Linear and Non Linear
Basically, conscious repetition of the above can sort the problem. However, training the mind more indirectly usually speeds up the process. For example, I will usually relate stories of work with other clients, often with completely unrelated problems, to begin to train someone’s mind to more easily do the exercises. e.g. – I saw a man a few years ago who was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following an incident when he watched his friend burn alive on an oil rig. This guy had been in therapy, twice a week, for four years, and was no better off than the day after the incident. His therapist had been getting him to relive the incident in order to come to terms with it. To me, that’s like strapping someone into a cinema chair, taping their eyes open and forcing them to watch horror films. The other thing his (presumably well-meaning) therapist had done was to go over and over his childhood searching for a reason why he couldn’t get over the trauma.
If you think the same way, you will get the same feelings…
The fact of the matter was this – while he was still thinking of the trauma in the same way he was always going to get the same feelings. It’s like any system, if you don’t change the variables, the output will be the same. When you change the key variables enough, the output will, and in fact must change.
So I began to teach him to disassociate from the experience. Remember, he can’t NOT think about it, but he can change the WAY he thinks about it. Remember, I said, what that oil rig looks like as a tiny silhouette on the horizon, you know what that looks like, because you left it by helicopter so many times. Then I kept getting him to think about the fire and then suddenly see it as a dot on the horizon. I got him to do this again and again from different perspectives, to rocket up out of the incident and see the oil rig as a tiny distant dot in an immense ocean, to plunge down out of the incident as if going down in a super-fast express lift and see it dwindle to a point above him. After half an hour of this repetition he was no longer utterly overwhelmed by the experience, although he was still horrified by it. After three hours of work it hardly bothered him at all, because we had trained his mind to disassociate, and every time it came to mind it was distant.
The Mind Follows The Patterns In The ‘Story’
Now as I tell a client during therapy for bulimia this (true) story I am not simply sitting there shooting the breeze. I know that simply to listen to me talk they will be following along inside their mind, as you did when you read it. The oil rig keeps disappearing to the horizon in various ways. Doing this helps a client when they come to more consciously practice the techniques of disassociation for themselves.
The other example I tend to use is that of the woman who had a horrible nightmare that her children were being tortured and woke up screaming, To cut a long story short, she couldn’t get the thought out of her head, went to the doctor who gave her sleeping pills, then tranquilisers, anti-depressants etc. Nothing worked for her. So she tried counselling, then psychotherapy and psychiatry. She was in and out of various clinics and up and down Harley Street. For years.
When she walked into my office she was in a real state, in floods of tears. She didn’t even say hello. She sat down, and looked up as if she were looking at a big, close up, colourful horror film. Now this is pretty easy to see if you know what you are looking for. Her focal length was short, meaning that she was looking at something that seemed close up in her imagination. Her eyes were moving so she was looking at a ‘movie’, and she looked horrified. (Close up imaginary images always seem to be colourful, for some reason).
Now you can sound really psychic by saying that’s a big horrible close colourful movie you are making in your head, but this wasn’t a good time to be a smart-arse so I simply said, ‘make that thing you are looking at still’. ‘It’s still horrible,’ she cried. ‘Make it black and white,’ I said, ‘it’s still overwhelming,’ she cried. ‘OK.’, I said, make it the size it would be if it were a postcard being held up by a dwarf on a distant hillside’.
With that, she suddenly peered across the room into the distance, in her imagination, and in a flat voice said ‘OK’.
‘When you look at it like that how does it feel?’ I asked.
‘Oh’, she said, ‘when I look at like that it doesn’t bother me, I know it’s not real.’
‘Good’, I said, ‘what are we going to do for the rest of the hour?’
And she looked at me with a mixture of hope, joy and horror on her face and said, ‘are you telling me that you have fixed something in thirty seconds that I have spent 8 years of my life and £125000.00 trying to sort out??’
‘Yes’, I said, ‘though now we are going to do things to make your brain more and more automatically distance that old image.’
In all, I saw her three times, that’s all it took.
The above examples, during treatment for bulimia, serve to train the client’s brain to enable them to ‘get the trick’ of distance and disassociation. This kind of seemingly indirect work (unconscious training) is a very important part of the treatment for bulimia (and many other things).
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