Reader: You asked me previously to write about EMDR and here it is. It’s taken a while, but I wanted to get it right.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) was developed by American psychologist, Francine Shapiro after she made a chance observation one day while walking in the woods, that moving her eyes from side to side appeared to reduce the discomfort of disturbing thoughts and memories. She worked to research and develops the techniques over the 1990s and it is now a recognized psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing and traumatic life experiences.

The theory is, that our brains process memories we experience during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. When a person experiences a traumatic event or situation, the memory of it can sometimes fail to get processed by our brains effectively, causing them to experience the memory as if they are actually happening, instead of relating to it as a past experience. Such a response to trauma can often be identified by a particularly vivid or detailed memory of a situation such as the precise pattern of a carpet, a smell, a taste, an image etc. These can easily and repeatedly trigger thoughts of the experience as if it was really happening to the extent that the person’s life and identify becomes defined by that memory or group of memories…

EMDR now has a strong international evidence base. One particularly remarkable study found that 100% of people who’d encountered a single traumatic experience where no longer diagnosed of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following 6×50 minute sessions of EMDR and 77% of people who encountered multiple traumatic events were PTSD free in 12 sessions. EMDR is recognised by the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organisation and the Department of Defense as an effective treatment of trauma related mental health conditions.

What I particularly liked about it and responded well to, was that there was very little talking involved (unlike cognitive, talking based therapies). I didn’t need to describe past experiences in detail, I didn’t need to worry about saying the right thing, or the wrong thing or missing something important out. There was nothing to work out. To someone with an excessively busy and ruminating mind, this was so refreshingly uncomplicated. I left the first session even, wondering whether anything had really happened at all. I wasn’t really accustomed to “gentle” therapy as being effective and was about to right it off when the “real work” began after the session and my brain kicked into action.

The treatment came in phases:
Phase 1 is a brief history taking. What’s currently not working and a very succinct account of memories that we wanted to concentrate on. There were four particular ones for me and we explored when and how they get triggered, and how it would be if these memories did not have such an impact on my life – I hadn’t thought that could even be possible. Those memories were not hard at all to identify; they regularly appeared in my mind and popped up immediately with minimal exploration, as real as if they were happening. In brief they were:
1. being overpowered and briefly suffocated as a child
2. a nun telling me I was disgusting and should be ashamed of myself & locking me in a cupboard
3. rape
4. abortion
The common theme with these memories appeared to be entrapment and shame. I was surprised to discover that although I came to no physical harm at the hands of the nun; the encounter with her was the most impactful, being related to my identity. This throws the old saying that “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” completely out of the water.

Phase 2 related to finding ways to cope when things got shakey. And they did get shakey. The job of R, the therapist was to produce rapid change in my brain and my job was to ensure my brain could cope with that rapid change, and commit to asking for help if I needed it. Fortunately, I had the support of R and several other people who knew I was undergoing this therapy, who I could call upon when I didn’t know which way was up. I was also taught grounding and de-escalation techniques and advised not to meditate or indulge in overthinking as this may make the experience too overwhelming. Instead I exercised, I wrote and had acupuncture as an added method of releasing tension and stress (the latter was helpful but not necessary).

Phases 3 -6 targeted on the specific memories. Starting from the earliest, I was invited to get present to the experience through a chosen visual image relating to the memory. The pattern on a pair of trousers, the carpet I was on, the contorted face of the nun etc.. Again this was not hard for my brain to imagine, these memories being so close to the surface of my thinking experience.

Once my mind was occupied with the memory… I was asked what showed up, just to notice what happened, whatever it was. Sometimes it would be a smell, sometimes a visual image, sometimes a word popped into my head, a texture, a feeling… often, a well of emotion would accompany what I recalled. Tears would flow down my cheeks. Sometimes, I panicked and R would bring me “back into the room” by asking me to feel my feet or the chair I was sitting on. She ensured I knew I was safe, despite not feeling it at times… She was wonderful.

Once I’d described what I noticed, often in one short phrase or a sentence… R would move her upright index finger towards the right and left in front of my face, a bit like a pendulum, it felt slightly hypnotic. My eyes would accompany her finger rapidly looking to the right and left for around 2-3 minutes. She sometimes used another technique, which was a small buzzer in each of my hands which would alternate buzzing from my right to left hand. My eyes would often follow suit. This was the gentler of the two techniques by far and was used to “open out” and explore the memory more, when it got too emotionally intense. I was often amazed at what showed up.

During the therapy sessions, I was also asked to describe the experience through my identity or belief about my identity. R would often ask “and what are you telling yourself” and I’d answer such things as: “I’m powerless” and “I should be ashamed of myself (but why?)” and “I’m disgusting, she must be right, she’s an adult” and “I can’t get clean, I want to be clean”. Throughout the course of the therapy, over several weeks, these beliefs gradually changed. I found myself saying instead “I chose to submit to stay safe”, “I have nothing to be ashamed of” and “I am clean” and “I don’t have to agree with the opinion of others”.

