By Daniel J. Benor, MD
Life is the only game in which the object of the game is to learn the rules.
– Ashleigh Brilliant
Many of us wander through our time on Earth without considering the rules by which we play the game of life. Everyone carries life programs that were installed in childhood. These are taken from our parents, other family members, friends, community, religious authorities, school, media and other social sources of learning. In addition to the informational content that we take on board (the ‘what’ of learning), we also have our childhood experiences of interacting with all of these sources of information and learning (the ‘how’ of learning).
Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.
If any of our life lessons were harsh or our life experiences were traumatic, we also develop meta-lessons about how to relate to the world. If our journey through childhood was pleasant and nurturing, For instance, if we had parents or teachers who were critical, we may internalize their critical voices and carry programs that are harsh or self-critical.
Gerri had a second grade teacher who ridiculed her in front of the class when she raised her hand to answer a question, and it became apparent that she hadn’t been listening accurately in class and hadn’t done her homework assignment. The teacher had no idea that Gerri’s whole family was severely depressed and traumatized because her mother had just had a stillborn child, and Gerri was feeling sad, frightened and neglected by her parents. Gerri, feeling very needy and vulnerable, was devastated when her teacher, whom she had previously viewed as a nurturing and supportive person, was suddenly so harshly critical.
Gerri’s unconscious mind, seeking to protect her from further hurts, made a rule for safety: Better to be silent than to risk feeling hurt. This strategy prevented her from experiencing similar hurts again in school. However, it also prevented Gerri from having positive experiences. Worse yet, this rule continued into her adult life and limited both her expectations for positive, happy experiences and her openness to accepting positives such as compliments, praise for jobs well done, and invitations to socialize.
Gerri was surprised at how quickly and profoundly she was able to release her core belief that she did not deserve good things in life. TWR enabled her in just three weeks to release her memories of her second grade trauma, along with her lifelong habits of avoiding anticipated rejections by holding back from actions and words that might lead to disappointment.
As I work with myself and with others to clear current stress, pain and distress, I am increasingly impressed that most of our troublesome issues in present time have had their births in earlier traumas. This is particularly true when the earlier issues were buried and the feelings associated with them were not processed and cleared. Buried feelings seem to fester like boils, accumulating emotional pus that seeks to be expressed and released. The unconscious creates similar situations in the present that draw our attention to the festering sore where the old issues related to the current situation are stored. In this way the unconscious mind gets us to do our long-neglected inner healing. TWR is a wonderful instrument for removing these old, buried issues.
It all started when he hit me back!
When people are in long-term relationships, a blend of unconscious habits, participants’ personalities and conscious decisions lead to rules for family interactions. In the give and take of life, there are often hurts and angers that arise in one or both partners in a relationship, and between children and their parents and siblings. In most families, these are resolvable within their family system rules. In some cases, however, dysfunctional behaviors develop in one or another of the family members out of the family stresses and conflicts. Addressing the family rules with TWR may clear the problems.
Nine year-old Sam (Samantha) was brought by her mother, Monica, and father, George, for help because she had been uncharacteristically silent and withdrawn, and had stopped socializing following the death of Jasper, the family cat. Jasper had been killed instantly when she was run over in front of their home. Her parents could not understand why Sam had responded to this so badly, when she had never appeared to be that interested in their cat.
Sam was sullenly silent during the family session, but opened up gradually over several individual sessions in which she drew pictures and told stories about them. The stories were about people and animals who were afraid to speak out because they felt that those around them would not understand or want to hear what they had to say.
The true problem in this family was not the death of the cat or Sam’s silence. The problem appeared to me to be the family’s rules about silence; and particularly about not expressing sad feelings. When I suggested this at the next family session, Monica looked long and hard at her husband, took a deep breath, and shared that she felt the whole family had turned sad since George’s mother had died several years earlier. George had been raised to ‘stand strong’ and ‘be a man’ when things were tough – as they often were during his childhood years of being raised by his single mother. She had been abandoned by her husband, who left one morning, saying he was going to interview for a job, and didn’t ever return. George had been very attached to his father, but ‘stood strong’ and never showed how upset he was, in order not to upset his mother.
TWR was incredibly helpful to each member of this family, in turn. George cleared his buried grief over his father’s disappearance and his mother’s death. The whole family then did several rounds of TWR to clear their rule of being silent when they were upset. Monica went on to clear her sadness, frustration and anger over her husband’s withdrawal into silence; and Sam cleared her sadness over Jasper’s death.
Unresolved grief is one of the most common emotional land mines that explode into symptoms when people re-experience a loss. Rules and walls are built up around the grief in order not to feel its difficult mixtures of pain, sadness, anger and guilt. Addressing and releasing the rules with TWR is an important step in the process of releasing the buried, walled off feelings.
The apparent goal of the journey is simply the carrot the universe dangles before you to get you to learn the lessons the adventure yields.
– Alan Cohen
Looking back on our lives, we can often see that what had appeared to be negative or even traumatic experiences evolved into growth-promoting lessons. However, there are times during our lives when we find ourselves in the midst of unfolding events – in relationships and situations – where we cannot comprehend how we got ourselves there, nor what good or helpful lessons could possibly come from our circumstances. Our travails and pains may feel as great as those of Job. We may question the reason for our being here on earth, or even rail at God for placing us here.
Returning to the US after 10 years in England, I found what appeared to be my ideal job at a new clinic – promoting research and consulting to medical centers on developing programs in complementary/ alternative medicine and spiritual healing. However, after half a year, the clinic folded, due to poor management. I had sunk the last of my savings into purchasing a home and very reluctantly had to return to my former occupation that I had joyfully abandoned on going to England.
To say that I truly did not relish writing prescriptions as a psychiatrist would be a gross understatement. I had trained when psychiatry was entirely about helping people with psychotherapy. Over the years, it had turned into the exclusive focus on medication management. Worse yet, the time allowed for patient visits was reduced from 1-2 hours per week to 15-30 minutes per week. I was not a happy camper! In fact, I felt stressed, depressed, and completely at a loss to understand why I had been guided to return to the US, to obtain the failed employment, and to end up writing prescriptions. I was even cross with God for letting me down in these ways.
Looking back from my vantage point of today, I can now see that these stresses led me to seek out potent, rapidly effective, brief therapy interventions that I could still offer in the very limited time frames available. This is how TWR was born.
This was a powerful lesson in patience and trust! And not the last lesson, either. I seem to be a slow student in this regard. My lessons in P and T have continued to this day. I feel I am making good progress, though, because now I am working on the meta-rules I adopted as a child – to not trust others because I could not trust my parents to be there to support me emotionally. And recently I have been working on my meta-rules about not letting go of the rules to do what is needed myself, without asking others to help – because the child in me would only be disappointed again, being undeserving of the care of others.
So when you are working with TWR on yourself or helping others work on themselves and the releases are very slow or blocked, you might find it helpful to explore the meta-rules about releasing feelings. These often respond rapidly to TWR, when they are accurately identified and phrased.
Your feedback on this article is welcomed.
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