Psychological and philosophical point of view, brought to you in plain language…
Psychological and philosophical point of view, brought to you in plain language…
Mindfulness is about stabilizing. Studies have shown that people who have experienced trauma can benefit highly from this type of work. (Cullen, 2011). When people have experienced trauma, they can be challenged with high levels of stress, anxiety and depression at any time.
When we increase focus, stress and anxiety decreases, and as insight increases, depression may also be reduced. The implications of effective mindfulness on these specific features are truly significant and the more studies that are being done, the stronger the evidence of effective results of mindfulness.
When a person experiences trauma, racing thoughts and chain reactions of distressed thinking and intense emotions are more frequent, more intense and can last for longer periods of time. The thought pattern easily becomes negative and thereby creates greater levels of anxiety and depression, especially if ignored.
What mindfulness does is brings us into the present moment. Being in the present is provides direct opposition to the racing thoughts which are based in the past, thoughts about things that have happened, or based in the future, worrying about things that might happen. When we practice mindfulness, we pull away from these past and future thinking patterns and redirect ourselves into the moment, grounding ourselves in the present where we regain the ability to address the negative emotions of anxiety, stress and depression that are associated with our thoughts.
We can, for example, tell ourselves that in the present moment, there is nothing bad or harmful occurring to us. We are most likely sitting or lying quite comfortably in a safe place where we can focus on slowing down our breathing and letting the negative feelings go as we exhale. We can ground ourselves and regain our stability, acknowledging the feelings but proving to ourselves that in this present moment, we are okay…we are fine…and we are safe.
We have managed to regain control over the intense emotions that were beginning to overwhelm us. We have become more aware, more able to calm ourselves and less of a victim to our run-away thoughts.
Kabbat-Zin (1994) provides this definition of mindfulness: “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” We are actually doing an awful lot although it seems we are doing nothing. We are freeing ourselves and giving ourselves permission to just be in the moment. And it is extremely soothing. It is like allowing our mind to float and just immerse itself in now.
It is very important for people to work out their own form of practicing mindfulness, something that works for them. I strongly advise people to do some research on it and see what feels like it might be a way to begin your personal journey.
Remember that the point is NOT to empty our thoughts but rather to pay attention to them in a purposeful way without judging them and then refocus attention onto whatever it is you were focusing on prior to the thought popping up. Mindfulness is a journey of exploration, discovering sounds, textures, shapes, temperatures, things that always exist but that we don’t focus on because we are not being mindful to them.
If you are just starting out, I suggest just a 10 minute exercise in which you find something to focus on, an object to look at or hold perhaps. It is wonderful if you become adept enough at it to practice it when you begin to notice any negative thoughts or symptoms that you are trying to decrease such as depression, racing or distressing thoughts, etc.
There is a wealth of information available on mindfulness as more and more people are finding it beneficial to many different situations they encounter. I would love to hear from you about your mindfulness journey and results. Feel free to comment or contact me directly.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!
To all appearances, Eleanor Longden was just like every other student, heading to college full of promise and without a care in the world. That was until the voices in her head started talking. Initially innocuous, these internal narrators became increasingly antagonistic and dictatorial, turning her life into a living nightmare. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, hospitalized, drugged, Longden was discarded by a system that didn’t know how to help her. Longden tells the moving tale of her years-long journey back to mental health, and makes the case that it was through learning to listen to her voices that she was able to survive.
Eleanor Longden overcame her diagnosis of schizophrenia to earn a master’s in psychology and demonstrate that the voices in her head were “a sane reaction to insane circumstances.”
The Red Book has been described as Jung’s creative response to the threat of madness, yet it has also been seen as a deliberate exercise in self-analysis. I believe it’s likely both. When creating The Red Book, Jung knew he was on the verge of madness, and he also knew his analytical skills and expertise as a psychiatrist were his best chance at alleviating suffering, if not creating the conditions for transformation.
In many regards, The Red Book reads like a healing journey — a phrase often used to describe the reclaiming of self after a history of abuse — which is a transformative period that happens for many people committed to overcoming early life trauma. On the way to an authentic self there is first the need to step away from the person one became to survive abuse. Those confronted with this journey often experience a period of ‘going crazy’ on their way to establishing an authentic sense of self.
