Autosomatic Training and Science

What does Autosomatic Training have to do with Science?

Introduction

A few days ago, a young man walked into my office appearing slightly irritated. On greeting he said he had a good week with no specific difficulties. When asked how he felt, he said "So.So". When I invited him to self-examine by focusing on his 'so-so' body sensations, and close his eyes to catch subliminal imagery, he became visibly agitated. He realized that in coming into the office building on his way into my office, he saw a  man who was standing by the doorway that had brought back a painful subliminal memory of his father raging at the client when the client was ten years old and paralyzed with fear for his life. After deliberately and  thoroughly reliving that incident and others over the course of 15 to 20 minutes, the client became peaceful and was able to calmly talk about his father and what had transpired in his childhood. When asked now to bring back the painful image, instead he brought back a good memory of playing with his father as a younger boy. When asked how he now thought about the painful incident, he responded with a wise and mature perspective. When asked about his feeling state, he said he was 100% peaceful and comfortable.

The net effect of this exercise was that he had recognized a subliminal memory, relived it and completely resolved it in his own mind. He had deliberately uncovered what had been going on inside, relived it and resolved it. He had acknowledged his previous impotent rage, expressed it, and grieved his lost childhood by experiencing, and expressing the whole truth of what was going on below the level of awareness. He was now peaceful and wiser about himself and his place in life. Except for my invitation he did this all by himself. I did not need to coach him this time. He deliberately changed his own mind by altering his internal imagery, his body sensations, his thought system, and even his own behaviour - in 15 t0 20 minutes.

As I often say to people, if you can heal one negative memory, you can heal two, or three...or in fact you can heal all your negative memories. That is what happens in the practice of Autosomatic Training.

I could talk about a client who was hospitalized for a severe puzzling mental difficulty but is now high functioning. Or a person who was paralyzed with obsessions and compulsions, or another with panic, or depression - the list goes on and on - all getting significant benefit from using Autosomatic Training to manage their internal states.

The nature of the problem is that the conscious mind, the one with which we talk, plan, and think, has only a small fraction of all the potential data. The important part of the data, the part that drives a large portion of our thoughts, feelings and behaviours, is below the level of conscious awareness. Autosomatic Training teaches how, in the conscious aware state, to retrieve that material through directed focus on body sensations, resolve any and all negative imaged memory that is driving behaviour, and thereby open the way to integration of the conscious and unconscious aspects of the mind, resolving inner conflict.

Autosomatic Training arose out of the self-examinations of myself, Phil Walsh, in 1978. It came from a process of self discovery. Through focus on the feelings and emotions arising from life events, it was discovered that imaged memories would appear that had the same feeling tone as the current life events. On deliberately experiencing and reliving these memories, it was found that they could be brought to complete resolution with no residue of negative feelings. In fact, a whole string of memories could be brought back and they could all be worked through, often in a single session. The reworking and resolution of the memories would usually include the current incident that had instigated the whole process of self examination.

The reworking involved experiencing and expressing the complete emotional truth aroused by the incidents - fear, anger, rage, anxiety, shame etc. Furthermore, it was found possible to go back and review both the instigating incident and all the memories in the chain, to see if they were all completely resolved. If they were not complete, they could be reworked to completion.

What changes in the memory? The image is updated to an image of resolution. You do not forget what happened. But the thought pattern associated with the memory is now wiser, more mature, empowered and proactive. Behaviour arising out of the now-resolved memory is empowered and appropriate to the current context - that is the person is no longer imposing the past negative experience on the present, nor projecting it into the future. Of the memories worked through and resolved over the last 30+ years, none have ever recurred in their original negative form.

A Perennial Psychology

What we are about to describe may well be thought of as a recurrent and hence a perennial way of looking at the functioning of the human mind and heart. Psychological trauma was recognized after the First World War as 'Shell Shock" - and then forgotten. It was recognized after the Second World War - and then forgotten. It was recognized again after the Viet Nam War - this time, so far, it has not yet been forgotten (Trauma and Recovery, Judith Herman, 1997). The same patterns of discovery and forgetfulness of the trauma model over the last one hundred years also apply to the specific perennial forgetfulness of the value of imaged memory over the millennia as an important and primary component in the access to and healing of traumatic memories.

