EMDR protector/helper?


EMDR was frightening for me--I do have parts and many were terrified. So, we spent quite a bit of time setting up protectors & wise resources. I gathered from my therapist that we weren't doing this from an IFS point of view. There was no sense that the protector was necessarily an internalized part of me. Rather, it was more like, "If you could imagine a world or your experience in the world that is better than it is, who would you want there to help & protect you?" In those early days, we came up with multiple possible people who could serve that role. As EMDR proceeded, it was clear that my primary protector figure was a previous therapist, C, who didn't know much about trauma but who was incredibly calm and highly intuitive, and who I trusted more than anyone else in the world. And maybe most importantly, she was a good mother to her children. Later, it's been clear that I do have internal protector parts, but they aren't necessarily the protector when I do EMDR.

About your question on witnessing, I hadn't thought about that, but I can see why choosing a past therapist that had heard my stories made her presence & witnessing easier.

During EMDR, when my therapist suggests bringing in C, it's partly visualization of her being there, partly just a sense of someone being close. The imaginary help that C provides can sometimes feel like I'm writing a story, and this is how I want the story to go. Other times, it's as if what she does is unexpected and surprising, as if that story is being written by my subconscious needs and wishes. Other times, I'm feeling very overwhelmed and the emotion tells me I need someone there. "Protection" can take many forms, from telling my abuser that he's going to get whacked with a baseball bat if he isn't quiet, to simply sitting next to me, to whispering words of encouragement, to hugging me.

Being able to call up C has been a huge resource for me, both in EMDR sessions and outside them. I don't do it as often as I did, since I'm finding internal parts of me that are equally supportive. But I still treasure that imaginary presence.


I worked with a protector figure for EMDR and also a nurturing and a wise figure.

The idea is to build inner resources to help you through the processing stages. When you need elements from these figures you can draw them in so that the part of you in the trauma feels supported, cared for, safe, whatever you need really. It is meant to help give you more skills and tools than you had at the time and help process the memories.

I found picking the figures very hard. I think I put too much pressure on what the therapist would think, or getting it wrong. Logically I know that wasn't possible but I very much felt vast amounts of pressure. I also felt that it was foolish to put any trust in anything, these figures couldn't help change what happened and of course they don't. But what they can do is activate more compassionate sides of yourself, to bring some new feelings into those memories rather than going over and over them in exactly the same way. You can go into those memories and ask what you needed at the time and the figures can support and maybe bring some conclusion.

It may not help in every situation but could be worth a try to see if it helps. From my reading of EMDR the installation of these figures using bilateral stimulation is part of 8 stages and done before any processing takes place.


My t is trying to get me to fill the role of protector for screamer. Basically it's the idea that while she processes the memories, I stand near and reassure her she is safe, that they are just memories like a bad movie, that I won't let anything hurt her in the now.

It's a work in project....