More on Relationships

I wrote last about Needs, and their value in relationships. However, this idea of meeting the needs of others has within it a kind of a trap.  And this is kind of a subtle part of relationships. It becomes really exciting, as we understand it.

Before I tell you about the dangers of meeting another person’s needs I’d like to apologize in advance because I’m going to start swearing.  What I’ve discovered is that if you are more emotionally involved, the learning sticks.  So by swearing what I’ve discovered is that emotions are often triggered by swearing.  So, again, I apologize in advance in case anybody gets offended. 

Here are my swear words:

  • Should
  • Have to,
  • Duty,
  • Required, and
  • Obligation.

Now, I honestly believe that these words are viler than those 4 letter words you hear in Rap music or on HBO.  These words fall under a category that I called Demands.  Someone is telling you that you “have to” do or be something. 

People seem to struggle with the concept of demands when it comes up. So an example:  “I work 10 hours today, so you ‘Should’ have dinner ready for me when I get home.”  How do you respond to a sentence like that?  You’ve probably heard something like that in your life. So regarding dinner whose need is it? The speaker’s, right? And what is might suggested is that somebody else (you) have to, or should meet my needs.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m going to guess, because this has been my experience with everybody that I talked to, is that there are only two responses to a demand. To Resent or Rebel.  Often, what a person will do is, comply but they resent it.   They’ll do it grudgingly. The second one is they rebel.  “You know; “Oh Hell No!”

Hearing a demand you resent or rebel. In my experience that’s the only way people respond to a demand. I bet nobody you know, has ever said something to you like “You have to get this done!”   And you said, “Oh, I have to?  Thank you.  What an honor.” Rather, if you’re told you have to do something, you get annoyed.  And, depending on the consequences, you do it with resentment or you rebel.

An example. I had a chain-link fence in the backyard and for my dog and my dog died. So I took the fence down, took the chain links all apart. Put them in a box with all the brackets. And then there are these 10 posts in the ground, 6-foot aluminum poles. And they are stuck in the ground.  So I rock the post back and forth and lift it out of the ground and it’s got a two-foot block of cement on the bottom of the post.  Now, what do I do with that?   I could hacksaw off the cement, but then the post is useless.

I mean, it’s a shortened, 4-foot post, useless for fencing.   Maybe I could chip the cement away. No way.  So what I did was I pulled the 10 poles out of the ground and I laid them on the ground in a nice, neat row across the backyard.  And I left them there, on the ground, for four months. Typical American male. When in doubt, don’t. So, one Saturday morning, my wife gets upset and she says, “Move the damn posts. We can’t mow the yard. We can’t entertain guests. If the meter reader, checking the electric meter, walked around the corner and tripped, we could get sued. It’s an eyesore. Move them!”

Using my new skills for understanding needs I can look back and see that she needed aesthetics, beauty, and safety;  and use of the yard functionality. I have the same needs. The problem was I didn’t have them at 9 a.m. on Saturday when she was asking for it.  It’s Saturday morning, and I want to just kickback. I’ve been going to work for five days, getting up at six-thirty, being at work at 8:00. So Saturday morning is my time to make a pot of tea and watch golf on television and just relax. But what I heard in my head was “you have, to it’s your duty.”

So I went out and moved the posts.  I grabbed that first post, drug it across the yard, down the steps, over to the garage and threw it in the corner. And as I turned around I saw that there’s a scratch on the sidewalk, a scratch all the way back to the stairs. Walking back for the next post I noticed the stairs.  The stairs were 4 cement steps going up to the upper yard. The third step down I realized that I broke a chunk of cement, about 2 inches square, out of the step. Now, I didn’t have a clue on how to fix a cement step, so I know I’m in trouble. And then I walk back into the yard and there is a groove, a valley, all the way across the grass where I drug that block of cement.

All this damage because I was doing the job out of resentment. In psychology, we have a name for this is called passive-aggressive behavior. And the interesting thing about passive-aggressive behavior is, it’s not conscious. I wasn’t consciously trying to make my wife mad. I’m smarter than that. I was just doing it with a pout. I was just doing it resentfully. And it caused all kinds of chaos. The interesting thing about this is that if I would have stopped and thought about it, things might have been different.

Okay, what are the needs going on right now for me? What are my wife’s needs? I could have gone to my wife, said, “look, honey, it’s Saturday morning, 9:00 a.m. what I want to do right now is I want to just kick back, watch some golf, drink my tea, put my feet up, eat a bag of potato chips, whatever. How about if I do it this afternoon?” She would’ve been fine. She’d been waiting for 4 months. She could have easily waited for 4 hours, but I just didn’t think of it.  I actually “should” on myself by not connecting with my needs and it caused all kinds of chaos.

So it’s a wonderful thing to begin to think in terms of what are the needs of the moment because I honestly believe we never give up a need. We just negotiate the timing of the need.

We never give up on need. We just negotiate the time.  My wife needed safety and attractiveness and the use of the yards. I had the same needs. I just didn’t have them at 9:00 a.m.  It would be negotiating that I do it in the afternoon. If I would have said, why don’t we do it together, this afternoon? It might have gone over much better.  Offering to do it together she would love that because she also enjoys doing things together. She loves it when we work on a project together. Everybody could have been happy. Instead, because I wasn’t listening, nobody was happy.

Fascinating to begin to discover that the world has been operating this way all of our lives. But nobody’s been teaching us about it.

to be continued….


this is a transcript from a workshop on relationships

Let’s talk about communication in general and then how communication works in your relationship. When I was in high school, high school geometry, the teacher started the first day talking about how geometry is based on axioms. She said that there are these core axioms in geometry. She said “I’m not going to prove them. You just have to accept them as fact.” The only one I still remember is that two parallel lines will never intersect. Two lines perfectly parallel will go on for infinity, never crossing. And that was just a core principle. And a lot of geometry is based on that principle. In relationships, I’ve come up with about six axioms .  For now I want to focus on 3.

  • Every behavior springs from a need.
  • Needs are universal.  We all have the same needs.
  • Another person’s behavior is never about me.  It’s about their needs.

Primarily, the fact that every behavior springs from a need. When I say every behavior, I mean literally every action a person might do; scratching your nose, going on a date, getting married, climbing Mount Everest, jumping off a bridge with a bungee, every single behavior that a human being does has underneath it a need.  The idea is that all people are trying to do is be content, be happy in life, and we’re happiest when our needs are met. So it becomes imperative if you want to be happy you have to understand this concept of needs.

Now, the second principle is defining what a need is.  What the defining idea of a need is that needs are universal. We all have the same needs. And that’s helpful in the relationship element because if you understand that everybody has the same needs, you can begin to understand why a person is doing what they’re doing.

I do a couple of high-tech visuals in this group.

Holding up just my index finger I say “I need chocolate.”  If chocolate is not available, I get irritable, I get grumpy. Now, is chocolate a need?

Nope. It doesn’t meet our core definition.  I mean, Need has a very specific definition.

What’s the definition? It’s universal. So is chocolate a need? No.

Why is chocolate not a need? Because there are people that don’t like chocolate. Simple. Now, the good news is we’re working out a medication for these people because we know there’s something wrong with them.  They don’t like chocolate. But in the meantime, here is where it gets interesting. I know that chocolate’s not a need. So I want to know why I crave chocolate.  I trace my desire for chocolate (running my finger down the extended index finger, opening my fist and pointing at my palm) and I discover the need is comfort. I use chocolate to get my need for comfort met. And notice what happens with my hand (the other fingers extend). Instead of one choice, I have many. 

Without chocolate, I’m suffering. But when I discovered that it’s about comfort and chocolate is not available, maybe I can use frozen yogurt or ice cream or popcorn or a long walk or a hot bath.

So one of the beauties of understanding needs is that your choices open up. Does that make sense?  When I was working in the addictions field, I wasn’t interested in the alcoholism or the use of pot or even the use of cigarettes, because that was just the behavior. I wanted to find out is what the need was underneath it, what they were using that substance as a band-aid, as a fix for. Just like I was using chocolate as a fix for comfort.

So this is a kind of a fun thing to begin to understand. What are the underlying needs? Think about this for a little bit. What do you think some needs are that every human being has?  There’s a group of about 40 universal human needs.  To start with, there are five survival needs, including air, clothing, shelter, food, and water.  We all need those. Without those. You’re likely to die. But with any of the other 35 universal needs on the list, you won’t die if you don’t have them. You just won’t be happy.

So what are some other needs you think?  Would you think that Honesty in your relationship is a universal need?  Yes? OK, how about Love?  That’s a need, isn’t it? Every human being wants to feel loved.  What else?

“Compassion.”  Yes, that’s a need.  Respect.   Communication.   I agree.  Now someone mentioned being listened to, and I thought about it and decided that being listened to isn’t as helpful as being Understood.  Being Understood and Understanding the other; those seem like core needs.

By the way, if I list something here and you have never had the desire or the need for it, let me know because that wouldn’t meet the definition. Honesty?   I think so.

And then we’ve got needs like Space, or alone time, right?  Everybody needs space. And then we need Safety. We want to feel safe. The interesting thing about Safety is that it is a complex need. You can have physical Safety. You can have emotional Safety, you can have financial Safety. and you can even have spiritual Safety.

The man who taught me this, Marshall Rosenberg, would go to Israel and he would get an equal number of Palestinians and Israelis in the same room. He was told he was crazy because they were at war and everyone predicted it was going to be chaos. But Marshall believed that if you could identify the common needs, the universal needs, you can start a conversation. And what he found was that they all agreed on physical safety for themselves and their families; and spiritual safety, respect for their religion. They were all in agreement. And then they started a problem-solving conversation that went on for hours talking about how they could create a sense of safety, kind of cool stuff. And that’s the essence of what my writing is about  How do we create connection in our relationships? And we do that by identifying the common needs, by understanding what the needs of each person in the relationship are. So I have a list of 40 core needs, needs that are universal.

