The Lightning Process (LP) is a therapy for ME based on ideas from osteopathy, life coaching, and neuro-linguistic programming. LP is claimed to work by teaching people to use their brains to “stimulate health-promoting neural pathways”. One young patient once described it as follows: “Whenever you get a negative thought, emotional symptom, you are supposed to turn on one side and with your arm movements in a kind if stop motion, just say STOP very firmly and that is supposed to cut off the adrenaline response.”
Allegedly, the LP teaches individuals to recognize when they are stimulating or triggering unhelpful physiological responses and to avoid these, using a set of standardized questions, new language patterns, and physical movements with the aim of improving a more appropriate response to situations. The LP involves three group sessions on consecutive days where participants are taught theories and skills, which are then practiced through simple steps, posture, and coaching.
Does LP work?
Some think it does, particularly in Norway, it seems.
Proponents of the ‘LP’ in Norway claim that 90% of all ME patients get better after trying it. However, such claims seem to be more than questionable.
- In the Norwegian ME association’s user survey from 2012 with 1,096 participants, 164 ME patients stated that they had tried LP. 21% of these patients experienced improvement or great improvement and 48% got worse or much worse.
- In Norway’s National Research Center in Complementary and Alternative Medicine, NAFKAM’s survey from 2015 amongst 76 patients 8 had a positive effect and 5 got worse or much worse.
- A survey by the Norwegian research foundation, published in the journal Psykologisk, with 660 participants, showed that 62 patients had tried LP, and 5 were very or fairly satisfied with the results.
Such figures seem to reflect the natural history of the condition and may be totally unrelated to LP.
The LP instructors’ claims of a 90% positive effect are used for marketing and for lobbying. Their aim is to influence politicians, health authorities, and welfare and disability benefits authorities. They want to get the LP course approved as part of the public health service.
The company ‘Aktiv Prosess’ was started by LP instructors Live Landmark and Vibeke C. Hammer. In an article in the Norwegian medical journal Tidsskriftet in 2016, Landmark describes her own customer satisfaction survey from 2008 as «generating a hypothesis». Landmark has also written a book about her personal story and holds lectures for medical students, medical doctors, and nurses. Now she is trying to run a clinical trial which, many experts believe, is far from rigorous and set up to produce a positive result.
Positive experiences with LP have received massive media coverage for 15 years. Anecdotes are recycled in the media and give the impression of being a higher number than reality. We rarely hear about those who deteriorated: https://lp-fortellinger.no/ (English language link here).
The NICE guidelines for ME/CFS specifically (and in my view rightly) warn against offering LP to ME patients.
Thank you for writing about this. However, I think your comment does not do full justice to the problems with LP. It’s not just ineffective, it is very harmful.
The Lightning Process is a dangerous scam built on brainwashing and which proliferates as a pyramid selling scheme.
If you want to understand just how harmful it is, read these patients’ stories told in their own words and translated into English: https://lp-fortellinger.no/en/lp-stories/
Here’s my summary of what those patients say: https://www.s4me.info/threads/lp-fortellinger-norwegian-website-sharing-information-and-experiences-about-lightning-process-now-available-in-english.24653/#post-411641
It is truly shocking that such a harmful scam is being pushed by medical authorities in Norway and some other countries, and is being allowed all over the world. I can only assume they either have a financial interest, have not bothered to find out what it really involves, or are so contemptuous of very sick people that they don’t care what harm they are promoting.
I did state this: We rarely hear about those who deteriorated: https://lp-fortellinger.no/.
And I very regularly point out on this blog that ALL ineffective therapies are harmful even if they appear risk-free.
Thank you for writing about this.
The Lightning Process is becoming a huge problem for ME- and Long Covid patients in Norway. In October 2022 proponents of LP arranged a secret seminar at the University of Oslo: https://melivet.com/2023/03/29/chief-physician-for-the-norwegian-labour-and-welfare-administration-marit-hermansen-attended-a-secret-me-seminar/
It is also important to note that in order to be a LP-coach you have to be master practitioner in NLP, coaching and hypnotherapy. The latter explains why the coach keep repeating over and over again that “You don’t have ME, you do ME” and “You have recovered if you use the method right”
After 3 days of hearing that you have recovered, it is no surprise that they answer “No” on the evaluation question “Do you have ME now”.
