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What Makes Therapy Take So Long?

How Focusing on "What You Can See" Prevents Healing

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Why So Long?

Many people invest years in therapy, trying to heal their hurts and learn to love. Some, after years of struggling, become discouraged by the long process and give up. Others, unhappy with the prospect of investing such long amounts of time, never even begin. Yet the fact remains, people can and often do heal their wounds. The question is, does it always have to take so long, and if so, why?

For most of my career, when asked these questions, I have answered with some variation of the same maxim most therapists would answer with; that healing is simply a long process; that the distance you walk into the woods is the distance you must walk out. Until recently, I assumed these answers were true, but are they? In a word, no. Why, then, has healing been taking so long? There are two reasons.

We Have Not Known What "Wounds" Actually Are

First, people come to therapy to solve a variety of problems. But no matter why they come, they all come with the same basic goal; to heal wounds. Yet, no therapy has successfully defined what the actual "wounds" are and so, we have been trying to heal something we have never understood. How can I be saying this? Because in truth, what we refer to as our "wounds" are actually just the painful experiences which surround our wounds. These experiences are not, in and of themselves, the wounds.

For example, when people are asked what [wounds] they are working on in therapy, most will offer answers like "when I was raped" or "my depression." Neither "rape" (a painful event in which wounds often originate) nor "depression" (a kind of pain we experience after being wounded) is, itself, a wound. Despite this fact, many people refer to things like "depression" and "rape" as if they were the actual "wounds."

Why these two examples? Because they clearly illustrate the two types of painful events people commonly mistake for "wounds." People either see the painful events in which they get wounded as their wounds, or they see the painful events which follow being wounded (the symptoms) as their wounds. While both these things are related to wounds, neither is an actual wound.

Ruling out all instances of the above two errors, we come to an important realization. We have not yet discovered what wounds actually are. We literally do not know. In lieu of knowing, we refer to wounds only indirectly, by referencing the suffering related to the wounds. In essence, we make no distinction between the suffering wounding causes and the wounds themselves.

Some may now be looking for a comprehensive examination of this idea. Such an examination is far beyond the scope of this brief introduction. However, lest this point be seen as simply an exercise in semantics, please take a moment to examine your own sense of what a "wound" is against these two criteria. Even those well schooled in psychology and spirituality will find they make these same two errors, and no amount of science, poetry, or sacred ritual can mask this truth.

Here, then, is the first reason therapy has been taking so long; we have been mistaking the symptoms and the painful events for the wounds themselves. Because we have, both therapists and clients alike waste time looking for ways to remove symptoms and make "sense" of painful events. Rarely do such actions heal anything. Yet, we base most therapies on reaching these two goals.

We Have Not Known What "Healing" Is Either

The second reason therapy has been taking so long then follows the first, in that, because we have made removing symptoms and making sense of painful events our goals in therapy, when we no longer see symptoms and can logically explain painful events, we mistakenly believe we have healed the actual wounds. In other words, we mistake the lack of symptoms and the ability to explain the painful events for healing itself.

Unfortunately, while achieving these two outcomes can sometimes indicate people have healed their wounds, more often, these signs mean people have unknowingly buried or disguised their wounds even further. Most times, then, these outcomes are misleading and indicate remission rather than healing. Without realizing this though, when people see these outcomes, they often cut down or even quit therapy. Therapists themselves often support these decisions.

Ultimately, then, these mistakes also lengthen the course of therapy, because they lead people to leave therapy prematurely or worse; to repeatedly cycle in and out of therapy. For instance, take the case of people who enter therapy to heal a "depression."

When people who suffer from depression stop feeling depressed (when they no longer see symptoms) and when they think they know what was causing their depression (when they can logically explain the painful events which precipitated their symptoms), they often leave therapy. They leave, of course, believing they have healed the wounds which had been causing their depression. On the surface, these conclusions do seem logical.

Despite this logic, however, in most cases, these people have not healed their actual wounds, meaning, at some point, most of them will, again, become depressed. Many people repeat this cycle for years, becoming more depressed each time their symptoms recur. Some, after experiencing many depressions, try to resign themselves to the "fact" that their depressions are primarily biological in nature; that they just must have been "born this way." Others painfully conclude they simply have not tried hard enough. The point is, without having healed the actual wounds, people will inevitably see their symptoms return and so, start the cycle all over again. Therapists mistakenly call this cycle, "relapse." In truth, these so-called "relapses" mean simply that people have not healed the actual wounds.

