Tag Archives: Trauma

What is NLP (Neuro-Lingusitic Programming)?

Image taken from expertmind.com

Image taken from expertmind.com

As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Master Neuro-Linguistic Programmer, I want to take a moment and share with you what NLP stands for; Neuro-Linguistic Programming is a name that encompasses the three most influential components involved in producing human experience: neurology, language and programming. The neurological system regulates how our bodies function, language determines how we interface and communicate with other people and our programming determines the kinds of models of the world we create. Neuro-Linguistic Programming describes the fundamental dynamics between mind (Neuro) and language (linguistic) and how their interplay affects our body and behavior (Programming).

To define “Neuro” more clearly for you, I want to add that it includes our nervous system (the mind) through which our experiences are processed through our five senses: More specifically Visual (sight), Auditory (hearing), Kinesthetic (touch), Olfactory (smell), and Gustatory (taste).  In NLP, we believe that we encode and give meaning to our sensory experiences through our use of Sub Modalities.  Visual Sub Modalities, for example, include whether or not the images in our minds are in black and white, color, near or far, bright or dim, focused or unfocused, moving or still, framed or panoramic, associated or disassociated, etc.  Auditory Sub Modalities include whether or not what we hear is loud or soft, internal or external, fast or slow, high in pitch, low, etc.  Kinesthetic Sub Modalties include whether or not our felt sense of our experiences have a shape to it, a texture, a size, a weight, a movement, a location in our bodies, etc.  In NLP, Master NLP Practitioners like me change a client’s Sub Modalities (with his or her permission and collaboration) so that we can change the way he or she has encoded and given meaning to his experiences, if it will serve his or her highest good to do so.

For example, if a client of mine has a daunting picture or movie in his mind’s eye of an upcoming tennis match, and it appears to him in black and white, dim, and loud with the sound of tennis balls being whacked all around the court, I might encourage him to make the picture or movie colorful, bright, and accompanied by the sight of tennis balls moving in slow motion with a muted sound. If his opponent appears to him in his picture or movie as 10 feet tall, I might encourage him to freeze the frame, shrink it in size, and make his opponent appear 1 inch tall with big ears and bushy eye brows.  I might even encourage him to add a circus soundtrack to his picture or movie to help him laugh and see his tennis match as funny and therefore something to look forward to.

If the nervousness he is feeling feels like a cold, rectangular piece of sharp glass located in the pit of his stomach, I might encourage him to make the cold, rectangular shape of sharp glass in the pit of stomach warm, round, soft, and ask him to then imagine pushing that rectangular object out of his stomach to the opposite side of the room.  By changing his Sub Modalities, or the ways he is encoding and giving meaning to his tennis match, I’m changing his “internal representation”, or interpretation, of what his tennis match really means; It’s an opportunity to have fun, embrace the challenge, and do his very best.  After all, Master NLP Practitioners don’t believe that there is such a thing as failure; there is only feedback.

Changing his picture or movie of his match will change his “State” (feelings), which in turn will change his physiology and body language.  This is one of the many goals of NLP; to change a client’s  “internal representations”, or his  interpretations of events that are being influenced by his senses and 5 senses and respective Sub Modalities, so that he can change the way he sees the past, the present, and the future as well as how he sees himself, others, and the world around him.

When I use the term “Linguistic”, I am referring to the language and other nonverbal communication systems through which our neural representations are coded, ordered, and given meaning.  These neural representations include pictures, sounds, feelings, tastes, smells, and words (Self-Talk.)  These words also include the metaphors, similes, and analogies we use as well as the many symbolic ways that we express ourselves. When we change these neural representations, we are able to change our states and internal representations of the world, and we are also able to communicate with others far more effectively.  The language used in NLP is often sensory grounded to code what we’re capable of doing behaviorally.

When it comes to “Linguistics”, Master NLP practitioners like me wholeheartedly believe that only 7% of communication with others consists of the words we use; 38% of communication consists of the tone that we use; finally, 55% of our communication with others consists of our physiology, or body language.  Therefore, when we choose to mirror someone else’s words, tone, and body language, we’re able to build rapport with them almost instantly.

Another way that master NLP practitioners use language powerfully is by incorporating hypnotic language when working with clients.  When NLP originators John Grinder and Richard Bandler teamed up with the father of hypnosis, Milton Erickson, they realized that using NLP techniques and patterns in concert with Erickson’s hypnotic phrasing helped them to affect positive change in their clients even more rapidly than they did beforehand.  Erickson’s hypnotic language is merely a way of using words to bypass a client’s conscious resistance so that he or she is receptive to the very changes in their lives that they want to create!!  A typical Erickson language pattern often used is called “tag questions.”  If a client of mine wants to believe that she’s capable, but she consciously believes that she’s incapable, I might use a tag question by saying, ” You know better than anyone that you’re capable, don’t you?”

As a Master NLP Practitioner, I know that speaking to a client’s conscious mind and saying, “you’re capable” will likely go in one ear and out the other; my words will be met with resistance.  However, my use of the tag question, “Don’t you?” will bypass his or her resistance to this new truth, and his or her unconscious mind will be far more receptive to agreeing with my empowering assertion. In light of all that I’ve shared with you about “Linguistics,” I would offer to you that NLP is clearly a powerful way of using the language of the mind to consistently achieve specific and desired outcomes.

