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Dr. Alexander How Do You Work With It ?

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by RikR, Mar 16, 2013.

  1. Dr James Alexander

    Dr James Alexander TMS author and psychologist

    sounds to me like it would be an example of reconsolidation. You activated the old neural pathways (via the memory of your dad bullying you), then you saw an action happening which was one in which you were in control (not him; and with that control, you reassured the kid that you were there to look after her- she was going to be safe)- this is a juxtaposition which disconfirms the emotional learning of the bullied experience (eg. i am small and weak and vulnerable)- and hey presto! The original distressing memory (as well as the current situation which was triggering it) lose their potency- and you end up yawning. Interestingly, i see a lot of clients yawning after we have successfully gone through an EMDR process in which reconsolidation obviously occurred. The next step is to go back to the distressing memory and see if it still has any power to distress you. If it doesnt, then this would be confirmation of reconsolidation. It isnt that new neural pathways have been created; but the existing neural pathways have lost their power to generate distress. The bullying is still part of your autobiographical memory, but it (hopefully) has lost its emotional sting. Apparently, the connections between brain cell 'tenticles' (the synapses) have disconnected for a period of up to 6 hours, during which new emotional learnings can happen in place of the old ones, e.g 'I am now a grown adult who can protect myself'. I think this is a great example of do it yourself reconsolidation. It can happen spontaneously because of certain experiences, in the do it yourself way Eric and you have described, and in cases where this is not sufficient, it can be done by a therapist who is aware of transformative techniques.
    eric watson likes this.
  2. njoy

    njoy aka Bugsy

    Cool. Thank you, that was very helpful. It sounds like the simple form of co-counselling I learned in the 80s was also a form of reconsolidation.

    This whole topic has given me new hope. Put this way, it seems quite simple. I know that with NLP, EFT, co-counselling, etc. the biggest hurdle is getting people to even consider giving it a try. Same with Sarno/tms, of course. Like any "new" idea, it has to reach a tipping point and then opposition becomes a mindless stampede to get in on the latest thing. May that happen soon.
    eric watson likes this.
  3. Dr James Alexander

    Dr James Alexander TMS author and psychologist

    yes, well- i think the difference this time is that such procedures are being verified by cutting edge brain science- this reconsolidation business only became really verified in neuroscience research around 2004. Many other approaches have proven useful, and were perhaps the best options at the time. But now there are a whole range of therapeutic options which mean that people really dont need to be stuck with forever working against emotional damage inflicted in early years. I suspect that not all reconsolidation is the same- when it is done in a psychotherapeutic process, there is a greater chance of being really thorough about it- leaving as few stones unturned as possible, and (when a practitioner understands the necessary conditions for reconsolidation to occur), they are able to ensure that each process is done experientially (not cognitively) and worked with until it is complete. Some people will be this thorough with themselves, but (like me) most are into cutting corners here and there. Its an interesting area, and this topic came up because Rik asked 'what can be done with this stuff when it comes up?' The answer is that there are many things that can be done with it, and those that engage the reconsolidation process (via whatever therapeutic modality one chooses to work with) have a good chance of resulting in the eradication of emotional distress around certain issues.
    eric watson likes this.
  4. njoy

    njoy aka Bugsy

    If a person has the resources to work with a really good practitioner, over a lengthy period of time, they might solve all their problems. But the % of the population that's true of is miniscule. I think we need to figure out what works and then teach the basics to every kid in school (and anyone else who will listen) with opportunities to learn more for those who want it. Eventually we'd have a preponderance of people who can do their own work most of the time and find competent peer support when they need it. A few generations and all would be (relatively) well. It's no greater task, really, than deciding that all children should have the opportunity to be literate. Most countries have achieved that goal in fairly good time.
    veronica73 and eric watson like this.
  5. Dr James Alexander

    Dr James Alexander TMS author and psychologist

    yeah, i think NLP was an attempt at that- it resulted in a lot of self-help strategies which a lot of people no doubt have benefited from.
  6. OtterMan

