Whenever I decide, hm, maybe this thing isn’t for me, I’m immediately hit by the thought: am I just giving up on something because it isn’t easy or quick? How can I be sure?
This is coming up for me now because I’m thinking of letting go of the EMDR therapy that I started this fall. Maybe it’s not what I need right now from therapy. Or maybe I’m just impatient? Or maybe I’m actually scared of where it might be taking me?
I wrote about several of my session earlier (you can start with the first one here). Elaine has wanted to be sure we have the agreement of all relevant parts before we do the actual eye movement work. When she told me that at first, it made good sense. But the thing is, as we met once a week in October and November, we never got to the agreement. We never started any eye movements. Instead, we just kept visiting my internal house to check in with parts that were worried about this therapy and, especially, with the small wounded child part.
Maybe it takes a few sessions to settle in. Maybe Elaine is going too slowly, too carefully. I think I carry some eternal ambivalence and doubt, and she reads that as hesitation, so she holds back. I don’t know. It’s hard to tell if the pace is right or not; I only know that it is much slower than I expected. I mean, part of the reason I decided to try EMDR in the first place was that Marie (sex therapist, remember her?) and I thought it might be a faster way to reduce the frequency with which I can get triggered about sex. This doesn’t feel fast, though.
Then there was that last session, the Thursday before Thanksgiving. I sat on Elaine’s couch as usual, cross-legged in the corner with a pillow on my lap. I closed my eyes, and she had me go back and visit my internal house and that frightened little girl again, pretty much the same type of thing we had done for the past four weeks or so. This time, what came up was rage. Or rather: RAGE! This is not an emotion I tend to know very well. But here it came, intense and hot and enormous, though I wasn’t at all clear what the anger was about. It just seemed to radiate from the little girl.
Something about the interaction made me increasingly uncomfortable. I told Elaine, “I think that is enough.” But she pushed me a bit; she said I could tolerate it and stay a little longer. I tried, and I lasted just a little longer, but then I said, “No, no, I am done!” I just opened my eyes and came out of it, instead of slowly closing up, giving the little one someone to take care of her, and promising to come back, the way we had done the other times. I felt like I tried, but I couldn’t do anymore. And I felt irritated with Elaine for not listening to me when I said it was time to stop. Admittedly, that may have just been some leftover rage I was feeling, and I directed it at the closest person.
We had only a few minutes left in the session anyway, and we did a little tapping to try to ground me and diminish the distress I was feeling. But then Elaine said, “By the way, in addition to being off the week of Christmas, I will not be working the two weeks before that. I have childcare issues, so even though it’s not what I planned or wanted, I won’t have any sessions those weeks.”
What what what what what WHAT?!?!
I start to boil inside. I’m thinking: We already miss next week because of Thanksgiving. That means we have one session on December 5 and then nothing until January, SIX WEEKS FROM NOW. How dare you? How dare you push me to open up stuff and stay longer than I want to, and then tell me that we only have 45 minutes to work on this in the next six weeks?
It felt so unsupportive–and it hit all my “you don’t care about me; I”m not important” buttons.
I’m generally quiet and polite when someone makes me angry, so I didn’t say much. I think I did say, “Wow, only one session then until January,” and she half apologized and I said goodbye and left. But in my car, I couldn’t even start driving home right away; the tumult inside me took up all my attention and energy.
I’m so mad.
I don’t like her. She doesn’t care about me at all. She doesn’t see me. She doesn’t know anything about me. She just follows her damn protocol, which matters more than I do.
I am so mad. It’s not fair. If she had fucking said at the beginning that we weren’t going to be able to meet, I would have listened more to my own hesitation. I would have stopped sooner, no matter what she said. Or I would not have even tried to do that work.
She doesn’t care at all about how this affects me.
And she is just abandoning me with all this emotion.
Tapping, snapping, crapping. Tapping doesn’t do anything. I’m exploding right now and she’s sitting in her stupid home office greeting her next client.
