My husband and I have been watching Band of Brothers, and it’s been producing some unladylike feelings in me (if you’ll humor such a deplorably sexist comment): It makes me want to go fight a battle!
I watch the men charging into a town that’s held by the enemy, and the enemy fire is so intense they all fall into the ditches on the side of the road, which doesn’t provide them with effective cover.
It takes the platoon leader running down the middle of the road, yelling, “Get up! Get up! You have no cover here. Take the city!” before the men gather their courage and start to storm the walls.
I had this same reaction when I watched Braveheart years ago, and often see myself leading an army across the field, sword held high above my head, yelling, “Freeeeedoooom!” Ridiculous, I know, if can picture me.
This past Thursday I had my EMDR therapy session . . . it was a disaster. I realized as I was getting ready and dragging my feet in the process, that I didn’t want to go. But I forced myself to, chiding myself that I was doing this thing for me, for my own personal growth.
When I got there, he directed me to my usual chair, and not to the lounge-chair over in the corner as I expected. I thought the treatment would consist of sitting comfortably in the dark with lights directed in my eyes, and that the therapist would barely register in the periphery of my vision. The only reason I ever agreed to continue with a man who was so wholly lacking in empathy (but a licensed psychiatrist, and therefore covered by insurance), was because I didn’t think he would play a prominent role in the session itself.
But he took his seat right next to me, facing me. And when he got me situated, he took his 2nd and 3d fingers and put them in the form of bunny ears. Then he told me to follow them with my eyes as he made rapid figure eight patterns. I could see his head bobbing in the background with the effort.
I was stunned. I had no idea what he was doing.
Then he asked me, when his fingers stopped moving, in that pompous voice of his, “Now. What do you feel?”
“Nothing,” I said. “I feel nothing. Isn’t this hypnosis, what you’re doing? I thought there were supposed to be lights involved.”
“I never said anything about lights,” he retorted defensively. “It’s EMDR that you wanted right? I told you that this is how it was done,” he added with annoyance.
Now language differences might attribute to some small miscommunication, but I’m quite sure he only said he would stimulate eye movements, but that he never said how. And I was leaning on the only experience I’ve ever had with EMDR, which is what other people told me who had done it. However, I felt like I didn’t have any choice but to murmur submissively, along the lines of, “I didn’t realize . . .” before he told me to start again and set his fingers wagging.
I couldn’t feel anything traumatizing when he moved those bunny ears; I could only feel this insane urge to laugh at him and his bobble head as they moved back and forth. And my thoughts were filled with panic, knowing I needed to come up with something to talk about, something I could pretend was dredged up by his super powerful EMDR technique. And I would have to do this over and over again for the next forty-five minutes.
I managed to think of some things, but I felt absolutely nothing. I was only sharing things I could think of with clinical assessment that would prove to him I was being vulnerable. But in order to protect myself, I disassociated. I had no problem separating fact from emotions – it’s what I do.
Fortunately, during that long session, I was granted several reprieves in which to come up with therapy-worthy events because he interrupted our session once to answer the door, and twice to answer the phone. In one of those times, he got up and started walking towards the ringing phone, motioning for me to continue as I was in the middle of talking about something painful. I stared at him, slack-jawed, astonished at his complete and utter lack of empathy.
I joked about it to my husband when I got home, my eyes so tired from moving back and forth I could barely drive. But later, when I read a comment on my post in the English-speaking mother’s forum about my experience – a response from a woman who thought I had been ripped off, and that at the very least, he could have given me his undivided attention – the matter wasn’t funny to me anymore.
I sat next to my husband on the couch, my entire spirit paralyzed.
I said, “I feel like I was emotionally raped.” I felt my husband stiffen next to me in anger at the word and at the thought of what had been done to me. But when he offered the word “violated” instead, I responded with, “but violated is not a strong enough word to capture how I feel!”
“I feel like he was doing open-heart surgery on me, and when my cavity was clamped wide open, he pulled my heart out and dropped it on the floor. And then he spit on it to get the dirt off before plopping it back in and sewing me back up.”
“You’re not going back to him, are you?” my husband asked. “You can’t go back there.”
“No,” I said. “I’m supposed to have a follow-up session with him, but I guess I’ll have to cancel it. You know if I cancel it and don’t want to reschedule, he’s going to ask why and I’m going to have to tell him.”
“I’ll call him for you if you want me to,” my husband offered. I was very touched at his chivalry, but said no. I needed to do this myself.
I went on, “This is not the first time. I seem to have the worst luck with psychiatrists and end up getting the ones who are so far from recognizing their own humanity, they can’t see it in anyone else. Anyway, I had this one lady, and after two sessions, I left her a message telling her that I thought she was completely out of touch with human feeling and that I didn’t want to go back. She returned the call and left me a message saying she wanted to talk about it, but I didn’t pick up. I just figured she had her own therapy to do and left her to it.”
“I won’t be leaving a message for this guy, though,” I said, “I’ll have to talk to him. He always answers the phone.”
It took a minute for the humor of this truth to strike both of us, but when it did we laughed heartily.
I know I’m brave deep down. I went to live in Taiwan by myself when I was twenty-one without speaking the language. That was brave.
I stood up to attackers in Africa and defended myself on two separate occasions. That was brave.
I sat resolutely in an eight-seater plane that was malfunctioning at 15,000 feet – twice! That was brave. Or perhaps . . . it was not so brave as it was stupid to have agreed to go up a second time in a faulty plane.
But in spite of my pluck, I was nearly paralyzed this morning, just thinking about calling the guy. I was sitting there, trying to pray about the day, and my unruly thoughts kept scrambling down into the ditches. And try as I might, I couldn’t get them to move forward and march in some semblance of order.
I did call him though, and challenged him on his lack of empathy, as I canceled my appointment. His reaction was unsurprising: “Entendu” he said. It means, ”I’ve heard you,” or more accurately, “Noted.” Still, I did it, and I called him first thing in the morning, too. It was like volunteering for the front lines.
Courage is not the absence of fear, it’s the charging forward to face your enemy in spite of your fear. And dare I say that – roaring across the battlefield to meet an emotional assault with your sword raised high as you run – takes every bit as much courage as it does to meet a physical assault?
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I’m rather passionate about The Allied’s support during WWII in France, and if you’re interested in reading about our visit to the Normandy Beaches and the history of D-Day, you can read about it here.