Sam was the first patient I treated who expressed extremely violent emotional discharges during EMDR sessions. In the initial sessions, I acted as if I was accustomed to this process. In reality, I was terrified, saying to myself, “Holy shit! What am I supposed to do now?” I had read about these kinds of dramatic events and had been told about them in training, but had never witnessed any quite like his.
Sam’s outbursts could last an hour or more. He was usually exhausted but relieved after these sessions. He had an enormous amount of pent-up horror he had been keeping locked up for some fifty years. Once EMDR began, in each session, the emotion came spewing out like a dormant volcano finally permitted to erupt, and erupt it did, as quickly and as powerfully as he could endure.
I began to rethink my role when working with such heroic people. Everything really started to change within me as I witnessed the incredible transformations that happened to him and later to many others who came to see me for EMDR.
The difference in using EMDR versus not using EMDR was that with EMDR there seemed to be a fast and complete transformation of the personality. By fast I mean months, not years. For example, after a few months, Sam was happy and felt safe for the first time in his life. I could not believe what was happening to him, nor was I sure exactly how or why it was happening. I knew that I had a small role in it, but I was not sure what exactly I was doing or what exactly was happening to cause such incredible transformations.
I recently read Jungian analyst and author Robert Johnson’s biography, Balancing Heaven and Earth. He says that things go best for him when he reminds himself that he is nothing. Humility is always a better choice than egotism. There are visionaries in Medjugorje, a small village in Bosnia, who claim to speak to the Blessed Virgin Mary. They often ask for healings for people and the Virgin Mary says, “I cannot heal anyone. Only God can heal. You must fast and pray, and I will pray with you.” Her statement makes Robert Johnson’s even more relevant. I was nothing in this process. Yet the changes were dramatic and stable in the lives of these people.
These changes were far more comprehensive and complete than just getting over a trauma. Everything was changing for the better in Sam’s life. He was grateful, but I did not feel that I had much to do with it. I just sat there and watched it happen.
EMDR is a very different kind of experience than most kinds of therapy. During EMDR, there is no talking, no reassuring. The person must surrender to the process to be healed. If you have lived with evil for years, learned you could trust no one, and a therapist says, “This works, but you have to re-experience these horrors briefly in order to be healed and free of them,” you might understand why they say, “Fuck you doc; I’m not doing that.” This moment of denial is the first stage of the Christian Passion experience that the client goes through in EMDR. Denying they will make the journey is the first step. They’re in my office because a part of them received an invitation. Once the invitation is accepted, there is no turning back. Their soul will not be denied its true path of wholeness and healing.
What does denial of the journey have to do with the Christian Passion? It is the beginning of the Passion of Christ—Gethsemane Christ expressed a similar denial Himself. “Father, take this cup from me, for I do not want to taste it.” Christ did, however, surrender to His reality, as we all must. This is the first stage of the six stages related to the crucifixion of Christ that occurs with EMDR in the psychological crucifixion many clients must endure. With EMDR, the patient has a psychological manifestation of Christ’s journey.