EMDR and The Metaphor of Transformation

What the butterfly knows is transformation and the metaphor they provide is one that survivors can use to see their own transforming recovery.

The beginning of the year is a liminal time and like the butterfly in a cocoon, you are out of one life experience but not yet in another.  You are betwixt and between not knowing what the new year will bring. This is a time of possibilities and can be, your time of transformation!

If you can identify with any experience described in The Institute’s newsletters or magazine, then you have been called to the adventure of recovery.  This year EMDR can help you release the burden of pain so you can embark on your own recovery.

Survivors are curious ‘what’ EMDR  ‘does,’ what is incorporated in a normal EMDR session, and why it claims to be able to help with trauma, intrusive thoughts, and other aftermath effects of Pathological Love Relationships. Let’s see what is involved in EMDR…

EMDR helps you through a process called Desensitization. The call to recovery is usually signaled by the appearance of enormous emotion and can be a mixture of sadness, hope and fascination or it can be grief, fear or anger about betrayal. Most certainly the Pathological Love Relationships has left its mark upon your emotions.  How these painful feelings and symptoms get processed is through what is called Desensitization.  The technique used in Desensitization is called BLS or Bi-Lateral Stimulation.

The process in Bilateral Stimulation (BLS) is that a therapist uses one or more of the following techniques. They have you

  • Follow a light with your eyes
  • Follow the therapist’s finger movements with your eyes
  • Feel the therapist tapping rhythms on your hands
  • Or by listening to auditory tones that the therapist plays on a headset

During these sessions, you are encouraged to let whatever imagery, feelings, sensations or memories rise to the surface without trying to repress them.

When these images, feelings, sensations or memories come up in session, you are asked to focus on three things:

  • The image of the incident
  • The negative belief that goes with it
  • And where you feel these emotions or sensations in your body

Focusing on those three elements coupled with which ever BLS technique that is being used, intensifies the level of response and stimulates the natural tendency of the brain’s information processing system to move toward mental health. In other words, it helps the mind ‘digest’ unprocessed information that was causing emotional (or physical) symptoms. EMDR removes the pain of the trauma that has been blocking your ability to move forward in life (or in Pathological Love Relationships, move forward with releasing the pathological).

At the end of each BLS set, the therapist asks, “What do you get now?”  You are encouraged to report any feelings, images or thoughts you are aware of at that point.  The therapist encourages you to continue to report whatever comes to you without discarding anything as ‘unimportant’.

Each target memory that is focused on is like the head of an octopus.  The tentacles are memory channels containing other related experiences.  Sets of BLS are applied to each new awareness or related experience until each channel is cleared out.

If there are new sensations, awarenesses or insights accessed, the therapist will usually say “Go with that” and will go through another BLS set.  In this way the clinician encourages further processing of the material until the S.U.D. (Subjective Unit of Disturbance) level is “0” or “1” (on a scale of 0-10 with 10 being the highest level of disturbance). This is continued until there are no new awarenesses.

At the end of each BLS set, the therapist says, “Let it go and take a deep breath.”  It is important that you are aware that whatever memories, thoughts or sensations come up during EMDR they are old stuff, it is not happening in the present moment. You are safe in the present

Information processing in EMDR is like getting on a train and watching the scenery of thoughts, images or emotions pass by the train window of your awareness.  Each stop of the train is a new plateau of information where dysfunctional material can link up with appropriate, useful and self-enhancing information.  Your view isn’t completely functional until the train reaches the “last stop” of fully adaptive information and there are no new awarenesses.

Unburdened and desensitized from the pain of the past, you can emerge from the cocoon with new beliefs and new awareness, empowered to take flight! You will have experienced the transforming power of EMDR!

So, this new year, what will it be ?  The pain of the past or the beginning of a new life?  The choice is yours. Contact The Institute for more information about our EMDR Retreat in 2011. Space is limited so reserve your healing time now.

For more information on EMDR

  • Go to emdr.com, click on “Find an EMDR Clinician,” put in your city and state.
  • Read the list and make an appointment with an EMDR trained psychotherapist today or make plans to attend the EMDR Retreat in 2011.

Live Through the Holidays, Don’t Just Get Through Them

The holidays are coming.  If you are feeling hurt or betrayed, it’s painful to see others “making merry” when you are in so much pain.  How can you change this?

