Guest Blog: EMDR - A Path Toward Peace
We all have had this happen. An encounter with some “random” person who changes us or we change them in deeply profound ways.
Several years ago, I was invited by a somewhat new friend to meet a fellow adoptee she knew for a lunch together. I did not know the friend well, but we had talked about our lives enough for her to believe this was something she was called to do. She had a feeling, a hunch, an urge whatever gut-stirring definition works. She said her friend and I had a lot in common, meaning adoption, and should meet each other.
Jenny (name changed to protect anonymity), is a smart, well educated and engaging woman a bit younger than myself. We immediately hit it off, having one of the most forthcoming first meetings I can remember. She explained briefly about her adoption along with difficulties she experienced growing up in her adopted family-mother, sister and especially her father. Jenny was pleased to share that she had a wonderful relationship with her biological father, who she searched for and found. I spoke about my search experience in an appropriate exchange of intimacy as well as some of my own struggles with my adopted family.
While I have spoken to many about my adoption journey, I am always surprised by the overwhelming burden of the overall adoption story, facts and emotions, everything really. After years of intense personal work to unbind myself from this difficult narrative, the power of it still feels fresh with each new person I meet connected to an adoption story. I am always humbled by the unique challenges each person experiences within the adoption triad. Every story has elements of bravery, sadness and complexity. Some have beautiful moments of grace, forgiveness and healing. Most that I have heard first hand or read written accounts about are a mixed bag. All of them are messy.
What I experienced when I met Jenny was an immediate feeling of an emotional doppelgänger from my past. The internal anger and rage carried unconsciously (which Jenny believed was undetectable) rolled off of her in waves that nearly knocked me out. I saw in her what I had walked around with for years; squelched feelings in the form of denial, projection and reactiveness. I was unconscious to most of it at the time, without any way to understand why I was this way or how to remedy my obvious discomfort.
Like me she had a story she could calmly relate, but it was eating her alive from the inside out.
I could completely understand.
My adoption story has some unfortunate pieces like most starting with a conflicted adoptive mother who never wanted children though afraid her spouse would leave her if she did not. Madge (another name change for anonymity) also suffered from other issues that are most likely none of my business but left me wounded in ways that needed repair. As anyone reading this knows, the devil is in the details with hurt and healing, so I will move on to what helped me to become as peaceful and free as I am today.
I believe regret and resentments are the manifestation of fantasy and offer little help in living well today. Ruminating on the past is an attempt to change what can never be altered. I read once to “look at your past, but don’t stare at it.” Yet how exactly can we do that?
Building back the parts of my raw soul, torn and degraded in the process of growing up three times unwanted (birthmother, adopted mother and secondary rejection as an adult during search), has taken some time. Thankfully I was gifted a stout heart, a forgiving nature and a willingness to reach for help. Without such gifts I may have folded into myself giving into the anxiety and depression I lived with throughout much of my life.
So how did I get past those regrets, resentments and my anger? It was the gift of several painful crises that pushed me to seek help. Thank you for asking.
I was fortunate to find a skilled professional who could guide me during my first adult abandonment. My first husband left me emotionally by infidelity I suspected, then literally by a divorce he sought. That crisis was painful enough for me to reach for help and answers so that I might never feel so exposed again. My therapist practiced vanilla psychotherapy, based around deep listening as a way for me to puzzle out insights about my past. He helped me look at my childhood with eyes wide open, in as real a fashion as I was capable. Denial of my repeated rejections was slowly stripped away. In the end, I could see clearly that both my birthmother and adopted mother had abandoned me. I accepted the facts once revealed then grieved this knowledge in painful, expensive one hour sessions.
Reconstructing my past built a narrative that was The Story of My Life as best as I could put together at the time. I experienced just enough relief to find another spouse and begin a family of my own. I returned occasionally to the talk therapist when issues arose for an emotional “tune-up” session. This plan kept me together enough to continue to function as a survivor of my past.
The search for my biological family gifted me my second emotional crisis. I sought trauma therapy which involved EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). I obtained a solid recommendation from my previous therapist of a highly skilled practitioner. This is really important so I will do my best to explain.
From the above website:
“Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy treatment that was originally designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories (Shapiro, 1989a, 1989b). Shapiro’s (2001) Adaptive Information Processing model posits that EMDR therapy facilitates the accessing and processing of traumatic memories and other adverse life experience to bring these to an adaptive resolution. After successful treatment with EMDR therapy, affective distress is relieved, negative beliefs are reformulated, and physiological arousal is reduced. During EMDR therapy the client attends to emotionally disturbing material in brief sequential doses while simultaneously focusing on an exte