Mind/Body Integration: The Recoding Process

Leanne Kidd

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In the course of “growing up”, we develop beliefs about how life is organised and different strategies to help us deal with these beliefs.[1] Problematic issues that are not dealt with can create what I describe as areas of “blocked energy” in our body.[2] What I am calling the recoding process accesses these blocks using focused cognitive attention, intentional emotional activation, and somatic discharge, allowing the energy to be safely processed and released.[3] Compassionate self-soothing and a new belief that one is able to deal with previously troublesome issues are incorporated into the process.[4]

Many people who could be helped by therapy are not, often due to issues such as shame, financial constraints, transference, and the reemergence of habitual schemas outside the therapist’s office. The process I will be describing in this article was originally developed as a self-help technique, and I offer it to individuals and therapists in the hope that it (in part or in full) can be of some clinical benefit. I believe, and have seen, that psychophysiological education (particularly with regard to safe somatic discharge) assists clients to overcome many issues they are struggling with. In its current state, the process I have developed is quite long—no doubt coming from my own schema of never believing I’ve done enough. It has allowed me to deal personally with excessive rumination around such schemas, and the fear and embarrassment of my own physiological responses that had prevented me from accessing successful resolution through other forms of therapy. So please allow me to share with you how I developed this approach from my subjective journey and transformative personal experience.

Origins

The need to create the recoding process has been for me a way to release excessive anxiety and habits of rumination that have hampered my ability to be well and deal with ordinary social interactions and challenges in life. As a child I was extremely shy, and I became very asthmatic when having to go out into the world to face kindergarten, school, exams, and so forth. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease at the age of 20. My coping strategies were to withdraw from everything that was challenging and obsess until I had everything under control, or worry so much that I became too sick to cope.[5]

I was not able to talk to anyone about these issues, but I developed an interest in finding out what would help me by reading various books and learning about self-help techniques—for example, Louise Hay’s affirmations in You Can Heal Your Life (1987). A lesser-known book that I also found helpful was Feelings Buried Alive Never Die by Karol Truman (1991), which contained a script to repeat, addressing and processing all physical/mental/emotional/spiritual problematic behaviours. Truman mentioned a concept from Deepak Chopra’s book Perfect Health around the idea that the cell’s memory of perfection contained in the DNA cannot be lost, only covered over (Truman, 1991, p. 91). Truman, and indeed many others I have since encountered, believe that we can be the creative power of our vibrational energy and restore perfection by uncovering what is causing our dis-ease.[6]

The arrival of the Internet introduced me to the emotional freedom technique (EFT), using a phrase that the creator of EFT, Gary Craig,[7] calls “psychological reversal”. This method recommends combining a phrase about a problematic issue with a statement of self-acceptance whilst tapping energy meridians and activating different parts of the brain. I found repetitions of this process helped me manage some anxiety issues.

Continuing on my journey of discovery, a naturopath sent me to a nun who practised kinesiology using the behavioural barometer for emotional processing invented by Gordon Stokes and Daniel Whiteside of Three-In-One Concepts.[8] In this technique, eye movements were combined with placement of hands on the forehead and back of the neck while reprogramming phrases from a negative to a more positive outlook. Sister Anna introduced me to Gail Thistlewaite in Brisbane, Australia, for healing with bioresonance.[9] Gail uses tapping of the thymus gland with an emotional balancing script by Marcia Pitman, another Australian therapist, similar to the script by Truman.

