13-year-old attempted suicide after Lightning Process course


Like Gupta Amygdala Retraining and Annie Hopper’s Dynamic Neural Retraining System, the Lightning Process uses Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and various other therapies to treat ME/CFS, MCS and other conditions. There are descriptions of the Lightning Process here and here.

In Norway a 13-year-old boy attempted suicide after doing the Lightning Process course because “He could not get well, and felt it was his own fault.” This was not due to a child misunderstanding and blaming himself. As far as I’ve been able to find out the only reason Lightning Process practitioners give for the Lightning Process not working is course participants not applying it properly. See, for example, the comments from Phil Parker (who designed the Lightning Process) in the article, Lightning process – your experiences from the Action for ME journal.

When asked in a Planet Thrive interview, “Are there some people/conditions you think would not be helped at all by your program?”, Annie Hopper said, “Yes. It takes a certain amount of conscious awareness to be able to focus, monitor and control your thoughts, feelings and behavior for it to really work effectively. I also don’t think it would be great for anyone who does not believe that complete healing is possible or if they are closed to new ideas and ways of thinking.”

As far as I know, Ashok Gupta has not said anything like this or anything about his programme’s success rate with MCS. Despite this, some people who are doing Gupta Amygdala Retraining seem convinced that it could work for everyone with MCS if only they didn’t have closed minds, beliefs that keep them from healing, etc.

There is no evidence that any of these programmes could cure or even help everyone with MCS or ME/CFS. To say or imply that someone isn’t recovering because they aren’t trying hard enough, haven’t committed themselves fully, don’t believe in the treatment, or don’t really want to get well, is unjustified, cruel and irresponsible.



  1. Hi there,
    I just wanted to respond to your post since you’ve referred to an article on my website Planet Thrive. Firstly, I am so saddened to hear about this 13 year old. That is really awful. I don’t know much about the Lightening Process, but from what I have heard, there are some critical differences between it and the other NLP based programs you mention. Specifically, I did hear that there is a certain amount of blaming the victim going on with it. Please do not lump that program together with Ashok Gupta’s program or Annie Hopper’s. It is important to understand that these two programs are not pill-popping, overnight fixes to these complex medical conditions. They take hard work, persistence, and a daily six month (in many cases, even longer) sustained effort to manually rewire neuronal circuitry via language, thoughts, and behavior. It’s not easy. We are talking about complicated neurotoxic injuries. If someone had said they tried the programs and they didn’t work for them, it would be natural to question how diligently they applied themselves to the program since these are completely self-monitored programs. This is not cruel. It is just realistic.

    As an example, if someone had a stroke and went to stroke rehabilitation to regain use of their right arm, but was unsuccessful, the first question I would ask is how often they went to rehabilitation and if they followed the program as prescribed. Did they do the intensive program or the less intensive program (they sometimes offer options to patients)? Personally, I would want to know if I did the program correctly before giving up on it. I have witnessed (virtually) so many members of my site doing these two programs improving by leaps and bounds with MCS and CFS symptoms, it is truly amazing. If someone is not having success, we don’t say “well you must not be able to be helped.” To me, that would be cruel and irresponsible.

    Instead we give them support and ask what they are doing in their practice and offer suggestions for how to apply the program in a more effective way. I’m not sure who is saying “that someone isn’t recovering because they aren’t trying hard enough, haven’t committed themselves fully, don’t believe in the treatment, or don’t really want to get well.” The truth is that one or all of these things may be true for anyone who tried the program but felt it didn’t work. I really would want to know if they practiced for one or more hours every single day for six months, as directed in the programs. I would encourage anyone not to give up hope and to keep reapplying themselves. For many, recovery is not a linear path and we are all learning from each other.

    I am so sorry that 13 year old did not have a proper support system for his illness or his NLP program. Neurotoxic injury and biotoxin overload can cause very fragile states of mind in many. Children would be especially vulnerable, and I imagine those going through puberty with lots of new hormones running through their system might be even more at risk. For anyone reading this who is doing either the Gupta or Hopper programs, consider joining the Planet Thrive Gupta and DNRS™ support groups, both overflowing with support and guidance for those committed to doing the program. You don’t have to do it alone. http://planetthrive.ning.com/group/guptasupport

    Prayers going out to this child and his family. I wish you had supplied a link or more information to this story.

  2. I realize that some Buddhist monks can change their metabolic rate and dry wet towels in below freezing weather, and some Hindu Gurus can be enclosed in sealed containers and slow their metabolic rate down so low they almost don’t have a heart beat, but that takes YEARS of training. I cannot WILL my skin to not rash up when I have had contact with poison oak. I cannot WILL my body’s reaction to poisons and ADBAC to go away. The only solution is to work towards getting these chemicals to go away! Even my eyeballs get rashes to ADBAC! Sweden has banned them. They were invented in the late 1800’s to clean toilets and floors, not to be added to drinking water and foods.

