Do I Need to Recall the "First Second" of Abuse? EMDR Questions...

MO-Survivor

Registrant
So last week I finally asked my T this question: "So as much as the author of Traumasexuality focuses on the "moment," that "first second," that "first incident" of CSA, to truly process through things at depth... do I need to recall the first time of CSA? He emphasizes this a lot because he believes that it was in that first moment when the real shock of what was happening occurred. The panic, the fight or flight, the subsequent paralysis and inability to do anything but endure what was happening occurred mostly during that first time. He talks about subsequent abuse events just reinforcing all of those feelings, but that they aren't the same as the first moment. I think I get it. Because prior to that first moment, as many guys have said here, we were in love with, idolized, looked up to, worshipped, our abuser(s). This is nowhere more true than for those of us abused by our dads. And because we felt the way we did about our abuser, the moment was filled not just with the horror of the physical acts, but the sheer betrayal of the moment. How could this person we love, we trusted, we thought was the closest thing to God, how could they do what they did? And why? Why? Why? It's no wonder we were shocked and frozen in that moment, unable to fight back or do anything.

I honestly do not know and cannot recall my first moments of abuse. I told my T that actually, if I really wanted to, I could press my dad into answering honestly. I have enough relationship to know that he wouldn't want to answer honestly, but if pressed I think he would. Just like, when I was 17 and pressed, he told my mom what he had done. But... do I want to know and do I need to know? That is the question.

If abuse happened when we were very young, there is likely no actual memory. And sometimes it wasn't our age but just the sheer shock of what was happening that caused us to pull away from ourselves / disassociate to the point of not remembering. I suspect I probably can't recall because I was too young. There are incidents I remember plenty well, but I was older - starting about 8-10. Any of those other, un-recall-able incidents would maybe just be body memories.

So what did my T think? She didn't think there was a definitive answer to the question, because everyone - and their experiences - are different. But she trended toward not thinking it was necessary to do the work that we need to do. Unless... I was purposely not remembering. That if it was something I blocked out and keep myself from knowing, that yes - it could be necessary to recall to bring about full healing.

This led me to think about EMDR, and to talk about it with my T. A few weeks back, I asked this same question to myself - "Do I need to remember that first moment?" and thought about going through a session where I was able to maybe recall the first time. And quite unexpectedly, while thinking about remembering, I had a momentary feeling of sheer terror rise out of me. "Um, that was interesting," I thought. And it got me all the more to thinking about whether it would be helpful or not. My T does not do EMDR, but she has said she has referred patients for sessions. And for some, it really helped. For others it did not. She indicated it would likely not be something that would result in real memories (with sight, sound, smell, etc.) but more likely body memories - like I know some of you have experienced. She recommended that this site would be a good place for me to ask questions about EMDR from those of you who have done it. So what was it like for you? Was it helpful? How has it helped you since you did it?

I'll be honest, just like asking my dad the question about when the abuse truly started, I am disinclined to pursue this. I see a lot of insight, connections and progress from the work I'm doing. But... if it would help break things open, would help me really feel and understand things that I just won't allow myself to feel and understand, maybe it's worth it.

Thanks guys. I appreciate you and your feedback!
 

newground

Chat Moderator
Staff member
as I understand it EMDR is a way of connecting the feelings and the reality of the abuse together. in that process the trauma is in a way brought out to the front of the mind and the person has a chance to in a way normalize the experience. as long as there is a rift in the two aspects of our cognitive function we will always slip into that fight or flight mode because the trigger pulls us into what is to us the normative experience of that moment. for example we may smell a certain cologne and then fall into a fetal position or perhaps a very angry place. emdr allows us to "normalize" the experience. I say all that to say that IF you need to remember your mind will probably do just that during the EMDR therapy. I told my T at one point early on "If there is more to remember I dont want to know!" to which he replied " well that isn't exactly how this works"
 
No, I don't think so. I just had an EMDR session I need to process today. All my life I have thought I was a weak minded person who never fought back on anything. The reak genesis of that was some bullying that happened before the abuse. During my EMDR session, I started with the impression that I was always passive. As it progressed, I learned I did fight back. Gotta process that but it just might help me more than remembering the first time abuse ever occurred could. I understand his point, but my limited opinion is no.
 
I spent three years with three different therapists using EMDR to unpack memories of my past. My abuse began when I was an infant. perpetrated by my mother. It continued with a three generation family of pedophiles living in houses on three sides of my family home. I believe that began when I was around three and continued until we moved away when I was seven and a half. What I came to using EMDR was what your therapist describes... body memories, sensations, images but no narrative of what happened or when. I understand now after having read about how trauma affects the brain that the neocortex shuts down during trauma. That is where narratives are created out of experience. Yet those fragments laced together with stories I'd heard through my life about my childhood gave me enough to create a story line of what happened. I have pondered the question whether uncovering additional details would be useful in my healing journey but ultimately concluded it is more important to be with who I am at this moment. I often say on this website that the measure of the severity of what happened to us really is the quality of life we've lived since the abuse happened. In other words, the more fucked up the life, the greater the trauma. What produced that trauma ultimately doesn't matter... healing as best we can does.

With regard to speaking with your father I'll mention the many conversations I had with my mother during the years I was in therapy, before EMDR was on the scene, and beginning to uncover what happened in my childhood. At that time I didn't appreciate the memories that arose spontaneously during the time I was in therapy constituted trauma. That took me decades to understand. But I did have questions and my mother simply didn't remember. I didn't ask specifically if she remembered trying to suffocate me with a pillow... one of my memories... but more general questions. She didn't remember. Your father admitted abusing you but I wonder whether details are available to him. These are not the kinds of experiences one would celebrate in life. I'm not certain you would gain anything useful by speaking with him.

Thanks for sharing your process with all of us. The question of how far we need to go in our uncovering work is one most of us have had along the way... our personal archaeology. Answering that question seems to be important for each of us. All the best on your journey my friend.
 

MO-Survivor

Registrant
Thanks @newground, @Jim1104, and @Visitor. I appreciate the responses. And in your responses I think you are confirming where I was headed with these questions: 1) no, it’s not necessary to recall that first time to make progress with healing, 2) what is most important is where we are now and how we live now - which can be improved thru therapy and doing the work, and 3) talking to my dad just really isn’t beneficial at this point for multiple reasons. That last one I had pretty well decided anyway. I don’t really like discussing the abuse with him, and the only times he has brought it up in the recent past, he was so (sincerely) broken and remorseful about it I felt like I needed to give him comfort.

I’ve only seen him like that a couple times. The other was when my sister died in 2007 and he thought he hadn’t done enough when there was absolutely nothing he could have done. It was stage 4 uterine cancer and my sister didn’t even know. She went to the hospital already septic because of the cancer. She had asked dad to come be with her the prior Monday because she was so sick. And he did - so he could help her and serve her any way possible. She went to the hospital on Thursday and died on Sunday.
 

MO-Survivor

Registrant
I spent three years with three different therapists using EMDR to unpack memories of my past. My abuse began when I was an infant. perpetrated by my mother. It continued with a three generation family of pedophiles living in houses on three sides of my family home. I believe that began when I was around three and continued until we moved away when I was seven and a half. What I came to using EMDR was what your therapist describes... body memories, sensations, images but no narrative of what happened or when. I understand now after having read about how trauma affects the brain that the neocortex shuts down during trauma. That is where narratives are created out of experience. Yet those fragments laced together with stories I'd heard through my life about my childhood gave me enough to create a story line of what happened. I have pondered the question whether uncovering additional details would be useful in my healing journey but ultimately concluded it is more important to be with who I am at this moment. I often say on this website that the measure of the severity of what happened to us really is the quality of life we've lived since the abuse happened. In other words, the more fucked up the life, the greater the trauma. What produced that trauma ultimately doesn't matter... healing as best we can does.

With regard to speaking with your father I'll mention the many conversations I had with my mother during the years I was in therapy, before EMDR was on the scene, and beginning to uncover what happened in my childhood. At that time I didn't appreciate the memories that arose spontaneously during the time I was in therapy constituted trauma. That took me decades to understand. But I did have questions and my mother simply didn't remember. I didn't ask specifically if she remembered trying to suffocate me with a pillow... one of my memories... but more general questions. She didn't remember. Your father admitted abusing you but I wonder whether details are available to him. These are not the kinds of experiences one would celebrate in life. I'm not certain you would gain anything useful by speaking with him.

Thanks for sharing your process with all of us. The question of how far we need to go in our uncovering work is one most of us have had along the way... our personal archaeology. Answering that question seems to be important for each of us. All the best on your journey my friend.
And Visitor, your response was so heartfelt and personal - it brought tears to me. Thanks man. Sincerely.
 
Interesting question. I do not remember the first seconds of my abuse. As I talked my counselor through it and we revisited it several times he pointed out that I disassociated when it started. I remember everything up until that second. Then I see it happening mid-way from about 15 feet away. I am conflicted about not remembering how many times it happened or every detail. But he gently suggested that perhaps I have remembered what I need to remember for now. Part of me wishes that he practiced EMDR so I could remember more and part of me is glad that he doesn't do EMDR because I think the lack of memory is a gift.
 
1) no, it’s not necessary to recall that first time to make progress with healing, 2) what is most important is where we are now and how we live now - which can be improved thru therapy and doing the work, and 3) talking to my dad just really isn’t beneficial at this point for multiple reasons.
Thank you for that reply to your own question. I, too, was abused from such a young age that I wouldn't be able to remember it even if I tried hard. And my first abuser (grandfather) has died, so there is no way to gain information from him.
I think that your 2) above is the most important. We are here, we are now, and we are working in whatever way possible.
 

MO-Survivor

Registrant
Thank you for that reply to your own question. I, too, was abused from such a young age that I wouldn't be able to remember it even if I tried hard. And my first abuser (grandfather) has died, so there is no way to gain information from him.
I think that your 2) above is the most important. We are here, we are now, and we are working in whatever way possible.
I'm glad that was helpful. It was helpful for me to realize, and reinforces what several guys here (Visitor) say in trying to gently help other guys realize that is what is most important.
 
Top