The Flash Technique (Manfield, Lovett, Engel, & Manfield, 2017) developed by Dr. Phil Manfield has shown that moving a memory is possible without directly activating a memory or directly reprocessing it. How it happens and what is exactly happening is still up for discussion (See Dr. Ricky Greenwald’s blog HERE, particularly in the discussion section). Nonetheless, I have combined a bunch of ideas and approaches that helps a wide range of clients, particularly, first responders, police officers, vets, victims of crime, and people with addictions. I have also used it to help stabilize someone’s addiction recovery when they find themselves substituting their addictions. It is more than possible that what I am suggesting has been done before but I have not heard of it yet.
I have been searching to find something that can help stabilize someone’s addiction either by stabilizing the symptoms of trauma or the addiction (as if they were separate) through targeting the “addiction memory” (Boening, 2001) as a trauma. What I have found by combining flash technique with Ego State Therapy and a solid conceptualization of addiction in an intensive format helps stabilize both trauma, dissociation, and addiction. I am in full agreement with Dr. Jamie Marich blog (2019) on EMDR 2.5 where a solid understanding of the EMDR protocol combined with various other trauma techniques like titration, pendulation, using fragments, body mapping, and body sensations are helpful in preparing clients for reprocessing, particularly in Phase 2 of EMDR. With that said, what the flash technique has shown me is that it offers something else, in combination with Ego State Therapy, mainly stabilization of the memory system, creates a common goal, and provides access and resources to the unconscious mind. I find that the case conceptualization is particularly important because it provides the rationale needed to stabilize and paired with Ego State Therapy it provides the structure of the psyche. Which can be an unknown to the client at this stage of treatment. The case conceptualization that Dr. Marich and I are producing currently is “Addiction as Dissociation.” You can see an overview HERE.
The flash technique offers these criteria before using it: (1) it is for high impact trauma/high SUDS and (2) be mindful of feeder memories. On the point of feeder memories, I find that this approach helps eliminate that issue to a large degree but you still need to rule out significant dissociation, bi-polar or mania, psychotic symptoms before performing the flash technique as you would in Phase 1 of EMDR.
To me, what the flash technique offers is different from standard resourcing, RDI, or traditional preparation skills like grounding and is more like titration and pendulation.
Standard EMDR preparation skills like safe/calm place, container, healing light, or butterfly hug do not require accessing or activation of traumatic memories, however, it can happen with more complex presentations. From my understanding, titration and pendulation in the resourcing and preparation phase 2 is about working with painful material but in moderation. This is where preparation/resourcing 2.5 comes in to play. Dr. Marich’s point, besides that we should cautious of the latest fades, holds that because titration and pendulation do similar things to the flash technique. I fully agree because body awareness is powerful and allows the clients to gain experience holding the pain in their physical awareness. However, the flash technique does not require this. Titration and pendulation provide a “toe in the water” process, whereas the flash technique does not. However, clients still needs body awareness to reprocess so 2.5 skills will still have to be done as well before moving forward in the phases of EMDR and for EMDR to be the most effective.
There are some other aspects that the Flash Technique is different from standard resourcing, titration, and pendulation.
1) In Dr. Ricky Greenwald’s blog, and quoting Bruce Ecker in the discussion section, the flash technique may be taking out some of the fear of addressing the memory. I think this is where titration and pendulation are similar but direct contact with the overwhelming experience is not required in the flash technique.
2) By pairing the distressing memories with a positive place provides the opportunity for discord, which memory reconsolidation requires (Ecker, Ticic, & Hulley, 2012). Activation was also thought to be required in memory reconsolidation but this is what makes the flash technique different and possibly new.
3) Dual Attention Stimulus is used in Flash Technique and not typically in titration and pendulation.
