Mind Games

The Thinker, photo taken at Musee Rodin, Paris

The Thinker, photo taken at Musee Rodin, Paris

There is a dance of trust that happens, between patient and therapist. The therapist’s job is to remain centered, no matter what the patient is sending their way. This helps the patient tremendously as it demonstrates the therapist’s commitment to healing. It also creates a clear and constant mirror for the patient, so they can bring their own avoidance patterns to light. With hands on therapy, this dance goes beyond the trauma of the mind. It directly reveals touch-based trauma like no other form of therapy. It is unavoidable. And it is absolutely essential to healing and forming healthy, intimate relationships.

The following exchange that occurred after treatment, is an example of how the mind can create a barrier to healing. At this point, I have developed a substantial level of trust with my therapist. I have been seeing him monthly for over a year. Even so, my thoughts are determined to create a persona of Dave that makes him incompetent in my mind and therefore, not able to help me further. This judgment goes very deep for me, but I have had a lot of healing happen with Dave, so instead of playing along, I question my thoughts. They don’t coincide with my gut and I know it, despite my initial accusations to Dave. There is a critical time after treatment, where the physical space allows my guard to come down further than in treatment. I give myself enough room to sit with the feelings behind the thoughts and realize I am afraid and attempting to run away.
Here’s the exchange. . .

Hi again,
I had to reread your last response. I don’t feel you are shutting me down – directly. I feel I am sensing you shutting down and that makes me feel like backing off. Does that make sense? Is this real or am I misreading? What do I do with this – real or not?

And I definitely don’t want to see anyone else right now. Unless you kick me out of course. I’m tired of running away. I’ll take terrified over isolated any day 🙂

****
Hi Dave,

Also, I’m getting this feeling that I’m going to hurt you (not physically) if I let all this stuff out. Am I using this as an excuse or is my gut instinct correct or all out of whack. I don’t know what feelings to trust. I’m acutely aware of everything about you as I’m in treatment so my gut is telling me there’s a level of shutdowness I’m feeling from you. What do I do with that if that’s the case?

****
Patti!

You can’t hurt me, I am big enough to take what ever you have to give. You have permission to do or say what ever it is you need to do or say. When you are ready.

You should always honor your gut, but sometimes when we have been shoving stuff down for a long time it is hard to distinguish our true gut feelings from our fear. What is the worst thing that would happen if you just let go?

It is possible that your concern about me is an avoidance tool. I make no judgment. If you truly feel that somehow I am shutting you down, maybe I am not the right therapist for you right now. I don’t think that is the case, but if it is, there is always {gives the name of a female therapist} as an alternative, I’ll be happy to give you her contact info.

I only want what is best for you. Sometimes we take a couple steps back before we go forward.

See you next Wednesday?

****
Dave,

I hear what you are saying.

I confess I am super paranoid about hurting other people. It took me 16 years to make 1 friend I could trust outside of John to say anything to and then I was emailed a “we need to take a break” letter while I was away in Sedona. That was a year and a half ago. I have not recovered yet. Life has only taught me that getting close to people means having your heart ripped out. I believe what I have learned is not right, nor is it constructive. My hope is that you can show me different.

****
Patti!

Perhaps you are mistaking my being with you or me trying to stay out of your way as me shutting down.

MFR is about gentle nudging, maybe I was too gentle.

If you ever think I am shutting down, let me know. You have permission to say or do what ever you want.

I am glad you are not running away.

See you Wednesday!

Remember, more steps forward than back.

Dave
****

After this exchange, I break through an old pattern. In my next treatment, I leave the accusatory thoughts outside the treatment room. Now there is space where my thoughts were and I can sense when I am leaving my body. I come back in on my own and am in there deeper than I have been before. Without the false mistrust, a whole new level of healing begins.

Birthday Reflection

power animal II
The Dark Horse, Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village, Sedona, Arizona

I’ve been waiting nine years to live this scenario . . .

Friend: “Happy Birthday Patti!”
Me: “yes, it is!”

Now, fully in my body and living in the rich and subtle depths of my essence, the joy of the past year runs through me and I feel forward, with excited anticipation, into the mystery of what this year is creating. And I plan on participating every day, not just on my birthday, in every moment that unfolds – even the ones when I’m asleep (that may sound odd, but the dream state is one I have sloughed off, yet it is rich with life too; I live a whole other day there). I plan on softening more, having more fun, physically unwinding into the wavy, vibrant movements of what’s around me – the peaks and the troughs. They all have potential.

I used to have very few feel good days. Then I would attempt to freeze the feeling in time, only to be kicked out and laid flat. I laid motionless a lot of the time. Afraid to move, lest the good feeling disappear. Not realizing my lack of movement caused the litany of pain and suffering. This is of course the starting point of many a healing journey.

Nine years ago today, I walked into Therapy on the Rocks in Sedona, Arizona, completely disconnected from my family, friends, co-workers, life. I was suffering miserably. It took a lot of suffering and the maximum amount of desperation to create just enough energy to walk into an unfamiliar environment and open myself to a totally foreign form of healing. Now, nine years later, it feels like a full circle has come to completion. There is closure of not just a chapter, but a book of a journey.

