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Thistle August 19th, 2006 02:58 AM

Hi there,

How do you, or clients, rate the validity of their memories or statements when doing EMDR. I don't want this to get into some flaming 'repressed memory syndrome' post. I am really interested in the honesty of EMDR.

For instance, I made a statement during an EMDR session about a memory, which really surprised me. I was not expecting it. My therapist believes what I said, but I wonder if I picked it up from something I read.

I am sure I am not unique in my personal disbelief. Do you think it is possible to lie while doing EMDR?


troubledwaters August 19th, 2006 05:24 AM

Re: Disbeliefs?
Hi Thistle,

I hope you don't mind me butting in. My therapist and I used EMDR for approx a year. My opinion only: Yes, it's possible to lie while doing EMDR, but I think it's highly unlikely to happen if I'm doing it correctly. By that I mean, I'm relaxed as much as possible and allowing my mind to be open enough to go wherever it needs to go, rather than directing or controlling it like I normally would in day to day life. I've had similar experiences as you describe. I've also had unexpected things come out when I do the right/left hand writing technique.

I struggle with believing, also. When I'm obsessing, demanding of myself that I need to know, I tell myself that I may never know, but forcing myself or being insistent sure won't help me. I remind myself that the best way to set up optimal conditions is to relax, open my mind to whatever it wants to reveal, and accept what comes. That doesn't mean I necessarily believe it, but I accept that that image or sentence or whatever it is was offered to my consciousness. Hopefully at some point in the future I'll have enough info to make sense of it all. Really good question, and one I ask myself regularly.


Sandra Paulsen August 19th, 2006 12:29 PM

Re: Disbeliefs?
Lets discuss three possibilities: 1) advertently distorting (lying), 2) inadvertently distorting (misperceiving) and 3) truthful sudden recall.

1) Lying. It is always possible to lie. But anytime someone is surprised by their own response, it appears to rule out lying. A liar is not surprised to hear him/herself lie, since it was deliberate.

2) Misperceiving. Inadvertent distorting or misperceiving, misrecalling is possible in any human cognitive function and EMDR is no different. Unless we have DNA evidence or videotapes its hard to know whether, for example, a memory is true.

3) Truthful recall. EMDR is an associative process. When we turn attention to a matter and add bilateral stim, there seems to be increased associations generated. It is clinical very very common for people to recall events with more vividness during EMDR. We try not to get too worked up about it, and often the particulars don't matter. Just like when you are traveling on a train, watching the scenery, you may see something that surprises you, and you're not sure you really saw it, but then its gone, and the train moves on, so you let it go.

However, sometimes what comes up in EMDR is very important. If it is just a wisp of a thought, maybe the client just lets it go. If however it is associated with additional channels of information, such as smells, sounds, colors, tastes or body sensations in addition to a picture, it is hard to ignore. The more channels of info their are, the more compelling a person will find it. If it suddenly explains lots of things -- such as the origin of symptoms, or why something has been difficult all ones life, well then we pretty much have to deal with it for symptom reduction.

In general, I encourage my clients to just sit with it, suspending judgement, and notice. Sometimes we do an experiment. See how life goes for one week if the observation were assumed to be untrue, and another week try to see how life goes if the observation were assumed to be true. If symptoms increase with one view of reality and decrease with another view of reality, then the client can choose based on which view makes life go better.

Very often, the decision of whether to accept a snippet of information as true is made difficult by the fact that accepting the snippet may require "demoting" a parent or other significant person from a pedestal. This may seem daunting, but may be necessary in some cases. Not all, surely.

Finally, if all that comes up during EMDR that is disconcerting is to hear oneself say something that is surprising, or feels slightly outside oneself, well, that might mean an ego state is being integrated by the work. Ego states sometimes get dissociated out of necessity (even in people without a formal dissociative disorder) and EMDR, being associative, pulls that ego state back into awareness and integration.

Don't know if any of this applies to you tho!

WhHeNe August 20th, 2006 06:23 PM

Re: Disbeliefs?
Interesting thread. I have been doing EMDR with my therapist periodically through treatment. At one point, a vivid, disturbing scenario played out in my head during the session. I am extremely skeptical of "recovered memories", so have dealt with it like this. In the context of my childhood and the people and places I experienced, I feel the scene was likely to happen. I also think it explains some huge fears, that seemed irrational, but have always been an undercurrent. I believe I saw something when I was a child, and I don't believe I will ever know the whole story. Even if the people in it were still alive, I would probably not ask.
I don't know if this helps. I do know that what I saw, felt and experienced through EMDR has validity for me. I understand myself better, and what makes me tick.

Thistle August 23rd, 2006 01:50 PM

Re: Disbeliefs?
Thank you for your posts and explinations/definitions.

I did 'sit' with this memory and decided it was probably true. My current life won't change because of this little bit of information.

But, it seems that after accepting it, I have had a couple of somatic 'memories', which is a new and not pleasant experience. Perhaps they are serving to validate my memory. But if just a one small sentence of a memory of abuse brings this amount of unwanted physical feeling, I am afraid of what a full blown flashback might bring.

I appreciate your posts.

oh, and to other posts...I would never be able to do EMDR if my therapist had to sit close to me or touch me. I use a light box and headphones, because I am too easily distracted. She sits about 4 feet away. I tried it after a while without the headphones but my mind would revert back to wondering about the crows calling and the other noises outside. I also hate the question of how much I am feeling discomfort. A lifetime of dissociation from my body doesn't enable that question to make sense.

Sandra Paulsen August 24th, 2006 12:56 AM

Re: Disbeliefs?
Here's a general comment about physical sensations that are uncomfortable. In order to avoid being flooded by unpleasant body sensations, one can reconceptualize the task (before EMDR) as being to marinate oneself in a pleasant sensation or state (thoughts of the beach, riding a horse, playing basketball, luxuriating under a blanket, whatever feels safe and strengthening ot each person). After that experience, which is strengthening, then one can nibble around the edges of an unpleasant sensation. One doesn't have to live there, just touch on it gently, experienc it, and then gently gently redirect attention to the strengthening experience, the same one used before. And go back and forth like a figure eight. Round and around. This actually metabolizes the negative experience so it becomes more tolerable. This is the heart of Somatic Transformation and Somatic Experiencing. It well prepares people for the experience of EMDR. In EMDR, we resource first and we resource at the end of the EMDR but not in the middle. So SE or ST is a good baby step for people with lifelong habits of body disconnection. May or may not be good for you though -- general comments only.

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