Blushing success story of how we resolved my client’s case of severe chronic blushing in only 9 sessions
Here is the original email message I received from Travis:
“Hi there, i am a 40 year old male with severe facial blushing issues that seem to be getting way worse lately. I live in Los Angeles and i am an actor. It is causing major issues for my career growth. The blushing had gone away for a long time but recently has come back with a vengeance, even turning into small panic attack feelings. It’s literally starting to wreak havoc on my life, as it seems to now be popping up at any time. I came across your article online and would love to set up an appt at your earliest convenience.“
I received this testimonial from Travis just about two months (9 sessions) later:
“I came across Timothy’s website one day, while searching how to “cure” my chronic blushing. I am an actor and had been dealing with severe blushing while on stage. It was also spreading into my personal daily life. My confidence was suffering badly, and my blushing was starting to cause panic attacks while at auditions and while filming. It had reached an unmanageable level, where i was blushing because i was nervous about blushing. I have been working with Timothy for about 2 months now, and i can say the results have been absolutely life changing. I find myself in such a better mood, oftentimes even being overwhelmed with excitement for life. I feel much more calm. My anxiety levels have been almost nonexistent, and it’s been a few weeks since I’ve had a blushing episode. Timothy has truly been a blessing. I turn 40 next week, and I feel like I am finally starting to LIVE! – Travis”
Travis and I saw each other for a one hour session every week using FaceTime. We used an eclectic mixture of Gestalt processing, somatic focusing, guided meditation, EFT and bilateral tapping. Here is a synopsis of each of our first 9 sessions based on my notes:
Session One: Therapy to Stop Blushing and Social Anxiety
Travis had experienced social anxiety and severe facial blushing throughout his life. He remembers having to give a speech in 5th grade and being terrified. He remembers teachers calling on him in high school and turning red, that it was a disaster. Throughout high school and college he suffered with this social anxiety and blushing issue.
The more it happens the more he fears it happening. He shared about a panic attack he had a year ago, and another he had recently during an acting audition.
He says he grew up in a supportive family, but one that did not communicate. The family members did not want to hurt each others feelings. His father did not express or show feelings. To this day, when they drive together there is an uncomfortable silence.
Things my clients say often remind me of my own life. When I rode in the car with my mom or dad in my teens and early twenties, I also remember a very uncomfortable, deafening silence. No one in my house used words to express feelings either. I think many blushers have all their feelings welled up inside of them, and in certain stressful moments they are triggered, and rather than being expressed in words they come flushing up as emotion into their faces. This certainly was true of me. Once I learned to contact, recognize and articulate my feelings, blushing greatly diminished. This was one key part.
Travis also recently left a job with an abusive women boss who “owned him.” She was very controlling. It took him a long time “to figure out how to quit.” Part of him did not want to hurt her feelings or disappoint her, even though she was hurting him.
Travis also told me about a therapist who helped him, but she brushed away his blushing when he finally got the courage to tell her about it. I hear this all the time. For some reason many therapists (like many parents and friends) do not take blushing as a serious issue when they are confided in. This has to make you wonder, since therapists (and you would hope parents and friends) are supposed to acknowledge and take serious their clients feelings and experiences.
Also, and too common, this therapist did not work with the body. We can not clear severe anxiety, blushing and PTSD if we ignore the somatic experience of our clients, and solely work cognitively. Feelings and trauma live in the body, and need to be accessed and processed in the body.
Travis also reported terrible communication with his present girlfriend of six years. And his girlfriend before that was abusive. This is not a surprise, as patterns tend to repeat over and over until made conscious, processed and integrated. Our childhood, our parent’s relationship, our relationship with our parents, and their relationship with their parents tend to repeat in our adult relationships. This is the natural process. Patterns tend to repeat through the generations in families. Relationship is an opportunity for us to make conscious that which is unconscious or unresolved, allowing us to integrate, correct and resolve it.
