Feeling My Way with EMDR

As many of you know, I’ve been doing EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) with a skilled therapist. (To learn about two of my earlier sessions, see my previous posts from Oct. 11, 2014 “EMDR Works!” and Oct. 25, 2014 “Skipping Along with EMDR.” ) This week, we worked on a somatic issue–a freeze that I often unconsciously find myself in: one of guarding– holding my breath, contracting muscles, and feeling numb. I may simply be reading a book or lying in bed and discover that I’ve assumed this body state and posture.

In EMDR therapy, I began by tensing into and holding my guard posture, then watched the pointer with the red, clown-nose tip go back and forth. I followed the wand left to right with my eyes, feeling great discomfort; emotions shifted as my eyes shifted. One understanding that came out of this session was that after my pyloric stenosis surgery for a stomach blockage at twenty-six days old, I found a degree of homeostasis while in recovery. I was terrified but figured out a way to cope with the pain. I breathed shallowly in a kind of idle, on-hold state and was not on guard. I was able to somatically or physically feel this state again through the therapy.

Another understanding I gained is about my relationship with my mother. When the thought of reuniting with her  was introduced into the session, I felt anxious and lost my idle, on-hold state; I became anxious and guarded again. During the actual crisis, my mother was scared to death, of course, about what was happening to me, but also her own early traumas were restimulated. Without meaning to, she communicated, her terror and horror at my condition after the surgery and her anxiety from her own past physical abuse. While my mother was key in taking care of me once I got home, for which I am forever grateful, it was hard to get emotional comfort from her. In the session, I was able to feel this disconnect in my body.

This morning in meditation, this image and these words came to me as I pondered my session. EMDR is about somatically feeling one’s way to knowing.


4 Responses to Feeling My Way with EMDR

  1. “mom kept the trauma…”
    An interesting fact about trauma: it cannot exist in isolation, it needs stimulation to stay alive, it needs to be fed to thrive.
    So much of my own process in healing trauma was figuring out what exactly is feeding it. Sometimes we don’t realize what on a day-to-day basis is reinforcing our trauma. I realized that I attracted a lot of people and situations into my life that re-created–to a much lesser extent–the trauma I was so desperate to be free of.
    Trauma is a slippery thing. It sneaks in a takes over before we’ve barely had a chance to even get a hint of it. Especially the generational stuff. It’s normalized so early in life.

    Loved this post. Thanks for this.

  2. Wonderful comment! Thank you. Yes, we keep inviting in situations and people to continue the crisis because it’s familiar; it’s what we are used to and were raised with. And you are so right–“it sneaks in . . . before we’ve barely had a chance to even get a hint of it.” I wonder what my life would have been like if I’d had an attuned relationship with my mother, that is, one where trauma was not interrupting her ability to see me and respond. I dealt with this dynamic taking care of my mother in her later years with dementia. I was constantly working within myself to put aside old, trauma-based responses to my mother’s issues and finding the part of myself that could respond healthily to her needs. Thank god I’d had therapy and, with writing and artwork, had worked through enough of my problems so that I could help her. I’m glad that you got hip to your patterns and have attracted better people and situations to you. Again, thank you for your super insightful comment.

  3. Thank you Wendy for keeping us your readers in touch with your EDMR therapy and some of the issues it is underlining or raising in you. I also value Liz’s comments: yes, trauma has complex effects on people, the more so when that trauma is so far in the past, affected our primary care giver perhaps as deeply as it did us, and when that person has died. This post and Liz’s perceptive remarks very much connect with my discoveries and healing. Thank you for sharing your journeys!

  4. So great to have a small conversation going. Very true–“trauma has complex effects on people.” Thankfully I’ve got a great therapist who can keep it simple, so to speak; in other words, she can keep track of the many strands and weave them in a forward direction. Certainly, no two people respond the same to the trauma, even the same trauma, for example, a car accident. As children and infants, our care givers are key in how we adjust to trauma, and so this is just one more variable. It’s great to have both of your perspectives on this and to feel that we share in understanding how big the effect of the caregiver is on one’s recovery. Thank you, both!

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