The Nine Stepper

            Now, our training shifts to reducing the intensity and power of those imprints or memories. I call this exercise , “The Nine Stepper.” Focker is still fixated on the trauma of his combat experience simply because he doesn’t know how to do anything else. It’s understandable that he would be struggling. Again, the trauma becomes the imprint. Logically speaking then, if we can reduce the power and intensity of the traumatic experiences, we reduce the frequency of intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, nightmares, and associated panic attacks.

            I want you to go back in your past and think of the time “over there” when you were first aware of being scared.

            I’ll share some experiences soldiers have shared with me in another group. “I’ve had three tours. I was afraid when I first got orders, but I didn’t really understand what it was going to be like when I got there on my first tour. I had been in transportation almost from the beginning of my service. I was a heavy truck driver. The day I got to my unit, we had two casualties from an IED. That’s when the real fear first struck me. The next morning, all of us new arrivals got a briefing about our job. Our unit was stationed at a large supply depot and our job was to move supplies to the different units in our area of operation.”

            Another example. “I was also in transportation. My first job was in operations and my responsibility was to be out on the road making sure we complied with our mission description. When I first learned that, I was really scared, but no one knew it. Being a woman and believing that we can do most of the jobs you men can do, I was determined to do my part to show we could carry the load. And I did it.”

            Another example. “So in the beginning, I convinced myself I wasn’t scared. We had a few days to get settled. My buddy and I were in a long range patrol unit and nothing could block my fear when we got our briefing for that first patrol. It was a recon (reconnaissance) mission into a known hostile location. That was the first time I felt the fear. I was scared.”

            Would some of you be willing to tell us about the first time you were scared? (Group sharing and discussion)

            Listen to CM19



            Handout  (Note: this handout is the content of CM19)

Example of The Nine Stepper

             I want everyone to close your eyes and go back in time and put yourself in that first situation where you felt the fear….Remember what was going on in your mind and what kind of physical symptoms were present. Was it a nervous stomach, tightness in your chest, trouble breathing, shaking and trembling, something else? Relive it as much as possible….You learned earlier in your training that one way to reduce the intensity of the memory is to step outside the experience and observe it. I want you to take Focker and go to your Center and take a few moments to get settled….As your breathing releases the tension in your body, feel the physical symptoms melting away. Take your time….You and Focker from here at Center observe that first experience when you realized just how scared you were. Take time right now to select a still image of that experience, a picture that represents the emotions and experience of that event….Have that picture move away from you. It is moving further and further away getting more and more difficult to see. It’s getting smaller and smaller until it is like a dot in the distance and then is gone. Now, aware in this moment that you can observe that experience and then let it fade into the distance and disappear, you’re free to know that the past simply no longer exists except somewhere deep in the recesses of the mind, in the darkness where there is no light. Over time these memories will begin to fade until they are lost in the no space of timelessness. Basking in the radiance of the Light at Center, feel the freedom to move forward and experience the transformation of the past into the peacefulness of this moment in this place at your Center. Take a few more deep breaths, look around and when you’re ready, open your eyes.


             This is an extension of the earlier exercise where we got into an experience and then stepped back to observe the same experience. You noticed that when you stepped back, the intensity of the mental and physical response diminished. We took that a step further a few minutes ago by observing the experience from Center, creating a still frame to represent the experience, and then having it move further and further away until it vanishes. Observing the experience from Center is more effective than just observing it like we did earlier. That is true because at Center, you are more focused, more alert and your brain is more receptive to change and shifting. Being Centered also means you are observing the experience from a base philosophy that states, “I do not identify with my past. It does not define me. I do not judge it. The memories exist only in my mind. I can let them go. They only have power if I give them that power.” Does any of that sound familiar?

            None of this works without the intense training. That’s why we’re going to Center over and over again and going over the same phrases over and over and going over the same points over and over. Somewhere along the way, you recognize and experience that going to Center is starting to mean something profound and significant. As you continue your training, you become more and more aware that most everything comes down to being grounded in your Center. Your Center truly does become that portal and lens through which you see and experience your life.

            The more you train, the more simple it becomes. At this point, let’s go through the nine steps.


            Reducing the Intensity of Past Imprints: The Nine Stepper

            1. Pick a Memory Imprint.

            2. Be in the experience with Focker (Mind and Body).

            3. Take Focker to Center.

            4. Observe the Experience from Center.

            5. Feel the Emotional and Physical Release.

            6. Pick a Still Frame.

            7. Repeat Phrases to the Imprint:

                    I do not judge you.

                    I accept you as part of my history.

                    You do not define me.


                    I am letting you go.

            8. Move it Further Away until it Disappears.

            9. Feel the Freedom.


            In step seven, I picked out some of my favorite phrases. Use them if they fit for you. Otherwise, you can of course come up with your own phrases.

            It’s important to remember that The Eleven Stepper is designed to help with situations you are experiencing now. A young Captain who lost one of her arms in combat is working on how to get Centered and have a happy and fulfilling life with only one arm. Another soldier lost his fiancée to another man while he was overseas. He will use The Eleven Stepper to figure out how to get Centered and go on with his life with an openness to new experiences and relationships. The Nine Stepper is to help you with the traumatic memories that cause the flashbacks, nightmares and sometimes cause the panic attacks.

