How EMDR has helped me react differently

My last post about how I handle being tweaked mentioned how I might have reacted in the past, but how I am training myself to react now. But this blog is supposed to specifically be about fighting PTSD with EMDR, so I wanted to explain how my particular experience with EMDR has helped me to re-work those previous scripts, and how it’s given me a few new coping mechanisms to replace those that I am trying to shed.

(Right now, I am still on that medication that exacerbates PTSD symptoms, so I’m trying to be particularly mindful of my new skills as my irritability and reactivity is truly impressive at the moment. Also, did I mention that during this course of meds my therapist is on vacation for two weeks? Oh, yes, she is. Ha ha ha ha ha ha.)

Yesterday I mentioned that the first way I realized I was going into a tweaked state was noticing how my body was reacting.

There are two reasons this is new:

  1. One of my coping mechanisms, which I am working rather successfully at removing, was not feeling my emotions and turning off my physical pain/discomfort receptors. (I wish I weren’t quite so successful at removing that one, actually, sometimes). I have been removing this coping mechanism by addressing, in EMDR sessions, some of my most fearsome moments when I learned the lesson that lack of emotion was strength, and that having feelings was weakness. That refusing to feel pain was control.
  2. What my therapist asks me again and again, in all of these EMDR sessions is: “Where do you feel it in your body? Focus on that part of your body. Keep going.”

So I have been learning body mindfulness, bone-deep, in ways that all the yoga and meditation in the world was not teaching me. It has become instinctive, nearly, to feel what is happening in my body, and to ‘keep going.’

1pine groveAlso, when I am particularly in need of present-day calming, some of my EMDR sessions are all about coping and nothing about memories. I am focusing on a very relaxed state. I am usually in a lake, floating effortlessly. Or I am at the top of a pine tree where I went when I was a little girl and had time to be alone and feel safe, rocking gently in the wind.

I believe that because EMDR stirs up my subconscious so thoroughly, focusing on those moments and associating a word with them can set off a nearly Pavlovian response in me later. When I say aloud: Pine Grove, I am flooded with peace. It’s like a drug, nearly. I just did it now, and I am feeling just a mite less agitated. And my session with the pine grove was more than a year ago. The word “lake” now has the same effect.

Pine Grove. Lake. Spending a few moments there when I am feeling out of myself is like a cool drink of water, and then I can go back to keeping going. Keep going, self. Keep going.