In this blog, I wrote about The Paradox: We can Heal Ourselves, But We Can’t Do It Alone. In the wake of losing my mother last year, I am in the midst of doing the most intensive trauma healing work I’ve ever done in my life. If you’ve lost a parent, you know how triggering it is to experience such deep loss. You also know how that loss touches you in places you aren’t ready to be touched until the parent you’re loyal to has left the planet. Both of my parents are gone now, so there’s nobody here left to tell me it’s not okay to explore the dark recesses of my childhood or to interpret my healing work as disloyal to my effusive love for both of my parents, who I loved and who I miss desperately.
Losing my mother activated a trauma healing journey in me, and as I wrote about in this blog, you can heal yourself, but you can’t do it alone. I have entrusted the facilitation of this journey to the therapist who is guiding me through it, Asha Clinton, PhD, the founder of Advanced Integrative Therapy (AIT). Asha is helping me dive into dozens of small and large past traumas, which we’re clearing systematically with AIT, the integrated energy, psychology, and spiritual modality she developed. Today, I’ll explain AIT, how it’s helping me, why I believe in it, and why I am using my discernment and my platform to endorse AIT as a very fast, curative, permanent, effective, comprehensive, and ethical trauma healing modality—so that if you’re looking for help freeing yourself from trauma that has not healed from other types of therapy, you might dare to try this for yourself. (But only if you’re Inner Pilot Light gives you the “Hell Yeah!” that this is part of your healing Prescription.) In a follow up to this blog, I’ll share with you some of what I’m learning about interrupting the pattern of symbiotic relationships that has caused a lot of pain in my life (which I suspect many of you can relate to!).
What Is AIT?
First, let me explain how we’re doing this trauma clearing therapy—because it’s very different than what you might expect from typical therapy. While Asha and I do talk during my therapy sessions, it’s not just talk therapy. We only talk enough to get to the roots of the traumas that need to be cleared and cured using the AIT protocols.
Advanced Integrative Therapy (AIT) is the psychodynamic, body-centered, transpersonal whole person modality that provides permanent relief from many difficult-to-treat psychological disorders, physical diseases, and spiritual impasses, as well as individual symptoms. AIT not only addresses trauma as the root cause of many difficult to treat psychiatric and physical health disorders; it actually clears the trauma and its symptoms away. Over twenty years of developing AIT, Asha and the other AIT-trained therapists began to discover a curious phenomenon: As people healed their traumas with AIT, not only did their psychiatric conditions resolve; their bodies, often afflicted with chronic illness as so many with trauma histories are, often responded with unexpected cures, which is what attracted my interest as a doctor who researches what I call “Whole Health.” AIT has even been used as successful primary or secondary treatment for cancer.
To do this, AIT utilizes the movement of energy through and out of the client’s major energy centers to remove symptoms, their causes, and after-effects. In practical usage, here’s how this looks when I’m doing AIT with Asha.
Describing The AIT Process
She muscle tests me, using her own variant of applied kinesiology, to get the right phrases for treatment. For example, here are some of my phrases around healing the traumas of symbiotic relationships:
- All of the broken agreements that have broken my heart my whole life.
- All the times and ways it’s hard for me to know what I need, let alone ask for it.
- All the times and ways mother smothered me with gifts but didn’t meet my core needs for love, safety, boundaries, and sovereignty and individuation.
- Because my mother gave me gifts instead of love and smothered me, I have lived in a fused state with others.
- All the times and ways mother had the power in our relationship and manipulated me so I had to do what she wanted or not be loved.
- Because I tried to get Mom to love me by letting her control me, I have let lots of other people control me in the name of love.
With each phrase, I feel the feelings inside my own body and locate where the feeling most resides in my body. This is where I place my stationary left hand. On a scale of 0 to 10, I rate the strength of the emotional charge, and Asha muscle tests to see if I’m right. (Rarely, I feel very little but it’s because the pain is so intense, I’m actually dissociating, so I might say it’s a three, but Asha tests it at a ten. This is not a problem, since AIT works even if you’re dissociating.)
Then, using my right hand, I say the phrase out loud while touching different chakra centers, starting from the crown on top of my head and moving through twelve other places on my body down to the root chakra at my perineum. We move through the whole cycle, then I come back to my center and feel, on a scale of 0 to 10, how much the charge is now. Sometimes I need to repeat the phrase two or three times to clear it completely. Other times, it goes to zero in one round of treatment. Then we celebrate with a verbal “Hallelujah!” just to ground the new energy into gratitude.
Then Asha asks me what’s coming up for me next. Often, during the AIT rounds, I’ve encountered new feelings, epiphanies, repressed memories, imagery, or inquiries. Another trauma in need of treatment may surface. Asha usually follows my lead, and if nothing comes to me, she is usually ready with the next phrase, which she has intuited and muscle tested for accuracy. She always invites me to modify the phrase and make it even more spot on if she hasn’t nailed it perfectly, which she usually has. These phrases always evoke tender, painful, or angry emotion. I’m usually quite tired at the end of treatment, but I also feel, over the course of that day, a lightness of being, a gratitude for the clarity and for Asha’s expertise, care, wisdom, and love, a relief for the clearing, and also a tenderness for my brave self for daring to go into these painful realms so I can be more free.