The thread that ties this whole discussion together on Autosomatic Training and Science is that the most important emotional material in our psyche is stored in images, as imaged memory, as image-based recall. This thread is thousands of years old, and yet it has slipped off the radar, time and again. It is now spontaneously rediscovered as the self-help process called Autosomatic Training. It is also being re-discovered through modern psychological science in the form of such practices as Prolonged Exposure (PE), Imagery Rescripting and Reprocessing Therapy (IRRT), and Eye Movement and Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) - all forms of working with imaged memory, well-described as Imaginal Exposure, as opposed to verbal-based recall and intellectual processing.

The terms 'image-based reliving' as opposed to 'verbal-based recall' are used by a modern psychiatrist and neuroscientist, Dr. Ruth Lanius. In her work using what is called Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (f-MRI), she maps the functioning of the brain. In patients with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder she is able to demonstrate that in flashbacks the right visual cortex becomes activated compared to when there is no flashback. During a flashback the patient is involved in reliving a traumatic memory as if it is current reality. The point about imaged memory is that it is going on much of the time - see the quote from Jung below. If the memory is pleasant there is no problem. If the imaged memory is negative or painful, the person experiences distress but is not consciously aware of its source. In this case I call it a subliminal flashback. The subliminal flashback can be highly traumatic but its source is not consciously known to the person experiencing it. It is the work of Autosomatic Training to assist the person (Auto) to deliberately track to the imaged memory by focusing on the associated negative body senastions (somatic), and teach the person how to effectively relive and thoroughly resolve the historical incident that is creating the distress (Training).

The Current Problem and Its Possible Solution

Twenty percent of the population is going to have a diagnosable mental illness in their lifetime. Of the other 80%, an unknown number are often described by those working in the mental health system as the 'walking wounded'. In other words, they do not have a diagnosable mental illness, but they have a significant amount of mental distress. We do know that there is at least one form of mental illness that is induced largely by the human environment, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This is a significant disorder that can lead to crippling anxiety and distress, violence to others - including loved ones, and suicide. Therefore we address it in the section on Science, further on in this discussion.

It is known that stress in the environment can increase the rate of relapse and hospitalization in diagnosable mental illness. A stressful environment also increases the distress in everyone else - the walking wounded. My wife Dolores and I were able to get a valuable first-hand lesson in how this all works. We were invited to come into some northern, fly-in only, isolated Native communities to address the then current suicide epidemics among young teenagers. We were able to see first-hand the community effects of trans-generational trauma, as well as the effects of apparent neglect and abandonment by governmental agencies that are supposedly responsible, by treaty, for their well-being. While we were able, using Autosomatic Training, to facilitate the arrest of the suicide epidemics (there were no further suicides once we started working in the comunities), it also became clear to us that the overall level of community distress caused by the transgenerational transmission of trauma, and the overall level of distress that may be considered  the result of current governmental neglect of Native communities, was increasing the community distress faster that any mental health system could reasonably manage and resolve it. And, by the way, the original source of the transgenerational distress was that induced by governmental agencies under the old 'assimilate-or-die' policies - including the deliberate introduction of alcohol, the removal of a generation of children from their families and communities, and Residential School sexual and physical abuse. That generation that was taken away and mistreated is now the generation in charge in the communities.

However, what was truly remarkable was that as we worked one-on-one, with couples, and with small groups in these communities using Autosomatic Training, it became clear that the issue was not that of diagnosable mental illness. These were sensible, intelligent, compassionate people. There was nothing 'wrong' with them. The issue was largely the environmentally-induced trauma.  Fortunately, the trauma, including PTSD, was managable with Autosomatic Training while we were able to work in the communities.

However, the bigger issue is that on a planetary level we have all, every one of us, been affected by the historical subjugation of our ancestors to similar assimilate-or-die policies. The 'system', over the millenia, has, by and large, been enforced by trauma or threats of trauma and manipulated and enforced consent.