So this year, I am planning on having a lot of fun writing out this crazy journey I’ve taken and packaging it in one neatly bound hardcover. I emphasize the fun part, because I’ve found that keeping anything creative and unexpected means it requires lots and lots of fun. Expression breathes the air of movement and this story is about moving people. Maybe I’ll call it “The Catalyst”:)

A wise man once said “nature abhors a void”. Clearing all that heavy stuck trauma over the years created a crater sized void. It’s been accumulating. If I don’t fill it, I might just fall in and disappear into blissful nothingness. Now what’s the fun in keeping that all to myself? No, it’s time to fill the void with something lighter, richer, kinder, softer, authentic, and powerful in a centered kind of way.

I feel the tug of giving back what I’ve been given, in my own, unique way. My inner guide (a playful, girlish slight of a thing with an unassuming yet kick ass power) is taking my hand and leading me into some fun adventures. Writing was the first one, which I’ve been doing with her for a few years now. Dream catching is the newest adventure. I don’t know much about it, but it sounds intriguing doesn’t it?

Happy Birthday: yes, it is.

Birth Day

1024px-HumanNewborn

Note: this is not me, but it could be . . .

Yesterday, I had this great post written about how wonderful it was to actually be present in my body and to be looking forward to a happy birthday (which I still am). I also wrote about the things I wanted to do this year and how I am going to take the world by storm (which I still will).

But . . . this morning I woke up from a dream of a tornado. It’s a recurring dream I’ve had for decades. It has changed significantly over the years. For the first time, the house I was in is not my own but an unfamiliar one. I see the tornado through the window and go down to the basement. I call out to the girls and John. No one answers. I’m not worried. I know they’re not in the house. I feel the tornado hit, but it does no damage. I take this to mean “a storm’s a comin'” but I am solid enough to withstand being tossed about. Each time I have the dream, it feels less traumatic, but I still don’t like it.

I am stiff in my upper body and reach for the ball on my bedside table and lay on it. I’m too much in my head to get deep releases. I think my way under the tightness. I am in my body, but only just below the surface. Plan B, I go out to the hottub and sit in it for a while, looking into the sunrise hoping nature will help connect me. Nope, no one’s home yet. I have a shower, which is my safest place – still nothing. On to Plan D . . . I go back to bed and do what I’ll call my special unwinding. It’s one I brought back from my recent intensive treatment in Malvern, Pennsylvania. It’s one I’m writing down, knowing it will help a lot of people. Saving that for later.

This unwinding works for me. I have a big emotional and physical “thawing” release and come softly back into my body. Success. I am in my body on my birthday. I wonder if I’ve ever been this fully “in there” on this day. This is so cool.

What do I feel first? My body/mind goes back to a new unwinding I had in Malvern (not the one I mentioned above, another new one). On day 8 of 10, I was open enough to trust myself and the participants in the group unwinding. I took a floating dive into the floor, head and left shoulder first. It had a familiar feeling. My shoulder felt stuck on something. I felt pressure on the top of my head and I reflexively pushed – through – holy shit, I’m being born! I felt the cool air on my head. I was none too happy – it was too cold and bright! I cried hard.

I’ve seen a birth unwinding before, so I wasn’t completely freaked out. It was pretty cool actually. Afterward, I was much calmer and I could feel my lower half more solidly on the ground.

I apologize Mom, for being such an angry baby. I was not happy to be out of your warm, comfy womb. My first week home, I cried so hard, I would hold my breath and turn blue. Mom would have to put my face under the tap so the water would shock me into breathing again. Later on, when I was two, we would be out shopping and something (who knows what) would trigger me. I would start crying so hard I’d hold my breath. Mom would hold my hand until I passed out and then put me in the cart. I’m guessing I was needing something, but couldn’t communicate what it was. Or perhaps I never recovered from the trauma of being born. Either way, I wasn’t getting this illusory need met and I wanted it met BADLY.

My husband John can attest to my tenaciousness. I do eventually get what I want. I’m not one to give up. What I’ve learned however, is to know what my true self wants – not by manipulating or cajoling others, or by holding my breath – but by turning inward and asking my inner guide. Asking, then becoming still and listening for the answer coming from inside.

It took years of clearing the noise of trauma before I could hear my inner guide. It is getting easier and clearer to hear.

The challenge recently has been to agree to follow my inner guide’s guidance. I resisted at first, feeling like a puppet, which felt traumatic. Then I cleared more and more of the trapped feeling I’d been carrying around. Gradually, I began to move freely in my home and outside of it. The requests my inner guide was making became easier to follow. My actions became more spontaneous and natural.

So today, on my birthday, I am happy I was born. The outside world does not feel too cold or bright. I know what the real me inside wants and I am moving more freely into that. With each piece of the past I clear, my actions become easier, freer and fun! It’s a good place to start a new, take the world by storm, kind of year.

SONY DSC

Creative Healing

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South Kaibob Trail, Grand Canyon, Arizona

I have been reading about the varied processes that creative geniuses use to create the new. I am no creative genius, but as I read Fire in the Crucible: Understanding the Process of Creative Genius by John Briggs, I discovered that healing is highly creative, for it requires us to feel and think things we have previously been loath to feel and think. It is new for us. That makes it creative.

