The following is a brief summary of a 4-day NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) training, “Resolving PTSD," with Steve Andreas.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – PTSD – stems from a traumatic event or events which was directly or indirectly experienced. Symptoms may include flashbacks, disturbing and recurrent dreams, avoidance, negative thinking and moods, hyper-vigilance, feelings of estrangement from others, aggressive and/or self-destructive behaviors.
"… an exposure to a terrifying life-threatening event, followed by multiple symptoms that persist and don’t resolve over time." – DSM-5
At the core is a phobia response, but intertwined with sometimes complex combinations of grief, guilt, shame, regret, and/or troublesome internal voices.
Steve started with an NLP technique known as the “Fast Phobia Cure” (a.k.a. V/K Dissociation, originally due to Richard Bandler), an NLP process that leads the sufferer to experience the traumatic event as though watching it from a distance rather than being immersed, and then to go through it backwards, jumbling the cause-effect perceptions. The Fast Phobia Cure acts as an “emotion eraser” so that the event, though still remembered, is stripped of the painful emotions and phobic responses previously associated with it. (I often use this procedure with people with phobias – elevators, bridges, spiders, bees, etc.).
When one person in the workshop went through the Fast Phobia Cure, the overall experience seemed to get worse: an immense grief came to the fore, around people who had died in the original traumatic event. Steve worked with him using the NLP Grief Process (developed 25 or so years ago by him and Connirae Andreas), allowing the person to experience his lost friends as an ongoing presence, rather than as distant and lost forever. Crucial to this process was the removing of the picture he had of one friend freshly dead, from front and center, large, and in color, to a small, black-and-white, distant picture. Then the second part of the Grief Process led him to look forward to encountering the values he had treasured in those relationships, over and over again along his future path.
Shame is the feeling of being judged by others, who are often perceived as larger, towering above and pointing at the small self who has violated their values. Guilt, on the other hand, involves a feeling of having betrayed one’s own values, usually due to an actual or perceived conflict of values where only one could be honored (“If I hadn’t done it I would have been killed.”). We learned how to work with and resolve both of these.
Sometimes PTSD sufferers talk to themselves in disturbing, threatening, critical, or self-destructive ways – internal voices. We learned ways to redirect and/or change these voices (rather than abolishing them, which often cannot be done), so that they no longer have any significant impact.
Another NLP procedure, “Spinning Feelings,” also due originally to Richard Bandler, focus on reversing the physical feelings of anxiety, hence neutralizing the anxiety itself.
An individual suffering from PTSD may be experience any or all of these different symptoms; resolution must involve teasing these strands apart and working with each in turn. The good news is that in this training we experienced and learned how to do this, allowing the suffering to end and the individual to get his or her life back.
For more on resolving PTSD, see Steve Andreas’ NLP Blog.