So if you remember, I said that going after our needs did what?. What was the reason why we went after needs? Happiness.  Happiness, right!  We want to feel happy.

So to flip that on its head. If you’re not happy, what’s the problem?  There is a need not being met.  Yeah. Beautiful. Now, here’s a kind of fascinating question. Whose job is that?  Whose job is it to get your needs met?  Your own. Yes! Not Your partners or your kids or your parents; not your teachers, nor your boss. It’s not their job to meet your needs. Why is that?  Because each of those people is doing the same thing as you; getting their needs met to be happy.  So the reason is that everybody is focused on their needs.

If your boss, if your partners focused on their needs, it’s not it’s no wonder that they don’t have time and energy to focus on your needs. Everyone’s primary focus is first on their needs.  And that is how it should be. 

Now, there’s an exception to this, and that’s the beauty of needs.  I believe that one of our core human needs is the needs of others. And by that I mean the needs of those people we care about. I love helping my wife get her needs met.  It’s one of my needs to support her and helping my kids get their needs met again. My grandkids even. It feels good. I want, need to be supportive of those people I love and care about.

Heck, I even love helping my dog get her needs met.  I don’t really want to get up at 2 a.m. and let the dog out, but I know that she could be suffering and so I get up. I don’t resent it. I know. But I do it because it feels good to help others.

Mindfulness continued

The beauty of Mindfulness is that it starts to get… sticky in that it begins to linger and you begin to take it out into daily life where somebody says something rude to you and you let it go and you come back to center. Or you hear some violent thing happening on the news and you realize it doesn’t have any value for you. “No, there’s nothing I can learn from this.” You let it go. You get to choose. Does this have value? Can I learn?

If not, let it go. With Mindfulness you develop that skill of letting go. Remember what we called it? Teflon mind. A nonstick surface for the mind.

What’s interesting about the experience of meditation is that it changes. Many people go into meditation to experience a sense of peace. That can happen. And then at other times, it will seem like, for the whole 10 minutes or 20 minutes, whatever you choose as your time, the mind is just busy, filled with thoughts and you think, “well, this isn’t working.” But the experience during mindfulness has little to to with the benefits that are happening in the body.  A group of meditators were involved in research, back in the 70s, where they had them sit with one of those compression bands around their chest and their arms going through a drape. On the other side of the drape they had an I.V. in their arm and researchers were taking blood and they were tracking their blood pressure and their pulse. When they hooked them all up they said, “okay, now close your eyes, and meditate.” The subjects experience was “What? How can I meditate with all of this going on?” And people complained that they had a shallow meditation because of all of the pockings and proddings. But in fact, the measurements showed them being deeply,  peacefully quiet.

That their body went twice as deep as sleep. And stayed there for the whole meditation period. So you don’t always know subjectively if it’s working or not.

Which is why what we tell people is you don’t meditate for an experience. You don’t meditate until you’re peaceful. You don’t meditate until your mind quiets, you meditate for the time you planned.

You set aside the time;  When I learned Transcendental Meditation. It was 20 minutes in the morning, before breakfast and 20 minutes in the afternoon, before dinner. And you didn’t decide; “Well, I’m done. I’ve been doing it for 10 minutes. It’s not working.”

What is this? When you hear I did it for 10 minutes and it’s not working, what is that?  It’s a thought. What do you do when you have a thought? You let it go and come back to your focal point. Exactly. So the idea was you meditated 20 minutes, regardless of the thoughts or feelings.

So what, I how I learned to do it was I would look at my watch and say, OK, it’s 1050 right now. I’m going to meditate for 20 minutes. That means my watch will say 1110 when I finish. So I would just close my eyes and start my mantra, and when I thought, OK, it’s probably 20 minutes, I’d peek. If it didn’t say 1110, I close my eyes and I’d keep going.

And when it did say 1110 then stop repeating my mantra and I would just relax for a couple of minutes; you just stop meditating and you just sit and relax for a couple of minutes and then return to a sense of balance and then begin your day.

We used to tell people, to start, take about a half a minute to just sit center and then begin focusing, putting your attention on your focal point. And at the end of the meditation, you just stop and sit with your eyes closed, relaxed for a minimum of two minutes.

I remember the metaphor was, imagine that you’re in your car and you put your car in reverse, and now you’re going backward. You don’t shift into forward gear and gun it. If you’re going backward, you put it into neutral. Slow to a stop. Shift it into forward and then you go forward. So in the same way with meditation, you’re sitting and you’re practicing, you’re going deeper in to mindfulness. You stop, kind of slow to neutral and then you go back out into activity, get a couple of minutes.

That’s really the art of mindfulness. Now, remember, there are two types of practice. Mindful Being where you’re actually doing a sitting practice, of just noticing thoughts and returning to your focal point, noticing thoughts and returning to your focal point, whether it’s your breath, Your hands. A mantra, or the sound of some quiet music.

And then Mindful Doing where you’re engaged in the process of doing something and all of your attention is on the doing of the dishes or the making of the bed or the vacuuming the floor or the opening and closing of the hand.

Mindfulness has become one of the most popular things in mental health because it’s the most powerful. So I encourage you to explore it. Go on YouTube and type in the word mindfulness, you probably get a thousand hits on people teaching you how to do mindfulness. There are lots of courses available online.  

And yet it is really quite simple.  Sit, with a focal point, and listen.

Your mind will wander, often.  Don’t fret.  It’s supposed to.  For the rest of your life, you will have thoughts in meditation.  The Art of Mindfulness is not in stopping thoughts; you can’t.  The art is noticing that you are thinking and then returning the mind to the focal point, that one sense you are focused on, over and over, without judgment.  Without judgment means without beating yourself up for having a thought.  Thoughts are part of the process.  They are the mind, throwing off stress.  Notice your mind has wandered, and return to your focal point.

You are Meditating!

Tips on Mindfulness

  • Chose a regular time to practice, twice a day is ideal
  • Set a regular length of time and stick to it; I recommend 15 or 20 minutes
  • Find a quiet place to sit; turn off the telephones
  • Posture can be important; sitting upright reduces sleepiness
  • Notice what the time will be when you finish “I will end at 10:40”
  • Sit for 30 seconds and notice your body; then begin
  • If thoughts or emotions arise, and they will; notice them and return your attention to your focal point
  • Thoughts are a part of the practice but not important in and of themselves
  • Thoughts during meditation have no value, they are stress being released
  • Noise is no barrier to mindfulness – noticing a sound is just another thought
  • Don’t resist thoughts, sounds, emotions – don’t resist anything – notice and return to your focal point
  • When the time is up, continue to sit easily for a minute or two, relaxing
  • Begin your next activity easily

Mindfulness Skills

Observe – Just notice the experience, without reaction

  • Cultivate “Teflon Mind” a non-stick surface where the mind can let thoughts come and go, without sticking
  • Control your attention – push nothing away, cling to nothing, just notice every thought, feeling, and action.

Describe – Put words on the experience.  When a thought or feeling arises, name it.  “A thought about food.”  “A feeling of disquiet.”

Participate – In life – do what is needed.  Practice your skills as you learn them until they become part of you.

Respond – Don’t React  –  Pause before acting. – Take a breath – Choose your next word or deed.

“When hungry, eat your rice; when tired close your eyes. Fools may laugh at me, but wise men will know what I mean.”

Indeed, this saying does seem comical, but its simplicity is powerful. In our day to day lives we find a way to complicate everything. The food we eat, the work we do, the way we talk, the way we walk; everything has to “mean” something. Life would be much easier if you just responded to things appropriately. If you’re hungry, eat something. If you’re tired, get some rest. If you have work to complete, do your work. Stop wondering why you’re hungry, why you’re tired, or what the best way to do your work is and take a page out of Nike’s book. Just do it. It’s possible that your life could be much simpler than you make it out to be.


“What if…” vs. “Whatever”

I had an interesting meditation today.  I allowed myself to open to any possibility by using the word “whatever” as a mantra.  Whatever happens, whatever arrives, whatever leaves, it’s exactly what is supposed to happen.  To me this is Radical Acceptance.  And the exact opposite of suffering.

Suffering, to me, is arguing with what is happening.  I recently had surgery and for three weeks I have had pain and limited movement.  But it never crossed my mind to wish it away.  It just was what was happening. With acceptance of the reality of pain, it seemed to diminish.

A family member, during the holidays, asked me questions starting with “What if….”  I realized that all these questions tended to induce fear.  Most “What if…” questions are imagining problems.  Why would I want to speculate about future problems?  It seemed crazy, and it certainly seemed to induce anxiety. 

My response to “What if…” has to be “Whatever.”  Whatever comes; when it comes, I’ll deal with it.  But not until it comes.  Until then, I want to stay in the present moment, enjoying what is, and letting go, over and over, of thoughts about the future.

So, for today, I will meditate on this moment.  And when and if thoughts of “What if…” arise; I know to return to the openness of “Whatever”  Whatever comes I will open to and not resist.

This is peace.  Moment by moment.  How can life be any better than this?

Practicing Presence

I want to talk about practicing presence. One of the most powerful gifts you can give another human being is to be present for them. If you’re doing dishes and your daughter comes up, and says, “Mommy, I want to show you this picture I made;”. You turn and you look. Saying “Oh, that’s really good.”   You’ve given her 20 percent of your attention because the water’s running and you’re washing dishes.  And then you go right back to washing dishes.

That’s not exactly quality time. That’s more like acknowledgment.  But if you were to give that child 15 or 20 minutes of complete, 100 percent attention, or presence, she would blossom.  Presence is when you give them the kind of attention that says “I see you.  You are important to me.  I want to hear more.”. So one of the things I recommend in parenting is setting aside 20 minutes to a half-hour of just presence.

