Gwyneth Wesley Rolph

Peak Performance Coach based in North London

Traumatic Incident Reduction Technique (TIR)

Compared to traditional therapy, TIR is a rapid and highly effective method of reducing traumatic stress from emotionally and/or physically painful events in a person's past. It involves re-examining past traumas in a completely safe environment, free of distractions, judgments, or interpretations.

When something happens to us that is physically or emotionally painful, we have the option of either (1) confronting it fully and feeling the pain, or (2) trying in some way to block our awareness of it. In the first case, the action of experiencing (perceiving and understanding) what has occurred is allowed to go to completion and the incident becomes a past incident. However, in the second case, the action of experiencing that incident is blocked. That is, we repress the incident, and the incident (together with the intention not to experience it and any other intentions and activities present in the incident), continues to exist as ongoing unfinished business. Such traumatic incidents may continue to exert negative effects. Such incidents carry charge, defined as "repressed, unfulfilled intention".

This blocking activity is a self-protective impulse. It "works" to a certain extent, but it can cause us to have attention and awareness tied up in incidents from the past. This has a dulling effect on our ability to perceive, to respond intelligently in the present, and to enjoy our current environment. Unexamined, unresolved past events tie up our energy and intention.

Traumatic Incident Reduction provides a safe space and the means to fully examine material which had been blocked. A past incident loses its ability to hurt us at the point where we have looked it through and through. In the process, we release our resistance and the painful emotion and negative thought patterns contained in that past trauma. At the point where the incident has been fully viewed, we feel our attention become un-stuck from it and often have some realization. This is called an end point.

The idea that present difficulties may be caused by past traumatic incidents is not a new one, but the recognition of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a major difficulty for many returning military veterans gave it a higher profile. Once the phenomenon was clearly recognised, PTSD was easily identifiable among other populations, such as rape survivors and victims of natural disasters. People with PTSD are severely incapacitated by ongoing, uncontrolled remembrances of their traumas. In effect, they are continually reliving these incidents.

Although survivors of all kinds of traumas with PTSD and flashbacks offer perhaps the most dramatic example of living in the past, the phenomenon is quite common to people in general. In normal life, most people can be triggered into momentary or prolonged reliving of past traumas of varying degrees of severity, with attendant negative feelings and behaviour. TIR is a technique designed to examine the cognitive, emotional, perceptual, or other content of past incidents, to reduce or eliminate emotional charge contained in them, and thus to relieve the person of their negative consequences, whether or not a diagnosis of PTSD applies to this person.

In the great majority of cases, TIR correctly applied results in the complete and permanent elimination of PTSD symptomatology. It also provides valuable insights, which the viewer (or client) arrives at quite spontaneously, without any prompting from the facilitator (practitioner) and hence can "own" entirely as his/her own. By providing a means for completely confronting a painful incident, TIR can and does deliver relief from the negative effects, enabling the person to move on. The resolution of past traumatic incidents can bring about a greatly improved quality of life. Because of this, Traumatic Incident Reduction is often included in a Life Stress Reduction Program.

How and Why does TIR Work?

Freud based his work on the theory that in order to recover from past traumas, it is necessary to achieve a full recovery of lost memory. He never adequately explained why such recovery was necessary; however, Dr. Frank A. Gerbode M.D. proposed the following person-centred explanation:

A trauma, by definition, is an incident that is so painful, emotionally or physically, that one tends to flinch away from it, not to let oneself be aware of it, or in Freud's terms, to repress it. It is the flinch and not the "objective" description of the incident that makes it a trauma. Hence, an event that is challenging and exciting for one individual may be traumatic for another. The one for whom it is a mere challenge is able to "stay with it" and master it; the one who experiences it as a trauma is not.

From a person-centered viewpoint, an intention is simply the most subjective part of an activity. If I intend to win a race, from that intention flows all the means I use to win it: the various movements of my muscles, leading to forward movement of my body and ultimately to pulling ahead of the other racers, etc. In other words, the intention is the beginning of the action, and the consequences flow outward to become manifest physically. An activity continues so long, and only so long, as the corresponding intention exists. That means that for each ongoing intention, there is an activity (at least a mental one) that continues as part of the here and now.

