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.

NYC 9/11 Firefighter Gets Fast PTSD Relief

Posted Posted in Client/Friend Stories

I have a client who was a firefighter in New York City for seventeen years, and he was on the job when the World Trade Center towers went down on September 11, 2001. And of course he gave me permission to tell you these details… He has since retired and moved down to the Pensacola area, and he came in to see me for relief from PTSD. He had found himself short-fused, and he didn’t want this to ruin his marriage. Of course I applauded him for taking that first step of coming in. He said he also has constant memories, nightmares, and anxiety, including panic attacks. His flavor of panic attacks last 15-20 minutes and consist of a racing heart and a body that’s shaky and sweaty.

This wasn’t his first time seeking help. He said, “I’ve been to lots of psychiatrists.” I replied, “You have?” And he said, “And they all suck.” After I stopped laughing, I told him I was sorry he hadn’t had the best experiences with them. Then I confirmed what he already knew, which is that the profession of psychiatry in this country (and probably most others, but I’m not sure) has slowly become one of medication management instead of talking to people. It now treats the symptoms (with pills) rather than the cause (with therapy). This is not to offend anyone in that profession at all – it’s just how the majority of it is these days, beginning in medical school. And yes, the huge companies that make the pills have a lot to do with it. Breathe…

Very quickly, this reminds me of another client who recently got on some medications for depression to act as a crutch to get him through some tough times, which is an excellent use for meds. His comment was that when they give the pills to you, they should also give you a plan for how to get off of them when you’re ready. I thought that was an awesome idea. He felt like he was on his own as far as trying to get off of them. Of course any doctor would help if asked about this specifically. He just thought that should be part of the deal up front. What a different philosophy than we have now. And this is definitely not to say that for some people, meds seem to be more of a permanent fix for adjusting their “brain juice,” as a good friend of mine calls it. But for most, meds are much better as a temporary help. Hopefully that wasn’t too much of a rant… Back to the story…

So my client came in for the typical 90 minute first session, in which he was taught about feelings and thoughts. PTSD is a situation in which one or more memories have lots and lots of feeling wrapped around them. I barely remember my lunch yesterday because it had hardly any feeling attached to it. If it had been the best turkey sandwich ever, though, and I was really, really excited about it, then it would stand out more in my mind. The reason is feeling. If I had gotten in a car wreck on the way to lunch, maybe I’d remember it more – again, there’s feeling there. For someone who was at ground zero on 9/11 witnessing horrific things, that’s a memory with tremendous power because of all the feeling associated with it. And you can see what all of that feeling can do if held in and not released – namely, my client’s symptoms mentioned above.

So what do we do with such a client? Have them close their eyes, recall the memory, and just breathe and feel. Let go of whatever comes up and allow it to be felt, but without holding it. He did this beautifully, and honestly he didn’t have the strongest reaction. He said that he felt himself unconsciously holding back, which is totally fine – we go with the flow in this type of work. He said that when he visits Manhattan, though, it all comes back. He particularly remembers the foul smell. What we did in my office was go there mentally, which of course isn’t always as strong. The fancy term for this, by the way, is “in vivo exposure therapy.” Actually returning to the scene of the crime is called plain old “exposure therapy.” Since he has such a strong reaction when visits, what I’m doing is preparing him for his next visit as well as clearing out what we can until then. When he returns next, he’ll go there, sit on the park bench or in his car, and he’ll just allow what comes up to come up – and out! He won’t be analyzing or judging or thinking at all. He’ll just release. When that smell comes up, it won’t even faze him because he’ll know what to do – just allow it to be there, but without holding it. He’ll breathe. And he’ll let go. Now he knows that the smell he smells is normal and not “bad.” HUGE difference.

His next trip to Manhattan will be an excellent opportunity to release what he’s been carrying for all these years. Until then, though, he’s already had some great results. He called me a few days after our first session and said that he was able to sleep eight hours for the first time in years. His nightmares are somewhat better, but he can go back to sleep after he wakes during the night, which he previously hadn’t been able to do. What was I doing on the other end of the line when I heard this? Why, I was high-fiveing the air, of course! There might’ve been some fist pumps, too, like I had just won The Masters. Maybe some bad dance moves, too. I get excited about this type of thing…

He also reports that the panic attacks and anxiety are definitely better. One of the biggest results so far involves major stomach issues that he’s had. It used to be that he’d eat something that didn’t agree with him and then he’d projectile vomit for the next 10-12 hours, with his stomach pain increasing. This would often land him in the hospital, which is a smart move under the circumstances. Since that first session, though, this has pretty much stopped. He’s gotten sick, but only briefly. The 10-12 hour thing seems to be gone, as well as the hospital visits. He’s dramatically reducing his meds, too, which is something he’s been wanting to do. And last but certainly not least, he reports that his wife notices a difference.

