Posttraumatic Growth : Achieving Maslow’s ‘Self- Actualization’

posttraumatic growth and Maslow's self-actualization

The concept of posttraumatic growth hinges on the idea that, although suffering trauma can be devastating, some individuals not only merely survive their traumatic experiences, but go on to achieve a higher level of personal development than they would have been able to obtain had these traumatic experiences not occurred in their lives.

Maslow's Hierarchy of needs

Above : Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs

According to the psychologist Maslow (famous for his theory concerning the human hierarchy of needs), the highest level of human psychological need, and the hardest to attain, is what Maslow refers to as SELF-ACTUALIZATION. Below, I outline what he meant by this :

MASLOW’S CONCEPT OF SELF-ACTUALIZATION :

According to Maslow, very few individuals achieve ‘selfactualization’, but the characteristics of those who do are as follows :

People who have attained self-actualization are, according to Maslow, those who 

– feel grateful for things many may take for granted

– view problems as challenges

– make independent judgments based upon own experience rather than due to culture / societal trends

– are creative and original

– have just a few close / intense friendships rather than many relatively superficial relationships

– are comfortable being alone

– have an acute sense of humour (though not the type of humour that hurts others)

– are interested and curious about a wide range of things

– are democratic

–  are nondiscriminating / nonprejudice / accepting of other people’s differences

– are compassionate towards fellow members of society

– are spontaneous

– have the ability to derive child-like pleasure from becoming engrossed in simple activities

– are self-accepting (including accepting their weaknesses and faults – therefore not defensive and not in need of presenting and hiding behind false social image of being artificial / superficial)

– are authentic / true to oneself (as opposed to being unthinkingly and unreflectively conformist) / ability to resist and not be manipulated by social pressure

– have a strong sense of reality

– possess humanity

– possess humility

– have strong sense of purpose

– do not expend useless energy worrying about relatively trivial problems

– are focused upon personal growth and self – development rather than conventional and often hollow achievements such as wealth and status

Resource :

Downloadable self-hypnosis MP3/CD : Meet Your Human Needs.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE( FAHE)

 

 

 

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Linehan’s Biological Vulnerability Model Of BPD

BPD and biological vulnerability

 

 

 

Linehan (1993) proposes that various biological aberrations contribute to borderline personality disorder (BPD) which causes sufferers great difficulty controlling (regulating) their emotions. Linehan described this impaired ability to regulate emotions as consisting of three key factors :

Three Key Factors Contributing To Impaired Self-Regulation Of Emotions :

1) Heightened emotional sensitivity (particularly in relation to experiences that give rise to negative emotions, according to research by Jacob et al., 2008)

2) Inability to regulate intense emotional responses (again, particularly in relation to negative emotions)

3) Slow return to emotional baseline (ie. once emotionally upset, the BPD sufferer finds it very hard to calm down again)

Is Being Highly Sensitive A Bad Thing?

Linehan points out that, in fact, being highly sensitive, per se, should be seen as neither a good thing nor a bad thing, but, rather, it should be viewed in neutral terms ; whilst those with BPD frequently find their high level of sensitivity causes them immense mental turmoil and suffering, such individuals can learn to make their sensitivity work for them rather than against them with help from a skilled and experienced therapist.

biological vulnerability

Biology Of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) – The Limbic System:

As stated above, Linehan proposed that individuals who develop BPD may have a biological predisposition to do so (such as abnormalities in the brain’s limbic system) and, whether these individuals develop BPD or not, will depend upon the environment in which they grow up. Childhood environments that are especially likely to lead to the development of BPD, according to Linehan, are those which are INVALIDATING (invalidating environments are ones in which the parents significantly inhibit the child’s healthy expression of emotions).

Other Biological Factors Thought To Be Associated With BPD :

Since Linehan first proposed her theory of how biological vulnerability and BPD may be interlinked, far more research has been conducted on the topic. From this research, it has been found that sufferers of BPD tend to have :

amydalae (see notes below) that are of smaller than average volume

hippocampi (see notes below) that are of smaller than average volume

– underactive prefrontal cortices (see notes below)

– lower than average levels of serotonin (see notes below)

It has also been hypothesized that the activity of the neurotransmitter, dopamine (see notes below), and the hormone, vasopressin (see notes below) , may be disrupted in individuals suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD).

