Psychological Assault : AfME and the proposed Bristol Lightning Process Study

Psychological Assault :
a Stonebird response to AfME's position on the proposed Bristol Lightning Process study. 

Greg Crowhurst 23 Aug 2010
(Permission to repost) 

As it did over the NICE guidelines Action for ME has chosen again  to take a lone  controversial  stand on ME, one not supported by the  majority of UK ME Charities.

 Any clear understanding of ME can only be  based upon a clear definition. It is difficult to find out the exact details of the proposed Bristol  LP study , however if it is based upon the Oxford Criteria, then the Ethics Committee will not be able to discern precisely who the trial is for, as the Oxford criteria exclude  those with neurological disorders .

Used only by a small group of English psychiatrists (the Wessely-school) and by the university of Nijmegen, Netherlands (Neilson 2002), the Oxford criteria , by definition, excludes all those with authentic Ramsay-defined ME from study .

(This is good, because in theory it should exclude children with myalgic encephalomyelitis, from the study.)

 The proposed study seeks to  compare the LP against "medical treatment ". What "medical treatment" specifically ?

 The fact is there is no medical treatment for people with ME available on the NHS currently; there are only psychiatric therapies (Cognitive Behaviour therapy and Graded Exercise Therapy), strongly condemned right across the board by patient groups,  is this proposed study  referring to  some treatment which  no one knows about ?

How can the Ethics Committee determine whether or not these children might benefit from training  to change their thoughts and beliefs if proper biomedical tests, which do not yet exist on the NHS, to determine what is biomedically wrong with the children have not been carried out  first?

 What child isn't going to want to be well, to please, to not admit failure and this, as the 25% Group (CoCure Aug 22 2010) the ME Association ,  TYMES Trust, Invest in ME  and others have stated, brings up very troubling issues indeed.  One  aspect that might deserve more attention though,   is the danger to children and the devastating impact upon families,  of participating in a process that in Spain  is  firmly viewed as a cult :

" LP is a health sect and as such, it should be denounced and kept away from children. 
In Spain we have had them researched by Sect Specialists and yes, they are a sect (use of hypnosis, harassement of family members of participants, money issues).

We have threatened them with legal action if they went ahead with their plans to expand to Spain (they already had a Spanish speaking person hired to do so and had set up several workshops in the Canary Islands which they had to cancell after our threats). We also, last year, informed all Spanish ME, FMS and MCS associations of LP and warned them to stay away from them." Clara Valverde, President LIGA SFC, email to 25%Group 20th Aug 2010

  As Aylwin Cathpole ( ) points out  : 

"How could a three-day ‘process’ cure anyone of the catastrophic effects of ME on the immune system, cardiovascular system, endocrine system, brain injury, mitochondria) dysfunction and multiple co-infections? The Lightning Process is little more than a pyramid-selling style money scam with many of the hallmarks of a cult.

One of the hallmarks of a cult is thought control . As the 25% Group point out the LP is clear that it aims to get people to "think very differently."

Singh (1998) ( describes how  "thought reform programs can be distinguished from other social influence efforts because of their totalistic scope and their sequenced phases aimed at destabilizing participants' sense of self, sense of reality, and values. 

"Thought reform programs rely on organized peer pressure, the development of bonds between the leader or trainer and the followers, the control of communication, and the use of a variety of influence techniques. The aim of all this is to promote conformity, compliance, and the adoption of specific attitudes and behaviors desired by the group.  Such a program is further characterized by the manipulation of the person's total social environment to stabilize and reinforce the modified behavior and attitude changes."

Another name for thought control or brainwashing is  coercive persuasion, a psychological force  which as Singh (  points out  can be even MORE effective than pain, torture, drugs, and use of physical force and legal threats.

The 25% Group believes that the LP  " essentially involves potential  participants in signing up to a belief system." However Singh would argue that the thought -reform  process  is actually  much more sinister than that : coercive persuasion is  not a religious practice, "it is a control technology. It is not a belief or ideology, it is a technological process. ITS REPREHENSIBILITY AND DANGER IS THAT IT ATTACKS OUR SELF-DETERMINISM AND FREE WILL."

John Dewey calls  coercive persuasion  "psychological assault" ( 

I can think of no better term to describe the campaign of denial, the forcing of people over the years - even to their deaths, like Sophia Mirza, into punitive psychiatric therapy programmes, to change their "maladaptive thinking" that they are genuinely ill, the chronic neglect and isolation of the most vulnerable and the most sick , that so characterizes official policy towards people with ME.

So many millions have already been wasted , still nothing is being spent on proper biomedical research :  and now even more hundreds of thousands of pounds are going to be thrown away upon the  useless ongoing   use of pseudo-science in ME.

Kahil Gibram said of our children :

"You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts.";  if  a child with ME thinks she is ill, she IS ill !! There is no need for the Lightning Process , but every need for proper  biomedical tests and treatment to be developed and to be made available on the NHS.

End of story.

That is the message that AfME has so failed to deliver. As Bayliss ( M.E. and Political Conflict states :  "Enough already, the time has come to sadly disassociate with ..AfME and other appeasers – they are part of the problem not the solution." 


  1. The premise is that some people develop negative and distorted beliefs about themselves which interfere with their functioning. This can lead to depression and anxiety. Cognitive therapy helps people examine the beliefs that are holding them back and learn strategies to counteract those beliefs.


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