    OtterMan Peer Supporter

    Claire Weekes.
  7. Eric "Herbie" Watson

    Eric "Herbie" Watson Beloved Grand Eagle

  8. chickenbone

    chickenbone Well known member

    Dr. Alexander and Eric, you are both so wonderful and generous. I have been thinking a lot about the re consolidation process and realized that I had it one time without knowing what it was. I would like to relate this experience and how it turned out. First some background: When we first moved to Panama 8 years ago, our house was robbed almost right after we moved in. Because of my previous traumatic experiences in childhood and early adulthood, I believe that I had developed a hyper vigilant, almost paranoid defense system operating underneath my conscious awareness. I was not consciously aware of these "emotional truths" at the time. So, as would be expected, I grossly overreacted to this break-in. It happened at night while we were sleeping. We did not even notice that we had been robbed until about noon the next day when I noticed that some things were missing. I should note that, since then, I have learned that most crime in Panama is nuisance crime, not dangerous crime, so my conscious attitude has softened, but my unconscious attitude probably has not because of early traumatic experiences. I loved the house dearly and felt a spiritual connection to it. With me, anxiety always manifests as severe sleep problems. So in the 2 and one half years we lived there, I never slept well, sometimes not at all. I became extremely strung out, lost weight, had a lot of back pain. My friends realized that I was suffering and put me in touch with a spiritual healer living nearby, but was from California. She was very very good at what she did. I really did not expect anything like this to help, but I was desperate for anything. Well, the energy treatments really helped me a lot. I had them done every week. I was sleeping better and actually could enjoy myself, but the progress was slow. As part of the treatment, we discussed the worst childhood experience I could remember. This was when I was 2 and a half and my parents left me with an older woman babysitter for 1 or 2 weeks. I was in the process of being toilet trained. So the memory was of being dragged, severely shaken and slammed hard against the back of the toilet seat when I had an accident one day. She thought her way was the best way to raise children. (At that time, I did not have much memory of what happened in the next few years that were related to this incident). My parents had no idea of how she was treating me and I was afraid to tell my father. Anyway, I related this to the faith healer. She suggested that in a semi-hypnotic state, I recall the experience as vividly as I can and we will decide what to do about the upset it caused me. So I did this and was feeling extremely relaxed, although the memory was very upsetting, I kept my cool. During this, she asked me how I would like this to have ended. So we decided on a new ending to the story, a really nice (young) lady came out into the yard and noticed that I was wet. She told me in a loving way that "we all make mistakes" and it was no big deal, I was still doing well with my toilet training. She took me by the hand into the house, changed me and gave me a cookie. Then I was left to relax and compare these stories, then decide the one I liked best - I could have the one I wanted. Why not? It may sound crazy, but it did make some sense to me. You know, that actually worked for about 3 years. Although I knew what had happened, whenever I thought of the incident, my brain just picked the new ending and the memory lost it's emotional sting. Unfortunately, this did not last, but I think I know why. I don't know if that jogged other memories as well, but about 3 years ago, I began remember other traumatic events related to that one. Shortly after the abuse incident happened, I began to try hard to stay awake at night because I was afraid I might wet the bed and I was terrified of that happening. Then I began to have horrific nightmares, often waking up screaming. I even to this day remember some of the recurrent ones. Then when I was a little over 3 years old, my parents admitted me to the hospital at the insistence of our family doctor because I was regularly waking up at night screaming in pain and holding my stomach. I was in the hospital for 3 weeks and that was really horrible. They couldn't find anything seriously wrong with me and did a lot of tests mostly involving big needles. They must have suggested that I needed counseling, but my parents did not believe in it. I finally realized that all this was related. I think the reason that the reconsolidation did not work permanently is because there were a lot of other repressed traumatic memories that needed to be addressed also. I think I see this now and understand what was really going on with the therapy I received from the spiritual healer. I was not able to keep working with her because she and I both moved away.

    I still have a lot of trouble sleeping. Sometimes when I am just about asleep, in that twilight state, it seems like some deep part of my brain wakes me up because it doesn't want me to go to sleep. It is strange. It seems like I need pain or medication as a distraction so I can fall asleep. I find this very scary. I must be extremely exhausted almost to the point of losing consciousness to fall asleep on my own
  9. chickenbone

    chickenbone Well known member

    Eric, it is so nice of you to respond. I related this experience with the spiritual healer because it seems that
    perhaps this therapy was a form of reconsolidation. She used to work with a lot of Holocaust survivors and did really well helping them.

