Proposed Negative -> Positive Belief Pendulation Technique in EMDR or EMI Therapy

CarlT

Policy Enforcement
I offer for discussion and feedback a possible technique for using negative plus positive beliefs in the context of EMDR or EMI therapy. First I'll describe the technique and then explain my theory for why it might be useful in certain cases.

It's widely accepted that some negative belief(s) is at the core of many mental health problems. How to mitigate that belief? Or, modify it to make it less destructive? Possibly replace it with a constructive positive belief?

There are endless published examples of negative beliefs, often with candidate countervailing positive beliefs. One may freely pick from existing lists or use them to inspire variations. It seems to me that it would be better to choose a positive belief statement that is incongruent - yet not mutually exclusive - with the negative belief. E.g., if the chosen negative were: "I am bad" then it would be better to compose a positive belief statement such as: "I am usually pretty good".

The idea is to dilute the negative belief with the positive; or, over-lay the negative with the positive. Not necessarily to persuade the mind to completely replace the negative with the positive. How to do so? Cognitively talking oneself into the change-of-beliefs is apt not to be very effective. EMDR and EMI therapy - i.e., a bilateral eye-movement or other bilateral stimulus is thought by those practitioners to be effective to alter neurological connections - pathways of thought or experience - to integrate a negative thought/sensation with other positive thoughts/sensations. Suppose this to be true.

Suppose one chooses a negative + positive-yet-incongruent belief statement pair for an EMDR / EMI session. Contemplate the pair of statements while following the bilateral movement (traditionally, a visual movement). If the foregoing suppositions are true, the statement pairs should integrate. The distinctive idea here is that one could pendulate swiftly between the positive and negative statements.

The orthodox EMDR and EMI approaches are to first become deeply in-touch with the problematic memory (belief, etc.) until it resonates somatically. Thereafter, install the positive alternative positive vision. OK, no objection to this technique. Only a question: Is it essential to segregate the positive from the negative experience/memory/vision/etc? This is an important question to comment/critique on.

What if rapid pendulation between positive and negative belief statement pairs were more effective than the orthodox segregating and becoming deeply connected with (first) negative (subsequently) positive statements in turn? This is pure conjecture, of course. What if this proposed technique were equally effective with the orthodox? (Conjecture.) And, what if the proposed technique were effective, but somewhat less effective than the orthodox?

If we assume that the negative belief is well-chosen, then the neural pathways are well-traveled, well exercised. Why should we presuppose that it is critical for the subject to first immerse him/herself deeply in the experience of this negative belief? We can admit that it might be very helpful to do so; but that's not the question posed here. Is it really critical? i.e., to so first and fully immerse deeply in the experience of the negative belief before pendulating to the positve?

Of all the available therapeutic techniques, what's the argument for any novel proposed technique?

Orthodox techniques mainly (from my limited observations) rely on confirmation of a candidate memory, feeling, belief by some somatic sensation. The subject is asked to contemplate a blue sky; is there any somatic confirmation? If not, then that's probably not a component of the subject's mental suffering. Contemplate a black sky; somatic confirmation? If so, then we're over the target! Orthodox techniques are very dependent upon a search for relevant events/memories which can be confirmed by somatic reactions to their contemplation.

How to proceed when there are few, if any, memories/cognitions/images/belief-statements with somatic effect?

When traumas were pre-verbal the subject has little alternative but to grope in the dark for guesses as to those memories. Best one could do is identify some feeling/belief which is vague such as “I’m not safe” or “. . . good enough”. Or, to imagine some traumatic experience such as being left to cry in a crib by an unresponsive mother; being spanked, etc. Whatever one comes up with probably won’t hit the target precisely. If "complex" there wouldn't be a single precise target. Even if there were a precise target as with a single traumatic event (e.g., being dropped) the present day triggers won’t pull that precise trigger exactly. E.g., the precise pre-verbal trauma probably isn't playing-out in the subject's adult life.

The rational for the proposed technique recognizes the imprecision about identifying original traumas and shaping inoculations against future triggering events. Identifying candidate negative beliefs is apt to be no less precise than trying to conjure-up pre-verbal memories with somatic content.

Moreover, it's widely believed that a popular infantile defense against trauma is to numb-out. What do the orthodox techniques offer the subject who has little or no somatic response to contemplations of candidate pre-verbal traumas? Ask the subject to contemplate being a baby crying in a crib with hunger, wet diaper, cold, lonely. What comes up in the way of a somatic response? Nothing!