4) Subliminal suggestions are powerful (just look at advertising) and when the memories are put on the back burner (possibly working memory) and a more positive experience is focused on, it appears that some shift in where the memory is stored is able to happen without activation. From my experience with this bulk format, when the more unconscious ego states are ready to let go of the pain of the traumas and have connected to the meeting area, they will let go. They feel more empowered to take on their stuff. Presentations where people are consciously or unconsciously bonded to their traumas, which are particularly in more shame-based presentation and developmental traumas, then memories are not going to move until there is cohesion in the ego state meeting area. However, the flash technique is not typically for these types of traumas and where titration and pendulation can be more helpful.
Where the flash technique is different is that it appears moves the memory… or memories as I found out about a year ago while working with a first responder and they said, “there are like 9 calls that stay with me still that are off the chart.” Ever curious, I thought about a bulk option.
What I am presenting here in the scripts below is an ideal and mostly general because each session is individual to the client. I do suggest consultation around this, particularly if is not clear. There is a level of finesse in this approach and it is not something that someone can teach per say because it is based on felt experience. This felt experience is based on the dual attunement that is critical to use as a guide. I have taught a handful of consultees this bulk technique,” who were first trained by Dr. Phil Manfield in the technique. “Bulk Flash,” as I am calling it, has gotten a similar response when they used it. I have done it with a dozen or so clients that I have used it and I am now offering it here to help others. For me, I have been using it to help first responders continue their work and to stabilize active addictions, which is quite promising.
Before you read further, you will need to know and feel comfortable with Ego State Therapy (or IFS), and the Theory of Structural Dissociation. I do not go into it too much here because it would be too much to cover. I do suggest Robin Shapiro’s Easy Ego State Interventions, Sandra Paulsen’s: When There are No Words and Looking Through the Eyes, Andrew Sheubert’s use of his RUG-C, Shirley Jean Schmidt’s: Development Needs and Meeting Strategy (DNMS), and Dissociation and Addiction Resources page with Institute for Creative Mindfulness: HERE.
Here is the set-up with some reasoning sprinkled in:
After the conscious intake, I do an unconscious intake by doing the dissociative meeting area based on Dissociative Table by Watkins and Watkins (1997) with every client. Whether it is metaphorical, analogous, or actual the ego state meeting area is a part of the clients lived experience one way or another, whether they are conscious of it or not. A main point of the meeting area is to see how conscious the client is of their unconscious process, let alone, how willing they are to go there. Another way of putting it is: the meeting area also helps see how willing the unconscious is to let them in.
What the ego state meeting area represents to me is a look into the psyche or “looking under the hood.” The aspects of self that present (and who don’t originally present) in the meeting area are what make this person, this person. The meeting area also allows them to see this aspect of themselves too, at least their conscious mind. This is a big moment for the conscious mind. This is how the “Eureka” moments work; the conscious aspects of the mind realizes what the unconscious has been saying all these years. The experiences and non-experiences alike that the client holds, have made them who they are today and I know that I am not only talking to the person that is sitting in front of me; I know that I am talking to every person they have ever been. Who they have been can hold the encapsulated memories (Scaer, 2010) of what happened to them. Or another way of saying it, they are personifications of those held traumatic experiences. All trauma impacts temporal time and space. Untreated trauma continues that trend to the point that the core beliefs and the emotion felt still stay with the person and is usually fragmented. However, as we know the body keeps the score. Trauma separates us because there was a before, during, and after a traumatic event so everyone who experiences trauma can feel a sense of separateness until it is resolved.
I offer this to clients: “I know that I am not only talking to the person that is sitting in front of me. I know that I am talking to every person you, you have ever been. I would like the yous that you have been to have opportunity to get the therapy that they did not get at the time.”
I then ask, “Where would be a comfortable place for you to meet who you have been?” “A meeting of the minds so to speak.”
This is a continuation of the assessment phase, meaning that I am looking to see how aware they are of their processes/who or what parts of them shows up. If and when there appears to be an understanding of the parts and their purpose (I use RUG-C or DNMS a lot here), I move forward by filling out the space by making it real with descriptions and see who shows up. If no one shows, then consider the broad spectrum of dissociation and do psycho-education and body awareness…)
I then ask, “Does it feel like any part of you is missing?”… “Or does it feel like there are parts that may be curious but are not ready to join quite yet?”