            With The Eleven Stepper, you’ll know pretty much right away if it’s working. But with The Nine Stepper, you’re not going to get definitive proof right away that it works. The only gauge you’ll have is noticing that you’re having less intrusive thoughts, panic attacks, flashbacks, and nightmares.       In our work together, it is important that you always continue to do the training, but you will not always know exactly what part of that training is causing you to get better. You’ll have some ideas, but it will be difficult to know for sure. I assume as long as you get better, knowing exactly why will not be critically important.

            I want to take all of you through The Nine Stepper by the numbers and then I will ask you to get in pairs and each will take turns being the coach. The coach will have the nine steps to guide the other person in the same way I will be guiding each one of you in a few minutes. After I describe the step, I will give you a few minutes to complete the step. Once completed, slightly raise your hand so I’ll know when to proceed. If you have difficultly keeping up, do the best you can. It will take some time to get the hang of it.

            Each of you will select a memory and for this exercise, please select something not too traumatic. Later we will get to the worst of those experiences.


            1. Okay. Everyone close your eyes and pick an experience. Slightly raise your hand when you have selected one. In the remaining steps, I won’t mention raising your hand. Do it when you have completed the step.

            2. Relive the experience with Focker. What are you thinking and feeling and what does it feel like in your body? Take your time.

            3. Take Focker to Center and take some time to get Centered. Show Focker around even if he is resisting.

            4. Observe the experience from Center and play it over several times.

            5. Feel the emotional and physical release.

            6. Pick a still frame of the experience.

            7. Repeat these phrases: (Say them one at a time three times)

                        I do not judge you.

                        I accept you as part of my history.

                        You do not define me.


                        I am letting you go.

            8. Move it further and further away until it disappears. As you do this exercise more and more, you can vary the speed of it disappearing according to what works best for you. Some clinicians think the faster the better. You make the call.

            9. Feel the freedom. Take the time to feel the release both physically and emotionally…. Open your eyes. (Group Discussion)


            One member in a previous group said his phrases in step seven were, “You ani’t real. I’m done with you.” This person was getting closer and closer to understanding that memories are not real. They are memories and exist only in your mind. You identify with them only by making that choice. Otherwise, they are not you. You can then join in, “You ain’t real. I’m done with you!!”

            Other group members in the past have liked using the 3rd person to make sure Focker knew he was included in the letting go process. “We do not judge you. We accept you as part of our history. You do not define us. We are letting you go.” It doesn’t make any difference. I want you to make sure you take Focker with you. Remember, she or he is the one who needs the healing. Picking your own phrases points out a critical aspect of the training. I will offer you a number of suggestions, but the most important thing is you pick what works for you.

            Remember Focker’s role in these traumatic memories is his reaction to them. He contributes to their frequency by freaking out. In the first two steps, the goal is to remember the experience and what it felt like. At that point Focker is taken to Center to deal with the memory.

            The key is to keep doing the training, believe that you can do it and be determined to make it work for you. (Group Discussion)

            Get into pairs now and designate one and two. Ones will be the coaches. Go at your own pace and be sure to take your time. When you have reached step nine, change over. Twos will be the coaches. Go through the nine steps again. Once you have finished, spend some time talking to each other about your experience and bring your questions back to the group. (Group discussion after the exercise)

            Most people struggle in the beginning with The Nine and Eleven Stepper. That’s perfectly fine. Continue the training and you will discover that the struggle begins to subside when you learn how to stop focusing on the steps and start focusing on the experience. Take your time and be patient.

            Generally flashbacks come out of the blue when they are least expected, but sometimes, you can trigger one by recalling a memory. That can happen when you go through The Nine Stepper. If it happens to you, try not to fight it even though that is a big challenge. Go as limp as you can in your body and think in your mind, “This too shall pass. This too shall pass. This too shall pass.” And stay as limp as you can.

            A previous group member shared, “Most of the time, the panic attacks, flashbacks, and nightmares have come out of the blue and I felt helpless. I think most of us when we started this group were saying, ‘I don’t know what to do.’ This training is giving me a confidence that I’m eventually going to be able to manage my Focker’s reaction to these experiences. I do believe that will be part of what helps reduce their intensity and frequency. Again, I like the idea that we’re training. And I like the way we’re learning how to stop running and turn around and face our Fockers.” She raised her voice and loudly with determination said, “Focker, I love you, but this shit is gonna stop.”

            Another group member responded, “You said exactly what I’ve been feelin’ and thinkin’. I’m taking back control of my life. I’m no longer willing to let Focker be the leader and just go along with whatever he wants to do whether it’s getting drunk, getting laid, being pissed off, getting in fights, isolating, or having flashbacks. I now have some skills and I’m not the best at ‘em yet, but I’m gonna train till I can do it. And as I look around the room, I’m hopin’ everyone is startin’ to feel this way.”

            Let’s huddle up in the Center of the room putting our arms on each other’s shoulders, I’ll stay on the outside of the circle.  

            Listen to CM20



            We will spend the rest of this session pairing up with different partners and coaching each other through The Nine Stepper and The Eleven Stepper. I suggest you stay with medium intensity examples in both exercises. I believe you will continue to find it helpful hearing the experiences and ideas of other members of the group. (Groups Discussion)