Counterconditioning the Misophonia Reflex
As we discussed earlier in the book, there is something about experiencing a trigger that is causing the misophonia-conditioned reflex to be strengthened. It seems that the miso-emotions and tightened muscles after a trigger cause the reflex to become stronger.
To reduce the misophonia reflex, we need to hear a trigger and then have a smaller than typical reaction. We need to do something that will reduce or eliminate the miso-emotions, or have a situation where the reflex action (tight muscle) will be reduced or relax immediately after the trigger.
To get this effect, you could have positive emotions – relaxed or happy instead of the upset misophonia emotions. Another way would be to reduce the reflex using muscle relaxation, but you will need to relax before the trigger for this to work. For some reflexes, you can block the reflex with a more powerful reflex (this is rare, but tickling blocks a sexual arousal reflex and swallowing blocks or halts an esophagus constriction reflex). If the lizard brain is hearing the trigger and sees a weaker reflex response a half a second after the trigger, then over time the lizard brain is going to reduce and even stop responding.
This is called counterconditioning. But the problem is that during the zero- to two-second pairing window after the trigger, the counterconditioning actions are not powerful enough to overcome the emotion that comes with misophonia. So it’s very unusual that a person can just countercondition away one of these reflexes, although there are stories and cases where this has been done.
To overcome this limitation of counterconditioning, I started by reducing the trigger for the Neural Repatterning Technique. When we reduce the trigger enough, we diminish the intensity of the physical reflex. So instead of getting a full-sized reflex, you get a tiny reflex. It is like an allergy treatment for peanuts. If you are highly allergic to peanuts, you can die if you eat one. However, the allergy treatment consists of injecting you with a serum of the very thing that could be fatal. Only an infinitesimally small level is administered at any given time, which produces only a small response. By doing this multiple times, your body adjusts to the peanut and stops reacting. That’s what the Neural Repatterning Technique is. You get just a little bit of the trigger sound to let your lizard brain stop responding.
It is usually best to use a recorded trigger, although I have worked with live triggers. When I was setting this up, I decided to use a rating scale of zero to five for the strength of the misophonia reflex, with five being a huge trigger and zero being something that doesn’t cause a reaction or reflex.
What I look for with this Neural Repatterning Technique is to get a response of one. Maybe a two, but generally around a one, where the person can stay positive, calm, and happy. Then we pair the trigger with something that’s pleasant. I have had it work with calming, relaxing music – something like pan-flute music, which you might hear if you get a massage. I have people who use happy, up-beat music. The first person I worked with liked a really harsh type of rock music. It was not my kind of music at all, but he really got into it. I also worked with an individual where we talked during the treatment about uplifting, successful events in her life. That worked great for the positive stimulus. I have seen cases where the positive stimulus was massage. One person used pictures of her nephews, and another used pictures of her dog that she said just lifted her heart. But you need to have something that puts you in a positive state, either calm or happy, so that it can be paired against the disruptive response from the trigger, even though the response to the trigger is small. Once you determine what will put you in that positive state, then close your eyes, relax, and utilize the Trigger Tamer app so you have little reaction and allow your lizard brain to change.