The main isue here is that the damage in the world is too widespread for any mental health system to manage it, let alone keep up with the on-going damage. Furthermore, the tools now being used are, by and large, not up to the job. Nor have the spiritual and religious systems been able to facilitate people's mental health. However, in my opinion, the spritual and religious systems have the fundamental tools and attitudes required. The People of the Book - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - have the tools embedded in their literature. Buddhism and Hinduism also have the tools and literature embedded in their systems. An example of this in Buddhism is the quote on the next page in the brief section on Buddhism, along with the guidelines such as The Eightfold Path, and The Four Noble Truths. The literature of all of these spiritual systems is available world-wide. By using the core technology of Autosomatic Training that is very powerful in doing the deep internal work, and tying that in with the spiritual and religious literatures worldwide, we have the possibility of significantly altering, for the better, the lives of almost every one on this planet. The time may be short. And yes, we need a world-wide movement. Join the process and heal yourself. Then help to heal others and the planet. It is in your hands. People often ask me what I am going to do with Autosomatic Training. I always reply, "What are you going to do with Autosomatic Training". And yes, there are a number of people who are making a living practising Autosomatic Training. I am one of them - for 30+ years. We are teaching a self-help system with worldwide application. 

What has all this to do with science? Before getting into modern science, it is helpful to note that prior to Freud and Jung, the psyche and emotional healing were more the realm of the Medicine Man, the Spiritual Advisor or the Philosopher. Here are some historical practices and what they have to had to say about self-healing, and how that relates to spiritual practice and Autosomatic Training, and in particular imaged memory.

PRIOR TO MODERN SCIENCE

King David of Israel

King David of Israel some 3000+ years ago, when confronted about deliberately causing the death of one of his warriors, Uriah the Hittite, in order to acquire Uriah's wife, said: "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden parts You will make me know wisdom...Create in me a clean heart O God...And do not take your Holy Spirit from me...The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart - these, O God, you will not despise" (Psalm 51:5-6,10-11,17, New King James Version [NKJV]). He also said in a Psalm: "You have turned for me my mourning into dancing" (Psalm 30: 11, NKJV), and "[God] said to me, ' You are my son, today I have begotten you' "(Psalm 2:7, NKJV). We see here a familiar pattern of desiring to deliberately access the emotions, and at the same time review one's personal history - potentially back to childhood and birth - to achieve spiritual and emotional healing and growth. Access to the emotions and personal history, and expressing the deep painful internal truths, results in wisdom and spiritual growth. By entering though his pain, David was able to reconstuct his emotions and behaviours, and find spiritual peace. 

The Buddha

In a similar vein, about 2500 years ago the Buddha reportedly said: "To the person who experiences sensation I show the way to realize what is suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the path leading to its cessation" (A.III.vii 61 (ix) Titthayatana Sutta, as quoted in Hart, The Art of Living, p.148). The Buddha was referring primarily to the sensation of suffering - focusing on the pain. As above, focusing on the painful emotions leads to the historical origin of the pain, their relief, and the whole path leading to relief of the suffering is encountered. Obviously, the inner search, entering via body sensation to clean the heart (emotions), is highly productive.

Jesus and John the Baptist

Two thousand years ago, both Jesus and John The Baptist started their ministries saying "Clean your heart" (Matt. 3:1-2; 4:17, Phillip's Translation). I use the Phillips Translation here because it provides more nuance than the familiar term usually used -'repent'. The original Greek term in the manuscript is 'metanoia' which can mean "think differently or afterwards, that is reconsider (morally to feel compunction: - repent (Strong's Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries). In The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: "Blessed are the poor in spirit...Blessed are those who mourn...Blessed are the pure of heart" (Matt. 5:3-8). Obviously, a major exercise in this same Judeo-Christian tradition is to clean out and purify your heart of all negative emotions and attitudes.With respect to the inner work, and the technique of cleaning the heart, Jesus said: "The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness" (Matt. 6:22-23, NKJV). So when you go inside to clean your heart, you also have to be aware of how you see the world inside your mind, i.e. the inner imagery. How the image appears in your mind is what you project and act out onto the world. When your eye acts like a lamp, it sends the perceptual signal out to anyone in your presence. Also, you interpret the world through your inner perceptions of imaged memory and thereby do not see the world as it is. There is a remedy for this. To alleviate anger, greed, anxiety, and judgmental thoughts and behaviour, "First remove the plank {image, memory, darkness} from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye" (Matt. 7:5, NKJV). When you do your inner work, cleaning your heart and removing your negative perceptual filters (negatively charged imaged memories), you arrive at the place where you can agree with the statement: "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them for this is the essence of all true religion" (Matt. 7:12, Phillips Translation). (Again, this is a looser but nuanced translation;  the original text says "for this is the Law and the Prophets".) In other words, you are at peace, non-judgmental, and have mastered your anger, fear, greed and anxiety, and are in a healthy spiritual position.

