Catcher’s Mitt Metaphor in Flash Therapy

  • Something remarkable is happening right now in trauma recovery.  But, because we’re talking about trauma and our relationship with trauma is both too close and too dissociated, it’s really hard to see and it’s even harder to get any perspective on.
  • For 130 years, we have assumed that clients need to have certain types of catharsis, distress, or reexperience as a prerequisite for healing from traumatic experiences.
  • A large part of the point of exposure is to go there, get more comfortable going there, and to see that you have survived. 
  • In EMDR, we engage in lengthy preparation to make sure clients are able to sit with and digest the distress that comes. Noticing the distress that comes is the active ingredient in EMDR Therapy.
  • Noticing the distress that comes in Flash is an invitation for a mess.
    • Noticing distress in Flash will junk up your calm scene
    • Too much distress (including protective responses) from a memory reconsolidation perspective are confirming experiences rather than disconfirming experiences.
    • Activation (as in selecting a particular slice of memory) is key component in Flash, but what we do with that activation matters.
    • One of the things that Flash teaches us is that activation and distress are not equivalent.  We can activate and container the distress and the memory will still resolve if we are doing the other core tasks of Flash.  In fact, if we are doing anything else, Flash will result in a crawl.
    • In some of other versions of Flash, the therapist encourages the client to lightly activate, then encourage the client to talk about something pleasant.  This pivot from the limbic brain to the cortical/language centers of the brain serves as a kind container and the activation is likely to quickly self-extinguish from the quick pivot away from it.
    • The Four Blinks Version of Flash has an explicit container, where the content and distress will be into (so it doesn’t hit the body).  If it does hit the body, we have resources like the vacuum to container that activation.
  • As a bridge to the container, I like to use the Catcher’s Mitt metaphor.  A catchers mitt is designed to receive fast things coming at it.  The catcher will often quickly toss the ball back to the pitcher or give it to the umpire.  In Flash Therapy, whatever comes out of the memory when we “open the door and close it” goes into the imaginary mitt and then goes directly into the container.  Again, we want to route whatever comes out as soon as we can into the container.  We don’t want to talk about it, explore it, or allow what comes out to connect to other things.  We want the client to identify the activated content, but not attach to it.
  • In Flash therapy, activation and noticing are separate.  The very idea that we can separate activation and the results of that activation is pretty novel in modern psychotherapies.    All noticing is done in the calm scene.  We want that activated microslice to go straight into the container and out of awareness so that all of awareness is available to the calm scene.  If activation is showing up while we are trying to have an experience in the calm scene, Flash can stop working because the experience we are having is confirming instead of disconfirming of the expectation in the bad memory.