Both Hutchison (1986, 1993) and Budzynski (1992), among others, have recounted empirical studies showing the beneficial effects of various mind entrainment devices and protocols in enhancing learning.
The mind needs to prepare for learning by being clear of distraction. SLEDS operate in a manner similar to sensory deprivation tanks by blocking out external stimulation. While tanks block by subtracting or lessening stimulation, SLEDS accomplish the same end by masking external sounds and vision with the repetitive stimulation that provides no meaningful information. Learning occurs best when the mind is open, receptive and curiously involved with the material, enriching it through associations and connections involving the whole brain. The mind also needs to be focused on the task at hand, understanding and learning the material being studied. It is noteworthy for those with Attention Deficit Disorder, there seems to be a paradoxical effect. More intense stimulation in the high alpha and beta zones appears to satisfy a natural stimulation deficit in these brainwaves, and thus allows for a greater ability to sustain focus and concentration on a task or topic.
There appear to be optimal mind states for different types of tasks. The optimal mind state for metaphorical, literary, analogical or spatial learning is likely the alpha state; for intensely logical or computational problems, the beta state. For learning material that is quite foreign to the person's previous experience, or material reflecting points of view that differ widely from the person's basic beliefs, the theta state is recommended.
Right after the learning session, the mind needs a period of several minutes to one hour to allow the previous learning to set or gel in long-term memory. This process requires protein synthesis in the brain. SLED-induced relaxation allows the central processing unit of our computing mind to be relieved of new input. Following this computer analogy, it stores data from its existing "random access memory", which is highly volatile, onto hard disk memory (protein cells) for long term memory and cross-referencing synthesis. Existing research indicates that if this phase is enhanced properly, the memory improves in volume, detail, richness, complexity, and breadth of application. It is even better a day later than on the day the material was studied. This is the well-known
super learning effect for which light and sound devices becarne famous.
super learning, SLELDs promote learning by assisting in the breaking of rigid thinking and cognitive sets. Fluid mind state management enhances set-breaking and cognitive flexibility so important in the paradigm shifts that are the essential ingredient of creative thinking. Furthermore, SLEDs are highly effective instruments to assist in the incubation of theta reverie states and dreams, the source of creative images. Even more exciting is their untapped potential for incubating the lucid dream.
These repatterning sessions help people make positive changes in their lives by overcoming obstacles posed by fear, anger, and limiting beliefs. Growth and transformation are possible, often with the use of guided imagery to access abilities and raise self-esteem.
Phobias, Anxiety and Panic Disorders: The prototypical use of mind state management for change is the situation in which a person, thwarted by their fear, needs to remain composed and effective. In over 20 cases in my practice in the last few years, an accelerated form of desensitization using light and sound devices has been effective in rapidly (one to six sessions) correcting monophobias and anxiety disorders (five to 15 sessions).
Anger control and conflict resolution: In this area mind state management offers many more skills than the control of activation levels. Nevertheless, there is a need to be able to turn down arousal and focus on key cognitive messages when anger is invoked. Often when anger is fully sparked, rational conduct and clear thinking "fly out the window", as the person is consumed with affect. If, however, you are able to access a message for an alternate behavior that you have previously linked to these states (anchoring), then you can regain control, exercising alternative behaviors that are assertive, but not destructive. It is also very effective to have a close friend or family member participate in the sessions to help resolve some of the systemic loops of reciprocal tension that contribute to anger disorders. In guided imagery, activation control is linked with desensitization of scenes in which the person is perceiving the frustration of a blocked need or a threatened loss of relationship, status, or identity. Whereas in the past I have treated such cases with systematic desensitization and cognitive behavior therapy, I can now accelerate the process by using SLEDs. I have observed that my clients have a reassuring sense of mastery over their emotions, and thus feel less vulnerable and defensive. This allows for greater self-acceptance and, therefore, better listening and assertive problem-solving skills to emerge in conflict situations.
Psychophysiological disorders: I have successfully treated disorders such as ulcers, skin conditions, migraine headaches, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and several immune-deficient conditions with fairly holistic methods including extensive use of SLED-assisted imagery sessions. The results for headaches, bruxism, and temporal mandibular joint pain have been very encouraging and have been replicated by other clinicians and researchers in dental and chronic pain settings (Boersma, 1987). In my clinical practice, there was only one unsuccessful case: a client with phantom-limb pain. We agreed to stop trying after six sessions of minimal and inconsistent results (perhaps too soon, in retrospect). However, virtually all other clients noticed a definite feeling of well-being and endorphin-like suppression of pain and remission of symptoms. These glimpses of well-being became more and more prominent in their lives until they were able to function with total absence of their disorder, or in the case of fibromyalgia, a substantial lessening of symptoms. This seems like a promising area for further investigation.
Substance abuse and eating disorders: In the past I would use hypnosis to assist clients in dealing with self-esteem issues-distorted body image, overcoming fear of fatness, reducing panic and anxiety states that lead to episodes of drinking, drug abuse, or bulimia. Now I typically continue with these practices and skills, but with the power assist of SLEDs. Results are more predictable and instantly gratifying. The issue of "hypnotizability" is effectively bypassed, as "guided imagery training" is fully effective in modifying distorted images and perceptions that were formerly quite resistant to standard cognitive therapy (a la Aaron Beck &Associates). SLEDs are especially effective in settling the loss of control and extreme irritability and unease that characterize the states that precede episodes of drug abuse. Incidentally, it is also likely that alcoholics have a natural deficit or underproduction of alpha waves when sober, with higher production of alpha after the ingestion of alcohol (Wise, 1992). The mellow feelings that accompany frequent usage of SLEDs extend throughout the days to get over "bad periods" in the
client's life. I have successfully treated over 60 cases in this manner, and have presented such cases in professional conferences. Recently, I have also found such treatment to be startlingly successful with five cases of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), although the numbers are too small to make generalizations. However, using the Peniston Protocol (which involves 36-60 sessions of daily training to show results) there has been good research ( Budzynski, 1992) to show that such mind state training was quite effective with an alcoholic population in terms of significant relapse prevention.
Self-Esteem, autonomy, confidence, and identity: Probably one of the best areas of application for SLED-assisted therapy is instilling confidence and overcoming social anxiety and self-consciousness in personal presentation. Desensitization of performance anxiety and phobias can proceed fairly rapidly with a specific technique I have developed that uses SLED training to promote deep relaxation prior to scene exposure. There are certainly more than 50 cases where this has been helpful. Of course, the development of identity and autonomy in young adults often involves redefining relationships with family and loved ones, which naturally leads into the next area of application.
Marital and Family Disturbances: Putting family members on the same brief SLED program before a family therapy session allows them to "get on the same wavelength". This seems to help in conflict resolution and the creation of harmony, but it is difficult to assess whether similar results would be obtained without the use of the device. In my recent work, at least five couples and ten parent-child dyads enhanced their ability to resolve their conflicts though the use of SLED training. In one couple and in one parent-child dyad the process was unhelpful, as one of the participants did not want to continue working with the machines. This problem required a shift back to more standard forms of family therapy.
The theory of how Change sessions operate
The first principle of how Change sessions work is desensitization, a simple behavior therapy. People typically overcome a negative affect by allowing it to exhaust itself, or by substituting it with more effective coping methods that deal with the negative situation more effectively. It involves distancing yourself in some way from the feared situation or object, and then changing one element of it (e.g., your proximity to it, the number of people involved, the setting, or the task), then deal with that element in a relaxed and confident way. For example, in a SLED-induced, relaxed alpha state you can visualize dealing with that element by itself, then do the same for other elements, until you can reassemble the elements so that the situation is no longer a problem. This process is first rehearsed in imagery, then practiced with coaching and support in real life until the problem situation is mastered.
SLEDs are useful in inducing the alpha states required for this work, and are probably assisted by the generation of endorphins which counteract physical pain and lessen emotional threat, fostering a sense of well-being and confidence.
Thus the second crucial element of the operation of mind states is learning how to dependably and confidently access this endorphin state within the stimulus situation that caused the original pain or fear. Being able to invoke a preferred mind state at will is crucial for overcoming compulsions and various forms of substance abuse in which a ritual-the ingestion of a substance-is used to squelch or suppress negative effect. Mind state management, with its access to mind states, provides the skills that allow the power of the ritual to be broken, the compulsion to be weakened and dissolved.
A third way in which Change sessions work is by changing deeply held personal beliefs and convictions, many of which are the sources of the problem. The strong emotions attached to these beliefs can also be a factor that maintains the structure of the problem. Often these structures are heavily protected by deep unconscious embedding, and the over-alert defenses of the rational, analytic mind.
Several years ago, I used cognitive therapy prior to using hypnosis. I would attempt to uncover beliefs and basic assumptions about the self, life in general, and hopes for the future, inviting my client to counter these assumptions with evidence from research or their own personal experiences and experiments. When this was successful, hypnosis could then be used to strengthen the new positive
leanings as templates for the future. It was easy for my client to give full consent to a hypnotic process when it amplified new positive experiences. Hypnosis could be applied with full consent because I was not introducing or imposing ideas that were foreign to, or resisted by, my client.
On the other hand, it was difficult to continue to wrestle with client notions that were patently absurd. The client would agree that such dysfunctional thoughts or feelings were irrational (e.g., vomiting food after you eat will keep you thin, you must be thin to be respected and attractive, you must be attractive or life won't be worth living). However, on a deep emotional level these basic ideas seemed to be overwhelming and almost impossible to dislodge. I used a form of cognitive therapy technique that suggests that such thoughts are merely precognitive, still based on primitive notions that need to be reappraised. Eventually, with some difficulty, the beliefs were able to be reworked.
An easier way to look at dysfunctional thoughts is to invoke the notion of state dependent learning. Such thoughts were likely implanted in an almost hypnotic induction, repeatedly and deeply, when the child or younger adult was pre-logical in development and likely transfixed by trauma or other strong emotional events (Ritterman, 1983). As such, these schema were deeply embedded and layered over with other events, imprinted like a tattoo. Skin can grow over it, but it will retain the original pattern of the underlying dye. To undo the pattern, you must get under your skin to drain out the contaminating pigments, and then let new skin heal and restore the natural pattern that preceded the staining. It makes complete sense then to access these thoughts and feelings in the mind state in which the template is embedded. In other words, have the client go into a deep theta mind state, then use the powers of imagery and metaphor, the language of the unconscious, to reprogram these notions. Of course, it is necessary to secure your client's permission and assistance to make these changes, but usually this is easy to obtain. Your client knows these ideas need changing: that is why they came to see you in the first place. They just want an effective ritual or process to take these compelling ideas away, and replace them with thoughts, ideas, and images that allow many more options for freedom and selection.
Often, reprogramming early dysfunctional learning involves going back to the original context of learning by means of an "affect bridge." The
counselor will ask the client, "When was the earliest time you can remember feeling that way?" The client will time-regress to an earlier life stage and re-experience the original learning, but this time with the benefit of a fully functioning adult mind, capable of handling or understanding the original context of learning. Affirmations based on these new understandings are repeated and inserted in this same realm of consciousness, with anchors to invoke this new learning in the problem situations. The result of such an anchor is that, from now on, whenever the original thought, feeling or behavior pattern is re-awakened, the therapeutic reformulation pattern is also invoked, challenging and ultimately replacing its predecessor.
Hypnotherapy often works in this manner. The most graphic examples are cases of undoing post-traumatic stress disorders after catastrophes (hurricanes, earthquakes), or emotional or physical trauma (e.g. sexual abuse, ritual abuse, physical torture or threats). Old
learning's are dusted off, reexamined, and reworked. Newer
learning's that are more affirming, flexible, and self-empowering are substituted. Eventually, the new
learning's become so helpful and workable that the old maladaptive patterns just wither away; they no longer fit in that person's new mind ecology.
With the advent of neurotechnology, the same process can operate even more efficiently and dependably. Basically, the therapist or consultant can use mind machines to assist the client in obtaining a theta mind state. In this state of "twilight consciousness", near-sleep states, the therapist or therapeutic program can insert in that mind state new images and affirmations to replace the old ones (Budzynski, 1992). In many instances it is not even necessary to access the original
learning's in order to replace them. Although psychoanalytic therapists might prefer to see the reworking of the original trauma as an essential element for recovery, more behaviorally oriented therapists often bypass that step altogether, with equally good, if not better, results. Thus, mere repetition and focusing of corrective images is often all that is required for complete recovery from a number of conditions involving emotional disturbance and physical symptoms.
Hypnosis and self-hypnosis (virtually the same process) tapes can now be accompanied by the power of light and sound
mind state entrainment for far more consistent results. The reason for such optimism and enthusiasm for this combined process is that the consistency of a trance-like theta state can be delivered more consistently with SLEDs than it can by audiotape alone. (At least, this is a widely replicated clinical phenomenon, even if highly controlled empirical research is still scant in this new field). This means that when accompanied by the appropriate audio and visual stimulation patterns, the audiotaped music, rhythms, words and evoked images are more likely to have a deep reprogramming effect for more of the training sessions than the tapes alone would provide.
Imagery practice is the fourth element in the operation of Change sessions. Imagery is necessary for the creation and transformation of a person's self-image, and self statements are a vital part of a person's self-appraisal of identity and worth. It follows that both imagery and self-affirmation are powerful tools for the establishing and maintaining of enhanced self-esteem. Therefore, several of the tapes designed to go with the Voyager's Change sessions have as their major focus the promotion of self-esteem through imagery and affirmation.
These sessions include revitalizing, re-energizing, and sport psychology applications. They are designed to enhance performance and promote wellness. They promote healing and recovery from injury, the building of natural immunity systems, and the promotion of brain stimulation and growth.
Performance enhancement: An abundance of literature, notably in the field of sport psychology, attests to the fact that rehearsal in imagery dramatically affects future performance. In many sport psychology applications, SLEDs can be used to promote the control of activation level, a crucial skill in sport performance. Another application is imagery training in skill acquisition and in being able to perform in a highly competitive environment without being distracted. The athlete uses SLED-induced states of focus, then learns how to anchor these states with self-generated cues, rehearsing, then re-instating the ideal performance state in competition. In working with national teams, professional athletes, and Olympians, it has been gratifying to see the acceleration of positive results, especially in confidence building and focus. Of course, one can extrapolate easily from sport performance situations to sales, management, and other areas of effective functioning. There have been effective results with over 75 athletes and executives in my practice.
The theory of how Energize sessions work
Both accurate skill acquisition in training and consistency of performance in competitive environments require access of the state of "flow". Beyond the joy of performance and mastery, in order to sustain optimal mental capacities, repetitive and frequent stimulation of the brain is necessary. Therefore, mental exercises and puzzles, especially those involving creativity and set-breaking, are valuable in honing these mind skills. These can operate even more optimally with the kinds of stimulation featured in SLEDs. Stimulation of the brain results in the regeneration in growth and complexity in brain tissue and functioning.
The best popular descriptions of how the research literature supports these notions of brain growth and functioning are covered in the review writings of Budzynski (1992), Hutchison (1985, 1992, 1993), and the hypnotist psychobiologist and visionary Ernest Rossi (1986). It is terribly exciting that there is evidence to suggest that the brain, through stimulation, can regenerate itself and its capabilities. Another interest of our gradually graying population is the energy and revitalization that is the result of mental and physical stimulation. Also, the higher beta pulsations that typify energizing programs may lend increased access to transpersonal consciousness, although at this point such notions are not substantiated by research. Another reason for interest in these applications is the pure fun of the variations in the light and sound patterns. As in the areas of lucid dreaming, entertainment can be fun and good for your health and your happiness.
Pathways of learning
A recommended path to begin your exploration would be to start with the sessions Mind State Management, (LEARN A-2) or Explore I (EXPLORE A-2). See and hear the stimulation patterns of beta, alpha, theta, and delta for yourself. Next go through the guide and figure out what you want to accomplish first with your Voyager XL. Sample one or two of the programs and focus on the specific sessions that seem best for your particular needs. Use those programs and, if possible, their related tapes, in accordance with the author's instructions. After perhaps a week or two of diligent practice, maybe take a pleasant break and sample one of the sessions, and then return to your main training objective.
Dr. Thomas Budzynski suggests (and I agree) that, for the sake of continuity, you use the Voyager on a daily basis for at least two consecutive months in order to reach your desired outcome. Like anything worthwhile in life, goals in mind state management need consistency of practice to be achieved and then enjoyed fully. However, your enthusiasm at that point should still be tempered with the experience of other people who may not have your level of openness and success with this new technology.
I'll close this essay with a few words about my practice over the last four years and some thoughts on SLED technology. My background in hypnosis, cognitive behavior therapy, and systemic and communication theory has extended to the new neurotechnologies. Particularly promising are the areas of brainwave biofeedback (fantastic, but expensive) and the more readily available SLEDs. I have left the security of traditional psychotherapy to pioneer in using various forms of neurotechnology, both personally and professionally. In virtually all cases SLEDs have increased the efficiency and effectiveness of therapy for a range of clinical problems.
However, SLEDs are not for everyone. Those who have a discomfort with technology, who do not like the concept of machines interacting with their minds, or have a fear of unorthodoxy, may still be unsuited to this technology until it becomes more of a mainstream phenomenon of the information age. People who have strong issues with control and independence may not wish to have anything "messing with their minds." Another pattern of reluctance may arise in people who are easily overwhelmed with stimulation or who distrust and are intimidated by electronic equipment; they may need delicate handling to convince them to go beyond their initial reservations about the technology. Instead, I usually respect their wishes and rely on other more traditional forms of therapy or consultation.
Sound and Light Entrainment Devices, such as those high quality instruments produced by Theta Technologies, are very useful, especially in stress-related disorders and enhanced contexts for new learnings and consciousness expansion. I am confident that, with experience and training, your results will replicate my findings for the betterment of our clients and our world.
Frank D. Young, Ph.D.
Dr. Frank Young is a chartered psychologist in private practice in Calgary, Alberta. He was formerly senior clinical psychologist at Holy Cross Hospital in Calgary, Alberta. He serves on the faculty of the Family Therapy Institute, HCH, and as an instructor in the Canadian Society of Clinical Hypnosis. He practices sport psychology for the National Coaching Certification Program and Team Canada Judo and Team Canada Luge. Dr. Young is also on the Editorial Advisor Board of the Journal of Strategic And Systemic Therapies. He is an Approved Supervisor for the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. He has published articles and presented numerous workshops on such topics as Ericksonian hypnosis and therapy, humorous approaches in strategic therapy, anorexia and bulimia, imagery training, lucid dreaming, creativity, and performance enhancement using imagery.
Dr. Young has used light and sound entrainment devices extensively in his practice over the past five years with consistently favorable results. He has also received training with Dr. Stephen LaBerge, and is a clinical consultant to the training programs of the Lucidity Institute in Stanford, California. He is currently developing programs and custom tapes for lucidity training and other applications of light and sound devices for Synetic Systems Inc. and Theta Technologies Inc. of Seattle, WA. He has also produced commercial tapes for stress management, creativity using mind state management, and the hypnotic induction of lucid dreaming.
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