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Steps To Trauma Recovery

steps to trauma recovery

The psychoanalyst, Rothschild, in her excellent book ‘Keys To Safe Trauma Recovery‘, suggests that recovery from trauma entails just a handful of majo elements and I list these below. Underneath some of the elements that appear on the list I have added my own short elaborations and elucidations in terms of how each element may relate specifically to recovery from childhood trauma.

1) Recognizing that one has experienced trauma and survived it.

In the case of childhood trauma it is essential that the victim’s feelings in relation to it are validated by at least one significant other ; the psychotherapist and childhood trauma expert Alice Miller termed such a person an ‘enlightened witness’. An enlightened witness is so vital because It is not unusual for other members of the traumatized individual’s family to invalidate the his/her feelings (e.g. belittling them or dismissing them) for reasons connected to their own guilt and complicity.

2) Coming to terms with flashbacks and understanding their relationship to traumatic memories (to read my article Horowitz’s Information Processing Theory, Flashbacks And Nightmares‘, click here).

3) Self-Compassion

Many individuals suffer from IRRATIONAL feelings of self-blame and guilt in relation to their traumatic childhood experiences ; for example, a child whose parents divorce may erroneously blame him/herself for the parents’ marital breakdown. It is essential to free oneself from such inaccurate and self-destructive beliefs.

To read my article on ‘Compassion Focused Therapy For The Effects Of Childhood Trauma‘, click here.

steps to trauma recovery

4) The need to overcome feelings of shame

Closely related to self-blame and guilt, irrational feelings of shame are also extremely common amongst survivors of childhood trauma and the victim may require significant therapeutic intervention to facilitate the amelioration of such feelings.To read my article entitled ‘Shame And Its Agonizing Effects‘, click here.

5) Recovery from trauma best achieved by breaking the recovery process down into small, manageable steps.

6) Mobilizing the body out of its ‘frozen’ state

Trauma affects the body’s biological functioning and can have the effect of ‘freezing’ it into a state of physiological HYPERAROUSAL and FEAR. Exercising for about 30 minutes a day can help ‘unfreeeze’ the body, not least because it helps to return adrenaline levels to normal (those ‘frozen’ in a hyperaroused and fearful state have an excess of adrenaline coursing through their systems, contributing significantly to feelings of physical tension and associated emotional distress.

7) Deriving meaning and purpose from one’s traumatic experiences in a way that leads to self-improvement.

This essentially refers the concept of posttraumatic growth. A whole category of this site is devoted to posttraumatic growth articles (see MAIN MENU at the top of the page).

 

THERAPIES :

Therapies that can be effective for individuals who have suffered childhood trauma include ‘talking therapies’ such as counselling and psychotherapy. Also, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) can be very effective.

 

 

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

 

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Diagnosing BPD In Adolescents : Why Some Clinicians Don’t Like Doing It

diagnosing BPD in adolescents

Whilst borderline personality disorder (BPD) can be diagnosed in adolescents, some clinicians may be reluctant to do so ; I summarize some of the main reasons for this below :

– Symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD) may overlap lap to some degree with non-pathological (‘normal’) adolescent behaviors which can somewhat muddy the waters when it comes to attempting to make a clear, unambiguous and unequivocal diagnosis.

– The personality of the adolescent is still developing and is not yet fully formed

– Although it is less the case now than it was (in even the relatively recent past) a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (BPD) is still often perceived as being stigmatizing and can potentially make the adolescent feel yet worse about himself/herself when his/her self-esteem and sense of self-worth is already extremely low (low self-esteem and low sense of self-worth are hallmark symptoms of BPD).

However, some individuals also feel a great sense of relief to have a diagnosis as it helps them to understand the root causes of their dysfunctional behaviors and therefore feel less guilty (feelings of intense, irrational guilt are another hallmark symptom of BPD).

Also, of course, an accurate diagnosis helps to ensure appropriate and effective treatment is given (see RISK OF SUICIDE below); at present, the most effective treatment for BPD is considered to be dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). Whilst DBT is a therapy that was initially developed in order to help to treat adults with BPD, it is possible to adapt it to the needs of the adolescent. However, the majority of clinicians are still reluctant to make the diagnosis of BPD in young people who are under the age of eighteen years.

– Because BPD has its roots in childhood experience, it is likely that some clinicians are worried about diagnosing BPD in the adolescent in case the parents may regard it as a negative judgment upon them and therefore become upset or angry.

