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What if you had a time machine?

Seriously what if you did and it came with a set of rules? The rules are that you can only go back to events in your own life and you can't change what happens, but you do get a chance to close down any unhelpful or painful feelings from that time? If you could do that, how might that impact on your life today and in the future?

Some people seem to 'get over' things quicker than others. The relatively new science of Emotional Processing tells us that we more readily process feelings when we can make sense of them, we appear to accept things if we can determine 'why' they happened. We humans are natural problem solvers, if we weren't we wouldn't have survived. So when faced with something that doesn't make sense, we tend to keep it with us somehow to try and find a resolution. But many things in life, simply do NOT make sense, some of us can accept that and let go of that thing and others absolutely will not.

Another aspect of Emotional Processing, leading on from that need for understanding, is future proofing. If something or someone has caused us upset or pain, we want to assure ourselves that it will not happen again. Like tripping on the stairs and then realising you'd tripped over the cat. This awareness brings safety, " I'll check to see where that pesky cat is next time I walk down the stairs", but if you don't know why you tripped, many of us may become quite wary of walking down the stairs, not feeling quite safe. "What if I trip again and next time I fall?"

There's more: we also tend to hang onto hurts that feel essentially unfair. As though we believe if we have acceptance, that we're removing moral judgement from the situation or behaviour. Or that the person or persons responsible for what happened or how we were left feeling, are somehow let off the hook. The reality is of course, that by keeping these hurts unresolved or unprocessed, we are the ones who remain in a state of dis-ease.

Today we have a much better understanding of how to support children through tough feelings. Parenting advice guides us towards allowing children to feel ALL of their feelings and not just ones that we perceive are 'positive'. This is not the same as ignoring destructive or unacceptable behaviour, it simply allows a child to feel angry if another child takes his toy, rather than telling him to stop feeling that way. Feelings are only processed after all when they have been able to be fully felt. Could the answer to why we feel how we feel today, lie in our past?

So back to this time machine. Are you someone who goes with the flow, or do you suspect that you might be carrying old unprocessed feelings around with you? If that's you, you might be intrigued by this time machine. And it does exist, well kind of! In my work as an emotional and mental health practitioner, I've been developing an approach called the HeartSpeak History Recode. HeartSpeak because that's the set of tools I use to help people process stressful feelings and History Recode because that's the best way I can find to describe what's happening in the process.

Over a number of sessions we go right back to your start, well before you have any conscious memories, we're looking for a different kind of memory, a memory of not what was happening, but how we felt about what was happening to us. Science tells us that these type of memories are stored in the amygdala, the seat of all feelings in our brain, and its developed and working from a very early stage.

HeartSpeak uses Muscle Response Testing to identify stress and categorise it into a 'type'. As the practitioner I then guide the client through exercises to process that feeling. When using this HeartSpeak method to help to release stress around an issue that the client is aware of, it's not surprising that they have a sense of relief and release when it's gone. And when we have done an exercise to process, let's say a feeling of 'overwhelm' from their first year, the client still often has a palpable shift into feeling clearer and more settled. The body remembers, the body keeps the score.... and it also knows when things start to feel better.

Why History Recode? As we go year by year through a life, identifying any unprocessed feelings and then resolving them, it is as though you are recreating a version of you without the old stressors. The original 'real- time' version of you might have started school carrying with you feelings like 'lack', which will have made you less confident than another child who does not feel that way. Then maybe some kid is mean to you, they might sense your feelings of not being sure of yourself and that bullying might trigger another stress feeling, maybe one of wanting to run, to get away. And you can't get away, you have to go to school, but now you have at least two layers of unprocessed feelings: "I am lacking something and I am also trapped in a position where I feel unsafe." Whilst science can only give us a steer on why we might hold onto those feelings, it pretty easy to see how one feeling might layer over another and then another. So we target and process that 'lack' feeling that came first. As if we've given this 'recoded' version of the kid a chance to start school again and this time meet the action of a potential bully as being what it actually was: something undeserved and not as it may have been interpreted, as evidence that yes he was in fact lacking and not deserving of being treated with respect.

Like the rings of a tree show it's age, what if we were able to see the layers of unprocessed feelings on our bodies? How many would you have? Might it feel easier if they were gone? Might it be easier to navigate through the difficulties of life today without dragging the troubles of yesterday and the day before and the year before, with you?

Finally I want to share a story of how the process of a HeartSpeak History Recode has transformed and maybe even saved, the life of Chloe, a smashing 31 year old. . I met Chloe 5 months ago, her Mum contacted me in desperation to ask if I could help her. The family were terrified that she was so low she might take her own life. Eight years ago Chloe was the victim of a brutal and unprovoked attack. Whilst she recovered from her physical injuries, emotionally and psychologically she got worse and worse. She reluctantly agreed to see me, more out of respect to her mother: she readily admits she had no hope that she could get better.

Chloe couldn't bring herself to talk even briefly about the attack, and so I promised her I would not be the one to bring it up if we were to work together. We began a HeartSpeak History Recode: starting at her beginning seemed a safeish place to be, particularly as she wouldn't have conscious memories for the first few years anyway.

Chloe came in to her third session grinning. She asked me if it was normal to be 'fixed' so soon. At that stage I think we had got as far as her 4th year. What did she mean? She'd found herself spontaneously doing things that she hadn't done since before her trauma: going shopping by herself, choosing different places to sit, ordering her own food at the pub.... normal things. She wasn't trying to do different things or be 'braver', she simply felt safe.

What was going on? Well the first unprocessed feeling we worked to resolve was one of feeling defenceless. The muscle test identified that Chloe had felt this was before she was even born. And when it had gone everything changed. That awful attack happened to someone who had an underlying unconscious sense of always having been defenceless. And the attack seemed to confirm that it was true and suddenly the world became terrifying. The attack was the actually the trigger, not 'the thing' in itself. Chloe has agreed to tell her story on video and we're struggling to find a date because she's just got the keys to her first home and she's too busy with a beautiful, full and normal life! What a fantastic problem to have.

And then there's the lovely lady in her 60's who's just completed her Recode and discovered along the route that the mysterious intermittent feelings of loss in her life had their roots in being separated from a much loved pet in her childhood.

The optimal way to experience the HeartSpeak History Recode is alongside AcuCalm face to face with Sarah. That's the OPTIMISE plan. If you need to work virtually because of geography, the RESET plan is the one for you.


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