The Lightning Process
By Phil Parker
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 18 years since I first came up with the Lightning Process. During that journey from birth to adulthood, it’s helped over 20,000 people to discover a way to create extraordinary changes in their health; seen a flourishing in its acceptance by academics and orthodox medicine; helped hundreds of couples, for whom pregnancy seemed an impossibility, become parents, and provided enough individual stories of overcoming severe challenges to make even hardened souls become misty eyed. So on this anniversary I’ve been asked to reflect on those extraordinary, intriguing and sometimes challenging years and on what are the most important things that I could pass on.
How did it begin?
I had been working for some time as an osteopath combining my skills with a postgraduate training in hypnotherapy, psychotherapy and NLP and specialising in hard to help cases. As a result, my physical therapy and my emotional therapy friends would often refer me their most challenging clients hoping that this extra combination of skills might finally identify a solution for their clients’ problems. I was fortunate that, for many of those referred, my approach seemed to help. However, there were some cases that just didn’t seem to move forward with any sustained change, even though I’d helped others with the same conditions.
I wasn’t quite sure what to do with these clients, who had a range of issues including depression, anxiety, pain, auto-immune issues etc. as they had already been sent to me as a ‘last chance saloon’. So instead of referring them back into an ever churning system I decided to do some research. I wondered if there was a difference between the people who seemed to get stuck and those who were able to access change – it also occurred to me that this was a very interesting and important question central to any health intervention. The results of this research highlighted some differences between those two groups, and led towards the creation of a programme to help people to find ways to break out of some of those unhelpful physiological patterns which heralded the beginning of the Lightning Process (LP).
What’s the most important thing you’ve learnt?
There’s so much to say;
- Considering beliefs: For anyone interested in health and change it’s so valuable to consider beliefs – what does the practitioner and the client think about the possibility of change? Most of us have heard of the placebo effect, but does it really have scientific validity? The answer is yes – one of my favourite studies is one involving two groups of women in a drugs trial; one group were taking real chemo, the other a dummy pill that they thought was chemo; the majority of the people in the group taking real chemo lost, as expected, all of their body hair but surprisingly 40% of those in the group taking the dummy pill, with no active ingredients, also lost all their body hair. What caused that profound physiological change? Their belief that they were taking the real drug. If a belief can cause this much physical change, then we need to think carefully about what beliefs we have about our health and our bodies.
- Beliefs vs Facts: So we can recognise that beliefs are really significant in our health, but there’s a big problem with this, and that is, beliefs are really difficult to spot because they appear as if they’re facts or truths. When it comes to health issues check in with your truths; normally we think we need to ask ‘is this right or wrong/true or false?’ but it can much more useful to ask yourself ‘is this useful to believe?’ For example when I was younger I was told, by a long line of medical experts, that I’d never recover from a serious injury – technically they were correct, that’s what all the textbooks said – but I decided it might be useful to wonder if there was another possibility and I am pretty sure this belief helped me to completely recover. So whenever you find something presented as fact, which doesn’t seem that useful, think about gently challenging it and see what opens up as a result.
- Being deeply kind to ourselves: this is pivotal to change and health; it has an extraordinary effect on our biochemistry and brain development and function; in fact, there’s such a strong link that people who are happy with themselves get an average of 10 years extra happy, healthy life compared to their unhappy counterparts. If being happy changes our health, who has the most potential to influence our happiness? Well, it’s clearly us, but this raises interesting questions – are we in charge of our health? And does that mean we are to blame for ill health? The best way to think of this is to use the word ‘influence’ rather than ‘responsibility or blame’. Influence notes that we have some power to make a difference but carries none of the sense of being to blame for it. In fact so many of these patterns work on such an unconscious level that we can’t possibility be considered to be to blame for it. Although, once we become aware of any issues, as it is our body and nervous system we are the ones best placed to find a way to consciously influence those systems in a compassionate and positive way.