As The Red Book shows, individuation is a blessed curse. It opens the way to becoming one’s authentic self, and yet also the risk of alienation from the ‘tribe’. Childhood trauma survivors often know this conundrum intimately. Transformation requires a significant reorienting away from the beliefs, feelings, fantasies, and body states that made possible living in traumatizing conditions. Invariably, there is a part of the self that has gone unacknowledged or rejected, and aches to be reclaimed.
In The Red Book Jung found a process for continually rediscovering authenticity. As he often remarked, individuation is an ongoing journey and not an endpoint reached. Jung also intimated the need for what I called in an earlier post leaps of faith: turning away from the larger world’s expectations and towards one’s inner world of wisdom with acceptance and curiosity.
This quote from The Red Book inspires the impulse to creatively go forth into all that you are:
“Woe betide those who live by way of examples! Life is not with them. If you live according to an example, you thus live the life of that example, but who should live your own life if not yourself? So live yourselves.
“The signposts have fallen, unblazed trails lie before us. Do not be greedy to gobble up the fruits of foreign fields. Do you not know that you yourselves are the fertile acre which bears everything that avails you?”
Jung knew such a ‘leap of faith’ is not easy. He also wrote:
“To live oneself means: to be one’s own task. Never say that it is a pleasure to live oneself. It will be no joy but a long suffering since you must become your own creator.”
But he gives helpful advice for the journey, particularly how to live if the world feels contrary to whom you are becoming. Then you must learn to be your own guide:
“To certain things of the world I must say: you should not be thus, but you should be different. Yet first I look carefully at their nature, otherwise I cannot change it. I proceed in the same way with certain thoughts. You change those things of the world that, not being useful in themselves, endanger your welfare. Proceed likewise with your thoughts. Nothing is complete, and much is in dispute. The way of life is transformation, not exclusion. Well-being is a better judge than the law.”
Reprinted in full with permission by the original author Laura K. Kerr, Ph.D, who moderates the blog, Trauma’s Labyrinth: Finding Ways Out Of Trauma. Laura K. Kerr is a mental health scholar, blogger and trauma-focused psychotherapist. [Her] focus is on healing, with special attention to trauma, modernity, and mental health systems of care.
8 Keys to Safe Trauma Recovery: Take-Charge Strategies to Empower Your Healing.
Babette Rothschild. 2010. W.W. Norton, New York. 174 pages.
Living with persisting trauma memories is tough. Involuntarily triggered by events, or people, or places, or thoughts, or feelings . . . well, anything can be a trigger, actually . . . these intrusive, searing memories will turn one’s life inside out. Recovery from traumatic experience is tough as well, and achieving a sense of safety is essential to successful recovery. Rothschild’s brief, personable, and accessible book directly targets safe, successful recovery in a way that compels and convinces the reader. If trauma memories impact your life or that of someone you know or treat in a healthcare setting, you need this book. Because of the importance of this material, and because I want this to be a bit more than a mere review, I will be discussing this book in a two-part post…
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More than a century ago, scientists discovered something usual about how people with schizophrenia move their eyes. The men, psychologist and inventor Raymond Dodge and psychiatrist Allen Diefendorf, were trying out one of Dodge’s inventions: an early incarnation of the modern eye tracker. When they used it on psychiatric patients, they found that most of their subjects with schizophrenia had a funny way of following a moving object with their eyes.
When a healthy person watches a smoothly moving object (say, an airplane crossing the sky), she tracks the plane with a smooth, continuous eye movement to match its displacement. This action is called smooth pursuit. But smooth pursuit isn’t smooth for most patients with schizophrenia. Their eyes often fall behind and they make a series of quick, tiny jerks to catch up or even dart ahead of their target. For the better part of a century, this…
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“Naturally I compensated my inner insecurity by an outward show of security, or — to put it better — the defect compensated itself without the intervention of my will. That is, I found myself being guilty and at the same time wishing to be innocent. Somewhere deep in the background I always knew that I was two persons. One was the son of my parents who went to school and was less intelligent, attentive, hard-working, decent, and clean than many other boys. The other was grown up — old, in fact — skeptical, mistrustful, remote from the world of men, but close to nature, the earth, the sun, the moon, the weather, all living creatures, and above all close to the night, to dreams, and to whatever “God” worked directly in him.” (p. 44, The Red Book by Carl Jung)
“On the contrary, it is played out in every individual. In my life No. 2 has been of prime importance, and I have always tried to make room for anything that wanted to come from within. He is a typical figure, but he is perceived only by the very few. Most people’s conscious understanding is not sufficient to realize that he is also what they are.” (p. 45, The Red Book by Carl Jung)
Laura K. Kerr, Ph.D. wrote an incredible blog post about The Red Book by Carl Jung, read the rest of the article. . . on her blog, Trauma’s Labyrinth.