The proposed alternative is to ask if any of such traumas are reasonable candidate possibilities. If so, what beliefs might have resulted? "I'm not worthy of being fed/changed/warmed/comforted!" Or: "I won't survive!". Do these - clearly negative - beliefs resonate with current - adult - triggering scenarios? If so, we have a candidate negative belief we might choose to work with.

Orthodox techniques which depend upon articulable memories and somatic response prove wanting when the traumas are pre-verbal. They can be fruitless when the traumas were numerous events, each not especially noteworthy in itself, and long ago. When the subject's defenses detach him/her from a confirming somatic confirmation signal the problem is compounded. It is in such a context where the proposed technique might find application.

Based on everything else we know about effective (and ineffective) therapeutic techniques are there any reasons to believe - whether from logical reasoning or empirical evidence - that the proposed technique:

1. is apt to be ineffective, or at least much less effective, than the orthodox alternatives? Or,
2. is apt to be counter-productive?
 

grit

MyPTSD Pro
Perhaps my experience in the here and now relate directly and profoundly to some early experience; likely lost in a fog of decades of intervening memories. If this is likely the case, I might be able to imagine a logical early or first event such as my mother scolding me as a small child or even a pre-verbal infant. If I can identify some confirming event (a somatic response or a cognitive recognition of resonance) that's fine. If not, I can proceed on a hunch about the early/original event; and, a hunch that they might be related to my current experiences.

This gets me off the train-of-thought that my experience in the here-and-now is driven by my perceptions about my wife and gets me to engage with my own source experience, sentiments, conclusions. My perceptions about my wife today are apt to be projections and convenient rationalizations. As such, they are unlikely to prove helpful.

I'm not especially bothered by any disagreement by my therapist. I am remarkably open-minded and willing to accept that others are apt to see things differently than I do and that they are at liberty to believe differently from me. I don't invalidate them (therapist or any other professional) and I am resistant (albeit not immune) to others invalidating remarks.
Thank you for clarifying your thoughts.

I want to preface my comment that I do not know you obviously so I am trying to understand what you are trying to convey to me. so anytime I am not on tangent, please let me know.

My feeling of the above quote is that the mother scolding you (might be traumatic obviously for a child) but at the time it happened, the child is not nonexistent and must react or/and adapt to the situation. So you just being drawn to the trauma is missing the adaptation part (your involvement in the original scolding). And to add more to the mix, your wife scolding you might make you feel something regardless of trauma or not and these are not all inclusive. Your wife or boss or neighbor etc (using the same example) also may be operating from their own unconscious, trauma, history etc...so maybe there is more to each interaction than just your trauma and your feelings.

Trauma is like big bang theory. No one can go back and work forward from it but we found there was big bang cause we see how things are changing so we can see a spectrum of some sort...and make deduction that things must started with a huge bang!!! and go toward inflation! So your focus on the original trauma is looking for some certainty in your healing. The problem with certainty is it does not exist in human interactions. If your original trauma (especially preverbal) stayed static, and you did not adapt to cause some changes to the system - whether you cried and mother responded or ignored...the scolding is not you are soothed or ignored...and it can go on infinite ways up to today.

one of the ways to overcome trauma is realization of certainty vs uncertainty. A baby is certain of wanting milk/breast and if they do not get it, you will know about it. If that milk business got traumatic, the child will learn some ways of dealing and one of the ways that may show up in adult could be addiction. But it will be almost impossible to go back the moment the addiction seed started...

I think acknowledging here and now versus then is important but also knowing that you can be scolded without "then" is possible. and the feeling you have when you are being scolded (even after you recover from trauma) means you are human and it will happen again and again...eventually you may not feel as bad and maybe even use it as humor or completely let it go...but using this example of scolding...if your wife/person scolds you ---if you are triggered deeply and react very uncharacteristically or unreasonably like beating up the wife or running over the neighbor, then one may think after they come down wow! that reaction did not belong to this event and find the underlying experiences. Regardless, the underlying experiences may not be as juicy as most of us assume - it is diluted trauma over many years.

I do not want to come off as if I am underplaying the impact of trauma. I often feel I am stupid...but I also know I am not but yet that feeling persists but I am not crying over it anymore because it is experience I had as a child and it is embedded in me deeply but I had many experiences where my intelligence is also quite good.

I feel I am digressing and maybe taking you away from your journey of exploring your own understanding of your own story and I am sorry if that is the case.

My point is looking for the original trauma and trying to see how it is exactly same as here and now ...is not my experience. many times I even realize what hurt me as a child and I thought was the world ending (with my adult eyes today) is not that big...but I do try to see it from my child eyes and appreciate how strong of a child I was against what at the time seemed insurmountable obstacle!