When Master NLP practitioners use the word, “programming, ” they’re referring to a person’s unconscious belief systems, their memories, emotions, neuro-associations (the feelings we associate with certain people, places, and things), value systems, “parts” to their personality, communication styles and patterns, habits, strategies, behaviors, and the countless other ways we’ve been conditioned to perceive, experience, and show up in our lives and in the world.

As a Master NLP Practitioner, I believe that NLP is so powerful because its techniques allow us to access and get in rapport with our unconscious minds. This is so significant because it is believed that only 8% of our moment to moment awareness is conscious, and 92% of our moment to moment awareness is unconscious, or presently inaccessible to us; instead, everything else that we that don’t know that we know is housed in the bejeweled warehouse of our unconscious minds.

Almost magically, NLP patterns, techniques, insights, and experiential exercises help us to reprogram our minds and come up with new programs, strategies, and behaviors  that we can  run in our neurological systems to achieve our specific and desired outcomes. When we assimilate these specific set of unconscious strategies, we create the differences that make the difference in our lives.  When our unconscious beliefs, values, and personal self-concept/sense of ourselves are in alignment with our conscious set of beliefs, values, and self-concept, we feel integrated, whole, complete, and newly empowered!!

Although you may have never heard of the following NLP techniques and patterns, some include the Time Line Technique, Parts Integration, Anchoring, Future Pacing, Visualization, Mental, Emotional and Psychological Rehearsal, the Swish Pattern, Mapping Across, The Modeling Process, The Inner Sage Pattern, The Charles Dickens Pattern, the Walt Disney Pattern, Voice Dialogue Technique, Rapport Building, working with Primary Representational Systems, Developing Sensory Acuity, The Falling Out Of Love Pattern, The Enough is Enough Pattern, The Movie Rewind Pattern, etc.  As a Master NLP Practitioner, I have found that NLP tools and skills work powerfully in the development of states of individual excellence and enhancing human performance. In addition, they establish a system of empowering beliefs and presuppositions that reveal what human beings are, what communication is, and what the process of change is all about.

NLP is therefore a multi-dimensional process that involves the development of behavioral competence and flexibility, but also involves strategic thinking and an understanding of the mental and cognitive processes behind behavior.  At another level, NLP is about self-discovery, exploring identity, and mission. It helps us access the treasure trove of wisdom and resources that are housed in our unconscious minds and brings our wisdom and resources to the surface of conscious awareness so that we can access our full human potential.   In addition, it also provides a framework for understanding and relating to the ‘spiritual’ part of human experience that reaches beyond us as individuals to our family, community and global systems. NLP is not only about competence and excellence; it is about wisdom and vision.

According to Master NLP Practitioner Robert Diltz, NLP is essentially founded on two fundamental presuppositions:

1. The Map is Not the Territory.  As human beings, we can never know reality. We can only know our perceptions of reality. We experience and respond to the world around us primarily through our sensory representational systems. It is our ‘neuro-linguistic’ maps of reality that determine how we behave and that give those behaviors meaning, not reality itself. It is generally not reality that limits us or empowers us, but rather our map of reality.

2. Life and ‘Mind’ are Systemic Processes. The processes that take place within a human being and between human beings and their environment are systemic. Our bodies, our societies, and our universe form ecology of complex systems and sub-systems all of which interact with and mutually influence each other. It is not possible to completely isolate any part of the system from the rest of the system. Such systems are based on certain ‘self-organizing’ principles and naturally seek optimal states of balance or homeostasis.

All of the models and techniques of NLP are based on the combination of these two principles. In the belief system of NLP, it is not possible for human beings to know objective reality. Wisdom, ethics, and ecology do not derive from having the one ‘right’ or ‘correct’ map of the world, because human beings are not capable of making one. Rather, the goal is to create the richest map possible that respects the systemic nature and ecology of ourselves and the world we live in.

As a Master NLP Practitioner, I believe that the people who are most effective in life are the ones who are most flexible and have a map of the world that allows them to perceive the greatest number of available choices and perspectives. They use NLP patterns and techniques to enrich the choices that they have and perceive as available in the world around them. They recognize that excellence comes from having many choices, and they believe that wisdom comes from having multiple perspectives.

Through the years, NLP has continued to develop some very powerful tools and skills for communication and change in a wide range of professional areas including: Psychotherapy, Marriage and Family Therapy, Counseling, Life Coaching, Education, Health, Business, Creativity, Law, Management, Sales, Leadership and Parenting.  NLP is now in its third decade as a field of study and has evolved considerably since its beginnings in the mid 1970s. Over the years, NLP has literally spread around the world and has touched the lives of millions of people. Since the 1990’s, a new generation of NLP has been developing.

If you’d like me to teach you leading-edge NLP techniques and patterns to help you get into rapport with your unconscious mind, accelerate your personal growth process, and unleash far more of your full potential as a man, woman, and/or athlete than you have ever imagined before, please reach out to me and let me know!! Like so many of my other clients, I trust that you will find that NLP tools and techniques will serve as a powerful catalyst in your pursuit of personal growth and transformation.