Finally, I settled myself enough to drive home. I was exhausted, okay maybe from sleeping poorly the night before. My back was hurting, okay maybe from the chronic hip tightness I’ve been working on. I was still angry, okay maybe about the scheduling but again, maybe some of that was the little girl’s rage. I don’t really know.
It took a phone session with E and some meditation and yoga and binge watching Netflix to really bring me back to a sense of stability–which by the way, I needed so that I could deal with my son’s return home. It was a relief to put all that intensity away for a while.
Around Thanksgiving, I decided that I would cancel my December 5 session with Elaine. Why risk opening all that up again, only to struggle to put it away for another month after that? What was the point?
So, I haven’t seen Elaine since November 21. And in the meantime, I’ve started to think that I don’t want to continue into the New Year. I have been feeling pretty good, overall. I haven’t been triggered at all for over five weeks, which is a long time for me. I have enjoyed the holidays with my family. I feel like I am actually living in the present for a change, instead of spending all my energy focused on the past.
A week ago, I experienced a great sense of clarity: I am doing well. I want to focus my efforts on my current life. On helping my son. On shifting the type of work I am doing. On my yoga teaching and my writing. On becoming the healthy, motivated, purposeful person I want to be. I want my energy to move forward.
It’s not that the past doesn’t matter. It did and it does. It caused me a lot of pain and shaped the person I am. But I have already done a lot of healing work. Years and years of it. Do I need to keep giving it that much attention, especially if it is so upsetting? It might be different if I were so affected by the past that I couldn’t manage my present. But in fact, I’m doing okay now with my present. I have more of a sense of boundaries (usually). I respect and care for myself (mostly). I have a lot of healthy coping skills (that I often use).
Today, though, I feel less clear than I did a week ago. I wonder if there’s relief to be found in EMDR, but I am giving up before I get there. I wonder if feeling those intense emotions from my wounded child self could free me from them, if I just allowed them to rise and pass through me. I wonder if I am making a bunch of excuses not to work anymore with Elaine because that last session was painful and difficult and left me feeling uncared for.
I don’t know my “true” motivation. I don’t even know what I am going to decide yet. My next appointment with Elaine is this week, on Thursday, January 2. I will go to the appointment, but I don’t know yet if I’ll use it to continue the work or talk to her about discontinuing.
Ah well. I suppose it would be boring if we always knew what lay ahead.
CREDIT: Image modified from a photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash
I think I miscalculate how much effort would be appropriate or worthwhile. Frequently it works out alright in the end, but I waste time banging my head on some problems and miss opportunities within reach if I just pushed a bit more. Life isn’t going to be perfect, but I’m seeing this lack of finesse in figuring out how hard to try is one of my weaknesses. So I can relate to wondering whether the emdr is worth sticking with.
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I used to be a person who pushed herself really hard, all the time. I used to work incredibly long hours. I used to go to boot camp workouts, even though I’m not really athletic. But over the past three years, I have only worked part time. I have taken a lot of naps. I have gone to a lot of therapy. Sometimes I think that was essential; other times, I wonder if I am too self-indulgent. Maybe my sense of how much effort I want to make has become distorted. Anyway, I know what you mean–it can be hard to figure out the right amount of effort. Maybe this is something I should start to pay more attention to.
It’s something I really want to look at this year, because I think sttachment impacts what you learn about how to pursue goals generally. It seems like it’s been a major stumbling block in my life.
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I can understand why you’d feel the way you do about having that bombshell dropped on you, I know I’d feel exactly the same, and can imagine if you’d freshly evoked rage in session it wouldn’t help your (very understandable) reaction very much. Would she have allowed you to touch base between sessions if it was just about childcare issues rather than her being away? I’m really sorry your last session was like this; we always want to end on a good note, especially when there’s a long gap to get through. Are you able to tell if your therapist felt it a bit herself too? Sometimes they’re too much of a closed book but I imagine it would help soften it to know they’re finding it difficult too….
