Originally posted February 28, 2010 at Gaia.com
My series about experiences relating to Chopin continues, with his 200th birthday coming up tomorrow. This is an account of a session of IADC that took place on 1/30/05. It was mediated by Hania Stromberg, who was using it in her psychotherapy practice. Since then, Hania has retired and is no longer available for this work. I wrote the following soon after the event, which was the session where “they have souls” came up, as I mentioned in a recent post.
EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a form of therapy most often used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and other problems with traumatic memories. It was developed in the late 1980s by Francine Shapiro. More recently, Allan Botkin discovered that EMDR can be used to facilitate contact with deceased relatives and friends. He calls this procedure Induced After-Death Communication, or IADC. It so happens that Hania Stromberg, a psychotherapist here in Albuquerque, someone I’ve known for years, has been working with IADC, and was interested in aiding and abetting my research. Hania says that so far the targeted spirits have responded 100% of the time, that is, she is aware of their presence on every attempt. That does not mean that she sees or hears them every time, and unfortunately, there have been a few times when the client did not experience any contact at all. However, the method itself seems to be extremely reliable.
It appears that the state of mind induced by EMDR is useful for expanding perception in other ways as well. In sessions that did not involve IADC, I have found myself doing a kind of remote viewing. At times I have been able to see into problems inside my body, far more clearly than I could do otherwise. Most interestingly and usefully, I have fallen into a kind of mind-meld state, in which I could see situations from other people’s points of view and feel their emotions. It seems to me that EMDR has tremendous potential, far beyond its use in treating trauma.
The nuts and bolts of the EMDR procedure are simple, though no one is quite certain why it works, what exactly it changes in the brain. There is a repetitive stimulus, usually eye movement but possibly audible tones, tapping, or something else. The stimulus moves from one side to the other, rhythmically, so that the client must cross the midline to follow it. Originally the stimulus was the therapist’s finger moving back and forth with the client’s eyes following. Hania uses a more high-tech method, a light bar with a number of small spring-green bulbs arranged in a row. The bulbs light up in succession right to left and then left to right, and the client keeps her head still while turning her eyes to follow. As the lights reach the end of the row, the client hears a “bong” in the ear on that side through a set of headphones. So both the light and the sound alternate from one side to the other; the effect is rather like the Pong video game from the ‘70s.
There is a specific protocol for the treatment of trauma, which involves identifying the feelings the client has about the traumatic event and the feelings the client would like to have instead. The client is supposed to come up with statements that sum up the “before” and “after” states. While doing the eye movements, the client focuses on the negative statement and watches to see what comes up, without becoming particularly involved in the material, just letting it go by. In this way the traumatic memory is reprocessed without causing still more trauma. There are brief breaks in which the client reports what has come up, and then is instructed to follow the last thought, image, or feeling on the next run of the lights. As the process continues, with repeated periods of eye movement, the client should experience a reduction in anxiety or other unpleasant emotions. At the end of the session, the therapist asks whether the targeted “after” statement is now true for the client. More sessions may be necessary to get the desired result.
For IADC, the protocol is somewhat simpler. The client talks about the deceased person and any reasons for wanting to contact him or her. The idea is to “call in” that person in whatever way is possible. One may bring pictures or items that belonged to the deceased. At some point, a presence is felt in the room, and the eye movement work is begun. The client is supposed to relax and let the spirit do all the work of making contact. After each period of eye movements, the client waits with eyes closed, and most of the time, something profound happens. There may be visual or verbal messages, physical sensations, or just a feeling that someone is there.
I am very fortunate in that no one truly close to me has died, with the exception of two cats, so I didn’t have an obvious person to contact from this life. (I would guess that Simba and Rico are not likely subjects for IADC, though that perhaps would be an area worth exploring.) I thought about trying to talk with my grandmother, but I was not especially close with her and didn’t feel much of a pull in that direction. Fryderyk, in contrast, seemed likely to be both accessible and interested in communicating with us, and besides I was dying to find out if I could get some visual or verbal impressions from him. So we decided to start with him, even though a session with him would likely not be typical of the way IADC takes place for most people, since I was already in communication with him.