NOTES :

Amygdala – a region of the brain involved in various emotional processes

Hippocampus – a region of the brain involved in the consolidation of new memories

Prefrontal Cortex – functions of this brain region include discerning right from wrong, repressing unacceptable social behaviour, planning and other complex processes. It is also crucially involved with the development of the personality.

 – Serotonin – is a neurotransmitter that has been described as ‘a natural mood stabilizer’ and is involved in sleep and the regulation of anxiety (amongst other processes). Many experts subscribe to the theory that low levels of serotonin in the blood (and it is supposed, therefore, but not proven, in the brain) are associated with depression.

Dopamine – this neurotransmitter is involved in motivation, reinforcement of behaviour through reward, arousal, sexual gratification, control of the body and executive function (including problem solving, planning, reasoning and inhibitory control).

 – Vasopressin – this is a hormone that can be released directly into the brain and there exists a growing body of research that suggests it may be involved in sexual motivation, pair bonding and social behaviour.

 

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BPD childhood

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

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Fear Of Success Stemming From Having Envious Parents

fear of success

 

 

When I was sixteen and received my O-level (the formal exams most school children took at this age in the UK in the 1980s) results (which were good though by no means outstanding) I remember informing my mother of my these results, possibly with some trepidatious excitement and an uncertain, tentative sense of pride, only to meet with a stony-faced, tight-lipped response and the single, indifferent, bored, monosyllabic utterance : ‘Oh?’

There was no ‘congratulations’ card. No suggestion of celebrating with a meal. A small spongecake, perhaps? Out of the question. Perhaps partially as a result of this and not altogether dissimilar experiences, when I gained my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, I attended neither graduation ceremony. But why do I suggest the two things may be linked?

THE POSSIBLE EFFECTS OF THE ENVIOUS PARENT – FEAR OF SUCCESS :

An envious parent resents his/her child’s successes, achievements and accomplishments and may even feel disdain for this child’s expressions of pride; this envy may be unconscious and the parent may rationalize it by telling him/herself that s/he does not encourage the child’s feelings of mastery in order to prevent him/her from becoming arrogant or conceited. S/he may express this envy through overt and withering comments such as : ‘Oh, you think you’re such a big shot!’, or in more subtle ways such as making a point of not sharing in the child’s joy when s/he is successful.

The underlying cause of such envy is usually the parent’s own sense of inadequacy and failure together with a narcissistic resentment of having the limelight shifted away from him/her in favour of the child.

Also, if the parent is possessive, s/he may view the child’s successes as steps towards independence and and freedom from dependency which instils in the parent feelings of anxiety in relation to being no longer needed and, potentially, abandoned.

Indeed, the relationship between parent and child may be enmeshed whereby the parent is unable to distinguish the child’s individual and separate needs from his/her (the parent’s) own and therefore feels bitter about the child having successes of which s/he (the parent) has been deprived.

Such negative reactions by the parent in response to the child’s successes can have an insidious and cumulative effect culminating in the child coming to fear success. Similarly, the child may come to feel embarrassed by even small successes and desperately try to play them down (not to be confused with false modesty which is something different, of course) or, when s/he achieves success, feel strongly that s/he does not deserve it or that absolutely anyone could easily have accomplished the same.

In the individual’s mind, success has become strongly associated with rejection and, thus, must be avoided at all costs, lest it lead to shame and confusion.

fear of success

COGNITIONS ASSOCIATED WITH FEAR OF SUCCESS :

We may rationalize our deep-rooted fear of success in various ways. A study conducted by Deeter-Schmelz and Ramsey (2001) found that those who feared success tended to have thoughts such as :

  • once at the top there follows a desperate struggle to maintain your position
  • others see successful people as aloof and arrogant
  • people who become successful change for the worse
  • the cost of success outweighs its rewards

Whereas those NOT afraid of success tend to have thoughts such as :

  • others look up to you when you’re at the top
  • achievement commands respect
  • success opens up many new doors

IMPOSTOR SYNDROME :

Linked to fear of successes, there is also a phenomenon known as IMPOSTOR SYNDROME, first described by Clance and Imes (1978) .  This occurs when we achieve some success but feel we don’t deserve it; therefore, we feel like a fraud or impostor – as if we shouldn’t inhabit the position we do.

Those who experience impostor syndrome tend to have thoughts such as:

  • my success is mainly due to luck
  • talking about my success makes me feel silly and embarrasses me
  • when I compare myself to others with similar achievements, I feel they deserve theirs but I don’t
  • I worry people will soon see through me and I’ll be exposed as the idiot I truly am
  • when people praise me, I feel like I’m being given something I have not earned and it makes me feel extremely uncomfortable
  • in the scheme of things, my so-called achievements mean nothing
  • my success will come to an abrupt end anytime now

When the fear of success reaches phobic proportions, positive visualization exercises, hypnotherapy, or a combination of the two can prove effective.