I thought to myself “what is my process for healing?” and realized it existed fleetingly and un-articulated; scattered sporadically throughout my mind. My thoughts hurried to prove this was acceptable by noting that the healing process needed to be fluid and changeable – that it shouldn’t be shoved into the mold that writing it down would require. But after a pause, I realized I was blocking myself from going deeply and deliberately into my own healing. After a brief internal debate, I concluded that my healing could benefit from writing down the process as it currently operates, more or less. Well, more of the more than of the less. [sigh] So here it is. . .

At first, it involves feeling discomfort. Sometimes the discomfort comes directly out of a treatment session; sometimes it comes after a period of feeling really good; sometimes it gets triggered from an event or a person; sometimes it comes from a dream; sometimes it simply sneaks up on me when I’m unguarded. The discomfort then leads to seeking relief. There are the usual ways that involve moving away from rather than into healing – [insert list of vices and addictions here]. Then, when exhaustion from avoidance descends, I begin to move into healing through the launch pad of my mind.

I start by reading parts from a bunch of different books. There is a large variety and scope to the information. The larger the gap in relatedness, the better. My nightstand stack gets taller and my Kindle app bulges. At some point, I feel the growing discomfort of repeated dead ends in logic circling the mind shock of too much information. I am mercilessly funneled into the core of the healing process – feeling. I have lost control. The perfect state for healing.

I do not enjoy leaving my head. So healing for me requires that the pain of non-resolution be greater than the pain of not thinking. Once that threshold is reached, I am always surprised that I really don’t mind entering my body for the answers. It seems the painful part was letting go of my mind.

Now feeling the inside of my body, I begin writing out the discomfort in minute detail, confessing to myself at the feeling level, as it unfolds. The writing gives me a safety net for my intellect, so I can ease into the intense sensations without overwhelming myself and shutting down the process completely. It is much like a therapist that says “you can leave your body anytime you need to and then when you’re ready, you can come back in. Remember you’re in charge.” In my own time, I enter the feeling sense of it. The act of deliberate and detailed writing also creates drag in the thoughts coming up. This slowing – much like the physical drag a therapist creates in the body of an unwinding client – allows more depth to the feelings and sensations and prevents me from skipping over certain subtle or previously avoided feelings. I give myself the time to feel each sensation fully.

Self dialogue also becomes easier, as I read back what I have written and mirror my own words back to myself in my head. This process of recycling my thoughts back to myself magnifies the feeling behind the thoughts. It also allows my current self to speak directly to the younger me that is stuck in an earlier, often overwhelming, moment in time. Much as a therapist dialogues with a client, I can sometimes be my own therapist.

The end product of my writing is simply a detailed account of my healing process on all levels, as best as words and my ability to translate the untranslatable can make of it. There is not a lot of intellectualizing or describing my point of view from the level of thinking. The material leaves no space for debate as it is strictly personal. What it accomplishes instead, if the reader is open to it, is a stirring within themselves of their own five senses and the coinciding memories associated with any unresolved moments in time. I like to picture my writing as that of a catalyst – initiating or accelerating the reader’s own healing process.

I posit that most overwhelming feelings and memories we have are set aside, until, too painful to ignore, we let ourselves be nudged into opening our rightly scared eyes and experiencing – fully – the shocks in our lives. Reading and feeling another’s process can provide such a nudge. I know this to be true because when I feel stalled, I wander back and read the posts of other healing journeys. It inadvertently triggers my own process. Especially the more vulnerable postings. The ones that are obviously direct distillations and not the thoughts of another.

So . . . I write only when I feel ready to commit, completely and deeply, to feeling what comes up from the writing. It requires me to pause before I type. It requires adherence to uniqueness (I’m continually examining my words to make sure they are coming from me directly and that I have not become lazy and inserted well used (and mindless) words and phrases instead – this is really hard to do and involves a lot of backspacing!) Even so, the composition is essentially finished in the first writing. It is written and experienced at the same time, so it is unfolding physically, emotionally and thoughtfully as I write. This means some physical and emotional releases come up while writing and require a pause to fully process them. Sometimes I write down the feel of the release as a reinforcement that it has just happened. Then, once the wave of the release is past, there is a feeling of a soft, still space and I pause there too. The words flow then, out of that space and continue where they may.

I write very infrequently. But when I do write, it is deeply accurate to me. I need the firmness of detailed writing and cannot tolerate the lightness and incompleteness of the quick and superfluous. Some can write deeply and quickly. I cannot.

At first this lead me to believe I was a huge procrastinator and I berated myself regularly for not healing and not writing (I see the writing as a responsibility to give back what I have received through my myofascial treatments and through books I have read that have helped me). As I became more comfortable with my writing, I realized there were a long line of activities going on that fed the finished product on the page.

Sometimes I would go for a run or be in the shower, or doing yard work, or working in the kitchen, or some other physically active thing – and I would have an insight. I would think – that was an amazing thought! I want to write it down! Then the thought would float away and I would be disappointed with myself that I had not captured it. Over time, I became less self effacing about these escaped thoughts and told myself that if they really were fully formed in me, I would be able to call them up at will. I had to trust that they were part of a bigger process going on inside and around me that was building up to an even more evolved idea. Even now, I feel at the cusp of a big breakthrough in the resolution of the beliefs I have around my kidnapping. I feel that there are unknown thoughts about such a thing that have not been put into words by anyone yet and that these un-articulated thoughts will reveal themselves at the moment they become resolved in my own body.

