Intense Pain Exposed, pt. 2

Posted Posted in Client/Friend Stories

One of the most powerful experience I’ve had as a therapist was written up in a post called Intense Pain Exposed. It’s definitely worth a read or a re-read. In a nutshell, it’s the fascinating and powerful story of a client who bought a gun to kill himself over pain he had carried for over 25 years. He had been molested as a young boy by his beloved grandfather and could no longer take the pain. An inner voice told him to try therapy… one more time. He returned the gun, came to see me, and we had great success as he learned how to go there and feel and release the pain. From my vantage point, it was quite a wild ride. His body was shaking, sweating, and crying, and then it just settled down after a few minutes. Sadness remained. He knew that this was probably not the end of it, but he knew the technique and he knew that I was always there to help. And he knew that a major amount of this pain was no longer in his body.

Due to life circumstances, he was no longer coming in regularly. We’d check in over the phone from time to time, but a decent gap had passed. When I talked to him next, I learned that he had been having major vomiting fits that would land him in the emergency room. This is called Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome. I wish he had told me when this first started! That’s fine, though – we can’t question timing. I suspected that the cause was pain that was still there, so we had some more work to do. I had also synchronistically met an emergency room nurse around this time, and our conversation had stumbled upon… cyclic vomiting syndrome and sexual abuse! The things nurses and therapists talk about… She had once worked in a setting in which she wasn’t always in a rush, so she actually talked to many of her patients (sounds like the story of a young Elisabeth Kübler-Ross). Some folks were “frequent flyers” as they call them, so she got to know their stories. She noticed a common thread of sexual abuse among the folks with cyclic vomiting syndrome. This fit my client’s story like a glove…

I told my client this theory over the phone, and we agreed that it was time for another session. When he came in, we went right back into the fire. In the safety of my office and that super comfortable chair, he closed his eyes and he remembered. He went there. And he felt. And he released. His body was rocked every bit as intensely as the first time, if not a bit more. It took slightly longer for his body to calm down this time, but not much longer. It definitely didn’t last even ten minutes. I just kept encouraging him by saying, “Breath and feel. You’re doing great. Just breathe and feel. Let it go. It’s been held in long enough. Let it go. Just breathe.”

After his body had calmed down and the bulk of that pain had been released, our work was done for the day. I really wanted him to lick this and stay out of the hospital, though, so I made sure he would stay in touch and would continue to do this at home as needed or else come see me. I preferred that he come in, by the way, but he didn’t have a car and had difficulty getting to the office. There was nothing I could do about that… Anyway, he stuck to the plan and we were in touch as needed, and I can report that the vomiting seems to be totally gone. No more hospital visits. A good bit of time has passed, too, so things are looking pretty good. But he knows how it works – if there’s more pain there, then we know what to do. It looks like most of it has been released, though.

A quick note about staying out of the hospital, and I’ll try not to be too “ranty”… There are obvious reasons for this, like not getting into massive debt. I’m not a huge fan of our healthcare system, which really isn’t all that great. Just look at the world rankings. And don’t get me started on insurance companies… Here’s another angle, though. When a person goes to the emergency room a bunch and they run a bunch of tests and don’t find anything wrong, that person could end up in the psychiatric unit for an evaluation. If it’s determined that the person has “somatic issues,” which basically means that it’s all in their head, then the next stop might be a psychiatric hospital. I’ve worked in one of these places, so I’ve seen it firsthand. Get ready to be drugged until you’re a zombie, while a treatment team determines what’s wrong with you and how long it will be until you can leave. Yes, the doors are locked. Your life is on hold. And it’s not a pretty place. It’s actually just what some people need, but certainly not this particular client I’m talking about.

I didn’t want this to happen to him, even if there were only a slim chance of it happening. Don’t get me wrong – the people at the emergency room are definitely not looking to do this to everyone who walks in! They’re just doing their job as best they can, as well as according to their training. I know several people who work in the ER, and they’re awesome, special, amazing people. Amazing. It’s happened before, though, so I didn’t want to play games. The problem was simple – he was holding a huge amount of emotion from an awful experience of sexual abuse as a child. And the solution was simple – he had to release this emotion. This solution doesn’t involve a lockdown psych unit or heavy duty meds. It doesn’t involve temporarily postponing his life because the system doesn’t understand. I’m really, really glad that what we’ve done has worked and he can move on. I still check in with him from time to time to make sure he’s cool. And overall he is. He can use a tuneup every now and then, but you know what? So can I! But the bulk of the work related to the sexual abuse from his childhood seems to be done. And for that I am VERY thankful.