The message is clear, if not even spoken aloud.  “I’m here for you. I’m listening to what you have to say”  Presence is done without judging, nor evaluation and you are being 100 percent present. The essence of being present is what we call mindfulness. Being in this moment.

What is Presence?  Presence is Being here, now, as opposed to having your attention on the past or the future.  When you are with someone, and listening with intention, the person feels heard. 

You may have had the experience of talking to someone and notice that they are not paying attention.  They may ask you to repeat yourself, or they don’t respond on-topic but shift the conversation.  Or they may answer your question before you have made your point.  It was as if they were thinking about what they were going to say next, rather than hearing you.

None of these scenarios will feel pleasant, some may even anger you.   The other person was not present, but distracted, in their thoughts.  If we are honest, we have all been there at times.  And I want to suggest that Being Present even for a few moments, is an amazing gift.

Your daughter wants to show you a picture she did at school.  You, though interested, are busy with dinner, or on the telephone and you respond with ”That’s nice dear.”  You have missed a chance to be present, to give the gift of your complete attention.  And she turns away, disappointed.  Perhaps even sensing that she is not important.

Imagine, just for a minute, that instead you stop what you were doing, turn fully to your daughter, and see her.  See her pride in creation; see her eagerness to make you happy; see the gift that she is sharing.

Yum!  What a difference.

To quote Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Full Catastrophe Living,

“Mindfulness is:
 paying attention to the present moment, on purpose, without judgment.”

And Mindfulness can be much more.  As we practice being here, in this moment, life can get easier.  You may find that what causes the most stress in life is not the people, places or things of life, but rather our thoughts about them.

And thoughts are never a reality.  No thought of an orange will give you the experience of eating the orange.  The past is just a thought about something that no longer exists.  The future is a thought about what “might” or “could” happen.  And most thoughts about the past with be incorrect.

Worry about tomorrow is seldom accurate and only spoils today.

A Theory of How the Mind Works

While studying NeuroLinguistic Programming I learned that the Mind has approximately 5 slots of awareness. (some research suggests that it varies between 3 to 7 with 5 being the median.)  This suggests that we can hold our awareness of about 5 things at the same time, as long as they are similar/related. So you can be reading this article, while listening to music and, perhaps, smelling dinner cooking.  However, if your attention is primarily in the Past or in the Future, problems arise.

When your 5 slots of attention are on:                                                                     You may feel

PastPastPastPastPast Depressed
FutureFutureFutureFutureFuture Anxious
PastFuturePastFuturePast Anxious and Depressed

Notice that the focus of our attention in any moment creates feelings that we experience.  So, how do we change?  By practicing Mindfulness

Fill each of your 5 attention slots with                                                                      and discover

NowNowNowNowNow PEACE

Mindfulness is not a cure for depression or anxiety, at least not in the beginning.  It is more of a vacation from those moods.  Over time, with regular practice, it can become a habit of letting the thoughts go and being Here, Now.

What does Now mean?

In reality, Now is the only time there is. There is no such thing as the past. You can’t point to the past. You can’t change the past. It doesn’t exist anymore except as a memory. And when is that memory happening? Right now. The same is true of the future. The future doesn’t exist. A weatherman can’t even accurately predict tomorrow’s weather, let alone what’s going to happen next Tuesday or next Thursday or, oh, a month from now.

It’s just too variable. We can’t predict the future. We can’t change the past. So we only have one place to really be where we’re effective at all. And that’s this moment now. The art of mindfulness is learning a new skill. We’ve all learned the skill of memory. We’ve all learned the skill of storing data. We’ve all learned the skill of tracking, but we haven’t learned the skill of letting go and just being present. Imagine that your brain has slots. There is a theory that says your brain has five slots of awareness and in this moment they’re filled with me standing up here. So you’re reading this here and perhaps, you’re mentally repeating the thoughts, the words that I’m writing. Maybe you’re listening to music. Perhaps you notice your body’s position, or your breath.

Maybe you’re aware of yourself sitting in the chair. Maybe you are aware of the sound of the air conditioning. But around 5 of these, your slots of awareness are full.  You can’t pay attention to more. So when somebody walks into the room, for a moment, you stop reading, because your attention is on the other person, noticing them walking into the room and wondering something about them. What do they want? And then you come back to.     “Oh, yeah, what a minute,  I’m reading this blog. The idea is you can only pay attention about five things at one time.

So this becomes really interesting because, as it turns out, the phenomenon is that if you have most of your slots filled with thoughts about the past and you’re thinking about the past all the time or primarily, you tend to be easily depressed. Because you’re thinking about what happened that you didn’t do or what happened that you did do that you shouldn’t have done or what you could have done if you …. Depression is about the past. What do you think happens if all of your attention is on the future? “What’s going to happen? What ifs? What is that?”  Anxiety.

PastPastPastPastPast Depressed
FutureFutureFutureFutureFuture Anxious
PastFuturePastFuturePast Anxious and Depressed

Anxiety is about the future, forever and always. Why I love this example is because I got stuck wondering how can people be anxious and depressed at the same time? Anxiety is a kind of a high, energizing, the blood flowing, the thoughts are happening rapidly, and depression is kind of low energy, sluggishness. But using this model by having thoughts about the future and the past at the same time, you get anxiety plus depression. So the mind has the ability to do that.

NowNowNowNowNow PEACE

Okay, so now the burning question, how do we do that? How do we keep our attention on the now? What does that mean? Any ideas? How do we keep our attention on the now? What would be the technique of mindfulness? The technique is using one or more of your five senses.

By putting our attention on one of our 5 senses we remain present, in this moment, Now.  It is thinking that moves us out of this moment and into the past or the future.  Some ways we can be mindful using one of our senses:

  • Sight                           Watch a candle flame; pick out a spot or a star, a mandala
  • Sound                         The ocean, the rain, a mantra, or any repetitive sound
  • Smell                          Incense; fragrance; odiferous candle
  • Taste                           The taste, texture of food.
  • Touch/Feel                  Aware of your breath; of the aliveness of your hands

Choose one, and sit for a time and practice.  Set a specific time; 10 minutes, 15 minutes, or 20 minutes.  (no longer than 20 minutes initially,)

Now, many people have tried meditating, or Mindfulness, only to complain that it doesn’t work for them.  Every time I as “Why?” I get the same answer.  “I couldn’t stop thinking!”  This makes me sad, because it means that they misunderstood, or the sources of their knowledge misunderstood a fundamental principle.  You will never stop thinking!  The idea that the purpose of Mindfulness is to stop thoughts is a common, albeit sad, error.  The human mind cannot go very long, maybe only seconds, without thoughts popping up.  I have been meditating since 1972 and I continue to have thoughts in every meditation.

When I first started learning mindfulness back in the early 70s, one of the first things I learned was to take a visual technique where you stare in a candle flame and you watch the candle flame flicker. And every time you start thinking about fire, about wax, about where they went. Then you get back into thinking, you let it go and you come back to the moment; Now. And you watch the candle flame.

So that was an early mindfulness technique. And then I moved on; one of my professors, was teaching a technique called Spotting, where you would close your eyes and you would notice the spots in the darkness when your eyes were closed and you would try to keep the spots from moving. If you looked at a spot, it would move away.

So the idea was to relax the eyes and keep the spots from moving. Again, a visual technique. And then in 1972, I learned Transcendental Meditation. And that was an auditory technique. That was being given a meaningless word, a mantra, and just quietly, mentally, repeating the sound to yourself.

What is a mantra? Virtually, every word you have ever learned has two components. It has the sound and it has the meaning.

So if I say the word chair, the ear hears Ch-air-er, the sounds and the brain says, something to sit in. But imagine a word where you have no meaning. You just have the sound. The example that I love to give is “rasslablya.”

Almost noone who speaks English has any idea what the word rasslablya means. So there’s no meaning, there’s just the sound rasslablya. You can invent meanings, but it doesn’t have a meaning to you. That’s the idea of a mantra; you have a sound but no meaning. So you don’t get hooked in the thoughts. You just repeat that sound. By the way, the word was rasslablya from Russia. That means mellow out, chill. It was one of my favorite words and I was studying Russian.

So that was the auditory technique that I learned. In probably the mid-80s a doctor by the name of John Kabat-Zinn, gets into mindfulness and starts teaching a physiological technique; a tactile sensation where you’re aware of the body breathing. And the idea is you put your attention on the breath, not that you’re controlling or counting your breath, so much as you’re just aware, “my body just took a deep breath” and notice as you exhale and inhale and exhale. The attention is on the physical sensation of the body. Also a wonderful technique. 

But my favorite was one that Eckhart Tolle taught me.    If you’re interested in mindfulness at all, Eckhart Tolle wrote the preeminent book on mindfulness; is called The Power of Now. It’s a powerful book on Mindfulness. In his second book, Creating a New Earth, he taught me a technique that has worked for me very well, focusing on a tactile sensation. So I want to share it with you and we can do it together.

Focusing on a tactile sensation

What I’d like to suggest you do is you just hang your hands at your side, or rest them on the arms of the chair. The idea is to put your hands in a position where they’re not touching anything. So your hands are hanging free. Not touching anything, not moving. Now if you’d like, you can close your eyes; or not. But for me, it’s easier to close my eyes. And ask yourself the question; “How do I know my hands exist?” They’re not moving. They’re not touching anything. How do I know my eyes exist?  And as you ask yourself that question, You become aware of your hands.

They’re not moving. They’re just being hands. Now, in the medical profession, they have a name for this; it’s called Proprioception and it means body awareness. Well, for a moment, I want you to just be aware of your hands. Feel the sensation of aliveness in your hands as you’re sitting there.

