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Story #1 – I Moved My Eyes

You wouldn't think it possible. It sounds way too strange, way too out there to be real.

It's called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing – EMDR. It's a procedure that uses eye movement to explore traumatic and/or disturbing memories. You focus on a memory while the practitioner moves an object back and forth. You follow that movement with your eyes.

It sounds like a joke, like something created on a commune in Southern California, right? You move your eyes, eventually you're cured.

But it works.

I had been living with the consequences of abuse for over 30 years and had reached the point where I could no longer control it. It was affecting my work, my life and my family. I had begun having nightmares that could scare Stephen King and left me shaking in terror.

It all boiled down to this: it was my fault. I had been given a very clear choice. I made that choice. Sure, I was just 13, not yet an adult. But I wasn't ignorant. He'd never threatened me, never forced me. I made the choice, and made it more than once.

After a few years of conventional therapy with limited success I was referred to a counselor who was also an EMDR practitioner. We met for several weeks before the starting EMDR, discussing my experiences and their consequences, getting to know each other and developing the trust that makes therapy work.

It didn't work right away. Therapy never does. It took time and a few eye-strain induced headaches, but eventually we hit pay-dirt. I remember the moment vividly: As I thought about a situation involving The Priest and a friend of mine, I finally saw what the 13 year-old me couldn't see. My eyes stopped moving, and I looked at my counselor. I smiled. My counselor smiled back.

“What did you get from that?” my counselor asked.

I was aghast. “The Priest held the keys! I made the choice, but he set the options!”

Then I laughed.

He'd used a variation of a tool I used with my children – the old “Do you want to brush your teeth with Crest or AquaFresh?” Either way, teeth get brushed – not brushing isn't an option.

The Priest's options were far more sinister, pitting compliance against guilt and beliefs reinforced through years of parochial education, leveraging my parents, friends, and God. I had been played, and played masterfully. It was all so very, very clear!

I cannot describe how free I felt! I had this vast, empty space inside me that had been full of darkness, gloom, pain and regret! I let all that awfulness go! It wasn't mine anymore!

I wanted to dance down the stairs and out into the street! I wanted to sing!

This experience gave me two heroes: my counselor – a person of infinite patience, and the woman who discovered EMDR.

Thanks to the two of them, I am well on my way to being whole again.

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