Is it possible that puking into a bucket could be a cutting edge therapeutic technique? I believe the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. In this article I’ll describe my experience of purging, explore some theories and give some pointers for therapists keen on including it as part of their tool bag.
In Autumn 2010 my girlfriend Max and I arrived back from a course on Shamanic Sexual Healing run by Baba Dez of the Sedona Temple. As you can imagine the week had been pretty intense and had involved working with many of the participants’ deeply held traumas. We were together in the lounge and I was commenting on an icky feeling of revulsion that I notice in my gut from time to time when we are together. Max then asked me what I immediately recognized as a brilliant question: ‘What does it smell like?’
As I turned my imaginary nose towards the feeling in my belly I realized that, even though I had no conception of what it would smell like, I was, nevertheless, afraid of smelling it. I allowed myself to become fully aware of this fear, faced it, felt it, and chose to smell the thing I could feel. As I made this decision my body jerked into a cough. The cough became more and deeper coughs. I noticed that I was afraid that I would be sick; and turned towards this fear too. The coughs continued. Some liquid was ejected, projectile like, from my mouth and my thoughts pinged briefly to a scene from the film ‘The Exorcist’.
Thankfully the vomiting didn’t last long but the coughs became spasms moving through my whole body and making me utter groaning sounds that I’ve never heard before. The first wave lasted over an hour. Max sat with me, calmly, through these and for all the waves to come; a comforting witnessing presence. The next wave of contractions lasted for less than an hour and subsequent waves for less and less time and with longer periods of lucidity in between. The experience was reminiscent of contractions during a birth. All in all it lasted for about four and a half hours.
The next day I was somewhat wide eyed – did I dream all that? It was as if something very special had happened and I felt like I had been partly cleansed but that there was more yet to go. Though it was certainly intense it was not scary. It felt natural – like my body had been waiting for an opportunity to do it.
A natural process
When we are out in the jungle hunting and gathering and we eat the wrong kind of berry the body’s natural action is to eject the toxins the quickest way possible – usually the way they came in. From that moment on the body remembers the experience and reminds us not to eat those berries again by associating them with feelings of disgust. In addition to the personal experience it is noticed that vomiting in one person tends to induce feelings of nausea and vomiting in others. This makes sense in the food gathering example as if your friend has just eaten something toxic there is a good chance that you have too.
The disgust association can also be socially conditioned. When mothers see their child exploring ‘dirty’ things with their mouths and teach their offspring to find it disgusting by making ‘eaugh’ noises, pulling a face and removing the offending item from their mouths (often causing their children to start crying in the process). Later, as we learn language, we learn to be sickened by the events described in other people’s stories. All this has a massive benefit in terms of learning from other people’s mistakes.
In addition to the vomit response after imbibing I have noticed that people can tend to feel nauseous or vomit during intense exercise, before an anxiously anticipated event or after an intensely traumatic experience such as a fight.
I wonder if it is part of the body’s ‘fight or flight’ parasympathetic nervous response? This response aims to free up energy in the body by stopping immediately non-essential actions in the body and prioritizing body functions that are necessary for intense physical activity. Faced with the stressful situation the body releases feces and urine and slows or stops digestion. The heart rate rises, focus narrows and energy is released into the muscles ready for action. After the action the body begins to shake … believed by many to be a way of the muscles releasing toxins in order to recover.
Could it be that vomiting before a stressful situation means that there is less weight to carry and less food to digest? Could it be that vomiting after a stressful situation is another way of the body releasing physical toxins?
The problem comes when the feelings of disgust are felt with respect to things that are not actually dangerous to our body. And because the feeling of nausea is so unpleasant we may well have learned to avoid these things without even knowing that we are avoiding them. Often it takes a serious amount of awareness and honesty to realize what we are actually disgusted by. When we avoid facing these things we get to avoid feeling sick. But we also get to avoid a part of life; part of ourselves.
What do you turn away from? Sex? Intimacy? Blood? Violence? Death? Anything else?
It makes sense to me that the body should vomit when it becomes aware of some kind of foreign body inside that doesn’t belong. On the physical level this foreign body could be some bad food; on the subtle level it could be some kind of toxic energy.
What do I mean by ‘toxic energy’? If someone said ‘I’ve got this black, noxious, sticky tar-like substance at the pit of my stomach’ then (unless they’ve literally been eating tar) you would not see this if you cut them open. It is in their imagination and made out of subtle energy. They experience it as if it was real. If you asked them if that energy belonged to them I’m pretty sure that they would say no.
How did this energy get inside in the first place? I’m not exactly sure. But have you ever experienced someone making you feel disgusted? Could it be that they are pushing the disgust they feel into your subtle body? Have you ever been made to feel so ashamed that you wanted the ground to swallow you up? Could it be that when the ground does swallow you up then you swallow a subtle entity that was living in the ground?
When we get in the way of our body’s natural process of vomiting the toxic matter stays in the body and the unwanted feelings of revulsion persist in our lives. When we control our body, the parasitic entity is really controlling us.
The quickest and most complete way of changing a pattern of avoidance is to face the thing that is feared. To vomit even though it is unpleasant to do so.