It may take some time, but the excitement of being at the cusp of new thoughts endures beyond my many lulls.

Now that you have made it successfully to the end of my tome, I ask you, what is your healing process?

Resolving Thoughts of Suicide

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Picture taken at the garden of Musee Rodin, Paris, France. August 2013

Once the big shocks of trauma and many of the symptoms of post traumatic stress resolved, a new layer emerged. It was there all along, but hidden under nightmares, hyper vigilance, outbursts of rage, and short term memory problems. That layer was a strong feeling and thoughts of wanting to kill myself. I understood the process of healing and realized I needed to go deeper to resolve it. Relying on the courage and skill of my therapist and the help of a group I call the MFR Tribe, I was able to get to the bottom of very serious feelings and thoughts of suicide. The lasting effects of resolution are still evident 6 years later. 

Building on my increasing skill at healing – it takes practice and I was two years into treatment – I had gained enough trust in the process and my therapist to reach out, deliberately decide not to kill myself and instead go into the feeling of dying. My therapist was able to steer my persistent thoughts back to feeling my body – which is where the resolution ultimately happened.

It is entirely possible to be free from thoughts of suicide, but to do so requires a highly centered therapist, skilled in this specific area. It cannot be done alone or with someone who cannot remain centered until resolution happens. It also must be initiated by the suicidal person and not the therapist. The healing process cannot be forced and the suicidal person has to take the lead. The power has to be firmly in their hands.

Here is a look inside the process . . .

I began to feel suicidal after a treatment and the next day, sent this email to my therapist.

February 28, 2007
Hi Dave,

I was glad to see your email on MFR Talk. It snapped me back from wherever I was after my last treatment – which was not particularly present. Thank you.

I find myself saying/feeling the words “this work has changed my life” to more and more people. Everything else I read and learn pales in comparison. It does not get at the heart of the matter.

Having said that, I have found the heart of the matter of what continually leads me in a downward spiral. It is a feeling of profound isolation. Of total disconnection with everyone and everything. I have never come back to my body – only visited like one visits a grave site. I am continually asking myself what I’m still doing alive, because I’m supposed to be dead. I’m a walking dead person! I know that until I relive (or undie?), you and I are merely treating a body with no soul and that is not fair to you or me. I also know that transcending this will be a big step forward.

So the question is, how do I get to this place or what is the question I should be asking myself or . . . yep, totally stuck here. I know that this work has changed my life and so I have faith that it is the way through. Any advice you can give will be gladly received.

****
From Dave:
March 1, 2007
Just time for a short answer now, things did not feel complete last appointment, you may have noticed me hovering around as you left.

Just to be safe do we need to include another health care provider? or counselor?

Assuming not, how does it feel to be stuck?  What does it look like to be unstuck?  You say it is like visiting a grave site, do you need to “be in the grave”?

Do you need a 2 week intensive with John?

May I put out the body of your letter, without name or any form of identification on the chat line?

More later

Dave
****
March 1, 2007
Hi Dave,
Thank you for your quick reply. I sat with the questions you provided last night. There were two things that came up. The first is that stuck feels hard and dry like a rock in my jaw eating into the center of my head. It also feels like being stuck standing, facing a corner in a room with no way out. I want to feel what unstuck feels like but so far I just wait.

The second thing was visiting myself as if visiting a grave site. I feel like I’m continually trying to feel in my body only to find it feels dead. Very cold in my throat and solar plexus, yet burning in my solar plexus. Then I feel the isolation.

Yes, please post. Anything would be helpful and I’m not in a position to post myself. I’ll be able to read any replies directly.

The other component of this is what I like to call my logical mind clinging to the past. If I feel the feelings of isolation then I can remain in my small cocoon. Then I make it tangible by establishing new relationships with people and then have them “abandon” me. I’ve worked on this with my psychologist in the past, but we’re pretty much at a dead end now. So I’ve just come to accept that I will always feel isolation. Fortunately my body rebels at this so all I can do is just keep searching for a way out. This is where MFR comes in. I feel connections now that I’ve been to Sedona. This has never happened before. I want to go back. When I saw the cancellation in March I felt sad because I want to go back but have various excuses not too (family, money, the usual).

I apologize if this is too much information. I just needed to get it out in black and white and I trust you.

Thank you for caring.
Patti
****
This is what some call the Dark Night of the Soul. It is not a fun place to be. I wanted to just be left alone, but could barely stand the feeling of it. Talk of people’s happiness and how wonderful life was just intensified the feeling of isolation, so it was best to be alone or to be with Dave – a person who had the capacity to just allow me to be. This created an atmosphere of engagement and non-resistance, which interrupted my feelings of isolation and created a safe space where I could feel below death.

****
From: Dave

Friday, March 2, 2007

Patti!

Have you seen the wave of support out there for you, even though they don’t know who you are. I hope some of the responses have been helpful.