For some, it’s a tingling sensation. For some, it’s a warm, kind of fuzzy feeling. Others have reported kind of a pulse. Feeling the pulse of blood in the hand. There’s no right or wrong, it’s just noticing the sensation of aliveness in your hands. And usually, within about 15 seconds, the mind starts off on its trip. Thoughts like “This is kind of cool” or “This is really stupid”or  “How long is this going to last?”

And you just notice that you’re thinking and you let the thought go and find your hands again.

Feel the aliveness.

And up comes another thought.  Why are we doing this? What time is lunch? Is he almost done? And then you notice that you’re thinking, you’re talking to yourself.

And you let the thoughts go and you just go back and see if you can find your hands again.

Find the feeling of aliveness.

Notice if there’s judgments or boredom or restlessness. Those are all thoughts.

And when you notice it. Let it go and find your hands again. You don’t push thoughts away. You don’t fight, resist judgments or talking. You just turn your attention back to.

Finding that feeling. That fuzzy sensation of aliveness.

And you’ll have another thought. Don’t beat yourself up. It’s not about wrong; thoughts are a part of the process. And the art of mindfulness is noticing that you’re having a thought and then finding your hands again.

Feeling the aliveness.  Listening to the body.

And then open your eyes,  Coming back. What did you notice? Do you notice, lots of thoughts? Very few thoughts? Notice judgments? Were you aware of that process?  Anybody?

Lots of thoughts, right? I couldn’t settle my mind.

You won’t settle your mind. That’s not the purpose of it. The purpose of your mind is just noticing oh look, lots of thoughts.

Find your hands again. Oh, lots of thoughts, find your hands again. Yeah.

A common mistake that people make, is thinking that, with meditation, my mind should get quieter. In reality, it depends on the day, the hour, the stress in your life.

I discovered it over my years of meditating was that my morning meditation would have less thoughts than my afternoon meditation. Then my afternoon meditation was just chaotic. Lots of thoughts about the day, about the evening. And it was just the practice of noticing thoughts. And letting them go.

Noticing thoughts. Returning to my mantra, My breath, to my hands. Whatever your focus point, your technique, is.

And be aware, sometimes you’ll beat up on yourself. Oh, I’m doing this wrong. Probably over the course of 40 years I’ve had 15 or 20 times when I thought Aha, I’ve got it Now!  all this time I’ve been doing it wrong and now “this is it.”

It’s just another thought comes up and when you notice the thought you go back to your focal point. That’s really the technique. I have a thought, go back to my focal point. I have a thought, go back to my focal point.

And that is Mindfulness. More to follow….

Exploring Trauma and PTSD

Looking back at the Bucket

Notice, in the picture of the bucket, that the 2 valve isn’t at the bottom of the bucket.  There is an area at the bottom that never gets drained by the 2 valve.  And the heavier stressors settle down there and sit.  Note too, in our bucket picture, that there is a dot at the bottom.  This is a drain plug to get rid of the old, accumulated stressors and traumas that normal coping skills don’t touch.  Metaphorically, the drain plug symbolizes Trauma therapy, clearing out the old, unresolved traumas.

  The Psychobiology of Trauma

In this next section I want to explore trauma and how the psychological community thinks about trauma and its impact.  This piece may get a little technical, or dry, so feel free to skip ahead to the next section.  (You won’t hurt my feelings.)

How to define trauma?

If we go to the dictionary we find “A disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from mental or emotional stress or physical injury.” 
          (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary) 

That seems vague to me.  How about:

“Trauma occurs when an actual or perceived threat of danger or loss overwhelms a person’s usual coping ability.”  
     (From Beverly James, 1994) 

This approaches my understanding.  Overwhelm.  That, to me, best summarizes the concept of trauma.  

Overwhelm, or traumatic experiences, can vary greatly in terms of their intensity, duration, frequency, meaning and other factors.  But even for a particular stressor, there is no clear and simple cause-and-effect relationship between a traumatic experience and subsequent psychological symptoms.  Two people can have the same traumatic experience yet show very different responses. The measure of trauma isn’t really about the degree of overwhelm, rather it is how one is able to return to a stable state afterwards.

For example, there was an article in the newspaper some years ago, where two sisters, twins, had been kidnapped and held hostage for over a week.  The story was reporting how the sisters, now some years older, are dealing with that traumatic experience.  One had taken her experience as a lesson that she needed to live each moment as though it were her last.  She was happily married, and felt successful and complete.

Her sister, on the other hand, had been in and out of mental health facilities and was diagnosed with severe PTSD.  

Traumatic experiences become problematic when an overwhelming experience to the emotional and or psychological nervous system cannot be processed nor does the person have the resilience to integrate the experience.

The key factor in this definition is the word resilience.  Each individual has a threshold for experiences, a level which, when crossed, causes the experience of being overwhelmed.  There is no way to determine this level ahead of time, nor even predict it with much accuracy.  It is the individual who must determine if the experience was “traumatic” or not.  

Some people can experience what we might consider an insignificant event and find it traumatic.  Like beauty, trauma is in the eye of the beholder.

There is debate in the psychological community about trauma.  This is because trauma has degrees of complexity.  There are several diagnostic categories, including Acute, Severe, PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) and, more recently Complex trauma. ***According to the National Center for PTSD, complex PTSD was not included as a separate diagnosis in the DSM-5 because 92% of those with C-PTSD also met the criteria for PTSD.  A review of the literature by Resick in 2012 found insufficient evidence to support complex PTSD as a distinct diagnosis from PTSD as defined in the DSM-5.  This is in spite of a significant body of research literature supporting complex PTSD as a separate diagnosis.  For example, a study by Powers et al. of African women found “clear, clinically-relevant differences” between the two conditions.  C-PTSD was associated with lower likelihood of having secure attachment, greater comorbidity with other mental illnesses, increased emotional dysregulation and dissociation.  *** National Center for PTSD. (2014). Literature on DSM-5 and ICD-11PTSD Research Quarterly, 25(2).

In the DSM IV,  Posttraumatic Stress Disorder – is described as            “Exposure to stressors; experienced, saw or learned of event(s) that involved actual or threatened death, serious injury or violation of the body of self or others

Person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror (in children, the response may involved disorganized or agitated behavior).

The essential feature of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is the development of characteristic symptoms following exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor.

That stressor may involve a direct personal experience of:

  • actual or threatened death
  • serious injury
  • other threat to one’s physical integrity
  • witnessing an event that involves death, injury or a threat to another person
  • learning about unexpected or violent death, serious harm, or threat of death
  • injury experienced by a family member or other close associate.  

The symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder can be summarized as:

  • having the event re-experienced  
  • Avoidance of similar situations
  • Hyper arousal, or watchfulness
  • Must have a duration of more than one month
  • And the experience leaves life disrupted

Many individuals who experience traumatic events develop a distinct set of physical signs and symptoms. These symptoms tend to fall into three clusters; 

1) persistent re-experiencing of the event, i.e. recurring intrusive recollection of the traumatic event such as dreams and ‘flashbacks’ 

2) persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma or numbing of general responsiveness and 

3) persistent symptoms of increased arousal characterized by hypervigilence, increased startle response, sleep difficulties, irritability, anxiety and physiological hyper-activity. These symptoms are exacerbated by exposure to stimuli associated with the original event. 

In addition these symptoms:

  1. must be present for more than one month and 
  2. must cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

(Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition)

PTSD in the DSM-5. The definition of trauma exposure has changed: it no longer requires someone to respond with fear, helplessness or horror to the event. The exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violation will be central to the definition, with media exposure being explicitly excluded unless it is work-related.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is when, 6 months after the event, we are continuing to have symptoms of distress.  For example:

Emotional symptoms

  • Shock, denial, or disbelief 
  • Confusion, difficulty concentrating
  • Anger, irritability, mood swings
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Guilt, shame, self-blame
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Feeling sad or hopeless
  • Feeling disconnected or numb

Physical symptoms:

  • Insomnia or nightmares
  • Fatigue
  • Being startled easily
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Edginess and agitation
  • Aches and pains
  • Muscle tension

Trauma Theories

From Pavlov – the traumatic event acts as a conditioned response, which means that victims will respond automatically to events or things associated with the trauma, even if they are non-threatening in nature

In 1889, Pierre Janet postulated that intense emotional reactions make events traumatic by interfering with the integration of the experience into existing memory schemes. Intense emotions, Janet thought, cause memories of particular events to be dissociated from consciousness, and to be stored, instead, as visceral sensations (anxiety and panic), or as visual images (nightmares and flashbacks). Janet also observed that traumatized patients seemed to react to reminders of the trauma with emergency responses that had been relevant to the original threat, but that had no bearing on current experience. He noted that victims had trouble learning from experience: unable to put the trauma behind them, their energies were absorbed by keeping their emotions under control at the expense of paying attention to current exigencies. They became fixated upon the past, in some cases by being obsessed with the trauma, but more often by behaving and feeling like they were traumatized over and over again without being able to locate the origins of these feelings.)

What Makes Us More Vulnerable to PTSD-(Schiraldi)

  • The event is sudden & unpredictable
    • The event lasts a long time 
    • It recurs or is thought likely to recur
    • Can contain real or threatened violence
    • Can involve multiple forms
    • May occur in early years before the personality is fully integrated

Pre-Trauma Vulnerabilities –

  • Underdeveloped life skills – protective, problem-solving, self-esteem, resilience, creativity, humor, discipline, ability to express emotion, ability to tolerate stress.  PTSD can stimulate us to develop these symptoms:
  • Lack of a support system – the feeling of isolation, that one is alone and that no one understands.
  • Personality and habitually negative thought patterns – this often includes a belief that the person somehow deserved the trauma or feelings of unworthiness of being happy.
  • Biology. Some people appear to have overreactive nervous systems. Heredity and a history of drug abuse appear to influence this factor.  Also there is research that trauma is often causal in substance abuse in the future.
  • History of Prior Trauma

Responding to a Real or Perceived Threat or a Trigger

When a living being is triggered by a real or perceived threat the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis (HPA) is activated.  This involves the Sympathetic Nervous System and we see symptoms of:

  • Fight, Flight or Freeze
  • Heart rate
  • Sweat response
  • Energy increase

Our Body’s Chemical Response

The human system is a wonderful chemical machine.  We have a variety of substances that manage our life experience.  Sometimes, however, these same systems can be problematic. 