I said great job and keep it up! He’s applied what he’s learned form the first day, and he’s gotten measurable results that are no less than major. We’re treating the cause, which is all of the junk that he’s been carrying around since 9/11 (and before since he’s been a firefighter for so long). As that stuff gets released, all of the symptoms should improve in time. And some of them have improved dramatically from day one. This is so cool…

Final note on PTSD treatment… There’s an awesome therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) that’s very effective in treating PTSD. From what I know, the bulk of it involves experiencing the feelings that have been stored since the causative incident, which is what I do. EMDR has more to it, though, like reprogramming the beliefs that were learned. Examples of such beliefs might be that the world is not safe or that a person is not worthy of good things, etc. EMDR is also very structured and specific, which is helpful to both the therapist and the client. I have not been trained in EMDR, but I will be at some point. It’s pretty expensive, which is one of the critiques of it, but I hear that it’s totally worth it. So I’m saving up, and I can’t wait. It really is optional to hold all of that stuff in, and I want to help as many such people as I can. Until then, though, I’ll continue to do my thing, which is still getting results en lieu of the EMDR training. Instant success like what this firefighter has experienced tells me that it’s working some, and for that I am thankful.

Clients Can Read!

Posted Posted in Client/Friend Stories

Several months ago, a client came in and said she could focus enough to actually read for the first time in years. Then more recently, another client said the exact same thing. These are both very intelligent people who absolutely know how to read, learning when they were young just like the other kids at their respective schools. So why couldn’t they read now? Because there was just too much noise in their heads to stay focused! I’ve tried to read before when my mind was going crazy, and I’d “read” a couple of paragraphs or even a page or two and then realize that I hadn’t absorbed a single word. So I understand what they were talking about.

So what had changed? They learned how to ditch the noise! And how did they do this? Two things. And they have to do with… drumroll… thoughts and feelings! I know – surprise, surprise. The feelings part, of course, refers to releasing, letting go, The Sedona Method – whatever you want to call it. And the thinking part refers to letting go of the voice in the head in favor of either real thinking or no thinking at all. That loud inner critic has to go, though, if you want real peace. And all you have to do is let go of it each time you notice it. No fighting or resistance is needed. Over time, the volume will be turned down. It will still talk to itself, but it will have a fraction of the power that it once had.

I’ve said before that the reason I’m doing what I’m doing is that peace can be learned – you don’t have to be born with a resting pulse in the 50’s. And these people have learned a lot. I call experiences like these “measuring sticks.” They couldn’t read and now they can, all as a direct result of learning and applying some simple principles. This is a very concrete experience that says they’re doing something right, so keep doing it.

One of them has had another measuring stick, and I swear the term “stick” is not being used intentionally, but it involves getting an erection. I promise this won’t be graphic… Basically, he’s had to take Cialis for a couple/few years now. He’s not some old man with a natural decline in sex drive, either. At some point he just became wound too tightly in this area of his life. And the voice in the head loves to yell about this type of malfunction, so there was way too much noise in his head. Then he came in to see me and get to work. After a few sessions, he noticed that he didn’t need Cialis for the first time in years. He attributed this change directly to The Sedona Method and the rest of the work that we’ve done, which is exactly what I write about here at A Clean Mind. No secrets. Needless to say, I was very happy to hear this. Who knows if he’ll need pills or not in the future, but he knows that something is working. And regardless of whether or not he’s “cured” or if he’ll still have issues, he’s released on that, too! Release on everything – life is so much smoother that way. And all it takes is practice.

Well, that’s the tale for today, beloved readers. I just love hearing stories like this, because it confirms even more that this stuff really does work. It’s a way of living that’s totally different than what the majority of the world practices, and the world’s a total mess. So don’t live that way! How much of a stress ball do we really need to be?? So happy releasing, gently let go of that voice in the head when you notice it, and let me know of any success stories, as well as any challenges. This is a skill that is learned, practiced, and developed. And when you get noticeable results, it gives you more and more confidence. I’m here to help if I can. Peace!

Young Client Teaches Mom How To Release!

Posted Posted in Client/Friend Stories

I have a female client who is in middle school. I definitely don’t work with young children, but I’ve been testing the waters with younger and younger people to see if they can grasp what I teach – feelings and thoughts, feelings and thoughts, feelings and thoughts. This particular client had some stressful things going on in her life and wanted to talk to someone about it. She ended up in my office, so we jumped right in with releasing. As she told me about each stressful situation, I had her stop, close her eyes, breathe, and just let go of whatever feelings came up, letting them be there but without holding them. Just breathe and feel and watch what happens to the feelings. And of course the feelings moved on out of her system, as they want to do to begin with. We did this a few times, and I was quite impressed. I saw her a week later, and she was like a different person. She doesn’t have to come in much now because she knows how to do it herself. Remember that I’m always trying to work myself out of a job by teaching clients how to be their own therapists.

Fast forward not too long, and I got a call from her mother. She said that she had been upset about something, as we all are at times, and her daughter told her, “It’s okay to feel upset, Mom. Just feel your feelings.” And her mom said that it indeed helped. Of course I was high-fiving the air when I heard this. Yes!

