EMDR and hidden parts

We would like to think we are simple beings with easy answers. The reality is, humans are no such thing.

We are made of ‘parts’. This means we are a whole being made of many different parts of us. These parts are developed across our lifespan. Some are helpful, and some are not. They include protectors, managers, parter, parent, critic, sceptic, inner child, inner adolescent, and more. Each of us have different parts, they are in itself, individual.

You most likely have seen “Inside Out”, or heard Taylor Swift’s new song “Anti Hero“. Adele rang her child/adolescent part in her song “Hello” and apologised for what she wished she had done differently. The media has its own way of speaking to us about parts. Our parts can control our lives if we let them.

In EMDR, all your parts need to be on board, or we may find roadblocks along the way. Sometimes, you and I can identify them early in the history-taking sessions. Other times they are well hidden and let themselves be known later on.

This is a story (with permission) of a client I have been working with for a while. We will refer to the client as Melissa.

Melissa and I had been working on her inner child part for a few sessions. We do this by talking to her, playing with her, loving her, and finding out what she needs. I spoke directly to this part; they need to know and trust me.

We had introduced the container (a safe place to lock things away we don’t want to feel or remember, for now, to be brought out later), a calm place (a favourite place for Melissa to go when she is feeling stressed or anxious), and her circle of security (made up on 7 figures – protector, nurturing, and wisdom). The first stages of EMDR are built on emotional regulation. This stage cannot be missed and will take longer for some, which is okay.

When the time was right, we decided to begin the trauma processing stage.

Before we started, Melissa’s 6-year-old protector part paid us a visit. I knew this part was young as Melissa’s voice and wording changed. Parts speak through you. You become their voices and ears. We spoke to her, showed her she was loved and appreciated and then went to do something fun. A visit from this part and the consequent conversation decreased Melissa’s heightened emotions automatically.

We began eye movements. Six sets (waves of eye movements) in, Melissa felt her adolescent protector part arrive. She is a spicy little thing! Full of attitude and sass, all in the name of protecting Melissa from any harm I was about to do to her! I attempted a conversation (always with the parts permission). Her response was along the lines of “why should I trust you? I don’t know you!” I asked Melissa to speak directly to this part. The same process – to find out what she needs, how we can help, and what they are worried about. Not forgetting to validate the parts role over the years, thank them, and show them, love. The important take away here is this part is around 13-15 years old, and takes her role in protecting seriously, and so she should! I suggested Melissa speak more to this part than me as there was resistance in speaking to me, after all, I was a stranger.

We continued with a few more eye movement sets before I asked Melissa to contain what we were working on with plans of returning in the next 2 days. This protector part was not about to let go easily, and more work was needed here. Together we devised a plan.

Saturday arrived, Melissas parts, Melissa, and I set to work. The first point of call was to add to her circle of security tool kit. We added an Ideal Figure (used when parents or caregivers are unsafe). We introduced the 15-year-old protector part and the new ideal figure. This was a perfect match!

A few eye movement sets in the original target memory had reduced enough for our work to move further into the past. Melissa noted her protector part was now standing back and watching instead of being involved and trying to stop the process. She noticed a feeling of loss and abandonment from her part, yet she was happy enough to allow Melissa to do what she needed to do.

We worked through another 2 target memories from Melissa’s past, cutting the cords of emotional connection to the memories that once caused high levels of distress. These memories are now harder to bring with no distressing emotions attached.

We came back to the original target to finish the cutting of emotions. Melissa noted her original belief had shifted from “I am not secure”, to “I am not safe”. This can happen during EMDR; the mind will do what it needs to do when we stay out of the way.

It was this point Melissa said to me

“There is something here. It’s not 15-year-old. It’s something different”

Melissa and I worked together to discover who this new part was. She described it as having no face and being rather negative. We wondered if this part was a sceptic. I introduced myself and explained what we were doing and how life would be different. Sometimes, it is too much to think of a new life without the cape of trauma encasing you. Your trauma is safe, it is secure, and you know what to expect. Except, logically, we know this is not reality. Truth is, your traumas can keep you from living your best life and experiencing all the wonderful things in life.

Suddenly, Melissa says – “I know who it is! It is my saboteur!” Melissa knew this part well, and she had noted when she felt this part arrive and impact her life. Yet, on some level, Melissa felt this part was protecting her. At this moment, this part which was disguising itself as a protector, stepped out from behind the shadows and made itself known. Melissa spoke of times when it had shown up previously and now knowing what it really was is powerful. The faceless creature only came out of its hiding place because the 15-year-old protector part had stepped down.

Melissa described her monster as the creature from Netflix’s Wednesday, with more of a human face.

“It’s a monster. A faceless monster made up of everyone who spoke to me badly. Of all the people who hurt me. It’s mean!”

This discovery helped move the trauma through Melissa’s mind and body with little resistance. We decided to put the Ideal Figure in front of the monster. Melissa did tell it to go away. She and I worked together to quieten and weaken the saboteur enough to clear and cut the cord of the recent target memory we were working on.

It was a long, exhausting session for all of us.

Melissa has checked in with me since this session. She is reporting increased emotional control and less reactivity. She knows her monster is strong. She has left the ideal figure and a protector figure from the circle of security with the monster and has surrounded herself with nurturing figures. This part will be linked to a few beliefs. They are target memories in our treatment plan. Melissa needs to show this part boundaries, as well as love. All our parts (even the negative ones) need love and connection. By making friends with them, getting to know them, and knowing they can trust us by letting go and relaxing is important. Our parts do not need to control us, they can work with us.

If you want to learn more about your parts or feel EMDR may help you, connect with me today.

Kellie Payne Psychotherapist and Counsellor, Midland, Perth

About the author

Kellie Sheldon is the owner and operator of Kellie Sheldon Trauma and Sex Counselling in Midland, Western Australia. She holds a Master of Counselling Practice from Tabor College in Perth. Specialising in trauma and sexual therapy, she focuses on aiding adults in forming secure connections. With a particular interest in kink, BDSM and trauma, she is adept in techniques like EMDR to assist clients in processing negative and traumatic memories. Kellie is a firm advocate for therapy's potential to alleviate symptoms stemming from childhood or relationship trauma. Her primary goal is to accompany her clients on their journey toward healing, recognising that healing involves not just addressing past events but also acknowledging what hasn't occurred.

Leave a comment