Intense Pain Exposed, pt. 1

Posted Posted in Client/Friend Stories

In the realm of feeling and emotion, this is one of the most powerful things you can read. In other words, if you are a human, this might be very helpful…

I recently had a client who had been molested by his grandfather, whom he had idolized, when he was five or six years old. He was in his early thirties when he came to see me, so he had been carrying an intense amount of pain around for over 25 years. Intense pain. He said he couldn’t handle this pain anymore. It had completely wreaked havoc on his life, even causing him to seriously contemplate suicide several times. He even purchased a gun about a month before coming to see me. He told himself it was for self-defense, but he knew what it was really for. For some reason, he returned it the next day and decided he’d try therapy one more time. Before that, he had tried anything he could to make the pain go away, including drinking and drug use as well as taking legally prescribed medications like anti-depressants. Here’s the thing, though – he had done everything except actually feel and experience the pain.

As he was telling me about this pain, it became clear that it was time for him to go there. I asked him if he was ready to feel the pain right now. He wasn’t exactly thrilled at the prospect, but it was clear that the time was now. I had him close his eyes, breathe, and relax into it as much as possible. Invite the pain head on, face to face. Meet it. Thoroughly feel all of the anger, sadness, fear, shame, etc. Whatever is there, just feel it. No words, no story – just feel what has been waiting to be felt for 25 years.

He was having an intense experience as I talked him through this, and tears were flowing. He was sweating and shaking. I reminded him to breathe and continue to relax his body as much as possible as he was doing this. After only a few minutes, his body had visibly calmed down some, so I checked in with him and asked what he was experiencing. He replied that only sadness remained. I told him that emotions often come in layers, like an onion. He might feel intense anger and then shame and then sadness underneath it all. This is how feelings work.

Finally, he started to laugh and said, “That’s it? That’s all it is? I’ve stubbed my toe before and it was worse than that. That’s what I’ve almost killed myself over?” The whole process took less than five minutes. Amazing.

He discovered a beautiful and powerful truth – that when we simply feel our feelings without thinking, when we directly experience them without a story, they aren’t as bad and powerful as we thought they were. This intense pain never did have the power to ruin his life for 25 years, and it never did have the power to cause him to commit suicide. Nobody had ever taught him this, though, until he was sitting in that comfortable chair in my office and we went straight to the heart of the matter. In less than five minutes, his whole life had completely changed.

I was eager to see him at his next appointment one week later. He knew he could call before that if needed, and he hadn’t, so I knew he was at least okay. When he came in, he was doing very, very well. He said that he had looked his biggest demon right in the eye and it was nothing. It was like the Wizard of Oz – a small man hiding behind a big curtain so he couldn’t be seen. When seen directly, he was nothing like he seemed.

My client said that his pain and sadness weren’t all gone, but the vast majority was. It no longer had the power to ruin his life. In subsequent sessions, more layers of emotion came up. We handled them the same way – feel it. That allows it to pass. Then search the mind for false beliefs that were learned from the experience and correct them. And always continue to feel. And if more layers of the onion come up, we’ll address them then.

NOTE: All of these client stories are told with no identifying information and of course with permission from the clients. My only interest in sharing these stories is to help more and more people find peace, and these clients are interested in the same thing. There is no pressure on the clients to allow their story to be told. Finally, note that these stories are always told at a certain point in time.

When they are told, it is unknown how the future will unfold. Feelings are powerful, thoughts are powerful, and the past is powerful. New and old issues might emerge after progress is made. If that happens, though, we know how to deal with it. In these cases, I’ll write up the rest of the story if and when appropriate. As said before, it’s all about helping more and more people find peace.

NOTE: The story continued over several months, and I wrote part 2 here.