Thank you very much for taking your time to read my article/blog on NLP (Neuro-Lingusitic Programming).  I hope that you that you’ve found it informative, thought-provoking, and enlightening!!

image from purenlp.com

image from purenlp.com

Sincerely,

John Boesky, LMFT/MNLP/CHT

(Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist/ Master Neuro-Linguistic Programmer/Certified Hypnotherapist)

 

PSYCHODRAMA

Image taken from Londoncentreforpsycodrama.org

Image taken from Londoncentreforpsycodrama.org

As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Sports Psychology Consultant, I often use Psychodrama with individual clients as well as in the groups that I facilitate.  Psychodrama is an action method, often used as a psychotherapy, in which clients use spontaneous dramatizationrole playing and dramatic self-presentation to investigate and gain insight into their lives.  Developed by Jacob L. Moreno, M.D. (1889–1974) psychodrama closely recreates real-life situations, and acting them out in the present, clients have the opportunity to evaluate their behavior and more deeply understand a particular situation in their lives.

Psychodrama is most often utilized in a group scenario, in which each person in the group can become   therapeutic agents for one another’s scenes. Psychodrama is not, however, a form of group therapy, and is instead an individual psychotherapy that is executed from within a group. A psychodrama is best conducted and produced by a person trained in the method, called a psychodrama director.

In a session of psychodrama, one client of the group becomes the protagonist, and focuses on a particular situation to enact among the group.  A variety of scenes may be enacted, depicting, for example, memories of specific happenings in the client’s past, unfinished situations, inner dramas, fantasiesdreams, preparations for future risk-taking situations, or unrehearsed expressions of mental and emotional states in the here and now. These scenes either approximate real-life situations or are externalizations of inner mental processes. Other members of the group may become auxiliaries, and support the protagonist by playing other significant roles in the scene for an individual to respond creatively to a situation through spontaneity, that is, through a readiness to improvise and respond in the moment.  By encouraging an individual to address a problem in a creative way, reacting spontaneously and based on impulse, they may begin to discover new solutions to problems in their lives and learn new roles they can inhabit within it.

In psychodrama, participants also explore internal conflicts by acting out their emotions and interpersonal interactions on stage. A psychodrama session focuses principally on a single participant, known as the protagonist. Protagonists examine their relationships by interacting with the other actors and the leader, known as the director. This is done using specific techniques, including mirroringdoubling soliloquy, and role reversal.

During a typical psychodrama session, a number of clients gather together. One of these clients is chosen as the protagonist, and the director calls on the other clients to assist the protagonist’s “performance,” either by portraying other characters, or by utilizing mirroring, doubling, or role reversal. The clients act out a number of scenes in order to allow the protagonist to work through certain scenarios. This is obviously beneficial for the protagonist, but also is helpful to the other actors, allowing them to assume the role of another person and apply that experience to their own life. The focus during the session is on the acting out of different scenarios, rather than simply talking through them. All of the different elements of the session (group participants that hold the energy and remind the protagonist of someone in their past or present, props, lighting, etc.) are used to heighten the reality of the scene.

The three sections of a typical session are the warm-up, the action, and the sharing. During the warm-up, the actors are encouraged to enter into a state of mind where they can be present in and aware of the current moment and are free to be creative.

Next, the action section of the psychodrama session is the time in which the actual scenes themselves take place. During the action section of the psychodrama, the protagonist has an opportunity to give or receive love to or from someone that he never had a chance to in the past, give or receive forgiveness, slay old dragons (someone who may have been abusive to him or her, for example), empower him or herself in the presence of someone who belittled or emasculated them in some way, express angry thoughts and feelings, etc.  During the action sequence of the psychodrama, the protagonist has a chance to have a “corrective emotional experience”; he or she can experience themselves differently, re-write an old script that no longer serves them, and literally superimpose new memories on top of an old ones.  After all, our unconscious mind cannot tell the difference between what’s real and what’s imagined, so what’s taken place in the protagonist’s reenactment profoundly heals and transforms their relationships with themselves, others, and the world at large.

Finally, in the post-discussion, the different actors (group members) are able to comment on the action that just took place and share their empathy and experiences with the protagonist of the scene. In addition, the protagonist can share with the group members what his or her experience was like, what new insights and awareness have come up, and what positive shifts they notice in terms of how they feel in the scene’s aftermath.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve found that there are several techniques that are used in psychodrama to make it an enlightening, transformational experience for everyone involved. Mirroring, for example, is an important technique in that the protagonist is first asked to act out an experience. After this, the client steps out of the scene and watches as another actor steps into their role and portrays the client. Afterwards, the client is asked to comment on the action and/or reenter the scene.

Doubling is another psycho-dramatic technique, in which the client is joined by another actor in his or her portrayal of him- or herself. The second actor assumes the role of an “auxiliary ego,” which reveals hidden parts of the protagonist’s behavior, by acting as him or her. Role playing is another method, in which the client portrays a person or object that is problematic to him or her. In soliloquy, another technique, the client speaks his or her thoughts aloud in order to build self-knowledge. Finally, role reversal is a technique in which a client is asked to portray another person while a second actor portrays the client in the particular scene. This not only prompts the client to think as the other person, but also has some of the benefits of mirroring, as the client sees him- or herself as portrayed by the second actor.

In conclusion, I’ve found that using Psychodrama in the groups that I facilitate in my Marriage and Family Therapy Practice has been a powerful interactive tool in fostering growth and transformation among my clients.  If you’re interested in having corrective emotional experiences and superimposing new, more empowering memories onto old ones that still limit you, I invite you to be in touch with me and ask to join one of my groups.

