LI therapy is a very gentle, body-based technique that was originally developed in 2002 by American marriage and family therapist, Peggy Pace. Her goal was to bring about rapid healing in her adult clients who had experienced the trauma of abuse or neglect during childhood.
Unlike traditional talk therapy, lifespan integration therapy bypasses the cognitive mind and instead focuses on resetting the body’s neural system to bring about the desired change. Backed by neuroscience, this technique concentrates on healing past traumatic memories that are still impacting the present by rewiring the brain, reintegrating the neurological pathways associated with the trauma, and helping clients process the memories without being re-traumatized.
As the client’s memories begin to flow and become better organized and rational, he or she gains insights into the outdated defensive mechanisms he or she has been using and can adopt new, more appropriate strategies instead.
The neuroscience behind lifespan integration therapy.
Lifespan integration therapy relies on the body-mind system’s innate ability to heal itself and is based on the findings of neuroscience research on the effects of trauma on the brain. It is also rooted in the brain’s neural plasticity, which enables it to grow, reorganize itself in time and space, and build new neural pathways.
A great deal of psychological dysfunction is the result of insufficient neural organization and a lack of connectivity between isolated neural fragments. These are the results of traumatic events, or from experiencing neglect or abuse during childhood.
Studies indicate that whenever a person feels overwhelmed by a traumatic experience, the brain creates a neural fragment around it that does not get connected neurologically to the rest of the brain or to a sense of time. It is stored separately from regular everyday memories.
Since it is not in any chronological order, every time it gets triggered by something that reminds it of the original trauma, it can feel as though it is happening all over again in the present.
For example, a war veteran suffering from PTSD may attend a July 4th picnic and become unglued when fireworks start to go off. Even though he knows it’s just a fireworks display, his nervous system responds the way it did when he was in the trenches and bombs were going off during the war.
At that moment there is a mind-body disconnect. His conscious mind knows the war was in the past, but his body and nervous system do not, and he finds himself ducking under the picnic table in terror.
Lifespan integration therapy helps put the fragmented memories back together and integrate them into the brain’s regular memory. This enables them to become one cohesive whole and the body and nervous system learn that the past traumatic event is in the past. This neurological shift brings resolution to unresolved past issues, creating stability and internal calm in a way talk therapy cannot.
How does lifespan integration therapy work?
Lifespan integration therapy works on changing patterned responses and outdated defensive behaviors. It does this by helping people connect their uncomfortable feelings and dysfunctional conduct with memories of the past traumatic events they originated from.
Actively imagining yourself doing something has been shown to produce brain activity that is comparable to actually doing it. It has also been shown that changes in neural networks are more likely to take place when you are focused and emotionally engaged.
Based on these neuroscience principles, lifespan integration therapy uses repeated viewing of life memories through active imagination to help you change patterned responses and outdated defensive behaviors. This makes room for you to create a new neurological map of self.
Once you develop this new map of self and can see yourself as existing throughout a lifespan continuum of time and space, you will no longer become frozen in time or be triggered by a subconscious memory.
To get started, your therapist will help you put together a detailed, chronological timeline of your life to create a visual narrative of your memories—one memory for each year, starting from your earliest memory to your current age. The result is a mental slideshow of your life that has been spontaneously generated by your subconscious mind and that includes a sequence of scenes, many of which are in some way related to your current problem.
You do not need to give any details unless you want to, and when viewing the memories in your life panorama, the therapist will have you move quickly from one scene to the next without dwelling on any one of them for longer than one to two seconds, to avoid any possible risk of re-triggering a traumatic event during therapy.
During therapy sessions, you and your therapist will repeatedly review this visual timeline to help you process the memories. You will be guided to use active imagination to get in touch with your inner child who is frozen in time and intervene with your child self, providing emotional support, and gently coaching your brain to develop new neural pathways.
This occurs as you prove to your brain that time has passed since the trauma took place, the event truly is over, and life is different now.
The memory of past events will be retained but with the understanding that you are living in the present rather than in your past experiences. As these changes are incorporated into your brain’s memory-retaining cells, the brain will start creating organized connections.
Your neural system will weave new information about the passage of time into the existing neural network, restructuring and re-patterning the fragments into a more cohesive whole. Your brain will establish new firing patterns between neurons, and equip you with a sounder, more rational life narrative.
As each memory is drawn out and put in its proper place in time and space you become able to deal with it in a healthier way, increasing your emotional stability. Healing comes from within. The process happens at a much deeper and complete level than is possible with traditional psychotherapy.
Benefits of Lifespan Integration Therapy
- It is a form of therapy that works quickly.
- It desensitizes you to painful memories.
- It can help calm your nervous system.
- It provides you with more clarity and stability.
- It helps you develop a solid core self.
- It can improve your confidence.
- It provides new insights.
- It enables you to have healthier reactions to stressful situations by increasing your resilience.
- It equips you to react to stressors with more clarity and composure.
- It improves your ability to regulate your emotions.
- It enables you to be more self-accepting and to exhibit more self-compassion.
- It equips you to react to stress in more age-appropriate ways.
- It enables you to better enjoy intimate relationships.
- It improves your self-image.
- It can enable people with memory gaps to connect pieces of their lives into a coherent whole.
- It can clear the effects of trauma on your life.
- It eliminates archaic defense mechanisms from your body-mind system.
- It helps you feel better about life overall.
- It can help you gain a more rational sense of self.
If you have questions about anything you have read in this article on lifespan integration therapy we are here to help. If you are interested in talking more about this or would like to try it, please call us so we can connect you with one of the trained Christian lifespan integration therapists in the online directory.
“CONNECT to NOW to SELF to OTHERS to LIFE.” Lifespan Integration. lifespanintegration.com.
Peggy Pace. “The Neuroscience of Lifespan Integration.” Lifespan Integration. lifespanintegration.com/neuroscience-lifespan-integration-therapy/.
“Process Mapping”, Courtesy of Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Pocket Watch”, Courtesy of Christina Isabella, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Reading the Map”, Courtesy of Leah Kelley, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Map Reader”, Courtesy of JESHOOTS.com, Pexels.com, CC0 License
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