Catecholamines: Epinephrine and norepinephrine are part of our fight or flight response.  There is research showing that trauma survivors often continue to have these chemicals operating long after the traumatic event has concluded and create a state of “hyperstress”.

Another part of our chemical response to trauma are Corticosteriods: Glucocorticoids and cortisol are involved in:

  • Regulation of the catecholamines
  • Increase of energy
  • Increase of immune functioning

A third chemical response are Endogenous Opiods.  They serve a wonderful purpose in a traumatic experience by preventing experiencing the pain so we can act.  We have heard stories of mother’s having lifted tremendous weights to help their children, things that seem like superpowers.  On the downside, these chemicals can prevent memory consolidation, making recollection difficult or impossible.

With “normal” amounts of stress, these chemicals facilitate a process that allows people to function with greater endurance, strength, immunity, and clarity. In extreme amounts of stress, however (rape, domestic violence, and other forms of victimization), these chemicals may often be released in amounts that are damaging to the brain and inhibit memory functions.

Inverted “U” Response

At optimum levels, the biochemical changes allow us to function at a higher capacity during stressful events. However, if the stress continues too long or is too overwhelming, functioning becomes impaired rather than enhanced.

Stress chemicals during the trauma and subsequent triggered periods often result in biochemical changes during and after the traumatic event and a change in memory functions during and after the event

Serotonin. While the role of serotonin in PTSD has not been systematically investigated, both the fact that inescapably shocked animals develop decreased CNS serotonin levels, and that serotonin re-uptake blockers are effective pharmacological agents in the treatment of PTSD, justify a brief consideration of the potential role of this neurotransmitter in PTSD. Decreased serotonin in humans has repeatedly been correlated with impulsively and aggression. Low serotonin in animals is also related to an inability to modulate arousal, as exemplified by an exaggerated startle and increased arousal in response to novel stimuli and the handling of pain. 

The behavioral effects of serotonin depletion on animals is characterized by hyperirritability, hyperexitability, and hypersensitivity, and an exaggerated emotional arousal and/or aggressive display, to relatively mild stimuli . These behaviors bear a striking resemblance to the phenomenology of PTSD in humans. Furthermore, serotonin re-uptake inhibitors have been found to be the most effective pharmacological treatment of both obsessive thinking in people with OCD, and of involuntary preoccupation with traumatic memories in people with PTSD. It is likely that serotonin plays a role in the capacity to monitor the environment flexibly and to respond with behaviors that are situation-appropriate, rather than reacting to internal stimuli that are irrelevant to current demands. 

So, what do these chemical components create in the way of biochemical changes during and after the traumatic event?

  • Catecholamines – levels are chronically increased resulting in constant hyperstress and inability to distinguish danger signals
  • Corticosteriods- Chronically low levels – results in reduced immune functioning, impaired regulation of the catecholamines, and damage to brain passages in the brain responsible for memory
  • Biochemical changes during and after the traumatic event
  • Catecholamines – levels are chronically increased resulting in constant hyperstress and inability to distinguish danger signals
  • Corticosteriods- Chronically low levels – results in reduced immune functioning, impaired regulation of the catecholamines, and damage to brain passages in the brain responsible for memory
  • Biochemical changes during and after the traumatic event 2
  • Damage of the neuroreceptors that control the stress response  
  • Increase of receptors for cortisol, with the result that it is easier to be triggered
  • Viscous cycle – less able to switch off the stress, which produces more of the stress hormones that damage the neuroreceptors that control the stress response….
  • Biochemical changes during and after the traumatic event 3
  • Increased endogenous opioid levels during traumatic memory triggers
  • Acoustic startle response (when you jump at loud, unexpected noises)
  • Vasopressin – stress headaches?
  • Oxytocin – Damage to traumatic memory recall.  Bonding to a perpetrator
  • Reduction of the hippocampus

Catecholamines. Neuroendocrine studies of Vietnam veterans with PTSD have found good evidence for chronically increased sympathetic nervous system activity in PTSD. One study  found elevated 24h excretions of urinary NE and epinephrine in PTSD combat veterans compared with patients with other psychiatric diagnoses. 

Corticosteroids. Two studies have shown that veterans with PTSD have low urinary cortisol excretion, even when they have comorbid major depressive disorder. In a series of studies, Yehuda et al  found increased numbers of lymphocyte glucocorticoid receptors in Vietnam veterans with PTSD. Interestingly, the number of glucocorticoid receptors was proportional to the severity of PTSD symptoms. Yehuda  also has reported the results of an unpublished study by Heidi Resnick, in which acute cortisol response to trauma was studied from blood samples from 20 acute rape victims. Three months later, a prior trauma history was taken, and the subjects were evaluated for the presence of PTSD. Victims with a prior history of sexual abuse were significantly more likely to have developed PTSD three months following the rape than rape victims who did not develop PTSD. Cortisol levels shortly after the rape were correlated with histories of prior assaults. These findings can be interpreted to mean either that prior exposure to traumatic events result in a blunted cortisol response to subsequent trauma, or in a quicker return of cortisol to baseline following stress. The fact that Yehuda also found subjects with PTSD to be hyperresponsive to low doses of dexamethasone argues for an enhanced sensitivity of the HPA feedback in traumatized patients.

Trauma and Memory – how the Amygdala & Hippocampus are impacted by trauma.

            The Amygdala, an almond sized organ in the brain, is responsible for Implicit Memory, that is, memory not available to conscious awareness, including storage of senses and emotions.

            The Hippocampus, located next to the Amygdala, is responsible for Explicit Memory, or conscious memory, such as remembering facts, recording events, logical thinking, reasoning capabilities.

Research on trauma’s impact on memory shows a clear loss of volume of the hippocampus.  Autopsies of PTSD victims have shown the hippocampus shriveled “like a raisin.” The lack of memory consolidation between the amygdala and hippocampus results in a sensory memory with no anchor in time or fact, indicative of the client’s report that “the trauma didn’t happen in the past; it’s happening now!”

“the trauma didn’t happen in the past; it’s happening now!”

This often accompanied by a consistent “acoustic startle response” where sounds trigger a strong reactive emotional response, similar to the initial trauma.

These auditory cues which trigger the original trauma result in a partial or complete shut down of the hippocampus and activation of the amygdala; i.e. flight or fight.

Traumatic memory can be come locked in an emotional/sensory state, so that this activated emotional state becomes the norm.  The traumatic state can become a “new normal.”

Research indicates that there can be some gender differences in the trauma response.  Most findings of gender differences in PTSD found that females are reported to be diagnosed with PTSD after a trauma twice as often as males and developed stronger symptoms than males.  The lifetime prevalence of PTSD in females is reported as higher (10.4%) than in males (5.0%).  These findings also show that women experience a longer duration of symptoms (4 years for females compared to 1 year for males) and display more re-experiencing  avoidance and hyperarousal.[2]

Research has shown that, under ordinary conditions, many traumatized people, including rape victims, battered women and abused children have a fairly good psychosocial adjustment. However, they do not respond to stress the way other people do. Under pressure, they may feel, or act as if they were traumatized all over again. 

Thus, high states of arousal seem to selectively promote retrieval of traumatic memories, sensory information, or behaviors associated with prior traumatic experiences. The tendency of traumatized organisms to revert to irrelevant emergency behaviors in response to minor stress has been well documented in animals, as well. Studies at the Wisconsin primate laboratory have shown that rhesus monkeys with histories of severe early maternal deprivation display marked withdrawal or aggression in response to emotional or physical stimuli (such as exposure to loud noises, or the administration of amphetamines), even after a long period of good social adjustment. In experiments with mice, they found that the relative degree of arousal interacts with prior exposure to high stress to determine how an animal will react to novel stimuli. In a state of low arousal, animals tend to be curious and seek novelty. During high arousal, they are frightened, avoid novelty, and perseverate in familiar behavior, regardless of the outcome. 

Under ordinary circumstances, an animal will choose the most pleasant of two alternatives. When hyperaroused, it will seek whatever is familiar, regardless of the intrinsic rewards. Thus, animals who have been locked in a box in which they were exposed to electric shocks and then released return to those boxes when they are subsequently stressed. This also might explain domestic violence victims who return to their abusers.  Perhaps the known problem is easier, safer or less frightening than the unknown.

            PTSD is contagious – children catch it from their caregivers

Some thoughts for professionals dealing with trauma survivors.  Initial memories can be fragmented, disjointed and confusing.  Your client may offer “excited utterances” versus telling the story in a linear fashion.  As helpers we can just listen and provide support.  In addition, we can normalize the experience by educating about normal responses to abnormal events.  It can be helpful to keep track of the client’s story by writing down events and reminding them of the chronological order, as time memory is often distorted.

Trauma First Aid

  • Moderate to heavy exercise within 48 hours of the trauma
    • Drink lots of water
    • Verbalize what happened only in a safe setting
    • Journal writing

The big message is that “It is possible to extinguish trauma!” 

I believe that effective treatment would:

  • help a person form a declarative memory of a traumatic event
  • bleed-off the sensory/emotive aspects
  • enable a person to remember the event without being physiologically triggered.

