EMDR do you always work a memory to completion?


I’m just wondering how other people have worked with EMDR. Do you work a memory until it’s calmed or do you move around and sometimes come back?

The memory I’m working with at the moment seems like it’s going nowhere except frustrating me. We’ve spent two sessions on it but I’m stuck with mini-me’s joy at seeing the abuser and I don’t seem to be able to get around it to do any real work with it.

I told T I feel like shaking child self because why the hell she finds joy in his visit I do not understand, especially since she knows how it ends. He advised I shake her, yeah she just fast forwarded the memory to when she isn’t happy and said fine here ya go. T asked me to ask her what she expected would happen, she thought he brought her something but hadn’t thought past that. I want to say, well you got your present live with your choices. I know that won’t help and I can feel her terror as much as her joy so while I’m angry, I’m not angry enough to do that.

Anyway I don’t want to revisit the memory because if I’m not getting anywhere what’s the point? I don’t actually think being angry at myself, more than normal is all that helpful. So I’m wondering how others handle when they aren’t getting anywhere? I’m inclined to try a different memory but honestly I’m not sure I have one that’s any easier.


I don't know for EMDR since I got the whole "you're dissociative so it's not recommended", but when I'm faced with puzzling feelings of the sort I try to understand it without judgement from within. It's very hard with the more remote parts of myself like the little girl I used to be, because the border between feeling external and internal is harsher. There was a moment you had to take distance from that ambivalence in order to make it stop or at least forget it.

In situations like this I think that joy is quite logical because there is attention given and we are wired to crave for that attention. When we're young also the plasticity of the brain allows for easily having simultaneously opposing feelings, like joy vs terror, towards the same object. I think this dissipates in adulthood but still is possible.

In adulthood I do struggle to have feelings that exclude each other, it's more like an avalanche of competing stuff that I have to comb and trim for hours before figuring out what's the dominant feeling or the reasonable thing to do, that if one of them isn't strong enough to hijack all the rest or trigger a shutdown.

But I'm digressing. I think it's an excellent thing you noticed that you were angry at that joy and the stubbornness of that little girl. I think this is really a great point to notice she is also angry at you being angry. Fragmented memories don't behave like actual people, she probably can read your feelings as much as you can, and feel hurt by it. It probably traces back to times where she/you realised this wasn't being appropriate and felt rage or guilt to it. It looks like it's the pain of the moment you start to realise and internalise things instead of just accepting the superimposing of pleasure and terror as a given? When you realise you were naive and that someone is namely abusing you---kids don't formulate it with these words but they have the clear sentiment they've been wronged and that moment is very painful. Maybe that's what's about?

I understand the feeling of being stuck but for what you're saying it doesn't feel like you are. There is a lot to process in here. I don't know EMDR but I assume there is quite a lot of work about being open about the feelings and contradictions themselves so you can actually embrace the memories and find some peace and sense in it, like it's not as if it weren't painful in essence anymore but there is some relief from stopping combating that pain.


Sure doesn’t feel like it.

T wants to shelf it for a week, feels like a failure, odd since that’s precisely what I’m questioning here.
....and sometimes there is other stuff tied to that memory that needs work before it will process....... Sometimes you have to fix other things before you can finish fixing the memory.
I just trust my T on that. There's still stuff from my first trauma that needs work, but there are other things in the way we gotta clean up first.


Thanks everyone.

I’m leaning toward working on a different memory Friday. This may be ill advised but here’s my reasoning.
1. I have an appointment Friday and then Monday again, this is designed so EMDR can be Friday and cleanup can be Monday.
2. I have probably 20-30 solid memories seems like a waste to skip a day.
3. I do agree that there is more to work out in this memory but it’s a common theme throughout. It seems the more of the memories I deal with the easier it is to see the disgust differently.
4. I have hope that the memory I chose is likely to end better because in the memory I’m upset with him, so at least there is the possibility that I will stay that way.


For me emdr is like a pingpong ball bouncing around in my brain -- landing on random crap.
T says my brain knows where it wants to go - regardless of what I think I want to work on. Often on the really bad ones I only get snippets, which can get really complicated - especially when they all run together.

Eventually (over time) it sorts itself out and I get enough snippets to hold an entire memory.
Think of it as a braking system --you bounce from the thoughts you aren't ready for.
Don't get me wrong - it makes me nuts too LOL
But it works


Do you have to confront your abuser as part of the EMDR process? T has suggested it more than once. I tried it once but it fell on deaf ears.

T asked me to try again Friday but backed off it. I was already having body memories so it was definitely not the day.

He keeps wanting me to turn the anger outside but he doesn’t know that asking me to confront him means feeling weak which only serves to turn more to being angry at myself.


I don't do EMDR I do something called narrative therapy. It starts with a timeline of traumatic events which is the exact same as what the stickied note in the trauma diaries area says to do.

The approximate ages and when it happened and as much who-what-where-when that you can remember. With me my timeline I just started from what I most easily recalled and then filled it in without any chronological order. My memories when I pick one and go through it the goal is to do the entire memory but I have big chunks that are either missing or not in order so I just write them like that and then go back and try to reorder it logically.

Like when I was nine I experienced XYZ. So my therapist would ask were you inside? Were you outside? Inside. In a small room. And on and on like that. Was there one person or two that were doing this to you? One specific that I remember plus the victim. Then someone came in through the door and dragged the victim away.

For EMDR that results in accessing not only the specific memories but feelings as well. For me instead of EMDR I use psilocybin and dextromethorphan. I structure the memory that way and then begin the arduous task of processing my emotions. What it means to have a victim. What it means that I was goaded into doing an action verbally. What the end result of that could have been (death) and what it means to die.

What I wish I would have done
Point the weapon at my abuser and pull the trigger instead.
and why I didn't do it. What would have happened if I did. The "what-ifs" portion. So in that regard you do face your abuser aswell because that's part of the processing since the abuser precipitated the event. And you just work it through until you feel like there is a conclusion.

For me I will go through all of that and then 3 months later that memory will come back and bother me again. So I write it out again. And process it again.


Sorry I should clarify, he doesn’t mean in real life. The guys dead. He means when I go back into the memory.

Personally I still think it’s a bad idea because when I attempt to visualize it I feel 2 inches tall and my voice comes out in a whisper. Plus I have no idea what to say, because I don’t have anger at him. I’m realizing I do have some fear, which seems incorrect.


Do you have to confront your abuser as part of the EMDR process?
If you need to it's an option. But that's IF you need to.
There are no rules of what has to happen in emdr. Your brain will chose where it wants to go and your t will help guide you thru it. So it's not like you must do A,B,C. Instead it's more like A, 46, purple 😁

YOU get to chose what you want to work on and where you want to go. People sometimes forget that because it's such a bitch at the beginning that your T will do a lot of guiding and suggesting to get you started. But if it doesn't feel right for the moment it's completely ok to say "lets revisit this later" and work on something else.

The hardest thing about emdr is it is so freaking random. Somedays I will think - I want to work on thought Q and my brain will say it doesn't care what I want, it wants to work on thought B.

Personally I still think it’s a bad idea because when I attempt to visualize it I feel 2 inches tall and my voice comes out in a whisper.
ya.... I actually lose my ability to speak on a couple memories. It scared the crap out of me the first time it happened because it lasted for about 15 minutes. Now it's a good indication that we have hit a memory I'm not ready to go into to.

I’m realizing I do have some fear, which seems incorrect.
Why incorrect? If he's an abuser then it would make sense you were scared of him.