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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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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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Let me tell U as a survivor turned predator…being triggered…Can really suck.

Emily,

Let me tell U as a survivor turned predator. Being triggered by things we read, see on tv, see in dreams, smells, mens voices, places etc. Can really suck. I’ve experienced this, not too much in the last 20 + yrs. But as a predator i would be triggered by alot of the same memories and things, i was as a survivor. It is something that i’m sure you’ll probably experience again as you interact w/ and speak w/ others survivors as they relate their stories to U.

So dont be surprised on that front. Just stay strong and continue to grow. And remember this is for U and the others like U. As well as those of U currently suffering abuse. If U need to talk to Amy or i, or any one else dont hesitate. This was and is what this site is for.

As for assholes who go thru the legal system and beat it, well it happens Emily. Yes sports figures, tv and movie personalities, famous and rich get away w/ alot of shit. And yes they brag, often publicly accusing thier victims of wanting it, or liking it etc. Our society puts more value in these types of people than they do the victims and survivors of rape and abuse.

But it is changing Emily, slowly for sure, it is though. In the U.S. there is an ad campaign w/ famous sports figures who speak out against rape and abuse. Theres a college athlete campaign as well. A world famous tv dad has just been convicted of drugging and raping a woman.

Its slow going, nothing changes over night. And sadly U and i will be long buried before what we want happens. In the mean time My friend keep up the good fight for your own recovery and for the rest who need your help. Again thank U your courage is awesome.

Always here for U.

Brent.

-5-4-2018

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Reader: I’m starting with this woman and moving forwards

Hi Amy,

I hope this email reaches you well. I’ve been checking into the blog and reading some great responses, as Brent advised; I’m so pleased that your message and efforts are gaining momentum…
I was moved by Brent’s last response and remain inspired by his self examination, exploration and willingness to change his position/perception. It is his response that gives me the (albeit uneducated) belief that he is not all ‘pathological predator’ and has access to his own capacity of mind or freedom of choice and will. I’m sure psychiatric opinion and even Brent himself would disagree with that belief.
My last response to Brent via the blog was delayed and my explanation to him was intentionally somewhat vague. I’m particularly mindful of a boundary between sharing my experience and ’emotional dumping’ on either you or Brent. The latter I’m not up for in the slightest. I have no expectation of either of you to facilitate, enable or otherwise be responsible for my healing: I’m inspired regardless.
Recently, the outcome of a high profile rape case was published, you may have heard of it. The Belfast Rape Case is currently doing the rounds in the UK media, where 2 rugby players were found not guilty of raping a young woman. Since then, there has been a public social media focus on the “bragging and mysogynistic” texts between these 2 individuals and others after the event. Details of these conversations were shared in court to the extent that certain slang terms such as “spit roasting” had to be explained to the judge and jury. It was these details that particularly sicken me. The outcome of case & verdict serve to assure me I was right to keep quiet 20 years ago and save myself and my family from public shame..
For this case relates so closely to my experience of being raped at both ends while at University by two visiting ‘hockey heros’ who found their own particular way to top their winning night and become ‘legends of the locker room’, by engaging in sex with someone so inebriated as to have been incapable of providing consent, were it to have been sought.
I’ve sporadically dipped into the progress of this case with mixed feelings of injustice, morbid curiosity, disbelief and anger that this behaviour still goes unacknowledged. I’m convinced this is the tip of the iceberg. I kept quiet about it 20 years and from the outcome of this case, it seems I was wise to do so. How many other vulnerable women (and men) will be encouraged to do the same?
I recall that you covered and wrote extensively about this very rotten issue across Universities and in the Military, particularly. It saddens and angers me that this practice is so widespread: 20 years on from my experience, young women remain vulnerable and unheard. Men meanwhile, remain left with the message that this is standard behaviour to be ignored at best and or rewarded by these locker room louts masquerading as “sporting legends” at worst.
To prevent this happening to just one woman, man or child to lift the burden of their shame and self enduced life sentence would be incredible… this is my intention. I’m starting with this woman and moving forwards from there…
The last couple of months have been pretty dark, and I haven’t felt partucularly courageous or hopeful following the outcome of that case. Hence, I havent been in touch, while I deal with this emotional trigger and move forwards.
I just wanted to reassure you that I remain passionate and willing about supporting you and Brent in any way I can: for your message that so inspired me, to grow and contribute to tipping the balance.
With gratitude and best wishes,
Emily
April 13, 2018

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Reader: Is rape an inevitability?

