Earlier this week, I wanted to wear a necklace, but it had somehow gotten tangled up with several other necklaces. My husband and I worked on that bundle of necklaces for a while. We were able to free the one I was wanting to wear, but the others remained a tangled mess to be tackled at a later time. Oh, how I wish I had taken a picture because it ended up being a great metaphor that I used several times throughout the week.
In the EMDR world, which is one of my favorite modalities to use in therapy and one in which I believe almost everyone would benefit from, we need to identify a “target.” The target is generally an emotionally activated memory that is underlying the symptoms (anxiety, depression, etc,). It would be great if we were aware that one certain memory is the cause of the anxiety, and maybe sometimes we at least have a sense. More often, we don’t even realize that the emotionally charged memory is running in the background. It takes some therapeutic work to determine the target we want to work on. Here’s the kicker…..our memories are tangled up neural networks that interconnect with other memories. Even when we identify the memory to work on, it is quite common for other memories to show up in the processing. And, we therapists will see if that particular memory can “process out” while processing the target memory. Sometimes we have to refocus on the target and come back to the other memory later. It’s just like the necklaces.
While trying to retrieve the one necklace, we might get sidetracked for a moment because another necklace shows up that we are focusing on. The therapist then has to work with the client to see if that other necklace will free itself quickly and return to the target necklace….or if we need to go back to the necklace we originally targeted. When working on the necklaces that morning, I did free another one before the targeted necklace. But had to save the bundle of other tangled necklaces for later. If you are still with me and this metaphor, I did free the necklace I wanted to wear and that felt good. That is not unlike EMDR. Ideally, we work on a memory until there is substantial relief. And the other tangled up necklaces are left to work on the next time.
Since I didn’t have the foresight to take a picture of my tangled necklaces, I searched for a picture with similar metaphor qualities. I chose one that most of us are similarly acquainted with. Same idea with the wires and cords. Read more about EMDR here.