Gary* went through most of his adult life feeling that something wasn’t right but didn’t know why.
There was always an undercurrent of anxiety running through his mind, stress in his body, and a sense of doom that struck the minute he awoke and got out of bed. He functioned well as the owner of a successful business but knew his mental state was holding him back and interfering with his ability to enjoy life.
Gary eventually suspected that early trauma might be a piece of the puzzle, so he tried conventional therapy. When that had little effect, he did EMDR, which “wore off” over time. Somatic experiencing* helped him become more aware of the details of his trauma and taught him coping skills but didn’t solve the problem. He then tried neurofeedback and gained almost immediate relief.
Due to the three-hour drive between his home and the Center for Brain Training’s office, and the fact that he was busy running a company, Gary purchased a home neurofeedback system so he could train every day on his own schedule. After just one week, he felt more content and energized. After five months he felt better enough to suspend his training and just do occasional “tune-ups.”
“I believe that when you change your brain it changes the whole deal, and neurofeedback does that without you having to do a lot of conscious work,” he said.
“Home training worked well for me because I could do it more frequently and on my schedule,” he continued. “It was a really practical solution for me.”
Gary had plodded through his adult life with a puzzling cloud over his head. He felt “on guard” all the time, even when things were going well.
At work, he endured daily bouts of overwhelm. It bogged down his efficiency.
At home, when any sort of conflict occurred, he shut down. Withdrew. Unplugged. What he describes as his “reactivity” to conflict created considerable stress in his marriage.
“I felt disconnected from life,” he said. “I was living in a continual state of anxiety, on alert all the time, hypervigilant, constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. I was frequently distracted and always expecting something negative to happen. Feeling that way took the joy of life away.”
Gary’s quest to feel better begins
Gary, now 66, knew there was more to living and set out on a quest several years ago to figure out what could help him. After significant research, he began suspecting his problem might have something to do with suppressed childhood trauma about which he had little memory.
He first tried conventional therapy to see if that would help. It didn’t.
A book that changed his life
He then came across a book called The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D., which is aimed at helping people heal from trauma. Dr. Van Der Kolk mentioned EMDR and somatic experiencing for healing trauma, which Gary tried, both gently pulling some of the curtain back on parts of his repressed psyche.
He began remembering details about the terrifying bully who targeted him throughout elementary school.
And then he remembered the accident.
At age seven Gary was in a car with his parents one snowy night, sitting in the front seat, going down a hill when an elderly man stepped in front of the car and was killed. The memory of that awful event eventually faded so far into the distant past that it seemed inconsequential.
It wasn’t. It lurked. Right under the surface.
One day Gary saw a YouTube video featuring Dr. Van Der Kolk, who stated that neurofeedback was the best modality for healing trauma because it worked well and fairly quickly.
Finding the Center for Brain Training
That was all Gary needed to hear. He began intensively researching neurofeedback as well as zeroing in on identifying the most professional and experienced person he could find to help. He contacted Boston Neurodynamics where Dr. Van Der Kolk sits on the advisory board and was told, “If you’re in Florida, anywhere near Mike Cohen at the Center for Brain Training, you should talk to him.”
Living on the west coast of Florida wasn’t, in fact, anywhere near the Center for Brain Training’s office on the east coast in Jupiter, but Gary didn’t care. He wanted someone with significant experience in neurofeedback, who was highly regarded in the field, and Mike fit the bill.
Starting remote training
When he learned that the Center for Brain Training offers remote training, Gary knew right away that was the route he wanted to take. It would allow him to train as often as he wanted, whenever he wanted, without interfering with his work schedule.
He came for a consultation, had a brain map, purchased home training equipment, and went back home to get started.
Pricila Vizcaino, Center for Brain Training’s remote training specialist, helped him get the equipment set up (“It was easy”), learn the proper placement of the sensors on his head and how to operate the program, and determine the protocols to use. She was also there (remotely) to help him with daily training for the first week and then intermittently over time as needed.
Feeling better – quickly
“After one week of daily training I realized I felt less negative and more energized,” Gary recalled, “and I started remembering my dreams, which I normally didn’t.”
In subsequent weeks as he learned the process, he met with Pricila on a diminishing schedule, eventually just checking in now and then for a progress report or to adjust a protocol.
“After a month of daily training, I felt so mellow that I said to myself—so this is what it feels like to be laid back. It was a feeling I wasn’t familiar with. I thought, ‘Man, this is great.’ I was feeling less beset by the problems of life and had a general feeling of well-being. That was significant.”
Doing better, too
And then one of his friends noticed.
“I have a buddy from high school that I talk to once or twice a week on the phone, and one day he said to me, “Hey, you’re different. You’re more like the old you.”
His wife noticed, too. She told him he was more attentive, less reactive, and seemed to be paying attention to her when she talked to him. “And that showed up early on in the training,” he noted.
He also became more efficient at work, unconsciously, surprising himself when he realized it.
Instead of barely “skidding” in under deadlines he started working ahead without adding any more time to his workday. Not only was he meeting deadlines, but he found himself several weeks ahead!
“Being able to do neurofeedback, and do it at home, has been a very, very significant thing for me,” Gary said. “I think it’s the best thing I ever did for myself.”
*Name changed to protect confidentiality.
**Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy treatment that is used to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories. (EMDR Institute).
***Somatic experiencing is a method of alternative therapy aimed at treating trauma and stressor-related disorders like PTSD. The primary goal of SE is to modify the trauma-related stress response through bottom-up processing. The Clients’ attention is directed to internal sensations, rather than to primarily cognitive or emotional experiences. (Wikipedia)