This case history gives the essence of the EMDR reprocessing (which is what EMDR is best known for. It is not intended as a teaching tool, or a way to have yourself try to practice EMDR without going through the Basic Training in EMDR Psychotherapy. It is intended to give the reader who may be somewhat familiar with EMDR a sense of the power of this form of psychotherapeutic treatment.
Before this case history, Greg and I had a number of History Taking Sessions (Phase One) and Preparation Sessions (Phases 2).
The following is a shortened version of Greg’s history, and part of a treatment session where Greg is able to make a significant change in his life.
How EMDR Can Help Mend a Broken Heart
Presenting Problem: Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Greg is a 30 year old, single, Jewish social worker who lives in an apartment in a suburb of New York City. He presents with an anxiety disorder. He had two romantic break ups and believes that he is a failure at love and that he can never please a woman. He also doubts that he would be able to find a suitable wife. He reported a good relationship with his father; but no relationship with his mother. His parents have been divorced for several years. He has an older sister who he rarely speaks to. He has a strong social support network, consisting mostly of his male friends he played sports with, and male and female colleagues.
He informed me during history taking that there were a few childhood “issues” that might be related to his present day anxiety.
Present day Target Scene:
His fiancée telling him that she was breaking up with him.
NC: I’m unlovable
PC: I’m lovable
Emotions: Anxiety, panic, sadness, anger
Body: Chest pounding, butterflies in his stomach, and loose bowel movements
On direct questioning he told me of the first time he felt this anxiety:
He was 11 and playing shortstop on his little league team. He was the star of the team and “the apple of his father’s eye.” His father was the coach. His mother never came to the games. His friend Billy, who played third base, told him that he saw his mother with Greg’s father getting into Billy’s father’s car earlier that day. Billy’s mother was crippled and rarely went out. Greg remembers feeling upset when Billy told him that and he made two errors that day. His father was upset and yelled at him.
Picture – My father yelling at me after the game.
NC (Initially Greg said “There is something wrong with me” which when I asked him what that say about him he responded, “I’m unlovable”)
PC I am lovable
Emotions: Sadness, guilt, anxiety
Body: Rapid heart rate, cramps in his stomach, and daily headaches that his doctor could not find a cause for. .
Processing on the “Touchstone Memory”
Greg: I hated that he yelled at me
Go with that:
Greg: At least I had one parent I thought loved me:
Go with that:
Greg: My parents never did anything together, and I always thought if I could please my mother maybe she’d love me and my dad.
Go with that:
Greg: Wait a minute, I just thought of something I haven’t thought about in many years. My mother was very musical, and she made me play the clarinet. I hated it, but I did it for her. When I was 8 she came to my class music recital. I was very excited. When it was over I walked up to her and I thought she would say something nice, but she told me that she heard me playing many wrong notes. Holy s—- I was just 8 years old. I wasn’t Beethoven. There was no pleasing her. I’m pissed.
Go with that:
Greg: Now that I think about it, I’ve been dating women who are always critical or disappointed in me. Marsha (his ex-fiancee) told me that I’ll never make enough money for her to live the life she wants to. F— that. I’m good at what I do. It’s like when I was playing shortstop. I was really good; and I liked doing it.
He always dated women who would put him down.
He was trying to please them in an attempt to get his mother’s love.
He would do things they wanted because that was what he thought would make them love him, even if he didn’t like what he was doing (like going to her friends’ barbeques where all the other husbands made a lot more money than he did, and played golf at a private golf club every weekend; Greg didn’t like golf; wasn’t good at it; didn’t have the money for it, but tried to join this club and play with these guys he didn’t like because Marsha wanted him to.)
His mother never thought that his father was good enough for her, and she had an extra marital affair. This was his mother’s problem. She was an unhappy woman because Greg’s father was a teacher and didn’t make a lot of money either.
“I like what I do and don’t need to make a fortune of money, but I needs to date different women.
Greg started to date a nursery school teacher shortly after this session. They dated for nine months; got engaged and married. They’ve been happily married for 6 years now, and they have a 4 year old son. Greg sends me a Christmas card with the family picture every year, along with a short note thanking me for helping him find love.