The holidays can be enjoyable or miserable, based on your beliefs about themselves.  Negative beliefs can fill you with anxiety or depression during the holidays.  If you transform your negative beliefs, you transform your experience.  How do we you that? You can do that by:

  • acknowledging your negative beliefs (cognitions)
  • recognizing how negative cognitions have affected your life
  • transforming negative cognitions into positive cognitions with EMDR

A negative cognition is evidence that a traumatic event has had a powerful effect on your life that hasn’t been assimilated or resolved.  These negative cognitions can be from childhood events.  They can even come from recent events with your abuser.  These events are locked in our nervous system in the form of these negative cognitions, plus emotions and physical sensations that feel the same as the day it happened.  They can be triggered by holiday people, places and things.

A negative cognition is a negative belief you have about yourself now in relation to the past traumatic event.  The negative cognition is usually inappropriate and dysfunctional.  It is usually based in one of four themes:

  • Shame (I am something “wrong”.)
  • Guilt (I did something “wrong”.)
  • Safety  (Vulnerability)
  • Control  (Lack of choice)

Some examples of negative cognitions are:

  • “I am not good enough.”
  • “I should have known better.”
  • “I cannot protect myself.”
  • “I am helpless.”

This is the negative vicious cycle:

  • I was taught, through trauma, how to think, act and feel about myself, reinforced by experiences, family, friends, abusers and society so…
  • I am afraid of the world due to my negative cognitions being reinforced and validated by abusive people in my life and…
  • I behave in negative ways to gain validation of my shame, blame and guilt, therefore…
  • My experiences continue to reinforce the negative cognitions that I was taught to think & feel about myself and others by my abuser(s),

EMDR moves an event from short term memory storage into long term storage.  This is where what is useful is learned and made available for future use.  The negative cognition becomes less and less vivid and valid with each set of bilateral stimulation (eye movement or tapping or tones).

With EMDR, negative cognitions are transformed and replaced by a positive cognition of your choosing.  This creates a positive cycle:

  • I think, act and feel according to positive cognitions and values I am creating, reinforced by new positive experiences with family, friends and society, so…
  • I think affirmingly about myself due to my own sense of self and…
  • I live in the world in terms of being reinforced and validated by positive cognitions internal to me and…
  • I behave in positive ways to get internal validation of my value and worth, therefore…
  • My experiences continue to reinforce the way I feel about myself and others based on my positive cognitions.

If you want to make this happen:

1. Go to www.emdr.com , click on “Find an EMDR Clinician”, to find a trained psychotherapist in your area, make an appointment.  Go and make it a gift to you for the holidays.

2. If you don’t have insurance, call your local mental health center to find an EMDR trained psychotherapist  who works on a sliding scale.

3. Be safe.  Do what is safe and good for you during the holidays instead of doing what you think you “should” do.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year filled with new possibilities!

Managing Anxiety Through The Butterfly Method

Pathological Love Relationships leave an aftermath of problems of which the most bothersome are all the anxiety symptoms. These include racing heart, racing mind, intrusive thoughts. obsessional thinking, adrenaline rushes, and cognitive dissonance. Part of recovery is symptom management and finding tools that bring relief to the some distressing of symptoms.

The Butterfly Hug is a form of bilateral stimulation that I suggest my client use in between EMDR sessions or even during a therapy session to relax and calm them self when they need to do so.

The Butterfly Hug was originated and developed by Lucina Artigas, M.A., M.T., and Ignacio Jarero, Ed.D., Ph.D., M.T.  Ignacio graciously gave me permission to share this with you.  They used this process with survivors of hurricane Pauline in Mexico, in 1998.  Since then, it has been used with adults and children who have experienced various forms of trauma.

The process is simple and can be done anytime, anywhere you choose.  It can help you induce a sense of safety and calm and empower you to self-comfort and self-soothe.  It can also foster your resilience and to allay any disturbing feelings that come up.   Most importantly, it can help to ground your awareness in the present moment. Anxiety symptoms are always related to future worrying so any symptom management that helps to ground people to the present moment also helps to manage anxiety.

Here is how it’s done:

  • Sit with your back straight.  Do abdominal breathing. Imagine you have a little balloon in your stomach that you inflate and deflate, slowly, deeply, smoothly.
  • Observe what is happening in your mind, emotions and body as you would observe clouds in the sky.
  • Cross your hands over your chest so that the middle finger of each hand is placed below your collarbone.  The rest of your fingers will touch your upper chest.  Your hands and fingers are as vertical as possible (pointing more toward your neck than your arms.  You can interlock your thumbs.
  • Alternate the movement of your hands, right, left, simulating the flapping wings of a butterfly.
  • Continue to breathe slowly and deeply, observing whatever is going through your mind and body (thoughts, images, sounds, odors, emotions and physical sensations) without changing, avoiding or judging anything.  Observe it like clouds passing by.

