EMDR & the tyranny of misery: Adjusting subtle imbalances in couples’ therapy


This presentation will explore the subtler ways that relationships can be power-imbalanced, through a ‘tyranny of misery’ in which one member is held hostage by the other’s ‘blame-&-complain’ energy that permeates, contaminates and intimidates. Such energy is often the result of “small-t’s” that can be missed in a traditional history-taking, having to do with normal, unnoticed experiences of helplessness &/or cowardice. An EMDRinformed history-taking will winkle out these unresolved issues, allowing the client to find the courage to take ownership and change the bad habits. The partner in the ‘one-down’ can similarly be helped with EMDR, by resolving the issues that compromised the ability to confront & assert rights, allowing him/her to successfully do so. Three case examples of working with the couple and/or separate partners will illustrate how EMDR can improve both individual and couple health, with consideration of the guiding principles for such work. Learning Objectives: 1. Participants will evaluate the dynamics of the subtler forms of verbally & emotionally abusive relationships, recognizing the power-imbalances connected with the practice of ‘willful suffering’. 2. Participants will identify the six forms of functioning within each of the four primary developmental stages that need to be scanned for unresolved ‘small-t’ experiences during and AIP-Informed history-taking (Phase 1). These experiences often lead to the failure of courage that is involved in resorting to ‘blame-&-complain’ energy, and identifying them can lead to the target selection & resolution that will retrieve it. 3. Participants will identify how the partner in the ‘one-down’ can come to feel both entitled and able to assert their needs, through EMDR trauma reprocessing of their own contributing issues. 4. Participants will be able to identify the three specific ways of addressing power-imbalances by working with the couple &/or with each partner separately.






Barbara Horne

Original Work Citation

Horne, B. (2014, May). EMDR & the tyranny of misery: Adjusting subtle imbalances in couples therapy. Presentation at the EMDR Canada Annual Conference, Quebec City, QC



“EMDR & the tyranny of misery: Adjusting subtle imbalances in couples’ therapy,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed December 3, 2020, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/22613.

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