Charles Figley writes that a trauma victim becomes a survivor when they can:

  • Tell the story 
  • Recall the timeline
  • Revisit the location
  • Talk about their reactions and
  • Talk about what they might do differently 

All without being emotionally retriggered.

Main references:

Bessel van der Kolk, Bruce Perry, Glenn R. Schiraldi, S. Wang, Emily Spence-Diehl, Traumatic Stress: The Effects of Overwhelming Experience on Mind, Body, and Society and The Psychobiology of Trauma, The PTSD Sourcebook

Descilio, Teresa, MSW, CTS (Executive Director, Victim Services Center), Understanding Victim Behavior.  A presentation for TIRA, International

Recent research estimates PTSD affects roughly eight million people each year[3] in the United States. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual [DSM V[4], the current criteria for PTSD include the following:

  • Exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violence.
  • Symptoms following the event such as intrusive memories, recurring dreams, flashbacks or other bodily reactions to cues related to the event.
  • Avoidance of things associated with the event (for example: similar or actual location, people or related feelings or thoughts).
  • A generally negative change in thoughts or mood following the event(s).
  • hanges in level of reactivity or heightened arousal beginning or worsening after the event(s) (for example: being startled very easily, feeling “on edge,” or having difficulty sleeping).

For those who do not meet these criteria, they may be experiencing post-traumatic stress that does not meet the clinical definition of PTSD. In both instances, therapeutic support can be life-changing. Like someone with diagnosable PTSD, a person who has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event may work with a licensed mental health provider to moderate the impact of the event, cope better, and return to a higher level of functioning.

[2] Gender Differences in PTSD: Susceptibility and Resilience
By Jingchu Hu, Biao Feng, Yonghui Zhu, Wenqing Wang, Jiawei Xie and Xifu Zheng
Submitted: May 5th 2016Reviewed: August 19th 2016Published: February 1st 2017


[4]) The diagnostic classification is the official list of mental disorders recognized in DSM. Each diagnosis includes a diagnostic code, which is typically used by individual providers, institutions, and agencies for data collection and billing purposes. These diagnostic codes are derived from the coding system used by all U.S. health-care professionals, known as the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Edition, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM).

Embowering the Unconscious

Release and


(Loosely based on BSFF by Larry Nims}[1] what’s up babe

You have two minds: A conscious mind that is listening, judging and evaluating, 
and an Unconscious Mind that is collecting data, sensing feelings, processing behind the scenes, and remembering. 

The Unconscious Mind is ever alert, running most of the processes of the body.  The UC manages breathing, the digestion, elimination, memory, and the healing of the body. You don’t consciously look at your dinner and think “* ounces of protein.  That will need a quarter cup of hydrochloric acid and enzymes called proteases.  Oh, and the vegetables will need ….  I think you get my point.  We just eat and trust our unconscious processes to manage the digestion.  The same is true of healing.  We don’t get a cut and then tell the body to send white blood cells to the wound, tell the skin to form a scab and tell the capillaries to reconnect.  We put a band-aid on and then go on with our day.  We know that the body knows how to heal.  We trust the Unconscious Mind.

If you pin down your Dr., he or she will admit that medicine does not heal. The body itself, with the Unconscious Mind (the parasympathetic and sympathetic systems), does the actual healing below the surface.   Drs. facilitate this process by cleaning, stitching, suturing, and reducing risks.  Then the health care provider will tell you to “get plenty of rest.” The reason? Because the healing is best done while the body and mind are at rest.   

Release and Heal is a tool to turn the problem you don’t know how to solve over to that part of you that knows what to do; Your Unconscious Mind.

It is a simple, almost silly, 3 step process.  I show my students this tool, using my hands to demonstrate, even though I don’t use my hands it the actual practice.  I suggest that they imagine the problem in their left hand; I hold out my hand and ask them to name the problem saying “Regarding this (problem)….  

Step One – Name the problem. 

This is the easy part.  That thought you don’t want to think? That’s it.  Any thought, feeling or issue that you don’t know how to handle, that’s what we work with.  Give it a name:

“This fear of bees; This anger at my boss; this obsession with zombies; Regarding this anxiety about the interview…” whatever.

Step Two – Flip the Switch.

A light switch is a mechanical tool.  You don’t need to understand electricity, to know that there are wires in the wall, or how electrons flow to use the switch.  You flip the switch up and the lights come on.  No belief or knowledge is necessary to use the switch.  In the same way that you don’t understand digestion.  You just activate the unconscious processes by “flipping the switch.”
What is the switch?  Use a word or phrase to signal that you want the Unconscious Mind to take this problem and go to work.  You can use any word or phrase as your trigger or switch. I use the phrase “Release and Heal” as my switch phrase. Clients of mine have used all sorts of silly phrases, such as “Happy Cat”, “Great Caesar’s Ghost” or “Nodding Sunflowers.”  One young man used “Cheese and Crackers” because that was how his grandmother swore when she was upset.  I recommend something silly, that you would never use in normal conversations.  Why?  It is harkening back to the old teaching tale of The Boy Who Cried Wolf.  If you use a common word or phrase the Unconscious Mind won’t know if you are asking it to go to work or not.  Come up with something unique to you.  It’s best to have something that you will only use for this purpose.

Remember, your Unconscious Mind has no limits in time and space.  It can go where ever and whenever you need to go to find the root cause, the source of this problem, release its influence on you and heal that area so that it never returns.

Step one – Name the problem 
Step two – Flip the Switch.  
Step three – Surrender


Let’s talk, for a moment, about the Unconscious Mind.  The very title, Unconscious, means below the conscious, thinking level.  When you are struggling to remember the title of a movie or the main actor, and can’t remember it what do?  (Or, what did you do before Google?)

Probably, you gave up.  You quit trying because it was only giving you a headache.  And sometime later, maybe the next day, the answer “popped” into your mind.  “Oh, yeah.  It was ….”

What is this process?  I’m suggesting that you turned the problem over to the Unconscious Mind and left it alone to do its job.  And while you were doing other things, maybe even sleeping, the Unconscious Mind continued to search through its database, looking for the answer to your dilemma.  Suddenly (at least to the Conscious Mind) the answer pops up.  The process?  Give up trying.  Turn it over to the Unconscious. 

Now, before actually having them try it for themselves; I do one last thing.  I suggest that they close their eyes, if they want, and listen as I talk.

Instructions to the Unconscious Mind

First I want to thank our Unconscious Mind for always being there, behind the scenes, taking care of things; managing our digestion, on elimination, healing our bodies, and keeping us healthy.  And now I want to suggest, to you, our Unconscious Mind, that when we have a problem and use of Switch phrase, to have you, our Unconscious Mind, take over the problem and find the solution, we are giving you complete permission to find the root cause of the problem, eliminate it and heal us so that it doesn’t return.

These instructions are for you, our subconscious mind. Whenever we consciously notice any problem that we intend for you to eliminate, we will simply think or speak our chosen Switch Phrase, and you will do the entire Release and Heal treatment for us for that problem. 

We ask that you will treat all mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual aspects of every related problem and all dissociated/fragmented parts of my personality involved in any way in all of these problems. 

We request that you eliminate all of these problems at all levels and in every part of our being that may in any way directly or indirectly contribute to, feed into, help cause, or in any way maintain or support each specific problem that we have noticed and intend for you to treat. In every treatment, you will treat/clear all these things completely, permanently and safely.

This means that you, our subconscious mind, will eliminate all and every level of all limiting emotional roots and beliefs involved in each problem that we choose and intend for you to treat, past and present.

We ask you to thoroughly resolve any and all effects so that they no longer cause us any sort of mental, emotional, physical or spiritual discomfort or imbalance. The stress factors that you will eliminate include all seven of the following negative effects on us and any other debilitating or interruptive stress effects of the treated problem:  Any and any Disturbances, Upset, Trauma, Shock, Distress, Bother or Stressors to our system.

You can and will do all this for us whether or not we consciously know what the problem is, and even when we cannot identify, describe, or label the problem with words.  We need only consciously notice the problem, use our  Switch Phrase that we have chosen, and you will treat and eliminate, at every level of our mind and being, the specific problem and all related contributing parts to that problem completely, safely, and permanently. 

You will do all of this for us no matter what combinations or levels of being were involved/included at the time each of these related problems was being established or re-experienced. You will completely and permanently eliminate each and every problem that we treat along with all subconscious programming we may have that will now or ever cause any form of vulnerability in  us that might lead  us to keep the problem, take it back, allow it to come back, permit it to return, or passively accept or receive it back in any way, shape, or form. 

You will simultaneously also eliminate each and every other problem that makes us vulnerable to any treated problem returning in any way or at any time in the future. 

We are saying to you, our Unconscious Mind, that you have permission to go where ever or whenever you need to go to find the root cause.  We ask you to find the root cause, anywhere in time or space, and break the connection to us; and heal us and so that the problem never returns.  If the cause of our problem is in the muscles, the tendons, the nerves, to go there and heal this problem.  If the root cause is in an organ, in the muscles, tissue or nerves, to go there and heal this issue.  If the problem is in our DNA, in our molecules, go there.  We are giving you permission to go where ever you need to go to find the root cause, release the cause and heal us so that it never returns.  
Unconscious mind, if the problem is not in the body but in our environment we are giving you permission to go to the source, the root cause and break its connection to us. If the problem is anywhere outside our bodies; 

If this problem is related to some past event or trauma, we are telling you that you can go anywhere in time to find the root cause and eliminated any connection to us, past or present, and to heal any part of us damaged or influenced by the past.  We are giving you, our Unconscious Mind, Carte Blanc, to release and heal us completely from this issue we have identified.
And we want to thank you, Unconscious mind, for being our willing servant for all these years and for your service now and in the future.  Thank you Unconscious Mind.

