Scientific Evidence of the Value of Reframing

(from the discontinued RET Forum)

Researchers at New York University have demonstrated scientifically that a specific fearful memory can be rewritten in the brain without the use of drugs – purely behaviorally. Of course, alternative practitioners like hypnotherapists and Rapid Eye Technicians have seen this over and over and are sold on the fact that fearful memories can be rewritten (in NLP it’s called “Reframing”).

Basing their theories on mouse and rat subjects, the researchers, led by Elizabeth Phelps, Ph.D., and Joseph LeDoux, Ph.D., of NYU, grantees of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), have demonstrated their training process on human subjects with positive results. The hope is to replace drug therapies with behavioral ones for anxiety and PTSD specifically – and perhaps others after some trials.

The research shows that there is a critical window of opportunity for change – within 6 hours of the recall of a traumatic memory. Once the “file” is open, specific behavioral techniques can be used to rewrite the memory back into the brain without the fear portion – with long-lasting results. The researchers also found that it was not necessary to recall specifics within a memory – just the emotional elements and the “gist” of the traumatic memory – in order to rewrite it. That’s the phenomenological findings of thousands of Rapid Eye Technicians, who basically tell their clients, “It’s not necessary to relive the events in order to release their energy and reframe [rewrite] those memories…”

Reactivating a memory opens what researchers call “reconsolidation window,” a time-limited period when it can be changed. “This adaptive update mechanism appears to have evolved to allow new information available at the time of retrieval to be incorporated into the brain’s original representation of the memory,” explained Phelps.

Rapid Eye Technicians and hypnotherapists trained in techniques to regress to cause, will feel validated by these findings. It also means that you can have confidence in the fact that working with a trained RET technician or hypnotherapist who calls forth traumatic memories will deal with them effectively – which should bring about substantial change. Good news!

For practitioners, it’s important that you do a REFRAME or rewrite of the traumatic memory – replacing the original data with something more currently useful to the client. Without a reframing of the memory, the old frame will most likely return. Just remember: 6 hours max – after which, the rewrite is very unlikely to occur.

The formula seems to be:

1. Open memory
2. Generally feel the memory emotionally
3. Release any attachment to the memory (discharge emotional energy)
4. Reframe the memory
5. Check back on the client after a week or so

“Using a more natural intervention that captures the adaptive purpose of reconsolidation allows a safe and easily implemented way to prevent the return of fear,” offer the researchers.

Preventing the return of fear in humans using reconsolidation update mechanisms. Schiller D, Monfils MH, Raio CM, Johnson DC, LeDoux JE, Phelps EA. Nature. 2009 December 9.
Extinction-reconsolidation boundaries: key to persistent attenuation of fear memories. Monfils MH, Cowansage KK, Klann E, LeDoux JE. Science. 2009 May 15;324(5929):951-5. Epub 2009 Apr 2.PMID: 19342552