(If there are parts missing then suggest that this is the opportunity for them to listen, if they can and want to.)
I welcome any part that may be on the periphery to come in when they feel comfortable. Here I prepare to teach the container with psycho-education about the brain. For instance, the first five minutes of the movie Inside Out is extremely helpful here. I offer the clients and parts to fill the container (without eye movements for now) with the old memories that feel like they are still staying. I suggest that it is like a library, in such that there may be volumes of books or like a movie collection. I offer them to put any old tapes/movies of past experiences that they would like to put into the container, to put them there. I also offer around this time “that this is a space for the kids to be kids and adults to be adults.” Once everything is put away, I ask “is there any feeling that comes up as a result of having some separation from the bad experiences?” “Where do you feel it in your body?” (I will do a resource install or Brainspotting Resource Spot here, when appropriate). I then suggest that the client can put the container in waiting room like the flash technique offers. But before it is put away, I will then ask them (or really the conscious self), without opening any of them, “How many are there?” and then “How big are the volumes?” Just take note of them.
Then I set-up the flash/blink with a moment of joy and do the flash technique.
What I have found is that, after doing the first round of flash/blink, what was once 15 volumes are now 3-5 volumes and the parts that did not present earlier, start presenting more. I ask about body shifts and have them simply notice it. I do the flash technique again and check in with the meeting area to see what they might be noticing. I then have them check the volumes again. Usually it stays around 3-5 and the SUDS is significantly less. Clients also report that the volumes feel lighter, are smaller, and/or are more distant. They also report that the parts are lighter and more engaged. Sometimes the backdrop of the meeting area has lightened up, distance has been decreased, and more interaction is available. Utilizing Paulsen’s concept of building Ego strength, here is where to do it through relationship building and conflict resolution.
Some bullet points to consider from my experience of doing this so far...
1)This may become their “safe place.”
2)You may have to create a more separate work environment, suggested in the dissociative table were one can combine their efforts towards their treatment goals.
3)At some point, when appropriate, the future self/recovery self as a way of the client seeing what their long-term goals are, to increase motivation, and provide an adult to be present for the younger versions.
4)If the person is bonded or addicted to their traumatic memories, as Van der Kolk has suggested in several writings () there will be mixed emotions about letting things go. Utilize Motivational Interviewing with the parts. Understanding how addiction presents in mental health and how to treat it will help the client successfully complete treatment.
5)Borderline clients, from my experience, tend to avoid establishing the meeting area so more resourcing is needed to establish the meeting area.
6)I mostly do what I have presented here in a 4-hour intensive session.
Next, I will more than likely go into the Toxic Shame: Shape and Color Set-up that I have written about. See my blog post: HERE. I then do into their traumas in a chronological fashion, unless there is a reason not to. For addiction: I make sure that I targeted their “addiction memory” with the standard protocol with the one minor alteration as outline in a previous blog that I did. You can access it: HERE.
The long and short of it is that I find that once the inner children have the space to be kids, without the responsibility of being in charge of the outcomes of life, and they can trust the adult in charge, they tend to let go of their stuff without direct reprocessing. I do go back and check in on all of their memories over the course of treatment but often times now that they have their inner-children, they are good to go for a while. You still want to process all of the memories as Flash Technique suggests.
Complex PTSD is complex because of the dissociation profile involved (which includes addictions). I have found that this is a great start for clients to build off of because now clients have a conscious awareness of the psyche structure to work with and a conceptualization that validates their unconscious processes. This makes sense because when the unconscious separation and alienation that trauma causes becomes a conscious unified front, people feel more connected to their treatment goals and whole to their purpose in life. Taking the sting out of therapy with the flash technique helps clients start to put the memories where they need to be in order for adaptive mindset and lifestyle to take root.
