In studies on self-attacking behaviours, Paul Gilbert and his colleagues have designed a number of scales that can help to quantify how much a person criticises themselves, or how well they can self-reassure in the face of distress. I find that some of these scales can be useful for a client to complete before starting a course of EMDR because it gives an indication of how much resource work might be needed before starting the EMDR treatment properly.

The self-attacking and self-soothing scale relates to how people think and feel about themselves when things go wrong for them. The scale is particularly concerned about a sense of personal inadequacy, such as disappointment with oneself, and the more serious self-hatred, which can manifest as the desire to hurt or persecute the self. It also measures the ability to self-reassure.

The inadequate self is assessed by statements such as:
I am easily disappointed with myself.
There is a part of me that puts me down.
I find it difficult to control my anger and frustration at myself.
There is a part of me that feels I am not good enough.
I feel beaten down by my own self-critical thoughts.
I remember and dwell on my failings.
I can’t accept failures and setbacks without feeling inadequate.
I think I deserve my self-criticism.
There is a part of me that wants to get rid of the bits I don’t like.

The hated self is assessed by:
I don’t like being me.
I call myself names.
I stop caring about myself.
I have a sense of disgust with myself.
I have become so angry with myself that I want to hurt or injure myself.

Self-soothing is assessed by:
I am able to remind myself of positive things about myself.
I find it easy to forgive myself.
I still like being me.
I can still feel lovable and acceptable.
I find it easy to like myself.
I am gentle and supportive with myself.
I am able to care and look after myself.
I encourage myself for the future.

The self-soothing statements give us clues about how to construct useful resources for someone who is intensely self-critical, feeling inadequate or hateful towards themselves. As an example, being able to remind yourself about positive things in your life can be a really good resource. It can be useful to take some time and ask yourself what you are good at, and then generate an A4 page full of the things you are good at. Examples could include “I am good at cooking”, “I am a good mother”, “I am good at helping my friends when they need me”. Making it a long list means you have to really think hard about lots of things you are good at, which is a positive exercise in itself. How much time do you spend thinking about the things you are good at in life?

Once we have a page of these, simply sit with your eyes closed and your hands across your chest on opposite shoulders. I will read your list back to you while you alternately tap each shoulder. The bilateral stimulation while you hear all the things you are good at acts as an anchor. Later when we do bilateral stimulation in EMDR, this will trigger some of the good feelings you are experiencing as you listen to all the things you are good at. This exercise is very powerful and can be really excellent preliminary work before starting any deeper EMDR for trauma.

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

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