Treatments for M.E are controversial, but if you want to make people with M.E. apoplectic then mention the Lightening Process. I wrote this article 12 years ago when I had recently done the process. It has no doubt changed since then.
THUNDER AND LIGHTNING- MY EXPERIENCE OF THE LIGHTNING PROCESS
I wrote this because people keep asking me what my experience is of the lightning process.
Would you do something that:
- Held out a quick cure for ME when conventional wisdom says that there is no quick cure?
- Had an application process that was a form of ritualised humiliation?
- Had practitioners who were secretive about what they actually did?
- Whose most well publicised process appeared to outsiders to be downright odd?
- That required you to believe in it before you started and insisted that if it didn’t work it was your responsibility?
- Demanded a large sum of money upfront?
- Had no independently verified statistics on its success rates?
Of course you wouldn’t.
…………..Unless it worked.
During 18 years of moderate ME I’ve seen lots and lots of treatments come and go. Word goes round ME circles fairly quickly and usually, although one or two people reported that benefited, most people could not reproduce their results. I haven’t gone chasing treatments and the only thing I was consistently happy with was a pacing regime.
When a friend’s partner who I knew had ME reported that he was cured I was interested, but it was only when other people I knew started reporting that they knew people who had recovered or got much better that I really started to research the Lightning Process. The clincher for me was the article in the Action for ME society’s magazine.
It said that one third of the people writing in response to the society’s request for information reported cure or dramatic improvement in a short space of time, one third had mixed results and one third had had no improvement or had got worse. This was far and away better than anything that anyone had reported with any other treatment or programme. As lightning process people point out, it is likely that the number of people that it had worked for is underestimated, since many of them will no longer be reading ME magazines or responding to their surveys. I was convinced enough to apply to do the training.
The process was invented by Phil Parker. You can read more about it on his web site at www.lightningprocess.com He understands ME as a cycle of physical symptoms which you then respond to. Your mental and emotional responses then generate chemical changes in your body through the stress and immune systems, which generate more symptoms- and so on. This is different from the traditional ways of seeing ME as either a physical illness where caused by processes outside the body or as a mental health condition. This understanding, which is explained better on the web site, is central to the process. He reports that a few people have read the site, recognised this happening to them and have been able to stop the cycle without further help.
For the rest of us he has arrived at a process derived in part from Neuro linguistic Programming (NLP), Self hypnosis, Osteopathy and life coaching, It is designed to train you to interrupt the cycle which perpetuates the symptoms .It costs from about £560 (some trainers charge more) and you need to budget for around £100 for follow up The web site outlines the programme of the training.
The web site has a list of approved trainers and I applied to Gerri De Vries because I knew that she had considerable experience in working with people with ME in the National ME centre within the health service, before becoming a LP trainer. Phil Parker does control the course content pretty rigidly, so you will get the same sort of programme from any trainer, although see my comments on selecting a trainer below.
I think that one of the most difficult things while you are deciding to do the process or waiting for a place is the hope and fear of disappointment. Most ME people have come to an accommodation with where they are at. You need to undo this and aim for recovery, whilst being aware that for some people the process doesn’t bring results. I didn’t like this at all.
On the second day of the training nearly all of the six of us on the course reported improvements after practicing the process, and the one person who did not had only done the process a couple of times. (You are only allowed to feed back positive things, but I feel fairly sure that I could have told if people were struggling) Although there are lots of stories of people recovering straight away on the first day I thought it was significant that Gerri told us that all of us would have done some ME symptoms the first evening. Most of the rest of the course was spent practicing the process and learning how to do visualisations, which I found very useful.
So what’s the process? It’s a little conversation you have between you as yourself and you as your life coach, accompanied by a choreographed series of physical movements, where you tell yourself to stop the cycle that perpetuates ME and refocus on other things. You can find it described more fully in Action for ME’s magazine “Interaction” for winter 2007. LP people tell you not to try to train other people to do it even though it appears quite simple (Well they would, wouldn’t they?) and I’m inclined to agree with them. I think that the actual process is part of a whole package which you need to experience first hand.
I had a difficult first evening, but I did notice significant improvements the next morning that improved my morale no end. In the following 3 months I haven’t completely stopped doing ME and my progress has often been up and down, but I have got better using the process. Currently I would estimate myself as having only about 40% of the ME I did before the course. I’ve done a lot of things that would have been unthinkable before. A number of people that I’ve talked to about it seem to think that I was never really ill in the first place or that it was all in my head, but I can live with that.
Although it is more common to hear of almost instant cures or instant failures, I think my experience may be less untypical than it may appear. Phil Parker likens the process to learning French, which takes some time and application and another trainer suggested that you needed to keep at it if it didn’t work perfectly straight away. She used the phrase “compassionate persistence”- which I understand to mean keep at it, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get complete success straight away.
My first hand experience now extends to five people. One reports himself completely cured, two of us have made radical improvements and are on the way to cure (one from being very severely affected) and two report no significant improvement. This is a very small sample but is in line with the Action for ME article. Phil Parker claims that over 90% of people recover using the process, but I seem to remember him saying somewhere that only 80% maintain that improvement.
