Category Archives: Coping Strategies And Tips

Yoga For Complex PTSD

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Overcoming Trauma Through Yoga: Reclaiming Your Bodyir?t=childhoodtrau 21&l=am2&o=2&a=1556439695 - Yoga For Complex PTSD

 

Studies into the effectiveness of yoga already suggest that it can help to ameliorate both physical and psychological problems including diabetes, arthritis, fibromyalgia, depression and anxiety.

There also now exists evidence (e.g. van der Kolk, 2014, see below)) that it can help to reduce symptoms of Complex posttraumatic stress disorder (Complex PTSD).

Complex PTSD Gives Rise To Both Psychological And Physical Symptoms :

We have already seen how the cumulative effects of exposure to ongoing and repetitive trauma can result in the development of Complex PTSD and that the condition adversely affects the body’s physiology leading to impaired functioning of the autonomic nervous system and associated physical problems that can manifest in various ways including :

Furthermore, such symptoms are, in individuals with Complex PTSD, if not ongoing (though they can be : my own hyperventilation and physical agitation went on for years and the former continues to be set off by what most others would consider to be trivial anxieties, whilst my resting heart rate is still, worryingly, running at over one hundred beats per minute), very easily triggered by even relatively minor stressors ; this is because the individual’s capacity to tolerate stress is dramatically compromised, especially in relation to stressors that are linked (on either a conscious or unconscious level) to memories of the original traumatic experiences.

yoga - Yoga For Complex PTSD

Severe Physical Symptoms Of Complex PTSD May Prevent Or Impair Talk-Based Psychotherapy :

If such physical symptoms of Complex PTSD are severe and remain unaddressed there is potential for them to prevent or impair talk-based psychotherapy. For example, in my own case my physical symptoms were so bad that I frequently either could not attend therapy sessions (as I was unable to leave my flat), or, if I did manage to attend, was unable to focus or concentrate properly.

How Can Yoga Help Those Suffering From Complex PTSD?

Yoga that incorporates physical exercises, breathing exercises and mindfulness can be a more effective treatment of the physiological symptoms of Complex PTSD that talk-based psychotherapy because of the fact that it DIRECTLY ADDRESSES SUCH SYMPTOMS THROUGH BREATHING TECHNIQUES AND BODY WORK. Indeed, recent research supports the effectiveness of yoga in this regard – for example, van der Kolk’s study (2014), which I briefly outline below :

The Study :

  • The participants in the study were adult females with Complex PTSD who had not responded to the intervention of traditional psychotherapy
  • These same females were then randomly allocated to one of two groups as shown below :

GROUP ONE : The females who were randomly allocated to GROUP ONE underwent a TEN WEEK COURSE IN TRAUMA SENSITIVE YOGA (a special form of yoga that was developed at the Boston Trauma Center in the U.S.)

GROUP TWO : The females who were randomly allocated to GROUP TWO did NOT undergo this course.

The Results Of The Study :

The main findings of the study were as follows :

At the end of the ten week period :

  • Those in the treatment group (GROUP ONE) were significantly less likely still to meet the diagnostic criteria for Complex PTSD than those in the non-treatment group (GROUP TWO).
  • Furthermore, those in the treatment group (GROUP ONE) showed a significant reduction in depression and self-harm

Longer term studies have found similar results (e.g. Rhodes, 2014).

CONCLUSION :

Yoga may be an effective complementary treatment option to be used in conjunction with talk-based psychotherapies particularly when physical symptoms of Complex PTSD are so severe that they interfere with talk-based psychotherapies, as in my own case (see above).

A major benefit of yoga for the treatment of the physical symptoms of Complex PTSD is that it addresses such problems directly.

 

If you would like to read my related article : ‘TRAUMA RELEASE EXERCISES’, please click here.

 

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David Hosier Bsc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE) Read More →

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Self-Acceptance More Helpful To Mental Health Than Self-Esteem.

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We have already seen that, most frequently because how they were made to feel about themselves by parents / primary care-givers whilst growing up, one of the most painful, demoralizing and soul-destroying symptoms those with borderline personality disorder (BPD) must strive to endure is irrational feelings of self-hatred, self-loathing and self-disgust. (If you would like to read my article entitled : ‘ Childhood Trauma: How The Child’s View Of Their Own ‘Badness’ Is Perpetuated’ , please click here.)

