As you will remember from last week’s article about EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing) we made up an example case about a man who was terrified of doing a job interview. We used the EMDR technique, the “Flash Technique” and reduced his anxiety levels from a 9 out of 10 to a 6 out of 10. This is a good result for applying the standard EMDR.
Overcoming any fear takes bravery no matter how big or small it seems to someone else.
Tom’s fear of attending job interviews had hindered his career and caused him to feel he wasn’t good enough in his job overall. When he thought about job interviews that stood out for him: the first was, “I’m not good enough” and the second was “there’s something wrong with me”.
The standard protocol involved asking him to hold in mind his experience of a job interview while pairing it with his negative belief, “I’m not good enough”, while asking him to follow a pen with his eyes, as I move the pen from left to right and right to left for 30-60 seconds. At the end of each 30-60 second period, I ask Tom to pause, take a nice deep breath in and “let go” on the breath out.
Here are some examples of how Tom responded (the number on the side showing what he said in response to what he noticed in terms of thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, images or memories.
After each piece he shared with me, I ask him to simply keep “noticing and observing”.
Tom’s experience of EMDR:
1. My heart is beating really fast and I’m sweating. I don’t want to think about it.
(He was encouraged to simply notice the physical sensations)
2. My heart is slowing down
3. I’m feeling more relaxed
4. I’m focused on what they might be thinking about me
5. I don’t want to get it wrong. They are really quiet which makes me think I’m not good enough.
6. I’m noticing one of the interviewers is frowning. I’m wondering what that means about me.
Fast forward to:
15. I’m aware of it becoming easier to see I did know what to say but I was put off by the interviewers and what they might have been thinking about me.
16. I do know what to do in my job. It wasn’t an interview I could have easily answered the question. It’s the formality of the situation that puts me off. I realise I like a lot of positive feedback from people.
(I make a suggestion, “I wonder what it would be like to imagine that an interview could be like chatting to anyone”)
17. I can see they are just normal people. One of the interviewers is smiling at me but at the time I didn’t notice. That feels better.
18. I think the quiet one is actually nervous himself.
I check in to see what change in his rating out of 10? He estimates his anxiety rating as being a 4 out of 10.
25. I can see that I know what to say, I just need to believe I am good enough.
26. I do this kind of work all of the time, but I’m not recognised for it.
( I make a suggestion, I wonder how you show what you know?)
27. I can give examples. I know what to say, and I can take my time. I’ve realised I just need to recognise that they are normal people just like anyone. I am good enough.
I check in to see what change in his rating out of 10? He estimates his anxiety rating as being a 2 out of 10.
This is low enough, to switch to installing the positive belief, which he has chosen as being, “I AM good enough”. He rates this as being 60% true on a scale of 0% not being true at all and 100% being absolutely true.
Before changing to his positive belief, we do a final check to make sure that his negative belief has been processed well enough. I ask him to close his eyes, and imagine the job interview memory and then let me know if there are any physical sensations that he experiences. He says that there isn’t, however, if there was, I’d ask him to simply notice the physical sensations and continue doing eye movements until the physical sensations have dissipated.
Installing the Positive Belief:
This time Tom is asked to hold the memory in mind and pair it with the positive belief, “I am good enough”.
1. I’m trying to tell myself I can do this, I know what I’m doing but there are little doubts…
2. My mind’s trying to think of different ways I can put across what I want to say
3. I’m thinking I can practice some questions with my partner
4. I’m still worried I will become anxious on the day
5. My mind is saying if I believe I’m good enough I will be okay
6. I’m going to put some time into asking different people what they do best in interviews
7. I’m thinking I really do know what I’m doing. One of my older supervisors offered to mentor me, and I’m going to say yes. I can see that would be helpful now.
8. I can do this. I want to start applying for jobs.
At this point, we agree to conclude the session and Tom rates his positive belief as being 80% now.
It’s agreed that he do a few homework sessions in between, and he will see me the following week, to begin the “exposure therapy” – to implement his beliefs and start “doing” to show that he can.
Written by Lisa Irving, Clinical Psychologist and Principal at Revive
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