My experience was one of growing up in a family emotional dynamic which was significantly less than ideal. My take is that it had little impact on my younger sibling and devastating impact on my older sibling. I was in the middle. I've done well in life; albeit not as well as I feel I might have done without the untreated damage of my mild yet continuous traumatic experience.
I will leave you with this comment: having a family where emotions were distorted or other siblings were experiencing trauma or hardship is hard (really hard) for a child! so I felt even though you are highly functional and honestly seem also highly intellectual, you probably experienced witnessing things or events a child should not.

It is often very hard to compare traumatic events. There is always someone who had worse than us but when there is an accident on the highway, no one says arghh not as bad as the last one I saw. most of us may stop and check.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
 

joeylittle

Administrator
Not surprised to hear you say this; albeit I haven't myself seen non-confirming studies. This venue of scientific inquiry is difficult; we should expect contradicting study results. Maybe watching paint dry would be equally effective. Yet, if bilateral stimulation is easy, free or economical, and it interests (amuses) someone, I see no reason to avoid it until someone declares: "The science is now conclusive!!!"
Sigh.

My point is not that it needs to be avoided. My point is that you're making a lot of assumptions but are stating them as facts - when in fact they aren't.

I feel no reason to justify my exercise of creativity for my own amusement and sharing with those who might comment upon it.
This isn't a creative writing forum, though.

None of us are here for exercises in creativity and for our own amusement...I was hoping you'd actually engage. Instead, you do the opposite. You are looking for a blog of your own, not this site.
 

grief

Sponsor
What if rapid pendulation between positive and negative belief statement pairs were more effective than the orthodox segregating and becoming deeply connected with (first) negative (subsequently) positive statements in turn?
it wouldn't be. this is disordered. and unfortunately this behavior is more disordered. it is not functional and doesn't help. and what happens is that a brain that does this is a brain that puts things in categories. things either are or they aren't. it is very binary. so often, because i have this disorder, which is borderline personality disorder.

having nuance is very difficult and the nuance that i do have is because i break things into smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller steps. so that it looks like i have nuance, but actually i don't, because things still are or they're not. there's no grey area and i cannot make grey areas make sense to me.

i will go from suddenly thinking i am fine, to suddenly thinking i am terrible. and it is illogical. and it doesn't help. because it's not rational. rationally i am fine. i am not normal, but i am okay. i am not sadistic. i am not evil. i am not terrible. i am a neurodivergent person who sometimes makes mistakes and sometimes does good and bad things, but i am fine, because i don't want to hurt people.

i take responsibility for my behavior and i try to be a good person. i am basically good. and that is a logical belief. but then i will suddenly be illogical and believe the exact opposite. that i am horrible and all the meaning of things that i have ever done. is too irredeemable and on and on. so i rapidly will vacillate between these states. sometimes in the same sentence! sometimes in the same second!

and it also leads to splitting of everything. not just yourself, but everybody and everything else. which is where you suddenly realize you dislike a person. and suddenly invalidate every other interaction that you have had with them and struggle to feel positive feelings about them again. because we do that with everything. things are suddenly fine. and then they are suddenly horrible.

and that leads to breakdowns in cognition. and logic. because that is not logical. and in my experience, as a person who struggles with what is logical or not logical, "flirting with" irrationality. is dangerous. because it is very easy for someone with a brain like mine. to convince themselves of things that are not true, and to create paranoia and delusions out of nothing.

this is why we don't argue with schizophrenic people. or agree that their irrational beliefs are real. they aren't real. and the best way to combat irrationality, is rationality. is knowing what is rational. and sometimes that can be hard. because those two things can't exist in the same space. they're like matter and antimatter. you cannot rationally be irrational. you just can't.

all you can do is know what is and isn't rational. and any one that encoureged someone who struggles with logic, to believe an irrational thought. that is predatory. it is.

the rest of what you're saying, and how you're speaking, sounds like nonsense. you do not sound like you are saying anything, and that may be because i am incapable of understanding it myself, or because you are just not making sense. i think @somerandomguy hit it on the head. that you are using a lot of big words close together, but it is just obscuring your meaning. you aren't really talking about anything, you are just using words.

and it's an unsettling communication style that seems predecated on "marketing" things to us.

so in essence i am glad this person was banned, but the discussion was interesting so i had just wished to remark. this entire thing. is wrong. it is wrong, it is not correct. and people should not be doing that. especially if they have any kind of deficits with logical processing. like bpd or schizo-spectrum disorders. because it will lead to a fundamental breakdown of your reality.

because that happens to me all the time! because my brain does that automatically. and it is bad. and if your brain doesn't do that, you should not make it do that.
 
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