The butterfly is an ancient symbol of transformation.  As you use this simple tool, you are facing, rather than avoiding conflict.  Whenever you stop avoiding, you raise your level of consciousness (awareness).  As you do this, you are strengthening your inner radar detector by becoming more of who you really are, empowering yourself and calming yourself all at the same time.

N.L.P.: An Empowering Map to a New Life

Once upon a time, the Road Runner* was being chased through the desert by Wile E. Coyote.* Wile E. was shooting arrows at the Road Runner. Road Runner, being a creative and resourceful bird, found a u-shaped water gutter and held it up. The arrows went into the gutter, made a u-turn and went right back at the coyote.

‘What,’ you may ask, ‘does this story have to do with my recovery?’ My answer: Everything! The Road Runner used what was used against it to keep safe. What was used against you? The answer is mind control induced by hypnosis. Even though it is not likely your abuser studied hypnosis, by the mere fact of having been in a pathological relationship, the components of hypnosis were present and kept you in that relationship.

You may be thinking that you were never hypnotized or that you can’t be hypnotized. Consider this: Have you ever driven on the highway and wondered how you passed seven exits on that highway without even noticing them? You were daydreaming. Daydreaming is a form of hypnotic trance. In fact, all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. It is simply hyper-focusing on one thing while blocking out other things. This can account for your ‘Super Trait’ of high tolerance to emotional pain. The ability to block out painful things while focusing on the pleasure of the relationship is not only part of hypnosis, its part of the ‘Super Trait’ of tolerance.

Combine this with the high intensity that your abuser brought to the relationship, the hyper-focus created by traumatic events, the verbal abuse that was received as hypnotic suggestions during these vulnerable times, and repeat this over time with varying levels of severity and you have the components of mind control. This is how one becomes programmed with the abusers’ beliefs and values, which replace one’s own beliefs and values. (Read Chapter 10 of “Women Who Love Psychopaths” 2nd Edition)

This level of mind control and programming can be helped and lessened with a form of hypnotherapy called Neuro-Linguistic Programming. In fact, we can take what was used against you in the form of mind control and turn it around using N.L.P.! Many people get apprehensive about hypnosis and fear they will be unconscious and under the control of the hypnotherapist. Or worse yet, open themselves to demonic, evil, or inappropriate suggestions or influence. This is not true.

Hypnotherapy is simply a state of deep relaxation and mental alertness. Clients can hear and respond to everything and are active participants in the session. They have complete control over what they will or will not do. Hypnotherapy is merely a way to access your subconscious mind to achieve the goals that you want to achieve. That’s because anything you have learned can be unlearned and replaced by new learning. In fact, in situations of mind control, it SHOULD be unlearned and replaced.

What Is N.L.P. and How Does It Work?

N.L.P. is a type of internal and emotional experience. Each N.L.P. experience takes about 10-20 minutes. N.L.P. focuses on how thoughts, actions and feelings work together to produce our experience. Our thoughts and memories have a pattern to them. When we change that pattern or structure, our experience will automatically change. With it, you can change your thoughts, feelings and behavior and add new ones that can become just as systematic as the old ones (and a lot more enjoyable). N.L.P. exercises are like thought experiments and the laboratory is your mind providing you with a chance to try out something new in your thinking patterns. We can neutralize painful memories and enrich memories that serve us. This changes the present which can create a better, brighter future.

A few ways N.L.P. may help your aftermath:

  • create a compelling future and a personal map to it
  • clear up past negative experiences that might have held you back
  • interrupt traumatic replay in which you keep picking the same traumatic situations/people types over and over again
  • increase your self appreciation
  • create a solid positive mental attitude
  • change thoughts, feelings and behaviors
  • solidify your recovery

Common Resistance to N.L.P./Hypnotherapy
You may think that you can’t visualize and are wondering if you can even use or benefit from N.L.P. Yes you can! N.L.P. simply uses all your five senses. It uses your inner voice, sensations, feelings and images as the basic building blocks of your mental and physical resources. Since you already have these building blocks, you will always have them. That means anyone can use N.L.P.

You can choose to use a resource the way you want at the times when you want it. In any situation you can learn to choose how you want to feel and how you want to respond. Motivation, persuasion, confidence, self love, decision making and creativity are all resources you can learn.

In the movie “The Edge”, Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin were being stalked by a bear in the forests of Alaska. An N.L.P. basic principle was stated in the movie, “What one man (or woman) can do, another man (or woman) can do.” Hopkins got Baldwin to repeat and believe this truth when Baldwin started to panic. It saved their lives.