If you’d prefer to do some psychodrama in an individual session with me, no problem!!  EMDR, NLP, and Gestalt therapy are all therapeutic technologies that I use with individual clients that incorporate the very same psychodrama tools and techniques that I use effectively in groups.

To reach me, please call my office number at (619) 280-8099 or e-mail me at jboesky8@gmail.com.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this article.  I sincerely hope that you found it enlightening.

Warmly,

John Boesky, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

 

 

TO FORGIVE IS DIVINE

image taken from iffla.org

image taken from iffla.org

As a Marriage and a Family Therapist, I often encourage the individuals, couples, families, and groups that I work with to practice the art of forgiveness.  My intention is to make this practice a daily one for them. Oftentimes, my clients balk at the notion of forgiving themselves or anyone else for that matter.  They fear that I am asking them to justify or condone harmful actions, or they worry that I’m encouraging them to seek out or speak to those who have caused them harm.  Other clients fear that I am asking them to be fake or artificial, extending an olive branch of forgiveness to the undeserving.  They refuse to be inauthentic, and so I often notice their bodies’ contract and experience them becoming resistant to the whole idea right from the very start.

I explain to them, though, that I’m not encouraging them to seek forgiveness from others, for themselves, or for others for any of the reasons mentioned above.  First of all, forgiveness does not in any way justify or condone harmful actions.  Second, forgiveness does not mean you have to seek out or speak to those who caused you harm.  In fact, you may choose never to see them again.  Third, forgiveness must happen organically; it must be authentically and deeply felt.  Otherwise, it’s merely pain, resentment, grief, or rage disguised as forgiveness, and the person pretending to forgive is much like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Seeking forgiveness from others, for ourselves, and for others who have wounded us is so powerful because it’s a way of softening the edges or removing the calluses around our hearts.  When we lack forgiveness, our hearts become closed and dark, and we build a fortress around us to protect it.  Although we feel safe inside these walls, we become cold inside.  Forgiveness, like a magic potion, melts these walls away, and gives us access to who we truly are once again.  It helps us to let go of the pain, the resentment, and the outrage that we have carried as a burden for so long.  In time, we have renewed access to our passions, our child-like essence, our humanity, and to all of the lovable qualities inside of us that make us who we are.

So, when it comes down to it, seeking forgiveness from others, for ourselves, or for others who have harmed us is really intended first and foremost to serve our own healing and set us free mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually first and foremost.  And the way to begin this process is to first recognize that, as human beings, we are all fallible. We are all vulnerable to making mistakes, and we all fall prey to unconscious shadows that compel us to act out in ways that don’t reflect our highest selves.  If we had the knowledge and resources to make the very best choices in any given moment and time that would be in alignment with our highest values and would serve ourselves, others, and the world in the best way possible, we obviously would. Unfortunately, we didn’t, and so we sadly resorted to making the poor choices that we did with what whatever level of consciousness was currently available to us.

In light of this reality, we’ve all likely hurt or harmed others, betrayed or abandoned them, and caused them suffering, knowingly or unknowingly, out of our pain, fear, anger, and confusion at some point in our lives.  We didn’t do so because we were sadistic or inherently bad people.  We did so because we didn’t know how to manage our emotions more maturely. We simply lacked the tools, life skills, and practice to show up in our lives and in our relationships differently.  Knowing this essential truth, it becomes easier to soften the harsh voice of our inner judge and begin the tender process of forgiving ourselves for the many ways that we’ve harmed others.

In addition to hurting others, we’ve all betrayed, harmed, and abandoned ourselves through thought, word, and deed at some point in our lives.  We hurt ourselves not out because we were pathologically masochistic, but because we lacked the necessary self-awareness, self-knowledge, and resources at that time to do things in ways that would have served ourselves and others in more positive ways.  Again, chances are that we hurt ourselves through action or inaction out of our own fear, pain, and confusion. Knowing this, it becomes easier yet again to reflect love inwards and forgive ourselves for the many ways we’ve sabotaged ourselves in our lives.

Finally, it’s important to consider that there’s a high probability that those who have wounded, hurt, abused, and abandoned us in thought, word, or deed have done so out of their own fear, pain, confusion, and anger. Now this insight doesn’t mean that their behavior was therefore justifiable. On the contrary, their behavior was still never the less repugnant and wrong.  However, if you take a moment and imagine walking in their shoes from the time they were little boys and girls, chances are that the heartbreak and anguish that you’ll sense they’ve long endured will help you to feel some empathy or compassion for the long, torturous roads they’ve travelled mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

It is often within the sacred garden of your burgeoning empathy and compassion that the seeds of forgiveness come budding to the surface of your heart for the person who once perpetrated against you. As Longfellow once said, “If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each person’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” My hope is that if you can summon the will to do this, you can experience the peaceful release in your mind, body, heart and soul that takes place when you’ve mastered the art of forgiveness.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post.  I hope that you enjoyed it!!

John Boesky, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

THE EMDR PROCESS HELPS YOU TO REALIZE YOUR FULL POTENTIAL!!

Image taken from ridgewoodcenterwellness.com

Image taken from ridgewoodcenterwellness.com

EMDR

Thoughts to Consider in Therapy and in EMDR

EMDR is about allowing, accepting, and holding space for things as they are right now. It is not about fixing things. Fixing confounds the healing process. To the extent that you judge something as bad, wrong, or needs to be fixed, you are stuck with it. You are attached to it.
If you want movement to take place inside of you, you will need to be able to hold still. The body is always present in the moment, and it has a lot of truth and wisdom to deliver if we can just hold still, notice it, and allow for its self-revelation.
If you want emotional well being and to be free of trauma, you must engage in a free, full, and appropriate expression of your emotions. When you deny, disown, repress, or resist your emotions and pieces of your true self, and relegate them to the basement of your psyche, you will yield symptoms of anxiety and depression, and you may suffer from chemical imbalances and/or suffer from any variety of psychosomatic illnesses.

EMDR

EMDR is a therapeutic technique that acts as a catalyst for healing traumas, shifting perspectives around traumatic life events, and changing the subsequent self-defeating beliefs we’ve unconsciously internalized about ourselves, our relationships, and our world.

The technique is Neuro-Physiologically based, and it encourages people to enter into a mind/body free association. In other words, they are encouraged to notice and be mindful of the feelings, sensations, and movement of energy that is taking place in their bodies, as well as bear witness to the thoughts and images that come to their mind, without judging them, trying to fix them, or make them go away.

During this mind/body free association, clients receive alternating bilateral stimulation to the hemispheres of the brain. Clinical trials and subsequent results have shown that the alternating bilateral stimulation achieves 3 therapeutic objectives:

1) Alternating bilateral stimulation seems to lift the veil that keeps the conscious and unconscious parts of our minds separate from each other. This process enables our conscious mind to receive and benefit from the wisdom housed in our unconscious.

When we’ve experienced a traumatic event in our lives, (particularly when we are children) we come to believe things about ourselves, relationships in general, and the world around us. These beliefs often dip beyond our conscious awareness, and settle into the basement of our unconscious. They are often self-limiting and maladaptive in nature, and compel us to seek out experiences that serve to validate and reinforce how right they are.

Because EMDR seems to lift the veil that separates our unconscious from our conscious awareness, we can receive some of the wisdom that is housed in our unconscious, and in turn we can challenge old beliefs that we’ve held onto as a result of a traumatic event and replace them with adaptive, positive ones.

2) Alternating bilateral stimulation seems to greatly improve the communication between the rational parts of our brain (the Neo-Cortex), and the emotional parts of our brain (the Limbic System). New neural networks that facilitate communication between these two parts of the brain get formed, and as a result new information, awareness, and wisdom travel back and forth to each other. This new information, awareness, and wisdom can serve to dim the memory, affect, and emotional charge associated with old traumatic events that remain housed in our limbic system.

3) Alternating bilateral stimulation facilitates the movement of energy throughout our bodies. Our bodies house the memories, feelings, and sensations associated with old traumatic events that we’ve lived through. When we pay close attention to the movement of energy in our bodies, it begins to shift, and the feelings and sensations associated with it lose their emotional charge.

In conclusion, it is worth noting that EMDR is a therapeutic technique that often accomplishes the following tasks:

Accesses new information that helps us to change our perspectives and beliefs that have arisen from traumatic life events.
Lowers the emotional charge that is stored in our bodies from those traumatic life events.
Achieves a connecting up of memory networks: (There are memories that are thematically similar, and they belong to the same “Memory Tree.”) The earlier the memory, the closer to the trunk of the tree we are. When we work through the memories closest to the trunk of the tree, the feelings of resolution, peace, and tranquility spread to all of its thematically-related branches.
Achieves a de-coupling of false associations.

Psychological Concepts Relevant to EMDR

1) Pie Chart of the Mind:

Imagine that your mind is shaped like a pie, and the pie is sliced up into 3 pieces. The first slice of the pie represents the conscious part of our mind, and it houses the part of our awareness that knows what we know about ourselves, the world, etc. (For example, I know that I am a Marriage and Family therapist, and that I presently work in Kensington, which is a town in San Diego.)

The second slice of the pie represents the other half of our conscious mind, and it houses the part of our awareness that knows what we don’t know (DK). (For example, I know that I don’t know how to play the harmonica, or the flute for that matter).

It is worth noting that we have access to a fair amount of awareness in these two places in our conscious mind. As a result, we rely on these two places to help us problem-solve and make any number of choices in our daily lives.

The third slice of the pie, however, represents the part of our mind that doesn’t know what it doesn’t know (DKDK.) It is the part of our mind that is entirely beyond our awareness. It sits in the basement of our psyche, and it’s often referred to as our unconscious.

In is here in the unconscious that we’ve relegated pieces of ourselves that we’ve come to believe are bad. Moreover, it is here that we may have buried the memories surrounding traumatic events in our lives, and the subsequent beliefs we’ve created about ourselves, relationships, and the world around us. It is also here, though, that we house wisdom, new information, brilliant ideas, and resources that we can access for the purposes of healing and growing.

When we become aware of the unconscious, self-limiting beliefs that compel us to act-out and/or act-in in ways that don’t serve us, we can then strive to turn those beliefs entirely around. In turn, we can then make conscious choices to behave in ways that are in alignment with our new belief system.

*Note: These maladaptive, self-limiting beliefs generally relate to the following 3 themes: Safety, Lovability, and Worth.