Indeed, many individuals with BPD suffer from frequent, intrusive thoughts such as : ‘I am a terrible person’ ; ‘I am of absolutely no value to anybody whatsoever’ and so on…

In other words, their self-esteem is extremely low and sometimes it is hard to change such deeply entrenched, negative self-views through therapy, at least at the beginning of any such therapy. (If you would like to read my article entitled : ‘Childhood Trauma : A Destroyer of Self-Esteem’ , please click here.)

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However, one effective way of breaking into, and disrupting, this profoundly ingrained and seemingly perpetual cycle of self-derogatory thinking may be to develop first an attitude of SELF-ACCEPTANCE.

In relation to this possibility, Huber (2001) suggests that, in order to develop an attitude of self-acceptance, we can start off simply by trying to attain ‘a single moment of self-acceptance.’ For example, instead of thinking a thought such as :

I am a terrible person‘, we can try to replace it with the self-accepting thought :

‘Given how I was made to feel about myself as a child, it is completely understandable why I view myself as a terrible person.

Gradually, we can try to increase the frequency with which we modify our self-lacerating thinking style so that, when negative thoughts arise, we compassionately accept why we are having them as a matter of newly acquired habit.

The advantages of developing a self-accepting style of thinking, as outlined above, has been backed up by research. For example, Neff (2009) found that self-compassion is more positively correlated with psychological health than self-esteem is.

Neff also points out that, whilst self-esteem, at least in part, depends upon how we perceive others’ evaluation of us and how well we perceive ourselves to be succeeding in life’s myriad aspects at any given time, self-compassion (by definition) is self-generated and comes entirely from within ; it is always available to us no matter what the external circumstances. Because of this, it is more reliable and dependable than self-esteem and can comfortably co-exist along with feelings of inadequacy or, even, gross inadequacy.

However, we need not equate self-acceptance with ‘standing still in life’ and with not trying to improve ourselves – indeed, self-acceptance can be a great aid to self-improvement as it allows us to take a compassionate attitude towards ourselves when we face inevitable set-backs on our journey of personal development (as opposed to despising ourselves and giving up).

 

RESOURCES :

SELF-ACCEPTANCE : SELF-HYPNOSIS DOWNLOAD.

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

 

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Techniques (Evidence-Based) For Reducing Negative Thoughts.

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We have seen that if we suffered significant, recurring trauma as children, we are put at increased risk of developing depression as adults (see the DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY section of this site which contains many articles about the link between childhood trauma and depression). One of the hallmarks of depression is, of course, NEGATIVE THINKING.

Fortunately, however, much scientific research has been conducted into techniques those suffering from depression can employ in order to reduce their tendency constantly to think in negative ways ; I briefly describe several of the most effective of these techniques below :

1) LEARNED OPTIMISM :

The psychologist, Seligman, has developed a method by which people who are pessimistic and prone to negative thinking can train themselves mentally to respond to adverse events in ways that are less negative and more optimistic by challenging their initial pessimistic responses.

Seligman developed his idea of how optimism may be learned whilst he was studying a phenomenon known as LEARNED HELPLESSNESS (you can read my article Trauma, Depression And Learned Helplessness’  by clicking here); he reasoned that if people, through conditioning, can ‘learn’ to be helpless they may, too, be able to learn a more positive attitude to life and its vicissitudes.

There exists research to support Seligman’s theory. For example, the findings of a scientific study (Buchanan) conducted at the University of Pennsylvania strongly suggested that individuals with a tendency towards pessimism can be made significantly less vulnerable to depression and anxiety by being taught Seligman’s learned optimism techniques.

HOWEVER, there is a balance to be struck here as constantly striving to be positive and ‘upbeat’ at all times is likely to backfire – it is, I think we can all safely agree, axiomatic that one cannot go through life without encountering distress (some of us more than others, of course). Even so, we can make distress less painful to endure by learning techniques in DISTRESS TOLERANCE you can read my article about this by clicking here.

(Interestingly, trying to relax can backfire, too – you can read about why this is in my article : Does Trying To Relax  Paradoxically Increase Your Anxiety?  by clicking here).

