Do you identify yourself in this story?
Ellie and Marc have been together for over 7 years. Although they love each other and seem to have a pretty stable relationship, Ellie and Marc are feeling disconnected and Ellie seems to be easily triggered by Marc’s emotional and physical needs. Marc initially feels he’s just too needy, but then begins to assert himself in ways that seem to make things worse. Marc goes from being too assertive to being too anxious about losing Ellie. Ellie feels like something is wrong with her for not being able to meet Marc’s needs, but also feels like she needs to keep very rigid boundaries to keep herself from getting lost in the relationship.
Do you feel like you’re stuck between fear of losing yourself or losing your relationship?
Do you find yourself reacting in ways that seem confusing and counterproductive?
The cost of inaction?
Marc begins to give up trying to get his needs met in his relationship. He falls into anger and discontent, leading to more conflicts in the relationship. Ellie also feels angrier and justified for keeping emotional distance from Marc, leading to more loneliness and distractions that don’t fulfill her need for connection.
Marc eventually disengages from Ellie emotionally and begins another relationship, behind Ellie’s back. Ellie initially feels relieved Marc doesn’t seem as “needy” anymore, but misses his attempts to connect, his attention, and notices something has changed. Ellie feels insecure, not good enough, and this deepens her depression.
If they sought help?
Ellie and Marc reach out to a couples therapist trained in EMDR. As they answer some of the questions on the initial evaluation, they begin to notice some patterns and connections to their childhood experiences. Through couples work and EMDR sessions, both are able to understand how their childhood traumas were still being played out in their relationship.
Ellie recognizes that her turning away from Marc was based on her fear of loss created when as a child, she experienced several losses that were not adaptively processed. She internalized a belief that it’s best to not get too attached or emotionally involved in order to not experience grief. This belief kept Marc, and other significant relationships, at a safe distance, but kept Ellie feeling disconnected and depressed.
Marc realized that his relationship with his mother, and a few key experiences he had of being neglected and forgotten, created in him reactivity to any sign of distancing or not feeling needed in his relationships. This created anxiety for him any time Ellie seemed focused on other things besides him, seemed quiet (due to her depression), or seemed discontent (due to her loneliness). His reaction was to try to “save” her or come on too strongly (what he thought was being assertive), which tended to backfire, recreating his experience of being forgotten or not needed.
Through EMDR, Ellie and Marc were able to create more adaptive ways of responding to each other’s needs, without reacting to old wounds, because they developed new and helpful belief systems. Their new experiences helped them heal, connect, and even eliminated their depression and anxiety symptoms! Their confidence in themselves and each other grew stronger.
What is EMDR Therapy?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. EMDR is a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from different treatment approaches.
How does EMDR work?
EMDR therapy is an integrative psychotherapy method that uses a technique called bilateral stimulation to repeatedly activate opposite sides of the brain. Therapists often use eye movements to facilitate bilateral stimulation. These eye movements mimic the period of sleep referred to as rapid eye movement or REM sleep, and this portion of sleep is frequently considered to be the time when the mind processes the recent events in the person’s life.
EMDR seems to help the brain reprocess the trapped memories in such a way that normal information processing is resumed. Therapists often use EMDR to help clients uncover and process beliefs that developed as the result of relational traumas, or childhood abuse and/or neglect. For a more detailed explanation please visit the
EMDR Institute, Inc.
What does EMDR help?
EMDR had been originally established as helpful for PTSD, although it’s been proven useful for treatment in the following conditions:
- Panic Attacks
- Complicated Grief
- Dissociative Orders
- Disturbing Memories
- Pain Disorders
- Performance Anxiety
- Stress Reduction
- Sexual and/or Physical Abuse
- Body Dysmorphic Disorders
- Personality Disorders
EMDR can be extremely valuable to reactive couples with trauma histories. By reprocessing past traumas, maladaptive reactivity can be reduced, so that they can relate in the here-and-now in productive, mutually healing, and connecting ways.
None of the above symptoms or experiences fit you?
Do you experience distressing emotions that appear to you, and perhaps to others, to be excessive given the current situation? Do you tend to be highly reactive to certain triggers? Is there one or more dysfunctional beliefs that you believe about yourself that on an intellectual level you know is not true?
If so, you may still be a good candidate for EMDR therapy. Contact me today for a free phone consultation to see if EMDR might help you release what no longer serves you.