    Eric, before I start, I will write out what you have suggested and then find a quiet time when I can relax and work on this. Thank-you so much for the suggestions. It is so hard to feel very courageous when I think of this stuff, but the more I remember, the more I seem to be better emotionally with it. I think it might just work. If it is ok with you, I will email you with questions I might have. If I could accomplish more reconsolidation on my own, that might be a good thing. I am also thinking about an EMDR therapist when I visit the US, but I don't know when that will be yet.

    Thanks again and I will let you know how it is working.
  10. Eric "Herbie" Watson

    Eric "Herbie" Watson Beloved Grand Eagle

    Great chickenbone- write me with any questions
    to my e mail and ill get back
    you'll win anything you set your mind to win
    or you can call me- and ill guide you through
  11. chickenbone

    chickenbone Well known member

    Dr. Alexander, since you are following this thread, can I ask you something? My husband who is a Doctor told me today that he is becoming extremely concerned because my mental situation has really deteriorated in the last 2 months since I got rid of my pain. Since then, I have been remembering more and more childhood issues and traumas that I never remembered before. I really am not able to handle this alone. I am so afraid of not sleeping. I am up and down all night, just barely getting some sleep. There is no use in trying to get any treatment in Panama. He wants to get me to the US, so I can get some help. I fear that at least for awhile I will need meds. The ones I take now do not work. I won't take anything strong. For 15 years in the US, I took Triavil that stopped most of my problems and my sleep disorder. However, when I move to Panama, the drug was not sold here. I have not taken it for 8 years. Because I am so desperate now, I have ordered it from Canada. I am going to get a prescription from a Panamanian doctor. It will take about 2 months to arrive. But that also may not work since I haven't taken it in 8 years. My husband and I are considering who we want to stay with in the US so i can get some EMDR or Coherence Therapy. Do you have any suggestions for me to make it through this until I can get some qualified help? It seems like I have tried almost everything that I can do on my own. A lot of it works one or 2 times and then never again. It seems so strange that I am remembering so much of what I never remembered before. I feel like I really need to talk to someone. I am so afraid of not sleeping because after my first husband passed away from cancer 25 years ago, I went through a awful period where I did not sleep at all for about 3 weeks. I became such a zombie that I couldn't even work. My husband's family got me into a hospital and that is where I was started on drugs, being treated by a Psychiatrist.
  12. chickenbone

    chickenbone Well known member

    Hi Eric,

    I tried the "comforting the child" while I thought of some of these traumatic childhood experiences. I did it while I was in a really relaxed state. It didn't work, probably because these memories are so traumatic for me, I really don't want to disturb them unless I am face to face with a therapist. It is just too dangerous. After trying this, I was terribly upset, couldn't sleep, had to take klonipin. I don't want to to anything that causes me to feel like I need the meds. For now, here is what I decided to do: I am going to do what worked with the pain problem, reaching a point where I do not take meds and don't care if I sleep or not. This is going to be really awful, but because I don't have to work and I have domestic help, I can manage being a basket case for awhile. Hopefully, I can tough it out. I have spoken to my husband about this strategy and he is with me on it. He does not want to disturb these memories unless I am in the US (or somewhere else) with a qualified therapist. I have absolutely no access to therapy here in Panama. I really appreciate all the help you have offered me
  13. Eric "Herbie" Watson

    Eric "Herbie" Watson Beloved Grand Eagle

    God bless you

    you will win.
  14. Becca

    Becca Well known member

    Yesterday, in the span of 20 minutes, maybe less, @Eric "Herbie" Watson helped me change two memories that up until then were fairly traumatic into memories that still existed but had no negative emotional effect on me. I have to say, it was truly astounding. This technique Herbie used has a lot to do with what TMS psychologist and author @Dr James Alexander wrote about something called memory reconsolidation in this thread from last year. (Read Dr. Alexander's full post here.)

    If I understand this correctly: memory reconsolidation essentially changes how the brain stores away (remembers or "consolidates") past experiences, transforming them from ones that trigger us to ones that do not. It does not remove or erase memories; really, all it changes is how that past experience affects us now. Essentially, it's reconditioning -- another way to reprogram certain responses to emotional triggers -- and it's a highly effective one, too.

