I Know Logically …And Yet I Feel…
As I sit across from my clients, whether it be in person or via telehealth, the heaviness of the burdens my clients carry becomes all too clear.
Many clients report feeling simply exhausted by the struggle to loosen themselves from their trauma, depression, fear of abandonment, and so on. And for that single hour, they allow themselves, often hesitantly, to be present with the burdens and wounds that they’ve perhaps worked so hard to avoid.
Involved in this struggle, though, is coming to terms with oneself after having experienced something traumatic or painful. For those of us who continue to feel trapped in the past, for fear of enduring something traumatic again, it can often be difficult to buy into more adaptive beliefs about self. While many clients can logically say they are good enough, lovable, capable, safe in this present moment, etc., their emotional side doesn’t always feel that way. On the one hand we logically know that trauma exists in the past, and yet on the other hand it often doesn’t always feel that way.
An eagerness, and sometimes desperation, to move forward while also feeling stuck in the past is an all too real issue for many. In Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, this is what we call a “blocking belief.”
As an EMDR practitioner myself, our goal is to support clients with processing the traumatic experiences that are causing problems and desensitizing emotionally-charged memories, beliefs, feelings, bodily sensations, etc. that are generally caused by unresolved earlier experiences (EMDRIA, 2020).
According to the EMDR International Association (EMDRIA), processing within EMDR involves “setting up a learning state that will allow experiences that are causing problems to be ‘digested’ and stored appropriately in your brain.” This means that what is useful to you, even from a traumatic experience, will be learned and stored with appropriate emotions in your brain, and will be able to guide you in positive ways in the future (EMDRIA, 2020).
When we start to explore our core beliefs about ourselves, as well as the traumas that have influenced them, these blocking beliefs can emerge. The reasons for which we hold onto these blocking beliefs, however, are quite telling. Perhaps there’s a part of us that believes we need to hold onto some degree of fear, for example, to help us feel safe and prepared for future trauma events. Perhaps we hold onto a belief of “I’m not good enough,” so as to reduce the likelihood of social interactions and possible rejection from others. Or perhaps we hold onto a belief that if I heal this trauma or if I feel no disturbance whatsoever, I won’t be honoring parts of myself or parts of my life.
Reconciling what it may mean to let go of these negative, blocking beliefs and exploring the potential for healing is in fact possible within therapy and EMDR. As one navigates this struggle between logic and emotion, past and present, I think it is vital to offer oneself grace and compassion. When we give ourselves permission to heal, hope for a future free from the heaviness of what weighs us down grows!
EMDR International Association (2020). Experiencing EMDR Therapy. https://www.emdria.org/about-emdr-therapy/experiencing-emdr-therapy/