There are so many joys of practicing as an EMDR therapist, and one of them, selfishly, is that I’m convinced the therapeutic effects generalise to me, especially when I’m tapping on my clients.
I had five clients today, and as with a lot of if not all attachment-traumatised people, we inevitably ended up reprocessing experiences of boundary violation, powerlessness to act or speak up, and excessive responsibility for others.
As a recovering codependent, learning to articulate and hold boundaries didn’t always come naturally to me, and at the beginning of learning how to do it, my behaviour was undoubtedly clunky and often bordering on spiky if not down-right aggressive. Eggs and omelettes…
Elementally, I understand that creating and maintaining boundaries requires all of the elements; the earth and sometimes the fire is the boundary itself, or else the fire is the force to hold it in place and respond when it’s encroached upon; the water keeps the boundary-setting flexible and creative, and the air ensures we have perspective and clarity about when and why…
Of these four, allowing and mastering my fire probably still presents my greatest challenge. I’m the girl who wants to put slippers on everyone’s feet. I’m not a natural at issuing a warning growl or small plume of dragon fire from my nostrils. I’ve learned, but it was deeply in my shadow for years.
But today I was reminded of something I’ve known for a while, and that’s that fire is also humourous and playful, the Dervish energy, and that whilst humour needs to be watched for as an unconscious defence, it can also be deployed skillfully, and in no situation better than when a boundary needs to be pointed at with a loved one.
After working with five beautiful people today, each one exploring these themes in their own ways, I was at the bus-stop on my way home, it was late, I was tired, and a colleague I’m very fond of joined me. We jumped on the bus together, starting to chat. Imagine my surprise at myself when he started to offload (his word) – still in a chatty tone – about his day and a temporary difficulty encountered, and I held up my hands, pulled a daft face, stuffed my fingers in my ears and quipped “la la la oh no no no – there shall be no EMDR-ing each other on THIS bus ride – I’m totally done for the day!”.
We both laughed together about it and continued talking “sports news weather”, as one of my friends likes to say, until my stop, where we parted ways warmly and promised to do a mini CPD session together on Thursday.
I felt light, entertained, even skillful, shame free and also entirely free of any of the resentment or heaviness I recognise when I behave, martyr-like, as if it’s always my job to always be there for everyone in matters large and small.
Would this have happened if I hadn’t just processed with all my clients? Maybe. Maybe not.
We need to beware of secondary trauma. But let’s not forget to relish it when therapeutic effects generalise!