All this reprogramming allowed me to join an 8-week mindfulness meditation course, which opened up the way to interaction within a group, as well as giving me access to what else was out there. The course was facilitated by Astrid de Ruiter using a program from Dr Bruno Cayoun, Director of the MiCBT Institute. One mindfulness exercise was to imagine, and feel, a best-case and worst-case scenario so that one could practise being equanimous with anything. There were some useful teachings about how meditation improves health and how the brain rewires itself, so I went on to read books such as Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn (2013) and Evolve Your Brain by Joe Dispenza (2008). Evolve Your Brain legitimised intentional change and introduced me to the importance of the laws of repetition and association, as well as Hebb’s theories about how neurons that fire together, wire together, and how strong neural signals assist weaker ones. This learning contributed to my including focused attention, repetition, and association in the recoding process.[12]

I found that speaking about emotional issues was still challenging, and it would at times trigger tears, trembling, or freeze responses. To help deal with this, I had some integrated vibrational energy therapy sessions with Heather Price and went on to learn her techniques of shamanic path and practice.[13] In this course, I learnt how to connect with my inner guidance and how to attune with clients and self; how to direct conscious attention to set positive intentions for healing and connection; how to work with problematic issues by tracking them through a client’s energy system, and how to take clients on multi-layered shamanic journeys to find resolution. Some helpful resources to learn more about working with energy and chakras include the books: Shaman, Healer, Sage by Alberto Villoldo (2000), Hands of Light by Barbara Brennan (1993), and Eastern Body, Western Mind by Anodea Judith (2004).

The latter two books also introduced me to Reichian “character structures” that I address when recoding. Briefly, Reich’s theory is that a child’s body develops physical and emotional holding patterns in response to stressful interactions in a way that can be seen as a character structure. I have since learnt more on this subject from Bioenergetics by Alexander Lowen (1976) and Emotional Anatomy by Stanley Keleman (1989). Keleman uses what he calls “the bodying practice” to show that people can undo holding patterns by intentionally using their body to tighten and release certain muscular postures, empowering them with the knowledge that they can both create tension and undo tension. The empowerment of moving toward tension with the knowledge that one can undo it by letting go is an important feature of the recoding process.

For over a year I attended a listening circle where we were taught the value of compassionate self-touch if ever we were activated by sharing emotional stories. We were encouraged to let emotions flow through us and notice how the emotions of others could trigger empathy and compassion within us.

Many of the practices we learnt by sharing emotional connection were reinforced in a book by Raphael Cushnir (2008), The One Thing Holding You Back: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Connection. This introduced me to such concepts as surfing emotional waves, weathering storms, naming emotions, and paying microscopic attention to any contractions in the body or resistances to being with the felt sense, amongst many others. An important learning was that the detachment of mindful witnessing is not the same as emotional connection. (I have found it beneficial to toggle back and forth between the two techniques in order to keep activation within one’s level of tolerance.) I went on to join an online program (the Vulnerability Project) with Raphael, where we were able to link up with others in dyads and small groups to work with emotional material. Raphael mentioned Peter Levine’s work with trauma and trembling responses, which sparked my interest in finding out more about his work with the autonomic nervous system.

But before I got into that, I came across The Mind–Body Code by Mario Martinez (2009), a psychoneuroimmunologist who guided a meditation practice using affirmations such as “I am safe”, “I am free”, and to note objections in the body if there was a mismatch between what you were saying and what your body was experiencing. If there was, then the instruction was to keep repeating the phrase and breathe into the sensations until they dissipated. I found that helpful; then, when I stopped feeling objections, I started expanding the phrases to include situations where I didn’t feel safe and branched out into separating mind, body, emotions, and ego as separate places to test. Martinez also had a process that condensed wounds into three basic states of abandonment, shame, and betrayal that he transformed by bringing up memories of commitment, honour, and loyalty; however, I found this was too generic for me to connect with deeply, and it made more sense for me just to continue to expand his first process.

I read Peter Levine’s book In an Unspoken Voice (2010) at the end of 2012. It contained a lot of valuable information about how to work with trauma in the body, and how important it is to proceed safely with attuned attention while allowing fight and flight responses to find completion. I decided to try some somatic experiencing (SE), but I was nervous and also concerned about the cost because I had to travel interstate to see a therapist. It occurred to me that I could combine the words from the Mind–Body Code with the permission to allow my body to self-regulate spontaneously as I processed this anxiety. This worked so well that I discontinued the SE after a few sessions.

As well as using words to trigger physiological sensations, I started to imagine sending them into the ground for transformation, as I would do in energy healing. Tapping (similar to EFT) helped shift energy, but rather than tapping the ends of meridians I could tap or move any place in my body calling for attention. I finished the process with the affirmation “I am enough”.