James the Just

James was a brother of Jesus, and the head of the group of Jewish followers of Jesus as the  promised Messiah in the first century C.E. James and the 'Church' in Jerusalem were all followers of the Law and worshipped at the Temple in Jerusalem. They were practising Jews. King David, quoted earlier, had said "Create in me a pure heart, O God" and "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise" (Psalm 51:10,17, NKJV). In the Beatitudes Jesus had said "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven", and "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God" (Matthew 5:3,8, NKJV), and . James, in a similar practical vein, said "Cleanse your hands you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom" (NKJV). The practice of deliberately seeking out and re-experiencing emotional and psychological pain, detecting the 'plank' in the eye, telling the whole inner truth about the incidents, mourning the past as needed, and doing this thoroughly thereby cleaning the emotions (the heart) to a point of purity (100% clean and clear) - this is a practice thousands of years old.

The Gnostics and The Secret Gospel of Thomas

Several hundred years later, in the third or fourth century of the Common Era (C.E.), a book was buried at Nag Hammadi in Egypt. It was uncovered in 1945 and eventually translated. That book is called The Secret Gospel of Thomas. Some accept that the content of this book extends back to the time of Jesus, and therfore should be part of the New Testament literature. A specific verse in that book, verse 84, neatly sums up what we have been talking about so far. It ties together the cleaning of the heart and the distress we feel, i.e. what we 'have to bear', with the imaged memory that is below the level of awareness (i.e. unconscious). Comparing the conscious to the unconscious, the verse says: "When you see your likeness [in a mirror], you are pleased. But when you see your images that came into being [in front of] you and that neither die nor become visible, how much you will have to bear" (in Beyond Belief by Elaine Pagels, Vintage, p.238). These images then, are unresolved memories that have not been resolved since the time they first occured (i.e. they have not died), and they are not visible (i.e. they are below the level of awareness - unconscious). The message is, pay attention to your heart (feelings, emotions), find the imaged memory (the plank, log, beam) in your inner eye and eliminate its negative effect on you and others by fully expressing the emotional truth that you would have liked to express at the time of the original incident. The process is to clean the heart, remove the plank from your inner eye, relieve your emotional distress, and at the same time heal your personal and spiritual relationships.

Islam

Let's jump in time to the 17th century C.E. In referring to Islamic Mystics in the 1600s, Karen Armstrong, in her book, The Battle for God, writes: "thinkers emphasized the role of the unconscious, which they depicted as a state between the realm of sense perceptions and that of intellectual abstractions...the world of pure images...these visions were not just subjective fantasies but had objective reality, even if they remained impervious to logical analysis" (p.55, 2000, Ballantyne). In her book A History of God, Armstrong explains "Union with God was not reserved for the next world...in his ascent to God the mystic had to travel through the alam al-mithal, the realm of mystery and imagination. God is not a reality that can be found objectively, but will be found within the image-making faculty of each individual Muslim" (Ballantine, 1993, p 262). In Autosomatic Training, we get to those 'pure images' by focusing on the sense perceptions and tracking them to get to the imaged memory, the 'log' in the eye. It is clear that the work with imaged memory, explicit and implicit, is a vital part of mental, emotional and spiritual healing. While its practical validity is seen daily in the practice of Autosomatic Training, it is satisfying, even comforting, to see that it is also a part of ancient wisdom.

Judaism

In The Battle for God,we also find this description of some Jewish mystics in the 1700s C.E. "Habad Hasidim were taught to manage their unconscious by descending ever deeper into their mind until they encountered, like mystics in all the great traditions, a sacred presence in the ground of their being" (ibid p.102). Again, the search in the deeper reaches of the mind has great spiritual rewards.