Another Look at the Two Reasons

Again, the first reason therapy takes so long is we have not yet discovered what wounds actually are. Instead, we mistake peoples' suffering (the painful events during and after wounding) for the actual wounds. The point here is, without identifying the actual wounds, we can not possibly know what we need to heal, so we are left with long, painful struggles, during which we occasionally stumble onto the wounds themselves.

Even then, if we can not identify the actual wounds, then we have no way to know when we have healed those wounds. In other words, because we have not yet defined what healing is either, even when we do make breakthroughs, we can not know whether we have healed the actual wounds or just alleviated the symptoms. This unknown causes many people, therapists included, to fear the symptoms may recur. They often do. Also, if we can not identify the actual wounds or what we did to heal those wounds, we can never reliably duplicate, beyond the scope of our own intuition, the breakthroughs we do make. This generalizes even further to the fact that, if we can not identify what wounds and healing are, even gifted therapists will be unable to teach others the things they do to help people heal. Sadly, this problem has plagued even the greatest therapists.

In the end, because we have not yet defined "wounds" and "healing," people in present therapies more resemble people trying to win a lottery than people involved in a consciously directed healing art or science. So, in truth, while some people will make "breakthroughs" in therapy, when they do, they will make them more by accident than by design. Most times, these people will simply have been lucky enough to have chosen an intuitive and loving therapist, one who knew to trust in educated "guesses." Even here though, the point remains; any therapy based on guesses will, at best, be a long and arduous process.

So, What is a Wound?

If wounds are not symptoms nor painful events, what then is a wound? A wound is an hypnotic association between an ordinary life event and a painful state of being. It is simply a type of hypnotic cue which gets programmed into people during painful events. During these events, people actually become entranced, meaning they enter a state of being identical to the trance state into which a hypnotist puts people. If, while in this state, people get overwhelmed to the degree that they abruptly transition from trance to shock, they incur a "wound." Now, before describing what happens in more detail, let me first set the stage by telling a story. Please know, the more you can picture the story, the more you will be able to grasp what wounds are.

The "Great Santini"

Imagine your friend Linda is telling you she was just given free tickets to see a show tonight. She goes on to say the tickets are to see "The Great Santini," a stage hypnotist. As she tells you, you feel a little envious. At the same time, you feel happy for her as you know, she and her husband, Jim, rarely get a chance to go out without their kids.

That night, in the theater, as Linda and Jim wait for the show to begin, Jim recalls how his wife often volunteers for things. Minutes later, it happens again, and Jim is not surprised when "The Great Santini," chooses Linda as his first subject.

At first, all goes as one would expect. In no time, Linda is in a hypnotic trance and hopping around the stage like a rabbit, then, clucking like a hen; harmless pranks meant to amuse the audience. Right after seeing Linda imitate a chicken though, Jim feels nature urgently call and so, he hurriedly leaves for the men's room.

While Jim is gone, the Great Santini implants Linda with yet one more hypnotic "cue." He tells her that when she wakes up and when she hears the word "dog," she will start barking. Of course, he tells her she will not remember being given this suggestion. But as the hypnotist begins to wake Linda, the fire alarm goes off, and everyone is asked to temporarily exit to the lobby.

In his hurry, the hypnotist forgets to remove his last cue, the word, "dog," and by the time he realizes his oversight, it is too late. Linda is already gone. "No big deal," he thinks as he, too, exits to the lobby.

Jim, still in the men's room when the alarm goes off, quickly finishes his business, then hurries down to the lobby himself. While they wait, Linda asks Jim what happened to her up on stage. Soon the two of them are laughing as Jim tells Linda the cute things she did while in a trance. Neither of them realizes, though, that the last cue, the word, "dog," is still functional.

As they continue to wait, Jim glances over at the coming attractions and notices an ad for a dog show. Being a avid dog lover, he turns to Linda and innocently says, "look Linda, they have a dog show coming next month." To Jim's surprise and to the embarrassment of those close by, Linda, in the middle of Jim's sentence, suddenly starts barking like a dog. Then she starts "barking" blaming remarks at her husband, starting with, "what did you just do to me?"

