Dear Dr. Irene,
I would like to share my experience and healing since I left my abusive
boyfriend. I have gone from being an angry victim to feeling, for
the first time in my adult life, like a whole and valuable person.
My experience with my abuser is detailed in 2 previous posts in the advice
column "Has He Really
Changed?" and "My
Covert Abuse Experience".
We made a clean break 3 months ago. I did a lot of self-care,
reading and meditation to help myself heal and grow from the experience.
Then 6 weeks ago I was blown away by additional information. I
received an e-mail from a woman he had been working with, and
developing a relationship with, over the past year! Then the next
day, my son told me about an incident that occurred 3 years ago in the
shower at the gym. He had been too embarrassed to tell me about it.
My world turned upside down. I was so nauseated I couldn't eat and
so upset I couldn't sleep. I was so angry, I thought I would
explode. I started meeting with my wonderful therapist again, and
she recommended I try EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing).
I shopped around and found a therapist I connected with. I could
hardly wait to get started because the pain seemed unbearable.
Here are a couple sites about EMDR: Thanks!
EMDR is a therapy that has been used with trauma clients - abuse,
disasters, PTSD, or people who want to increase self-esteem, get over a
The initial work was to set up images and places I could go in my mind - a
safe place, an image of strength, a peaceful place... I chose positive
messages I wanted to believe about myself that countered the negative
beliefs I had accumulated. We decided what recent upsetting event I
wanted to start with and the emotions that went with that event/image.
I started with an image of my bf turning his back on me. I felt
betrayed, hurt and angry. I felt I was stupid for trusting him and
that I couldn't trust myself, or protect myself or my son.
When the session started I put on earphones and there were short tones
that alternated in my right and left ear. For short periods, about 1
minute each, she had me go to the starting spot and let my mind go with
the image and the feelings. Then she would stop and ask me where I
was. This repeated over and over.
I went to many places and feelings. I went to one event about 15
years ago when I had been raped. It was very scary, my heart was
racing, I was crying and I felt the emotions of being there. Then I
went to my "safe place" to re-group and calm down. Here I
could access the feelings and thoughts I had from that event and talk
about them in a safe place. Then the reprocessing let me take that
event and heal those feelings and negative messages I took about myself.
Afterwards, when I thought about that traumatic event, I could remember
the event and the feelings, but the burden of the guilt and negative
messages were gone. The negative messages were beginning to be
replaced by positive messages. Instead of thinking I was stupid for
putting myself in that situation and blaming myself, now I believe I
didn't deserve to be hurt, I can trust my instincts and therefore protect
myself in the future. I like this. From my cognitive-behavioral
perspective, you were systematically trained to kick yourself out of a
yukky place and go to a place where you could deal with the content that
was no longer a real danger.
At each session I tackle more negative messages and beliefs about myself.
As I break down those negative beliefs, and the memories that supported
them, I begin to heal. When I no longer believe I am unworthy,
stupid and weak, I am not longer vulnerable to the abuser. If I
believe I am strong, smart and worthy, then when someone tries to make me
feel otherwise, I know they are wrong and it doesn't make me doubt myself.
Now I can move forward making healthy decisions and creating the life I
It has been a truly healing and empowering experience. I feel a huge
weight has been lifted and I feel a different level of understanding.
This is helping me process events more quickly and bring them full circle
to a healing place. I am no longer the angry victim. The truth
is that I am lovable, worthy and I didn't deserve to be hurt. Now I
believe the truth - I am worthy of love, respect and peace.
Thank you Dr. Irene for providing this site as a safe place for people to
talk, share and learn. Bless you, SK
And thank you for telling us about
your EMDR experience. I think I'm going to look into it more
closely... Best wishes for continued success, Dr. Irene