In fact, people subjectively define time in terms of the activity they are engaged in. Objectively, time is a featureless continuum. But subjectively, time is divided up into chunks, "periods" of time. For every given activity (and for every given intention) there is a corresponding period of time, and so long as you have an intention, you remain in the period of time defined by that intention (and activity). Holding onto an intention holds you in the period of time that commenced with the formulation of that intention. There are only two ways of ending an intention:

1. Fulfilling the intention, whereupon it ends spontaneously. You can't keep intending to win a race after you have won it.
2. Unmaking it: even if you don't fulfill an intention, you can decide not to have that intention anymore and cause it to end. This, however, requires a conscious decision. You have to be aware of the intention and why you formed it.

But what if the intention is buried in the middle of a repressed trauma? In this case, neither condition (1.) nor (2.) can be satisfied, and the intention persists indefinitely. The person remains in the period of time defined by that intention, i.e., the person remains in the traumatic incident! The incident floats on as part of the present and is easily triggered, that is the person is easily reminded of it, consciously or unconsciously.

The only way a person can exit from that period of time (and from the intentions, feelings, and behaviours stemming from the trauma) is by confronting the incident, whereupon one can see:

A.What intentions were formulated at the time of the incident.
B.Why they were formulated at that time.

Then, and only then, one can satisfy condition (2.), above, for ending an intention, and one can let go of the intention. Without a thorough inspection and confronting of the incident, condition (2.) cannot be satisfied.

Known Traumatic Incidents

Basic TIR is used to address incidents we know have happened to us: a car accident, the painful end of a relationship, a medical procedure, the loss of a loved one, a combat-related incident, the loss of a job or a failure in business or in school, receiving a frightening diagnosis, etc. In Basic TIR, we work on a past traumatic incident until all of the force, pain, and resistance is gone, we reach an end point. Sometimes there will be an earlier incident that is hooked into the first one we started addressing by some similarity in content. Such earlier incidents may be something we haven't thought of in years. If an incident comes up, we address it in the same way until an end point is reached.

Unwanted Feelings

Sometimes we have unwanted feelings, emotions, sensations, attitudes, or pains without necessarily being aware of what incidents underlie them. Thematic TIR addresses these unwanted feelings, using the common "theme" or feeling to trace down through a number of incidents until the force and resistance is reduced from all of them and an end point occurs.

Both Basic and Thematic TIR are often employed during a Life Stress Reduction Program.

Applied Metapsychology

"Meta" means "beyond". The term metapsychology, coined by Freud, has been defined by Frank A. Gerbode, M.D. as follows: "The science that unifies mental and physical experience. Its purpose is to discover the rules that apply to both. It is a study of the person, his/her abilities, and experience, as seen from his/her own point of view. It goes beyond the study of behavior to the study of that which behaves, the person him or herself, and the person's perceptual, conceptual, and creative activity. "

In other words, you are at the center of this work when you embark upon the adventure of applying this subject.

Applied Metapsychology then is the application of structured techniques within a generally person-centered context, designed to permit a person to examine his or her: life, mind, emotions, experiences (including traumatic experiences), decisions, fixed ideas, and successes, with the aim of resolving areas of emotional charge and returning to a more productive and satisfying life.

Dr. Gerbode began the development of Applied Metapsychology in the 1980s. It grew mainly out of the work of Carl Rogers and Sigmund Freud. In "Two Short Accounts of Psycho-Analysis", Freud describes a method to resolve sequences of similar traumas:

"What left the symptom behind was not always a single experience. On the contrary, the result was usually brought about by the convergence of several traumas, and often by the repetition of a great number of similar ones. Thus it was necessary to reproduce the whole chain of pathogenic memories in chronological order, or rather in reversed order, that latest ones first and the earliest ones last; and it was quite impossible to jump over the later traumas in order to get back more quickly to the first, which was often the most potent one."

Freud seems to have abandoned this technique in favour of the technique he called free association, but Metapsychology practitioners and their clients have found it enormously fruitful when done very systematically and when a person is allowed to go through each incident several, or possibly a great many, times before proceeding to an earlier incident. Going through an incident repetitively allows a person to confront its contents much more fully than only going through it once.

