By Linda Kelly, MSW, RSW
The chain broke; the one that latched my value to their judgment. I could hear it breaking; a series of quick metallic clanks all at once. And it was remarkably freeing.
I was able to let go without anger or hurt. My internal gaze centered on a cerulean blue horizon above that beach, and the knowledge that I had and would again experience untainted joy. I sensed with a deep certainty that went beyond instinct that my value was limitless because it came from within.
The weight of their judgment was lifted, and I found that my value and their opinions of me could exist simultaneously, without one affecting the other.
Following a session of EMDR, some might describe it as a waking dream. The psychotherapist uses calming techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or positive visualization (e.g., installing a “calm place”) to help the client manage the feelings attached to each memory. During the session, the client’s eye movements from side to side, or stimulations done by tactile sensors held in each hand, trigger rapid processing of chains of memories while providing an anchor to the present day.
At first, I didn’t understand how the memories were linked. I only came in to deal with the anxiety I felt being at family dinners. The therapist would ask, “what comes up for you now?”, I would respond with whatever images came to mind, then was told to “go with that,” following the path on which my own mind wanted to take me. Personally, I found the eye movements distracting as I became more involved with the chains of my own recollections, so switching to the sensors and being able to close my eyes allowed me to go deeper into that state. Had the images been more upsetting, I think I would have preferred keeping my eyes open.
What did the memory of my friend setting up his telescope in the middle of the night on Onion Lake Road have anything to do with the time my coworker screenshotted my Facebook and emailed it to the other staff with a nasty remark about me? I wasn’t clear on why my mind would flit from me losing patience with my son to the moment I read a hurtful email from my brother. But the further we went, the more I realized that these chains connected to the theme of betrayal that we had outlined before; to this belief I had that people would invariably turn on me, that I lacked value to them, and I feared doing the same to my son over things he couldn’t help.
These were the memories my mind would cling to in order to keep me on guard, suspended indefinitely in these unhelpful beliefs.
The most interesting part of the EMDR experience for me was when without providing any feedback or interpretation, and by simply continuing on with confidence and warmth, the therapist allowed me to find my own way out of the dark. And it was literally that. Suddenly in the midst of these upsetting thoughts and memories, my vision opened up to the time in my life where I felt most at peace.
And the chain, for me, was broken. My belief in my own value was reestablished as something within my own control.
EMDR was, by far, the most interesting psychotherapy method I had ever been trained on. It is based on the concept that we have “feeder memories” that influence our reactions to current stressors, and those feeder memories become templates for unhelpful beliefs that are reinforced every time something happens that fits the bill.
When my client was taken from her parents in the 60’s scoop and placed with foster parents far away from her home, she was mistreated and abused. Years later as a grandmother, she struggled with being unable to have a real relationship with her family because of growing up with the belief that her closest relationships would bring her the most pain. EMDR psychotherapy allowed her to explore the connections and memories that fed those beliefs, tapping into her mind’s natural healing abilities that had been thwarted and shut away for all of those years.
For some who struggle to describe feelings, for intense, painful memories, and most usually for trauma and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), EMDR is an evidence-based treatment protocol that can provide intense experiences and opportunities for real healing.
Find out more at EMDR Canada: https://emdrcanada.org/emdr-defined/
Linda Kelly, MSW is a Registered Social Worker/Psychotherapist who has been providing psychotherapy for trauma-related disorders since 2010. She has completed EMDR basic training and will be certified as an EMDR provider with EMDRIA in 2018.
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