In short, the principles of Autosomatic Training ring throughout the millenia. What I 'discovered' within myself was known and practised through the ages by sincere seekers who wanted to do their life right. As it was said of old: "That which hath been is that which shall be; and that which hath been done is that which will be done: and there is nothing new under the sun' (Eccl 1:9, Darby Translation). This is a good message for all Psychologists, Psychiatrists and other Psychotherapists to keep in mind. The thinkers and seekers that came before us deserve a serious hearing (see Cosmic Consciousness, Bucke, 1901). The principles of self-examination - acknowledging problem thoughts and behaviors; being mindful of the sensations, feelings and emotions; tracking those feelings to their origin as imaged memories; fully experiencing the truth of those emotions - good and evil; experiencing and expressing those emotions to full  resolution; reflecting on our personal path from birth to the present; confessing to others the exact nature of our wrongs; and proceeding on to a peaceful, healthy emotional and spiritual path - are ancient and modern, at the same time.

There are Five Basic Principles of Autosomatic Training:

1) Every problematic thought or behaviour has an associated negative feeling

2) Every negative feeling has at least one associated image (memory; symbolic image; dark, coloured, and/or light)

3) Every image can have a satisfactory resolution

4) Every series of memories and images can have a satisfactory resolution.

5) Every life can be lived in the present, not imposing the unresolved past onto the present, nor projecting the unresolved past into the future.

6) Autosomatic Training is a spiritual practice.

 

MODERN  PSYCHOTHERAPEUTIC SCIENCE

Modern psychotherapeutic science may be considered to begin, for all practical purposes with Freud and Jung in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Karl Jung

Jung recognized the power of inner imagery with these words "The psyche consists essentially of images. It is a series of images in the truest sense..a structure that is throughout full of meaning and purpose; it is a picturing of vital activities" (Spirit and Life, 1926, in Smucker and Dancu, p 23). This is by now a familiar theme of the importance of imagery, especially the detrimental effect of negative imagery, that can be located and resolved by inner analysis involving remembering, grieving, self-empowering in the memory, resolution of the traumatic effects of the past, and reconciliation with current reality.

Sigmund Freud

In the early years of Freud's investigations, he recognized the power of imaged memory and how it could be successfully managed. In addressing the work with imaged memory, he elabotates: "Moreover, a recollection never returns a second time once it has been dealt with; an image that has been 'talked away' is not seen again... If nevertheless this does happen we can confidently assume that the second time the image will be accompanied by a new set of thoughts, or the idea will have new implications...the whole clinical picture vanishes, just as happens with memories that are reproduced individually" (Studies in Hysteria, 1895, Penguin Freud Library, 1991, p 382-3, 386). Freud's descriptions of working with imaged memory are confirmed by my own explorations using Autosomatic Training, seeing negative images and clinical patterns yielding to intervention. It is in fact correct that a resolved image does never return - at least not for 30 years, in my experience. The original image is not seen again in its original form.

I often use this information early on when working with a client. I will ask the person to bring up a negative recollection, work it through to completion, and then compare the result to the original incident. The image is revised, the thought and opinion pattern is now different, and the negative feeling is now completely gone. The issue is resolved within the person, even though there may need to be practical follow-up out in the world. It is possible now to return at any time in the future - days, weeks, or months - and demonstrate that in fact the previous negative memory has been resolved and has stayed resolved. This demonstartion is very helpful in supporting the client to continue the work through to completion.

However, the nature of the traumatic and even incendiary material uncovered by Freud about intra-familial and other abuse of children and family was very difficult to manage and overtly continue to describe in the times in which Freud lived. Judith Herman discussed this in some detail in Trauma and Recovery (mentionned above). Freud moved away from this model, and went on to develop mythological and other models, more acceptable to the mental climate of the times.

Recent Scientific Perspectives

Since approximately 1980, there has been a strong resurgence of interest in the treatment of psychological traumatic stress and its aftermath. Most of these treatments for posttraumatic stress involve deliberate exposure of the sufferer to the specific known traumatic memories with significant benefit in the form of loss of distress and alleviation of flashbacks and other traumatic after-effects. The interventions are carried out in a variety of clinical settings by a variety of therapists - for example Prolonged Exposure (PE, Foa), Imagery Rescripting and Reprocessing (IRRT, Smucker), and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR, Shapiro), to mention a few. Beneficial effects are well documented.