One response to “As a result of your latest post i have made the decision to not say that rape is worse than murder

There’s been a delay in my reply to you, I apologise, Brent.. particularly given your powerful response, thank you. My experience since last writing seems to be (as Brene Brown, a researcher òf shame and vulnerability would call) a ‘vulnerability hangover’! Almost from the moment I reached out and shared my experience and thoughts, I felt the shame.. who the hell was I to write something like that? What difference did I think it would make? So I hid away, closed myself off.. just like I’d squidge myself and my duvet under my bed as a child: it was safe under there. What a fraud eh? 🙂

What also prickled, was my first public acknowledgement of self blame. That I’d been so willing to accept the invitation of others to pick up the shame of what happened and convince myself that I deserved it. After struggling with this for a while, seeking help, receiving therapy (EMDR rocks), I’ve emerged with renewed curiosity. So, I’ve been reading the posts of others on the blog, as you recommend and the thought has occurred to me: ‘what else can I do to enable movement/growth of the intention of the book & blog?’ .. other questions: Is rape an inevitability? Will the abuse of children always be present in humanity? (As it has been for thousands of years?) Can it be reliably predicted? How can the perpetrator of rape be forgiven? How does the person who was raped ‘become clean’? I believe this blog is a catalyst for these open questions and I’m grateful to be part of it. With love and gratitude, E

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As a result of your latest post i have made the decision to not say that rape is worse than murder

Emily,

Hello there. I am excited to reply to your latest post. I wrote 1 reply already. But my stoopid tablet dumped the whole thing. 😦 Any way i must first thank U sincerely Emily. Your engaging Amy and i in these dialogues is awesome. As U know Amy and i had set goals from the start w/ the blog. Engaging people in honest and truthful dialogues about the tuff subject of rape and any and all types of other physical, mental, sexual, and verbal abuses was 1 of them.

These are not dialogues for the feint of heart. Your courage and willingness to put yourself, your story, and your healing process out there. Is freakin awesome. Believe me when i tell U there is one or more someones out there who have been and will be encouraged by your strength.

Ok about my thought and feeling that rape is worse than murder. It now seems disrespectful in a way. After reading your latest post. I have had to reevaluate my thinking. In that thinking i took for granted that the survivor has the power to heal. And the purpatrator was the weak one from the beginning.

U are correct. The survivor only gives credance to the emotional death if they choose to give the abuser the power over themselves. While i agree w/ this. I also acknowledge that not all survivors are emotionaly equiped to deal w/ this in the way U have.

That is why i believe it be truly inspiring and helpfull for people such as yourself to use this blog and others to speak out. As a result of your latest post i have made the decision to not say that rape is worse than murder. While debilitating to all survivors. Rape can be overcome. Where as murder is a permanent thing.

I also think that your coming to a place of forgiveness w/ your attackers is absolute growth. While thanking them has taken the power you gave them in your emotional recovery. Please continue to engage us in these dialogues. One more thing Emily, if time petmits. Will U please read the posts from other survivors.

-Brent Brents

January 23, 2018

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Reader: I have come to the place, that while painful, my rape still provides me with possibility.

Hello again, I hope that today is a good day for you, with new possibilities for the coming year. Your book, that I read several months ago still resonates powerfully with me and was instrumental in finding peace and empowerment. On reflection of your words, it occurred to me to say that from my experience, the full impact of the rape/abuses I experienced are not the sole responsibility of the abusers/rapist(s).

The acts themselves were painful, yes. The ones that happened repeatedly, I got used to and developed a way of removing mind from the place I was in. But the physical injuries healed within a week. The real impact by far, what really stuck, was the shame I felt for many years. I was to blame. I should never have found myself in that position. Why couldn’t I have prevented it? While I didn’t provide consent for being raped (being blind drunk), neither did I fight for all I was worth while I was violently violated by two men I’d just met. I spent years ruminating on the moments like when the taller one said “Where do you think you’re going?” before I found myself on the bed. Why hadn’t I shouted or kicked him in the balls then?…

I took on the blame and shame from other people’s reactions (notably women, I observed) and while they were never identified or convicted, I imposed my own life sentence on myself. Letting yourself off the hook, or denying your part is one thing Brent, and I acknowledge your courage in taking on the responsibility for your role and suggest that you may be taking on more than is yours.

I read with interest, your view that “rape is worse than murder.” I have come to the place, that while painful, my rape still provides me with possibility. The story I tell about my experience is mine to tell, and I no longer feel that it ruined my life. It’s brought a new level of relatedness to others, to women, to men, to children, to you. If I were to meet those men again, I have realised just this second, as I’m writing these words, that I would thank them. If they’d murdered me, I wouldn’t be able to do that would I? If I’d succeeded in murdering myself , as I had considered and prepared for, I wouldn’t be in this place now. Today, I’m grateful, awake to being alive and I believe in that possibility for everyone, without exception.

I ‘ve recently watched a film called “The Work” which documents an extraordinary programme which takes place at Folsom State Prison. Run by the Inside Circle Foundation. The men who participated having experienced traumatic, chaotic, abusive pasts come to tell of their experiences and with great courage and vulnerability proceed to breakthrough.

I was deeply moved and my mind came to you, as I was watching. I asked myself, what would it be like if this was available for you. You may already be aware of this programme and foundation. If not, you may want to take a look…

With love and respect to you (both), Emily

January 11, 2018

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