There are multiple conceptualizations of Flash and I am not claiming that the version I am advocating is more effective, more right, or even more sensible than other versions. It’s just the version that makes the most sense to me and works really well for my severely traumatized clients. And as versions change—and they have–it is possible that they can change so much that the working mechanisms that underlie them may change. And this is why I wanted to make very, very, clear how to do one specific version of Flash, identify a clear method and methodology that may allow us to do that version repeatedly, consistently, and globally.
And since my version is getting some attention, there is a need to take both a broader view and to see how my specific version fits into that broader view.
What’s the same?
- Light activation
- Calm scene, calm focus
- Blinks in the calm scene, calm focus, calm process
- Light activation (pivot away from activation), calm information and blinks
- And that cycle until the distress is zero.
Why develop a distinct version of Flash, when there is already a conceptualization articulated by its developer?
- Multiple and changing versions
- This is probably inevitable. However, Flash needs to be made concrete, repeatable, itemized, scriptable–with clear steps or phases.
- Flash need to be simplified. Its core qualities need to be defined and what isn’t essential need to be removed: is bilateral stimulation important, is deep breathing, is counting, or is it important that the client narrate to the therapist about the calm scene? How can we strip what we know about Flash down to its central elements?
- What its central elements are depends on how you conceptualize what is actually happening in this approach. Much of the Flash world seems to think that the blinks disrupt attention and focus on the calm scene (putting the working the working memory mechanism more in the camp of EMDR 2.0 than Bruce Ecker’s memory reconsolidation work).
- Plus, Phil Manfield is chasing a concept that he calls subliminal activation that seems to uproot Flash from both memory reconsolidation and disrupting memory camps. This is evidenced in his APP, which is built around his subliminal activation hypothesis and bears little resemblance to any of the prior versions of Flash he has developed and promoted.
- My concern is that subliminal activation goes against many of the things that we actually know about both memory reconsolidation and disrupting working memory hypothesis. In short, Manfield’s Flash keeps evolving in ways that are making it difficult to nail down. I want to nail it down and make it concrete enough to become a practice. I want to nail down what is effective in one specific version of Flash, so that it’s repeatable, reliable, predictable, consultable, and when used it looks like the work of a talented and practiced therapist… rather than the work of a magician pulling imaginary rabbits out of unseen hats. There is something here that is real, reliable, reproducable, and revolutionary. I am deeply appreciative of Dr. Manfield’s work and contributions. I’m just trying to carve out a way to do this and train this that is stable enough to grow.
- So, how we conceptualize Flash matters. Because that is how it will be explained and justified. If this is a way that people can heal, we need to be clear about the model of action. The Four Blinks Version of Flash puts all of its chips on memory reconsolidation being the primary mechanism. Memory reconsolidation is going to be how we will make sense of the transformative trauma therapies of the 21st century. It just is. It’s simple. It’s intuitive. And, anytime you have ever healed, or ever gotten past anything, this is how you have done it. It doesn’t need magic. It doesn’t need less distress. How we actually heal is incredibly simple. We get exposure to disconfirming information in ways that are tolerable to our systems. That’s it. And, Flash does this in the Four Blinks Approach very well.
- If this is a way that people can heal, then we need to think and practice big. Continuing to conceptualize this as a technique is problematic. It needs to be conceptualized as a stand-alone approach to healing. It can’t simply be EMDR’s awkward little sister.
- It this is a way that humans can heal, then this has to become a psychotherapy. It has to. Every other transformative trauma intervention that started as a technique has become an approach to psychotherapy or is in the process of becoming one. We have a tiny, tiny, handful of ways that humans can heal that are reliable, tolerable, safe, and fast. We don’t have time to think too small. Or somehow make this a competitor to an approach that we already do.
- And, that psychotherapy that we make from Flash needs to be accessible. Continuing to require advanced training in another evidenced based trauma therapy to even get trained in Flash is a problem. That’s why I’ve been informally training as many people as I can for the last six months for free. Everything I have ever written or said about Flash is public domain and not a word of it is copyrighted… including these words right here.
- We have remarkably few ways for people to reliably, safely, and rapidly heal. We don’t have time to ration healing pathways that have been with us for as long as we have been human. This pathway exists. It is in your genes. It is redundantly twisted into every cell. The fact that it has taken us this long to discover it has more to say about our cultural blindness to trauma than the simplicity of this approach. If you are already a trauma focused therapist, I don’t have to explain this to you. If this is a way that humans can heal from the longest and most pervasive public health crisis in the history of humanity, nobody owns that. We should be teaching this to our parents and we should be teaching this to our children.
- I’m incredibly hopeful that what we learn from Flash will eventually inform the first trauma therapy that can go global, including in parts of the world where there isn’t a person with a masters degree for hundreds of miles.
What is different?
Steps that are not essential to Flash from a memory reconsolidation perspective are removed. There is no bilateral, counting, breathing, or extended client talking in the Four Blinks Version. Steps that support memory reconsolidation are enhanced. It understands that we are working with a system of parts and provides guidance about how to do this well in coordination with a system of parts.
It does this in six simple to understand and simple to teach steps.
- Step One: Develop, test, and practice an explicit container. When clients struggle to visualize, helpful interventions to outsource the visualization of the container are provided.
- Step Two: Develop and test the calm scene/focus/process. When clients struggle to visualize, helpful interventions to outsource the calm scene/focus/or process are provide.
- Step Three: Identify the memory and immediately container it.
- We are careful about when and how we check the SUDs, since that requires that we handle more of the memory than is ideal in an approach where we are trying not to activate.
- Step Four: Engage the calm scene and go in and out of it through a series of guided blinks. In the Four Blinks Version of Flash, there are:
- Many options for the calm scene or process
- Consistent with memory reconsolidation, the blinks produce a large number of disconfirming experiences as the active ingredient, rather than somehow disrupting working memory.
- Step Five: Lightly activate the memory and container that activation. Go back to step four until the distress is zero. In the Four Blinks Version of Flash, there are:
- Concrete strategies to assess for and container/vacuum body distress
- Concrete strategies to practice light activation when clients overly activate
- Built into the Four Blinks Version are instructions for dealing with flashbacks
- Step Six: Walk through the memory and pick up the debris (just like in Ricky Greenwald version). Room metaphor.
In short, the Four Blinks Version of Flash shrinks Flash. It puts a fence around just one way to do it, so that we can understand how to do that well, how to train it well, and how to provide clear guidance when something goes sideways.
Flash lets us do memory reconsolidation work quickly and with little preparation. It lets us rescue the self from the past safely.