Since the reasearch on LP only use subjective meassures, including this evaluation questions, no wonder they claim high effect.
Pls look into the training of the LP consultants -I asked on twitter and a participant had queried theirs, and @postersforME had recorded it.
In summary training to be a consultant is conducted at one weekend a month for 10 months, followed by an exam, ie 20 days training!
Our college is the only place where you can train to be a Lightning Process Practitioner. The role requires an in-depth understanding of the use of advanced language patterns, NLP and Coaching so your first step on this journey is to take the Clinical Diploma in NLP, Coaching & Clinical Hypnotherapy followed by the Master Practitioner Certificate in NLP, Coaching and Clinical Hypnotherapy before embarking on this course, the Lightning Process Practitioner Training.
To me it looks like who you tweered only were talking about the actual LP Practitioner course and not the requirements to take it
See also: The ‘Lightning Process’: implausible, unproven, hyped and expensive
In my life as an ME/CFS patient, I have observed that adrenaline or positive excitement can mobilise a temporary extra but unsustainable access to energy that “overrides” and masks the overexertion signals often provided by the body in ME/CFS, but results in a crash later once adrenaline has waned. “Pushing” oneself against energy limits in my opinion corresponds to mobilising an extra amount of adrenaline and nervous system arousal in order to be able to keep going. It is similar to what common language knows as “running on adrenaline” or stories where people are suddenly able to lift a car in an emergency situation.
Many patients know this from situations such as being able to be more functional during a doctor’s talk under high adrenaline, and crashing after the situation. In my personal experience it is even possible to maintain such a state of high adrenaline over a consecutive period of days or weeks, crashing afterward – I last experienced this when pushing myself for an ME/CFS petition over a period of about two weeks – I did not stop myself because it was such a positive experience, and afterwards crashed so hard that I have since then deteriorated permantently and lost my independence.
This is the basic idea of the Lightning Protocol: Telling yourself that you’re supposedly not ill, ignoring all exertion limits signalled by the body and just pushing over them. (i.e. the basic idea is that ME is not real: i.e. that you’re not really ill, but that patients just think they’re ill).
This is why I am not surprised at all that patients (in particular these uninformed on the illness) may be able to push themselves into displaying an *apparent* higher functionality over the short period of 3 days of the Lightning Protocol, which however does not correspond to an *actual* and *sustainable* improvement.
But with ME, it is not like with a broken leg where you can’t walk at all: in particular mild and moderate patients will by power of will be able to push themselves over safe energy limits e.g. by mobilising extra adrenaline or excitory neurotransmitters and so to say squeeze the very last bit of juice out of their energy lemon, but this will result in post-exertional malaise, crashes and sometimes permanent deterioration later on. Postexertional-malaise (PEM) with its oftentimes delayed nature is the cardinal symptom of ME/CFS. Many patients routinely go through many “push-crash cycles” before they learn to pace better i.e. live in a way that respects energy limits and prevents crashes.
Some of the testimonies of patients who deterioriated on https://lp-fortellinger.no/en/lp-stories/ show exactly that adrenaline or prolonged pushing effect that I mention, such as: https://lp-fortellinger.no/en/2022/02/24/t-knutsen-2/ “It’s incredible how far you can push your body until it completely stops.”; https://lp-fortellinger.no/en/2022/02/24/kristin-stolen-2/ “I simply jumped into my adrenaline rush method.”; https://lp-fortellinger.no/en/2022/03/06/virgun-bidtnes-2/ “We had to sign that we were better. When your body is full of adrenaline, and you have been completely brainwashed, you just sign it. We were completely overrun by the facilitators. (…) Of course, I crashed afterwards. I got really sick for a long time after the course, so I got pretty scared.”
