Stage Four: Loss of Identity
This client was kind enough to write what stage four of the EMDR process was like for him.
It was hard and painful work to dismantle the self-defeating beliefs and actions that were no longer working for me. I had come to Dr. Dobo in sheer desperation and I was grateful for what I learned through this EMDR method, but I was not counting on losing my identity when I dismantled my old self.
To say this was a confusing time is an understatement. I was more than confused. I felt a void inside and a horrible sense of detachment from everything that had ever meant anything to me. This was progress? This sense of being in neutral was the most confusing feeling I had ever experienced. I missed my old self; even though my suffering had brought me to therapy, there was at least some familiarity, traditions and routines in my previous identity. Now everything was wide open, a blank slate, and I was not ready for the ambiguity. Was I becoming an unrecognizable someone to my family and friends and, even more importantly, to myself?
About the time I had entered this dark tunnel of confusion, I came upon an armadillo that was lying in the middle of the road. He was roadkill, and the buzzard intermittently picked at his innards between the scurrying of cars. The fate of the poor animal became a fitting metaphor for the death my old self was experiencing. Darwinian evolutionary thinking would argue that the armadillo had spent millennia developing its armored body to protect him against predators, but on this day it was woefully inadequate to shield him from the overwhelming force of a speeding car. I had spent my lifetime carefully creating an identity that would deter worry, unhappiness and failure, but it had not. As my old self became exposed as the charlatan it had been, the spiritual buzzards picked every bit of it clean and had transformed me into an empty carcass.
Dr. Dobo had warned me when I started EMDR that change was inevitable and that I would lose my old view of the world, but I was not expecting this. With this much internal confusion, I doubted that I could recover from this seemingly horrible loss.
These few years after I wrote my book Unburdening Souls at the Speed of Thought, in which I explain this six-stage transformational process I’ve discovered, I always thought stage three would be the worst part: the grueling dismantling and revisiting the horrors of the past to be free of them. But at least you understand what is happening and why.
As time goes on and I have worked with many people who have taken the journey, I think stage four is the most difficult. This stage four, this “everything should be great now, but nothing is” stage, seems like some sort of cosmic joke, but it is not. It is the necessary time of incubation before the rebirth. It is the pregnancy when the growth is hidden below the surface.
I find two things that are necessary for this part. And when I tell you, it won’t really help that much, but I think you will know it to be true. You must trust and be patient. Trust that whatever the next chapter in your life is supposed to be will appear and you will know when you see it. And be patient while you work to discover it. It is descending into hell before the resurrection, it is lost in the desert for 40 years before finding the promised land and a thousand other stories that warn of this period in our human journey. It is a sacred path, and everyone does not get an invitation to this party. Some never change; some are always unaware. So perhaps reframe it as what it truly is, the hero’s journey.