Demonstrating Release and Heal

One of my favorite ways to demonstrate this is to ask the students to do what I do and repeat after me:

I hold out my left hand and I suggest that they imagine the problem in their left hand; I hold out my hand and ask them to repeat  
“Even though I am completely skeptical about this thing Jim is teaching; and I completely doubt this crap 
Then I hold out my right hand and “Flip the Switch”  “Release and Heal”  Finally, I wring my hands together, as if washing them and say “Fuggit about it!”(You have to use an Italian accent).

Then I quickly begin talking about some object in the room, telling them some factoid about that object.  Then I ask “why am I talking about this (book, pencil holder, picture, whatever)?  They usually are at a loss.  “I am just distracting you from your problem, and having you “Fuggit  about it.”

That’s the technique.  Name it; activate the Unconscious Mind, and then think about something else.  

Play with this.  And, as with your shampoo, rinse and repeat.

[1]BSFF – Be Set Free Fast 
By Larry P. Nims, Ph.D. and Joan Sotkin 
Copyright © 2003 by Larry Nims and Joan Sotkin 
Published by Sotkin Enterprises, Inc. 
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
Larry Nims’s Web site: 

Thought Stopping

Have you ever had a persistent thought you couldn’t stop thinking?  Of course you have; we all have.  It might have been a music tune that keeps running through your head.  Or it might have been a stressful thought like “Did I leave the iron on when I left home?”  Why do we have these thoughts that we can’t seem to get rid of?

It turns out that the brain doesn’t have an eraser.  That is, you can’t “unthink” a thought.  Try it, now.  whatever you think, don’t think of a slice of your favorite pizza.  What? You thought of it?  Your favorite?  You may have even seen it, smelled it and/or tasted it.  Now stop thinking of it.  

The easiest way to stop thinking about something is to move your attention to something else.  You replace the unwanted thought with another, more desirable thought.  This, too, is mindfulness.  

Do you really have control over your thoughts?  I don’t believe we do.  Most of my thoughts come to my conscious mind unwittingly.  I don’t want to think about a lecture next week, I’ve prepared for it as much as I can.  Now I’m only worrying.  

If we don’t control the thoughts we think then where do they come from?  I theorize that 90% of our thoughts come from our environment.  Suddenly we are humming a song, unaware that there was music playing in the elevator or in the store we just left.  Or someone passes by that is familiar and now we are thinking about a co-worker or cousin that we haven’t thought of for years.  I’m suggesting that most of the thoughts in our minds are not ours.  We didn’t choose them and they are not serving us.  

So, how do we clear our minds of these unwanted thoughts? Here are several tools I use frequently to stop the runaway train of thoughts.

Let’s explore some ways to stop thoughts.  I’m recommending only three of these, the first of which I will share with you but I encourage you to immediately ignore it.  You’ll understand why when we get to it.         

This first technique is one that you have heard about from family, friends, maybe teachers, and, unfortunately, from some therapists.  The best way to learn this is to watch a video demonstrating it.

So that technique’s not very effective.

Next, I’d like to introduce you to The Work of Byron Katie

In October of 2010 I spent a week at LAX, in a hotel, with 350 other seekers, to learn how to stop negative thoughts.  We were attending the School for the Work, taught by Byron Katie.  

Katie’s back story is that of a married woman, with two children, who went through a serious depression; a depression that lasted 8 years, the last two of which she spent in bed, sleeping with a gun under her pillow. 

Put into a residential program, Katie had an epiphany.  Waking one morning without thoughts, only an awareness of her 5 senses, Katie realized she was at peace, happy even, and realized that what was that, at the source of her pain and depression was her thoughts about herself and her life.  She spent the next week walking in the desert, and each time she noticed her mood dropping, she would seek out the thoughts and question them.  “Is this true?”

What Katie found was that thoughts aren’t true, they are just thoughts.  She developed a simple procedure, called 4 Questions, to guide people through this process she calls The Work.[2]  

I went to the School for the Work with the idea that I would be learning how to help others learn this process; but it was 10 days of working on my stuff, my own negative thoughts.  And work I did.  Every day, throughout the day, we challenged our thoughts.  Thoughts about Love, God, beauty, truth, needs, our bodies, food, homelessness, etc.  If we had a thought, we looked at it and questioned its veracity.  Wow!  Eye-opening, to say the least.  

In the School, we learned we learned a little ditty to anchor the technique.  “
“Find a problem, write it down, ask 3 questions, turn it around.”

The Work of Byron Katie

Find a heavy belief; i.e. causing you upset or pain.  Question this belief using the 4 Questions and the Turnaround.

1.  Is it True?      (Answer only Yes or No)

2.  Can you absolutely know that it is true?  (Again Yes or No)

3.  When you believe this thought, what happens?  How do you react?

This is the moment of inquiry.  Take time to inventory how believing this thought impacts your life. Does this thought bring peace or stress into your life?   What physical sensations and emotions arise when you believe those thoughts?  Allow yourself to experience them now.  What images do you see, of past and future, when you believe these thoughts?   What obsessions or addictions begin to manifest themselves when you are witnessing the images and believing the thought?” (Do you act out on any of the following: alcohol, drugs, credit cards, food, sex, television, etc.?  How do you treat that person, yourself, and others in this situation when you believe the thought?

4.  Who would you be without this thought?  Close your eyes and observe, contemplate, Who or what are you without that thought?  
Now imagine life if you didn’t believe this troubling thought?  Would you still be stressed?  Would you be happier?  

The Turnaround

Take the Belief and turn the thought around by imagining it’s opposite and see if the opposite belief is as true or truer than the original thought.  

Take, for example, the thought:  He hurt my feelings.
Using the Turnarounds:  With each of these find three specific, genuine examples of how each turnaround is true for you in this situation.

To the Self:  I hurt me

  • I hurt my pride when I didn’t stand up for myself
  • I hurt my sense of self-worth when I didn’t ask for help
  • I hurt myself by thinking that his anger was my fault and I deserved it

To the Other:  I hurt him.

  • I hurt him by allowing him to think it was okay to yell at me
  • I hurt him by refusing to talk about what happened
  • I hurt him by eliminating any contact from him

To the Opposite:  a)  he didn’t hurt me or b) He helped me.

  • He helped me begin to stand up for myself
  • He helped me understand that other people’s emotions are not my fault
  • He didn’t hurt me but the thought pointed out how sensitive I was to the thoughts of others

Katie is insistent that you must do the work on paper, as without it you may easily get distracted or off-topic.  Her website[3]has two handouts specifically for doing this process.  You can also get free facilitation doing the work on her site.  There is also now an App for the work.  Fair warning though; to be facilitated you must have completed the first worksheet Judging Your Neighbor.  This worksheet helps you come up with judgmental thoughts to do the Work on. 

You can find the worksheets on the link to the below.  You will also find videos of Katie helping people with the 4 Questions.

[2] Read Katie’s story in her first book “Loving What Is”


Feelings vs. Thoughts

The 15 Second Feeling

In his book “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior,” Dan Millman describes going to the scene of a fire, where a close friend of his mentor Socrates owns a restaurant.  The friend walks up to discover his restaurant, his dream, and his life, burning up in front of him.  He drops to his knees with a wail and pounds his fists on the ground.  Then he arises, turns to his friends and begins talking about his next restaurant.  

When Elizabeth Kubler-Ross came to Portland we had a variety of wonderfull conversations. The one that stuck with me the most was her insistence that emotions last about 15 seconds. 15-second emotions.  Imagine having your emotional feelings lasting only 15 seconds.  It probably seems impossible, or unnatural.  Certainly, it is out of the realm of experience for most of us.  Yet I want to propose that it is normal.  Emotions should only last for about 15 seconds.

First let’s define two words:  common and normal.  Common means prevalent, in plentiful supply.  Normal, however, means in accord with nature or free from restriction, dis-ease or abnormality.  Having emotions last only 15 seconds is not a common experience, by any stretch of the imagination.  But it is, I believe, the normal experience of the human nervous system.  In fact, of any living being’s nervous system.

How can that be?  From a biological perspective, it can be more easily understood.  The nerves in your body transmit signals through pathways.  As each nerve gets the signal it contracts, temporarily disconnecting from the incoming channel and sends that signal out to the next nerve in the chain.  It takes time for that nerve to relax and reconnect with the chain of other nerves.

Perhaps an image will help.  Hold up your right hand and then put the first finger of your left hand on the palm of the right.  Imagine a chain of hands, connected by one finger touching the palm of the next hand.

Now, imagine someone poking the middle finger of your right hand.  As the fingers curl into a fist, the pain sensation travels to the palm and out the finger of the left hand.  The left-hand clenches as the pain signal travels to the palm and out to another finger.  At each step, the fingers of this chain of hands clenches as the signal enters the fingers and passes on to the next.

This is a simplistic image of nerve action.  Each nerve contracts as a signal enters the dendrite (finger) and that signal or feeling is sent through the cell body (palm), down the axon and to the dendrite of the next nerve.  The nerves, like our imagined hands, clench and unclench each time a signal passes. P.S. the Synapse is the gap between the axon and the next dendrite nerve.

Now, if the nerve unclenches and there is no new signal, the nerve relaxes.  If the pain signal is still there it re-clenches, sending another signal down the chain of nerves.

Image result for axon dendrite connection

In the same way, we have an emotion, whether of anger or fear or joy, etc.  That feeling lasts as long as it takes to travel through the nervous system to the brain and as long as it takes for the chemicals (adrenalin, corticosteroids, etc.) to be recognized by the mind/body.  I suggest about 15 seconds. Our minds process this emotion and make associations.  If there are past associations or traumas, the mind shifts to these older memories/feelings and the chain is retriggered.