*Image Credits (all work used with permission through CC license)–
“i’m not out to convince you or draw upon your mind” by Andrea Joseph
“Standing at the Gates of Hell” by Shane Gorski
‘I had a golden life, so why was I falling apart?’: TV psychotherapist Benjamin Fry was devastated by depression. Then he discovered a radical new treatment
By Benjamin Fry
PUBLISHED: 23:01 GMT, 27 July 2013 | UPDATED: 23:01 GMT, 27 July 2013
Your life looks fine – even enviable – on the surface. But underneath you are more stressed and anxious than anyone realises. You’ve been called ‘oversensitive’ or accused of ‘overreacting’ because the setbacks and stresses that other people seem to take in their stride can knock you for six. You’ve also been told that you are attractive, bright, full of potential, yet somehow you have failed to find real success in relationships or work.
You are not weak or lazy or self-pitying. You are overwhelmed; stuck in a state of anxiety that has been massively misunderstood and wrongly diagnosed. The good news is that there is a radical and transformative new way of understanding it, and of getting yourself unstuck, for good.
I know what this feels like. I was ‘stuck’ myself for years until, in 2008, I suffered a complete breakdown. I looked like an unlikely candidate for a breakdown. I was a trained psychotherapist and a privileged person in many ways.
I grew up in a wealthy family, went to Eton and Oxford, my first job was as a teenage model for Mario Testino and then I became a successful nightclub entrepreneur. By 30 I had made my first million, married a wonderful woman and was living in a big house with a much-loved child, the first of five. It looked like a golden life, but inside I was falling apart.
I trained as a psychotherapist, treating patients in my own practice and working on TV programmes such as Freaky Eaters and Spendaholics. But I always felt as if I didn’t properly ‘belong’ with my colleagues. Many of my patients generously told me that I had helped them, but the truth was that I understood them because I was exactly like them, full of anxiety, unhappiness and isolation.
Our early years are fundamentally important in our emotional development, so I was always aware that my mother’s death had scarred me, and that early experience had contributed to my anxiety. But I loved my father and went on to have a successful life, so though I was never glib enough to say I had ‘got over’ that loss, I believed I had survived it.
By 2008, my golden life was unravelling. My wife was pregnant with our fifth child, and I was in deep trouble. I had made a series of property speculations in Greece that crashed badly and ruined us financially.
We had to leave our home, rent a smaller place out of London and beg my father to bail us out of our huge debts. Poor me, eh? I know that this isn’t the worst problem someone can have. I had the privilege of a safety net, and if I’d made money before, maybe I could make it again. But I didn’t see it that way. It felt utterly overwhelming and devastating and sent me into a spiral of worry which led to serious clinical anxiety and depression, and finally into a suicidal despair because nobody could help me recover. Only the thought of my children stopped me from killing myself.
I tried everything: my doctor, the NHS, the church, the Priory – I even tried a faith healer. Nothing worked. I was well-informed and well-connected, but I discovered a massive failure in our therapy system, which repeatedly misdiagnosed me, or just medicated me, which often made me worse.
Finally, after a series of therapeutic failures and disasters, I found myself at Mellody House in Arizona, where I discovered what was really wrong with me and what had been wrong with me all my life. I was suffering from post-traumatic stress. The death of my mother at such a young age had sent me into deep trauma, and rather than recovering from it, it had ‘frozen’ inside me.
‘This “frozen” trauma is stored up in childhood and then triggered in adult life by a new stress’
Trauma is not a word most of us use about the bad things that happen to us. We think it refers only to extremes, such as soldiers in a combat zone. But so far as our minds and, crucially, our bodies are concerned, trauma means anything that causes us stress so overwhelming that our physical response to it is to ‘freeze’ – think of a rabbit caught in headlights and unable to move.