The other thing to try is to feel it even deeper, when you have an appropriate time, like holding on to an object tighter and tighter. Hold on to it so tight that eventually you just have to let go.

Please let me know how you are doing.

Dave

****
The number of responses that came from Dave’s help request on MFR Chat stunned me. People who didn’t know me but understood what I was feeling because they had been there themselves. Then Sheila posted the question “What if you WERE dead? How would that feel?” This prompted a feeling of falling into a deep, cold, black void. I felt my body and mind resisting the feeling, but I was losing my grip fast.

I called Dave. He guided me down into that void. Into the feeling of death. I felt intense fear and softened and allowed the feeling. I felt under the coldness. Then something shifted. There was light and warmth under the coldness of the void.

This all happened in a short phone conversation. It was all I needed. That final nudge to feel what was under the void. I had never thought there was anything good under it; and I had resisted it all these decades, for fear of dying, yet never knowing I could challenge my fear of death simply by feeling it go through my body – quite safely – without having to kill myself to experience it. Huh.

Feeling beyond the previous “dead end” into something that felt good, my mind no longer needed to search for a reason for the dead feeling and I stopped thinking about killing myself.
****
March 8, 2007

Dave,

I started to journal my unwinding adventure and discovered I had no need to because I FEEL it’s affects. Words would dampen the intensity. Needless to say, I now know I can go to the places of my worst nightmares and you will be there cheering me on. That is the most powerful thing one person can do for another human being. 

So thank you for being there, in the middle of all that, guiding me with your big heart, comforting arms and compassionate words. Thank you for bringing me back from the abyss – finally, I feel alive!!

Now I can spend my vacation getting used to my new body! It feels strange and new and wonderful!

And I am actually feeling excited about the next time. That’s new too.

And please say a big thank you to the wonderful people who sent their encouragement. I could feel their support and it allowed me to summon my courage to feel into the fear.

Until next time,

Patti

****

Dave’s email to the MFR Chatline:

March 8,2007
Subject: “Dave’s Client” clatient?

Details would be inappropriate, but I want to say thank you to all of you for your kind and wise words and your support.

Be easy with your self.

Dave

PS We use different terms to refer to the folks that we try to help in a professional way. Both patient and client can be pejorative. One term is associated needing care which may imply a level of dependence and the other is associated with an impersonal exchange for service solely for financial gain. I’d like to suggest the compromise “clatient”.

Out of my head and into my body

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Before I left Sedona after my second intensive treatment program, John referred me to, of all people, a male therapist in Michigan. I trusted the depth of resolution I’d had in my treatments and so I trusted John’s recommendation and set up my first appointment shortly after returning.

It was a giant step for me and one that has paid off in so many ways. Dave has been my source of constant reinforcement of the principals of healing I was just beginning to grasp. He has remained neutral and supportive, no matter what horrific or odd assortment of memories, feelings, emotions and positions in space that happened to be coming to the surface. Most importantly, he continually got me out of my head and back in my body so I could continue to soften the grip I had on the past.

A year after my first appointment, I sent Dave this email. It is my first record of writing anything down and it rightly displays the interaction I have with him. It also demonstrates what happens when a client begins to embody healing and fully take the reigns in their own treatment. Have a read . . .

Hi Dave,

I wanted to let you know that you have helped tremendously in bringing me to a new depth of healing. Your gentleness, caring and humor have been most important in bringing me to now. All my life, even before the time I remember, I have felt pushed. You have quite uniquely found the balancing place just behind me, where I can grow under my own control. This is so important that you have done this you can’t imagine – this ‘having only support’ – nothing else. Because nothing else is needed. It has helped me to find my power.

Now that I’m coming to that place with your support, I had my best self-unwinding yet the very next morning after seeing you. I was easy with myself, like you’ve coached, and softened into the place where I could unwind. This time it was not frightening. It was like I was below the frightened part and no longer freaking myself out. All the things I had been taught by you and others; all the information I had read; all the experiences of unwinding I’d had were suddenly second nature. I did not have to think – I just felt! I should also say that the other thing that got me to unwind myself was that the night before I was not feeling well. I felt very depressed and tired. I was feeling that no one else got this concept except the very few who do this work. I went to bed, slept, woke up early and started to feel the enormity of all the things that had ever happened to me, to my mom, to my sister, to my mom’s mom . . . I saw the cycle, the pattern that had unfolded to this date. It felt hopeless. Then, feeling cornered with no way out, I realized that my rational brain was creating all these thoughts. It was creating an elaborate shield to hide the truth from my intuitive and emotional selves. Then my emotional self would pitch in too and block my intuitive self. I couldn’t believe what I was realizing! So then I literally had a stern but caring conversation with my rational self. I said, “you have done an outstanding job. You kept me safe when it really counted. You kept my body still when moving would have meant pain. You kept me unemotional when crying would have escalated to injury. You focused on remembering every single little detail so that the information could be used for my benefit. You are unbelievably fantastic at what you do. You have gotten me to here in one piece. And now it’s time for you to take a rest; to move out of the way so I can heal. Let the emotional and intuitive parts do the job they’re meant to do. It’s safe now for the other parts to do their work.”