Growing up in Northeast Ohio, the first time I heard the word tribe was in reference to the Cleveland Indians. Our major league baseball team is nicknamed “The Tribe,” and it was a common phrase uttered in my household. Like many young Cleveland fans, I was spoon-fed the story that our ball club was named to honor Louis Sockalexis, the first full-blooded Native American individual to play in the major leagues (on the then Cleveland Spiders) from 1897-1899. Of course there is not a great deal of truth in that story, as journalist Joe Posanski unpacks in his excellent 2014 article. Yet any time I heard challenges for the Indians to change their name, my rather conservative family would say, “But it was named to honor the first Native American to play in the major leagues.”
As we say in circles of recovery, anything after but is generally bullshit.
The Cleveland Indians are once again rethinking their name, as are many sports teams that trivialize or demean Native Americans by their moniker. The time is truly now for white people in positions of power to do a great deal of rethinking, and that includes we white folks who’ve grow so accustomed to using the word tribe without fully considering its origins and the intentions of our use. A cursory glance on Instagram reveals memes like Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe and Find Your Tribe—Love Them Hard. I especially notice this tendency in white women endeavoring to be part of conscious culture, and quite frankly, it’s long bothered me.
As I came of age, I encountered other uses of tribe aside from the nickname of my favorite baseball team, including the twelve tribes of Israel, tribal dance, tribal warfare, and usages of tribe in other Indigenous histories. Ever the word geek, it’s my natural tendency to turn toward etymology. The English word tribe is Latin in origin, referencing the “tri” or three-part organization of the Roman state along ethnic lines. In English, tribe generally refers to a grouping of people who have something in common, whether that be ethnic or cultural similarities. In history and anthropology, the general connotation is that a tribe exists within a larger nation, country, or some other distinct group. As it relates to Native Americans, tribe is a Federal or State government distinction to denote enclaves within the various nations. In speaking with my closest Native American friend about this issue, she shared that she sees tribe more as a colonizing government term rather than a distinction that has actual meaning to her as a Native woman. In their 2001 article The Trouble with Tribe, Chris Love elucidates that there are so many meanings and connotations to the word tribe, it’s difficult to have clarity. If you come from an ethnic background where the word tribe or your personal connection to tribe has a great deal of meaning to you, claim that connection if you chose.
Yet as white people from European backgrounds, do we really have that right? My gut sense is no, especially if our intent in using the word is just to appear more “conscious,” “inclusive,” or even “hip” without doing the real work behind it. I see what progressives and conscious communities are trying to do with the word tribe—viewing it as an extension of the “family of choice” concept that is so vitally important to those of use, especially those of us who identify as LGBT+. Yet there are two problems here: the tendency to get cliquish in the name of consciousness, and very real possibility that we are getting inappropriately appropriative just to sound cool.
When I first heard tribe used in the conscious community, my stomach churned and signaled danger. In 2011, I took a training in a popular dance method at an elite yoga center. Everyone in that community kept referring to themselves as being “in the tribe,” or “finding my tribe,” suggesting that outsiders somehow didn’t get them, or even that outsiders or other divisives were not welcome. This bothered me so much that when members of Dancing Mindfulness, a dance community that I went on to create in 2012, started using the word tribe with regularity, I got worried. I expressed my worry about the cliquish nature of the word to several in our leadership, suggesting that I preferred a term like a community. For me, community suggests room to grow. And yes, I identify as having many members of my family of choice (some from the Dancing Mindfulness community and others from outside of it). Yet I’ve never felt the need to use the word “tribe” to express any of this.
The bigger problem that white people must examine is whether or not we are using the term tribe to appear to gain social capital with others. Is there something more hip about using a word like tribe instead of community, circle, family of choice, or even “my people”? I don’t have a full answer to this question that I’m willing to put out there definitively as I am still doing so much of this work for myself. I am, however, encouraging others who have a tendency to use this word to engage in some inquiry about why and how you use it.
