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|Unlocking the Emotional Brain - Page 4|
In these reports of reconsolidation, I found a striking, point-for-point correspondence between the steps that produce erasure in the neural studies and the steps we'd culled from studying our clients' sudden, profound change events. The quality of their responses, the life transformations that followed, and the apparent permanence of the changes suggested erasure, not just suppression, of their old emotional schemas and symptoms. When we were able to create the needed clinical experiences, vivid, long-ruling emotional realities quickly withered into insignificance and couldn't be reevoked, after which symptoms ceased and didn't return.
To see how the steps of Coherence Therapy line up with those of neural reconsolidation, let's consider some sessions I did with Jason, an affable, 52-year-old, jack-of-all-trades with thick, wavy gray hair and a rumpled safari jacket. His problem was that he repeatedly changed his line of work—from carpenter to retail salesman of camping supplies, to field assistant to anthropologists and archaeologists—a pattern that had kept him from "ever getting really good at anything" and had capped his income for his entire adult life. He'd always made sense of this by blaming himself for a lack of discipline, which created feelings of shame and failure.
The first step in Coherence Therapy, once the problem or symptom is reasonably well defined, is to guide the client to get directly in touch with "the emotional truth of the symptom": the underlying, unconscious emotional schema that compellingly requires the client's symptom or problem, despite the suffering entailed in having it. This step is identical to the first step of the reconsolidation process: the reactivation of the schema responsible for the behavior.
Using imagery and other focused, evocative methods that we've developed, Jason soon zeroed in on the key material. In boyhood, the perception of his father's grinding unhappiness in their small, industrial town, forever trapped in the same factory job with no vision of a different future, had been frightening for him. Young Jason formed a life-shaping schema, unconscious but still fully in play, that he now retrieved, felt emotionally, and for the first time expressed in words: "I've got to switch jobs because staying in one career brings the deadness and unhappiness that killed my father's spirit. I've got to keep that from happening to me." His poignant, experiential retrieval of this material occupied our first two sessions.