Resources :

Self-hypnosis MP3/CD : Overcome Fear Of Success – click here for details.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

 

 

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Childhood Trauma Leading To Addiction And Crime

childhood trauma, addiction and crime

We have seen in previous articles published on this site that, if we have experienced significant childhood trauma, we are at increased risk of becoming addicted to illegal drugs as a result in order to help dull our emotional pain / dissociate from our problems (this is not only because our lives our more likely to be stressful if we have experienced childhood trauma, but also because the experience of childhood trauma can damage the development of a part of the brain called the amygdala which, in turn, makes us more susceptible to, and less able to tolerate, the effects of stress).

childhood trauma addiction and crime

Unfortunately, too, if we become addicted to illegal drugs, we then become at increased risk of becoming involved in crime (over and above the crime of buying and taking illegal drugs). Below, I explain some of the main reasons why this is so :

Why Becoming Addicted To Illegal Drugs Puts Us At Risk Of Becoming Further Involved In Crime :

– some drugs can decrease inhibition, increase impulsivity and increase the propensity to become violent (though obviously not an illegal drug, this is especially true of alcohol – and the experience of childhood trauma also makes it more likely we will abuse alcohol for the same reasons that we may become addicted to illegal drugs)

– the desperate need to acquire money quickly to buy the drugs that feed the addiction

– buying illegal drugs brings the addict into contact with the criminal world which exposes him/her to the danger of becoming ‘sucked into’ a more general, criminal lifestyle.

The Development Of The Vicious Circle :

Not only does being an addict increase one’s risk of becoming involved in crime, but the reverse is also true : being involved in crime can increase one’s likelihood of becoming / remaining an addict. This is because the money that can be accumulated through criminal endeavours can be used to start a drug habit, maintain a drug habit, increase frequency of use of drug, increase dosage of drug per session, and allow the addict to buy a new types of drugs s/he couldn’t previously afford or to which s/he previously did not have access.

And, if s/he goes to prison due to crime, s/he is likely to encounter a thriving drug culture – indeed, many prisoners state that it is even easier to acquire drugs inside jail than it is outside.

The childhood trauma / addiction / crime association is more likely to affect males than females (eighty per cent of all crimes are committed by males). However, females are more likely to turn to prostitution in order to sustain their drug habit.

Resources :

Self hypnosis MP3 / CD : Overcome Addiction

eBook :

childhood trauma control anger

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

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Childhood Trauma Leading To Social Isolation As Adult

social isolation

If, as a result of our childhood trauma, we develop, in adulthood, mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder or complex post traumatic stress disorder, we are at greater risk than average of becoming socially isolated. Indeed, I have written elsewhere on this site about how, for several years, I saw virtually no-one apart from those I was forced to interact with (such as doctors, psychiatrists, pizza deliverymen, shopkeepers).

But why do people become so socially isolated? Below, I briefly explain some of the main reasons :

Reasons Why We Might Become Socially Isolated :

1) We may distrust others or feel fearful or vulnerable when around them

2) We may simply lack the energy it requires to interact with others, especially if it entails pretending to be cheerful

3) Anhedonia : we no longer derive pleasure from being in the presence of others

4) Misanthropy : we no longer like other people and have a very low view of humanity in general

5) Fear of how we might behave : for example, if we have problems with anger, we may fear becoming angry or (especially if we drink heavily in the company of others) violent

6) We may have deep – seated feelings of inadequacy, shame, inferiority or self-hatred and view ourselves as unfit to engage with ‘decent’ society

7) We might feel others look down on us for being mentally ill or feel self-conscious about symptoms such as agitation

8) We don’t want to talk about our illness / experiences that led to it and fear that others may pressure us to do so, or that they may say ignorant things like ‘why don’t you just get over it?’

9) Others may ostracize us and turn their backs on us due to lack of understanding, lack of compassion or an unwillingness to be of emotional support

10) Complete breakdown of social confidence (especially if affected by ostracization – see number 9 immediately above).