  3. I have been studying the claims of these programs and I will eventually be writing my own take on them, but make no mistake: there isn’t a shred of evidence, nor is there any rational reason to believe that these people can target a specific area of the brain with their interventions. They are simply another psychological modality without the knowledge or expertise of people who have actually received training in the areas they claim to treat, with the exception of the founder of Lightning Process, whose training in osteopathy and neurolinguistic programming is still not entirely relevant to enable him to understand the conditions he attempts to treat. It is all in the realm of life coaching and positive thinking and if it makes life easier, that’s great. If you are intimately familiar with your condition and how it changes in relation to the various interventions you’ve taken over time, there are any number of psychological interventions for you to choose from to help you deal with your condition.

  4. Thanks for responding to my post Catherine. All the points you make are true. It’s very early in the overall process, and as no one has volunteered to fund any worthwhile studies of these programs to date, all we have are anecdotal testimonies. It is also certainly true that other treatments might work better for someone than brain retraining. All of our circumstances are complex and unique. Personally I always recommend a multi-tiered approach to healing, and brain retraining is just one aspect of that, but in my opinion, an important one, when you are talking about environmental “sensitivity” disorders. It’s up to each person to decide if they want to invest the money, time, energy and hope, in any program they choose. I personally don’t understand the animosity that has been thrown at these programs from within the MCS community. To each his own. Both programs have been a miracle for me, and for so many others I have known over the years of managing my site. So has dietary change. And lifestyle practices, like living chemical free. None of these things on their own has cured me by any stretch of the imagination and I still have a long way to go. But in combination, my quality of life is much improved from years past which were quite hellish. Thank you for providing the link, I will check it out. I hope the boy is getting the kind of support he needs now. Best, Julie

    • “I personally don’t understand the animosity that has been thrown at these programs from within the MCS community.”

      One reason is because of outlandish claims suggestive of cures or other significant, direct physiological improvements. Your post above is quite different from these claims and places the programs in perfect context for what they are. Another reason is that these detailed claims of “reprogramming” the amygdala or any other specific area of the brain are entirely unfounded. It is nothing more than wishful thinking and guesswork. The result is that some of the claims I’ve seen fit right into the narratives of people like Stephen Barrett at Quackwatch.

  5. Where is the science that “proves” the physiological symptoms and mechanism induced by chemical exposures in those suffering from MCS? It would be helpful to have these links on your page. As it stands, it seems that there is as much scientific “proof” to “brain retraining” as there is to MCS on your page. Don’t get me wrong–I know MCS exists. But where is the science to prove the mechanism? Without explaining this biologically, your arguments against Gupta’s or Hopper’s sound vicious.

    • Mary, what sounds vicious? Why?
      If I wrote about cancer would you expect me to provide links to ‘the science that “proves” the physiological symptoms and mechanism’?
      You can read about the physiological mechanisms for MCS in chapters 4 and 8 of Ashford and Miller’s Chemical Exposures: Low Levels and High Stakes, second edition. There is a pdf you can read here: http://drclaudiamiller.com/publications-presentations/. For a more recent theory and research supporting it, including genetic polymorphisms, read Martin Pall’s work, e.g. http://www.thetenthparadigm.org/mcs09.htm.

    • Your question is sort of difficult to respond to. Are you ENTIRELY unfamiliar with the science? To respond to that would require an awful lot of space. A good way to start would probably be to just cite a few sources and go from there. It will be a while before I can spend any reasonable amount of time on this, and I plan on doing it eventually, but I feel compelled to at least respond.

      First of all, the study of MCS is like the study of any newly discovered illness: it takes a long time for all the data to come in. What makes this disease particularly difficult is that some of the factors involved are newly discovered. The neurotransmitter nitric oxide plays a central role in the disease, but it hadn’t even been known as a neurotransmitter until the 1990s when it was named “molecule of the year”.

      I’d be curious to see where the scientific proof you’ve seen for Gupta and Hopper’s brain retraining. The only data I’ve seen has very obviously been cherry-picked to put a puzzle together. I found myself in the middle of writing an extensive critique which I hope to get back to someday, but there are so many gaping holes in Gupta’s “theory” that makes it extremely time consuming. Hopper’s biography leaves me incredulous when I consider that it took me a couple of years to figure out that my migraines were caused by chemical exposures. Consider the day she alleges to have acquired the illness, how quickly she realized that it was MCS, the brief time it took her to try various methods of treatment only to discover that they didn’t work, and to “discover” this new treatment. Chronic fatigue groups in Britain are doing their best to expose Gupta as a charlatan. From there I’ve seen the perfect description that fits Annie Hopper: life coaches who claim to have acquired an illness and have stumbled upon a new treatment for it. I’ve got no problem with people who have come up with a program that can help people cope with an illness, but their claims go far beyond that, especially Gupta. His “research” makes no attempt to rule anything out, which is a vital component to the scientific process. What looks good and relevant is included. What doesn’t, isn’t.