 

2) COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY (CBT) :

This can help us challenge our negative thoughts and correct irrational, faulty thinking styles associated with negative thinking (you can read two my articles relevant to this by clicking below):

 Cognitive Behavioral Therapy : Challenging Negative Thoughts

or

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy For Childhood Trauma

 

3) DEFENSIVE PESSIMISM : 

Despite the finding that learned optimism can be helpful in reducing depression it may, too, be paradoxically the case that a tendency towards pessimism, in certain situations, can sometimes be, as it were, strategically exploited.

This can be achieved by considering the worst possible outcome of an event in order to put things in perspective (the caveat being that it is necessary to put an action plan into operation to ensure the worst possible outcome does not come to fruition!).

 

MINDFULNESS :

This involves allowing negative thoughts to pass through the mind whilst NOT emotionally engaging with these thoughts or judging them – a simile that is sometimes used is that one should just observe, in a detached manner, these thoughts running through our heads with the same tranquility we would feel were we to be watching leaves on the surface of a river gently flow past us. You can read more about mindfulness in the HYPNOSIS AND MINDFULNESS section of this site.

 

THE ADVERSITY HYPOTHESIS :

It is important to remember that even very distressing experiences can improve us as a person (e.g. by providing us with a better perspective on life, making us realize what’s important in life, helping us to get our priorities straight, increasing the empathy we feel with others who have suffered in a similar way to ourselves, and toughening us up mentally.

An article of mine you may wish to read relating to this is :

 

RESOURCE :

STOP NEGATIVE THINKING – SELF HYPNOSIS DOWNLOAD

 

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

 

 

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Neurocounseling And Its Relevance To Treating Complex-PTSD

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The term neurocounseling refers to a form of therapies that seek to take advantage of the relatively recent neuroscientific discovery that the human brain has far more NEUROPLASTICITY than was previously believed to be the case.

What Is Neuroplasticity?

The brain’s quality of neuroplasticity can be defined as its capacity to be physically changed, not only during childhood, but over the whole life-span ; it is only relatively recently that the extent to which the adult brain can be physically altered (both in terms of its structure and its pattern of neuro-pathways) has been discovered.

Why Is The Brain’s Neuroplasticity, And Therefore Neurocounseling, Relevant To The Treatment Of Complex-PTSD Resulting From Childhood Trauma?

Neurocounseling and the phenomenon of neuroplasticity have important implications for the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and   complex-PTSD as sufferers of both types often have incurred damage to certain brain regions as a result of their traumatic experiences.

These brain injuries can include a shrunken hippocampus ( the hippocampus is a brain region involved in the processing of memories, including differentiation between past and present memories); increased activity in the amygadala ( a region of the brain involved in the processing of emotions and that is intimately related to the fear response); and a shrunken ventromedial prefrontal cortex (this region of the brain processes negative emotions that occur in response to exposure to specific stimuli).

Neurocounseling :

Neurocounseling is founded upon the premise that that symptoms of psychiatric conditions (both psychological and behavioral) are underpinned by maladaptive, neurological structures and functions and that these neurological structures and functions can be beneficial altered due to the quality of the brain known as neuroplasticity. It combines neuroscience with counseling techniques and, in this way, the individual receiving treatment is helped to learn new skills and new ways of thinking in an attempt to help correct the maladaptive physical development of the brain that has occurred in response to the person’s traumatic past experiences. Examples of neurocounseling techniques include :

  • incorporating biofeedback into the treatment plan ; this can help to treat emotional dysregulation – emotional dysregulation is a major symptom of PTSD and complex-PTSD and is linked to damage to the amygdala (see above)
  • incorporating neurofeedback into the treatment plan
  • mindfulness meditation training (one study found that this can alter the actual physical structure of the brain in just eight weeks)

Additionally, studies have shown that interpersonal psychotherapy and compassion focused therapy can lead to beneficial alterations to the brain.

Furthermore, research shows that neurocounseling can also be successfully employed to treat a range of addiction issues (including prevention of relapse and recovery management), sleep difficulties, ADHD, chronic fatigue syndrome and problems relating to aggression (all of which, potentially, can be linked to childhood trauma).

As understanding of the relationship between the way in which the physical brain operates and symptoms of psychological problems increases, it should be possible, in the future, to be apply neurocounseling more effectively to an expanding range of behavioral and psychological difficulties that have their roots in maladaptive brain biochemistry and physiology.