Although many of the sessions themselves were powerful, the real work happened outside of the sessions. I’d return home, completely shattered and wanting to sleep, remaining disorientated for a few days afterwards. Often, I didn’t have a clue what was going on and leaving the house to meet others was out of the question. At one point my anxiety escalated but I remembered that I’d taken on the responsibility to ask for help when I needed it. It also took trusting myself in what I needed. I committed to taking care of myself through the process.

The final phase of the therapy, after around 10 weeks, was to revisit the earlier memories to see how I now responded to the memories, and if there was anything else to explore.

Since the therapy, I’ve learned:

• That I needed psychological help. I’m grateful that I had access to that help. No amount of transformation workshops, brooding or journaling or meditation was going to process those traumatic memories. My brain, in response to emotionally painful memories, took on a strategy to keep myself safe: it told me to submit, pretend to be weak, stay quiet, ignore my needs, that to experience love & intimacy I must endure physical pain, not to disagree or say no or rock the boat and it kept repeating those strategies, often to my detriment.

• That I’m emotionally strong. It took nearly everything I had to get through it. The process during the sessions was straightforward, complex and gentle. The processing at home most certainly wasn’t. In order to get through it I had to surrender control of my beliefs, expectations and world view; that’s that hard part. The belief that I’m strong has gradually grown as I’ve taken on running again and am training to 10k and half marathon level. I’m not fast yet, by I keep going and I do not stop. I’m also working with a trainer so that I can do chin ups, something I’ve never been able to do. Last week I amazed myself by walking my hands across parallel bars. My mentor is a 10 year old boy called George who of course, launches himself at the monkey bars with ease and laughs while he does chin ups. I love the cheeky little shit.

• That I don’t have to know how something works in order for it to be effective.

• That I get to choose which story I believe. If it doesn’t involve self-compassion, it doesn’t work. Another mentor is Maya Angelou (“Still I rise”).

The circumstances of my life were not my fault.
The experience of my life however, is certainly my responsibility.

Further information can be found about EMDR here:
http://www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/

-Emily

7-2-2018

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Reader: How does one feel safe with a predator?

Comment: Hey Brent,
I’ve read your recent posts with interest. I have faith in you, Brent. Hang in there.

In particular I read: “I’m just tired of the hate, I hate bullies”. May I suggest that the change you seek starts with you. What would it take to hear yourself say “I love bullies” (who, after all is not worthy of love?). This is not the same as “It’s OK to bully”. I get you have a reputation. There are stories about you. People see you how they want to see you; most times they won’t even consider a conversation with you necessary before they make up their minds about you. It’s all opinion. So make who you say you are more powerful that who they say you are. This is a massive ask, yes. But you have time to master this. Of all things you are rich in, Brent, it’s time.

Rather than a “weak little sissy” I consider taking the hit to be a sign of immense, even biblical strength and I’m inspired that you’re considering it. How about making them laugh when they give you the “the evil eye”, like “Shit man, do I have something in my teeth or are you just constipated?” (you’re a quick witted guy, your Spot gets held up at gun point had me laughing out loud at work: “How the hell would I know what Spot is feeling, I’M NOT FUCKING SPOT!”), shock them by shouting so loud in their face then run… you know the drill. With respect, I reckon you’ve mastered the skills to make yourself unnoticeable given your childhood memoir. But every time you hit back, you reinforce their story that you’re a monster.

How does one feel safe with a predator? You love it and respect it. Works the same with the bullies. To Amy, to me and to others, you’re not a monster – we just don’t see you as one, so you don’t show up as one. Would it surprise you to know that I’d choose a conversation with you in a room with no windows than a gaggle of school mums (moms) any day of the week. They are the ones that terrify me and I’m working on that. You are loved and respected. Consider this a privilege worth sharing with these guys who’ve probably had similar past stories of violence that you’ve had.

It’ll be really important to them to hold onto their opinion that you’re a monster once their minds are made up. That you’ll always bite. Then they know what’s going on and people like to know what’s going on, even if it’s horrifying. But it’s not impossible to change the story: make it your choice about who you are, not theirs, don’t give them the option to hold onto a label that isn’t yours.

Oh dear, am I preaching? I’ll stop now: I hope you read the above as invitation rather than instruction. Who the hell am I to instruct? I had a realistic dream the other night of smashing the face of an ex-boyfriend, and it was really quite satisfying….

With love and respect to you and Amy,
E

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I’m the only sex offender in this pod.

So yes i’m stressed out big time. I’m the only sex offender in this pod. There are 5 guys who tolerate me, the rest would like to fuck me up, Their words.

Well i promised you i’d not fight back if i could help it. But if someone comes in my cell i might have to. I will try awful hard Amy. But if its a matter of getting hurt real bad, i’ll have to protect myself. U know my faith, i’ll turn the other cheek if i can. Hell i’ll even run from the fight if i have to. 🙂

My fear is not about getting beat up for a minute or so. Its losing every thing i’ve worked for… staying off admins ” screw up ” radar. I just want to live a quiet life.

But intel hung me out to to be a target in this ” soft ” pod. Becouse i’m not only the only sex creep, or chomo as they love to refer to me as. But some of these guys still act like they are active gang members. I could check in from the check in pod. But what would that accomplish.

