Performance & Creativity Enhancement by David Grand, Ph.D.


THE GRAND SYSTEM FOR EMDR is built on a model known as THE NATURAL FLOW MODEL, an approach that aims to work more gently with lower one’s distress level and open creativity and performance. THE NATURAL FLOW MODEL examines the flow of processing as an essentially creative process. It is a “no assumptions model” where the healing process is supported by suspending all assumptions and carefully attending to all in the moment verbal and meta-communications emanating from the individual. This approach entails accepting that all potential healing resides in the individual’s system. This is potentiated by the natural and flowing targeting of negative experiences activated by bilateral stimulation. In this manner the person is guided to process information until they arrive at their “essential truth,” with a removal of blocks and a healing resolution.

The 11 Guidelines for Performance and Creativity Enhancement

1. Performance should be seen in the larger context of life experience, meaning and self-perception and is limited when looked at primarily in terms of sensory input and response, thought (beliefs) and behavior.

2. Performance is an every day, all day issue of life for everyone including all interactions with others and within ourselves (Ed Koch used to repeatedly ask of his performance as mayor of New York City, “How’m I doin’?”)

3. How we experience present day performance is influenced by the accumulation of performance experiences dating back to birth (intrauterine experience?). How our parents and caretakers responded to our early performances such as nursing, rolling over, smiling, cooing and babbling, walking, talking and toilet training – formed the foundation for our later performance experiences (both inner and outer). Some parents respond with positive mirroring (Kohut) such as excitement and reflections of, “look what Ellen did! She rolled over!” or “Billy, what a wonderful picture!” However, other parents respond adversely or perhaps more damagingly by ignoring these early performances, resulting in the accumulation of negative strata which develop a performance sense of “I am bad” (shame development) or “I am invisible” (I don’t exist). Early social experiences with young friends and in going off to nursery school and kindergarten are key to our performance histories as they are usually the first structured group performance and evaluation experiences of life. EMDR processing of present day performance anxiety often yields humiliation memories from elementary school.

4. Performance and social anxiety are dynamic phenomenon which originate with negative self-beliefs and images, mostly unconscious and internalized earlier in life. These inner perceptions are silently projected out into the minds (perceived thoughts) of the observers (audience or others) and are then erroneously experienced as external. Through reintrojection, the performer’s tendencies towards anxiety and shame are then activated further affecting both internal experience and actual performance, forming a negative loop. This may develop into a downward spiral which at its worse leads to an avoidance or cessation of the activity. Identifying how these dynamics develop and are played out for the individual can help to expose and unravel them, especially incorporating EMDR exploration and targeting of the formative experiences.

5. The projected negative self-perceptions, beliefs and self-statements(which we identify as negative cognitions) often emanate from distinct ego states or separate selves, even in non-DID individuals. These are self-critical and/or attacking selves that can be identified and worked with directly. These selves are in need of healing as they usually feel voiceless, powerless, disenfranchised and are suffering. They also, when healed, have energy, assertiveness and determination that can serve the overall self. Other selves (parental or spiritual) can be brought to the aggressive self for healng and direct protocol work.

6. Secondary gains of performance blocks need to be considered and evaluated. Hidden secondary gains often play a role leading to avoidance and escape. For the child or adolescent prodigy, the question of, “who am I performing for, myself or my parent (coach/teacher) often lurks silently. This issue continues into the adult life of the prodigy who may be unknowingly rebelling or calling out for recognition or help. It is not uncommon for prodigies to be abused in childhood, especially in relation to the development of their giftedness. I have worked with more than one concert pianist who were either hit in the back of the head by her mother/teacher or verbally humiliated by a teacher between the ages of five and ten. Those in the public eye are treated as commodities by corporations and fans and accordingly experience being divorced from their true selves. “They don’t like me for who I am, they like me what I do.” This deepens the traumatic experience of abandonment and exploitation and tends to intensify the performers need to defensively rely on narcissism and dissociation. This is a pitfall to assiduously avoid in conducting performance work. The client needs to know that you both are attuned to their loss of true self and are committed to address it in the work together. Although the presenting problem is behavioral and the ultimate outcome of the treatment will be assessed in these terms, the behavior has to be reintegrated into the self-experience. The question, “what does my performance meaning to me?” naturally flows to the larger ones, “who am I?” and, “what do I want out of my life?”

7. As with all EMDR work, maximal education of the client of the process is essential. They need to be apprised that exploration and work with their personal and performance history will be essential. They also need to understand and agree to the degree of personal and affective exposure (to themselves and you) that may be needed to shift the behavior.

8. In practice, the three most important things are follow-up, follow-up,and more follow-up. No matter what kind of shift or reprocessing goes on in session, it is no guarantee of improvement in performance. The follow-up session(s) gives the chance to see what has shifted and what hasn’t. This provides the opportunity to install the positive changes (a reality template similar to the positive cognition). The remaining negative experiences can then be processed in a more narrowly. Hopefully, as sessions proceed, the positive experiences will widen and the negative will attenuate. Opportunities for in vivo work can also be valuable as the process develops. There can be value in working simultaneously with two parallel targets and protocols, one present day and behavioral, the other historical and underpinning the performance inhibition. Back and forth movement between these protocols in one or a number of sessions will oftentimes accomplish synergistic movement in each.

9. Always remember that the goal, unless changed by mutual consent, is behavioral improvement as defined by the performance client. They need to be guided and supported to determine when they have satisfactorily met that goal, even if more personal work remains to be accomplished.

10. Sports injuries, especially in childhood and adolescence, often underlie later performance anxiety or inhibition such as “the Yips”. This also plays into how an athlete or performer recovering from injury or surgery frequently will suffer from fear of re-injury and loss of confidence in the efficacy of their body integrity. EMDR is effective in releasing the negative imagery and thinking which accompanies this recovery process.

11. Performance in front of an audience, whether on the sports field or acting stage, requires the capacity to “adaptively dissociate” or “creatively dissociate”. That is how an athlete can hit a darting, spinning ball traveling at 99 mph or an actor can morph into another personality under the scrutiny of screaming fans or demanding audiences and critics. The problem arises when adaptive and creative dissociation are infiltrated by pathological dissociation. This triggering leads to the perception of imminent threat, mental and physical hyperactivation, muscle tensing, reflexive freezing and the impulse to escape. This is usually the cause of most intractable performance anxiety and inhibition as well as inexplicable inabilities to perform tasks that would ordinarily be simple. And of course these phenomena source from earlier, profound trauma, often in the endeavor where the performance is undermined.