There are 3 major differences between these scientific interventions and Autosomatic Training and the spiritual traditions. While Autosomatic Training may be used succesfully with various clinical disorders as will be demonstrated later, Autosomatic Training is also highly useful in managing and eliminating what are often called 'body memories' in the current scientific literature, or in Autosomatic Training the 'dark/light/coloured places'. Another significant difference is that Autosomatic Training may be used to monitor all negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours, with a view to eliciting all the underlying 'small t' traumatic incidents and experiences that are driving thoughts and behaviour and 'processing' them to the point where they as well are transformed within the psyche from traumatic residues to non-traumatic now-conscious incidents that are available to deliberate recall and reflective integration with autobiographical memory. A third effect that is not seen with the scientific methodology is a form of transformation that can only be called spiritual, as is seen in the spiritual traditions. This result is achieved by continuing specific 'processing' to the point referred to in the above discussions of Islam and Judaism where a spiritual experience is encountered in 'the ground of [our] being'. The net effect is to live with inner peace and healthy relationships.

Treatments for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

John P. Wilson, Ph.D. has been prominent in the treatment of PTSD in Viet Nam veterans for many years. In discussing the treatment of psychological trauma he states: "Successful resolution of traumatic memories requires emotional engagement with the traumatic memories, modification of core beliefs, and reconstruction and integration of the trauma narrative into a person's personal history" (Treating Psychological Trauma and PTSD, Wilson at al, 2001). This is a good description of the results of exposing people to their negative memories and flashbacks. The similarity between this description and Autosomatic Training is clear. However, Autosomatic Training is able to be applied in a thoroughgoing manner to all negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours to get emotional and psychological clearing well beyond the symptoms of PTSD.

In a similar vein, in discussing war trauma treatment with psychodynamic psychotherapy, the following stement was made: "After 19 months of no progress with psychodynamic therapy, therapy by imagery was tried...The use of the imagery technique was not planned in advance; rather it was introduced at appropriate times in the context of the session...Ten sessions of this imagery therapy were effective in ameliorating the client's PTSD" (in Foa, Rothbaum, Treating the Trauma of Rape, 1998). The introducation and use of imagery in this manner is similar to its use in Autosomatic Training. Later in this paper, I will detail similar results with PTSD from the use of Autosomatic Training in my practice.

Prolonged Exposure (PE)

Edna Foa is well known in the field of PTSD treatment. It may well be that her treatment procedure of Prolonged Exposure is the best researched and documented in the field. In a specific systematic manner PE re-exposes the client to the traumatic memories to the point where the client no longer has flashbacks and clinical PTSD, though there will be some residual trauma after-effects. Foa's technique is very similar to Autosomatic Training. The main difference is that Autosomatic Training is a technique that is specifically designed to be used in a life-long manner as a self-help technique, and may be used for any and all negative experiences, major and minor, that may arise.

With respect to safety, Foa states that "exposure therapy is not associated with a greater risk of symptom worsening than other forms of treatment. Indeed...if anything, withholding treatment rather than providing active treatments is associated with greater symptom worsening" (in Follette and Ruzek, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies for Trauma, 2006). However, this is a difficult message to get across to practitioners of psychotherapy, who are very cautious of inducing disassociation that they might find unmanagable within their skill set. It is probable that practitioners would be more comfortable wth PE if they experienced it within themselves, as is done routinely in the teaching and practice of Autosomatic Training.

Imagery Rescripting and Reprocessing Therapy (IRRT)

IRRT may be considered a derivative of PE that pays particular attention to specific aspects of exposure therapy that might re-enforce the trauma effects as opposed to alleviating them. With IRRT, "The contents of specific traumatic memories are essentially treated as distressing cognitions...to be replaced with more adaptable cognitions/images" (Smucker and Dancu, Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment for Adult Survivors of Childhood Trauma, 1999). Some people may object to treating memories in a manner that effects the recall of the buried memory. However, in the process of reliving and resolving the traumatic memory, it is as if the 'frame' of an old traumatic 'freeze-frame' has been advanced to a place of healthy resolution. The original experience is not forgotten. However, if you ask the person to bring back the memory, they will spontaneously tend to bring back the resolved 'healed' memory, even if the memory is only partially resolved. If the work is systematically taken to complete resolution, the associated feelings and thoughts are 100% resolved. At that point, the 'log' is completely removed.