Later I learned that his dad was and still is abusive and very controlling of his mom, who is very depressed. And he has an alcoholic brother in a terribly co-dependent relationship with his parents, still living at home in his late thirties. There are also dysfunctional relationships between his parents and their parents. Travis himself is an addict with a history of painkillers, sugar and alcohol. We have a whole family addicted to control and co-dependency, in denial of feelings, a severe lack of communication, and a suppression of self expression. There are generations of suffering and an unanswered cry for love throughout this family.
During our second session we did a somatic sensing body scan. This helps me get a good understanding of how much stress and trauma the person is carrying in their body, as well as how dissociated or disconnected they are with their body and feelings. Furthermore, it is the beginning of teaching my client to become more mindful and embodied, more present and aware. This plays a very important role in resolving their anxiety or blushing issues.
Here are some of my notes from this session, the feedback I received from Travis:
feels overall body anxiety
breath feels short and sharp, not calm breathing; jumpy and shallow breath
slight pain in chest
washy, foggy feeling in head
feels legs are tense
all over body is tense
feet feel most relaxed
clenching in jaw
hard time taking breath
breath has pain behind it
breath feels cold, whole body feels chilled
eyes feel clenched
I asked Travis to continue staying with sensing his body and observing his breath, while he allows himself to freely answer my questions without much thought. I instruct him to just keep sensing his body while paying attention to his inner energy field and breath; to feel in his core, his lower gut, his belly, his chest, his throat, and just allow the answers to come to him and then share them with me:
Me: “The reason I am feeling closed is…..? Fill in the blank with whatever arises.”
Travis: “I am guarded from exposing.
Me: “Exposing what?”
Travis: “What I don’t want to expose are my fears, anxiety.
What I am trying hide, the real me.
People wont like me.
I could be embarrassed or cause shame.
That I am making no progress.”
I ask him to go back in time, to a younger age when he had similar such feelings.
Travis: “I am 7, we are in a cabin throwing rocks thru the windows and I was ashamed and want to hide because I am not allowed to make mistakes. Dad looks upon me since I was young as a ‘perfect example,’ the perfect son.”
Can you feel the weight of that on Travis? Here I switch to gestalt process. I have him imagine his dad in a chair next to him, facing him, and to speak to him directly…
Travis: “Dad you always made me out to be perfect. There is nothing wrong with me according to you. Yet, at some point I was drinking, doing drugs, etc. I was not perfect. I had to hide this from you.”
Travis to me: “My brother has many troubles and is a mess. So I had to be the perfect one.”
Travis to dad: “I have lied to all of you all my life.”
Travis: “If I died now I would be incredibly unhappy.”
Travis to me: “Mom does not know me either. Mom and dad don’t ask me about my self.”
“Mom suffered from depression her whole life.”
“Mom is afraid to share herself.”
“Dad would have outbursts, anger, if something did not work out, dad would throw things, break things.”
“When I tell something to someone and it is less than perfect, I feel like I want to hide.”
Here we are hearing Travis’ deep shame and fear that he is not perfect, along with the tremendous pressure on him. His blushing has everything to do with this. The blushing reveals his divided self, which mirrors his relationship with his dad. Our work together is to clear his shame and fear by integrating all his parts, to end the blushing and anxiety.
We worked with deepening his skill and comfortability with going inside himself to communicate with his feeling body, with his deep authentic self.
His challenge is to take the time to be real with himself, to listen to and hear his inner self, to be vulnerable and become trusting to share his feelings. He has been living a life outside himself, with many years of addiction. He has never had a truly safe, trusting relationship with another person, nor himself. He has never been real with nor listened to his real self. He was disconnected from himself, just like his whole family was disconnected from themselves and from each other.
During our third session Travis said, “I have been taking drugs to suppress my feelings because I can’t stand the anxiety and try not to feel.” This sums up why a lot of people use alcohol, marijuana and many other drugs, including pharmaceutical drugs. In therapy I help people become comfortable with and to no longer suppress their feelings.
