Category Archives: Coping Strategies And Tips

PTSD, Self-Hypnosis And Positive Recontextualizing Of Intrusive Memories

According to the psychologist, Spiegel, self-hypnosis can be a useful tool to help individuals suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) overcome problems associated with the troubling symptom of disturbing, intrusive memories of the original trauma.

Spiegel states that self-hypnosis may be particularly useful because certain qualities of the hypnotic experience have much in common with qualities of the experience of the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), examples of which include :

– a feeling of reliving the traumatic event

– feelings of dissociation (detachment from reality)

– hypersensitivity to stimuli

– a disconnection between cognitive and emotional experience

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Spiegel argues that this similarity between hypnotic phenomena and the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) make sufferers of this most serious and disturbing disorder more hypnotizable than the average member of any given randomly selected population.

It follows from this that those suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be particularly likely to be helped by the utilization of hypnotic techniques and procedures, particularly ‘coupling access to dissociative traumatic memories with positive restructuring of those memories’ (Spiegel et al., 1990). By this statement, Spiegel is suggesting that hypnosis could help bring traumatic memories more fully into conscious awareness and alter the way in which they are stored in memory by associating / pairing / linking them with feelings of safety (such as the feeling of being safe and protected in the therapist’s consulting room) rather than, as had previously been the case, high levels of distress.

pack-beat-fear-anxiety

In this way, Spiegel suggests, when these previously disturbing memories are recalled in the future, because they are now associated / paired / linked with feelings of safety, they cease to induce distress.

In effect, then, the traumatic memories have become positively recontextualized  and deprived of their previous power to induce feelings of fear, anxiety and terror.

Therapies other than hypnosis and self-hypnosis that are related to the above theoretical ideas include :
1) Eye Movement Desensitization And Restructuring

2) The Rewind Technique

3) Exposure Therapy

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

 

 

 

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Reducing Amygdala-Based And Cortex-Based Anxiety

If we suffered significant childhood trauma in our youth, we are at increased risk, as adults, of suffering from anxiety – this increased risk can be due to damage the development of our brains incurred as a result of our traumatic childhood experiences.

Two regions of the brain, the development of which can be adversely affected in this way, are :

1) The cortex

2) The amygdala

Both of these brain regions play a central role in generating feelings of anxiety, but they generate this anxiety in different ways which I briefly describe below:

1) Cortex generated feelings of anxiety: feelings of anxiety that ORIGINATE in the cortex are usually due to maladaptive thought processes or distressing images; these include :

  • excessively negative thinking
  • excessive rumination/worry
  • obsessive thinking
  • perfectionist-type thinking
  • excessive self-criticism
  • catastrophization
  • thoughts leading to feelings of excessive shame and guilt
  • jumping to negative conclusions
  • erroneously interpreting neutral situations as negative situations
  • always imagining (sometimes in the form of distressing mental images)/expecting the worst possible outcome (this is sometimes referred to as anticipatory anxiety)

2) Amygdala generated feelings of anxiety : feelings of anxiety yhat ORIGINATE in the amygdala often involve :

  • sudden, unexpected feelings of aggression
  • sudden, unexpected aggressive acts (e.g. hitting someone ‘before you realize what you’ve done‘)
  • clouded/foggy thinking
  • rapid onset of physiological symptoms (sweating, racing heart-beat etc)

Different Types Of Anxiety Respond To Different Interventions

It is very useful to know whether the anxiety one experiences originates in the cortex or amygdala as some interventions are best for dealing with cortex-based anxiety whilst others are best for dealing with amygdala-based anxiety. I list these different interventions below :

Ways Of Dealing With Cortex-Based Anxiety :

  • distraction (any activity that distracts you from distressing thoughts/images)
  • try not to be concerned about what others think (if you experience anxiety in company you are likely to believe your symptoms are far more apparent to others than, in reality, they are)
  • try not to constantly worry about panic attacks (easier said then done for many, but constantly anticipating one is going to have a panic attack can increase the likelihood of such an occurrence)
  • remind yourself that the bodily sensations of anxiety cannot harm you (some people, whilst experiencing extreme anxiety, feel they are going insane or are going to die – remind yourself that feelings of anxiety can’t harm you in this way)
  • cognitive-behavioural therapy (a therapy that helps correct faulty and maladaptive ways of thinking)

Ways Of Dealing With Amygdala-Based Anxiety :

  • deep breathing exercises
  • physical exercise
  • systematic muscle relaxation exercises
  • mindfulness
  • self-hypnosis

eBooks :

     depression and anxiety

 

Above eBooks now available from Amazon for instant download. Click here.