Letting go of what we’re carrying really is so simple, and this story supports that. That’s not to say that my young client isn’t smart, because she’s very smart. But there really is nothing much to releasing – it’s just different than how most people have learned to live. We think too much and we don’t feel enough. Bad feelings aren’t bad at all – they’re normal under the circumstances. But they aren’t designed to hang around for long. Feelings must be felt to leave. They aren’t called suppressions or expressions. So give it a try. If you’re having trouble or need some practice, let me know. And if I can’t help you, then maybe my young client can.

Anger Management… check!

Posted Posted in Client/Friend Stories, Common Issues

A client “got it” after just our fourth weekly session, reporting the good news in our fifth. That’s one month of his life of learning a new way to live, practicing it, returning to discuss, practicing more, returning to discuss more, etc. Wash Rinse Repeat. And he was forever changed now – he had simply come too far to go back. He had turned the corner so much that I felt like crying tears of joy. It was awesome.

He had come in just over a month earlier because of fairly severe issues with anger – severe enough that his wife was prepared to leave the marriage. He had to fix it or she was done. And it seemed like there wasn’t a huge amount of time.

I began like I usually do, teaching him about how feelings, including anger, work in the body. The mechanism is always the same; his flavor just happened to be anger. No big deal. I talked about the importance of stopping as soon as you notice even a hint anger in your body. And close your eyes, stop thinking, breathe, and feel. Take note of what you’re carrying at that moment and then let it go. It might stay for a while, but the doors are open whenever it is ready to leave. And in checking the anger out directly like this, without a story, you might notice that it’s really just physical sensations or energy in the body. Not a problem. We don’t even need to call it anger at that point. And we certainly don’t need to listen to the voice in the head that tells a very believable story about why it’s there, whose fault it is, etc.

I also talked about the other major component of human life besides feelings: thoughts. The voice in the head is not to be believed. Just stop and let go of it when you notice it. If you need to be thinking about something, then feel free to engage in some conscious, active thought. But that chatterbox voice in the head that has useless conversations with itself all the time isn’t real thinking.

Note: the voice in the head really isn’t as bad as it seems – as long as you don’t believe it. Just stop when you notice it. Over time, and it might take some time, it’ll lose its power. Mine still talks to itself all the time, but it’s literally nothing like it was before I started stopping (yes, you read that right). Stopping means you let go of it when you notice it. You don’t feed it. You just stop, take a breath, and listen to the sounds around you. You continue with what you were doing. And the voice in the head just lost a little bit of its power. Do this for a while and you might notice that it’s not an issue in your life anymore. It just doesn’t carry much weight anymore.

Finally, I told my client to start reading a book called The Sedona Method as soon as he could – this was the game changer. This is how you really release what you’re carrying. I told him he was ready to start practicing a new way of living when he walked out that door and into the rest of his life. He could expect to still express anger, but catch it when you notice it and practice what we’ve talked about. You’ll catch it earlier and earlier until you catch it before you act on that anger. Inner peace, here we come…

One week later was session two. He was enjoying The Sedona Method. He was having success already with traffic. Many people experience anger while driving, so this is a great practice area. He was reacting less and less to other drivers. He had small successes at home, but that was it.

By the third weekly session, he and his wife were still arguing about small stuff, but the duration had been cut in half. That’s huge! He was really enjoying The Sedona Method and finally felt like there was hope for his situation. He had also caught himself in the middle of an argument and noticed that his forehead was all scrunched up. What a great sign! Relax your forehead and then try to express anger. I’m not sure that it’s possible.

By the fourth weekly session, his wife had said that the “scary” fights were pretty much done. I was quite happy to hear this. He still had to work on the smaller stuff, though, like his tone with his wife. I suggested that he catch himself as soon as he said something with a nasty tone and stop immediately, laugh at himself, and then tell his wife something like, “That tone was terrible! Let me try that again…” Then continue like nothing had happened. This brings us to the fifth session. He reported that something had shifted. He was so vigilant looking out for that nasty tone that it took several days for it to slip out (which was huge progress in and of itself, by the way). Finally one day, his wife called to him asking him to do something. He was busy, so he snapped back at her, “What?” in a terrible tone. This was not the tone you’d want to use to address the love of your life. That word, in that tone, basically said, “Shut the hell up and leave me alone – I’m busy doing something more important!” He instantly caught it, though, and he was happy, because this is what he had been waiting for! He stopped what he was doing, walked in the other room to where she was, laughed at himself, and said something like, “I’m sorry – that tone was awful. What was it you wanted?” Yes! Do you know how his wife reacted? She was in disbelief, and she immediately hugged him out of joy.

He had experienced success right away with larger bursts of anger, and now he finally had tasted success with the more subtle stuff. He was very happy about this, as he should be. He wants to stay on top of this, so he’s still coming for the time being, but he’s definitely come too far to be that same angry person again. He learned what was going on and then he started paying attention and busting himself. He practiced and has gotten better and better. This has possibly saved his marriage. He’s starting school while working, and he now knows how to handle stress. And this all happened in about a month. He was ready, though, and we’re all on our own time frame. But this shows that it doesn’t have to take forever to start developing A Clean Mind and to start seeing major results. It’s pretty incredible, and it’s such an honor for me to be a part of it all.

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.

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.