Travis reported in the past week he meditated for 30 minutes and tried to feel his body and identify the feelings underneath his anxiety, when he was in situations where he felt socially anxious. He observed and really felt his face when it was really hot and red, rather than try to suppress or hide it. He said he had a VERY anxious feeling with fight or flight feelings down in his belly. He has known this feeling a lot in life, but this time it felt really strong and bad. Yet this empowered him to really consciously feel it.
I had him close his eyes and get very centered and inner focused, very mindful of himself in the moment. Then I had him return to a moment a few days previously when he blushed and felt very anxious. As he was remembering, he felt strong blockages and tension in his chest and down to his navel. And his face got really hot. He felt a cowering feeling, his shoulders getting tight and hunching forward. I had him accentuate these feelings and body motions, hunching forward even more and tightening his shoulders more. I wanted him to fully allow this body memory to be felt and expressed. Then when he was fully in the feeling and posture of it, I asked him, “What does this feeling body-memory remind you of?”
Immediately he replied, “A child, on vacation with my family.”
“I have felt this many times, this uncomfortable pain in the center of my chest.”
“I can deal with being sick or depressed, but not this.”
“This feeling really scares me.”
Having him scan his body, Travis said parts of himself felt far away. Here he is dealing with old trauma and dissociated parts of himself. We took some time to ground, to connect and feel safe and present. He then got in touch with what he was feeling as a child:
“The worst thing was disappointing my parents !!!!!!!
I don’t want them to think bad of me.
I have to lie because if I tell them the truth that is when they find me out,
find out I am a fraud.
Can’t even tell my girlfriend, she is right in there with them, I would disappoint her too.
She thinks I am something I am not.”
“Currently I am a drug addict.
I am lazy.
I am a coward, this is a really big one. So many things scare me.
I am not like I physically look (Travis is a tall, strong, broad shouldered, very good looking man).
They think I am strong and confident, I have fooled everyone. That is all I want to be.
I have convinced everyone around me, I wanted to be this for so long, that is who they think I am.”
“I have never told these things to anyone, not even to the other therapist.”
I take him inside again, do some more somatic focusing and after being quiet for a while I ask him what he is seeing or thinking:
“When I close my eyes I am in a white room and can’t see the end of it. I am not there.”
“I will be an enormous disappointment to myself. I am 40 and have nothing to show for it. I want to do great things but I am scared. I want to achieve things and be successful.”
“I have run away.”
“I always told myself I could pull it off later.”
Here in this session Travis is being honest, more honest with himself than ever in his life. You can see the mask he is wearing, and he is beginning to take it off. He so wanted to please his father, to not be a disappointment, so natural for a child. He felt he had to hide his real self. He did not think his real self would be approved by his father. His father, a person that hides his feelings and who has his own mask. Travis is afraid to show himself, he is not being himself, he does not know how. He covers up his anxiety and pain. His anxiety scares him because it reminds him he is split off from his real self. He does not know how to connect. So he tries to obliterate this anxiety and pain with drugs and alcohol, and by dissociating from his body and feelings.
Travis let’s me know…
he has less anxiety
is meditating daily
has less anxiety when he wakes up in the morning
eating less sugar
having very little caffeine
getting vigorous exercise
he also spoke to his girlfriend and she agreed to go to a conscious communication class
This is all very positive. It is great to have a client that is proactive and acting on insights and suggestions received during the course of counseling. The dietary changes, exercising and especially the meditation, are very helpful in resolving the kinds of complaints this client presented with. This is someone very motivated and very likely to resolve his social anxiety and blushing.
After he has let me know what is going on since we saw each other last, I ask him to center and ground himself, sense his body and breath, and go into deep, mindful focusing into his core body-self. I guide part of this, and I never guide it the same twice. I am teaching by example to follow his own spontaneous innate guidance, not any certain method.