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

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Trauma Release Exercises

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THE MIND-BODY CONNECTION :

We have seen how the experience of significant and protracted childhood trauma increases our risk of developing both serious psychological and physical problems as adults – e.g. see the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study.

Therefore, therapies for those who, as adults, are suffering the effects of childhood trauma – in the most serious cases in the form of  cPTSD (complex posttraumatic stress disorder) – include not only treatments for the mind, but also ones for the body. (And, because the mind and body are interconnnected, treatments for the body will also, to varying degrees) benefit the mind.

THE FIGHT/FLIGHT/FREEZE STATE :

If we have grown up in an environment in which we were frequently made to feel afraid or threatened (physically, psychologically or both) it is possible the early physical development of our brain has been disrupted in such a way that now, as adults, we find ourselves perpetually, tense, anxious and hypervigilant, or, in other words, continuously in the fight/flight/freeze state.

One result of this is that it can cause us to store up a vast amount of physical and muscular tension.

EXCESSIVE AND CHRONIC TENSION IN THE PSOAS (‘Fight or Flight’) MUSCLE :

A main location in the body where muscular tension accumulates is called the PSOAS muscle (sometimes also referred to as the ‘fight or flightmuscle ; it connects the lumber spine to the legs.

It is sometimes called the fight/flight muscle because when we feel threatened, anxious or fearful, or in response to significant loss, it becomes energized in preparation to assist us with the actions of running away or fighting.

And, if, during childhood, we have frequently been in the fight/flight state this muscle may have become perpetually tensed up to the extent we have habituated to this feeling of tension to such a degree that we no longer register it as abnormal; notwithstanding this, it is an indication that we are still being adversely affected by painful emotions linked to our traumatic childhood (if only on an unconscious level).

TRAUMA RELEASE EXERCISES  (TRE) :

Bercelli, PhD, devised six trauma release exercises designed to alleviate this stored muscular tension. The idea is that the tension is released by a ‘muscular shaking process’ known as ‘neurogenic tremors’ and its purpose is rid us of our deep-seated, chronic, early life trauma-related bodily tension.

 

To read my related article : ‘YOGA FOR COMPLEX PTSD’, please click here.

 

RESOURCE : You can learn much more about TRE by visiting Dr Bercelli’s website – click here.

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

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How To Stop Taking Things Personally

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Taking Things Personally And Low Self-Esteem :

If we suffered significant childhood trauma, we are at greater risk as adults of suffering from psychological difficulties, including low self-esteem. And, if we have low self-esteem, we are particularly vulnerable to being hurt by others who criticize us and negatively evaluate us ; to put it in colloquial terms, we may be ‘thin-skinned’ and prone to ‘taking things personally’. (To read my article on the link between childhood trauma and low self-esteem in adulthood, click here.)

So what can we do to stop taking things personally? Below you’ll find several suggestions :

Methods We Can Use To Help Us To Stop Taking Things Personally :

  • understand that, often, those who criticize and negatively evaluate others do so because of their own problems – they may be inadequate, unhappy, frustrated, angry etc and displace (take out) these feelings on you or project their own shortcomings onto you (displacement and projection are defense mechanisms – click here to read my article relating to these).
  • if a person criticizes you and you feel s/he might have a point, try not to be defensive, but, instead, see if it’s possible to learn from what’s been said and then, if necessary, make changes rather than waste energy feeling bad
  • related to the above is the fact we are complex and, often, contradictory beings who make mistakes and that the mistakes that we make are just one aspect of us that does not define who we are
  • remember that even the most popular people will always be criticized and disapproved of by some – nobody  garners universal admiration, respect and approval
  • remember that not everyone has to approve of you all the time for you to live a contented life ; self-esteem is based upon what one thinks of oneself, irrespective of what others think. Allowing others to control how one feels about oneself is to give away power to them that need not be relinquished
  • real progress in society is very frequently made by those who are prepared to go against the grain irrespective of making themselves unpopular ; this is a virtue, not a fault and demonstrates strength of mind, character and possession of the courage of one’s convictions
  • ask yourself if you may have misinterpreted the situation. For example, if someone seems uninterested in what you’re saying, it may be that they’re preoccupied with their own concerns and not a sign you are boring them. Or if someone you know passes you in the street and seems to ‘blank’ you, could it be they simply didn’t see you?
  • realise it won’t benefit you (quite the opposite, in fact) if you ruminate on the perceived insult/slight/criticism etc. -to read my article on controlling rumination, click here
  • realize that whilst you cannot control what others think, you CAN control how you react to what they think
  • if you have done something wrong remember that, even if you have not been able to stop thinking about it, this does not mean others are thinking a lot about it too – they have myriad other things to worry about and what you do is unlikely to be central to their concerns and thought processes
  • develop self-confidence

