One drawback of many mind-body therapies is that they require the user to believe, without doubting, that the technique will work. In other words, there is purported to be a direct correlation between the strength of the client’s belief or ‘expectation’ in the method, and the success of its outcome. Unfortunately, this can be an insurmountable obstacle for those unable to fully buy into a given technique. Certainly they hope it will work and are indeed willing to try, but they feel frustrated that perhaps it isn’t able to work because they lack sufficient conviction — which, in turn, they can’t muster without first seeing convincing results. Vicious circle.
I had a similar concern when I was a client using Graf Stress Management for the first time. It sounded too simple to be effective, and I found myself going through the motions of the Stress Evaluation without the real expectation of success. Fortunately, it didn’t matter whether or not I believed in the technique — it mattered only that I was willing to be helped by dealing with the stresses that were causing problems for me and that I could accept that my intelligence knew how to run a healthy body. That much, I could do.
In Graf Stress Management, when a stress is found, corrective action is taken to resolve it which typically involves the client making a statement aloud. The first time I did this, I doubted it would help at all. I mean, just saying something? It seemed too effortless to be effective, not to mention that I felt little conviction about the words I was saying, although I had confidence in the muscle testing that had identified the stress I was attempting to purge. But the words I was saying were literally just lip service me, which caused me to worry that my doubts and low expectations would counteract the process. Thus, I was extremely surprised by my successful outcome.
Initially, I sought Jan Graf’s help for infertility and obtained the desired result. Within a few weeks after my appointment, I was pregnant. But with that pregnancy came extreme nausea, day and night. I went back a second time to see Graf, who did a Stress Evaluation and found the nausea was due to psychological stress: my subconscious need to justify being considered a ‘normal’ woman by exhibiting a ‘normal’ symptom of pregnancy, nausea.
And I could accept that; the muscle testing had proven to be a reliable diagnostic tool for me. But it was a stretch when Graf suggested I take care of the problem by making the following statement aloud: “I release the need to be sick to justify being accepted as a woman.” It was easy enough to say, but I didn’t have a shred of confidence that saying it was going to change anything. I had zero emotional investment in the words. There was no feeling of, “Aha, just what I thought,” as I’d had with many of the stresses we’d uncovered in the first session.
Nonetheless, I said it. And I meant it. That is, I was totally on board with letting go of the need to be nauseated just to prove to the world that I was a normal woman with normal symptoms of pregnancy, or whatever it was I was supposedly trying to do. Fine with me. I just didn’t think it was going to help any. Yet, to my surprise, about half an hour later I realized that the nausea had left — never to come back.
That experience cemented the validity of Graf Stress Management for me. Frankly, I’d doubted stress had anything to do with my nausea. I’d reasoned, in the theory of the day, that it was caused by HGC in my bloodstream from the pregnancy and as such, it was inevitable. But as soon as I’d taken care of my stress — even a stress with which I did not strongly identify — the nausea ended, regardless of what I’d believed to be the cause and notwithstanding that there was still HCG in my bloodstream.
I learned from this experience that just because there was HCG in my bloodstream did not mean I had to respond to it with nausea — a lesson that can be broadly generalized to other health matters. I also learned that stress management worked, whether or not I believed in Graf’s paradigm of stress-caused illness. I mean, I had no trouble believing in it as far as the infertility was concerned, namely, that my fear of being rejected by my children had kept me from conceiving. But I was pretty sure the nausea was a chemical imperative of pregnancy, not a “head problem.” Yet the fact remained that whether or not I believed stress was responsible, as soon as I’d taken care of mine, my body took care of the nausea. The empirical evidence was undeniable.
It was clear to me that Graf Stress Management was a major advance over other mind-body strategies I’d tried which relied on techniques like affirmation and visualization. For me, the problem with them was that they required conviction about the thing being proclaimed (such as, “I am now easily becoming pregnant”), which was intellectually impossible for me since I was having an opposite experience. I was neither now, nor easily, becoming pregnant. Affirmations had to be believable, not just hopes that I was trying to brute-force into realities.
The unique contribution and power of Graf Stress Management lies in incisively finding and eliminating the specific stresses burdening an individual — stresses that may be working insurmountably against the very thing visualized and affirmed. For example, in my own case, without taking care of my fear that any children I bore were going to reject me, I doubt I would ever have conceived.
And that’s my objection to other mind-body approaches: without resolving the countervailing stresses, I see little possibility of them accomplishing the desired end. I do not believe the mind can “brute force” the body into doing something the intelligence opposes, simply by affirming or visualizing it — even if done with sincerest conviction. Affirmations can be helpful, but only if they’re yours, tailored to the psychological particulars of your situation, as opposed to blanket statements invoking a desired result.