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Many talking therapies work to change thinking, in order to change self-defeating behaviour and heal old hurts. LI works with the body-mind system and change comes about due to the neural change occuring in the brain and body. Self awareness comes from the transformation that has occurred rather than needing to be self-aware in order to transform.
It is understood that Lifespan Integration re-writes neural networks, encouraging transformation at a cellular level. We know from clinical studies that to achieve emotional regulation, we need neural integration. LI provides integration through briefly activating the neurons and nervous systems linked to memories (from the timeline). Each memory we hold, when re-engaged, sets off a reaction in the body via our nervous system. Through LI we are seeking to calm the nervous system in relation to trauma memories. Through quick repetitions of the timeline we ‘knit’ together the neurons associated to experiences we have had through our lives from our earliest memories and even beyond. When we have experienced abuse, such as neglect, we are able to use Active Imagination to provide repair of situations for our younger selves so that we are able to feel more whole and live more in the present.
Lifespan Integration can also make up for what was missing in childhood, changing attachment styles which developed in response to the childhood environment back then. In the presence of a coherent, attuned therapist reparenting can take place at a bodily level, as a sense of worth, safety and security is woven into the timeline of memory cues.
We know the brain does not distinguish between imagined and real (Pascual-Leone, 1995) and we use this knowledge to inform one of LI’s most wonderful ways of working. By finding young self states who feel abandoned, bad, worthless or unprotected and imaginally repairing what was needed then, a new internal relationship can be woven into the timeline so that ruptured, dissociated parts which existed until now as defensive behaviours or belief systems, can feel secure and integrated into a larger adult Self, as neuron clusters become neural net-works.
How can LI heal trauma without re-traumatising?
Therapists are well aware that adults who have experienced abuse or neglect during childhood often spend years of therapy re-living their past traumas, but still have trouble leaving these traumas behind. This is because people who suffered trauma when their neural systems are being developed are often ‘hard-wired’ to interpret events in a negative way.
For example, adults who were abused as children often have a poor self-image, a continuous negative internal dialogue and chronic anxiety or depression. This often is true regardless of the success that these individuals reach in their current lives and regardless of how much verbal therapy they have done. People who suffered abuse as children, whether it was psychological, sexual, emotional or through neglect, loss or misattunement, sometimes react by forming dysfunctional and self-destructive patterns of relating to others or within themselves.
One way of surviving life when life is unbearable is to shut ourselves off from feeling. Another is to feel everything intensely, flooding with emotion. Both common reactions are associated with how intolerable past painful experiences are. LI therapists will adjust the level, pace and intensity of the protocol to adapt to the capacity their client has in each moment to tolerate engaging with their life story. As the client begins to be less activated the therapist can alter the pace to meet the client’s capacity and tolerance levels.
How did LI come about?
In 2002 Peggy Pace discovered Lifespan Integration as a method to work with adults who were traumatised or neglected during childhood. Since then, the uses of LI have expanded and LI is now being used by therapists in the US, Canada, Europe and Russia to treat a variety of disorders and distress. Lifespan Integration is a relatively new therapy and at the time of writing does not have a research base to clinically evidence its effectiveness. However, LI has vast anecdotal evidence and, due to its continuity of successful outcomes, the therapy continues to spread and expand across the world. In addition to this, LI underpins its theoretical basis from current neuro-science and neuro-psychology research.