EMDR as a Special Form of Ego State Psychotherapy

The ego state bridge.

In 1971, the Watkins formulated the concept of the affect bridge, a technique for amplifying an affect while the patient is in a hypnotic trance. The patient is then invited to take that affect back in time, as if going across a bridge, to find its origins (J.G. Watkins, 1971). They subsequently developed the somatic bridge technique, which works like the affect bridge, but uses somatic sensations as the starting point for hypnotic amplification and age regression (J.G. Watkins, 1990). Grove (1989) amplifies both somatic sensations and imagistic-metaphorical representations of those sensations to elucidate the meaning of symptoms. The Gouldings (1979) developed Redecision Therapy, in which the patient is encouraged to amplify a cognition or decision and take it back in time to when it was first made.

It is clear that all of these techniques are based on the underlying biological ego state infrastructure. By accessing the here-and-now manifestation of affect, somatic sensation, image, behavior, or cognition, and then amplifying that ego state component, spontaneous associations to other dimensions of that ego state will unfold, due to the underlying biological connectedness of that ego state. Consequently, the earlier manifestations of the very same ego state will frequently unfold spontaneously, because they are associated biologically so closely to its present day manifestations.

This is the “ego state bridge” technique, with which any component of an ego state can be amplified and thus associated with its other components, including the historical and anamnestic pieces. Note that the bridge is a bridge in time, not a bridge to a different ego state. The technique amplifies whatever ego state components present themselves as much as possible, minimizes any anxiety driven dissociative barriers, usually through hypnotic techniques, and then allows the underlying ego state structure to unfold itself spontaneously. Generally, the affective and somatic components of the ego state provide the most powerful linkages to the rest of the ego state, but the imagistic component is the most powerful reflection of historical content. Working back and forth among all ego state components is the key to optimizing the amplification of the ego state associative process.

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