Try this similar N.L.P. activity (from the landmark book “N.L.P. The New Technology of Achievement” by Steve Andreas and Charles Falkner, which can be ordered from N.L.P. Comprehensive):

  1. Make what you want to do and think about into a positive statement. (It can’t be anything that hurts you or someone else.)
  2. Increase the mental vividness of what you want to do in order to increase its attractiveness to you.
  3. Associate into these successful behaviors and mentally rehearse them so they feel natural.
  4. Google N.L.P. psychotherapists in your area, make an appointment and get assistance from a licensed professional to create the life that you want.

* Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner were created by Chuck Jones and belong to the Warner Brothers Corporation.

What Happens In An EMDR Session?

Do you ever have present day experiences that trigger  old, extremely distressing memories as if they were stuck in your brain?  Do sights, sounds and smells that remind you of the original event leave you in an extreme state of anxiety, hypervigilance or panic?  When this happens, do you hear the abuser’s ideas in your head, putting you down, criticizing or ridiculing you in some way?  Do you sometimes think you are crazy?  This is a normal response to traumatic material that has not been fully processed.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is used to disconnect emotionally disruptive memories from current life experiences.  Its focus is the resolution of emotional distress arising from traumatic events.  No one knows for sure how EMDR works but through brain imaging techniques, we are seeing its effects. Dr. Daniel Amen M.D., in his book, ”Healing the Hardware of the Soul”, states that, “people who have been traumatized and develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms (such as flashbacks, nightmares, worries, quick startle response, anxiety, depression and avoidance) are frequently overly concerned and worried (anterior cingulate section of the brain-get stuck), anxious and hyper alert (basal ganglia section of the brain), and filter everything through negativity (limbic-thalmus section).”  EMDR calms all of these areas of the brain according to the SPECT brain scans Dr. Amen has been doing for the last 20 years. These scans allow us to see the internal operations of different parts of the brain, allowing us to learn more about which parts do what.

When a person experiences an event that is extremely distressing and overwhelming, it is stored in the brain with all the sights, sounds, thoughts, feelings and body sensations that accompanied the event when it happened.  Think of your brain as a recorder that doesn’t miss a thing, storing all aspects of an experience, whether we consciously remember it or not.

When a scary or extremely painful event happens, the brain is sometimes not able to process the experience as it normally does.  The thoughts, feelings and sensations of the traumatic event can become frozen in the nervous system as if in a time warp.

EMDR helps to activate the brain’s natural processing abilities with efficiency, thereby helping to move the disturbing material through the nervous system, allowing the person to heal more completely.

In a typical EMDR session, a client focuses on a troubling memory.  With a trained psychotherapist, the client identifies the negative belief she has about herself connected to this memory.  The client then chooses a positive, more adaptive belief that she would like to believe about herself.  The emotions and body sensations associated with the memory are identified. The client then attends to the memory as a whole in brief, sequential doses while focusing on an external stimulus that creates bilateral (side to side) movement:  eye movements by watching the therapist’s moving finger or a light or tactile tapping or tones.  After each set of bilateral movements, the client is asked how she feels.  This segment is complete when the memory is no longer disturbing.  The chosen positive belief is then installed, via bilateral movement, to replace the negative one. The result of EMDR is the rapid processing of information about the negative experience and movement toward an adaptive resolution.  This means a reduction in the client’s anxiety, a change from a negative belief about self to a positive belief and more functional behavior in relationships and at work.

EMDR deals with past events that led to present symptoms, current circumstances that trigger distress and future events that can be targeted to help you in acquiring the skills you need for adaptive functioning in the present and in the future.

A typical EMDR session lasts 60 minutes.  The length of treatment depends on the nature and length of time of the problem, the degree of trauma, its complexity and the client’s age when it happened. However, with EMDR, in contrast to traditional talk therapies, treatment time is usually markedly reduced.

The first couple of sessions consist of taking a thorough client history. A Safe Place (a place to go in your imagination to get serenity and peace) is installed with bilateral movement.  A Resource or Skill, picked from a list by the client, is also installed to facilitate the EMDR work that can begin by the third or fourth session.

EMDR can evoke strong emotions and sensations.  This is normal since the method is used to process those uncomfortable feelings and sensations when they come into the clients’ awareness. Usually these unpleasant feelings are experienced briefly and soon fade as the treatment proceeds.

Two suggestions:

  1. Go to www.emdr.com to get more information about EMDR and the research studies.
  2. Go to www.emdr.com, click on Find A Clinician, put in your city and state, or a major city near you to find a trained clinician, make an appointment and go get some relief!


More on EMDR:  EMDR and the lessons from neuroscience research by Bessel A. van der Kolk, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine