Therapy Lingo


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Jackie (Colorado, USA)

Has anyone here done some EMDR? I have done one this week and am left feeling flat - not sure what I feel though I spent the whole session crying!!

My therapist has asked me to write down each day whatever has come up and really nothing - just this flat, worn out feeling.


Hi Jackie, that's wonderful you've tried EMDR. It's helped many folks overcome trauma symptoms.

I might have an explanation for your current state.

You might find it helpful to check out the article I wrote on the biphasic response. The nervous system is always trying to regain a balanced state. If we get too excited or stressed, the nervous system - when it's safe - will move into a compensatory down, or up, regulation.

In other words, I suspect the flatness you're experiencing is a direct response to the heightened emotional reaction in your session. (I'm assuming that your emotional state during the session was a little over the top for your nervous system.)

Here's the thing. The more the therapist is able to help you stay within a tolerable window of capacity, the less likely you'll experience a dramatic compensatory reaction afterwards. The therapist does this by helping you contain - neither block nor supercharge - the emotions.

In other words, the less likely you'll be at the other end of a up swing.

Everyone's nervous system is different of course and it's not always easy for a therapist to tell when someone is moving into a state of high activation.

This is why it's always a good idea to check in (i.e. to your body) and ground as the session proceeds. I encourage clients to take several grounding breaks during a session for that exact reason. (See Interrupting the Procedure for more information.)

Hope that helps,


Thanks Shrinklady - that makes so much sense. We ended the session with a guided visualisation of putting everything into a locked box on a shelf.

I have probably been in a state of high arousal for around 7 years. I was married to a man with NPD - the emotional and verbal abuse left me with abuse trauma and though divorced now I am still fighting for my financial settlement. Ex is great at delay and stonewalling and is trying to wear me down to accept less.

My therapist has worked on boundaries with me so I am likely to get much more than I was first willing to accept. In some ways now I understand why I feel flat its actually a relief. I guess it means I am on the way to finding some balance.

By the way I trust my therapist totally - he is the person who immediately spotted what exH was and helped me realise I needed to get away.


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