Cues and "Keys"

I tell this story to illustrate a point: except for the suffering and the somewhat permanent nature of the "cues," wounded people have much in common with stage hypnotists' subjects. The main thing they have in common is that, in both cases, people get programmed to respond to ordinary words or actions. When hypnotists refer to the cues they plant in people, they call them, "post hypnotic suggestions." When I refer to the cues wounding plants in people, I call these cues, "keys."

In a sense, when hypnotists implant people with "post hypnotic suggestions," they do temporarily "wound" people, in that later, when people are awakened and when they experience these cues, they unconsciously respond to them in a preprogrammed manner. Thus, hypnotists actually wound people temporarily. Of course, unlike the keys people incur during the more serious variety of wounding, the cues hypnotists plant get removed within minutes. Also, when hypnotists' subjects respond in a seemingly illogical manner, they experience much less anxiety than their more seriously wounded counterparts, because they have some sense of why they are behaving illogically. They can remember being hypnotized.

Here, then, is one of the main reasons wounded people suffer. They suffer because they respond like hypnotists' subjects but have no idea why. They have no idea why because they have no memory of ever being hypnotized. I will explain why in a moment.

The "Wounding Sequence"

I call the structure of the events which wound people, the "Wounding Sequence." Why? Because no matter what kind of wound or how serious the aftermath, all wounding events are comprised of the same sequence of three ingredients. In order of appearance, they are [1] becoming hypnotically entranced (entering a state of hyper awareness), [2] having the cue(s) or "key(s)" planted (becoming hypnotically programmed), and [3] going into shock (getting overwhelmed by the experience to the point wherein the person's internal fuse blows). Becoming Hypnotically Entranced: the "Opening Event" All wounding events begin with some variation of the same event; people enter a state of hyper awareness or in other words, they become hypnotically entranced. How? People often enter hypnotic states when they experience powerful events. In other words, they literally become entranced by these events. And being entranced means they, in reality, are as open to being "programmed by the experience" as infants.

Is being in this state what wounds people? Actually, no. Just being entranced does not wound people and in fact, these events can even be extremely positive experiences, such as falling in love or knowing you are about to win a race. Just as easily though, they can be painful experiences, such as sensing imminent danger in the moment just prior to getting injured or being attacked.

Please note, it is the strength of the experience and not whether it is pleasurable or painful that causes people to become entranced. Thus, the general quality of the initial experience, positive or negative, has little to do with whether people can get wounded. 

Common events which induce hypnotic states are: becoming entranced by a great conversation, a great book or movie, or by an awesome nature scene; falling in love with anyone or anything; experiencing the "long" three seconds preceding a car accident when you see it coming, or before finding out whether you will get the raise you asked for, or before being told what grade you got on the final exam; and having your life flash before you as get told someone you love is seriously ill, or as you watch your son or daughter graduate from college, or as you realize your partner is about to ask for a divorce. All these and similar events can cause people to enter a hypnotic state. Entering this state is the first ingredient in being wounded. 

Entering a State of Shock: the "Closing Event"

All wounding events also end with some variation of the same event. In this case, rather than entering a trance state, people enter a state of shock. Entering this shock state is why people can not recall having been hypnotized by these events. More important, being in this shock state is why people can not remember having been implanted with a key or keys. In the larger sense, this shock state is why keys have remained undiscovered and ultimately, it is the reason we have not known what wounds actually are.

What do I mean by shock? I define shock as any significant detachment from the current life experience. There are two terms here I need to define; "current life experience" and "significant detachment."

By "current life experience," I mean whatever event a person is currently conscious of, a sort of internal mental and emotional snapshot. This internal "here and now" experience often has little to do with the literal "here and now" experience; the actual events going on in the present moment. Thus, people can be consciously referencing any time period in the "current life experience," including one from the distant past or one from the distant future. In other words, the "current life experience" is simply the "historical here and now."

By "significant detachment," I mean any substantial amount of internal, mental, or emotional "over" or "under" reacting to a given life experience; in a sense, any significant degree of insanity, momentary or otherwise. Common phrases which describe people in shock are "losing it" and "zoning out." These phrases are simply other ways to say "over" or "under" reacting.