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Perhaps I could have done a check-in with her along the way, if I’d asked. I didn’t think of it, since E is still my primary therapist, and I have still been able to see her, except for this shorter Christmas break. I don’t feel like I need Elaine to be a big emotional support for me overall. I just object to taking risks and going deep and then feeling like I’m either not heard or like there will be surprises about how the work will proceed.
And of course, I’m not even sure if we’ll EVER get to the eye movement therapy part of EMDR, or just re-hash a lot of the parts work I feel I have done before.
I’m still waffling about whether to go forward with this work. I don’t want to mix up this crummy session with the overall potential of EMDR. Maybe tomorrow’s session will help me sort it out.
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And thank you for the kindness and the warm tone of your reply. It feels really good to read that!
Oh, okay, I can see how that’s a little different then – makes sense.
This EMDR thing sounds much more complicated than I first realised – I wonder it depends on the person’s history or something? My brother had EMDR with hardly any prep for it first, but my therapist has talked repeatedly of doing it since September and we are still doing grounding work to prepare for it. Also, because of my stupid MS getting in the way I can’t do the eye moment part (which is why I can’t read a book anymore – sob!) and it’s possible to adapt it to something different (though still bilateral) like either the buzzing probes or tapping gently and slowly alternate sides.
Going back to my brother, he had about 12 or more sessions of eye moment work for it to make enough difference, it didn’t seem to be instant relief and I remember at first he wasn’t sure about it. Now he is! I’m not saying everyone will have the same experience as him, but it may be typical? Good luck with today’s session.
My beloved late mother-in-law used to say, if someone was agonizing over what cards to play when while playing spades: “Do what your mind tells you.” I love this expression and my wife and I say it all the time. I’ve even integrated it into my therapy; my therapist even says it now. Anyway, I bring this up because it seems to me that this is what you’re doing: you are listening to your inner wisdom, your intuition, and acting accordingly.
My personal lived experience with EMDR is that it is brutal and also transformative and also unlike any other experiences or accounts of it I’ve read online. Thus, I’m hesitant to share any of my insights regarding this process, except this: it cannot be forced. You have to be ready. You can be scared/worried/anxious but also still ready and willing to approach it. But if your gut says no, that’s enough, I’m done, you’re right to listen to it. And it doesn’t have to be no forever; maybe it’s no for now, or no with Elaine. And maybe it’s not “making excuses” but instead listening to what you need right now and taking care of yourself.
I admire you, as always, for your candor and strength and willingness to share.
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Thank you; I appreciate this comment. For me, it’s actually not what my MIND tells me that I should listen to, because my mind overthinks things. It is my instinct, my gut, my body’s reaction. I think that is what you actually mean, because you are mentioning inner wisdom and intuition.
Anyway, it’s good to remember to let that inner wisdom guide me. I will try to do that as I meet with Elaine tomorrow.
I’m so intrigued when you say EMDR has been brutal and transformative for you. Can you tell me a little more about your experience, like how long you did EMDR? Did you do it with your regular therapist or with someone new, like I’ve been doing? (I actually think it would go better with my regular therapist, because she knows me well, and Elaine barely knows me at all). Did you do a lot of parts work first? How often did you do the eye movement work? I’m not asking you to share any of the intimate parts you don’t feel like writing about, but I’d be curious to even know about the practical side of things, if you are comfortable writing about that.
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yes, when I’m talking about doing what your mind tells you, I’m definitely talking about intuition. My therapist uses some DBT concepts in our therapy and so we talk about the concept of Wise Mind. I like the explanation of Wise Mind here: https://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/dialectical-behavior-therapy/what-is-wise-mind
I’d be happy to share my thoughts on EMDR with you, but I don’t know if I want to do that here in a comment. Could I email you, maybe? I’d feel more comfortable with that format. Let me me know.
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That would be great! email@example.com
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Thanks! I’ve got a draft brewing.