Yesterday morning, I sat with my first client of the day, leading her through an EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) resource enhancement protocol to help her feel more grounded in the present and build tolerance to some extremely difficult emotions and imagery. From a small switch on a device in my left hand, I activated a gentle electric buzzer in each of my client’s hands to create bilateral stimulation (BLS). BLS is a way to bring someone’s attention to an external stimulus while also having them focus on a thought-based image, sensation, and/or feeling. This simultaneous outside-inside noticing process is known as dual attention.
My client shared how a brief visualization of “a circle of life” had been particularly helpful for her in recent weeks. Building upon this, I interwove a simple chant to make this circle in her mind more vivid:
“I am a circle within a circle. We are a circle within a circle. This is a circle within a circle.” I indicated my whole office with a hand gesture in response to the third phrase. I offered more interweaves: her own encircled presence is safe within the space we share, another circle, and then my office space being its own circle holding us both and all of what’s inside her. All this time, the buzzers in her hands were going, slowly back and forth, to which I synced the pace of the singing.
With repeated encouragement, my client sang the words back, her voice hesitating at first but steadily growing stronger. From call and response to sometimes singing the lyrics together, my client’s awareness shifted somewhat away from distressing internal preoccupations and she grew calmer. She actually looked directly at me, albeit tentatively, this woman who often finds eye contact very difficult to do while in the midst of experiencing intense, vulnerable feelings stemming from a horrific childhood. I had incorporated into someone’s treatment a portion of a beautiful chant I’d learned and sung with some fellow Pagan men in several seasonal rituals (Sabats) over the years. So much for feeling the need to always separate out my direct spiritual practice from work because I “should” do so as a proper, secularly trained professional.
While finishing up the session, I instructed my client to find times to sing this chant while doing BLS on herself, such as when walking around her house, and/or while doing the “butterfly,” an exercise in which a person crosses their arms over their chest and taps a hand on each arm, one side at a time. She said she found the EMDR while chanting with me helpful and seemed more hopeful than when she had arrived. I felt an excitement in my heart over having applied a piece of Pagan ritual practice (some would say “magic/k”) within my psychotherapy practice.
It was as if some little wall I always thought needed to be maintained had fallen away, leading to a clearer sense of how what is above is also below; as within, so without. Circle of one, circle of two, circle of space between and around us, and so on. So mote it be.