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The Effect of NLP on Physical Pain and Trauma:
Part I of II

Publisher: Anchor Point: The Practical Journal of NLP. Reprinted by permission. For subscription information call (801) 534-1022.


Our physical bodies are a major miracle. Most of the care and functioning of the body takes place without our conscious awareness. Within our bodies, is a natural healing system everpresent to serve our needs. This system can detect when a part of the system is out of alignment in some way. It seeks to remove damaged aspects of the body and return the body to normalcy. In most cases, the system runs like clockwork. The potential effects of toxins in the environment are diffused. Physical wounds heal. Colds run their course. There are also times when it is useful to enhance our healing system through the technology of Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

During an NLP health applications workshop, trainer Tim Hallbom described a personal experience when he had fallen one day. The fall resulted in considerable swelling and a large hematoma on his thigh, along with a great deal of pain. To speed up his healing process, he had facilitated himself through the NLP Fast Phobia/Trauma Cure, and then performed a process described by Serge King in the book Urban Shaman as the Stub Toe Process. As a result, he was able to greatly reduce his discomfort and swelling. By that evening, the hematoma had diminished to a much lesser size.

Three weeks prior to my involvement with her in this case, Michelle had been cleaning in a bedroom of her home. During the course of cleaning, she tripped and fell landing directly on her elbow. X-rays showed that she had a Radial Head Fracture. Her medical doctor chose to put her arm in a sling rather than a cast. She returned to her physician to have blood excised from the area of the break. During that visit he indicated a concern that the break was not aligning to heal properly and a need to watch it. During the two weeks that ensued she had increasing pain and immobility of her entire arm largely brought on by the fact that she had again fallen, and had landed on the same arm. By the time I saw her not only was she in severe pain, but with her arm bent at a ninety degree angle, she had only an approximately twenty degree range of movement.

Remembering Tim Hallbom's story and the NLP presupposition, If it's possible in the world, it's possible for me, we decided to follow the same process for healing.

The Fast Phobia/Trauma Cure

Imagine you are sitting in a movie theater. You are there for a private screening. Be there now. You can see the large movie screen in front of you and seats all around you. In the back of the theater, about two-thirds of the way up the wall, you can see a small window. That's the projection booth. Direct your attention in front of you to the movie screen. Now, see a neutral black and white picture of yourself up on that screen. Make it a still black and white photo.

As you are sitting here, you can imagine that you are able float up and leave this body behind and go all the way up to the projection booth. You can begin to feel a certain sense that allows you to know that you are beginning now to lift up, up, up out of this body. Feel that sense of freedom as you begin to float all the way back and enter the projection booth. Notice your surroundings here and feel the projection booth floor beneath your feet. Peek through the window and see Michelle all the way down there looking at the still photo of herself on the movie screen. I installed and held an anchor at the front of her shoulder to further dissociate her from the injury experience.

In just a minute, a black and white movie will begin to run of the injury experience. The movie will begin before the accident ever happened all the way through to after it is completely over and Michelle knows she is going to be okay. Your job is to watch Michelle watching the movie. Ready? I usually move my arm from left to right in the client's lower visual field while using an auditory anchor, i.e. a "whooshing" sound, to indicate movement, and snap my fingers at the end. I find that these actions on my part help the client to focus, whether their eyes are open or closed, and set up additional anchors for later use in this process.

I tested Michelle's reaction to the black and white movie before proceeding. Right now you can see that Michelle is seeing herself on the screen after the experience when everything is okay. In just a minute, that Michelle on the screen will change from black and white to color. Then, very quickly, the movie will run backwards in color, all the way to the beginning again, before anything ever happened. Your job again is to watch Michelle watching the movie. Ready? This time I moved my arm from right to left at a faster pace that during the black and white segment, while making the "whooshing" sound and snapping my fingers loudly once my arm reached the left side.

After testing once again to ensure a desensitization process had already begun, I proceeded. Now you will be going back down into Michelle's body. It's almost as if you get that same sense as before that lets you know you are beginning now to leave the projection room and to float through the movie theater. You can feel a certain sense of gravity that brings you back into your body now.

The next piece will involve you being in the movie, but, you will be at the end when the incident is over and you know you're okay. It will be in color. From that point at the end, the movie will run backwards, high speed, all the way to the point before the event ever occurred. Step into that time at the end now when everything is okay again. Here we go. Running backwards now all the way to the beginning. Once again, I repeated the arm movements and auditory anchors used previously. After testing to determine that the event was now a neutral occurrence for Michelle, I continued into the next phase of the healing process.