This may seem a bit complicated or abstract, but as we explore our experiences you may see how this works in every-day life.  You are having a discussion with a friend or spouse and get angry.  This anger, and all feelings, are completely normal. However, if you continue to be angry you will probably notice thoughts along the line of “He always does this…” or “She’s just like my mother….”  What the mind does with emotions is to find similar patterns or feelings and makes associations.

This habit of making associations is important.  It is why we learn and understand our world.  We make these connections, look for similarities and patterns from past understandings to make sense of new information.

With emotions, however, what happens is that we tap into previous, unresolved emotions, and stack them on top of the current emotion.  Many people report that their argument escalated to an old issue and that they didn’t even remember what the original conversation was about.

I want to suggest that the healthy, “normal” nervous system doesn’t have unresolved emotions or traumas lying in wait to be triggered.  We can, if we truly seek emotional honesty and clarity, release these reservoirs of unprocessed feelings. We can get clear of the old emotions and then, free of the past, respond cleanly to life as it presents itself.

Imagine a wooden kitchen match.  Strike its tip and it bursts into flame.  That flame will burn out in a few seconds.   If you want to have it burn longer you tip your hand so that the wood begins to burn.  You can get another match, or some paper or wood and keep the fire going.  

Image result for kitchen match

What is happening?  To get the fire to burn longer you must add fuel, in this case, the match stem.  The fire will continue to burn as long as you add more fuel.In our emotional lives something “lights our fire.”  After some seconds that emotion will fade unless we have more fuel to add to that feeling.  The fuel?  Thoughts, often thoughts of similar, unprocessed emotions from past traumatic events.

In my next missive I hope to address the challenge of stopping persistent and unwanted thoughts.


Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)

It began in 1980, with a psychologist by the name of Roger Callahan, and a patient with an extreme phobia of water. Mary’s fear of water controlled her life and kept her from daily activities. She was unable to take her children to the beach and was unable to drive near the ocean; she grew fearful when it rained, and could not even withstand the sight of water on TV. She had vivid nightmares involving water.

Dr. Callahan and Mary had been working on this problem together for over a year. Finally, Mary worked up the courage to sit within sight of the pool at Dr. Callahan’s house. Even doing this caused Mary extreme distress, and though she found ways to cope with the intense fear and emotional pain, she did not overcome her phobia. They discussed her problem, and how to overcome it, but without success.

Her fear of being near the water caused Mary’s stomach pains – a common “gut reaction.” Dr. Callahan had recently been studying traditional Chinese medicines and learning about meridians. Suddenly he had an inspiration. Remembering that there was an acupuncture point for the stomach meridian on the cheekbone, he asked her to tap there, thinking it might cure her stomach pains.

Mary tapped her cheekbone as directed, and to her amazement, as well as to Dr. Callahan’s, her stomach pains disappeared. But even more amazingly, her phobia of water disappeared, too! She ran down to the pool and began splashing herself with water. Roger called his technique Thought-Field Therapy and wrote a book called “The 5 Minute Phobia Cure[1].” From this Dr. Callahan, in the early 80’s, developed TFT, a set of “algorithms” for tapping on specific acupuncture points, with each specific algorithm being appropriate for specific ailments and dysfunctions. Even the same points could be used in a different order, thus creating many different algorithms. 

EFT was given birth in the U.S. by Gary Craig, in the early ’90s. Gary is a Stanford engineering graduate and an ordained minister.  He also has a high regard for Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) in which he is a Certified Master Practitioner.

While trying to educate himself and continuously searching for better methods and techniques for personal development, he got trained (in 1991) in Dr. Callahan’s Thought Field Therapy or TFT. 

Craig took his TFT training in 1991 and then tried to apply the method with his clients. During the next five years, he was trying to simplify the method and he finally found that the sequence of tapping the points is really of very low importance! In 1995, Gary assembled and released his first training video set, titled The EFT Course and his guide for the general public, The EFT Manual[2]

The basic technique requires you to focus on the negative emotion at hand: a fear or anxiety, a bad memory, an unresolved problem, or anything that’s bothering you. While maintaining your mental focus on this issue, use your fingertips to tap 5-7 times each on 12 of the body’s meridian points. Tapping on these meridian points – while concentrating on accepting and resolving the negative emotion – will access your body’s energy, restoring it to a balanced state.

What are these meridians? Put simply, energy circulates through your body along a specific network of channels. You can tap into this energy at any point along the system.

This concept comes from the doctrines of traditional Chinese medicine, which referred to the body’s energy as “ch’i.” In ancient times, the Chinese discovered 100 meridian points. They also discovered that by stimulating these meridian points, they could heal. Call it energy, call it the Source, call it life force, call it ch’i… Whatever you want to call it, it works.

In some ways, EFT (also referred to as Tapping) is similar to acupuncture. Like Tapping, acupuncture achieves healing through stimulating the body’s meridians and energy flow. However, unlike Tapping, acupuncture involves needles! “No needles” is one of the advantages of Tapping. 

Acupuncture also takes years to master. Acupuncture practitioners must memorize hundreds of meridian points along the body; the knowledge and training take years to acquire.

Tapping is simple and painless. It can be learned by anyone. The beauty of EFT is that you can apply it to yourself, whenever you want, wherever you are. And it’s free. It can be used with specific emotional intent towards your unique life challenges and experiences. Most importantly, it gives you the power to heal yourself, putting control over your destiny back into your own hands.

In 2003 Nick Ortner began researching  EFT and created a video of people before,  during and after a 4-day training session on EFT.    He produced a movie of that training entitled The Tapping Solution and, with his sister, has published several successful books on The Tapping Solution.[3]

EFT – The Basic Formula

  1. Name the issue you want to work on.
  2. Rate it on a scale from 0 to 10, 10 being the worst it has ever been.
  3. While tapping on the Karate Chop point, say the set-up affirmation 3 times
    ”Even though I have this ___________, I totally and completely accept myself.”
  4. Do the 9 points 
    Tap (7 – 10 times) or hold (for a full breath in and out) on each point while saying
    “This __________ (problem or feeling)
  5. Rate the problem again 
    if your number is less than a 1 or zero go on to number 6
  6. Repeat the sequence from Number 3.  This time add the phrase “ this remaining _____(problem)”

The idea is that stimulating these energy points helps the body to activate its natural healing process.  The problem may return later and you can repeat this process to once again activate your healing.[4]

I use  EFT as my go-to resource before anything else.  I particularly like it for going to sleep or for returning to sleep if I awaken during the night.    What else does this work on?  I suggest that you try it on everything, and find out.

As far as anecdotes, having taught clients for 20 years, I have plenty.   Some of them are mundane, such as clearing a phobia.  I have helped people release all sorts of phobias, from heights, snakes, and needles to elevators and spiders.  I had a couple come to me for a fear of heights.  They were planning a trip down the Grand Canyon on mule-back in the near future and were both anxious about heights.  We did a 20-minute session on the fear of heights and they both could not induce any anxiety about looking out our 3rd story window.  4 months later I got a postcard, from the bottom of the Grand Canyon, thanking me for the work.  It’s so much fun to have people letting go of limiting fears.  

Some stories are more unusual.  One 18-year-old girl asked if EFT would help with her sense of smell.  Asking her about it I found out that she had none, and hadn’t been able to smell anything for years.  
“Will Tapping help me with smelling things?”
My answer, “I have no idea.
”Well, how do I go about it?”  
Here I had to improvise.  “Try this; wet your finger and dip it in the salt.  Then tap it to your tongue and rate, on a 1 to 10 scale, how much salt do you taste.”  
“I already know the answer, zero.  I don’t taste salt.”  
“Now, going through the points, tap while saying “This inability to taste salt.”  Go through the 9 points and try to taste again.”

Now I had no idea if this would work; I suspected it wouldn’t.  If that were the case my next suggestion would be to deal with any emotions related to her lack; perhaps Frustration, or Hopelessness.  But about an hour later she returned and said, “It worked! I could taste the salt.”  I congratulated her, surprised that it worked.  The next day she reported, with a smile “I’ve got a new problem.  I think I’m addicted to Oreo cookies!”

You might have noticed that, had the first attempt not worked, I would have switched to emotions.  EFT is called Emotional Freedom because blocked or unprocessed can cause emotional and physical symptoms.  I try one way and, if unsuccessful, switch to the other.  For example; one client asked me to help with her nausea.  

“I have had nausea for 3 days.  I take the nausea medication but it doesn’t help!”I tapped with her on nausea, and nothing changed.  It was a 10 before and a 10 after.  WhenI get no change I don’t repeat that process; rather I change the focus.  So I asked, “Are you angry at your body for this nausea?”
”No, not angry.  I’m terrified that this will never go away.”
“On a scale from 1 to 10, how terrified are you?”
“A 10!”
“Let’s try tapping on the terror that this nausea will never go away.”
On the first round, it went down to a “6.”  On the second, to a “4.”  And on the 3rd round, the terror was gone. 
“How is the nausea?”  “
“It’s still the same.” “Let’s try the Tapping again on nausea.”  And, in 3 rounds the nausea was gone.  I explained to her that the terror was not allowing her body to relax, hence the medication wasn’t working.  By releasing the terror the medication could kick in and clear the nausea.

Over and over I have found that, if a person is willing to try, relief often happens.  Even when a person is skeptical; if they are willing to try, we often have success.  I have gone so far as to first work with the person on their skepticism by tapping on it.

Prefer video learning? This is a class on EFT I taught.

[1] Publisher: Enterprise Publishing, Inc.; 1st edition (February 1, 1985)
ISBN-10: 0913864897
ISBN-13: 978-0913864890 
Hardcover: 188 pages

[2] 1998, Gary released a video training set, titled Steps Towards Becoming the Ultimate Therapist. This is where you can see additional techniques and wonderful refinements of EFT principles and techniques in action (mostly taken from Gary’s live seminars)


[4] For more information — for a free download of the EFT manual by author Gary Craig