      Right now, there are people at universities who are studying neuroplasticity. Bona fide researchers with the funding and the staff with the expertise to perform real scientific studies. Their objectives are to find out if it’s even possible to use various techniques to induce neuroplastic change in targeted areas of the brain. They’re not even close to being there, yet here comes Annie Hopper and Ashok Gupta claiming to do just that: they claim that they KNOW that their programs are effecting neuroplastic change in a specific area of the brain. Frankly, I’m surprised the FDA hasn’t stepped in to shut her down. Dr. William Rea has been conducting some of the most important work in the field of MCS treatment since the beginning and he was invaded by the government. All these people are doing is using an adaptation of Norman Vincent Peale’s “Power of Positive Thinking” and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. There is ZERO evidence that what they do has anything at all to do with the amydala. Maybe it does. But NOBODY knows whether it does or not.

      There is an article that plays into the idea that DNR is just a new name for an old concept. The point is this: it WORKS. But it works to reduce the psychological load of sufferers. And I know: there are people who say that it has reduced their symptoms. But we’re not talking about study in which these people were tested under strict parameters immediately before and after treatment with the removal of confounding factors. I won’t make any claims for all of the people, but there is one aspect that is certain about the condition: you can effect change in your threshold for reactions by removing yourself from chemical environments for long periods of time. Then you’ll go back out into the real world and find your condition has improved. Unless you’ve allowed yourself to develop the severe sorts of fear that these people talk about (this almost takes me to a very important idea related to the autonomic nervous system, but I can’t spend the time on it). This is more than likely what happens to some of these people. They’ve adapted their houses and their lives and they’ve heightened the threshold for reactions. But they still assume that they’re just as reactive as they were before. Then they take one of these courses, go out to the world again with the new confidence they’ve gotten through the program, and they find their conditions have improved. What likely happened is that they improved their physical conditions via strictly enforced avoidance and improved their fear level with DNR. But they attribute ALL of the improvement to DNR. I’m not erecting a straw man here to represent everyone. I’m sure it’s accurate for some of them.

      And here is a good corroboration of that. It is a study of Gulf War vets with Gulf War Syndrome, which includes MCS: “ . . . psychological distress, as suggested by others, repeatedly emerges as the preeminent predictor of CMI (chronic multisymptom illness). Consistent with these findings, cognitive behavior therapy has been found to relieve some CMI symptoms.”

      The reason why I sound harsh is because we people with multiple chemical sensitivity are engaged in a battle. To use your own term: a VICIOUS battle. The stakes are high. It would have been fine if these people came out and said that they have a program that can ease the psychological stresses that come with the illness. But there is an implication in what they say that goes very far beyond that. And it falls right into the hands of the people who are claiming that we have a psychogenic illness.

      To tackle the scientific proofs for MCS would require quite a bit of time as there are hundreds of studies involved. These studies include animal models in which they cause animals to acquire the disease. That’s a pretty convincing piece of evidence right there. I’ll post a link to an article about Martin Pall. Again, I don’t have the time to research the studies he refers to, but I imagine you can find them yourself, though you might have to go to a medical library.

      About Martin Pall: he was a professor from the University of Washington. He’s developed what is widely considered to be the most credible, and indeed provable, theory for the disease process. And his theory is based in part on the fusion of two previously well-established theories. This is because his theory has been confirmed in humans with biological markers and again, in animals. In fact, I had the disease for years without having any idea how it started until I read Pall’s work six years later. After reading his paper, all of the pieces started falling into place:

      There are at least six genes that are known to be involved in predisposing a person to acquire the disease. Again, you can find some of these studies online. Here’s one. Call it a smoking gun. They’ve found genes that predispose a person to acquire the illness. Genes = physiological disease.

      And again, I just don’t have the time to get into it right now. Another help for putting a credible face on the matter is the fact that Pall was asked by Wiley-Blackwell, a major textbook publisher in the international scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly publishing business, to contribute a chapter to a newly revised textbook. They asked him to write a chapter about MCS and the related PREVIOUSLY unexplained illnesses, so it is now a 54 page chapter in a multi-volume set on General and Applied Toxicology.

      As far as dynamic neural retraining goes, this is a technique that purports to employ the concept of neuroplasticity, which is very much in its infancy. Its proponents claim to be able to target specific areas of the brain. They make claims based on assumptions from which credible researchers would steer very clear. These techniques are nothing more than existing techniques with fancy names attached to them. It’s an update of Norman Vincent Peale’s “The Power of Positive Thinking”. A 1955 review of his book had this sentence in it: “With saccharine terrorism, Mr. Peale refuses to allow his followers to hear, speak or see any evil.” Sounds just like the use of operators like “STOP!”

      Finally, a summary of scientific concepts are discussed here. It’s rather old at this point, but it includes plenty of relevant information.

  6. Patricia Hess

    When talking about stroke retraining the real question you should be asking is how much brain damage is there. You then might ask how skillful was the therapist.

  7. robert flores

    this is complete and udder bullshit and the taking of already sick people. I have treated with Dr, Rea and getting well requires work and I mean sauna and antigens and ivs and more importantly getting safe living space positive thinking does not will nuerotoxins out of your body this is complete Horse poo


  1. The course that Annie Hopper did to cure her MCS | Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

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