Wholeness Work & Phantom Limb Pain
by Sebastian Mauritz
I have worked with eight clients on phantom limb pain using Wholeness Work (formats from days one and two of the training), and the results exceeded my expectations. Five of them experienced significant positive results, both with their “pain” and in their ability to adapt resourcefully in their new life without the missing limb. This is rather remarkable, since phantom limb pain has been considered something difficult to work with.
In working with the Phantom Limb pain, I’ve noticed that usually more is going on than just the pain itself. There are usually three distinct elements, and I’ve found a sequence of three Wholeness Work methods quite effective in addressing the complete cluster of responses, including the pain.
So what are the three elements?
- Often people who’ve lost a limb are angry or frustrated about their missing limb.
- Many feel a sense of embarrassment, shame or guilt about their lost limb as well. They want to be “just normal” and this missing limb feels like a gap in normality. They’d prefer to hide it and not have it be seen.
- The third element is the phantom limb pain itself.
The Wholeness Work beautifully meets and transforms each of these three elements, and are all taught in Days 1 & 2 of the Wholeness training. Here’s the sequence I usually follow:
Before getting to the main change-work using The Wholeness Work, I usually used a basic emotional regulation technique. This could be the NLP “fast phobia/trauma” method, or tapping, or something else that serves to help the person maintain a resource state. Since the person missing a limb has usually been through some kind of experience that could be called a “trauma,” this helps them be able to maintain a resource state while proceeding to the rest of the inner work.
When the patient first meets with me they usually feel a mixed together set of emotions, where at first I like to do the tapping. This helps to give them a chance to self-regulate in between the first and second appointment. I do the tapping with the trauma, too – it works quite well.
Working with the strong emotions.
Now the client is ready to do the transformation work that ultimately allows the phantom limb pain to subside. We are ready to address the anger or frustration most people who’ve lost a limb experience. The Wholeness Work Basic Process is ideal for rapidly transforming these in a content-free way. It is quite gratifying to observe how much change people make, without needing to “talk about it.”
After doing the Wholeness Basic Process with these responses, I notice quite a significant shift. Clients have a remarkably more accepting attitude toward what’s already happened, and are more ready to move on positively in their lives.
Here are two typical examples:
Susanne, 48 years old, was missing her right arm after an accident. She came in very angry at fate “having this done to her.” After doing the Wholeness Work basic process, I saw a significant shift in her non-verbals. The tension in her shoulders – which had been raised up in a way that caused cramps in her upper back – had visibly changed. Her shoulders were now lowered und relaxed. She looked peaceful whereas before she’d looked tense and angry. She had clearly shifted to some kind of “understanding,” and acceptance of what had happened, that perhaps was beyond words. She made the surprising statement “Well, I guess fate only does his job, too,” and in the state she was now in, it was clear this came from a deep acceptance of what is now. When I heard this, I just had to laugh, and she readily joined in.
Matthias, 42 years old and missing his right foot after a job accident, was angry at his own laziness. He hadn’t worn protective shoes and that’s why his foot got crushed. After doing the Wholeness Work, his reaction shifted to just an “Oh well, that is me….” As he reported this, he looked relaxed at a deep level, as if he no longer needed to hang on to ideas of how things “should have been” and could be at peace with how things actually are now.
These two examples illustrate the acceptance, which happened for most of the clients I worked with. Acceptance of things as they are is one of the key factors in resilience, yet is often easier said than done. Taking the anger/strong emotions/stress out of the system in this particular way makes it is quite natural to accept the unchangeable.
After resolving the strong emotions, this clears the way to work effectively with the shame/embarrassment, about not being “normal.” Matthias summed it up in a really precise way: “If you miss a piece of your body, you are not normal anymore. People look at you, don’t know how to react and it costs a lot of energy to tell them, that you are normal – only with a piece of your body missing”. The Wholeness Authority process (From Day 2 of the training), resolves this at a deep level. The results are it becomes easy and natural for clients to connect with others again, and proactively speak about the new way of being, rather than hiding it or trying to cover it up.
The last phase is to work with the phantom limb pain itself.
For this I use the “Wholeness Work Integrate What’s Missing” process. [You learn this in Day 2 of the training.] In my view this is a key part of the work. In working with clients on phantom limb pain, I’ve noticed that all of them have an internal representation of the limb, which in some way appears to be frozen in the accident. This picture of the damaged part of the body seems to be some kind of traumatic memory for the body.
The Wholeness Work “Integrate What’s Missing” process is a beautiful match for what’s needed to resolve and transform this experience into something quite different.
Matthias was surprised that the pain changed after doing the process, but he still had his doubts. He quickly added, “Well, you do hypnosis – so it is natural for me to forget the pain and be relaxed.” He seemed to assume the pain would return later on. I didn’t argue with him about that, but in a follow-up zoom call 2 weeks later he said, that it felt, as if his “damaged foot” – which had been amputated – had relaxed more and more and in a way didn’t matter anymore.
What Happens to the Pain
Most of my clients so far have experienced positive results from going through this sequence. The shift in the experience of phantom limb pain itself has ranged from only having phantom limb “sensations” left instead of phantom limb pain – all the way up to a deep relaxation and acceptance of the situation as it is and to a shift so complete that either there was no remaining sensation of the absent limb, or the sensation was so minor that subjectively it “didn’t matter” any longer.
With some clients I’ve been able to go through all the steps above in as few as 3 sessions. With others it’s happened over a series of 5 to 8 sessions. As is taught in the Wholeness Work courses, I always followed the flow of what the client was experiencing and was concerned with.
An added note: With three clients I found it useful to use a method from Day 3 of the Wholeness training, as well: the Wholeness aversions-attachments format. These clients were all stating things like “I want my old body back and I don’t want my body, as it is today.” The aversions-attachments format worked well with this.
If you are a coach or therapist, I can only encourage learning this work and teaching The Wholeness Work to your clients. Since it is purely structural, process work it is easy to use it, even without any kind of cognitive understanding of what the problem is. The more I have worked with The Wholeness Work, my level of wanting to understand vanished and the beauty of structural integration work at a pure process level made my life as a life-coach a lot easier.
I would like to add, that I only do this work with the permission and knowledge of the client’s doctor/ neurologist and/ or trained psychologist, since for me as a life coach this is a grey area and I really like to have everybody on board.
Trainer for The Wholeness Work
Board member of the European Association for The Wholeness Work
Message From Connirae:
What stands out to me in Sebastian’s report, is that the benefits these clients experienced from Wholeness Work went far beyond a shift in the sensation of pain. Healing and resolving the emotions, the sense of embarrassment from “being different” or incomplete, etc., are an important part of real healing.
Sebastian and I have also begun discussing what might make it possible to extend the good results to the remaining three clients. It may be that using Core Transformation with these clients would do this. Many people find that Core Transformation increases the benefit they experience from Wholeness Work, and for some, Core Transformation is a necessary first step.
It’s exciting to hear the results that coaches, therapists, and individuals who use the Wholeness Work are getting. More areas of benefit keep coming in. Because Wholeness Work goes to a more fundamental level of our experience, it can sometimes shift things that haven’t changed with other approaches.