This ‘frozen’ material is usually stored up in childhood and then triggered in adult life by a new stress, such as a bereavement, a break-up, a car accident or a redundancy – the kind of stresses that we’ll all experience at least once in our lives. Most of us recover fully from our traumas, but some of us don’t. Why some of us don’t, what happens to us as a result and how we can heal is at the heart of the new science of trauma. Mellody House had created a radical new understanding of the causes of psychological distress that many therapists believe is the greatest leap forward in this field in our lifetime.
Benjamin at the age of 18, modelling for Mario Testino, left, his stepmother Jane, half-sister Annabelle, and father Charles, right
This new model of thinking was mainly pioneered by a man called Peter Levine, who spent years studying the habits of wild animals under stress. Imagine a young gazelle, grazing peacefully with his herd, when a lion appears.
We’ve all heard of the fight-or-flight response: when the threat is too big to fight, the gazelle runs for his life. As the lion bears down, Peter Levine noticed that often the gazelle would suddenly drop to the ground, as if shot, moments before the lion caught him. About to be caught and killed, he ‘freezes’. But sometimes the lion keeps running – there are other, fatter gazelles to chase – and the gazelle would wake from his frozen state and escape. But before he did, he would behave in an odd way, shaking and twitching all over.
Over time, Levine realised what was happening: the flight response floods the gazelle’s body with hormones and stress energy to enable him to run for his life. If the threat is removed, that energy is no longer needed and the body discharges it – the gazelle would do this by shaking and twitching his body. All animals instinctively process their trauma. But humans are too self-conscious, too ‘clever’ to act like the frozen gazelle, who shook and twitched and shuddered his way out of the trauma once he came to.
Our sophisticated brain tells us that this is ‘crazy’ behaviour, disturbing for us and for those around us, especially when there is no visible threat in sight. Instead we push it down, take a pill, think or talk our way around it, and tell ourselves we’re fine. We may have rationalised it, but that energy – crying out for release – is stuck.
‘It takes support, patience and love to recover from trauma, but it can be done’
Perhaps our first big stress happened, as it did to me, when we were very young and we simply weren’t able to process it thoroughly. Or it felt so overwhelming, we didn’t manage to discharge that stress energy fully.
Having begun with animals, Peter Levine went on to test this theory with patients and found again and again that problems such as extreme emotional sensitivity, anxiety, depression, and many behaviours, such as obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, borderline personality and eating disorders and other addictions, could all be traced back to a frozen trauma.
If we think of our bodies as a measuring jug, that original threatening event filled us almost to the brim with stress energy. Any new stresses – even small ones – quickly cause our stress to spill over, which is why we can so quickly become anxious and overwhelmed. This kind of anxiety and stress are not just emotions, but physical responses trapped in our nervous systems. Peter Levine discovered that if he could help his patients discharge that energy, he could reset their stress gauge and help them heal.
That was the treatment I received in Mellody House, where they had been pioneering this new model of trauma treatment in a residential setting for more than seven years. It changed my life, and inspired me to set up a clinic in the UK to replicate that treatment over here. I’ve seen many examples of frozen trauma, and how it damages people’s lives.
Sarah, in her late 30s, came to our outpatient clinic in London because her second marriage was on the verge of collapse, and so was she. Only recently married, she was driving her husband away with her rages and ‘withdrawing’ behaviour. This had been a pattern for all of Sarah’s relationships. She’d fall quickly and deeply in love, convinced that this person was her soulmate, and lavish them with attention. But once the relationship was established, she constantly tested this love with cruel behaviour. When he grew angry or distant in return, she’d despair, feeling abandoned and terrified.
Sarah’s mother had a difficult labour with her first child and she didn’t want any more children – Sarah was an unplanned pregnancy. Sarah absorbed her mother’s feelings of rejection, which continued during her childhood. Although fed and cared for, she never felt loved or wanted. This long-term lack of safety overwhelmed her system and so traumatised her, and that trauma had frozen.
My clinic uses several methods for unblocking trauma, but to begin we talk about earlier experiences and feelings. Instead of dwelling on the events, I ask the patient to observe how their body feels. Sarah became aware of her clenched body language, and of how her stomach would feel tight as she discussed her mother. The big breakthrough with this therapy is understanding that the stress is a biological one, so although I don’t touch my patients, the therapies we use –sensorimotor psychotherapy and somatic experiencing – focus on physical sensation.