- The power of language: Linked to this is to become aware of what you’re saying to yourself, our language is one of the most powerful and economical health interventions on the planet – research shows that the words we use switch on certain linked areas of our brain – for example, saying the word pain will trigger activity in the regions that interpret signals as pain. During the development of the LP I noticed that how we thought about our health issues and how much we thought we could influence them, or not, was a very powerful factor in recovery. In order to assist people in shifting from feeling passive, in their health to regaining their sense of having some influence over it, I developed a new verb, the dû. The dû, which has a similar meaning to ‘do’, but in addition it adds the sense that we are involved in something but on an unconscious level, is used to uncover when we feel powerless. Intriguingly by using it, you suddenly experience how that apparent powerlessness is an illusion and instantly regain a sense that you can do something to make a difference. Take the examples ‘I have arthritis’ or ‘I have anxiety’ if we change this to ‘I am dûing arthritis’ or ‘I am dûing anxiety’ we notice how this transforms it from describing the problem as being ‘something we just have’ to something we are involved in, at some level, and therefore can influence. Notice that implicit within this is the idea that this is something we aren’t doing on purpose (so not to blame) but suggest compassionately that this is something we can make a difference to. Try it out and see how rapidly it changes things for you…
- Make the leap: And I guess finally, I thought, ‘what would be my message to others thinking of pushing frontiers in health?’ and my answer, is it will be an extraordinary ride, not always easy, but too important not to take.
How did it grow into a global movement?
Originally it was just me teaching the LP, but the clients who’d recovered their health after years of illness, wanted others to know about its life changing effects and so client and practitioner numbers grew. A new client group started to consult LP practitioners; those with CFS/ME – I’d tried to help this client group as an osteopath and hypnotherapist/NLP practitioner, as I knew how devastating the condition was for individuals, and just simply found that any changes I got with clients were not sustained. After a while I stopped seeing people with this diagnosis as I felt there wasn’t much I could do. When the first clients with this issue came to the Lightning Process I was doubtful it would help either. I was probably more surprised than anyone else when they made extraordinary and often instant change. However, based on my previous experience, I expected the change wouldn’t last, so I kept an eye on them in the following months and was again surprised to find the changes continued.
Extraordinary, documented, results followed; people, improbably, leaving wheelchairs they’d been confined to for years, then walking, running, undertaking marathons and even taking part in the Olympics. Intractable chronic pain, with threatened amputations suggested as a last resort, mystifyingly disappearing after the LP. Even though it sounded like magic, it was simply the result of a well-grounded application of neuroscience. Rapidly, more and more people wanted to become part of it-something I never really anticipated. As the new profession grew, and spread globally, an important question arose, ‘How can we ensure the LP is delivered to the same high level of training and success, wherever you take it?’ The obvious answer was to create a professional body, with a code of conduct, an ethics committee, etc. It was a surprisingly tough decision for me to make peace with, as it goes against my free thinking mindset. However, it has resulted in reliable and consistent intervention, that’s practised on 3 continents and 10 countries, and wherever you go, you get the same LP.
How accepted is it now and is there any research?
Great results can sometimes be met with great scepticism, and initially not everyone was as excited about the results or was willing to take it seriously, but over time we’ve seen a shift and there has been a blossoming of research into the Lightning Process, with two quantitative studies already published and a quantitative RCT due for publication. This is quite an achievement for such a small profession, working outside of academia and using ‘complementary’ approaches to health, and is due to news of the extraordinary results over 18 years, the commitment of determined LP graduates and courageous researchers dedicated to exploring new ideas in health.
Meet the author: Phil Parker is an internationally renowned health visionary, humanitarian, PHD researcher, therapist, lecturer and author who founded The Lightning Process in 1999, 18 years ago. Phil has been lecturing in NLP, Self-hypnosis and Hypnosis, Life Coaching and Osteopathy, at both Undergraduate and Postgraduate levels, since the 1980s. Over 20,000 people around the world have had their lives transformed by The Lightning Process.healing, health, Lightning Process