After that conversation with myself (that’s so cool that humans can do that) the unwinding was immediate. Feelings that my emotional self wanted to feel but could not at the time, came out. Movement my intuitive self wanted to make, happened. Every so often my rational self would have an aha moment and then step back again. And back and forth it went between the three parts – each sharing with the other – harmonious – cooperative – FINALLY!!

I hope that you benefit from this information Dave. I want you to know that you are a very gifted therapist and that you are helping me in a very big way.

All I can do is say, Thank You.

Patti

p.s. when self unwinding I learned I only need two things: a pillow for my head and a LOT of Kleenex 🙂

Authentic Healing

anais nin

Before treatment, I lived life by forgetting and moving on. Then life caught up with me and I began to resist and hold on tightly to what I had built. Then, life handed me a third option – authentic healing. The kind where I get to heal myself. This time, I had skilled, intuitive therapists guiding me; guiding me into the body I had deserted; reintroducing me to safe touch; coaxing my mind to get out of the way so I could heal; giving me permission to do what I needed to do, physically, emotionally, and intuitively, in order to resolve what I thought was unresolvable. The dead ends I believed and felt to be true became openings to a flexibility and power I did not know I possessed.

What occurred in the following three years after those two intensive treatments, now that I look back, could not have been planned any better. If someone had told me this is how I would heal, I would have said, no thanks. It was both frightening and exhilarating; frustrating, yet easy. When given the choice between bracing/numbing and softening/letting go, therapists persistently and gently remained at each physical, emotional and false belief-ridden barrier until I realized – on my own – that letting go was indeed my best option. Many times, I would face myself and fight myself at the same time. I was so tightly connected to my beliefs and fear, and loath to change, even when in deep emotional and physical pain. The pain fueled my perseverance and steered me squarely into a barrier I was too tired of fighting anymore. Exhausted, giving up the fight, I would feel into what I had believed was too hard or scary to feel. Afterward, feeling so much better, I would wonder why I had resisted with such resolve. Eventually, not trusting, getting results, then trusting, I resisted less and allowed more. In an open arena where I was always given the choice to resist or allow; engage or not; feel or not feel; be in my body and leave when I wanted – everything was possible and nothing I introduced from my horrible past was out of bounds. When stalled in my treatment sessions, the therapist would sense this and gently nudge with dialogue, sound, words, or a slap (not really a slap – this one is best left for it’s own blog post). There was never force unless there was an equal meeting of force by me. There was no bargaining, cajoling or directing by therapists of what I should do. They were showing me my own built in healing mechanisms. They were teaching me not to be afraid of them; not to be afraid of my body doing it’s own healing. Not to shut it down and let it continue to completion.

On my own individual route to healing, I learned, through trial and error with the outcomes I was getting. I experienced going into a session with no expectation or judgment as to how I would achieve my goals. Feeling improvement, I gained the confidence and trust to write down and say out loud what I wanted for myself. “I want to feel safe. I want to feel calm. I want to trust men again.” Then, once again fearful and anticipating failure, I would go into a session and have the feelings of threat, anxiety and fear immediately come up. Still, my therapists never stopped encouraging me to tap into my own powerful intuition. In an entirely neutral atmosphere, where there was neither a shutting down nor a forcing through of the healing process – trust in myself flickered to life. Tentative at first. Always bracing initially and softening secondarily. It took two years before trust in myself became the dominant state in my treatments. Trusting the process and softening into what was coming up instead of bracing against it.

Although I wanted it to be a straight, logical path, that was not how the essence of me needed to get there. I had to learn, through iterations, how to trust myself, my body, the therapist, the healing process, the next moment. The path unfolded how it needed to in order for the healing to feel genuine; in order for it to stand the test of time and the interaction of living. I now have great respect for my body – that it decided for me that holding on wasn’t my best option.

Before the John Barne’s Myofascial Release Approach to life, I lived with the following approach: shove the bad events and feelings down out of the way, force yourself to get up and move on – that’s how you get over the past; don’t pull people down by mentioning anything negative from the past – keep it to yourself, it does you no good to bring it up (This is true if the other person is not equipped to facilitate healing, but the lack of trust to tell your story becomes ingrained. So it becomes best not to say anything to anyone, even therapists.); follow the advice of the experts, because you can’t trust yourself – you know less about your own healing than they do.

Gradually, I developed the habits of a healthy approach to life, embodied consistently and perpetually in the John Barnes Myofascial Release Approach: never force, never lead, never tell anyone what to do, feeling is healing, trust the healing process happening spontaneously in you.

Healing, Traveling and Expanding

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The world feels different around me . . . because it feels. It smells, tastes, sounds, looks – intricate, rich, complete, brimming with life. There are pockets of life bubbling everywhere. In the bush, the bee, the clouds, the ever changing breeze as it hangs, heavy and soft around my face. Looking up, the wind ruffles a tree and smooths the clouds along an unseen conveyor belt.

Leaving the familiar atmosphere of home and traveling across the ocean to a globalized, yet foreign continent, changed my perceptions in a good way. Having practiced for 8 years now, how to let go and go with the flow of life, this trip was ripe for expansion of experience and by extension, of me.

