their trauma without attaching the negative emotions that can be triggered by a particular situation. It has been proven to be highly effective and is something that anyone can learn and apply.

Weighted blankets and self hugging

Another interesting method is sleeping with weighted stuffed animals or much butter sleep with a weighted blanket. Self-hugging and using a weighted blanket are both methods of self-care used to help relieve stress, anxiety, and improve wellbeing.

Using a weighted blanket involves lying under a blanket that has extra weight added to it (usually 5-25 pounds). The added weight is thought to stimulate the release of serotonin, a “feel good” hormone, in addition to providing a calming and calming effect.

The Butterfly Hug EMDR Therapy

Can the Butterfly Hug Method be Used for Grounding and Better Sleep?

Yes, the Butterfly Hug Method is a popular choice for grounding exercises for sleep. This simple technique can help calm the mind and body, making it easier to relax and fall asleep. By using gentle tapping motions on the chest, the method promotes feelings of safety and relaxation, leading to better sleep.

Who can benefit from the Butterfly Hug technique?

The Butterfly Hug technique can be beneficial for anyone who is feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or agitated, including survivors of major catastrophes, people who need a way to ground themselves and reset, and those who are experiencing panic attacks. It can also be used as an emotional first aid method if you are not too anxious and need a way to hug yourself and your inner child. The Butterfly Hug can also help in managing negative emotions, such as feelings of heart palpitations, sweating, nausea, stomach cramps, paralysis, or racing thoughts.


By lezt

Lez Taylor, Founder and CEO of Corala Blanket. She tried every sleep system and trick to conquer her insomnia for good.