As you can imagine, it’s not easy doing this work, especially in light of my loyalty and love for my mother, who died last year. It feels almost like a betrayal to even work on this stuff, as if coming to terms with the reality that I have been traumatized by the woman I love the most is in some ways a slap in the face. I am learning not to make things so black and white. I love my mother, and I was traumatized by her. Both are true. My healing is not a disloyalty to her. If anything, it speaks volumes about the woman she raised me to be. I can hold my gratitude for her and my grief and anger in paradox, neither glorifying her as a better mother than she was nor demonizing her for the traumas she unwittingly inflicted on me.
The good news about everything I keep uncovering is that, while it’s hard, courageous work to open yourself to trauma healing therapy, the good news is . . .
Trauma Is Curable
Until relatively recently, trauma was believed to be a life-threatening experience that was essentially incurable. War veterans suffering from PTSD, for example, were seen by the psychological community as permanently scarred, and the goal of therapy was simply to improve function and reduce negative consequences such as addiction, violent behavior, and suicide. There was no expectation that trauma could be treated and permanently removed so that these traumatized individuals could experience true mental and physical health, wholeness, and happiness. Things have changed hugely in the past thirty years. The exciting news is that we now know trauma is truly, even easily curable.
Although it has in common with it similarities to energy psychology techniques like Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), unlike some energy techniques, AIT also treats spiritual disorders and applies spiritual practices from many traditions, making it an even more robust Sacred Medicine tool than some of the others and ideal for people who have experienced trauma as a result of their childhood religion. It also effectively treats people who feel spiritually disconnected because of existential crises of faith, distrust of all things spiritual, hesitation to surrender to a higher power, or resistance to spiritual practices.
The Trauma of Everyday Life (We All Have It)
Many people I meet, especially those who are wrestling with physical ailments, think they don’t need trauma therapy as part of their medical treatment because they didn’t experience any of the Big T traumas (sexual abuse, growing up on a war zone, physical violence, parental abandonment, severe physical illness, a parent in jail, living with an addict parent, etc.). I have lived a mostly blessed, privileged life with two parents who did the very best they could to love me at the level they were capable, given their own traumas. I didn’t experience any of those Big T traumas either, so you might be inclined to say, “Lissa, quit your belly-aching and get on with it.” But we all endure the traumas of everyday life, the bourgeois traumas of symbiotic relationship or control patterns or the patterns we took on without our consent, which cause us to keep attracting the same painful life experiences—over and over.
These “trauma attractor patterns” set us up to have one experience after another, which may look like coincidences, or which might cast us as the innocent victim, until we realize that, because “reality” is a co-creation, the traumas in our system actually keep attracting our worst nightmare over and over again—until we free ourselves through trauma healing that works.
Even the mildest traumas in early childhood may imprint upon us blocks in our energy systems which set us up to keep being victimized. We don’t see it—until we do, and then it can be terrifying, because you realize that you’re still at risk of yet another iteration of your worst nightmare until you treat it. The good news, again, is that trauma is curable. You can’t do better until you know better. But now that you know . . . you can get help.
Psychological Projection, Projective Identification & Trauma Attractor Patterns
Another curious psychological phenomenon related to trauma is “projective identification.” To understand projective identification, you first have to understand psychological projection, which Wikipedia defines like this: “Psychological projection is a defense mechanism in which the human ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others. For example, a person who is habitually rude may constantly accuse other people of being rude.” Other examples of psychological projection include things like victim blaming (suggesting that the victim of a #MeToo crime, for example, may be the fault of the victim for having attracted the other person’s sexual advances). Bullying behavior can also be a kind of projection, whereby the bully projects his own feelings of insecurity and vulnerability onto the object of the bullying.
Projective identification takes this phenomenon of psychological projection a step further. In the AIT model, projective identification is described as “when a person who is being projected upon unconsciously identifies with what is being projected upon him—and acts accordingly. He/she does this because he/she unconsciously identifies with what is being projected upon he or she.”
Example of Projective Identification
To further explain projective identification, Asha shared this example with me. Marsha, Jim’s girlfriend, gently and diffidently suggests to Jim that he might want to consider therapy because he worries so much about everything all the time, saying, “Jim, it hurts me to see you upset and worrying all the time. Maybe it might be a good idea if you thought about maybe trying therapy? What do you think?” Jim gets upset (triggered) at Marsha for making the suggestion. Jim unconsciously projects his pushy, controlling mother onto Marsha in response to her gentle suggestion. It’s as if he hears it this way: “Jim, you should go to therapy whether you like it or not.” His angry response, “No way, Marsh.” Marsha says to Jim, “But you’re always getting upset over nothing. Now here’s the name of a therapist. Pick up the phone and call him now. Do it!” She has identified with Jim’s projection and is acting it out by being controlling. This is a typical projection/projective identification process. Jim’s projection has spawned Marsha’s projective identification. But that projective identification can spawn another and, perhaps, another projective identification. It can destroy their relationship.
