Dr Richard Bolstad is Transformations Principal Trainer

Trauma Process Handouts

by Dr Richard Bolstad and Margot Hamblett.

NLP Process

Like all models of how people learn and change, Neuro Linguistic Programming is based on certain beliefs or assumptions. These include:

  1. The Map Is Not The Territory

    This means that the map or model of the world inside a person's mind is not the same as the real world. It is only a map. When something in their mind is not working the way they want it to, people often blame the outside world. It can be useful to check whether their map can be improved, so they can find their way to better choices. Instead of thinking that "The horrible things that happened to me make me have nightmares now." a person can learn new ways to think about what happened -new ways that cause the nightmares to disappear.

    In NLP we respect other people's maps of the world, because no one map is more "real". Some maps may be more useful for a particular situation. A person is always doing the best they can with the map of the world that they have. If they find a more useful map they may do better. For example, a person may believe that "People are basically evil". This map could cause the person to be afraid of everyone they meet. This map is probably not as useful as a belief that "People have the ability to do evil or good acts". In NLP we respect the person's old map, and then help them change it, to gain more choices.

    2. Mind, Emotions and Body Are One System

    Thinking (talking to yourself, making pictures inside etc), the emotional state you feel, and your body are all one system. This means that if you change your thinking, it changes your body. For example, if you think about a lemon for a while, your body will make your mouth water. And if you change your body, it changes your thinking. A person whose thinking is depressed will find that if they exercise each day, moving their body improves their thinking. Because a person is one system, any change in one area of their life affects every area. So changes need to be considered in relation to the whole system (this is called "Ecology" in NLP).

The Keys To Success

People who are highly successful, in any area of life, follow four basic principles of success:

  1. Set A Clear Outcome (Goal)

    Ask yourself:
    1. How will I know I've achieved this goal? What exactly will I see and hear and feel when I've achieved it? When, exactly, will that be? In answering this question, it's very important to say what I do want, not what I don't want. eg Instead of saying "I don't want to panic anymore", say "I want to feel relaxed and breathe calmly."
    2. What other things will change as a result of me achieving this goal? (ecology). Will this goal help me get more choices in my life?
    3. Is this goal something I am willing to work towards myself, rather than just hoping that it happens?
    4. What inner qualities and skills do I have that will help me reach this goal?
    5. What is my first step towards this goal?
  2. Take Action in a State of Excellence

    Your actions follow from your emotional state. One way to ensure that you are in a good state to do the things you want to do is called Anchoring. In NLP an anchor is something you see, hear, feel, touch, taste or smell, which reminds you of a state of mind-emotion-body. For example
    • seeing an old friend may remind you of the feeling of friendship.
    • hearing music you enjoyed many years ago may remind you of how you felt then.
    • feeling your body in a position you use to relax in may cause you to relax now.
    • tasting and smelling food cooked the way your parent did may remind you of how it felt as a child.

    You can use anchoring to get yourself into the state of mind you want. For example, when you feel really relaxed, you might make a special hand gesture and say a word to yourself like "calm". Then, next time when you are in a difficult situation where you need to relax, you can make that same hand gesture, and say the word "calm" in that same relaxed tone of voice. And you will relax._

3. Check the Results of your Actions

It's important to check the results of your action carefully, to discover what results you get. In working with people, this means being able to notice very subtle changes in people -the expression on their face, their skin colour, their breathing rate and depth, their tone of voice, and so on. Doing this is called sensory acuity in NLP._

4. Have the Flexibility to Change Your Actions

Based on the results you found in step 3., it's important to be able to change what you are doing, so that you can reach your goal. In working with people, this means being able to adjust your communication so that it fits with the other person. When you do this it creates the feeling called in NLP "Rapport". When people feel in Rapport, they cooperate easier, and do what someone suggests more easily. To create Rapport, you carefully and respectfully copy someone's voice tone, breathing pattern, body position etc. This is called "matching" or "pacing" in NLP.