One is supposed to prepare by thinking about the deceased and if possible asking them to come to the session and manifest. I was able to tell Fryderyk all about the procedure a day or two before and ask if he would like to show up; I felt certain the message had been received, and I was fairly confident of getting some kind of result. Even so, I must admit that I was also seriously nervous, a little scared that we might get nothing at all, but even more afraid that somehow I would find out something I really didn’t want to know.
We began by talking about Fryderyk in order to focus on him, to conjure him. I began at the beginning, and as usual, gave more detail than necessary. Hania had to move me along a bit. It wasn’t the history that mattered so much, but the emotion, the attraction, the reasons I wanted to contact him. I remember, in particular, a wrenching desire for him to play through me again.
It wasn’t long before I began to feel some warmth at my right side. Hania had told me that she could always perceive the entities that came to these sessions, but it was clear to me that she wasn’t aware of him yet, and I kept my mouth shut for the moment. A little while later the warmth cleared away from me, and just as that occurred, Hania smiled and announced, “Someone is here.” He had apparently moved toward her.
I sat in the chair that faced the EMDR light bar, and we got started. I was supposed to do nothing except hold a question for him in my mind while I watched the lights. He was supposed to do all the work. I most wanted to know why he was involved with me, why he wanted to visit me in the first place. Our apparent previous relationship has never really explained that to me; I’m just not the woman he knew a century and a half ago, so why should I be of such importance to him?
With each run of the lights, I was told to focus on one question. I began with that need to know why, why me, why now. At first the experience was frustratingly like his usual visits; there was a sense of presence, an emotional tone, and some physical effects, but no definite communication. My hands moved a bit, and I could feel him snaking through my fingers, appearing to test them out. I figured he had caught my longing to play with him again. There was nothing at all visual, certainly nothing verbal, not much of any content at all. I was glad he had shown up, since there was some confirmation in that alone, but I began to lose hope of anything greater happening.
As we continued, the job became more difficult. I became rather lost in confused emotions. It’s difficult to put this part of the experience into words; it happened in a dreamlike state, hard to pin down, and as with a dream, I began to forget the moment it was over. I know that I found myself asking, almost against my will, how he felt about me, wanting him to say that he loved me, as if the last twelve years had not been enough. That is a dangerous question to ask of anyone, isn’t it? It was rather startling to feel the depth of my need to be loved. The feelings I contacted seemed negative, and they didn’t seem to be mine. I began to ask if he would rather be rid of me, and while he didn’t answer with an affirmative, I didn’t feel that he was very enthusiastic about me, either. I had experienced something like this eight or so years before, and had eventually decided that I had misinterpreted it all, but now my doubts and fears returned.
Hania tried to help me focus. Somehow, with her asking the questions, the communication suddenly became clearer. Perhaps it was a matter of her energy being added to mine, the way a group of sitters is needed for a séance. She said that perhaps it was because he and I are so entangled that I can’t separate his feelings from mine very easily, and so having an outside party involved was helpful. At any rate, I don’t remember the precise phrasing of the next question, but I received a feeling of tremendous longing and pain from him. Hania suggested that I ask the reason for the pain, and finally, for the first time ever, there was a verbal response.
He said, or at least I heard, “Because I lost you.” To the casual reader, I’m sure this will sound insane, and self-aggrandizing besides, but in terms of our relationship in his time, to the extent that I understand it, it makes perfect sense.
Hania next suggested that I should ask if there was anything I could do to ease the pain he was showing me. I was surprised at the immediate reply: “Be happy.” Through tears, I laughed and said that that would be the hardest thing of all and that I might not be able to manage it!
At some point, Hania heard a phrase in Polish: “Dusze. Dusze. Mają dusze.”“Souls. Souls. They have souls.” She said she was totally “in English mode” at the time, so she was surprised to hear Polish, and she perceived the words as coming from outside her own mind. The message made no sense at all at the time, but later, Mary Montano (the author of Loving Mozart) came up with an interpretation. Mary said that it was obvious—I had mentioned my deceased cats, and Fryderyk was telling us that cats have souls. Perhaps; I can’t think of any better explanation.
With the use of Polish added to the fact that Fryderyk seemed to be answering Hania’s questions more readily than mine, I concluded that the two of them might as well go ahead and have a talk. I could feel him pushing through my body toward Hania’s location at my left. She and I asked if he had any message for her. I heard, “Come back. We miss you.” She wondered if she might have known him in the past, perhaps during her life as a violinist, but it appeared to both of us that they were just meeting for the first time right then. [Later events changed this impression.]