I’m just tired of the hate, but i didn’t give those i hurt any choice about the hate and pain i put them thru. So why bitch and whine right. So i’ll deal w/ the sick stomach, the headaches, and constant motor mouthing and U should die looks. Besides its loud in here so i dont mind spending more time in my cell than being out in the day hall.

I just hope one of these idiots doesn’t try to bully me by stealing or taking my stuff. That will lead to violence. I will not put up w/ it period. I hate bully’s…

Dont worry i’ll curl up and or run away from a fight unless its in my cell. Thats the worriesome one as far as a fight goes. Too easy to get hurt bad.

-Brent Brents

5-19-18

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see spot get robbed at gun point, how does spot feel?

Hello all.

So last week i started this tv class. Victim Impact Listen and Learn. I watch the program on tv, then do the work assignments in the work book.

So to be truthfull, the work book half is boring. And doesn’t challenge my brain the way the questions i get on the blog do. They are basically like see spot get robbed at gun point, how does spot feel?

I’ve spent about 38 yrs in treatment programs of one kind or another. So the questions are too easy to answer. Spot is scared, he’s unsure of strangers, thinks he’s weak etc. He has to replace all his credit cards, drivers licence and so on.

Ok lets be real, i have a short attention span when i’m not challenged. So my answers although spot on, are w/ out much meaning. However i asked for this class. Why becouse of the video part.

The video features victims/ survivors of all types of crimes. Ranging from property crimes to rape, robbery, murder, child abuse, and domestic violence. This part challenges my mind and heart. I’m pretty new to actual empathy, and true compassion for people.

So any time i hear 1 of your/ their stories, feelings, thoughts, fears, ideas, etc. I learn from a different perspective than i did all those yrs ago. I feel the sarrow, empathy, hurt, betrayal, all of it. And am able to truly understand the impact i had on the people i hurt, their families, friends, and loved ones. The communities, law enforcement, every one.

I’m not letting it go in 1 ear and out the other. These past 10 or so yrs things really get to my heart, and i feel hurt and pain for those who suffer at the hands of criminals like me. So yes i’m doing this class as honestly as i can. The written part is getting easier as well. I still dont like the simplicity of the questions.

I do answer brutaly honest though. As w/ every thing, its the best policy in my case. Thank U to all of U who check this blog and use to help themselves and others.

Sincerely;

Brent.

5-17-18

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I will be a weak little sissy, curl up in a ball, run, bow down, lose face, whatever it takes to avoid violence

I’m hoping i’ll move to the pod next door this week. If not i’ve come to a place of peace w/ myself. I dont like it in here, but i’ll do absolutely every thing and any thing the right way to stay out of trouble. There is no way i’ll fuck off going to pc, [protective custody] and getting myself put back in the hole for assault will absolutely not be an option this time.

I will be a weak little sissy, curl up in a ball, run, bow down, lose face, whatever it takes to avoid violence… And my shot at Pc. Just call me a bitch, or pussy, i dont care…

So joke em if they cant take a screw. I’m mister non violent, mr clean. And dont care who likes it or not…

Man i wish i could have a dog in here. But i wouldn’t want a dog to suffer prison life. To me dogs are creatures who should have the utmost freedom and space to run and play and explore in. I wouldn’t want to be a prison dog. Its bad enough we pretty much get treated like them.

-Brent Brents 5-27-18

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Colonoscopy in a few hours. :( CRAP!!!

Going for the old hose up my ass here in a few hours. Its been one miserable fricken day. Tell you about it later. Also i’m moving…its a progressive move. Ok gotta go poop. Later tater…

So i got drilled. Dont know the results, was way too groggy, forgot to ask. So now i wait for a month to find out whether theres any thing wrong or not.

Ok yesterday was horribly humiliating. I took the flush out pills, then drank 3/4 of a gallon of the flush out juice. Came back to my cell. The C/Os gassed 7 guys in the pod next to mine. Well my cell was the closest one to the gas. I’m oc restricted because of my COPD.

Well they put me in the exercise room, ( NO TOILET ) in there. Remember i’ve already started the flush out process. Long Story short, i shit myself. They refused to take me any where there was a toilet. Finaly after 4 hrs the nurse had to get on the shift leaders ass. Anyway i was frickin miserable and pissed off. But as they say in this crazy world of ours ” SHIT HAPPENS “!!!

-Brent Brents 5-15-18

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2 guys got into a fight…They weren’t surrendering.

Absolutely crazy weekend.
Well 2 guys got into a fight… They weren’t surrendering. So the cops tried to throw a grenade in. It missed and bounced back out around the cops and blew up. So they shut off the wi-fi and locked us all down. Still locked down, but they let us have visits, and wi-fi back…

I hope U have had a good mothers day. Oh you should google doberman / coon hound mix dogs. Truly beautiful and inteligent. Very tolerant, animal friendly and trainable. Saw 2 on tv in the last 2 months. 1 won the the Purina Dog Challenge distance jump. 32 feet+.

Such a beautiful dog. Dont look any thing like coonhounds as adults. Dont look like dobis’ either. Really sleek and muscular, but not scary doberman looking. I’m in love w/ them.

-Brent Brents 5-13-2918

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