Pie-chart of the mind as it pertains to EMDR:

During the EMDR process, the alternating bilateral stimulation to the hemispheres of the brain seems to lift the veil that separates our unconscious from the conscious part of our mind. In turn, our conscious mind is given access to the pearls of wisdom shimmering beyond our reach in the dark depths of our unconscious. We can now pool this wisdom from these depths and use it to help us move through the feelings and sensations that we currently experience as a result of a past traumatic life event. We can also use this wisdom to help us change for good the unconscious, self-limiting beliefs we have about ourselves, our relationships, and the world around us.

2) Emotion

Emotion is the movement of energy through our bodies that the mind notices, interprets, names, and tells a story about. When triggered emotionally, the hypothalamus in the brain pumps molecules down into the body and in turn the body gets excited, pissed off, stirred up, etc. The body reacts, and we then experience all kinds of physical sensations.

The physical sensations are the first things the conscious mind becomes aware of. The conscious mind then interprets these sensations and this movement of energy as being emotions, and it proceeds to give them a name. The 4 most common names given to emotions fall under the following 4 categories: Mad, Sad, Glad, and Fear.

Emotion as it pertains to EMDR

A) As I mentioned earlier, EMDR is essentially a mind/body free association. It can be helpful to know that the sensations we feel in our bodies signal that energy is moving. The bilateral stimulation that accompanies the EMDR process tends to facilitate this movement of energy. More energy moving throughout our bodies gives us more opportunities to track it, and this type of mindfulness causes it to lose its charge. As a result, the unpleasant physical sensations that are stored in our Limbic System after a traumatic event get flushed out of our bodies for good.

*Note: It is helpful to not judge these feelings and sensations, but rather to allow for them to come and go, ebb and flow, wax and wane, rise and fall, just as they wish.

3) How the Brain Stores Trauma

The human brain has many parts to it. Two separate parts of the human brain that are worth knowing about for the purposes of understanding how EMDR works is the Neo-Cortex and the Limbic system.

The Neo-Cortex is the most recently evolved part of the human brain. It is the rational part of the human brain that enables us to problem solve, think logically, etc.

The Limbic System is a far more primitive part of our brain. It happens to be well connected (unlike the Neo-Cortex or “rational brain”) to what we are sensing, feeling, and experiencing in our bodies. It is so primitive, in fact, that it has little sense for the passage of time.

In the Limbic system, the Amygdale stores snapshots and/or slow-motion videotapes of unique and novel life experiences. These experiences can be pleasant, but more often than not they tend to capture moments in time that are acute and/or traumatizing.

Whereas the Amygdale files away the snapshots and/or slow-motion videotapes, the Hippocampus (along with other parts of the Limbic System) stores the emotional charge and/or energy that coincided with the original trauma. When a sensory cue triggers in us the memory of a traumatic event, we are confronted again with the Amygdale’s snapshot/slow motion video that has captured that unsettling moment in time.

When this happens, the Hippocampus discharges the unpleasant feelings and sensations associated with that event. Because our Limbic System is unaware of the passage of time, we feel as though that experience is happening to us all over again in the here and now.

This re-experiencing of old traumas takes place a lot, for example, with soldiers who return from war. They get triggered time and again by sounds and other sensory cues that leave them feeling as though they’re still in grave danger on some battlefield thousands of miles away. Images, flashbacks, and disturbing memories along with unpleasant feelings and sensations overcome them.

While these soldiers may understand rationally that they are no longer in the midst of battle, their Limbic System lacks the presence of mind to assimilate this Neo-Cortical information.

How the Brain stores Trauma as it pertains to EMDR

It has become evident after many case studies that the alternating bilateral stimulation that takes place during the EMDR process helps to create new ways for the thinking, “rational brain” (Neo-Cortex), to talk to the “emotional brain”(Limbic System). This more highly evolved part of the brain brings a new wisdom, maturity, and enlightened perspective around the traumatic event, and because it is communicating far better with its primitive counterpart, the wisdom it offers has a calming effect on it and on our bodies as well. In turn, the emotional charge associated with the original trauma fades.

4) Resources (A Safe Place where you can go to, and protective and/or nurturing figures you can turn to)

A “Safe Place” is a sanctuary in your mind’s eye where you can go when you are feeling overwhelmed with emotion, troubled by unpleasant sensations in your body, and/or burdened by intrusive thoughts and unsettling images entering your mind. The safe place where you take yourself to can be somewhere that you’ve already been to in your life, or it can be a place where you’ve always wanted to visit. It can even be a place that you’ve seen in a movie, a magazine, a children’s book, a cartoon, etc.

It can be particularly helpful for you to envision yourself feeling safe, calm, protected, nurtured, and/or empowered there. It may also be helpful for you to imagine nurturing and/or protective figures (known as “resources”) in your life joining you in that safe place, for the purposes of offering you comfort, support, counsel, and love.

These nurturing and/or protective resources can be a favorite pet animal of yours, God, Jesus, the Universe, Mom, Dad, a shaman, a favorite teacher you once had, an action hero, friends, family, wild animals, a mythological figure, a Walt Disney character, etc. It can also be very helpful for you to turn to your “Adult Self” and use him or her as a resource.

It is very likely that when you were traumatized as a child, you felt powerless over your circumstances, exceedingly vulnerable, and helpless to do anything about it. Your “Adult Self”, however, has a lot more life experience under his belt, and he is able to look back at traumatic events in your childhood with more objectivity, wisdom, and insight than the child in you can. With this in mind, it can be very helpful for your Inner Child to call upon your “Adult Self” when he or she is feeling scared, helpless, frozen, and/or out of control. Have him or her seek out your Adult Self’s love, compassion, forgiveness, and wisdom.

