When I listen to the sound, my mind tends to wander. Is this normal?

Several clients this week, whom I’ve seen personally and who are just setting off on their guided self-treatment using Ed can help have raised this question, so I thought it would be a good thing to share my response with everybody, because it comes up a lot:

Generally, there are two types of way a mind can seem to wander. You will know by now that the Sound Therapy process involves bringing up your problem thoughts, memories, emotions, and even physical feelings, as vividly as you can while listening to the sound. To do this people often begin with focusing on something quite specific. As they do so, they begin to notice that their thinking and attention can shift to other events or memories, sometimes surprising ones, other times quite predictable ones.  This can happen quite rapidly, often by the second set of twenty minutes.

I reassure people that this is generally a very good sign. No experience, memories, or feelings that we hold in the brain exist in a vacuum, everything is on a neural network and will be related in one way or another to any number of other memories.  The fact that your brain is making connections is exactly what we would hope because we don’t want to simply feel better about an index event, but rather clear up the whole raft of negative experiential memories that pertain to everything which the brain sees as connected. 

When a brain rapidly embarks upon this process, it’s very encouraging. A typical example is where you might be working on a recent experience of being bullied at work, and then begin to remember earlier life experiences such as difficult days at school. Many of the connections we make in this way seem instantly recognisable, if not to say downright obvious, and yet they only reveal themselves during your session of sound therapy. It’s a very satisfying experience when you’re able to say “oh I get it, that makes sense” it gives us all an understanding and insight into our present predicaments.

So the instruction is: follow these lines of recollection and inquiry as far as they go, as though you’re a psychological explorer or detective. You will instinctively be able to tell when something is useful, or where you are simply slipping into daydreaming. 

This brings me to the second way a mind can wander.

At some time in the process people notice that they begin to think about what they’re going to be doing later that evening, weekend plans etc etc, basically daydreaming. 

This is not remotely a bad thing to be occurring, because when you think about the serious nature of the issues you are concentrating on, issues that you could not stop thinking about even if you tried, when a brain begins to find them less compelling, less adhesive, something is going right. I suggest, when you notice that you’re concentration is drifting, gently bring your attention back to the thought, memory or feeling that you’re working on. You want to make sure that it is thoroughly processed. When your attention continues to slide and your brain begins to say that it’s completely bored and disinterested in the topic, that’s a pretty good indicator that you’ve succeeded. Just check with yourself that this feeling is robust, and that you feel comfortable stashing it away in the history files and moving on. It might be an idea to come back to it from time to time just to check that you have really squeezed all the juice out of it.

An aside here is to mention that there can also be an issue of avoidance ie distracting yourself from the work because you don’t want to face it.

There’s a two-step process to help you here. First, you can work on the feelings of reluctance or fear that are getting in the way of working on your chosen issue. You might use what we call a powerful coping statement to assist you, something such as ‘I don’t like these memories or feelings but I can handle them’ or ‘ I’m safe in the present moment and I can clear up my past, slowly and steadily.’

My observation is that avoidance and dissociation are far less of a problem with Sound Therapy than in EMDR. This may be due to the fullness and intensity of listening to the sound over headphones. 

Following the connections you make, in your own time and in your own way, without the therapy clock ticking, enables us to give every avenue as much time and attention as needed. Little by little we become our best ever therapists. 

Have a great weekend, Edward.