If LP works for even a third of people who do it then they must be getting something right. The understanding behind it must be taken seriously. If Phil Parker’s figures are anything like correct then they are getting it completely right. But my guess is that success rates will be found to be lower.
So what does this mean? There are a number of possible reasons why some people may manage to make it work and some not:
- It may only work for some types of ME
- Phil Parker may have the right answer for the wrong reasons- that is he may have the right basic concept, but have got some of the analysis wrong
- The training could be improved
- Some people are not applying it properly.
Phil says the last, and if his statistics can be proved he is right, but as a professional trainer I’d go for the third possibility. I do think that there are some weaknesses in the training:
- The application form asks some frankly bizarre questions, including whether or not you have the “X” factor, which occurs on some trainer’s forms and which is a fairly impossible question to answer. Many people find it off putting. They start with the feeling that they are undergoing some bizarre incomprehensible test.
- The training violates the core trainer’s practice that you have to start where the student is at. Some trainers allow no breaks at all in the first day before you have learnt the process. Others have been known to spray rooms with air freshener on the first day, despite knowing that some people have chemical sensitivities. I think some people may be so ME’d out on the first day that they may be unable to understand what the process is about or what they need to do.
- The focus on belief gives the impression that you have to have some kind of blind faith rather than be confident in learning an achievable process. (On the other hand I should emphasise that there is no point in doing the training unless you are prepared to accept that the process can work for you. The first day of an expensive course is no place to be arguing whether or not the theory is sound)
- LP has been criticised for having poor follow up. Some trainers do not systematically monitor their students after the course and, although you can buy in further sessions these can be expensive and not part of a planned programme. I know that Gerri has now started to offer an inclusive price which includes 2 follow up sessions. Structured follow up makes the trainer engage with correcting the errors that a student may be making rather than having the student just drift away disappointed.
- It seems to be difficult to find way back if you have a bad experience on the first day. The two people I know who for whom the process did not work both had this experience and the course did not appear to be structured in such a way as to give them the ability to enable them to work the process.
I haven’t noticed any patterns with who it has worked for and who it has not, so I’m inclined to discount the first. On the second possibility it will be interesting to see the results of others who have started to work from the same place but use other methods. Alex Howard at the Optimum Health Clinic www.theoptimumhealthclinic.com is one.
IF YOU ARE THINKING OF DOING THE PROCESS…….
Here are my suggestions:
- Research it as much as you can and contact as many people as you can who have done it.
- If you decide to do the training make a decision to accept the LP view of how ME works and how it can be ended, for the period of the training and at least a couple of weeks afterwards
- Find a trainer who has either had ME or has worked extensively with people with ME in a non Lightning Process context
- Try to find someone who takes breaks on the first day, particularly if you are severely affected
- Ask about their follow up. Anyone who thinks that it is adequate to offer you a 20 minute phone call for £50 is to be avoided.
- Do try to involve your partner if you have one- since they are going to have to live with the new you (or your attempts to become the new you). Some trainers welcome partners on the course as observers.
POSTSCRIPT- 6 MONTHS ON (11 and a half years since this article was last revised)
In the six months that have passed since I learnt LP a number of things have happened:
- I’ve discovered that I’m in the middle category. Although I have achieved a massive improvement, and am walking up to 8 miles in one go, I still find myself with symptoms. It has sometimes been quite stressful trying to work out why this has happened. LP’s approach is a bit “all or nothing” and it is easy to feel that if you are not completely cured it is “your fault”.
- I’ve had recommended to me a practitioner called Ashok Gupta. You can find out more about him at http://www.guptaprogramme.com/ . Like Alex Howard he is an individual who has recovered from ME and has developed his own programme.
Ashok Gupta has a theoretical understanding that is very similar to LP and his core process that he teaches you to do is very similar to the lightning process. But he differs in that he says that recovery may be a gradual and uneven process over a period of six months or more. He also offers a number of other techniques including a process of “soften and flowing” around symptoms or tension, although he places less emphasis on visualisation than LP does. In his framework continuing symptoms and relapses are much more easily dealt with. I’ve found his techniques really useful and I’ve already made a further improvement.
He is also much more open about his techniques than LP is. You can buy his programme as a package of DVD’s a CD and a booklet which you can follow at your own pace. This is a strength but may also be a weakness since I’ve heard of people buying the material and then continually putting off using it. Both processes involve a big change in your life and there is nothing like a 3 day intensive course shared with others doing the same thing to focus you!
Ashok Gupta sees the DVD package as the way in to his training but if, once you have bought and looked at it, he has associates who will work with you face to face. I’m told that the typical cost is £65 per session and that typically 5-10 sessions are needed.
After all these years when the best anyone could offer was a very gradual recovery over a period of years, we now have options which offer substantial recovery for people with ME. That has to be something to celebrate!
I’m not an expert on the lightning process, just someone who has done it, has an enquiring mind, and wants to give information I think would be useful for people with M.E.
Chris Smith September 2008