Safe Place as it pertains to EMDR

During EMDR you may experience unpleasant body sensations and feelings, and/or you may feel burdened by troubling thoughts or images that come to your mind. If the level of disturbance that you feel is greater than a 7 on a scale of 1-10, it may be helpful for you to stop the EMDR process and take yourself to your safe place. When you are there, take deep breaths, take in the soothing sounds and beautiful scenery that surrounds you there, and turn to your nurturing and protective resources for warmth, love, guidance, wisdom, and comfort.

Resources (protective and nurturing figures) as they pertain to EMDR

As I said before, it can be very helpful for you to turn to your nurturing and protective resources when you could use some comfort, guidance, and support while spending time in your “Safe Place.” Also, it can be very helpful to rely on your resources for strength and courage when you are revisiting an old trauma, and you have chosen to address the very people that victimized you back then.

For example, if you’ve gone back in time and see yourself being mistreated by your abusive Mother, you can call upon one of your resources to stand by your side. You can even ask that nurturing and/or protective figure to hold your hand or hug you, or you can have them confront your abusive Mother on your behalf. Having done this, you may come away from the scene that you’ve re-created believing differently about yourself, your relationships, and the world.

Rather than believe, for instance, that you’re unable to protect yourself in your relationships and that your’e unsafe in the world, you may come to believe instead, “I can protect myself” and/or “I am safe and sound.”

*It is important to note that when we revisit old traumatic memories with fresh eyes, an adult’s wisdom, and protective and nurturing figures at our beck and call, we can change our perspective on what took once place. With the help of bilateral stimulation, and the wisdom and resources shared between the conscious mind and the emotional mind (Limbic system), the emotional charge dissipates.

Image taken from thestonescollasaldream.blogspot.com

Image taken from thestonescollasaldream.blogspot.com

EMDR PROCESS

1) Keep your eyes open or closed.

2) Float back in time to where and when the original trauma took place in your life. (This is known as the Target Memory). Imagine the most disturbing part of that moment in time. (This is known as the Original Picture). Allow yourself to feel the feelings and body sensations as if that moment in time is happening to you right now. Please be sure to report back to me what you are hearing, seeing, feeling, tasting, and smelling in the present tense.

3) Enter into a mind/body free association. Do not try to make anything happen or try to control anything. Just go with it.

4) If you want to stop the bilateral stimulation before I stop it, please let me know. If I stop the bilateral stimulation too soon, and you would like it to continue, kindly ask me to turn the bilateral stimulation back on.

5) I will periodically ask you how disturbing or distressing the old memory is to you in the present moment, out of 10, 1 being the least disturbing, and 10 being the most disturbing. Ideally, after going through the old memory a few times, you will say that you are at a Zero, and that there is no emotional charge left.

6) When you are at a Zero, I will ask you what you believe now about yourself, relationships, and/or the world around you. We’ll be looking for a change that comes from you. Then we’ll go back to the original picture and target memory one last time, with your new belief in tow.

7) If you are stuck, looping, and/or nothing is happening while you’re revisiting the original picture and target memory, we’ll get active. I may ask you to call upon your resources, or I may ask you a few questions that may help free you from your “stuck” place. If you’d like to, feel free to change the scene in ways that help you to feel more empowered. For example, turn your tyrannical father into a midget, and then imagine yourself as a giant having your way with him. Better yet, have Superman appear out of nowhere and watch him whisk your father away to another world.

It is important for you to remember during the EMDR process that you are the producer, the director, the script writer, the set designer, and the casting agent. You can manipulate that old scene in any way that you see fit. In addition, you can call upon any and all resources that you think will help you to face old fears and work through old traumas.
During EMDR, you may find that new resources that you hadn’t thought of before spontaneously appear. This is because you have greater access to the creativity and resourcefulness in your unconscious. This spontaneous, natural, effortless rising up of resources, wisdom, and healing from the unconscious is one of the things that EMDR facilitates.

8 ) If you’re feeling overwhelmed, kindly let me know, and then go to your safe place. I will be more than happy to help guide you there.

9) Sometimes the original picture and target memory will lead you down other paths, or memory networks. You and I will decide together if it’s worthwhile to explore these new territories. We want to be careful not to move in too many different directions at once, thereby opening up a Pandora’s Box. If we do decide to explore other memory networks, we must always come back to our original picture and complete our work there, in order to get the resolution we’re looking for.

10) Sometimes after an EMDR session, cognitive processing may continue and additional insight and awareness may rise up. They may be revealed in your dreams, for example. It is important to be gentle with yourself, and treat yourself with extra good care.

If you are feeling overwhelmed for any reason, consider going to your Safe Place. If you are still feeling upset, feel free to call me and we can spend a few minutes on the phone together.

ANGER MANAGEMENT THERAPY

Anger

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image from butler.osu.edu

image from butler.osu.edu

Anger is one of the most baffling and cunning emotions that people try to get a handle on in our world today. It is the most enigmatic of all emotions, the most daunting, and the most awe-inspiring. Some people recoil from anger, and wish it would just disappear off the face of the earth. They fear their own anger, or fear being the recipient of someone else’s anger. Conversely, other people gravitate towards anger, and delight in it, whether it is their own anger or someone else’s. They feel momentarily invigorated and empowered by it, and enjoy seeing the fear that it instills in others.