Since Hania was having major health problems and had some issues that I felt Fryderyk would relate to, I had asked him if he would be willing to look in on her and see if he could help. I thought that he might respond with his usual interest in healing, and it was looking like that was the case. Not really having much idea of how to help them communicate, I decided to experiment, and moved my chair closer to Hania’s. I could feel his field and hers bump up against each other; I pointed this out to her, and she agreed that the interface was where I said it was. I told her that I was just going to get out of the way, and I pulled my own energy inward as best I could. I tried to stay quiet and not even attempt to perceive what was going on between them. We were silent for quite a while. Eventually I couldn’t resist checking in, and I looked toward Hania for a few moments. I had a strong sense of fear and upset, and I asked him if maybe he should back off a bit. Interestingly, I found myself losing my moorings to English and speaking to him in French.
There was absolutely no doubt that Hania clearly experienced Fryderyk’s presence. In fact, she actually saw him, just a little—I am trying not to be jealous! She said that he had seemed to press his cheek against hers, and she had an impression of his hair, both its appearance and the way it felt. “It was light brown,” she told me. “Is that right? I thought his hair was black.” Of course Chopin’s hair was indeed light brown, but often in the reproductions of portraits one finds in books, everyone’s hair looks dark. This was the closest thing to solid evidence we obtained, tenuous though it was. Hania also had an impression of a navy blue cloak in some sort of shiny material. Perhaps he was on his way to the opera? [He has been seen in a dark blue or purple cloak by other people at other times as well.]
I am generally inclined to think that it’s a good sign when one perceives something other than what one expects; it shows we are seeing something other than the placebo of our preconceptions. Hania’s overall impression of Fryderyk was as much a surprise to her as his hair color. She said that it was “like being with a loving friend.” She experienced great warmth and love, and noted, most of all, a feeling of tremendous compassion, which I see as his most fundamental trait. The physical warmth was also intense, and her cheek burned for a while afterward. He was not at all what she thought he would be, based on the view of him that had been popular in Poland early in her life. Her description of him sounded absolutely familiar to me, however. I felt immensely pleased with my dear friend and proud to know him.
Hania had not felt any fear or anything remotely like it during the session. Since I am usually pretty accurate in picking up emotions, we were at a loss to understand why I had received this very definite impression of terror. Our best guess was that I was seeing the upset in her physical body that I had already contacted while treating her in my office. Or I could have simply been wrong.
As we were wrapping up, Hania asked if Fryderyk would like to come back and try the IADC process again sometime. He was fading by that time, and I did not receive any answer, but I said that based on his previous habits and interests, he would probably like to do so. Apparently he was still in the room, because Hania could still feel his presence, but I was no longer in touch with him. I was thoroughly tired and ready to quit anyway.
A few days later, I met with Hania for what was supposed to be a regular EMDR session. Of course we ended up doing a postmortem—no pun intended—on the IADC session. Hania expressed some discomfort about having Fryderyk contact her so directly.
Hania then brought up another concern that hadn’t particularly occurred to me. She said she was worried about Fryderyk. One person after another has worried about me in relation to him, but this was the first time I was aware of someone being concerned for his welfare. She thought that perhaps spending so much time with me was not very healthy for him. It is indeed something to think about, although, at the age of nearly 200, surely he can take care of himself. I explained that, really, he doesn’t spend all that much time with me, and that as far as I know, he is quite busy with other projects.
Hania would have been worrying about me as well, she said, except that I have “such a full life.” Not too horribly unbalanced, I guess, not too dependent on a wisp of a ghost for my emotional needs.
With regard to my perception of his having negative feelings toward me, Hania said that she was sure this was only my own fears coming to the fore. I don’t know. I am still confused and not going to state any conclusions about this matter right now.
Hania had some thoughts about the possible meaning of “They have souls,” but I am not concluding anything about that, either. As for her “coming back,” I took that as a reference to her being split off from her Polish beginnings, but that didn’t sound right to her, and neither of us had a definite idea of how to interpret it. I could only say that I was delighted to get any verbal impressions at all, after so many years of trying. She told me that upon repeated attempts, the communication tends to get clearer.