The Floatback Technique

Central technique of memory healing approaches to therapy. Helps uncover past origins of a present day issue.

What's running your show?

Have you ever been puzzled as to why you acted the way you did in a situation? Perhaps it was a knee-jerk reaction, like anxiety, guilt, or anger.

The floatback is a central technique of memory healing approaches to therapy. It is a way of linking to the past origins of a current reaction through the stuck emotions/beliefs/impulses that come up in the present. This sounds complicated, but the floatback technique is just a fancy term for the simple act of connecting with the feelings and mindsets from an earlier time in life.

This technique retrieves a series of memories related to a presenting problem (feeling, mindset, conflict cycle). If one follows through with the exercise, it generates a list of unresolved scenes in one's life that can be targeted in the memory processing / healing phase of therapy.

The scientific explanation for how/why this works is based in state-dependent learning theory. We tend to recall things better if we put ourselves in the same state in which we learned those things. This applies to facts as well as feelings. Hence, our learning/recall is very much tied to, or dependent on, our state - which is a function of a hundred different variables, like hormone levels, energy level, level of emotional arousal, environmental setting, calendar date, etc. The floatback is particularly powerful because you track stuck emotional states according to both feelings and cognitions.

This is best done under the guidance of a trained therapist. However, once you get the hang of it, you will forever have a skill that helps you achieve ever greater self knowledge and emotional mastery.

Step by Step: How the Floatback Technique Works

Here's how the Floatback Technique works (use the help of a therapist trained in EMDR to do this for the first time).

1. Identify a specific emotional event.

The first step is to identify a specific emotional event that you would like to explore. This could be a traumatic event, a difficult relationship, or a particularly challenging time in your life.

2. Recall the event.

Once you have identified the event, the next step is to recall the details of the experience. This may involve closing your eyes, taking deep breaths, and focusing your attention on the sensations in your body.

3. Describe the experience in detail.

As you recall the event, it can be helpful to describe the experience in detail, including any physical sensations, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors that you experienced at the time. This can help you gain a deeper understanding of the impact of the experience on your emotional well-being.

4. "Float back" to an earlier time.

Once you have described the experience in detail, the next step is to "float back" to an earlier time in your life when you may have experienced similar emotions or situations. This may involve recalling memories from childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood that are associated with similar emotional experiences.

5. Explore the earlier memory.

As you explore the earlier memory, it can be helpful to describe the experience in detail, just as you did with the initial emotional event. This can help you gain a deeper understanding of the underlying issues that may be contributing to your current emotional distress.

6. Identify patterns.

By exploring the earlier memory, you may begin to identify patterns in your emotional experiences and behaviors. This can provide valuable insights into the underlying issues that may be contributing to your emotional problems.

7. Work through the emotions.

Finally, it is important to work through the emotions associated with the experience. This may involve expressing emotions through journaling, art, or other forms of creative expression. It may also involve talking with a therapist or trusted friend about the experience and seeking support as needed.

The Floatback Technique is a valuable tool for exploring the source of emotional problems and gaining a deeper understanding of oneself. By revisiting past experiences and exploring earlier memories, individuals can identify patterns and gain valuable insights into the underlying issues that may be contributing to emotional distress. With the support of a trained therapist, the Floatback Technique can be an effective tool for healing and growth.

Image link to bio for Marcel Lanahan, LMHC

Dr. Marcel Lanahan

Founder, Lead Clinician

Marcel is a Catholic therapist, husband, and father of five. He is dedicated to supporting fellow Catholics with guidance on their healing journeys.

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