Some people are happily addicted to their anger, and would never leave home without it. Others would like nothing more than to let their anger go, yet feel helpless in their own efforts to do so. Men tend to channel their anger outwards, while women tend to direct their anger inwards. Children often grow up full of anger, and choose to either bury it inside or vent it outside onto others. And so the transmission of anger goes on from generation to generation, along with its puzzling legacy, leaving people to question in their hearts year after year, just what is anger anyway?!!

In my work as a Marriage and Family therapist, I have come to the realization that anger is a normal adaptive emotion that is not in and of itself a problem. It s the behavioral response to anger that determines whether or not it will serve us well or become problematic. In many instances, anger can be a helpful signal telling us that something is wrong. In turn, it compels us to make necessary changes in our lives. Anger also empowers us to challenge injustice. Moreover, anger serves to protect us by mobilizing us to take action when we are truly in danger.

Anger becomes maladaptive, however, when we allow it to turn into aggression. Anger with aggression, or rage, sometimes hurts people irreparably. It can permanently scar a relationship, and sever the trust between people. Moreover, when it is too easily triggered, or too prolonged, it can impact one s concentration, mood, self-esteem, work and social life as well.

Chronic anger can have serious consequences on our health as well, resulting in hypertension, increased cholesterol levels, damaged or blocked arteries, aggravated heart disease, increased susceptibility to infection ( due to depressed immune system), and longer recovery time from major traumas to the body. When acted out, anger can result in physical violence inflicted on others, and when internalized inwards, anger can result in depression, and may lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as alcohol or substance misuse.

Anger originally evolved in the distant past to help us protect ourselves from physical threats in our environment, such as saber toothed tigers and other predatory animals. Even though few of us are exposed to such threats now- a- days, people today never the less feel threatened in countless other ways.

For example, we may feel a need to protect our exclusive rights to our mate, or we may feel a need to respond to a perceived unfairness or injustice. Or we may perceive disrespectful treatment of our thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and needs. Moreover, we may also perceive a threat to the continuation, or success of something to which we are strongly committed, e.g. one s lifestyle or status in the community. Our anger may also be stimulated when we perceive provocation, suspicion, or hostility. In this instance, we may engage in a preemptive strike and attack first before the other person does.

Another common situation that can cause angry feelings to become problematic is when we fail to adapt to changes in our environment, or in someone s attitude towards us. For example, anger can be triggered when we experience an abrupt change in our living environment, or when a meaningful relationship ends. These changes make us insecure until we have found a way to integrate it comfortably within our frames of reference. In the meantime, our perceptual faculties are working overtime to help us make sense of our changed environment as fast as possible.

When we face experiences like the ones listed above, we often feel afraid and/or hurt, and/or very frustrated. We also tend to feel powerless, helpless, and out of control. These are all primary emotions that we all experience from time to time. These primary emotions tend to make us feel frail, and exceedingly vulnerable to others. When these unpleasant feelings go unacknowledged and are not worked through, we tend to call upon our anger to rescue us from experiencing them all together. Anger is a secondary emotion that has a way of making us feel more empowered. We feel stronger because anger literally triggers biological responses within us that lead to internal feelings of energy and warmth, and infuse us with an urge to shout and move quickly and forcefully.

These biological changes include an increase in the production of cortisol in the body, and an increase in the supply of testosterone in men. The bodies fight or flight response is activated, resulting in a releasing of endorphins, the body s opiods, and increased secretions of adrenaline, the body s natural stimulants. This heightened state of arousal that we experience in our bodies, and its accompanying infusion of cortisol, testosterone, endorphins, and adrenaline make us feel more alive, and more emboldened.

When we feel enraged, we also often experience noticeable changes in our bodies that happen to simultaneously scare away whomever is threatening us. For example, when we are enraged, our breathing becomes more rapid, and our eyes open widely with dilated pupils. Our facial color reddens, or may even turn pale, and our voice becomes louder and our speech quicker. Finally, our movements become quicker and our muscles tense. For example, our face may contort, our fists and jaws may clench, and our shoulders contract and appear hunched.

It is precisely because rage makes us feel more powerful, and look more threatening, that a lot of people prefer engaging this secondary emotion to feeling the more vulnerable primary emotions. I want to reiterate again, however, that while rage can be useful as a short-term emergency reaction, it does us a huge disservice when it becomes an enduring, long-term personality trait and lifestyle characteristic. Again, it then jeopardizes our health, destroys the relationships that matter most to us, worsens our mood, and withers our self-esteem.

Fortunately there are ways to manage and even let go of anger for those who wish to do so. These ways include reminding yourself of what you ultimately hoping to achieve when expressing your anger, countering inflammatory thoughts with more positive self-talk, working through and healing from the primary emotions that your anger may be masking, and owning the thoughts, feelings, and judgments that you may be unconsciously projecting onto others.

In addition, people working to manage and/or let go of their anger can learn to pay greater attention to the bodily sensations that signal to them that they are upset in the first place. These bodily sensations act a lot like alarm clocks, calling on us to wake up and take active measures to get our needs met before exploding outwards or imploding inwardly. Finally, people can learn behavioral strategies to manage their anger, like taking time-outs, deep breathing, meditating, and exercising.

John Boesky

LMFT/MNLP/CHT