Using Positive Language

1. Use Positive Language

The unconscious mind can only understand positives. If I say "Don't think of a blue tree", you have to imagine the blue tree in order to understand what I said. Say things positively so your clients make representations of what you intend them to. eg Instead of saying "Don't Panic." say "Relax more comfortably."_

2. Include Useful Presuppositions In Your Sentences

Presuppositions are ideas you assume to be true, in order to understand a sentence. In the sentence "Which things do you find most terrifying?", to understand the sentence your client has to assume that some things are terrifying. In the sentence "Which things do you find less comfortable?", the client has to assume that some things are comfortable. The sentence "Which of these things can you already imagine changing?" presupposes that your client already can imagine changing some things; the only question is which ones?. The sentence "How does it feel different now?" presupposes that the client feels different now. Say sentences with presuppositions you want your clients to make into internal representations (pictures, feelings, sounds, words they say to themselves).

Preparing For The Trauma Process

1. Establish Rapport._
Match the person's breathing, posture and voice
Check: Does the person feel safe with you as a helper?
If not, spend more time, or refer the person on to someone else._

2. Check Their Resourcefulness_

Is the person able to calm down enough to talk to you about something pleasant or neutral?
If not, spend more time encouraging the person to relax, or choose another time._

3. Check What Problems The Person Has Been Experiencing

What symptoms of trauma does the person experience? Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (DSM-IV‒2 309.81) symptoms include:

4. Set The Goal

How would the person be acting, thinking and feeling if these problems were solved? If this person's problems were solved, what else would change? Is that okay for them? If not, ask what they need to do to make it okay for them._

5. Give An Overview Of The Process

Eg "This whole process usually takes less than half an hour. The aim is for you to feel relatively comfortable throughout. Most people find that their symptoms disappear immediately. The symptoms probably started after one event, and so it only takes one event to fix the problem now. Your brain learns new responses very quickly."_

6. Give The Person An Experience Of How The Way They Imagine Things Causes Their Body To Respond

Eg Have the person turn around with their arm stretched out pointing. Tell them "Just go round carefully to where your arm feels tight, and see where you're pointing... Now come back to the front... Now imagine turning round again, but this time imagine that your body flows easily way round further, perhaps twenty or thirty centimetres further than before. You'd be pointing at a totally different place. What would you be saying to yourself if you went around that far... and now turn around with that same hand and see how far you go NOW!"_

7. Explain Dissociation In NLP Terms

Eg "We are going to teach your brain to react differently to the memories of the event. People can remember events in two different ways. If you think of a simple, enjoyable event you've experienced recently, like eating breakfast today [choose another event if breakfast reminds the person of the trauma], you can remember what you saw through your own eyes [wait for the person to remember] and enjoy all the feelings of eating that breakfast. It may even make your mouth water. That's one way to remember it. Another way to remember it is to imagine seeing yourself sitting in the room eating. Watch yourself over there eating, as if you were watching from a distance. Even make a still picture of yourself, like a photograph, perhaps a black and white photograph. When you see that picture, it's not so easy to get the feeling of enjoying eating breakfast. You need to step back into your body to taste it again. It's quite okay to remember the feeling in your body eating breakfast. But there are some things it's better to step back from, so you can see what happens, but you feel separate from it. People who are enjoying their life can choose which way to remember each thing. We are going to teach your brain to automatically remember those old unpleasant events in a way that keeps you separate from the feelings you had then. That means the other problems you've had will disappear, and you'll get the enjoyment you want in life. Does that sound useful?"

A Sample Script For The Trauma Process

1. Establish Rapport, Set Up Resource Anchor

"Before we start, what I'd like you to do is to remember a time when you felt in charge of what you were doing, perhaps when you were doing something you know how to do [like baking a cake, or driving a car], and get back the memory of a specific time, so you can step into your body at that time, and see what you saw, hear the sounds, and fell the feeling of being in charge. Now, as you feel that feeling, I want you to press together the thumb and little finger of your left hand and enjoy the sense of being in charge ... Great; now release the fingers and come back to being in the room here, and stretch."

Repeat for two other positive feelings instead of "being in charge" e.g. "confidence", relaxation", "humour". Your being able to create that positive feeling in yourself as they think of it will also help. If they can't think of a time when they felt positive, have them remember a time when someone they like had that feeling, and feel what that person must have felt like._

2. Test Resource Anchor

"OK, now stretch and have a look out the window. Just see something you didn't notice before ... Good; now press that thumb and little finger together and feel the difference."

