In article <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Dr. Jim Stevenson <email@example.com> wrote:
>I read with much interest the discussion about the benefits of and
>necessity for abreaction. All that I have found uses simple phobias as
>I am interested in treating patients whose trauma ranges from a single rape to
>repeated episodes of prolonged torture, as is usually reported by MPD
>patients. With such patients you couldn't ever finish therapy if you spent
The following is an article from my archive It describes an accelerated form of desensitization which seems to be often useful in neutralizing traumatic memories. (Its other use is for curing phobias.)
Subject: The NLP Fast Phobia/Trauma Cure
Date: 24 Nov 91 00:16:47 GMT
The NLP Fast Phobia/Trauma cure is a simple visualization that takes five or ten minutes. It is designed to cure simple phobias and to neutralize memories of traumatic experiences such as rape, abuse, combat experiences, etc. Every therapist I've ever known who has ever tried it has found it very useful. In my experience, though, it is extremely difficult to get therapists to actually try it.
It is described in the books Using Your Brain for a Change by Richard Bandler and Heart of the Mind by Steven and Connirae Andreas. Unforunately, since the technique is so simple I think people tend to think the brief descriptions in these books are incomplete. One can actually watch the technique being used in a videotape published by NLP Comprehensive, Boulder, CO.
There are two steps to the cure. The first step is for the subject to imagine (visualize) watching a movie of herself confronting the object of her phobia or going through the experience she has a traumatic memory of. Two things are critical for this step: 1) That the subject watches herself in the movie. In other words, if X has a phobia of birds the movie is not just a movie about birds, but is a movie of X encountering birds in a way that would be frightening to her. 2) It is crucial that the subject be able to watch the movie and be detached, and in particular to stay out of the movie and remain a spectator watching herself go through the experience. You can check this afterwards by asking her "So how was it when you watched that movie?" If she answers "I felt a little afraid," then ask "Did you remember to stay back in your seat in the movie theatre, or did you actually become involved in the movie itself?"
Understandably, it's very difficult for the someone to remain unemotional while imagining watching a movie of herself encountering a situation she's afraid of or has a traumatic memory of. But there are several tricks which are usually effective in this respect. Typically the therapist will say something like this: "I want you to imagine that you're sitting in a movie theatre. Take a moment to look around the theatre, notice the decor and what the seats are like and look back for a moment to where the projection booth is. Now on the screen you will see a black and while still photo of yourself -- a snapshot -- showing you before you have the experience the movie is going to show. In a moment the screen is going to show a movie about you. This movie will be in black and white with no sound. Sort of a poor quality home movie. It may flicker a bit.
"But before the movie starts, I want you to float up out of your body into the projection booth, where you can control the movie. And as you're up there in the projection booth, with those enormous reels of film on the projector and that long beam of white light streaming towards the screen, I want you to notice [Subject's Name] sitting there in her seat waiting for the movie to start. And now I want you to start the projector and to watch [Subject's Name] as she sits in her seat down there in the theatre and watches the movie of you going through experience X."
Well, that's a bit overly elaborate but it contains the essential ingredients that usually work. If the subject still can't remain detached, be flexible until you find something that works. Have her imagine driving on the highway and seeing the movie on the screen of a drive-in in the distance. Have the movie shown on a bedsheet that flickers in the wind. One client told me, "I sat sidewise in my seat and watched it out of the corner of my eye." Whatever works.
Step Two: Have the client step into the movie at the end when the experience is over and she's safe: All the birds are gone, or the rapist has left and she's been to the hospital and been taken care of or whatever. Now, with the traumatic part over, she sees things through her own eyes just as if she were actually there. Things are in color and three dimensional. And then have her very very fast rewind the whole experience to the very beginning, like a movie rewinding or a VCR backspacing, with all the people walking backwards and everything in reverse. And then have her rewind it again even faster. And when she can rewind the whole experience in about one second, have her repeat that five or ten times.
