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The fast cure for phobia and trauma: evidence that it works
"It's like coming in to the light"
Ken is a 49 year old Falklands veteran who, between March and June 1982, experienced three terrifying events. A missile hit HMS Antelope, but did not immediately explode. Twenty four hours later, it exploded. Ken had to pull bodies out of the water as he was helping to get his colleagues off the ship.
Ken rated his wellbeing, as a result of these events, as 5 out of a possible 50. He described his life before rewind: "I don't go to parties because of the noise. I know the balloons will bang. I pre-empt by ducking under a table. I start to sweat; it's sheer terror for me — it takes me back to the war. I vomit — people think I'm drunk or on drugs. I feel I am back on board; I'm swaying.
"I have lain on the bathroom floor for hours because I feel so physically sick. For days I am on edge, sometimes unable to walk. I avoid sleep because of the nightmares and, after several days, I get hallucinations, I sit in the flat in total darkness for days, curtains drawn. I imagine the bus going by is a jet. The smell of fuel oil, 'burnt pork' makes me feel sick. I'm sweating profusely but I am cold and shaking, in a state of mental confusion.
"I was like a zombie, a robot. I saw my GP in 1983, after leaving the navy. I saw a psychiatrist for a year. It did not help; it was a waste of time. I have no recollection of what they said, apart from being told I was a manic-depressive. Medication did not stop the nightmares. I have been prescribed Valium, Mogadon, antidepressants and I've been given antipsychotic drugs, and they did not help."
Seven to 10 days after rewind, he said, "The memories don't seem to bother me anymore. I'm not fearful. I'm unsure — it's like bereavement. I've had 20 years of a wasted life. It's like coming in to the light. I felt jolly, joking and then — but what am I going to 'do with it'? I feel all over the place. I feel like I'm born again at 50."
Three to six months later, he commented, "I feel my face has changed. The light has come on from within; it's a spiritual light. I am more relaxed, more at peace. I think I am content. I have laughed more in the last weeks than the last 20 years. I sleep much better; I eat well; I can relax. I feel much more in control. This has been life changing for me — no more flashbacks or nightmares; it was like a prison sentence. My partner has noticed the difference in me. She likes what she sees."
(Ken has needed ongoing 'adjustment' counselling, as we have termed it. Having lived in hell for more than 20 years, it has been difficult for him to adjust to a 'normal' existence, and he is angry that, through lack of the right treatment, he has had 20 wasted years, not to mention acquiring an unnecessary psychiatric history.)
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This case study first appeared in Volume 9, No, 4 (2003) of the Human Givens journal.
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