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Painful memories

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We’re often asked to help someone who has a painful memory. Whether it’s a phobic response, grief, post-traumatic stress, or what-have-you, NLP gives us the tools we need to help.

Sometimes, though, I question whether or not we should. I see value in grief, myself, and believe it should be left alone unless it’s crippling. According to my CISM trainer, post-traumatic stress should be left alone too, at least for the first 24 hours, to give the client’s own coping abilities time to work. And as I mentioned in this thread on NLP Connections, I believe altering or eliminating the memory of a painful event could have negative effect in and of itself, by preventing the client from learning from the event.

I actually learned this from a client, a good friend of mine. She had been sexually abused as a child, and had a phobic response whenever someone patted their thigh in a “come sit on my lap” sense. She’d talk about it, and every time I’d offer to help her with it, she’d refuse. She was wise enough to know she wasn’t done with it, and knowing she could have my help with it gave her the strength to face it on her own, as much as she could, drawing knowledge and wisdom from the event. This went on for many months. When she finally gave me permission to help, it took all of fifteen minutes. (I can’t tell you how gratifying it was when, a couple of days later, she came over to me and sat on my lap.)

Anyway, today on the Freakonomics Blog, author Steven Levitt wrote:

My son Andrew died exactly ten years ago today, October 23, 1999, nine days after his first birthday. No one would describe me as emotional. And yet the wound still remains remarkably raw.

I say there’s nothing wrong with that.

Please read the rest of the article: Naming the Child

The title of his article is taken from the book of the same name, which he recommends. It looks quite compelling. (If you choose to buy the book, please go ahead and follow the amazon referral link from his article, rather than the one here.)

All I’m suggesting is that we, perhaps, consider ecology before we do anything like this. We humans evolved with the ability to feel fear, anxiety, sadness, grief, and the like, and there’s an evolutionary advantage to them. Let’s not just toss them away.

Written by Michael DeBusk

October 24th, 2009 at 3:19 pm

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