Check that the anchor (thumb-finger touch) causes the person to shift their breathing/body position/facial expression back to a positive state similar to the one they used remembering the times. If not, repeat step one, emphasising their re-experiencing each positive state._

3. Pretest

"Right, now before we start, I just want to check this thing that has been a problem. I'd like you to just briefly remember one of the times it's been a problem now. What does it feel like to remember that?"

Check for a clear shift in breathing, body posture and facial expression. If you need to, to draw them back out, have them stand up and press the thumb and little finger together until they are out of the memory.

"OK. Come back to here now. You'll know when that changes now won't you?"_

4. Set Up The Movie Theatre

"Now panic attacks [or "flashbacks/nightmares/Post Traumatic Stress/phobias like you've been having"] is just a result of the brain having a scary experience and storing it in a less than useful way. The brain did that the first time you had that experience, and it took it less than 30 seconds to do. So its just that easy to change once we know how the brain did that."

"To change it, what we need to do first is set up a kind of movie theatre here. You've been to a movie sometime, so you know there are seats here [point to movie theatre seat] and a screen up here [point to front -ideally a blank wall]. And sitting in the movie theatre here, I want you to see a picture up on the screen, of yourself, a black and white photo. It could be of the way you look now, or of you doing something you do at home, or just a photo like a recent one you've seen in a photo album ... Have you done that?"

"Good. Now, before you had that experience that was scary, there was a time when it hadn't happened yet, and you were safe. Take all the time you need to remember that time, and make a picture of yourself at that safe time before the event. Put that picture of you looking safe before the event up on the screen now, and turn it to black and white too. Have you done that?"

"Great. And after that experience that was scary, there was a time when it was over, and although you still had memories of the event, you were physically safe. Take time to remember that safe time after it happened, and put a picture of yourself at that time on the screen. Have you done that too?"

"OK. Now I'd like you to stand up out of that chair and come back here. This is a chair in the projection room from where they show the movie [seat the person now in the second chair, behind the movie theatre chair]. There's a glass screen through which you can see the movie theatre and you can see that other you sitting in the movie theatre, watching a black and white photo on the screen. Can you see that person in the theatre seat?"_

5. Run The Movie Forward "Dissociated"

"So now, as you stay in the projection room, safe behind the glass, you can run the movies, and watch as that other person in the theatre watches them. And because there are holes on the side of the glass, you can hear the movie, because we're going to show a movie soon. And you'll be safe and comfortable here, maybe with something nice to eat and drink while you watch the person watching the movie."

"What I want you to do is to run a movie of yourself in that time when the unpleasant event happened. The movie will start before the event, at the time when you were safe before, and will run through the time after the event, once you were physically safe again. Like any movie, it will show the important parts of the story, form beginning to end, but this movie will be in black and white, like an old film.

OK? Now, while you run the movie, I'd like you to watch that person the movie theatre. They may have some response to the movie, but you're in the projection room, so just run it through and watch their watching. OK, go ahead, and tell me when you're done."_

6. Fast Rewind The Movie "Associated"

"Now, in a moment, I'm going to get you to pretend that you float out of the projection room and into the movie at that safe end scene. It may help you to close your eyes to imagine that. Once you're in the movie, in the body of that earlier you, turn the movie to colour. Then we're going to run the movie backwards, from the end to that safe beginning, but fast, like fast rewind on a video. You've seen a video rewind, but this will go so fast the whole thing will only take a second and a half, so it goes zziiiiiiipp! Got that? Okay, now; float into the movie, at the end, turn it colour and zziiiiipp! ... Once you're done, turn the movie back to black and white, and float back to where you actually are, here in the projection room ... Hi."_

7. Repeat until Change Occurs

"OK. Now I want you to be here in the projection booth and watch again as that person in the movie theatre sees the movie through from safe beginning to safe end ... OK? Great; and again, imagine you float into the end and turn the movie to colour, then run it backwards zziiiiipp, and come back to the projection booth once its done ..." "Great. Have a stretch ... Now try and get back that picture at the start of the movie [If they can't, go to step 8]. Now again, watch from the movie projection booth as that person watches the black and white movie, float into the safe end and run it backwards fast in colour, and come back here. Tell me when you're done...". "Good. Now I want you to try to do this process, a bit faster, and do it through as many times as it takes till you can't get back the movie, or you realise that the feeling has suddenly gone. Some people say the movie gets blank spots and fades out; some say it's as if the tape snaps. It's probably started already. Just go ahead and try to run the movie each way till you know you can't. Then tell me ..."._

8. Verify Change (Post-test)

"Great. ,And notice that the feeling went with the picture. Okay; now stretch and look out the window. Notice something there you haven't seen before ...".

