"You do not need any instrument in order to benefit from biofeedback training."
Biofeedback works! Training with it does things to people. It effects what previously was restricted to magic, psychotherapy or drugs. Any internal activity or process which has a physiological aspect, that can be measured continuously, and with a quick "read-out" can be influenced. The output of the measured function can be just about any thing which is discernible by one of the senses.
The function measured can be as simple as the internal pressure of the bladder in training to overcome some kinds of incontinence or as complicated as the pattern of the E.E.G., in training that intend to alleviate the suffering of depression.
However, the biofeedback training that uses instruments to create a discernible information to focus the attention on, is only one of a bigger family of phenomena. Many times a day, people pay attention to their sensations in order to influence bodily activity. We attend to the urge to breath in order to reduce it when we want to keep diving, to keep silence, to avoid bad smells etc. We attend to the urge to smoke a cigarette, to eat things, to cry, to scratch, to run to the toilet... and many times we succeed to curb, or at least to delay the actual activity.
There are professionals of the "wider" context that are doing in essence "biofeedback without instruments"... but they do not grasp in full the real meaning of that fact. For instance, various kinds of behavior therapists are doing just this. They apply procedures for the "Desensitization" of applicants to stimuli or situations which are aversive to them.
They do it by exposing the client to the aversive stimuli - either gradually "progressive desensitization" or by flooding - and thus, force him or her to attend to the emerging feelings and other bodily sensations.
In those procedures, the effect of the attention paid by the applicants to the fear or the other aversive feelings, is just like the one derived from the attention in likewise condition to the readout of the G.S.R., E.M.G., E.E.G. or other instruments.
The changes - the temporary ones and the more stable ones - derived from both kinds of systematic allocation of attentional resources, are the result of the change induced into regulating processes of the mind-brain system.
People doing "psychotherapy" to others or getting it for themselves want the same thing - to introduce changes into the regulating processes of the mind-brain system. They just call these regulating processes strange names like: pathology, personality disturbances, neuroses, too rigid or lax defenses, etc... And they call these changes: healing, getting rid of symptoms, improving mental health, etc... And are usually vague when describing in too many words what is the problem, what is going on during treatment, and what really changed when succeeding and especially when treatment fails.
It's a pity for all the complicated kinds of prevailing psychotherapy, that E. Gendlin - the founder of the Focusing psychotherapy, exposed in his studies that "the king is naked".
Gendlin and his associates, found, in systematic research, that in all the kinds of psychotherapy they studied, that the only relevant factor was whether the patients were in the habit to pay attention to the bodily sensations or not.
However, even he and most of his followers do not grasp the full meaning of their findings. Because of insufficient knowledge about the physiological components of the system of basic emotions; because of strong "Rogerian" beliefs about the importance of the verbal rearranging of emotional experience, and may be "political reasons", their practice is wanting. They are still stuck with the urge to understand the essence of the "real problem" and to relate verbally to the regulating processes. They do not know that what they are doing is in essence biofeedback training in which the trainees are acquiring the habit to pay systematic attention to their bodily sensations related to their problems at the sessions and in daily life.
Because of this ignorance E. Gendlin (private communication) discriminate between worthy sensations and those which are not. (The superstitious nature of both views is exposed time and again in cases written about in the periodic publications of the Focusing organization and in their bi-monthly news-latter named "The Focusing Connection".)
My version of biofeedback without instruments was developed along thirty fife years - since my early twenties. At the time, I was a member of an agricultural commune and "just wanted to get rid of frequent headaches" that started to trouble me.
As I worked with animals and was biologically oriented I stumbled on the idea that the pain in the head "only wants to draw my attention to it"... I contemplated that if I would give in and pay it even more attention than it forces me to give, it might lower its painful demand. And it worked !!!
At first, I had to find a quiet place and concentrate all my attention on the sensation in the head for half an hour or more. Along the years, my attention processes and the other relevant internal regulating processes improved as result of that kind of biofeedback. During the last few years, few minutes or even seconds are enough to solve such problem...
Fifteen year later, I was in training as a therapist and doing my Ph.D. studies on the structure of the emotional system. It was just natural that the pieces started to fall together.
This was accelerated as I was asked at the time to help a friend in emotional trouble outside the boundaries of the mental health establishment. As the usual relations of therapist-patient or even those of professional-client were out of the question I had to improvise. One and the same time I could relay on friendly and informal feedback from my friend and from our other friends.
We have found that by his systematic focusing of attention on the various bodily sensations he caused changes in them (especially in those of tension of muscles of the face). We have found that both kinds of sensations - the ones which were related to specific problems and the ones which just surfaced "by themselves" - were relevant. Thus we concentrated all our efforts on the focusing of my friend's attention on his sensations. Fairly quickly he built the habit of doing it in daily life and things started to change very fast.
When things seemed to be so good, my friend urged me to use the new procedure and to help a few of his friends whom I got to know from his "stories". Curiosity about the new technique contributed its share to my motivation to start a "private practice" of biofeedback training without instruments for my benefit, for that of my friends, and for that of their friends as well.
During the last ten years I have trained hundreds of applicants in the use of the new technique. Even a few of my trainees have succeeded in training others. Many short-cuts, tricks, and tactics were found.
2) Training enables one to discern even the faint sensations just barely above the threshold of awareness.
3) Each sensation counts: the more one invests the better and faster are the results.
4) It is easier to change things and understand later than to understand before change takes place.
5) Nothing resists the technique but some things take months to be solved. (Usually a few weeks are enough to solve a problem.)
6) One can easily "invite" sensations related to a specific problem one wish to solve, by various verbal and nonverbal conscious processes.
Two versions of a self-help manuals in Hebrew were published and distributed or sold. The English version of the manual waited a few years its turn to be published.... and the opportunity just arrived. The ease in which the Internet enables it was too tempting to refuse.
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