Re: Difficulties with EMDR
I'm a therapist who uses EMDR as my primary method and I've also personally had EMDR therapy for anxiety, panic, grief, and “small t” trauma. As a client, EMDR worked extremely well and also really fast. As an EMDR therapist, and in my role as a facilitator who trains other therapists in EMDR (certified by the EMDR International Assoc. and trained by the EMDR Inst, both of which I strongly recommend in an EMDR therapist) I have used EMDR successfully with panic disorders, PTSD, anxiety, depression, grief, body image, phobias, distressing memories, and bad dreams.
YinPrincess, I wonder if you did the 2nd phase of EMDR therapy before you started working on that one really bad memory? Phase 2 in EMDR involves preparing for memory processing or desensitization (memory processing or desensitization - phases 3-6 - is often referred to as "EMDR" which is actually an 8-phase psychotherapy). In this phase resources are "front-loaded" so that you have a "floor" or "container" to help with processing the really hard stuff. In Phase 2 you learn a lot of great coping strategies and self-soothing techniques which you can use during EMDR processing or anytime you feel the need. You learn how to access a “Safe or Calm Place” which you can use at ANY TIME during EMDR processing (or on your own) if it feels scary, or too emotional, too intense - or somehow too slippery to keep in mind!
I also wonder if you were asked to bring up the image, the negative belief about yourself NOW, the feelings that come up now when you bring up that event, and WHERE YOU FEEL THE DISTURBANCE IN YOUR BODY (after giving a number to how disturbing the event is for you now on a 0-10 scale)? Just bringing up the image and "the thoughts associated with it" are unlikely to get you into it enough to process.
One of the key assets of EMDR is that YOU, the client, are in control NOW, even though you haven't felt in control during the old event(s). You NEVER need re-live an experience or go into great detail, ever! You NEVER need to go through the entire memory. YOU can decide to keep the lights (or the alternating sounds and/or tactile pulsars, or the waving hand) going, or stop them, whichever helps titrate – measure and adjust the balance or “dose“ of the processing. During EMDR processing there are regular “breaks” and you can control when and how many but the therapist should be stopping the bilateral stimulation every 25-50 passes of the lights to ask you to take a deep breath and ask you to say just a bit of what you’re noticing. (The stimulation should not be kept on continuously, because there are specific procedures that need to be followed to process the memory). The breaks help keep a “foot in the present” while you’re processing the past. If you lose the image, that's not unusual. Going "back to the original event" should help but if it doesn't, noticing what you're feeling in your body is key. Your mind might go "everywhere" and that's normal, too. Your mind and body are making the associations necessary to detoxify the memory. Again, and I can’t say this enough, YOU ARE IN CHARGE so YOU can make the process tolerable. And your therapist should be experienced in the EMDR techniques that help make it the gentlest and safest way to neutralize bad life experiences and build resources.
Pacing and dosing are extremely important! So if you ever feel that EMDR processing is too intense, then it might be time to go back over all the resources that should be used both IN session and BETWEEN sessions. Your therapist should be using a variety of techniques to make painful processing less painful, like suggesting you turn the scene in your mind to black and white, lower the volume, or, erect a bullet-proof glass wall between you and the painful scene, or, imagine the abuser speaking in a Donald Duck voice... and so forth. There are a lot of these kinds of "interventions" that ease the processing! Bringing your adult self into the memory is a great strategy. Your therapist can use what we call "cognitive interweaves" to help bring your adult self's perspective into the work as well. Such interweaves are based around issues of Safety, Responsibility, and Choice. So therapist questions like "are you safe now?" or "who was responsible? and "do you have more choices now?" are all very helpful in moving the processing along.
Grounding exercises are terrifically helpful. You can also use some of the techniques in Dr. Shapiro's new book "Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR." Dr. Shapiro is the founder/creator of EMDR but all the proceeds from the book go to two charities: the EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Program and the EMDR Research Foundation). Anyway, the book is terrific. It's an easy read, helps you understand what's "pushing" your feelings and behavior, helps you connect the dots from past experiences to current life. Also gives lots of really helpful ways that are used during EMDR therapy to calm disturbing thoughts and feelings.
In addition to my therapy practice, I roam the web looking for EMDR discussions, try to answer questions about it posted by clients/patients, and respond to the critics out there. It's not a cure-all therapy, however, it really is an extraordinary method and its results last. Check out the research: emdr dot com/general-information/research- overview dot html>. In the hands of a really experienced EMDR therapist, it's the most gentle way of detoxifying really horrid experiences.