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

 

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Is Freud Still Relevant To The Understanding Of Effects Of Childhood Trauma?

Freud and childhood trauma

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) is the founder of psychodynamic psychotherapy (sometimes called depth therapy). Its most central theory is that our behaviour and feelings are driven by unconscious forces and motivations. In other words, we do not know why we behave and feel as we do (even though we may think we do) because the majority of our mental life goes on in the unconscious and is generally not available to our conscious minds. To provide a simple example:

  • A boy was thrown out of the house of his parents when he was thirteen years old; a few years later he is at a friend’s house with whom he has an argument – this culminates in the friend telling him to get out of his house and the boy who was thrown out by his parents hits him.

The psychodynamic explanation here may be that being told to leave his friend’s house unconsciously triggered the memory and associated pain of having been thrown out of his parents’ house, hence his (seemingly, on the surface) dramatic ‘over-reaction.’

It is true that Freud was unscientific in forming his theories (he himself accepted that much of his work was ‘speculative’). It is also true that very few psychodynamic therapists working today are strict Freudians. However, just because a proportion of his work may well be reasonably rejected as therapeutically unhelpful, this by no means implies that all of his insights should be dismissed.

Indeed, it was Freud who opened society’s eyes to the fact that our early life experiences (and, most especially, our early life relationship with our primary carers) have a dramatic impact upon adult lives.

Above : Sigmund Freud (1856-1939).

Other important ideas he had, which remain useful today include :

  • the repetition compulsion : The theory of the repetition compulsion is that we are unconsciously driven to repeat painful experiences from our childhood (so, for example, a woman who was abused by her father as a child may be unconsciously driven, as an adult, to become repeatedly involved in relationships with abusive men).

Or, to take another example, a man who was rejected by his parents as a child may be unconsciously driven to sabotage all his adult friendships and relationships to a degree that ensures he will continue to be yet further rejected.

On the surface, the idea that we are unconsciously motivated to re-experience painful episodes in our lives seems odd, but you can read about the psychodynamic reasoning behind it by clicking here).

  • the importance of dreams : Freud believed that by analysing the content of our dreams we could gain an insight into our unconscious mental conflicts; in fact, he described dream analysis as ‘the royal road to the unconscious’.
  • early relationships with primary carers heavily influence our view of our adult relationships (e.g. if our parents rejected us we may believe, as adults, that we are completely unlovable and that we will inevitably continue to be rejected by others even though, in reality, this is not the case – psychoanalysts call this phenomenon ‘transference.’

 

Modern day psychodynamic psychotherapists/ psychologists place far more importance on the relationship between the patient and therapist than was the case for strictly Freudian psychodynamic psychotherapy (strict Freudians barely interact with their patients, instead spending the majority of treatment sessions silently listening to what their patient says – more modern psychodynamic psychotherapists, on the other hand, are far less aloof and more informal).

Some individuals still opt for treatment by traditional, strict Freudian therapists, although this may involve several sessions per week and go on for years, hence it is extremely expensive. The American actor/writer/director, Woody Allen (now in his eighties) famously spent thirty years in this type of therapy but claimed it did him little good.

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

 

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Resentment : Effects Of Holding Onto It

If we experienced significant childhood trauma, it is quite understandable that we may harbor feelings of deep resentment. However, such feelings can serve only to prolong and intensify the mental pain we feel. Below is a fairly well-known quote that encapsulates this idea :

‘Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die’. 

– Malachy McCourt

Feelings of resentment against another usually build up over a long period of time, often years. If we are still in contact with the person we resent, these feelings may be triggered by present events (such as again being let down by the person), perhaps giving rise to anger that seems, objectively, disproportionate to the current provocation but reflects the intensity of the omnipresent, latent, resentful sentiments that underlie this anger.

Indeed, feeling resentful involves constantly replaying and reliving in our minds the wrong that was done to us and so it can potentially give rise to strong emotional and visceral responses.