 

Related Post :

HIGHLY SENSITIVE PEOPLE (HSPs)

RESOURCE :

DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY –AUDIO DOWNLOAD (MP3)

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

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What Is Happiness?

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What Exactly Is Happiness?

Is it possible to recover from complex posttraumatic stress disorder or borderline personality disorder (both of which those who have suffered severe and protracted childhood trauma are at risk of developing in adulthood) and finally be happy? The answer is yes; people who have suffered these disorders can and do recover to the extent that they describe themselves as happy (even if, whilst ill, they considered ever becoming happy an absolute impossibility). But what exactly is happiness?

Factors Found To Correlate Positively With Reported Levels Of Happiness:

The psychologist David Myers found that the following correlated with happiness:

– peace of mind

self-esteem

– good self-care (e.g. healthy diet, sufficient sleep, exercise)

– meaningful / satisfying / enjoyable activities

– satisfying social interaction

– good coping skills

– good problem solving ability

– initiative

– meaningful and achievable goals (as opposed to goals which overstretch one, which are more likely to be set by those with low self-esteem in the belief that extraordinary achievement will make them feel better about themselves)

– absence of time pressure / control over how one spends one’s time

– good planning ability (both long-term and short-term)

– NOT feeling the need to achieve great success for its own sake (although great success may come about as a by product of doing something which the person finds truly meaningful, rewarding and satisfying)

– ability to live in the present (rather than constantly dwelling on the past / worrying about the future)

– NOT clinging on to feelings of blame and bitterness

The Happiness Course :

Another psychologist interested in this field of study, Michael Fordyce, theorized that if we start to do the sort of things happy people do we can reduce our levels of depression, anxiety and stress and, hopefully, become happy ourselves. In other words, we need to start acting as if we’re happy, even (or especially) when we’re not.

He conducted research into this and the findings of that research supported his theory. As part of this research, he devised what he termed the happiness course which helped individuals who undertook it develop key skills intended to increase their levels of happiness, including :

– socializing more

– planning achievable and meaningful goals

– developing optimism

– learning to live in the present

– developing expressiveness

– developing spontaneity

The PERMA Model Of Happiness:

Martin Seligman, a leading expert in the field of positive psychology developed the PERMA model which he proposed contained the five major constituents that lead to happiness; these are :

POSITIVE EMOTION (optimism about past, present and future)

ENGAGEMENT – having activities to do in which one can fully absorb oneself

RELATIONSHIPS – having supportive, rewarding relationships

MEANING – having a meaningful purpose in life

ACCOMPLISHMENT – achieving goals

To find out much more about this model, visit Matin Seligman’s Positive Psychology site.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

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PTSD Nightmares : Typical Content And Symbols

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A major symptom of CPTSD / PTSD is nightmares. I myself have suffered from these and they have led to frequent waking during the night, sheets and pillow cases damp with sweat, thrashing around in my sleep to the extent that I have, on several occasions, knocked the lamp (and several other items, such as piles of books, the alarm clock, cups of cold, unfinished tea etc) off my bedside table with arms wildly flailing about like those of a crazed and demented windmill and, even, falling out of bed a few times. I have also woken myself up shouting and, even, screaming, more than once.

A particular torment of nightmares is, of course, that after a day spent in mental anguish in a state of wakefulness, they prevent one from escaping this mental pain even in sleep so there is no respite from one’s suffering. Indeed, when one has intense and terrible nightmares, one fears going to sleep ; for us, it is not a time of mental recuperation, but of continued psychological torture. This can be so devastating to the morale that one may fear one will go permanently and irrevocably insane.