11) Guilt – we might see ourselves as such a ‘bad’ and ‘dispicable’ person that we don’t allow ourselves to go out and enjoy ourselves

social isolation

How Remaining Socially Isolated Can Lead To A Vicious Circle :

If we avoid mixing with others due to feelings such as anxiety, anger, depression and lack of confidence, the emotional pain of our isolation is likely to exacerbate these symptoms thus making it even harder to socialize and, ultimately, leaving us feeling like ‘misfits’ and ‘social pariahs’ and in a general state of despair.

Furthermore, without emotional stimulation or emotional ‘nourishment’ we can find that our feelings shut down and we feel emotionally numb/dead.

Treatment :

Treatments for complex posttraumatic stress disorder include :

– Trauma Focused Psychotherapy (including Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy)

– EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing).

To help overcome a propensity to self-isolate, assertiveness training can help, as can anger management training if one’s problems are anger related.

Resources :

Self – hypnosis downloadable MP3s :

– 10 Steps To Absolute Assertiveness

Anger Management

10 Steps To Solid Self- Esteem

 

eBook :

 

Click here for details of above eBook.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

 

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Why Psychological Abuse By Parents Can Cause Greater Psychopathology In Children Than Extreme Poverty Or War

Psychological abuse by parents

Silvano Arieti, in his classic book Interpretations Of Schizophrenia, emphasized the view that it is childhood adverse experiences, such as psychological and emotional abuse by the parents that cause anxiety which hurts the ‘inner self’ are the ones which are most likely to lead to severe mental illness in the individual whereas traumatic experiences that many might consider worse, such as war or severe poverty, may well NOT lead the child to develop severe mental illness if they do not lead to the aforementioned damage to the ‘inner self’.

What Is Meant By The ‘Inner Self’?

This can be defined as one’s personal sense of identity, self-concept and integrated personality.

We Are Most Vulnerable To Psychological Harm From Those With Whom We Have A Strong Emotional Bond:

Arieti stresses that children are at most risk of being psychologically damaged by being maltreated by those with whom they have a strong emotional bond (most commonly, of course, their parents). He also believed that a major cause of schizophrenia was a childhood during which the individual’s sense of self was seriously undermined by one, or both, parents. The Scottish psychiatrist, R.D. Laing, who wrote the famous book entitled The Divided Self, thought along similar lines, stressing the importance of the family environment as a cause of schizophrenia.

In essence, when we are betrayed, or significantly mistreated over a protracted period of time, by the very people who are supposed to love us, care for us and protect us, we are thrown into a state of extreme psychological torment, confusion and conflict, the effect of which is uniquely pervasive and perfidious; as a result, our sense of inner self may be shattered and our personality may disintegrate.

Psychological abuse by parents

Above : R.D. Laing, author of The Divided Self

This idea is encapsulated by the trauma model of mental disorders which contends that early life psychological trauma is a very major cause of several different adult psychiatric disorders.

Proponents of this view include Sigmund Freud (as illustrated by his psychoanalytic theories) and John Bowlby (as illustrated by his attachment theory).

 

Resources:

.

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Childhood Trauma, Obsessions, Compulsions And Rituals

childhood trauma and obsessive compulsive disorder

 

 

Research conducted by Mathews, Kaur and Stein at the University of California examined the association between childhood trauma and the development of symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms.

It was found that those individuals who had experienced emotional abuse or physical abuse in childhood were significantly more likely than those who had not to suffer from symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

In this article, I will briefly describe the most common obsessions / compulsions / rituals from which individuals with OCD or OCD-like symptoms suffer.

Most Common Obsessions / Compulsions / Rituals :

These are as follows :

Let’s briefly look at each of these in turn :

1) FEAR OF ‘CONTAMINATION’ –  the individual who suffers from this is excessively concerned about germs, bacteria and anything that might harbour these such as other people, door handles, household surfaces, bathrooms, light switches etc.

For example, someone who is severely affected may feel compelled to wash their hands dozens, or even hundreds, of times a day to (very temporarily) ease their anxiety, or only use a door handle if their hand is protected by a glove / handkerchief / tissue etc.

2) EXCESSIVE CHECKING – a person who suffers from this feels driven to excessively check such things as that the door has been locked, the gas cooker has been switched off, the windows have been shut and locked etc.

For example, someone suffering from this type of OCD may check s/he has locked the front door behind him/her, get into his/her car and start to drive to work only to become anxious s/he didn’t ‘properly’  check the door was locked to the extent that after five minutes of driving s/he turns the car around and goes home to recheck that the door actually is locked. Having done this, s/he may restart the drive only to turn the car around again after a few minutes to make absolutely sure the front door is locked. S/he may repeat this scenario numerous times before s/he has reduced his/her anxiety enough to finally make it into work.

