Psychotherapist Olivia Roberts was astounded at the tiny, fragile, pale woman in front of her. Esther, 58, had suffered migraines two or three times a week since the age of 13. She had hoped they would subside once she retired and she would be able to use her extra time to perform as a musician. Instead, they increased and she was having migraines every day, causing her to cancel concerts and spend long days in bed in the dark in excruciating pain.
“She looked like a tiny little sparrow when she came to me,” says Olivia, author of Chronic Pain and Debilitating Conditions Resolution. “She was so frail, I didn’t even know if she would be able to do my programme. She had been worn down by these migraines and when they started to get worse, she was in despair.
“It was as if the future she had looked forward to for so long had been snatched away from her. She could see nothing but pain ahead.”
Like many of Olivia’s clients, Esther was sceptical about being able to rid herself of the pain that had dominated her adult life and she was relieved to hear she didn’t have to believe in the process – she simply had to go through a series of mind-over-matter exercises.
Olivia’s programme is called Resolution Magic, and it is a series of simple mental exercises that have been used to ease the pain of, and sometimes put an end to, conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, migraine, chronic fatigue, joint aches and pains and skin conditions such as dermatitis, among others. It is based on the theory that our symptoms are caused by electrical waves, which are created by our own neurological system. Olivia, who is also a master NLP (neurolinguistic programming) practitioner, believes the electricity travels along our nerves and whatever is at the end of the line – a joint for example – is going to have the symptom. She says if the electricity travels to one area, such as the ear, for years, it could result in a serious problem such as deafness.
“I discovered from research that before a migraine attack there is a wave of neurological activity, and I used my programme successfully on that for myself,” recalls Olivia, who had suffered from migraines for decades. “I had also been putting up with irritable bowel syndrome for years without realising my programme would work on that too, until I tried it in 2004. I was amazed.
“It was then that I realised a lot of conditions – not just migraine – are caused by neurological activity and my programme would work for all of them.
“People describe their symptoms in terms of electricity; we say we have a stabbing or a burning pain. Our brains are the generators that send out these waves of electricity, and they can be triggered by several things including past memories and present unwanted feelings.”
Clients start the programme by listening to a CD in which Olivia talks them though a mental exercise, designed to teach the subconscious a new sequence to lead them back to good health. It begins with a special phrase – “Go away!” – which is said forcefully. The idea is that brain then stores the sequence and the client can draw on it whenever they need it. At first the brain carries on as it always has done, but gradually, it is retrained – the new sequence is adopted, and the symptoms reduce.
To encourage the brain to adopt the new sequence, a mental exercise routine is repeated at the first hint of a symptom – the moment you feel a migraine coming on or a pain in your shoulder, for example, you need to find somewhere private where you can repeat the phrase “Go away!” forcefully for 30 seconds. It can be done inside your head – you don’t have to say it out loud. This needs to be done every two hours while symptoms persist.
By doing these exercises, we retrain the subconscious part of our brain so that it gradually stops sending out abnormally strong neurological waves.
Escaping the pain of the past
Olivia also believes that some of our pain is exacerbated by past experiences or memories, which can be triggered, often without us knowing. One minute we’re happy with life, the next our mood has inexplicably changed. According to Olivia, the answer lies in the memory boxes we store in our subconscious mind.
She explains: “You may be walking down the street perfectly happy when you see a cheerful little boy with a blue balloon and several memory boxes may open and close. It may be the colour blue that triggers a memory of you sitting in a blue chair at the dentist’s waiting to have a tooth extraction, or the balloon may trigger a memory of a disastrous party you had. You will not be aware of these connections, just that your mood has slumped.
“But once you feel like this, it contributes towards creating waves of neurological activity that travel along your nerves and give you a pain or an ache. The symptom goes up through the pain scale as the neurological wave increases. It may at first create a tickle, then an ache, then full-on pain.
“Past experiences affect the way you feel in the present day, and they can also affect physical symptoms. Present-day anxiety, nervousness, worrying or irritability also contribute to the creation of physical symptoms. It’s as if all of these things ‘wind up’ your subconscious brain, getting it ready to fire off a wave of neurological activity along a nerve.”
Olivia has several techniques to deal with past experiences or memories, based on the fact that most of the knowledge we need is within us. Sometimes we go back to just before the upsetting event and replay it as a cartoon, or she gives us a magic wand to change things within our memory. We talk to the child version of ourselves and time-travel between ourselves as adult and child, telling each other what we know.
A lot of her techniques sound farcical, yet they have had astounding results.
Esther, the musician with the migraines, worked at Resolution Magic and gradually her migraines went from a pain rating of regular brain-crushing nines to barely-there ones. She’s now at zero, having not had a migraine attack for years.
“It took her over a year to work through these migraines,” recalls Olivia, “but she looks like a different person now she’s free of pain. She looks stronger, she has colour and vibrancy and she’s much happier, playing her music, and performing to audiences.”
Morag Jamieson, 40, is full-time mum to James, three, and she lives in Inverness in the UK. Resolution Magic helped rid her of migraines.
“I’d suffered with migraines from the age of four. When I was eight, I tried taking a herb, Feverfew, and that worked until I was 14, but the migraines came back with a vengeance, making me vomit and giving me visual disturbances. Not knowing what was going on, I thought I was going blind. I also had the bizarre symptom of crying when a migraine was coming on.
As a teenager I had a lot of time off school and as an adult I was off work for five days whenever I had a migraine. I was on so much medication, yet nothing seemed to stop the migraines from striking.
I found out about the Resolution Magic programme on the internet while researching migraine cures, but to be honest, it all sounded unrealistic and I couldn’t believe that telling a pain to go away would work. I told programme founder Olivia Roberts I didn’t believe it would work, but she said it didn’t matter what I believed and I just had to go through the motions and do the exercises.
I listened to the CD, then started saying the ‘Go-aways’. I also worked with Olivia on my past experiences and memories that seemed so random and were often things I thought I’d completely forgotten about. One that came up was a childhood memory of being seasick on a ferry on my way up to the Shetland Islands. I’d completely forgotten this but it popped into my mind so we worked on it. Olivia gave the ferry legs to walk on the bottom of the sea and she gave me a magic wand to make the people on the ferry look like clowns. It sounds ludicrous, but by doing this I transformed my memory of a horrible trip into a fun journey.
Another memory was when I went to hide as a child just before my family set off on holiday, and they actually left the house without me! They soon came back but I had a distinct memory of watching the car driving off without me from an upstairs window!
Olivia pointed out to me that these memory boxes would keep opening up throughout my life and cause me the feelings of distress I felt back then – until I reprogrammed my brain. I even used her technique of running on the spot and clapping three times while shouting ‘Go away’ to get some energy when I was feeling tired.
Resolution Magic has rid me of my migraines and given me my life back. I’m so glad I gave it a try.”
Olivia's book Chronic Pain and Debilitating Conditions (Findhorn Press, £12.99 (about Dh80)) is available on www.amazon.com For more information about Resolution Magic, go to www.resolutionmagic.com.