First Day of Therapy –Coping Skills

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2016-02-23 by Object of Contempt

Yesterday I had my first experience with EMDR. The hour-long appointment was actually split 50/50 between teaching coping skills and actual EMDR therapy. I will discuss the EMDR portion in the next day or two. Today, I want to focus on the coping skills.

The coping skills came into the mix because, as the psychologist explained, EMDR can cause some emotions to become stronger and more frequent especially after the first few sessions. She wanted me to have a way to deal with that.

The coping skills actually ended up being a very shallow self-hypnosis (my term – she didn’t call it anything). What she asked me to do was problematic and bothered me.

In very general terms, she told me to imagine a warm light above my head, shining down on my head. I was to imagine it warming my head and bringing relaxation to my head. She worked down to my feet and said I should imagine the light coming from my fingertips. After that, I was to imagine a creature. It could be anything, even God. This creature was a loving being that would keep me safe. At that point I was to find a beautiful place in my mind where I can go that will be full of peace and love. I was to give this “place” a name so that I could touch my wrist at any time and “go to that place” in my mind.

As a Christian, I have a couple of problems with this. What I was doing was not actually what she was asking me to do. I was praying most of the time. My problems fall in a couple of areas.

1) First of all, I don’t understand why anyone would find peace and safety in their imaginations. I understand imagination and fantasy as a means of numbing and distraction, but I would think that this is not really the kind of habit isn’t very beneficial. Aside from that, what can an imagination accomplish in protecting from a real threat in the real world? Given, these are methods for calming the mind/spirit when dealing with difficult emotions. Still, if I am dealing with fear then I want my spirit to be soothed with perception, promises, hope, that are true and real. Even if I weren’t a Christian, imaginary warm lights and creatures wouldn’t provide any comfort or peace, and definitely not safety.

2) The other problem was specifically tied to this dealing with an “imaginary creature”. Some people may say that it’s okay because the creature could be God. I think that is just a shallow concession of lip service. The fact that God was “optional” to healing is bad enough, but this would’ve been treating God as a tool, a servant, or as a “yes man” who never does anything that would make me sad. This is wrong on several different levels.

What I did was to pray, and thank God for His faithfulness. I asked Him for perception that would keep me from being deceived. I asked him to protect me. Then, I began to think about memories of peace and beauty that would help me change my focus and calm down if needed. These were memories that I could give thanks to God for, could keep Him in mind, and keep Him as Lord rather than a teddy bear.

Actually, the place I remembered was among several trips I took into various wilderness areas. It was beautiful, but not the most beautiful place I’d been. I was surprised about that, but it kept coming back to my mind. That trip had several problems, so I didn’t consciously think of it as a place that would remind me of peace. Then, as I was leaving the building, I understood.

On that trip, there were several mistakes made (but we brought enough food, yeah!!). It was a new trail to us, and we (two dads) had brought along two young teens. It ended up being a very steep trail. We also got sidetracked by the fact that there were cattle in that area which had created their own trails. The regular trail was not maintained so well, and we made a wrong turn. We ended up at the right place, but I had this niggling discomfort that I couldn’t pinpoint our location on the map. We finally got to the bottom, and knew we needed to recooperate before trying to go back up. The extra day wasn’t such a big problem except that we chose from several trails while we were driving. We should’ve called our homes and let them know our decision, but we were having fun and forgot.

The point here is that I had several very specific prayers that I prayed during that trip. Christians often avoid that kind of prayer, but I couldn’t afford to do that. God answered every single one of my three very specific requests. And, He answered better than I expected. In a therapy session where I was dealing with the contempt I’d been dealt, and the disrespect of not being listened to, I remembered the One who loved me. He listened. He cared. He answered, even though I felt so undeserving.

Not only that… but He directly answered the prayers for help, protection, and perception that Ihad prayed in the session. God is very good!

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