People are in a state of shock, then, whenever they experience significant mental or emotional detachment from their current internal life experience. These times include when people are detached in only one of the two halves of consciousness (the two halves being mental and emotional consciousness.) Thus, people are in shock both when they are, to some significant degree, mentally and emotionally detached from the current life experience and also, when they are mentally alert but emotionally detached and visa versa.

Common examples of people in shock are: anyone who is unable to sleep because they are lost in some painful decision or worry, such as whether to move, change jobs, or end a relationship; anyone who loses it and starts screaming at someone, from a mother yelling at her three year old to a lover berating at his beloved; anyone who is significantly under the influence of a psychoactive substance, legal of otherwise (anyone having imbibed a significant amount of alcoholic beverages, cocaine, prescription sedatives, etc.); and anyone who feels no discomfort while experiencing violence, from a child who feels no fear while being beaten to an athlete who feels no pain while over-exercising. People who experience these and similar events have, to some degree, entered a state of shock.

Please note that like the first event, going into shock, in and of itself, does not wound people, and people may transition from one state to the other many times with no ill effects.

Getting the Keys Implanted: the "Transitional Event"

What I have just said is that, if all that happened to people was that they transitioned from trance to shock, there would be no wounds. These events, pleasant and painful alike, would simply pass from present reality into ordinary memory. Keys, then, are the part of wounding events which cause people to be wounded. They are literally the part of wounding events which cause people to suffer.

Remember, I said "keys" bear a close resemblance to the cues hypnotists create. But unlike the cute, entertaining responses hypnotist's cues illicit in people, the "keys" people incur during wounding events literally have the power to, without warning, transform peoples' current life experiences into previous life experiences; most times, into experiences in which people felt great pain. Thus, after being wounded, whenever people encounter a key or keys, regardless of the context in which they experience it, they immediately respond to it, internally, and sometimes externally, as if they were being violated all over again. Being wounded, then, turns ordinary events, such as hearing a raised voice or seeing a frowning look, or events even more innocuous, such as hearing a bird sing or hearing the word "dog", into cues which can experientially return people to times in which they felt violated.

Why do people get implanted with keys? Instinct, it turns out. You see, in the last instant before people transition from trance to shock, people instinctively make last ditch efforts to understand what is happening to them, something like making a last gasp of effort before giving in to unconsciousness. This "desperate reach" is what causes people to be wounded because, if the transition into shock is abrupt enough, whatever information people last take in will get hypnotically associated to whatever painful thoughts and feelings they experience in the shock state which immediately follows the transition. The abruptness of the transition is actually the cause of wounding; if people transition gently, they incur no wound; if people transition abruptly, they get wounded. Also, the more powerful the transition, the deeper the wound.

Thus, a key is a kind of a freeze-frame snapshot people take just before going into shock. These snapshots then get hypnotically associated to whatever painful thoughts or feelings people would have felt if they were conscious in the ensuing shock state. It is these associations which make keys resemble hypnotists' cues in that, any time people re-experience a key, they react instantly with a previously programmed response, just as if they were transported through time in a time machine. Unlike what happens with stage hypnotists though, in the case of wounds, people re-experience the worst moment of a painful event; the moment in which they lost control and went over the edge into shock.

These hypnotic associations, then; the bonds between ordinary life events and the painful states of being they evoke, are the actual wounds. I call the first part of wounds, "keys," because when people later witness these events, these keys literally unlock the hidden, unhealed pain inside of people. Keys are literally invisible cues which, when encountered, cause people to internally respond with extraordinary and many times, painful, responses to what are, in reality, insignificant and otherwise, meaningless events.

Please do not mistake what I am saying here to mean I see the overall events as meaningless. I mean simply that the tiny fragments of memory I call "keys," the singing birds and scowling faces, are, in and of themselves, insignificant and ordinary.

Here, then, is the reason why even the most spiritual and loving among us can repeatedly do unkind things "when we know better." We do these things when we get "keyed" by one of these invisible cues. Keys are also the reason we often "hurt the ones we love," even our children, even newborn babies. We hurt them when they key us into shock with some seemingly innocent look or action. Keys are also the reason some of us get so mad, we lose it, and only later, realize how badly, after we come out of the shock. We get this mad when we get keyed. And we go into shock, not because of some intellectual misconception or some lack of social or moral training, but because we have been keyed.

