Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Yesterday was my second session with the therapist I have started seeing to try and overcome my post traumatic stress disorder.  I was left with PTSD after five youths attacked me in my own home early in 2005 and therapy is being paid for as part of a victims of crime compensation package.

The first session with the therapist was devoted to taking my case history.  I have written about that session in my entry titled “Psychologist in therapy“.  This time the psychologist performed EMDR on me in the session.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) was discovered in 1987 by Francine Shapiro.  You can follow these links for the history of EMDR and some insight into how EMDR works.

Although I have had training in performing EMDR myself I was surprised to discover I was not entirely comfortable as the session progressed.  I kept wanting to stop the session and escape the process of being conscious of how I was feeling and what I was thinking at each moment in time.

My mind kept going blank and my eyes kept trying to focus elsewhere and I think the problem is I do not like to feel.  I like to think.  More specifically, I like to explain away, rationalise, compartmentalise and contain my feelings by wrapping a deep layer of thoughts around them to insulate me from having to feel them.

Sounds dumb I know but my body kept getting upset by the process of having to tell the therapist, every few minutes, what I was thinking and what I was feeling.

I developed a strong pain in my shoulder, one eye suddenly dried out completely and began to hurt, I started to literally twiddle my thumbs and so on.  My mind, which is usually teeming with thoughts, kept going blank when she asked “Tell me what you notice now”.

Every time she asked it my mind would freeze up for a few seconds and I would have to flounder for an answer.  I felt lost.  Thinking back to the experience now I am realising the problem was caused by something that affected me a lot when I was a child – other people’s expectations of me.

I was wanting to please, to co-operate, to “get it right” but I did not know what I was supposed to be noticing.  I did not know what answers she wanted to hear or how I was supposed to be responding.  This came to my notice but it is such a life-long instinct that I didn’t think to mention it.  I argued the feeling away.  I knew she had no expectations of me.

As a therapist, I know what is and is not part of the process of therapy, having any personal expectations of a client is NOT part of the process.

As a client, I was trapped in my childhood fears but I was not paying attention to ME, I was focussed on the other person as always.  I was not telling her how much I was focussed on her because I knew, or thought I knew, it was irrelevant.

She said this would happen.  That I would start processing things and she told me to write the thoughts down in the exercise book she gave me.  I have already made a start on that.

When I woke up this morning I realised I had slept much longer than is normal for me.  I got up and went to the toilet and as I did I was remembering something the therapist said to me yesterday.

She said she did not believe a person can move from having no integrity at all to suddenly having integrity at the age of twenty.  She said she believes there must have been some integrity in me all through those years I viewed myself as worthless for me to have been able to build on it after becoming a Christian.

When she said that my first reaction was to deny it and list all the bad things I saw in myself back then.  One thing came up, however, that supported her view and I realised she might be right.  Maybe there were good things in me even before God took over and began changing me for the better.

As I remembered that conversation, believe it or not, I felt a thought slip into place and lock itself into my belief system!

I am not now, nor have I ever been, utterly worthless!

It sounds bizarre but I actually FELT that thought lock itself into some permanent place in my psyche and become part of my reality.

It’s not a new thought.  It is something I have known on a conscious level for many years but it is a belief that disappears when something “rocks my boat”.  When any crisis occurs in my life I quickly feel, and believe, I am utterly worthless and I always have been.  It takes a lot these days to get me down to that place but, once I am there, I go back to believing my existence is the result of a terrible mistake and I never should have been born.

Today I literally felt the new belief, the one I have spent years trying to replace that old belief with, slot into place somewhere deep inside me.

Only time will tell if it will hold up under pressure but I have a strong feeling that it will.  The belief no longer has the soft edge of illusion to it that it has always had for me before.  It feels solid, real, permanent.

The tension I have had in my neck and shoulders ever since the attack seems to be almost completely gone this morning too.  That may only be a result of having had more sleep than normal but it feels good.  I feel good.

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