According to the Harvard psychologist, Dr D Barrett, an expert on dreaming and dream analysis, PTSD nightmares tend to contain the following types of themes / symbols :

The Themes And Symbols Of PTSD Nightmares

– dying

– monsters

– being chased

– being in danger

– being punished

– being isolated

– revenge

– being powerless

– being trapped

– guilt

– shame

– violence

– anger

– filth

– garbage

– physical injury

Nightmares, Suppression, Repression And Dissociation :

If we have extremely painful memories relating to our traumatic childhood then we may, as a means of psychological self-protection, cut off from them mentally.

In order to achieve this we may suppress the memories (i.e. try to put them to ‘the back of our minds’). This takes conscious effort and can be counterproductive – see The Rebound Effect below).

Alternatively, we may repress the memories ; this is an automatic / unconscious process that stores the memories away so deeply in the mind that they become inaccessible to conscious awareness. Mentallly cutting ourselves off from painful memories in such a manner is known as dissociation.

Processing Of Traumatic Memories

However, because these memories are dissociated, they remain unprocessed by the brain and a leading theory as to why dreams/nightmares occur is that they represent the brain’s attempt to process the dissociated memories.

Barrett’s  research has led her to the view that, immediately following traumatic events, a person’s nightmares about them tend to quite closely reflect what actually occurred. However, as the traumatic events that triggered the nightmares recede further and further into the past, the PTSD nightmares relating to them become increasingly symbolic.

What Can We Do To Alleviate Nightmares?

If our nightmares do not result in effective processing of our traumatic memories they can become ‘stuck’ ; this can lead to recurring nightmares that tend to centre upon the same themes.

To alleviate such nightmares, it is necessary to attempt to process the traumatic memories in our waking lives (assuming they have been suppressed rather than repressed – see above).

We can attempt to process the material contained within our nightmares in the following ways :

– by keeping a written record of the nightmares (e.g. by recording our recollections of them or writing these down using a pen and pencil kept by the bed etc)

– by describing our nightmares to another person (who is emotionally supportive, such as a therapist) and trying to work out what their themes and images may represent.

–  going through the nightmare in our minds when awake but changing its ending to a positive one – then mentally replaying/rehearsing this new, positive ending. It is then helpful to write out what happens in the nightmare, including writing out the new, positive ending. Alternatively, we could draw a series of pictures representing the nightmare, but, again, incorporating the new, positive ending.

– by imagining, when awake, carrying out a simple action in our dream, such as taking a single step, and saying to ourselves : ‘You are completely safe, this is just a dream’. If we then mentally rehearse this before we go to sleep we may find this action, carried out in our dream, will cue the comforting and reassuring thought (the action that is to act as the cue can be anything simple that is likely to recur in the nightmare).

Nightmares And The Rebound Effect

In relation to some of what has been said above, it is useful to look at a psychological phenomenon known as the rebound effect :

If we try very hard not to think about something, this, paradoxically, frequently increases the probability that we will think about it. The classic example that is given to first year psychology undergraduates is the instruction NOT to think about a pink elephant for the next minute. Of course, this instruction is impossible to carry out  (try it if you don’t believe me!).

This is known as the rebound effect and research suggests the phenomenon may apply to nightmares, too. One possible technique to reduce the probability of having a nightmare is, therefore, to actually think about whatever it is the nightmare represents (if this has been inferred from reflection / dream analysis) for a few minutes before going to sleep as trying not do so, because of the rebound effect, may actually increase the chances that the nightmare will occur, however counterintuitive this may sound.

RESOURCE :

Stop Recurring Nightmares / Dreams | Hypnosis Downloads. Click here for more information.

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

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Forgiveness And Its Health Benefits

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Why Is Forgiveness Beneficial For Our Health And Prospects Of Recovery?

If we have suffered childhood trauma as a result of our parents’ abusive behavior or neglect, we may grow up feeling angry and resentful towards them. Furthermore, as a result of our childhood experiences, our own behavior in the past may have been dysfunctional and self-destructive and we may feel angry with ourselves about this.

Feeling angry towards our parents and/or ourselves, though, can act as a very major impediment to our recovery from the effects of our childhood trauma – so this is one vitally important reason why forgiving ourselves and our parents can be an extremely positive and helpful thing to do ; after all, feeling constantly bitter, angry and resentful is an exhausting and painful frame of mind to endure (in most cases simply harming ourselves rather than anybody else; this idea is pithily encapsulated by the well known aphorism that (to paraphrase) being filled with anger, vengefulness and resentment is akin to drinking poison and expecting our enemy to die. 