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Being in a place where, number one: you have no history, and number two: no habitual responsibilities, left many subconscious bracing patterns back at home. Free from old constraints for a little over two weeks, more natural and spontaneous habits began to emerge.

My muscles were more relaxed. I was less tense in general and joined up with a friendly, social and absolutely delightful French family, who meshed with our family like long lost friends, it was impossible not to enjoy our time in France.

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The first perceptual change I noticed, was that my vision was embracing a bigger picture.

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Instead of absorbing individual olive trees, I was inhaling an entire visual field – the olive tree was a grove, which banked a rise, running into stately rows of grapes, halting at a typical French farm, framed by the lovely Mont Luberon, complete with sun rays and a thunder of cicadas – a hint of lavender entering my nostrils and nesting in my eyes, enriching the scene even further.

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Without being overwhelmed, there seemed no end to how much sensory information I could take in. It was the same with the people. Whether they were a cafe crowd, tourists, or locals on the Metro. I took in the whole of them. I wasn’t looking fearfully for pickpockets or terrorists. Taking in the whole picture, relaxed yet alert, the odd drunk Frenchman quickly stood out – and I simply laughed.

In addition to the bigger picture, the experience of driving in France blew away my tendency to hesitate.
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My perception of speed and spontaneity changed drastically. Navigating a countryside of spoked roads with multiple exits to the same town, all the while sensing blind corners hiding pockets of cyclists (enthusiastic to retrace the route of the recently completed Tour de France) required a level of spontaneity that bordered on an F1 car race. John was our outstanding driver, having been graciously lent our French family’s stick shift mini van. As the navigator, I quickly learned how to get us unlost after “Lizzie”, our lovely British GPS had us leave a roundabout at the 5th, not the 6th exit.

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We quickly became pros at making U-turns; merging onto packed roundabouts; properly stopping at traffic lights placed well back of intersections; driving the correct speed without marked speed limits, and locating open boulangeries for our daily baguette picnic. Each day, as we piled into the van – all five of us including our lovely exchange student – John would engage the clutch and I would sing a rendition of Willie Nelson’s “on the road again”. It was always an exiting adventure.

The third change in perception was simply an appreciation for the pure, natural tastes, sites and smells that the French countryside provided.

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We have plenty of beautiful countryside in Canada to enjoy. It just looks, smells and tastes different. I enjoyed engaging my senses in the new smells of lavender fields, pillows infused with the zest of grapefruit, buttery olives with herbes de Provence, moist baguettes, honey-flavoured melons, unlimited varieties of cheese and saucissons; an appreciation for a cool, crisp Rose instead of a heavier Cotes de Rhone, and an afternoon Ricard’s pastis.

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Returning to Canada and home, my perception remained expanded and I began to see Ontario and Canada through a traveler’s eyes. We have a shorter history than the French. They know who they are. They know how they’ve evolved to the present time.

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To them, believe it or not, we seem exotic. We are from the great white north. We are from a country that is so big, it appears as a wilderness in comparison. We have no traditional Canadian meals. We don’t have a lot of traditions native to our short history. We are seen as easy going, robust and always ready for a party. When I was explaining this perception to my sister Heather, she summed it up perfectly. Recently, she heard a group of Americans cheering. The sound was patriotic and assertive. You can hear them shouting “USA! USA! USA!” [fists pumping]. When the Canadians cheered, she heard “woohoo!” [translated: let’s party!] We are still young as a country and young at heart. I hope that never changes. The French, as far as I can tell, are not the group cheering type. Again, they know who they are. They don’t have to. They love to laugh and sing and joke around. They are also very passionate and open. They are wonderful to be around. I love them! And I love Canadian’s! And I love American’s! My world has expanded and it is more beautiful for the expansion.

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We cannot wait to introduce our French family to Canada when we next get together. We miss them already.

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Coming Back to My Body

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Over the course of my two week intensive, my mind, now opened to an entirely new way of healing, began to reshape itself. I felt quite literally, turned inside out. Gradually, I became less freaked out by my body doing its healing thing. I also began to understand the dialogue given during treatment and how it allowed me to get out of my head and into my body.

Being in your body is critical to healing. As John would say “no work gets done when no one’s home.” There can be a lot of talking and thinking and even hands on treatment happening, but until you are physically able to feel the inside of your body and be in it – permanent healing does not occur. When I became a therapist, I attended a seminar and John showed us a stunning example. As a therapist lay on the table for a demonstration, John paused, stepped back from the person on the table and said two words – “road kill.” That’s exactly what someone out of their body looks like on the table.

That was me – a lot. Yet I was completely unaware of it because I’d been leaving my body automatically for decades. Now I didn’t need to leave. Everything was safe, but my body was on automatic and required the sensitivity of a therapist to cue me when I was doing it.

I’d be lying on the table thinking “what are they doing?” I was constantly analyzing what therapists were doing with me and thinking “they’re not doing anything”. Fortunately, they have this super sensitive feel and knew exactly when I was off thinking and not in my body anymore. I’d be thinking “where is this going” or “what am I supposed to be doing?”, then I’d hear the therapist interrupt my thoughts and say something like “where are you?” Normally, that statement would sound stupid. I knew where I was – laying on the table. But their timing was such that I felt exactly what they meant. I was not in my body. My awareness was floating up above me somewhere and I was simply thinking.