Purging in shamanic ritual
Ayahuasca is a well known shamanic ally substance used in the Peruvian Amazon. It is known to have permanent positive effects on mind-body illnesses including depression, addiction and schizophrenia.
Meghan Shannon is an American living in Peru. Here are some extracts from her article ‘What is Ayahuasca…Really…?’
‘Most of us walk around every day, thinking we are the ones running our lives. But like the anger entity, there are tons and tons of energy patterns, crossed energies and spirits literally along for the ride, hidden inside like internal luggage …
‘The purge is what makes the Ayahuasca unique. That’s why it works so fast. Because it is physically pulling this stuff out of your body. You can do all the energy and spiritual work you want, but until these dark entities physically leave the body, you are still walking around struggling against them. You may have gotten a pretty good handle on them, but it’s so normal you don’t know how much energy would be freed up if they weren’t there …
‘The purges can be challenging, make no mistake. Often (but not always) the person feels the energy or emotion as it is leaving the body. Purging fear = extremely scary. Purging doubt = thinking all these shamans are out of their minds and this is some kind of cult. Purging ego = getting triggered by the guy with the bigger ego during the day of the ceremony. Purging overactive mind chatter = exhausting thought spirals. Physical purges (vomit, diarrhea, gas, hot/cold temperatures, yawning, sweating, vibrating/shaking, crying, abnormal breathing, fidgeting) are all catalysts that the dark energy attaches to (either the physical liquid, gas or breath) to get out. It is the much more efficient than energy work alone (though most people feel extreme energies as well). Not only do challenging purges move out darkness fast, they train the body and mind to be able to endure the physical world …’
Methodology for ‘Hypno-purging’ (for want of a better name)
This process is an advanced therapeutic technique that takes a lot of commitment from the client and a lot of confidence from the therapist in order to see it through. Awareness of disgust can arise spontaneously in the course of a session or could be a client’s presenting problem.
Go hunting together
Notice what your client is avoiding. What do they NOT talk about, what do they NOT do, what do they do their best NOT to be. You’ll need to be eagle eyed as the client will be a master of staying away from this stuff.
A good thing to watch out for is micro expressions. Notice when, for a split second, your client’s face turns into a disgusted grimace when they are talking. For that moment they accessed the disgusting thing … but it was so quick they probably didn’t even notice. Stop them immediately and direct them back to what they were saying, where they were looking, any body language. Slow everything down and have them notice if they can sense what it was that you noticed.
Become aware of the avoidance
If you think you have noticed what they are avoiding before they do go ahead and let them know. Anything less is beating about the bush and colluding with them that this (whatever it is) cannot be faced head on. Tell them what you are noticing and ask them if they are avoiding something. For example: ‘A moment ago I was asking you about sex and now you are talking about relationships again. Are you avoiding talking about sex?’ If they get defensive at this point then that is brilliant information that there is something here that needs defending. Remember – it is the parasitic energy that is defending itself, not the client so don’t get distracted by it.
At this stage you can give your client a brief overview of the benefits of the natural process of purging sadness by crying (which they will understand), anger by shouting (which they will understand) and disgust by puking (which they will now understand). Check out if there are any medical reasons for not going down this route. Then give them a bucket. That will show them that you are serious and probably start to get them a bit apprehensive. This is good. It shows that they are taking this seriously and that the toxic energy inside is getting nervous.
Re-cap on the negative effect that this avoidance has on their lives. They need to re-member (get back into the body) how important this is to them. Otherwise why would they actually face what they have been avoiding? A simple question like ‘And while you are avoiding (blah), what effect is that having on your life?’ Accept no bullshit. Make them spell it out. Make them feel the pain of their avoidance.
Confront the parasite
Coach your client to confront the avoided thing. Develop any spontaneously occurring metaphors. ‘Where is it?’, ‘What’s it like over there?’, ‘How many of them are there?’, ‘What are they doing?’, that kind of thing. As more of their awareness is directed towards what they have been avoiding they will almost certainly start feeling their internal response to it. In the case of disgust they will probably start to feel sensations in the stomach, chest or throat. Again, build awareness of these feelings with questions like ‘And now what are you noticing?’, ‘And whereabouts in your stomach is that?’, ‘And what’s that like?’, ‘And how much black sludge is there?’, and, of course, ‘What does it smell like?’ Remember: you are not making them feel sick, you are revealing what is already there.
Facilitate the purge by confronting and removing all barriers that are preventing the body from doing what it wants to do. If the client is afraid of loosing control and being sick then get them to feel that fear deeply. Coach them to choose to accept the fear and surrender to their body. As the sensations increase get the client to notice any ways that they are trying to control them or avoid them and to STOP. And really notice the feelings and allow them to do whatever they want to do. If they cough then reinforce it with a ‘Good, let it happen.’ Similarly if they wretch or puke. Let them know everything is fine and it will pass. The only way out is through.
After the purge has happened your client will probably come back to themselves (literally … squatter out, owner in) quite quickly. They may feel somewhat battered but will likely feel cleansed and well. They will probably look much more alive and glowing. This is the perfect time to get them to notice what is different now. Invite them to think about things that used to bother them. Invite them to imagine situations that would have caused them problems (‘future pacing’ in NLP speak).