There are two realities we experience everyday. One is Ordinary Reality. It is the stuff material is made from. My desk where I am typing is physically present, for it has height and width and breadth, and has a simple location. It is in my office until someone moves it. This reality is grounded in the outside world. It has physical properties and a time line. This reality is studied and measured through quantitative research, and it is validated through an empirical scientific method.
Since ordinary reality is the outside world, lets call the inside world non-ordinary reality. (pretty well covers everything else, eh). This is the realm of values, memories, fantasies, anxieties, beliefs and concepts. We can’t measure these using quantitative research. This the realm of impact. When Gwen hears the screams of the fireworks, its her memory of the blitz in England when she was a little girl that gets triggered. And very very soon, she is captivated by her memory, living there and no longer in the present.
This is important for our survival. It’s these fantasies that keeps us out of a car with a drunk driver. It’s these memories of being burned that makes us not want to touch the hot stove. The objects in this realm do not have physical properties, so cannot be measured empirically. It is studied and measured through qualitative research, and follows a science called phenomenology. I ask someone.. whats that like.. they say… i feel like i have a gun to my head… oh, which side? and they can tell me exactly where it is. We both know it is not physically there, but we also both know, it still feels like the gun and it is still there.
We are predisposed towards outside reality. We depend on the validation of our experience with measured evidence. Logic says without validation our experience is invalid. The problem people with Post Trauma Stress have is flashbacks are not validated by any measured evidence. So many suffer with two problems: the invasive flashbacks, and the isolation of having an experience labelled invalid. Similarly, when faced with the choice of getting in a car with a drunk driver, we do not have an outside valid measure we will be in danger. Nonetheless we call a taxi.
These experiences from the past (flashbacks) or the future (anxiety) energize us in the present moment to act or resolve the danger experienced. The first question The Shift asks is, What are you suffering? That directs us take the influence seriously. When we speak it moves the experience from the isolation of the inside world to the outside world. A good listening ear witnesses (even if it is our own) and validates the experience because it is now evidence.
The second question The Shift asks is, How are you suffering? That directs us to the sense that holds the experience. For Gwen, it was auditory, or sound. For Bill, a firefighter, it’s an image he collected at a fire in 1949. 50 years later, when I had a cup of tea with him, he burst into tears in only 8 seconds. For Sherry, she finds it most difficult to hold hands. It floods her with sensations of being trapped, controlled, or manipulated. We have five senses that record experiences and when we experience flashbacks, the experiences return using the sense that recorded the experience. Sometimes when a person is experiencing a flashback, I may ask, if the picture is in the room, where is it located in relation to where you sit? Behind? In front? To the left or right? Sometimes people can locate it, sometimes not.
The biggest challenge is that a response looms larger than a trigger. Anxiety, for instance is a response to a threat or a potential threat. Anxiety is a response to a problem, not a problem in and of itself. Separation anxiety, for instance, is a response to a picture of being abandoned. The problem is not the anxiety, it’s the picture.
The theory of The Shift is easy to learn. The phrases used are also easy to learn. Applying the process is the skill and the challenge. That’s why the basic training is three days and not 45 minutes.