Deeply embodied now, Travis feedbacks what he is experiencing as we revisit a time in the past week when he felt very anxious and blushed. My notes are sometimes literally what he tells me, sometimes my sense of what he is saying, and sometimes these notes/lines are answers to questions I have interjected into the process:
“Nobody hears me, nobody sees me, like I am not here, no one listens to me.
This is why I stopped my breath.
I do this so I avoid looking or sounding foolish, or messing up.
I am going to take control and make myself look foolish before they do.
This is like with dad, I never spoke up, because I did not want him to see me as not perfect and look at me in a bad light.”
He had a major realization during this session that he takes ‘his dad’ with him wherever he goes. Internally he is carrying his dad around and especially on auditions, when acting, when being filmed…
“All eyes on me, have tension in chest, nervous –
Dad in the room, dad wants me to be perfect!”
In this therapeutic moment, Travis is feeling it, he is in it, though this time with consciousness and realization. Transformation is taking place. Whereas for years he has simply been repeating a pattern of anxiety, blushing: trying to be perfect, in fear of eyes on him, of judgement, in fear of dad. And then beating himself up and feeling ashamed of his blushing and anxiety. Now we are breaking the pattern, by bringing higher consciousness, empathic, full mind-body awareness to what is going on.
“I am afraid I can’t do this,” he says looking down. This is the past in him speaking. Though he is primed for change.
Now, with encouragement from me, Travis breaks the pattern and stands up for himself. This is something he could not do as a child. The pattern got ingrained. He internalized it. All these years his inner self dialogue was repeating the pattern, with no correction. Now he has the courage to correct it, the groundwork has been done:
“Dad get out! Not welcome here!”
“I am going to have fun!”
Travis is feeling full of energy now. He is so much freer, animated. He decides on his own to check into his body to see if there is more. He reports feeling residual chest tension. Realizing there is something more, he focuses deeply:
“Perfection. I am not allowing myself to express my own self freely.” He is wearing a mask. Wants to come off perfect, correct.
With a little encouraging idea from me, Travis mimics peeling the mask of perfection off, the mask he wore for dad (and others) all these years. He peels it off his face and throws it away. He does not need or want it anymore.
“I choose to have fun, joke around, be real, own my face, red or not, nervous or not, tell the truth, own it, take control, be my fun loving self. This is who I really am!”
He strongly tells his dad (imagined before him), he is not welcome in the bedroom, work place, around his girlfriend, etc.
We did all this while continuing to remind him to observe his breathing and checking in with his body all the time.
We had fun, and he looked and sounded so happy and relaxed and positive at the end of this session.
This is real change and transformation. This is not telling yourself to be happy and it is okay to blush and trying to convince yourself to be okay. This is not cognitively programming new thoughts into your head. This is real deep process therapy that will bring forth real, deep lasting change. I expect this session to make a real shift in Travis’s life. He really got down to some deep personal truths and broke free today of some things that have been strangling his whole life. This goes way beyond blushing. Not only are we going to stop the facial blushing and high anxiety, we are going to free his personal power and greater potential of joy, intimacy, authenticity and success in all areas of his life.
Travis told me he cried the whole way home after our last session, in joy and acknowledgement of the shift he experienced. He felt, “high and great for three days after.” He said he is “smiling more and not blushing.” “Best week in a long time.”
Since the last session he feels like he “cares less about unimportant things.” “Barriers have been stripped away.” He realizes in the past he used his energy in a nervous way, and now realizes he is a fun guy, so he is being more playful. He told me, “You stripped me down to the real me.” “Got rid of some inhibitions. Previously, I had not allowed myself to be me.”
Growing up “dad was not welcoming, he was tightening and restricting.”
He spoke to his parents a few days ago. Spoke to them differently like never before.
Spoke to them “without care or self consciousness.” “They seemed surprised.”
He was giving Dad advice and dad said, “Wow we really raised some
well thought kids.” He felt seen by dad for once. He took this as rare compliment.
Feels like “I am just free.” “I did not care what they thought when I was speaking.”