The work of Carl Rogers was invaluable in providing rules - such as avoiding interpretations and evaluations - and an overall viewpoint of respect for the authority of the client, both of which tend to help create a safe environment.

Although Rogers first described his work as "non-directive" and later as "person-centred", Dr. Gerbode took the position that "non-directive" doesn't mean the same thing as "person-centred". He defined "person-centred" as the attitude of respect for the superior authority of the client and the accompanying rules for not stepping on the client's reality, and "non-directive" as the client giving structure to the session. For instance, classical, free-associative psychoanalysis is non-directive, but not person-centred. Cognitive and behavioural therapies are non-person-centred (because the therapist disputes the reality of the client) and directive (the therapist determines the agenda). Rogers is non-directive and person-centred. Applied Metapsychology techniques fall into the fourth category: person-centred and directive.

What Dr. Gerbode has achieved with the development of this subject is an internally consistent body of work, based on clearly stated philosophical principles. From a client's point of view, the work begins by meeting with a practitioner (facilitator) and doing an intake interview. From the information gathered from the interview, the facilitator makes a plan to address the issues of concern to the client (viewer). Some viewers come in with their attention on one particular traumatic event, maybe a recent one, which can be effectively addressed using Traumatic Incident Reduction. Ideally, the viewer and facilitator have the opportunity to do a complete Life Stress Reduction Program, designed specifically to meet the needs of that viewer.

Freud once said that the purpose of psychotherapy was to take people from "hysterical misery to normal unhappiness". The first stage of Applied Metapsychology work (including Traumatic Incident Reduction and Life Stress Reduction) is designed to take people from anywhere on the scale of "hysterical misery - normal human unhappiness" to a point of satisfaction and resolution.

Moving Beyond Stress and into Personal Growth

Beyond that point, in the second phase of Applied Metapsychology work, we move away from handling stress and trauma and into the realm of personal growth, enhanced abilities, and the exploration of full human potential. Since Applied Metapsychology work is considered to be educational in nature, this extensive piece of work is called the viewing "Curriculum".

The purpose of Applied Metapsychology is to:

1. Bring about more rapid and complete resolution of the traumatic stress that results from all sorts of traumatic events: injuries, accidents, emotional and physical shocks, illness, losses of all kinds (including loss of a loved one , loss of a relationship, or loss of a job or career).

2. Provide an effective method to address problematic life issues such as relationship difficulties, low self esteem or self-confidence, career problems, loss of vitality and enthusiasm.

3. Move beyond the goal of returning someone to a normal level of functioning and feeling relatively all right, to empowering real personal growth and self-actualization.

4. Explore human potential.

When You Can't Use Applied Metapsychology:

Applied Metapsychology is beneficial for most people, with a few exceptions, outlined below.

I would not used Applied Metapsychology/TIR on a person who:

1. Has ongoing problems with street drugs or alcohol. Clients need to be stably off such substances before their work can begin.

2. Certain kinds of medications don't work well with these techniques. In general, these fall into the category of sedatives, strong pain-killers, and major and minor tranquilizers. (Medicines that do not tend to reduce awareness, on the other hand, have generally been found not to interfere with the work.)

3. Have a psychiatric disorder that interferes with their ability to mentally focus on a specific area.

4. Have been sent to work with a facilitator by an outside party, for instance, a concerned relative or the courts, but are not themselves interested in being helped. This is not to say that such clients cannot be worked with, but to make progress with these techniques, a client must first be engaged and their willingness to do the work obtained.

5. Are in life situations that are too painful or threatening to permit them to concentrate on anything else, such as the work of the session. Such individuals may benefit from Consultation (working with a client to find needed sources of information and to work out strategies for dealing with things in the client's life, and which is used as necessary when a client needs assistance in dealing with the outer world) or may need some other kind of intervention before beginning the this work.

Clients with a medical condition should always seek the advice of their doctor first.

For further information about how TIR and Applied Metapsychology may help you, please contact me.

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