In short, being preoccupied with feelings of resentment keeps us trapped in the past and prevents us living in, and enjoying, the present.

Physical Benefits Of Forgiveness :

Also, the act of forgiveness, assuming it is freely chosen and authentic rather than something we have reluctantly forced ourselves to do, is most important for our physical health and I briefly explain why below :

      • being constantly angry locks our nervous systems into the ‘fight or flight’ state; this results in various physiological changes in our bodies which, in turn, makes us more susceptible to heart disease / attacks; it follows, therefore, that letting go of our anger and practicing forgiveness will make us less likely to experience such heart problems
      • chronic anger also increases our risk of diabetes
      • chronic anger increases the risk of high blood pressure

    Also, according to research carried out by The John Hopkins Hospital, practicing forgiveness can:

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Right Brain Therapy : Benefits For Trauma Survivors

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How Useful Is Right Brain Therapy For Trauma Survivors?

Why is it that right brain therapy may be more appropriate for trauma survivors as opposed to therapies that concentrate largely upon the left brain?

Right Brain And How We Relate To Others :

One of the main symptoms of complex posttraumatic stress disorder (from which we may suffer if we experienced significant and protracted childhood trauma) is having problems relating to others.

The brain is made up of two halves, called hemispheres : the left hemisphere (or, left brain) and the right hemisphere (or, right brain). It is the right brain that plays a vital role in how we relate to others because it is intimately involved with many functions that affect how we get along, or, don’t get along, with other people. These functions include :

– our ability to empathize with other people

– our ability to trust others

– our ability to identify with others

– our ability to read the emotions of other people from their facial expressions

– our ability to form healthy attachments with others

– non-conscious communication

Because these functions can be impaired if we have complex PTSD, and because they are controlled largely by the right brain, it follows logically that therapy to restore these functions to their optimum levels should, too, concentrate on the right brain.

Why Do These Functions Reside In The Right Brain?

This is because, in the first two years of life, according to psychodynamic theory, our interactions with our primary caregiver very significantly lay the foundations of our emotional life, including our expectations regarding relationships with others ; these expectations are encoded, on an unconscious level, in the right brain.

Right Brain Therapy And Self-Esteem :

Those with complex PTSD also frequently have significant problems in relation to their sense of self-esteem and therapy for this, too, is also likely to be especially effective when it concentrates upon the right brain. Again, according to psychodynamic theory, this is because the foundations of our self-esteem are (and it is worth repeating) acquired in our first two years of life and are encoded, on an unconscious level, in the right brain.

It follows, therefore, that if our interactions with our primary caregiver in the first two years of our lives are dysfunctional in a way that leads us to believe others do not regard us as of value and worth, we are at high risk of developing into adults who have an ingrained, deeply embedded, unconscious set of negative expectations with regard our relationships with others and our self-esteem.

In other words, such poor expectations regarding our relationships with others and low self-esteem have their foundations in a set of unconscious beliefs, stored in the right brain, that were laid down during the first two years of our lives.

Right Brain And Our Sense Of Safety :

Another feature of complex PTSD is that of a constant feeling of being unsafe and under threat. Research conducted by Schorre (2003) suggests that the sense of how safe, or unsafe, we feel is largely dictated by the right brain.

How Does Right Brain Therapy Work?

Right brain therapy can work by modifying behavior patterns encoded on an unconscious level in the right brain.

Right Brain And Implicit Memory :

Memories stored in the right brain before the age of about two years are known as IMPLICIT memories. This means we are unable to articulate them in words as they are not stored at a linguistic level. Therefore, such memories can only make themselves known to us in ways that are non-verbal (e.g. via our feelings, body sensations and mental imagery).

However, when these memories are triggered and give rise to these feelings, body sensations and mental images we are unaware of their origin for the very reason that they derive from these unconscious/implicit memories in the right brain.

Only right brain therapy then, that can modify these implicit memories on an unconscious level, may be truly effective as left brain therapy, relying on language, is unable to effectively connect with such non – linguistically stored memories.

Examples Of Right Brain Therapy :

These include :

– Art therapy

– Play therapy

– Self-hypnosis / Hypnotherapy

– Mental imagery

clinical hypnotherapy 300 100 - Right Brain Therapy : Benefits For Trauma Survivors

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

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