There can be a fine line between cultural adaptation and cultural appropriation, between honoring someone or some group and just using them. Take Louis Sockalexis, the member of the Penobscot nation, whom scores of Cleveland Indians fans maintain that they “honor” by capitalizing on the name and, until very recently, the racist “Chief Wahoo” mascot. Sockalexis was openly mocked and tortured for his heritage during his tenure playing professional baseball, and when he died at the age of 42 after a long battle of what we now know as alcoholism, sportswriters referred to the cause of his career decline and death as “the Indian weakness.” Do we consider this undeniable heritage of pain and trauma when we are quick to defend ourselves as “honoring” a culture? Do we consider this undeniable heritage of pain and trauma when we use a word like “tribe”?
You may be experiencing a degree of defensiveness right now by engaging this question, especially if you are a white person who uses the word tribe or engages in any practice from other cultures, which includes yoga and Eastern meditation practices. My suggestion is to notice what it’s bringing up in you and do the deep digging. Several months ago, I was rightfully called out on how I used a Native American song and practice within a Dancing Mindfulness class. I am grateful to the young Indigenous person who felt empowered enough to do it. Of course, I felt defensive at first, even drawing back to some of the same excuses I heard from other Cleveland Indians fans (e.g., “I was just trying to honor,” or “I want to be inclusive”). The more I sat with the feelings, the more I realized there was work to do and that the young person was correct. Using something without knowing the full truth of the source or, in many cases, getting necessary permission is not okay for anyone who calls themselves conscious.
As someone who teaches and also refuses to copyright my adapted approach to universal practice that is fundamentally Eastern in origin (it’s not mine to copyright), I’ve had to do the hard work around going to the source for teachings while also examining how teachings can be adapted for Western and clinical audiences. I do not have all of the answers and I am sure that my exploration will lead me to discover other changes I need to make if I truly want to be anti-racist. My challenge to you, my friends, is to join me on this journey of self-inquiry and growing more comfortable with being uncomfortable, especially when you are invited to rethink an attachment.
In the Spring of 2004, I made what would prove to be the best educational decision of my life. Although I commuted to a small Catholic college about sixty miles south of where I lived in Youngstown, Ohio, I had the opportunity to transfer up to six courses in that Masters in Counseling program as a transient student. Purely to save on some driving time, I decided to take several classes at Youngstown State. One of those courses was Principles of Substance Abuse Counseling and the instructor was none other than Jerry Carter, the long-time director of the Neil Kennedy Recovery Clinic. Neil Kennedy was the first free-standing treatment center in the United States not attached to a hospital and studying with Jerry was nothing short of a master class in the history of addiction and recovery.
During one particular class on a breezy April night, the topic was shame. Understanding and working to heal the wounds of shame, as I’ve come to understand in my own career, is absolutely necessary for working with addiction. During that class, Jerry got vulnerable, sharing his own history as an adult child of an alcoholic and the recovery he chose to embrace. Just before break, he read the poem “My Name is Shame” by Rev. Leo Booth and the late John Bradshaw. Of course, he had a version of it from an old textbook that is much better than any of the abridged versions I’ve since been able to find online. This piece gives voice to shame, and then engages in dialogue with an affected individual. Jerry read in a way that pierced my soul, and I felt that the words were written just for me. I was sobbing throughout much of the reading; I couldn’t have controlled this display of emotion in such a public setting even if I tried. And then he read the line that would prove to me the path forward for my healing: By loving you I am free.
By loving my whole self, even my shame, I will be free.
Jerry dismissed the rest of the class to break and came over to me. He just stood there, in witnessing presence, as I let it all out. When I managed to take my face out of my hands to look up to him, he put his hand very gently and appropriately on my shoulder and looked right at me in a way I’d never been looked at before. He saw me. In a way that I had always wanted my own father to see me. In a way that said, “I get it… and you are not alone.”
No words were exchanged. There were no words necessary.
I went out into the wind of that April night and for the first time in my own recovery, felt a sense of deep hope. I was just under two years sober yet still in a very bad place with my own mental health symptoms, which included chronic dissociation and fleeting suicidal tendencies. My own grandfather, whom I was living with after my return from serving in Bosnia-Hercegovina, was in his last days, dying from cancer. Working at the site I was at for practicum and my first internship was triggering me a great deal, and that eventually led me into EMDR therapy and the deepest layers of my trauma healing. Looking back on it now, that experience in class set the wheels of this healing in motion, as this very compassionate teacher taught me that they key to healing from it all was indeed to love it all.
