After a number of years with the same therapist in individual and group work, she suggested EMDR. As I look back on this work, I can see that every one of what I now think of as breakthroughs in my abuse recovery has followed a period of doing EMDR work. I can’t even tell you what it was about the work that brought the change. But it was definitely a catalyst. At first, I was convinced I was doing it wrong so how could it possibly help. I usually couldn’t visualize what my therapist was asking me to, and I certainly didn’t trust what my mind came up with when I did. It definitely started as an exercise in “acting as if”. But I trusted in the process because I trusted my therapist and that seems like all that was needed.
The first shift came with my becoming willing to go to a 12 Step meeting of SIA (Survivors of Incest Annonymous). Although I had shared with my groupmates, all men in recovery, some of my sexual abuse history, I had been resisting going to a meeting created by and for survivors alone. In SIA, incest is defined very broadly as being perpetrated by someone you were led to trust, like a babysitter, teacher, coach, priest or neighbor, not just family members. More recently, the shift took the form of considering actually writing a letter to my high school where the abuse took place to let them know exactly what had happened to me while I was there and what effect it has had on my life, career, and relationships over the years. My understanding of how EMDR is able to facilitate these changes is sketchy but seems to allow communication between parts of the brain that have not been able to do so before. For instance, the part of my brain that feels at fault for and shame about the sexual abuse did not have access to the part of my brain that, as an adult in recovery with many years of therapy absolutely knew I was not to blame. When the trauma memory and the healing came together I felt a new lightness I had not known before.