The Stub Toe Process

In just a minute, I'm going to invite you to step into that time when you had been cleaning the room. In other words, be there in the experience, but, instead of injuring yourself have a different ending to it, one that is positive. Since you like to have options, run the experience three times, each with a different positive ending.

Michelle associated into the event easily and experienced three positive endings. Instead of injuring herself she: 1) caught herself before landing, 2) fell on the bed unharmed, and 3) did not trip at all. After having done these two processes, she reported immediately that the pain in her arm had greatly decreased. Instead of the severe pain, she said she felt a sense of energy moving down her arm that became like a rubberband that if she moved her arm too much became stretched taut. When I saw her again two days later, she had 180 degree movement of her arm with, as she defined it, minimal discomfort and no pain. Some weeks later she saw her physician. He reported that the break had aligned and was healing nicely.

It seems as though the coupling of these two processes provides first, a neutralizing effect of the event for the client that then allows for almost an erasure from experience, or just one of the options of the experience the brain can choose to remember. Specifically, I have used this process with a woman whose symptoms manifested in various ways in her reproductive system. The core communication of these symptoms was a need to stand up for herself, the origin being several sexual molestation situations at younger ages. After she experienced the Fast Phobia/Trauma Cure and Stub Toe Process with all the earlier situations, when testing, she had difficulty retrieving clear pictures of the different events. In one case, she was not able to see the event at all in her mind's eye.

I have noticed an interesting phenomenon in the language clients choose to use when they are discussing their physical symptoms. Paying attention to language and correspondingly thinking in metaphor has often provided me with insights into the origins of the health challenges that the clients are facing.

Demitri described his pain to me in these words. At first, there was discomfort. Then, there was numbness and finally, it was a shock to the system. His pain was fairly continual and seemed to start in the neck, radiated across his shoulders and ran down one arm all the way to his fingertips. He said there had been times that his pain was so intense that he gladly would have allowed amputation of that arm if the pain would stop. Upon seeing a physician, Demitri was diagnosed with osteoarthritis, an inflammatory variety of arthritis. His physician also told him there was nothing to be done about it other than some pain medication. He would just have to live with it. Demitri indicated there was no prior family history of this condition.

I asked him what had been going on about the time the pain had started. He reported that he had had a break-up of a seven-year relationship, and five months prior to that the discomfort had begun. The break-up was not his choice and somewhat of a surprise. His first description of his pain ran parallel not only to the progression of the pain, but also to the experience of the relationship break-up. At the earlier point, the body noticed that something was "off" where the conscious mind had not yet had the realization. Thus, the discomfort manifested. A couple of months later, the conscious realization of problems in the relationship began to come and also some denial, and so, the numbness. Ultimately, the break-up occurred which shocked the system, resulting in intense emotional and physical pain. The discussion between Demitri and I took place nine months after the break-up. He was still experiencing intense pain and emotional upheaval, to the point that he was questioning his very values and direction in life. After I expressed to him my sense of the major origin of the pain, he consented to the Grief/Loss Process and the Forgiveness Process.

The Grief/Loss Process

Demitri, choose a pleasant experience that you had with Dana. Allow yourself to picture her in that situation in your mind's eye. As you're looking at this picture now, what is the location? Is it in color or black and white? I go on to inquire about the different submodality distinctions.

Now choose someone else that when you think of this person you have pleasant memories. This is someone who is no longer in your life, but, when you think of this person you almost feel as though the person is here with you. This could be a good friend with whom you lost touch, a teacher who was a mentor, a relative, even someone who is deceased. Picture that person in your mind's eye. Is it in color or black and white? Once again, I go down the list of submodality distinctions. The submodalities experienced between the two memories were different, just as I have found them typically to be with other clients.

Would it be okay for you if when you recall a memory of Dana that you could experience it the same way you do the memory of this old friend? After gaining Demitri's permission, I instructed him to map across the submodalities he had been experiencing with Dana to those that he experienced with his old friend.

There are things that you valued in the relationship with Dana, aspects that you want in your life in the future, aren't there? In just a minute, I'm going to ask you to notice what those aspects are. As each one comes to you, you can imagine that you have in front of you a spread of playing cards or little Frisbees, whatever you want, that you place each one of those values on so that you can see each one, symbolically or as the written word.

After Demitri had all his relationship values fully elicited and pictured on the playing cards he had chosen, I futurepaced his rediscovery of these values. See your future extending all the way out in front of you now. In just a minute, you can begin to manifest these aspects in your future. You may choose to literally toss each one out there or gently blow them out there, whichever method seems the thing to do for you. You may choose to place them all out there together at a future time, or place different ones at various points in your future. You are probably also noticing by now that you already have certain ones of these aspects present in other relationships in your life. Whenever you are ready, send those values out into your future so that you have even more of what you want.