However, if the parents’ behavior has seriously damaged their child, then alerting them to the fact may galvanize them into making a concerted effort to improve the manner in which they treat the young person (sadly, of course, this can’t be guaranteed ; indeed. abusive parents may feel humiliated at take it out on the child).

– Because BPD sufferers tend to be gravely misunderstood, even by those entrusted with their care and treatment, some clinicians may be reluctant to diagnose adolescents with BPD in case it results in them being treated with prejudice and discriminated against by other clinicians they may come into contact with in later life,

THE RISK OF SUICIDE :

It is vital to remember that one in ten (yes, 10%) of individuals with BPD end up dying by suicide. This statistic demonstrates the vital importance of the earliest possible therapeutic intervention for those suffering from this profoundly painful and complex condition. Clearly, a prerequisite to effective treatment is sensitive, timely and accurate diagnosis.

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

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Controlling Emotions : The Emotional Regulation System

controlling emotions

We have seen from other articles that I have published on this site that if, as children, we experienced, significant and protracted trauma we are at increased risk of developing various psychological difficulties as adults, including an increased risk of developing borderline personality disorder (BPD) and complex posttraumatic  stress disorder.

One of the hallmarks of BPD, as we have also seen from other articles, is that the sufferer of the condition finds it very difficult indeed to control intense and volatile emotions. In effect, the emotional regulation system of individuals diagnosed with BPD is out of kilter and dysfunctional.

What Is The Emotional Regulation System?

The emotional regulation system is fundamentally comprised of three interacting parts of the brain ; these are as follows :

  1. THE THREAT SYSTEM (detects and reacts to threats)
  2. THE DRIVE SYSTEM (motivates us to identify and seek resources)
  3. THE SOOTHING SYSTEM  (helps balance the two systems above and engenders in us a sense of well-being, satisfaction and contentment)

Each of these three systems is neither good nor bad per seas long as they are in balance and interacting in a healthy and functional way. However, each system is vulnerable to becoming dysfunctional (as occurs in the case of those suffering from BPD, for example). TO READ ABOUT WAYS IN WHICH THESE SYSTEMS CAN BECOME DYSFUNCTIONAL AND THERAPIES THAT CAN HELP, YOU MAY LIKE TO READ ANOTHER OF MY POSTS ON THE EMOTIONAL REGULATION SYSTEM BY CLICKING HERE.

how to control emotions

THE ROLE OF NEUROPLASTICITY IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE EMOTIONAL REGULATION SYSTEM :

The way in which the brain is shaped and develops depends, to a large degree, upon our early life experiences ; this is because of a quality of the brain known as neuroplasticity which you can read about by clicking here.

Because of the brain’s neuroplasticity, if, when we are young, we are constantly exposed to fear and danger because, for example, of the abusive treatment we receive from a parent or primary care giver, the THREAT SYSTEM is at very high risk of being constantly over-activated in a way that leads it to operate in a dysfunctional manner ; this dysfunction takes the form of the fight/flight/freeze; response becoming hypersensitive, resulting in the affected individual developing grave difficulties keeping related emotions (such as anger, fear and anxiety) in check. Without appropriate therapy, such dysfunction may last well into adulthood or even for an entire lifetime.

On the other hand, if, when we are young, we experience consistent and secure love, care and emotional warmth from our parents / primary caregivers, our SOOTHING SYSTEM is ‘nourished’ and becomes optimally (or close to optimally) developed resulting in us becoming more able to cope with life’s inevitable stressors, less vulnerable to feelings of anxiety and fear, and more able to calm ourselves down and ‘self-sooth’ than those who had who were brought up in an environment in which they were constantly exposed to fear and danger.

However, even if we have had a traumatic early life and have problems regulating our emotions, there are various, simple things we can do to us control our feelings (see below).

 

  • AVOID REACTING IMMEDIATELY / IMPULSIVELY : For example, if someone triggers our anger, rather than making a reflexive response (such as saying something we’ll deeply regret later) it is better to wait until the rage has subsided – this may involve calming physiological symptoms like fast heart rate and tense muscles by using relaxation exercises such as deep breathing and visualization ; we may, therefore, need to remove ourselves for a while (if possible) from the presence of whoever it may be that has upset us.
  • MAKE POSITIVE ALTERATIONS TO THE SITUATION GIVING RISE TO OUR NEGATIVE EMOTIONS (although this will not always be feasible, of course)
  • ALTER FOCUS OF ATTENTION (e.g. undertaking a distracting activity)
  • ALTER WAY IN WHICH WE ARE THINKING ABOUT THE SITUATION : A therapy that can help with this is COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY (CBT).