"Okay, now what I want you to do is have a go at remembering that time, and try and get back the feelings you used to have about it." [Smile]. "How's that now? Different!"

Check from the person's body posture, breathing and facial expression that this is a different, more relaxed response than the pretest.

"Now I'm not suggesting you'll enjoy that thing now. Just that the uncomfortable feeling is gone. There's often a little uncertainty, as you try to go to remember, because this was a reliable response you had. You had that problem for a while, and it's strange for it to be different, now. Pretty amazing isn't it?" [Try again until the person realises it's different]._

9. Ecology Check and Future Pace

"Now one thing that has happened occasionally, is that when someone had an anxiety, it gave them something to do. So now it's important to find out what you can do instead. I'd like you to think of a future time, the kind of time when, in the past, you would have responded in that old way; and notice what you're doing instead, and how you're feeling. How is that? ...".

"And think of another situation when, in the past, you'd have had that problem. How is it different now? ... Is that okay for all of you?"

"Excellent. Welcome to your new life. That was big change wasn't it!"

Factors That Make The Process Work

1. Rapport

Breathe in time with the person
Sit in a similar position to them
Use similar voice tone, speed and volume
Restate their comments to confirm you've understood_

2. Use Language That Creates Positive Internal Representations Of Success

Rather than "This may be scary", say "I'm not saying this will be totally comfortable". Once you've started, refer to "the way you used to feel when you thought of this" and "the problem you had", placing the difficulty in the past._

3. Get A Clear Pretest And A Clear, Convincing Post-Test

Before, at step 3. of the process, ask the person to recreate their anxiety just enough so you and they can confirm that it has been a problem, and they would know if it changed.

After, at step 8 of the process, ask the person to try to get back the anxiety and have them confirm that it has changed. If it hasn't, don't try to pretend its working. Actually re-run the process till it works and the person is convinced, or has a plan to test it as soon as possible. Many people do not fully notice the change until you point it out to them. Some people need to try three or even five times to be convinced._

4. Keep The "Roles" Or Perspectives In Each Chair Distinct

Always speak to the person as if they are actually in the theatre when they sit on the theatre seat. Always speak as if they are actually in the projection booth when they sit in the projection booth seat. If, while in the projection booth seat, the person begins to talk about what it was like inside the traumatic experience, have them stand up and move "out of the projection booth". You want both seats safely separated from the memory._

5. Know Your Choices For Times When The Person Isn't Dissociating_

1. Have the person stand up and fire their resource anchor.
2. Walk around the room with them.
3. Have the person get out of the projection booth and imagine they are further away from the movie screen.
4. Use the Reframe below

6. Be Clear In Your Mind What A Phobia/Traumatic Response Is In NLP Terms

If it could be caused in 30 seconds it can be cured in 30 seconds. Emotionally healthy individuals recall positive experiences associated and negative experiences dissociated. A phobia or an anxiety disorder caused by trauma is just an accidental mis-storage of a memory.

Reframe: For When A Part Of The Person Doesn't Want To Let The Fear Go

"Now I know that there's a part of you that thought it was important for you to hold on to those old feelings. A part of you may have been trying to keep you safe, or to make sure that you really learned the lesson of this event. But holding on to the feeling hasn't actually kept you safe. It has made your life more dangerous by having you live in fear. If that part of you really wants you to have learned from that event, then it will really keep you safe by letting go of the feeling now, and keeping the things you needed to learn."_

Dr Richard Bolstad is an NLP Master Practitioner and Trainer who has worked with clients individually and as a trainer of groups since 1990. He can be contacted at PO Box 35111, Browns Bay, Auckland, New Zealand, Phone/Fax: +64-9-478-4895 E-mail: learn@transformations.net.nz Website: http://www.transformations.net.nz