3) INTRUSIVE, DISTURBING, UNCONTROLLABLE THOUGHTS  – someone who suffers from this finds s/he is ‘mentally bombarded’ by unwanted, distressing, disturbing and upsetting thoughts that s/he feels s/he cannot control.

For example, s/he may fear s/he will seriously hurt someone, even his/her own children, commit some unspeakable crime, or act on inappropriate sexual impulses (even though s/he has never acted on such thoughts and abhors any prospect of doing so).

Indeed, there was a famous example of a man who chained himself to the bed every night as he feared that, otherwise, he might rise in his sleep ( this is sometimes referred to as somnambulism), commit some appalling crime in his unconscious state and, as a consequence, spend the rest of his life in jail.

4) EXCESSIVE HOARDING – an individual with this disorder can’t bring him/herself to throw away / obsessively collects useless or broken material and objects often to the point that his/her living environment becomes cluttered to a degree that is both unsafe and unhygienic (see image below).

childhood trauma, obsessions, compulsions, rituals

Above : an example of the results of obsessive hoarding.

5) EXCESSIVE CONCERN WITH ‘ORDERING’ AND SYMMETRY – someone suffering this disorder feels strongly compelled to arrange things (such as household objects and contents of fridges/cupboards) with painstaking, meticulous, absolute precision.

Another well known way in which this disorder manifests itself is aa a compulsion to precisely line up items (such as knives, plates, bowls and forks etc) at one’s table in restaurants ; Oscar Wilde developed this compulsion in Paris following his release from Reading Gaol and subsequent flight from England (see photo and caption below).

childhood trauma, obsessions, compulsions and rituals

Above : Oscar Wilde (left) and Lord Alfred (Bosie) Douglas. At the time this picture was taken Wilde suffered a compulsion to ‘precisely order’ the items on his table following his harrowing two years in Reading Gaol and being forced there to set his table for meals with ‘military’ precision. Circa 1899.

 

To read my article entitled :Childhood Trauma, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder And Treatment’ click here.

 

Or to read my article providing more information about childhood trauma and its link to obsessive compulsive disorder in general click here.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

 

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BPD Sufferers Likely To View Life As Meaningless

BPD and feelings of meaningless

Research carried out by Wiley et al has found that psychiatric patients suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD) have feelings that life lacks meaning to a greater degree than do those who are suffering from mental disorders other than borderline personality disorder.

A separate study confirmed this finding by demonstrating that feelings that life has meaning are very significantly NEGATIVELY CORRELATED with symptoms of borderline personality disorder; in other words, the more symptoms a person has of borderline personality disorder, the less s/he is likely to feel that life has meaning.

So, to put it simply, people with BPD have a tendency to view life as essentially meaningless and as having no purpose.

Other research by Weibel et al supports the above findings; Weibel and colleagues conducted a study that found that there is an association between individuals suffering childhood abuse or neglect (which puts them at increased risk of developing BPD) and the subsequent failure, as adults, to find meaning in life.
meaningless life
Which Symptoms Of BPD Are Particularly Associated With Feelings That Life Is Meaningless?
The symptoms of BPD which seem to be particularly associated with feelings that life is meaningless, according to the research referred to above, are :

Conclusion / Implications :

Given the above findings, it has been suggested that therapy for borderline personality disorder (BPD) should include methods that help the individuals suffering from the disorder start to perceive life as more meaningful.

How Can A Meaningful Life Be Achieved?

Finding meaning in life is a subjective experience so nobody can give a definitive, objective account of what makes life meaningful. However, Baumeister and Vohs (2005) propose that we are more likely to perceive life as meaningful if :

1) what we do has purpose and helps to lead us towards a future goal that will bring us fulfilment

2) what we do is in line with our values

3) we have faith in our self-efficacy (i.e. ability to make a real, positive difference in the world)

4) we have firm feelings of self-worth

I will end this article with a quote from the American psychologist and expert in positive psychology, Martin Seligman, who defined a meaningful life as one in which you use ‘your signature strengths and virtues in the service of something much larger than you are.’ (Martin Seligman, 2002).

 

RESOURCES :

meaninglessness of life

 

Above eBook now available from Amazon for instant download (click here).

 

SELF-HYPNOSIS MP3 / CD – Find Meaning In Life : click here for further information.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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