EMDR: Nesting Dolls

I love matryoshka dolls. My Mom once brought me one from a trip to Europe which I keep on my bookcase. The children know it is rather special to me; sometimes I take it down and we open the dolls, taking out one after another until finally we find the smallest one nestled in the center.

On Day 2 of EMDR, nesting dolls took on an entirely new and tender meaning. Cathy set them out in order from largest to smallest, and then talked about how within each one of us, there are younger selves that “nest” inside our current self – the largest doll. She talked about how each one of us has hurts from different parts of our lives and the most hurt version of ourselves often takes over when we are triggered by difficult circumstances.

She taught Dimples that sometimes when she is triggered, it is not her 10 year-old brain that is in charge, but it is a younger, hurt and scared Dimples.  We talked about how her 10 year-old brain is smart and understands many things.  She can help her younger self by reminding her that she is safe, she is loved, there is enough food, etc.  This older, smarter self can be in charge –  and the younger one can be safely tucked inside.

It is difficult to write about this without sharing more than I should, so if it seems that I am leaving gaps – I am, for Dimples’ sake.

It was quite amazing to observe.  Russ and I talked later about how we recognize there are times when we function not as the adults we are, but out of our much younger selves.  We all have our histories tucked within us; they don’t disappear just because we celebrate a birthday each year.

I told Dimples today (Day 3) that this is the most I have seen her true self (her 10 year-old self) ever and that she is a joy to be with.

Even this morning, there was a moment of significant disappointment – and it was a food trigger no less. Before she reacted I said, “Dimples, think about this with your smart 10 year-old brain.”  She paused and then made a completely appropriate request which I was able to answer with a “yes.”  It was truly wonderful.

The last session of the day was with EMDR.  Dimples held the tappers and was able to relax through much of it.  We talked a lot about her younger self – what was true then, and what is true now.  It was fascinating to hear Dimples’ thoughts about her early years.

She was tired when we were done, but bounced back with energy to play with friends, and later to end the day watching The Cosby Show.

I’m missing my children at home – lots.  Today is Ladybug’s 14th birthday and it hurts my heart not to be there.  My sister, Laura, arrived last night, which makes me feel much better.  She’ll give my little people lots of love, and will bake a cake for Ladybug.  We’ll celebrate as a family on Sunday.

Up next, Day 3, and the Window of Tolerance.

Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

14 Comments

  1. Carmen
    September 20, 2012

    I love this illustration! Thanks so much for sharing and helping us all with your experiences–

    Reply
  2. Mary
    September 20, 2012

    Wow!

    Reply
  3. Cat
    September 20, 2012

    I love this example! Seriously want to find a set. Could have this talk with all my kids on some level… frankly, could use this to take a look into my own heart… Thanks so much for sharing pieces of what you are learning!

    Reply
  4. Michelle
    September 20, 2012

    Incredibly encouraged by reading your words and journey! We have used a mask illustration but this one makes so much more sense. I need to find a doll! 🙂 Just returned from ETC in TN and insanely overwhelmed but encouraged. Sobbed the entire conference. Praying through our surrender to work even harder to help the younger selves within her feel safe that she can finally continue with EMDR. We only got through the initial session 2 months ago but she has ensured she won't go there again. We are at one year of weekly therapy and have had only a handful of productive sessions. But have hope this week she is opening up to it again. Praying for your day today!!!!

    Reply
  5. Laurel
    September 20, 2012

    That is a powerful analogy. Thank you so much for sharing the foundation of what Dimples is walking through (with no need to share intimate details). I am sure that the analogy of the dolls is something that many of us parents can relate to . . . and use with our own children, and for our own lives.

    Happy Birthday to Ladybug. Today is our Hosanna's 16th birthday. She is having her party tomorrow night . . . and I can't be there. 🙁 I signed up (and paid for) an out-of-town scrapbooking weekend months ago. It just worked out that Hosanna needed to have her party on the night that I am gone. So sad. So hard. While we will both miss being a part of our daughter's birthdays . . . I know that their days will still be blessed. 🙂

    Glad things are going to well for you all on your trip.

    Laurel

    Reply
  6. Denise
    September 20, 2012

    Continuing to pray for you and your journey!

    Reply
  7. Laura
    September 20, 2012

    I am glad to hear you are having a productive time. I am sure my time here will be busy too—I was greeted with big hugs from your two youngest last night. I gave Ladybug a big birthday hug this morning and told her she looked beautiful. Shepards Pie and chocolate cake are on the menu for the unofficial birthday dinner.

    Reply
  8. Elizabeth
    September 20, 2012

    So her 10 year old self can help take care of the needs that her younger self doesn't know how to express appropriately! That must be an empowering feeling for her!

    Reply
  9. Lorene
    September 20, 2012

    Coping mechanisms that we learn through our younger years/ traumatic times, are very hard to break. Learning new methods/tools to use to change those coping mechanisms is important. This is a wonderful and powerful analogy! Thank you for sharing. God is good!

    Reply
  10. dorothybode
    September 20, 2012

    Praying from the half-way point between both your worlds…..

    Reply
  11. sleepyknitter
    September 20, 2012

    So happy for these big steps forward! Praying for you.

    Reply
  12. Laurel
    September 20, 2012

    Thank you so much for sharing what you can with us! EMDR has been suggested to us for one of our children and it is very helpful and educational to hear your story.

    Reply
  13. gobbelcounseling
    September 23, 2012

    My heart is so happy to hear of the healing you are finding with the wonderful team in Nebraska!

    Reply
  14. Angela
    March 30, 2016

    What a beautiful picture, and memory of your time with K. I have a set of these from a visit to Poland. I think I will get them out and share with one of my kids. Thank you so much, for your constantly encouraging voice in my life.

    Reply

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