I have found that the more specific I am about an issue the better it resolves. Sometimes I need to revisit an issue, but generally it needs to be changed somehow so that a different aspect of it gets resolved. A major issue may take me 30 minutes to process; however, now that I know the process by rote, and I am highly attuned to my body and have worked with a lot of things that previously frightened me, many issues may only take 10 minutes or so to process. It would of course be much slower for someone learning this technique. I deliberately seek out things to process by paying attention to any tension that occurs when I interact with others, or when I read about things that feel “alive”. It is a great way both to discover and to work with transference, since the processing of the shadow brings to light what one may be projecting, and any layer of any area can reveal unconscious material.

After many years of using various tools to reprogram stressful issues, it was the amalgamation of focused attention, self-soothing of emotional and physiological activation, and the repetitive spoken phrases—emphasising safe healing, release, and the “I am enough” belief—that gave me the relief and resolution from excessive rumination I was looking for. These acts of self-ownership, self-discovery, and self-regulation all increased my self-empowerment: that it is my body responding to my words uncovering my implicit memories . . . so that it does not contain any perceived threat from a therapist’s interpretation or intervention. Now, each session is an adventure of discovery—complete with a healing ritual of transformation to endorse the belief that one is now enough to deal with anything![14]

This has been an excerpt from Mind/Body Integration: The Recoding Process by Leanne Kidd. To read the full article, and more excellent material for the psychotherapist, please subscribe to our monthly magazine.

Notes:

[1] From a neural perspective these are adaptive schemas that become entrenched and rather automatic ways of thinking and reacting. As we mature, and our circumstances change, these schemas can become unconscious habitual processes that may no longer be helpful or adaptive.

[2] These arise as a result of a systemic nervous system response to life, driven by implicit emotional memory.

[4] This new belief is quite literally a new neural network that has been reconsolidated from a previously maladaptive implicit emotional schema. Note here the work of Bruce Ecker and colleagues (Ecker, Ticic, & Hulley, 2012).

[5] Students of neuropsychotherapy will recognise the common strategy of withdrawal to preserve the fundamental psychological need of orientation and control—something that may seem adaptive early on, but which becomes an entrenched maladaptive schema.

[6] For more on the vibrational aspect of our existence, we have been featuring work by Ernest and Kathryn Rossi in this magazine and the IJNPT (see, e.g., Rossi & Rossi, 2016). Diana Fosha also pointed us toward such a positive bias when she suggested that “innate dispositional tendencies toward growth, learning, healing, and self-righting are wired deep within our brains and press toward expression when circumstances are right” (Fosha, 2013 p. 30).

[7] Craig G. http://www.emofree.com/eft-tutorial/tapping-basics/how-to-do-eft.html

[8] http://www.3in1concepts.us/

[9] http://www.wellbeing.com.au/index.php?hidAction=directorydetailnew&lid=819&id=0

[10] There has now been a lot of research around mindfulness and mental health, in particular Richard Davidson’s work at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds: “Short-term meditation training increases creative problem-solving relative to training in progressive muscle relaxation. Moreover, this difference is linked to heightened activation in a variety of brain regions, including the right cingulate gyrus, insula, putamen, and inferior frontal gyrus, and the bilateral middle frontal gyrus, inferior parietal lobule, and superior temporal gyrus” (Dahl, Lutz, & Davidson, 2015).

[11] http://www.mindfulness.net.au/

[12] The Hebbian principle that neurons that fire together, wire together underpins much of our basic understanding of schema formation and the graded process of re-learning by redirecting attention in consistent and repetitive ways. Sudden transformation (as can be seen in some memory reconsolidation situations) is markedly different, and I would encourage readers to look into articles about memory reconsolidation in previous issues of this magazine.

[13] http://www.shamanicpathandpractice.com/

[14] The focus on and experiential exploration of the transformational experience together constitute the transformational process (Fosha, 2009).

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