Patients will usually observe a physical response as energy is released. Some will feel warm – they may break into a sweat – or cold. Twitching and shaking are common. We treat the nervous system, not the past, which can’t be changed but can lose its power to control our lives.
We treated Sarah just like a fallen gazelle, and like a gazelle, her biology was intelligent enough to do its work once we opened up the pathway. Once released from her trauma, Sarah’s rages and terror of abandonment disappeared, and she has a very different approach to relationships.
Another patient, Kate, treated at our residential clinic in Oxford, told me how every time she thought she was ‘in trouble’ with authority figures – such as being late for work – her heart would race and her chest feel tight. Her fear of people with power over her stemmed from her early life with strict parents and an even stricter school.
Constantly in flight mode throughout her childhood, she had built up too much stress energy to discharge it properly, and the frozen stress haunted her interactions as an adult. In a case like this, it’s helpful to stop worrying about the ‘trouble’ and observe your reactions. Instead of saying ‘my boss is making me crazy’, think, ‘I notice when my boss gives me a look; I instantly experience worry and stress.’
Now see if you can identify the physical sensation that goes with this feeling. As you do, you start to connect with the deep mammal instinct that knows how to let go of that stress response, and if you are lucky, or after you have practised this for a while, you may notice a response in your body, such as trembling or other form of energetic release. You may feel an emotion connected with this – sadness, anger – or you may even cry. This is what happens as the trauma thaws and passes.
For temporary relief
For longer term help
For professional help
While self-help is possible for many of us (see above right), for deeper or very stuck traumas, it is too difficult to try to manage this process alone. Cara came to see me with a history of bulimia and self-harming. She had been sexually abused as a child and her early adult life had been dominated by a heroic attempt to overcome her history and not be defined by it. S
he worked at a bank, bought a house and earned a lot of money. But always anxious, she abused food and alcohol, before her increasingly black depressions undermined her career and the self-harming started. In early sessions she curled up in a chair in the foetal position, and our first job was to make her feel safe.
We worked with a happier memory from her childhood – a best friend whose family welcomed Cara to stay in their loving home – and this became her safe place to go to when she felt overwhelmed. Releasing trauma too quickly can be retraumatising so has to be managed carefully. It doesn’t matter what happened, only that the stress is frozen. So one person from a war and another from a dysfunctional family may have the same symptoms. Our nervous system can’t distinguish between a car accident or a person – it just understands threat, and the same stress energy floods our system.
This is the big difference between this treatment and conventional talking therapies, especially those that try to ‘retrain our thoughts’. Our thoughts are not the main problem (although they can then contribute to it) – they are a symptom of a deeper cause. We need to tap into the deep ‘mammal brain’, which is part of all of us, below the rational level, to the sensing, nonverbal place where the damage is stored. After eight weeks in residential treatment, Cara still had work to do but looked, moved and felt like a completely different person.
My story ended happily too. I went through multiple stages of both physical and emotional releases: shaking, twitching, deep grief, sadness, loss and anger. My children were delighted to have their father back, but it had taken a toll on both my marriage and my children. Trauma always affects those around us as well as ourselves. My illness and absence, which they have experienced as an abandonment, along with their fear that I was so ill I might die and never return, upset my family deeply. Having seen how well I was doing with this therapy, though, some of them have also had the treatment to recover from the trauma of this passage of our lives.
They are all doing much better. It takes support, patience and love to recover from trauma, but it can be done. Feeling overwhelmed does not have to rule your life or be a permanent part of it. Somewhere, something happened to you that caused you a huge stress, and you have been unable to release that trauma. But our bodies are wise, they know exactly what to do – they have been doing it for millions of years. All we need to do is get out of our own way and let that happen. I did it, and so can you. The rewards are life changing.
Benjamin Fry is the founder of Khiron House, a residential clinic in Oxford and an outpatient service in Harley Street, London, tel: 020 7754 0477, khironhouse.com
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-2376132/TV-psychotherapist-Benjamin-Fry-devastated-depression-Then-discovered-radical-new-treatment.html#ixzz2gSxby8gS
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Professor Robert Sapolsky finishes his lecture on language and then dives into his discussion about schizophrenia. He discusses environmental factors as well as genetic characteristics that could apply to people who are affected. He describes schizophrenia as a disease of thought disorder and inappropriate emotional attributes. [quoted from the description box beneath the video]