“I gave my advice and ideas as I wanted.”
Same with his girlfriend this past week. She said, “Wow, I don’t remember you being so easy and goofy.”
“It feels great being me!”
Says he is taking a lot less medication this week.
“Making more progress in three weeks than in a year.”
Meditating at least twenty minutes, sometimes 2x a day, “because it feels good.”
Above we see clearly that a MAJOR change and transformation has taken place. It can be seen in many areas of Travis’ life. He even needs less medication now.
Now I invite him to deepen the change, to really own it. I guide him into a deep mediation and connection to his core self. I then remind him of all the positive experiences he has had in the past week. It is natural here to express compassion and forgiveness towards his old self. We take some time for him to dialogue with his younger self. I then encourage him to imagine the present/future self he sees himself living and being. This is important to do when a deep change and clearing of past trauma has taken place. We want to integrate and create new neural pathways. A new vision and belief he can live by; a new experience of life is being birthed.
We really took our time here while he imagined and created his future self. He did this in connection and recognition of his belief and connection with his higher self/Source energy. He went through all the different areas of his life, seeing, feeling and stating in the present tense how he wants it to be, with emphasis on the big picture and really feeling it in the present, as real now.
Here in my notes I wrote to myself: I believe a major big transformation has happened, and not only is his crippling facial blushing and anxiety going to end, Travis is going to live a far bigger, powerful, exciting, engaged life. He has been living small and far below his potential. I am very excited for him. I love playing a part in this work, we really do this together. I don’t just think it is him and me, something bigger is present and taking place when we work together – to This I bow and have great gratitude.
Remember, Travis is 40 years old. Many people believe it is too difficult to change and heal long standing, chronic trauma. People believe it is not possible to end social anxiety and blushing at any age, that it just needs to be accepted. That is because they are ill-informed and are unaware how to go about it. I am hoping sharing these client experiences will help change this erroneous perception. Anyways, we are not quite there yet with Travis, so let’s go on.
Travis traveled back home and visited his parents for a few days and had only a little anxiety and holding back. Felt really good about himself. Another sign the change is real and going to last. Nothing like visiting family to test if your change is real!
Had a feeling this week while visiting his girlfriend’s parents that he is not “successful enough, not good enough,” for their daughter. But realizes this is just in his head. We did an EMDR like focus process here where we went deep into these feelings and into their past roots. He tapped bilaterally on top of his thighs. We released more shame around growing up hiding, feelings of “being under a cloak,” “hiding in a closet,” “afraid to be scolded, judged.” He threw off that cloak! Saw himself “running in nature open space on the beach of a lake. Free like the birds with arms out having fun!”
We worked with embodying his vision of being in a Netflix series and having great success and being very prosperous.
Was down a bit and not feeling confident enough to return a call from an agent who chose him over 30 other people who auditioned. Big agent. This is a big opportunity.
We did some work to clear his anxiety and old stories. Seems like there is something more, maybe something new surfacing here, we are not finished with it.
Still feeling stuck again this week. This is normal and not unusual after making such a great leap forward a few sessions ago. It is natural to reach such a plateau. Old thinking patterns have a tendency to want to reclaim the self. This is an important moment in many people’s therapy or any transformation process. Some people will begin to tell themselves this means they have not made progress, or it was not real. This often happens when people are expanding to new limits, having greater success than they are used to. A period of integration is necessary before we can move forward again. Other aspects will also emerge now that need to be worked with and integrated. Deep changes are happening, though more needs to be done. What old messages are being held that are not allowing him to move forward?
In this session we continued exploring using somatic, deep focus work. We worked with the energy around not calling his agent, procrastination, similar to not confronting his boss last year in a long, drawn out negative job experience. He regrets that he did not leave that job earlier.
Our therapeutic process deepened into what was going on deeper in his subconscious, rooted in a complex of past trauma, where we were able to release it. This is why trauma psychotherapy is so important, and not trying to just move past procrastination using only cognitive therapy approaches or coaching type methods. The results, if any, will not be lasting, and deeper benefits will be forfeited.
