Pinned there, limbs restrained, bound against my will, my insubstantial fists, fierce as they may be, useless against the hands that engulf them. Clothing removed? Forced back on? Who knows—memory falters here. I know that I am too hot then too cold, I am screaming with all the fury of a goddess gone mad, and none of it does the slightest good.
This is my first true memory, this fragment, this tiny nothing that leads nowhere and came from the void; this terrifying helpless heartrending fragment. I only know that now, whenever someone catches at my clothing or touches my wrist to get my attention, I flare into a barely-controlled rage; it can take hours to calm down, to cool the adrenaline flooding my system.
My dream catcher, who is also my Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapist, tells me to go back as far as I can; to reach for that first true memory and unlock it and find the “little part” of myself that is still in there, stuck, caged, and release her.
We go back. And back. And back.
I find the little part. She is no larger than a bird, a chickadee, her feathers fluffed and downy against the raging storm around her. I am amazed at her existence; she has survived the hurricane of fever, this tiny weightless being. You could stick her in an envelope and I bet she wouldn’t require any extra postage.
I take the little part into my cupped hands.
This is all done with my eyes closed, in the limitless queendom of my right-brained imaginative self, while sitting in the dream-catcher’s office—take her into my cupped hands and, as instructed, think of a good place to put her. A place where she will be safe, for we are taking her out of my past, out of the first true memory which has elicited so much rage and pain and heart-rending despair and giving her asylum. A place of refuge. A place where she might even, one day, learn to sing.
I decide that my heart is a good place for her.
It is, after all, guarded by a cage of bone, wrapped in sinew and cushioned by two large and air-filled lungs. This heart beats powerfully without pause and has been doing so for nearly forty years; despite its scars it has no intention of stopping. I open it, show it to the little bird and she hops in, gladly. Already she is safe. Already she begins to stretch her tiny wings.
EMDR was developed by Francine Shapiro, a psychologist and educator who noticed one day, while out walking in the woods, that moving her eyes back and forth across the trail seemed to lead to the dissipation of some disturbing thoughts she was having at the time. Now—I’m a skeptic by nature. I’m not sure I’d buy into a type of therapy based on some lady walking through the woods with her eyes darting around. It just sounds too—I don’t know…is wackadoo a real word?
But here’s the thing: in REM sleep, that’s exactly what our eyes are doing. And have you ever fallen asleep with a seemingly unsolvable problem on your mind and woken up from your little nap with the problem resolved—or at least with a new way of looking at it?
Apparently REM sleep allows our brains to unlock their often-stunning creative potential—just ask August Kekule, the discoverer of the structure of benzene. EMDR utilizes this feature of the brain to unleash its creative learning and memory potential, by re-creating the rapid eye-movements that occur during this phase of sleep. Only with continued research, Shapiro and her colleagues have discovered that the eye movements may not even be necessary; in fact it’s the stimulation of the right and left hemispheres of the brain that opens the door to its greater potential. Holding little “tappers” (vibrating buzzers) in each hand will do the trick.
My dream catcher/EMDR therapist is proud of me for our session’s work, I think, though she does no more than smile and nod: “That’s enough for today.”
I pay her the usual co-pay, grateful for health insurance while remembering that it doesn’t come lightly—that it will soon expire. I’m paying COBRA after being let go from my last insurance-providing job. These things happen. They tend to happen more often than one would like, when one’s moods take a swan dive off the edge of reason and affect levels of customer satisfaction.
Strange cycle we have going on here; I’m in therapy to try and smooth over the moods that brought me to the need to pay for therapy in the first place. But life is like that. And we end up sifting back through it to find the little parts of us that were damaged, sometimes way back in the beginning, and that are now acting like sand in the oyster.
Only the pearls they produce are sometimes dangerous and raw to the touch.
It’s the deft, skilled hand of the dream catcher that can help pluck them out, buff them gently and find the right setting for them, placing the pearls where they can shine out, softly present in the light of acceptance.
Kara (KB) Imle is a writer, singer, and Certified Rolfer® who hails from Anchorage, Alaska when not traveling or living elsewhere to escape the cold and dark. She is also a descendant of the Vikings, a dreamer of waking dreams, a foreteller of her own future and a survivor of her own annihilation. She practices just enough yoga to insert her foot into her own mouth and then remove it again. She loves running, biking, hiking, horseback riding, swimming in the ocean and playing with her fantastic Shetland pony/dog, Benson. More writings can be found at her blog.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise