Summary: Some SE sessions cause dramatic, even magical, changes. Some of those changes are permanent from the start, which is wonderful. However many magic changes are not permanent and gently preparing clients for the swing back to discomfort is an important part of the process.
Every SE practitioner loves the client call that says:
“I’ve woken up two days in a row without the neck pain and headache that I wake up with every morning. I can’t remember the last time that happened. Our last session fixed my neck!”
Yes, that’s exactly the kind of thing we like to hear but we also want to recognize that a long standing pattern is unlikely to hike on out of here without revisiting a time or two. How we help prepare our clients for that likely eventuality can have a lot to do with how they handle it.
Of course we want clients who get that kind of dramatic relief to enjoy it, savor it, revel in it, and otherwise generally take in the the new found goodness. We also don’t want them to think that all that pain is actually gone; as in “gone, gone”; as in “never coming back” gone. After all it’s pretty darn likely that it’s going to return in one form or another, at least for a time. When something has been fixated toward the uncomfortable for a long period of time procedural memory is going to hold on for more investment toward calming the system than just what we can get out of a few sessions, no matter how good those sessions are. Knowing that, what we especially don’t want is for our clients to think that the pain isn’t going to come back because when it does there’s often a double whammy effect and a phrase or feeling that goes something like this “I’ve lost it. All the work we did was for nothing.”
No, no, it’s not that. It’s that these things take time.
I had one of these goodness calls recently and before getting off the phone here was my line and reasoning:
“That really is such good news. I’m so glad to hear it. Now you can really just enjoy that, check it out, play gently with the freedom in your neck from not having the pain today. That’s just a great thing to help your body and nervous system remember that pain isn’t the only option. Enjoy it as long as it lasts. And if you notice some of the pain coming back don’t fear that. The important thing for this isn’t that the pain has gone away but that your body is starting to remember it has an alternative: the pain isn’t the only option. That’s the best news in here.
What we’re going to do is continue to help your body remember that it can expand its options and over time it’ll be easier and easier for your body to choose non-pain options. So every time you get to feel the non- or less-pain option, that’s a really good time to help support your body’s ability to choose that by enjoying and paying attention to it. Enjoy the goodness and go easy on it if some part of the old pain returns a bit.”
It’s really something to remember: If we’ve been a certain way for a long period of time, expecting any single shift to make it all different is setting ourselves up for disappointment. We don’t want to encourage the pain to return, just the opposite, we want to linger in the relief. But we also don’t want to pretend that relief is all there is. Remember the pendulum, it’s got to do some pretty sincere swinging before it gets coherent again.