Cognitive Therapy

While PE and IRRT are generically classified as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, the material presented in this section refers to the more 'classical' Cognitive Therapy or Aaron and Judith Beck.

Aaron Beck is quoted as saying: "In order to modify the image, it is necessary to go back in time, as it were, and recreate the situation. When the interactions are brought to life, the misconstruction is activated - along with the affect - and cognitive restructuring may occur" (Beck et al, in Smucker and Dancu, p25). This explanation fits well with all of the above disussion about Autosomatic Training.

Similarly, Judith Beck states "Another technique uses imagery to restructure early memories in the presence of affect...This Gestalt therapy type of technique has been adapted specifically to change core beliefs and is more often used with patients with personality disorders...Again, the therapist has the patient reexperience an earl distressing event that seems to have helped originate or maintain a core belief" (J.Beck, Cognitive Therapy, Basics and Beyond, 1995, p186). In this case, Beck refers to altering core beliefs in personality disorders using an imaginal exposure-type of therapy, since you cannot truly reenact a memory and leave out the imaginal part. One would then expect, that with altering core beliefs in a thorough and systematic manner, one might expect the person to no longer meet criteria for the personaliy disorder. In my own practice, that has in fact occured several times, as will be noted in the following section.

A Snapshot of a Psychotherapy Practice Using Autosomatic Training

While my retrospective review of my practice of psychotherapy could not be considered a scientific investigation, it does provide some interesting possibilties for a systematic scientific assessment of the potential of Autosomatic Training.  It is usually not necessary or even desirable to make a clinical Psychological or Psychiatric diagnosis to practice Autosomatic Training. If there is any question, though, an appropriate referral for Psychlogical or Psychiatric assesment should be made. Autosomatic Training is basically and historically a spiritual process open to all seekers. Indeed, that is exactly how I came across it in the first place. However, whenever I do an assessment I will attempt to make a valid diagnosis. This allows me to make before and after assessments, to first recognize a disorder, and then to recognize through periodic re-assessments if the diagnosis is no longer valid due to the person's recovery. In the group of clients I am about to discuss, assessments  were done systematically before working with them. Assessments, once the process was started, were done when it was relevant or clinically convenient. The calculations of recovery were done out of curiosity, not as a search for validity of the procedure. That was already known to me by 30 years of clinical experience with Autosomatic Training. The results proved very satisfying. The average time to recovery for 10 cases of PTSD was 12.7 weeks. For 3 persons meeting criteria of Borderline Personality Disorder the average time to recovery was 26 weeks. If, out of interst, I calculate only the 2 longest times to loss of diagnosis of Borderline Personlity Disorder, the average time elapsed was 35 weeks. The average time to recovery with 6 cases of Major Depressive Episode was 11.4 weeks. Other recovered cases involved Obssesive Compulsive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Grief Reaction, and Panic Disorder.

Conclusion

The method used in Autosomatic Training, while discovered relatively recently in 1978, has a long and honourable history of precedent going back at least 3 thousand years to the Wisdom Literature of the Hebrew Bible, the Tanakh. What is common to all these practices is a sincere search for love, truth and peace of mind, which has always required a deep internal search within the self, that results, by the grace of God if you will, with a spiritual sense of encountering the Divine. There is a fascinating study by Bucke about the search for 'cosmic consciousness' over the millenia that describes the chracteristics of the seeker and the results of their search (Cosmic Consciousness, Bucke, 1901). Along the Way, pain, anger, fear, anxiety and everyday conflicts are overcome. The result is peace in the self and love in relationships with man and God.

This practice is much easier if the path is known and a guide is available. Fortunately, presence of the path is already alluded to in the wisdom literature of the People of the Book, but also in other great religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and others. The path is open to people of all faiths. Having this information will hopefully make searching of their own sacred literature all the more rewarding. The Mission of Autosomatic Training is to help make that path even more accessible to as many people as possible.