Ultimately then, not having seen keys and the way they become bonded to our painful experiences has caused people to do a lot more than just spend long painful years in a therapist's office. Because we have not known keys exist, we have repeatedly tried, then failed to understand, why we can not end the suffering in our relationships, regardless of the scale. Thus, whether one-on-one, as in romantic relationships, or nation-to-nation, as in long standing ethnic hatreds, because we have not seen this bond between keys and the painful acts we commit, we continue to suffer. The most frustrating part is, we continue to suffer and fail to see why. So, although book stores and lecture halls are filled with the words of loving people, each claiming to be able to teach us to how to heal our wounds, in truth, we try harder now than ever and still, we suffer. If what these people teach worked as well as we are told, why, then, do we still struggle so much, and where are all those "healthy relationships?

What, then, is Healing?

If wounds are the bonds between ordinary life events and painful states of being, what, then, is "healing?" Healing is simply the dissolving of the bonds between these ordinary life events and the painful states of being they evoke in people. I call the events in which these bonds dissolve, "emergence."

"Emergence" is literally the counterpart to wounding in that, when people emerge, they experience the same moment they lived through when they were originally wounded. This time, though, they experience it without going into shock. Thus, when people emerge, they literally experience these wounding moments for the first time consciously. Experiencing these moments consciously means people emerge with the ability to see the keys consciously. Being able to consciously see these "hypnotists' cues" means people no longer respond to them by suffering. The "wounds" literally cease to exist.

Thus, despite the fact that wounding events may last for hours, days, or even longer, and despite the fact that people may suffer for years after experiencing these events, when and if healing occurs, it happens in brief instants. In these brief moments, people literally "emerge" from the shock; meaning, they "consciously experience" these brief moments which, in most cases, had caused them to suffer repeatedly, often for years. These people literally emerge from a moment of confusion into a life of clarity, and they are left with a permanent understanding of what wounded them and why they suffered.

A Few Last Words

Before closing this introduction to keys and emergence, I want to offer just a few thoughts about the importance of what I have just introduced.

I realize, only too well, how briefly I have presented these ideas, meaning, how little support I have offered. I have already begun to remedy this lack in a coming book. Yet, even there, I am struggling, because the true promise of these discoveries is so vast, I hardly know where to begin.

So, here I am, less than three years after discovering emergence, and already I have witnessed many miracles. Some exist in realms frequented by conventional therapies, such as healing hurt children in adult bodies; people learning to love themselves, their parents or their spouses. I call these cases "miracles" because of how quickly people heal and how deeply they change.

Other miracles far exceed those attempted by normal therapies, such as healing people diagnosed with serious learning disabilities. In one case, a woman who had been unable to read normally for her whole life became able to read so well, she was accepted into a masters program. She accomplished this change in a matter of weeks. Here and in similar cases, the miracle is that it even happened at all.

Often, the miracles involve people who suffer greatly in their daily lives, such as those who suffer from anxiety disorders or panic attacks. In these cases, not only do people stop experiencing the symptoms, often, they also emerge with a clear understanding of why they were suffering, because people often relive the actual scenes in which they were wounded. Some scenes take place before age one. One took place in a hospital delivery room, just after the person was born. As incredible as these claims sound, the real miracle here is that these people emerge with a confident sense that their anxieties will not return; not an easy thing to accomplish.

This confidence is an important aspect of all emergences. For instance, some people have used emergence to find the resolve to confidently stop smoking. So, although they do report some physical craving, they tell me they no longer even want to smoke. These changes obviously take place deep inside peoples' natures. Here again, these changes are not normally easy to facilitate.

Yet, with all these miracles, to me, the most miraculous thing of all is that in every single case, when people emerge, they emerge loving themselves and others more. Without being taught. Without effort. And they retain these new found abilities permanently. This is the real miracle of emergence. So, although in every case, people heal wounds, some of which had caused them to suffer for whole lifetimes, the most incredible part of what happens here is that people learn to love, themselves and others, more than ever before. Without exception. Without effort. Here, then, is what emergence really is; it is the essence of every process that teaches people to love. I pray I will have the opportunity to teach it to you.

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