I really recommend to everyone reading the english language testimonies of patients who deteriorated at https://lp-fortellinger.no/en/lp-stories/: They also show a sect-like structure of the LP course (e.g. https://lp-fortellinger.no/en/2022/02/24/venke-midtlien-2/ “….the message that we could be prosecuted if we shared the course material with anyone”, that patients are pressured into signing right after the end of a 3 day-course that they recovered with the method, and that the method *inherently* forbids patients from critizising it and from saying they’re not well (https://lp-fortellinger.no/en/2022/02/24/kristin-stolen-2/ “On the last day of the course we had to sign a document, a self-declaration that the course had made us recovered. Since the LP method itself is about saying out loud to oneself and others that one is recovered, I signed that yes, I was recovered. Had I not done so, I would have technically “failed” the course and not used the method correctly. In other words this means that I today am still counted among the “recovered” group, even if I certainly didn’t, and still am not. It bothers me, because it most likely helps to influence the “recovery statistic” the course refers to.” ; https://lp-fortellinger.no/en/2022/02/24/venke-midtlien-2/ “On the third and last day of the course we filled out a form where one of the questions was: “Do you have ME?”. We answered “NO” – Because we had learned that we had to stop “doing ME”. Afterwards the forms were collected, with the participants signatures on that we no longer have ME. – Afterwards, these answers were used as recovery numbers from LP-courses.”
I think comments published from the contested Health politician who supports Lightning Protocol showed that she understood neither the cardinal symptom of ME/CFS (POST-exertional malaise with its oftentimes delayed crash effect) nor that “pushing” can temporarily result in an only seemingly higher functionality with ME/CFS which is neither a real cure nor sustainable, as she seems to have taken the seeming “improvement” reported by LP proponents after a 3-day course as real.
The LP is very dangerous because it forbids patients from listening to their bodies. It’s also frankly ridiculous because it’s based on the idea that a very real neuroimmunological illness that is by now supported by hundreds of biomedical studies is not real and patients only think they’re ill. It therefore pushes patients to do what is the most dangerous with the ME/CFS cardinal symptom of PEM: to push themselves and ignore the real energy limits of their bodies. This can be very harmful to patients not only by resulting in painful PEM – but with ME in general, PEM crashes can sometimes result in permanent deterioration and loss of functionality. This makes the LP the exact opposite of the recommended pacing concept for managing ME/CFS (i.e. take body signals seriously, stay within energy limits, therefore allowing for a degree of energy regeneration over time). Plus the sect-like concept that forbids patients from publicly speaking about bad experiences and makes it all their own fault if they don’t recover can be psychologically very harmful.
All in all, LP is just another supposed “cure by positive thinking”, and though I am sure you’d find a few people worldwide who’ll say they’ve cured their cancer/diabetes/(*replace by any other serious illness*) by positive thinking, this still does not make telling yourself you’re not really diabetic and amping up the sugar the recommended treatment for diabetes. Neither is it for ME.
I stay positive with ME but that looks very different from the LP :-). Thanks for reporting on this and I hope the explanations on pushing/adrenaline and delayed PEM helps.
That’s an excellent write-up and analysis of your experience, which I think would resonate with many who underwent this coercive process.
“It’s also frankly ridiculous because it’s based on the idea that a very real neuroimmunological illness that is by now supported by hundreds of biomedical studies is not real and patients only think they’re ill.”
Using Barry Beyerstein’s Illness–Disease Distinction below, perhaps we could say:
“It’s also frankly ridiculous because it’s based on the idea that a very real
neuroimmunological illnessdisease (that is now supported by hundreds of biomedical studies) is not real and patients only think they’re ill.”
[my formatting for clarity]
I’m not a native speaker, so thanks for your opinion that disease is a clearer term for a biomedical pathology.
Distraction is not treatment, and the many claims of NLP do not hold up to scrutiny – they are largely BS. Some aspects are very similar to cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) a wildly popular psychological technique which also has no effect in terms of reducing people’s suffering. You can no more “think way” or “talk away” ME as you could think or talk away any other disorder, and ME is a physical disorder, not a psychological disorder as once thought.