USING NEUROPLASTICITY TO OUR ADVANTAGE :

Although the brain’s quality of neuroplasticity can work against us if we experience a traumatic early life, we can also take advantage of it later in life to help reverse any damage that was done to the development of our young and vulnerable brains. In order to learn more about how this may be possible, you may wish read my article MENDING THE MIND : SELF-DIRECTED NEUROPLASTICITY.

DIALECTICAL BEHAVIORAL THERAPY (DBT) :

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a therapy that was designed primarily for those who are suffering from borderline personality disorder (see above). A particularly useful skill taught within this therapy is called DISTRESS TOLERANCE which can be very helpful for those experiencing emotional distress due to intense, negative feelings.

COMPASSION FOCUSED THERAPY (CFT) :

Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) can also be an effective therapy for those suffering from emotional dysregulation.

 

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

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BPD And Psychodynamic Treatment

bpd and psychodynamic treatment

Crucial Importance Of First Five Years Of Life :

Central to psychodynamic theory, initially developed by Sigmund Freud, is the assertion that events occurring to the child between birth and five years of age have the most vital effect upon his/her psychological development.

Safe World Versus Unsafe World :

Crucially, according to psychodynamic theory, it is during these first five years of life that an individual’s view of whether the world is fundamentally safe or unsafe is formed ; which of these two opposing views the child develops depends upon the treatment s/he receives from his/her mother / primary carer – I elucidate upon this below :

  • if the child’s mother / primary carer is loving and nurturing towards him/her then s/he is likely to develop the belief that the world is an essentially safe place
  • if the child’s mother / primary carer mistreats / neglects him/her then s/he is likely to develop the belief that the world is an essentially unsafe place

The Role Of The Unconscious :

Another concept of fundamental importance to psychodynamic theory is the absolutely critical role played by the UNCONSCIOUS MIND.

According to Freud, the unconscious mind contains memories, urges, impulses, thoughts and feelings that are cut off from conscious awareness ; frequently, according to Freud, this is because they are painful, cause us mental conflict, cause us anxiety or are otherwise unacceptable to us.

However, even though these ‘banished’, ‘buried’, ‘cut off’ memories, urges, impulses,  thoughts and feelings lie outside of our conscious awareness they, nevertheless, POWERFULLY INFLUENCE HOW WE FEEL AND HOW WE BEHAVE.

The Iceberg Metaphor :

unconscious mind iceberg

The metaphor most commonly used to help explain the unconscious mind is that of the iceberg. Just a very small part of an iceberg is visible above the surface of the water and, in this way, according to Freud,  it is similar to the mind. The visible part of the iceberg represents the conscious mind, whereas by far the largest and most powerful part of the mind – the unconscious mind –  lies below the surface of the water. In other words, the visible part of the iceberg represents the conscious mind whereas the submerged part represents the unconscious mind. (The surface of the water, therefore. represents the division between the conscious and the unconscious).

Transference :

One method that can facilitate discovery of what is going on in a patient’s unconscious mind is to analyse his/her relationship with his/her therapist. It is theorized that such an analysis can be insightful due to a process in psychodynamic theory known as TRANSFERENCE that operates within the context of this relationship.

What Is Transference?

Transference can be defined as : the redirection of emotions (usually onto a therapist) that were originally felt in childhood (towards the parents and/or significant others).

To provide a simple example : the anger a patient expresses towards his/her therapist may be redirected anger that the patient originally felt towards his/her mother during childhood.

Transference Focused Therapy :

Kernberg, of New York Hospital, Cornell University, modified Freud’s original therapeutic techniques to develop TRANSFERENCE FOCUSED PSYCHOTHERAPY which involves analysis of the process of transference that occurs via the patient’s relationship with the therapist ; it is the aim of the therapy that, by such analysis, the patient’s fundamental personality disturbance may be resolved, rather than just (relatively superficial) symptoms of the presenting psychological disorder.

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

 

 

 

 

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Yoga For Complex PTSD

yoga for complex PTSD

Overcoming Trauma Through Yoga: Reclaiming Your Body

 

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 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.

developing self-acceptance

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.)

self-acceptance

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).

 

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

 

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Techniques (Evidence-Based) For Reducing Negative Thoughts.

evidence based techniques to reduce negative thoughts

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

neurocounselling

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

trauma release exercise

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

stop taking things

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)

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

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