One last step: You say to the client "Now I want you imagine yourself walking through a shopping mall/finding a bee in your house/being on the twelve floor of a building and looking out the window [or whatever]. What's that like for you now?" (Or "Now I want you to just think back to that time in Nam when you saw your buddy get his head blown off. What's it like now when you remember that?") Asking a question like this is an example of what NLP people call "future pacing." Asking the question is an important part of the intervention. What the client answers is not especially important. (Unless she says "It's still as bad as ever" in which case the therapist can feel like a failure and decide that NLP doesn't work. :-)
One drawback to the technique is that it has little dramatic impact. Clients seldom say "Oh wow! This is incredible! I can't believe I'm cured after having this awful phobia all these years!" Instead, the therapist gets his praise in throw-away lines: "Oh no, I don't have that problem anymore." Or "I don't even think about it anymore. After all, the very worst that could happen to you in an elevator is that you'd get stuck for a little while, and that's only inconvenient." Or "I can't believe that I was ever worried about something so silly."
I once spent about fifteen minutes taking a woman through this process for a memory of childhood abuse. She was just a casual acquaintance and we'd been sitting around bullshitting and she mentioned she had this terrible memory. I offered to teach her the process, and she only agreed to let me take her through it when I told her she wouldn't have to tell me any of the details of the memory. I saw her again about two weeks later and asked her, "So what is that memory like for you now?" to which her answer was, "I don't know. I haven't thought about it since you took me through that process." So I asked her to think about it right then, and her eyes went upward for several seconds and she said, "I still know what happened, but it's like I read it in a book."
My other really remarkable success was with a friend whose father had beat her with a belt when she was in high school. This experience was unusually traumatic for her, to the extent that she had taken refuge in a mental hospital. Now, in her forties, she had recently seen her father at a family funeral and he had given her a hug. Later, he called her up on offered to give her some money if she needed it (which she very badly did). She said to me, "I don't want any of his money, and if I see him again, I don't want him to hug me or even touch me."
Since I had always found my friend extremely difficult to do NLP with, I didn't even try to have her do the usual second step --- the rewinding. Instead, I asked her to imagine going through the experience again, but this time asserting herself and taking the belt away from her father. (I wanted to give her an experience of having personal power in that situation.) As I'd pretty much expected, she said that she was unable to imagine doing this, because her father had been too strong. I then suggested that she imagine herself much bigger than him, but she was unable to do that either. This was not surprising to me. I'd expected from the beginning that I'd have to offer four or five suggestions that would fail before I found one that would work. In fact, with her, that seemed to be an important part of the process.
Finally, I had her imagine simply pulling out a gun and shooting her father. She liked that a whole lot, but I wasn't willing to leave it at that. I think I then had her use a ray gun, a la Star Trek. Then I had her imagine that she didn't have a gun, but the rays emanated from her eyes, and her father, instead of dying, simply shriveled up and became very small and very old and pitiful. (I wanted to covertly help her realize that although her father may have been large and powerful twenty years ago, now he was a man in his sixties and someone that might be more pitied than feared.) Then I had her do it again, but instead of having rays come from her eyes, she simply told him how she felt about him, again with the result that he shriveled up and became old.
As usual, she didn't do exactly what I had instructed, but had her father shrink down into a Rumplestiltskin (her words), something that caused her great glee.
When we were done, I asked her what her memory of that old incident was now like, and she said something like, "It seems to be better." This answer certainly didn't convince me that I'd been successful, but I thought I'd done the best I could.
About two weeks later, she astonished me by telling me that she'd decided to call her father up and agree to accept any money he wanted to offer her. They then made a luncheon date, and she started having lunch regularly with him once a week after that. She told me that she had now become his best friend --- in fact, almost the only friend he had in the world.
I don't claim that this experience is typical. But back when I used to do NLP quite a bit with friends and acquaintances, I used the phobia/trauma cure a number of times with what seemed to be pretty good success. In honesty, though, I also have to admit that there were a few times when, as far as I could tell, it didn't seem to produce any results, or when I was not able to successfully take a subject through the process at all.
Universities are nurseries of orthodoxy. The university, while offering a nurturing environment, is not a creative one. It can't be. That isn't the function of higher education. --- Rita Mae Brown