My experience with EMDR and Somatic Experiencing (SE) as practiced by Dr Roby Abeles.
I understand why so many people are wary of traditional therapy. My experience of weekly counselling sessions was that we were forever skirting around the surface of issues without creating any permanent, tangible change.
After about a year of persisting without any real idea of where we were going, I ended the sessions feeling slightly wiser but generally unresolved. The gnawing pit of anxiety that would plague me at 3am was still there.
While I was aware of the cause and could intellectualise that feeling this way made no sense, there was nothing I could do to stop my brain playing the same tired old song over and over again.
I have to thank my husband for being the inspiration for me to undergo EMDR and Somatic Experiencing (SE) therapy with Dr Roby Abeles. He had recently gone through an extremely debilitating experience with myoclonic tinnitus which had such a traumatic effect on him that he had no choice but to get help.
It was only the miraculous transformation in him that I was lucky enough to witness first hand that opened me to the idea of undergoing EMDR and SE therapy myself. Unlike traditional therapy which constantly plunged me back into the mushroom farm of my darkest, dankest memories, EMDR and SE, was by contrast, all swiftness and light.
From my lay person’s perspective, the big difference between this and other therapies is that this recognises that much of the problem is in the physiology of the body and brain stem, rather than a behavioural problem or problems with my thinking, and that the effects of trauma require something far greater than sheer force of will to be solved.
Over the course of the 4 days of intensive therapy (4 hours per day), I developed a deep understanding of my childhood. It left me with a feeling that I always had to be doing or achieving something in order to feel worthwhile. That without my achievements, the real me was pretty worthless. There was no blame, just deep understanding of everyone who had been in my life.
Now, some 3months later, I notice that I am also not driven to prove how smart or capable I am. In fact once I would have spent days pouring over these words to ensure they were perfectly crafted, but now I realise it’s really about getting the information across. The ego part of me, or “false self”, seems to be falling away.
Generally I feel calm and far more resilient when it comes to potentially stressful situations.
If I were to write a poster line for the EMDR and SE process, it would be “rebooting your brain.” Essentially it is a swift, elegant process that over a ridiculously short period of time gets those frozen synapses up and firing again. Because no one is immune from childhood trauma or overwhelming events, I believe everyone stands to reap enormous benefits from this process, not just those who have undergone severe and obvious trauma.
When Roby asked me at the beginning what I’d like to achieve from our sessions together, I wasn’t aware of having any specific traumas. As far as I was concerned, I’d had the ideal childhood. I said I would simply like to lose the feeling of anxiety that has plagued my since I can remember. That dark “gulp” that wakes you up with a start at 3am.
I am very happy to say that feeling has gone.
So too has the underlying sadness that would tinge my days. And that feeling that somehow everything I did really wasn’t good enough. And that my life was essentially a bit of a waste. I’d spent over 18,000 days living with those feelings. Now, after just 4 days, they’ve gone.
If that is not a miracle, I don’t know what is.
My experience with EMDR and Somatic Experiencing (SE)
Unrelenting Myoclonic Tinnitus
The maddening hornet’s nest of hyperactivity and aggression which once infested my skull has packed up and moved elsewhere.
I spent 4 full days being treated by Dr Roby Abeles, exploring a very dysfunctional childhood, and using EMDR and SE to renegotiate and resolve the ways I’d incorporated those experiences into my obsessive (creative, addictive, hyperactive and very aggressive) life.
I’d always suspected that I’d marshaled my childhood fear into the fury which fuelled my unusual dynamism and obsessions. Indeed, I’d been grateful to that trauma fuel for my success.
I would not have changed anything if I hadn’t developed a severe neurological disorder called myoclonic tinnitus. This is a “stress induced”, maniacal, loud, spasming tiny muscle in the middle ear. After 3 or 4 months it turns one’s brain into porridge and commonly leads to suicide. But desperate as I was, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapy still seemed like a no win situation to me. If it worked, I’d be lobotomised into a life of unbearable normalcy and terminal ennui, if it didn’t, I’d simply be dead.
And in perhaps one of the few ways in which I identify with other males, I also have a real aversion to “therapy”. It was for me always a total cop out; a cyclic emotional wankfest that cured nothing and simply reinforced old memories real or imagined and tacked onto them brand new ones to revitalise one’s self narrative for failure and need for victimisation.
Reassuringly, Roby, despite her gentle, compassionate nature and enigmatic Mona Lisa-esque smirk, was no wailing wall of commiseration, but a deeply aware and astute teacher who was much more interested in making me a well person than into a lifelong client.
Yes, we ventured back to the gory past, the colourful tabloid-worthy headlines of my childhood with which I’d defined my massive whinge with life, but not for the usual vicarious picking over of bones. The details stayed largely my secret, because what we were seeking was not the events but the summary emotional outtakes of those formative episodes and relationships.
In this process, the raw moment of abuse is it itself irrelevant; it’s the core emotional conclusion and how the tension of those events still remained in my body, that’s important. I found it amazing that I could easily differentiate between the two: between the drama of being wronged and the tiny residual pinnacles of shame, humiliation, loss and worthlessness etc which accompanied those events. These were the genesis of my traumas. Uncompleted loops of emotional circuitry in my brain and body, which had returned upon themselves, ad nauseam, all my life.
I’ve always been a very confronting person and so very wary of being manipulated and lied to, I demand answers of everything and everyone. I detest authority and I’m very hard on myself and others. I’ve always intellectualised that whatever is fearlessly addressed is automatically digested and detoxified.
But I realise now that is simply not the case. It’s also perhaps an enduring presumption of traditional therapy which is now completely invalidated by revolutionary processes such as Somatic Experiencing and EMDR.
The frozen circuitry of my childhood terror, the humiliation, the shame and worthlessness, each had an emotional and physiological circuit attached which had remained completely intact in me and unaltered after 50 years, despite a lifetime of rigorous introspection.
With EMDR and SE, these frozen circuits and accompanied emotional ways of responding, were finally offered a way to unfreeze and progress through to resolution. With EMDR and SE, one’s brain assumes the freeze is thawed, flight or fight is completed in the body and one feels free to shake off the fear and move forward (at last!)
With Roby’s help, I was able to revisit my helpless state as a child but this time with my aware presence as a protective, powerful (and pugilistic) adult. To crush the threat and escort young me triumphantly back out into the light.
I discovered that every trauma, no matter how black, holds somewhere, this beautiful window to completion and was able to find resolution even with events as inconsolably bleak.
Such is the power of EMDR and SE that one’s entire trauma collection of creepy crawlies instantly vaporises. They become simply the bleached papery carapaces of long forgotten creatures, carried off on the breeze. Harmless and irrelevant.
It’s now 3 months since I underwent EMDR and Somatic Experiencing. Massive challenges descended as if by design to test me in that time but the myoclonic tinnitus has gone and I have remained calm, unaggressive, considered and every bit as dynamic as before.
The maddening hornet’s nest of hyperactivity and aggression which once infested my skull has packed up and moved elsewhere. I have discovered the existence of a weird thing called a “pause” between the thinking of something and the doing of it. My addictions are declining daily and I can finally meditate without going into a meltdown.
I will remain eternally grateful to the discoverer of Somatic Experiencing, Peter Levine, and the developer of the strategic developmental model for EMDR, Maureen Kitchur (EMDR pioneer, internationally recognised psychotherapist and author who so highly recommended Roby Abeles) and of course to Dr Abeles, her (wonderful) self.