Each time I checked out, my therapists would let me know. Sometimes they would ask me to describe the feeling, sometimes they would simply say “come back in your body” They would completely confuse my intellect by asking questions like “what would happen if you felt that?” or “what’s under that?” or “you don’t have to feel that right now if you don’t want to. It’s your choice. You’re in charge here.” or “go in and get it”. I learned how to get to seemingly unreachable walls by feeling the wall physically in my body and then feeling the underside of it. I learned to feel the natural movement of my body as it unwound itself. It was a floaty feeling, which felt as if something inside was moving me.

My favourite quote was when my therapist said: “Patti, you’re not driving this bus. Get in the back seat and let it drive itself!” It was so, so scary to let go of control without checking out of my body – to let go of the steering wheel of this body-bus I thought I was driving and let it do the driving for me. Then, hands off the steering wheel, I would jam on the brakes many, many times and then slowly ease up on them; and when I did, healing happened. Feelings and memories I thought were buried forever came through and out of me. The thoughts and feelings that had replayed over and over in me began to disappear. The past was slowly losing its grip and a new clarity in present time experiences was peeking through.

Journey Home

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In retrospect, I (meaning my ego) went into my first two week intensive kicking and screaming really. It took until day three before I realized my neat and tidy idea of going to Sedona to get fixed and come home all better was not how life worked. I have this realization in the shower that morning of day three. I am hit with the absoluteness of knowing the truth – that this is a lifelong process. It feels like a life sentence and I cry in resignation, grieving the loss of my old way of living. There is no going back to the old way, even if I wanted to. The old way is craziness. It is swimming up stream and although this new way is scary, uncomfortable and requires continual participation, I accept it. I feel out my options and to me it feels worse to go back than it does to continue on. Yes, life is indeed the only journey and I choose real life. I choose authentic healing.

At the end of my two weeks I panic. I wish I could stay for three. I’m not ready to go home. My husband will not understand. How do I be this new person? I read a handout that is given to me in the take home package. In there are some comforting words that I will read over and over again back home. The most important. Go slow. Go slow. Go slow. I am given hugs by the staff and then quietly make myself small and disappear. Sadness consumes me and I go. I feel lost. I feel I have no home. I do not call the therapist they have referred me to for followup back home.

At home I barely make contact with my husband or my kids. I am sick in bed for ten days. I am raw and questioning what happened when I was there. I read John’s book again. I read the information I was given. I get stuck and then feel my way through a deep, deep depression. I have been here before, yet my body is responding with emotion this time. Not so frozen and stuck.

Gradually life becomes more liveable than before I had gone away. I still spend as little time as possible with my husband (don’t worry, there is a happy ending post coming), but I was connecting to my children in a new way that I hadn’t quite figured out how to convey to them.
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I was still very much attached to my male friend at work. I decided that if he was with me, I could confront a few fears from the past. I asked if he could drive me to the place where I was abducted and make the route to the motel in Niagara Falls. He seemed honored. Applying the healing process I had learned to real life proved powerful. The one thing I did not want to do was go back to that place. So I did. I walked to the spot on the road and along the ditch. I stopped and looked and felt the inside of my body. My friend walked up to me and asked if I was ok. “I don’t feel so good,” I said. I felt this huge rush of fear and nausea come up and out of me. I started to shake. My friend held me. I shook harder and harder. My teeth chattered. “You’re shaking all over!” he exclaimed, fear in his voice. Yet he knew enough not to shut me down.
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He drove me along the most likely route to Niagara Falls from there. Memories of the feel of the road put me back in the trunk of the car. Sitting in the passenger seat, I could feel the sunglasses I had been made to wear. I felt the fear continue to flow through me. There was a rise in the road and as the road peaked, I caught a glimpse of the Skylon. The tall tower which is a landmark of Niagara Falls. I count: two thousand and one, two thousand and two, then it is lost behind some trees. I am in awe as I realize that for the two seconds I had risked a glance at the road when I was being abducted, the Skylon is what I had seen. Seeing it had given me the information I needed to know where I was heading. How, in those two seconds, did I know to take a risk, open my eyes and look? I absorb the enormity of the power of gut instinct.
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Inside the motel room, it is different. I can no longer stay in my body. I analyze the room, drawing comparisons from what I could glimpse from under the blindfold. It seems to be more or less match what I remembered. Spatially, it feels different, but then I did not have my entire visual field available then. I merge the old memory with the current. I have left most of my body here. It is not coming home with me. But the part left on the road by my bike is with me now and that is enough.

I process as much as I can. The gnawing anxiety that ping ponged inside me about confronting the past has significantly diminished. Throughout the next few months I bring my bike and ride the route. Each time, a new emotion, and its expression, find their way out of me. I finish the route I did not get to finish and get to the top of a hill with my favourite view. I sit and feel myself inside my body. A calm has settled in. I look out and see the expansive view. It looks like a postcard. Then I feel it with my body and the view becomes substantial. It goes from postcard to real life in an instant. So this is what the world looks like.
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