    As Dr. Alexander mentioned, this technique is not exclusively attached to one particular therapy, but is used in a number of therapies such as EMDR, EFT, NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), and more. I believe the way reconsolidation specifically occurs varies depending on the therapy. But, the overall concept is the same: you identify a distressing (Dr. Alexander uses this word, which I like better than "negative") memory, and then completely re-live that memory.

    In NLP, which is the modality Herbie used, the memory reconsolidation process was incredibly visual. In my mind's eye, I was moving around two memories (experiences, I suppose, is the better word) -- one somewhat traumatic one from my past, and one highly positive one -- and I truly could see them, like they were floating in front of me, distanced. (For those of you who watch the TV show NCIS -- I felt a little like McGee putting up documents and images on the screen for Gibbs and the rest of the team to see.)

    Now, I'm a very visual person, and perhaps that's why the NLP approach to this memory reconsolidation worked so well for me, and why it may not be as easy for others. But one of the things I find so fascinating about this technique is its adaptability across therapies. Some may not respond to the two visualizations Herbie walked me through, but perhaps there's another method, another exercise, that others respond better to. I think seeking that out is worthwhile. This is such an unknown technique, and yet it can make a huge impact. Just think of the possibilities we can create for ourselves if we can essentially recondition our reactions to our past? Just think. I'm still astounded by the two memories I was able to change.
    Forest and Eric "Herbie" Watson like this.
  15. Dr James Alexander

    Dr James Alexander TMS author and psychologist

    Becca- i think that memory reconsolidation is the new mind/brain frontier. It is likely to have been the backbone of effective therapies ever since humans have been healing themselves and each other psychologically, but has only recently been understood and demonstrated. As my (much) earlier post details, there are a wide range of psychotherapeutic approaches which can harness memory reconsolidtion- they either do it unknowingly or quite intentionally; while some approaches really only create a counteracting effect. Memory reconsolidation is transformative, in the way you have described with your own experience; whereas counteractive approaches at best can only ever compete with pre-existing neural pathways/emotions/cognitions/sensations relating to the distressing event. I am all for any transformative approach which (knowingly or unknowingly) utilises memory reconsolidation, and am generally dubious about the healing potential of counteractive approaches (which may be helpful in some ways, but rarely ever genuinely healing or transformative). At the same time, research is being conducted with drugs that are hoped to wipe the person's memory of a negative event (as a proposed treatment of PTSD). I think this would be a huge mistake and extremely open to abuse. We all need to know what we have experienced- it helps to inform us about how to handle challenging events in the future. If traumatic memories are erased via a drug, then the person is denied the possibility of learning valuable survival enhancing knowledge- what would stop them from repeating mistakes in the future? When a memory has been 'burnt' into our nervous system (as in PTSD), that is our evolutionary equipment working to enhance the chances of survival- it is not the system failing, but rather, operating as evolution has intended. We need to know, and to remember. Processes which utilise memory reconsolidation leave the biographical memory intact- when successful, they take the emotional pain out of the memory, but leave the memory. The proposed drug approaches would eradicate the memory. This would be so open to abuse by governments that its scary- they could just keep sending soldiers back into the front line with the aid of a memory wiping drug, until they get killed. Soldiers need to know what they have experienced, and if they become too terrified to go back to the front line, then this fear (and the memory of what created it) has survival value for them. I dont want to think too much about other negative consequences of a drug technology which eradicates memory, but surely there are many potential downsides. The advocates of this approach often begin their spiel with the statement that there is no reliable behavioural or psychological method of dealing with distressing memories- of course, they are entirely incorrect in this. There are many psychological approaches which are effective in dealing with the emotional pain associated with difficult memories, and the neuroscience of reconsolidation is the essence of these approaches.
  16. Eric "Herbie" Watson

    Eric "Herbie" Watson Beloved Grand Eagle

    Yes it is scary what a drug that would eradicate a memory could do to a person James. I learned about the reconsolidation process several years ago and I don't really know how many times I did it before I actually learned the process but when I did just get it by practice it changed my whole life. I mean I started getting rid of negative thought patterns that before I learned how to do this process I would have just hit and miss.