After Demitri had completed this process, I tested his thoughts of Dana. He said it was much better, as though she was "just there."

The Forgiveness Process

Demitri, choose one particular incident with Dana that seems to stand out in your mind as one where you still have negative feelings, like anger, hurt, or resentment. When you have that incident, see it over there (some distance in front of us). You're here with me and that situation is over there. I anchor him back to provide dissociation.

As you review that situation, what limitations was Dana operating with to cause her to communicate to Demitri in that manner? As you are looking at her there, it's almost as if you can look behind her and see where she came from, her family of origin, other experiences she had along the way. You know, all of us only know what we know based upon where we've been, our model of the world. Notice what model of the world Dana is operating within. Given these limitations, what is the positive intention behind her behavior? What qualities or internal resources does she need there to turn that situation around? Demitri was readily able to list limitations based on Dana's background and his sense of her positive intention. He also identified internal resources she could use.

Think of a specific time in your own life when you had those resources fully present within you. When you have a time, step into this space on the floor and be in that situation. Notice your experience of having compassion, the ability to openly communicate, and just knowing that you have wider choices in the world. Particularly notice where you sense your experience of these resources in your body. After he described his bodily sensations and the internal messages he was receiving, I tested his response by asking him to step out of the space, breaking his state, and then stepping back into the space. His nonverbal response to the resource state was the same as originally calibrated.

Dana can use these resources, can't she? Would it be okay for you to send them to her now? You can flow them over to her in whatever way seems right to you. Some people take their hands and literally offer them as gifts, others see the resources as energy that flows over, cocooning and settling, integrating. Notice how, as she receives these gifts from you that she changes. Her behaviors change and she may even look differently. As a result, the whole situation changes. Notice Demitri's response to this change. Indeed, Demitri reported that the situation, even though a painful one, had taken on new dimensions adding open dialogue and compassionate understanding.

When he was ready, I facilitated Demitri through associating into being Dana with the new resources, and his younger Self, in turn, to fully explore from all perspectives. When he had finished this phase, I asked him to step out of the resource space. Think of another time when you forgave someone or something unconditionally. It can be anyone that has been in your life, or even an animal. You were able to see beyond the behavior to the positive intention, or compassionately understanding limitations, and forgave fully. When you have chosen a time, step into this space over here. Experience this state of forgiveness. Notice where you feel it in your body, your mind, and Spirit, and enhancing this state even more. After testing to ensure that the association between the space and Demitri's sense of forgiveness was strong, we proceeded to the last step.

Turn toward Dana in that situation and allow this forgiveness to flow over to her now. Notice that as you forgive her fully, she may once again look different to you and have certain messages for you. You can also see her getting what she truly needs in her future.

Demitri was able to successfully complete the process of forgiveness, but not without a slight detour. When he first attempted to forgive Dana, I saw strong nonverbal indications of incongruence. I had him step out of the space and asked him what was happening. He indicated he just could not forgive her. I asked him, What would it mean for you to forgive her fully? He stated forcefully, It would mean that she had won! Incidentally, he had told me before the forgiveness process began that he had already forgiven her. As I have noticed often happens, people THINK they have forgiven when in reality they have not done so.

In response to Demitri's objection to forgiveness, I used a sleight-of-mouth language pattern. In what ways has she won if you don't forgive her? This question quickly added additional insights for Demitri. We had some discussion around emotional "hooks", having choices, and moving on in life. He then had no problems proceeding and even realized that Dana would not have been an ideal partner given where he is now, spiritually.

It has now been two months since Demitri's NLP session. He reports that he had immediate significant relief and that the pain has decreased to the point that he experiences only sporadic episodes of lesser intensity and length of time. These episodes occur when he is feeling stresses at work. After initiating a further communication with the remaining symptom, Demitri realized that the message is about his confusion regarding his purpose in life, and even in that confusion, knowing he is misaligned in his present career. At this writing, he is focusing on uncovering his mission in order to create an alignment. Demitri had not previously in his life had symptoms as described here,even though he had been incongruent about his work for some years. It seems as though the part of him that wants congruence has noticed an opening for change and has chosen the tried and true pathway for gaining Demitri's attention.

Both of the stories related here involve individuals who are open to believing in the possibility of healing through means that are complementary to traditional medicine. Part II of this article will address the issue of beliefs related to chronic pain.

Go to Part II.

©1995 Carla Woody. All rights reserved

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