My light and my darkness.
The joy and the sorrow.
The humanity and the divinity.
Jerry Carter passed away on August 5, 2020. Like many of my great teachers who are no longer with us, he has just left the body. His soul is eternal. As is his influence on my life, and the lives of countless others. During his funeral Mass on August 8, the priest noted how the five wax nails in the Easter Paschal Candle represent the five wounds of Christ at the Crucifixion.
He then he noted, “And like Christ, Jerry transformed these wounds and hurts into healing.”
And that’s when I began crying like I did that night back in 2004. Only this time my tears came with a wave of gratitude for my beloved teacher and everything he stood for in being a witness to hope and healing. My entire life is marked by spiritual and religious teachers who love to talk about the Divine but do very little to be that healing presence for others. Not Jerry. He was the hands and face and voice of Christ, even in his role as a teacher, during my dark night of the soul. That’s the kind of teacher I want to be.
I know that Jerry wasn’t perfect, and he’d be the first to admit that. I realize how much the changing politics of the addiction treatment field deeply impacted him in the later years of his career, and he often felt paralyzed to do the work of healing as he knew it needed to be done. I ended up finishing my counseling internship at Neil Kennedy when Jerry was still in charge and came to understand many of these realities. Yet Jerry was a teacher to me in the truest sense of the word because not only did he met me in the fullness of my humanity that memorable night, he continued to see me and honor me as the years danced on. A few days after Jerry’s death, another person in leadership at Neil Kennedy at the time shared a memory of how much Jerry regarded me and that he was overjoyed I brought music and expressive arts to the clinic.
“He noticed that?” I thought, barely even remembering it myself.
Of course he did. That’s Jerry Carter.
As my public career began to grow, Jerry was present for almost every local and many state conference continuing education events that I began offering as a presenter. Every time, he would come up to thank me, beaming with pride. It is such a beautiful experience for an educator when one of her own teachers shows up to learn something new, and I hope that I am growing into this kind of person; always willing to soak up more knowledge, especially from those who are younger than I. Jerry remained on my email list up until the time of his death, and whenever I would publish a book or have some other news to report, he would reach out with some variation of, “Congratulations, I’m proud of you.” At events and in emails I would return his beautiful compliments with, “Thank you, Jerry… you do realize that you taught me all the important stuff, right?”
In the week since Jerry’s death, in the middle of this turbulent year full of loss and turmoil, I’ve been reflecting a great deal on that important stuff and what it means to be a teacher, or even a guru. Guru is a Sanskrit term often used in Eastern spiritual context that literally means “one who removes the darkness and reveals the light.” Jerry would never have considered himself a guru and that is what made him one in the truest sense. I’ve studied the work of many teachers who bill themselves as gurus or otherwise empowered/ordained in their religious traditions. I’ve even studied with many of such figures personally. And none of them hold a candle to Jerry Carter. Because in his role as both a clinician and a teacher, Jerry carried that light of revelation without the fanfare. Carrying the light was so natural for him because that’s just who Jerry was/is as a person—fully human and fully divine. In modern times we helpers marvel at Brené Brown’s work about shame, just as we did about John Bradshaw and Claudia Black a generation before. And though I admire them as public figures, none of them touched my life as much as Jerry did sharing from his lived experience and reading the poem that night.
So many of the folks that I now teach and mentor wonder if their words or influence will make a difference because they don’t have the reach of a Brené Brown, or other commonly cited names in their given field. Nonsense. If you have a story of hope and recovery and a light to shine, you will touch someone’s life just by being who you are…especially if you can meet them in the fullness of their brokenness and shame, as Jerry met me. A guru sees the wholeness that is really there underneath it all and can hold the light for you until you are able to see it for yourself. You are all gurus, and in this dark and broken world, we need you.
Be the candle.
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