    I know this process is done in EMDR and many other therapies and now proved by science to work fast and efficient without any side effects or worry's. I want to let people to know the power your kind of approach has and how this approach also does much more than most can imagine or think. It was once never thought that vanishing a bad charge to a traumatic event was even possible but now with the right knowledge and person like yourself people can heal almost magically from traumatic events.

    I have seen it in EMDR, NLP and IFS therapies. I think the most important part is having a person that knows how to apply this process of reconsolidation correctly as You know how and have been schooled to do. I had the privilege to show becca something that would have never been possible if she would have never gave the process a chance. Once she did she got a blessing which is what I really believe this process of reconsolidation is.

    I want to thank you Dr. Alexander for giving people a chance to truly be free too in your great Work that you do from your heart. Helping people heal is what you was born to do and now you know as much as I that the fruit of your labors has been answered and without a shadow of a doubt when you tell someone you will help them heal -- you know what you say is true and you know you have the skill set to back it up. With desire comes the ability to learn things you never knew existed and this process that you bring your clients through -- this process that I have helped many people get better with really is something hard to believe for those that don't believe it works. It works great, all you have to do is give it a whirl.

    When I was growing up a little boy all I ever wanted to do was help all the neighborhood kids get better when they'd get sick and then as I got older I wanted to help married couples stay together and get along better. I've learned that this process is awesome for pain and anxiety but its also good for marriages and even loosing weight if need be. I really wish I had a way to convey it to our good friends here at the wiki but I've came to the conclusion that If you aren't shown exactly the steps and how to apply them, it is almost impossible to just say how its done cause its a connection thing too -- built with rapport and congruence, leading -pacing and matching. Then the process seems to be simple like with becca, she believed me as I said and she trusted me so the time we spent talking was more like a friendly chat than any thing else.

    I just want to thank you DR. Alexander for your friendship and how you show all your clients a true friend when you help them heal. I still think you have the most honest picture I've ever seen and I still think of all that desire and healing you talk about in your book "The Psychology of Pain". You are one awesome Dr. James Alexander. You filled my heart with hope a year ago when I most needed it and you didn't even know, thank you.
    North Star likes this.
  17. Eric "Herbie" Watson

    Eric "Herbie" Watson Beloved Grand Eagle

    Becca Those changes happened cause you did the work it takes to make a change. You came to the chat with an open mind and you learned a valuable tool. I think many people would benefit just like you if they would take the time to learn the steps ya know.

    On the thought with different modalities other than pictures, well the reconsolidation process works with feelings and sounds too. Its just many more tools to be learned to know how the process works in those areas.

    I love the way you explain it though -- Its a very accurate explanation. I wonder if anyone else can pick up on the special teachings you and DR. Alexander have talked about so much now. It would be awesome to know others could use these processes like NLP, EMDR and IFS to help themselves in self help therapies but I really believe they have to be really willing like you were and then open to new Ideas. Thank You becca for explaining your inside edition feedback on the process of reconsolidation.
    Bless You
  18. njoy

    njoy aka Bugsy

    Herbie, you said, "I really wish I had a way to convey it (the reconsolidation process) to our good friends here at the wiki but I've came to the conclusion that If you aren't shown exactly the steps and how to apply them, it is almost impossible to just say how its done cause its a connection thing too -- built with rapport and congruence, leading -pacing and matching."

    We would love to see this in action! Is there any possibility of videotaping a session? That would be awesome. Or maybe there are already videos online? I suppose it's NLP you are using?

    Chickenbone, I am glad that your husband is watching over you and caring for you. You are an awesome person.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2014
    Forest likes this.
  19. Dahlia

    Dahlia Well known member

    Thank you so much, Dr. Alexander, for this post. It exactly answers the question I had. I couldn't resolve why the need to journal and make the unconscious repressed feelings conscious, when Dr. Sarno clearly states that this step is not necessary.

    Since I am currently working with a therapist who knows EMDR, I am going to ask that we treat some of the recurring events I've had in my life that were not directly life threatening (like yours) but seemed to be to my child's mind. I will also be looking for your book.

    Thank you again.
  20. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    These posts are a real education for anyone. I've learned a lot from the questions and replies.

    njoy, I love the image of the mountain and the bear. And I hope your father learned something from
    being tossed overboard, at least in your imagination.

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