During moments in this session’s process Travis reported:
Feeling stuck, anguish; scared to confront people or situations when necessary.
Feeling as a child, tiny; associated with not speaking up to dad.
A memory of a childhood church Bishop who tried to force him to speak on stage, etc.
Sensing this memory in his body he felt a predominant ‘tiny feeling, in a big adult body.’
We moved the process from somatic focusing into a gestalt dialogue that included his dad, the Bishop, his younger and his adult self. As the dialogue progressed, shifting and embodying these various characters and parts of himself, Travis naturally shifted into compassionate understanding for himself in all of this, and clearly now realizes the roots of his procrastination in not contacting the agent.
A number of times during this process, and in earlier sessions, I have noticed some significant left-right, sympathetic-parasympathetic imbalance when working with Travis. This is often present to different degrees with most clients who suffer from trauma, anxiety, blushing, or depression. Today, I took some time to teach him about Brain Gym exercises and encouraged him to practice them daily for the next month or so.
At the end of our session, Travis felt and exhibited a significant shift back into his free, fun, playful self. He also embodied a deep compassion toward his stuck self. I wrote in my notes that a major transformation just took place and I was excited to find out next week how this carried over into his experience out in the world.
Travis begins by excitedly telling me he did great in acting improv class and in his audition. He was confident, did not blush, made people laugh; he felt great and everything went great!
There was no blushing at anytime this past week. This is a first in a very long time. Travis is very happy saying everything in his life is in flow and going great. He isn’t experiencing any blushing, anxiety or procrastination issues. So he suggests we work on something different. Travis presents a chronic physical back injury issue he has been dealing with on and off over the years. I tell him, often physical issues have a connection to past mental or emotional memories or trauma. It is definitely worth exploring.
The following are my shorthand notes of the insights gained in the process we did. The process began with me guiding Travis into a deep focus into the physical sensations of his back injury and pain, and having him express any awarenesses, thoughts and feelings that arose.
anger at person in gym that gave him bad advice that injured him further.
roots of injury began with dad and golf: dad’s control and expectations.
many years ago originally hurt back golfing with dad.
as process unfolded he recognized how much anger he has been holding inside, really feeling it and it began to shift and let go.
we took our time layer by layer revealing different aspects and feelings, until he felt complete on the emotional and physical levels. We then did a spiritual-mind energy healing focusing on his back and the anger he has been holding towards his dad and the past.
he focused his intention and prayer on letting it all go and sending love and light and peace to his dad, his back injury and himself.
he did not know he was angry all these years about this.
he never realized all of this was connected: his anger issues with his back issues, his anger at his dad, forcing him to play golf and carry his bags, dad’s control and expectation issues around golf, life and career. He came to the realization that his dad really just wanted to connect with him and the sport he loved.
a palatable shift into understanding and compassion towards himself and his dad.
no longer angry at self, no longer angry at dad.
realizes his anger and conflicts with others were very much tied to this. Feels light about it now, that it will no longer be an issue.
Conclusion and end of blushing and social anxiety
Concluded session by letting me know he ran into actors and friends he has blushed with in the past, and did not have any blushing or anxiety issues during these interactions as he usually would have. Spoke of big positive changes taking place in his relationships and career. He feels really different. He is also meditating more consistently.
This was the end of Travis’ blushing, though we kept working on and off over the following months freeing and taking his creativity, spontaneity, and confidence to new heights.
I asked Travis to read this account and let me know if it was accurate from his experience. He wrote me back:
“I think what you wrote was very accurate to how things unfolded. You are more than welcome to publish this, in whatever form you would like. I would love for someone with similar issues to be able to read this story, and be inspired to get help themselves. It’s been a true blessing to work with you, and I feel like my life quality continues to improve daily.” – Travis
Are you ready to resolve your blushing or social anxiety issue? I am ready when you are.