So let’s unpack it further. Jim gets upset at Marsha for ordering him to go to therapy. Now Marsha gets triggered because Jim so totally misunderstands her intentions. She unconsciously projects on him her father who always distrusted her motives. By this point each of them has become the other’s parent. Sound familiar? Marsha’s behavior toward Jim, which expresses her projective identification, further triggers Jim, and is just like what he projected on her because she has unconsciously identified with his projection onto her.
And on and on it goes . . .
To make a long trauma story short, because I was not trusted by my mother when I was trustworthy as a child, and because this caused trauma, I was suffering a lot as an adult from these kinds of back-and-forth projective identifications. Often, others didn’t trust me even though I was initially trustworthy—and then their reactions to me, stemming from their distrust, would result in me doing something that made them feel, “See, I knew I couldn’t trust her. I was right all along.” And then we’d both wind up feeling hurt, betrayed, and blindsided. Ouch. I knew I wanted to stop the pain. Asha saw the pattern in me right away and was kind enough to offer her help, and I (rightfully so, as it turns out) trusted that AIT would help me. Indeed, it has.
After working on this distrust pattern, for example, one person in my life who chronically distrusted me when I considered myself trustworthy, suddenly reached out, out of the blue—without knowing I was working on healing this wound—and spontaneously said, “I trust you now.” My jaw dropped. It had been less than twenty-four hours since Asha and I had finished the work on this particular trauma. It felt like an impossible miracle after all these years. My relationship with that person has completely transformed, and I am beyond grateful.
My husband is also being treated with AIT, which touches me and makes this easier. Because we’re going through our own individual healing journeys . . . together, I feel less pain than I might if I were navigating these depths on my own. As a newlywed, I can’t imagine any better prevention to protect ourselves and each other from the wounding unhealed trauma can perpetuate in relationships. With our willingness to lean in and dive deep, Olivier and I are choosing healing and love over comfort and ease. Instead of looking for some Easy button to distract us from the pain underneath, we are healing what hurts. This work is hard and bad ass and I’m proud of us for sticking with it. If you’re ready, I hope you can find the inner and outer resources to explore this kind of deep healing work for yourself.
While I am also a fan of and have personally benefitted from other highly effective trauma clearing modalities, like Internal Family Systems (IFS), developed by Richard Schwartz, PhD, I am currently experiencing very rapid transformation from AIT and I highly recommend it to anyone who continues to suffer from psychological or physical distress, especially if you don’t really understand why you’re still suffering after everything else you’ve tried. I’ve referred many of my mentoring clients and personal loved ones to AIT therapists, and the result they’re getting are as stunning as mine.
What Are Your Trauma Attractor Patterns?
How might projections and projective identification cause suffering in you or your loved ones? What suffering might be ongoing as the result of Big “T” or little “t” traumas in your own life? Are you brave enough to prioritize freeing yourself from these traumas?
If you’re interested in trying AIT for yourself, find a certified AIT-trained therapist here.
Are You A Therapist, Doctor, Or Other Helping Professional Interested In Learning AIT?
If you’re a helping professional of any kind—doctors, psychologists, psychotherapists, social workers, midwives, nurses, chiropractors, acupuncturists, body workers, energy healers, pastors, spiritual guides and counselors—who would like to experience AIT personally or learn to facilitate the process for those you work with, Asha and I are collaborating to teach an AIT Basics seminar in Mill Valley, California in August 2019. (ENROLL FOR OUR LIMITED SPOTS HERE.) This workshop is a professional training, in which participants learn all appropriate energy psychology skills, as well as the AIT Covenant, which allies the client’s conscious and unconscious toward healing, thereby removing most resistance. Then the training focuses on four simple trauma treatment protocols as well as two protocols that awaken or install positive beliefs, attitudes, desires, and qualities. These are explained, demonstrated, and practiced by all participants. What previously took months of work to transform now takes minutes.
An additional benefit to an AIT training is that you will get the chance to have some of your own traumas treated and to practice treating other people’s traumas. Especially among health care providers, a history of trauma is common. Many experience childhood wounding that conditions them to be willing to violate their bodies, neglect their self care, harm their relationships, and turn their backs on their spirituality as a consequence of becoming professional experts. Even if they have not experienced severe childhood trauma, the subtle traumas of everyday life, compounded by the trauma of professional education like medical school, interrupts the free flow of life force in the energy system, which can impact the psyche, the spirit and the body. Those who participate in the AIT training will not only learn how to use AIT with patients; they’ll also experience the benefits of AIT’s approach to trauma healing for themselves.
Enrollment is limited, so learn more and register soon here.
Committed to healing in all ways,
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