The reason we feel resentful against another person may be due to acts of commission (what someone did to us) or acts of omission (what someone failed to do for us), or both.

Feelings of resentment can torment us and make it impossible for us to achieve any semblance of peace of mind. We may, too, displace our feelings of resentment onto others, making us cynical, suspicious and incapable of forming meaningful and reparative new relationships.

So why do we hold onto feelings of resentment?

We may hold onto our feelings of resentment out of a sense of ‘moral integrity’ and a conviction that it would somehow be ‘against justice’ to allow our resentful feelings to abate (in other words, we may firmly believe that our feelings of resentment are ‘just’, therefore to jettison such feelings would be ‘unjust’).

Indeed, we may be of the view that to forgive the perpetrator would show us to be weak and make us vulnerable to incurring yet further psychological damage.

Or we may feel that to let go of our resentment would in some way seem to diminish the seriousness with which we feel the offence against us should be taken – rather like saying what we experienced ‘wasn’t that bad after all’ (which would constitute self-invalidation).

Finally, by hanging onto our resentment we may create for ourselves the illusion that we have more control and power over what happened to us than we actually do.

What Can We Do To Free Ourselves From Such Self-Destructive Feelings Of Resentment?

The bottom line is that tenaciously holding onto resentment, like a snarling pit-bull terrier with a cyanide-laced bone, is often extremely self-defeating and can act as an insurmountable obstacle between us and recovery.

To overcome feelings of resentment it can be useful :

1) to remind ourselves that our resentment may be negatively colouring our view of others, the future and the world in general

2) to remind ourselves that we might be displacing our feelings of resentment onto others who do not deserve to be treated badly, spoiling our relationships

3) to view our insistence on clinging onto our feelings of resentment as a kind of addiction or obsession which needs to be overcome

4) to remind ourselves that the stress and mental anguish our resentment causes us is almost certainly not worth it, especially as we cannot change the wrong that was committed against us and that our resentment is likely to be hurting us much more than the person we resent

5) to consider undergoing a therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help us think less negatively

6) to remind ourselves that our belief that our feelings of resentment make us more powerful, in control and strong is likely to be an illusion

7) to remind ourselves that staying resentful, in many ways, allows the perpetrator to continue to make us unhappy, thus giving him/her continued power over us

8) to consider forgiving the perpetrator

Resources:

Self-hypnosis MP3s/CDs:

 

LET GO OF THE PAST – click here for more details.

DON’T HOLD GRUDGES – click here for more details.

 

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

 

 

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Self-Soothing : Three Categories Of Techniques

If we experienced significant childhood trauma, particularly if we have gone on to develop conditions such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) or complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) as a result, we may frequently find ourselves caught up in painful thought processes, negative introspection and distressing emotions. On top of this, our ability to calm, comfort and soothe ourselves, especially when experiencing emotions like intense anger, fear and anxiety, may have been seriously compromised by our stressful childhood experiences.

Unfortunately, if we have not learned how to sooth ourselves in healthy ways, we may have been relying on dysfunctional ways of calming and comforting ourselves which are self-destructive in the long-term such as heavy smoking, excessive drinking, narcotics, gambling.

Therapists treating such individuals often encourage their patients to gradually replace their ultimately self-destructive coping techniques by cultivating positive, alternative and healthy self-soothing techniques that help them to refocus their attention away from their disturbing thoughts and feelings (for example, the teaching of self-soothing techniques forms part of dialectical behaviour therapy).

These self-soothing techniques fall into three broad categories : a) very simple techniques that require no equipment; b) simple techniques that require only minimal equipment; c) techniques that require an investment of considerable time and effort.

Below, I provide examples of self-soothing techniques which fall into each of these three categories:

a) Very simple self-soothing techniques that require no equipment :

Examples include :

– systematic tensing, followed by systematic relaxing. of each of the major muscle groups in turn

– deep, slow breathing (the opposite is shallow, fast breathing which is both results from  anxiety and  aggravates it, thus creating a vicious cycle; at its extreme it is referred to as hyperventilation which itself is a symptom of panic attacks).

– self-affirmations (either thinking them or saying them out loud if by oneself)

– counting (eg counting down from 100 in threes either in one’s mind or out loud if on one’s own – this is sometimes called ‘thought blocking’ and can be used to temporarily ‘block out’ distressing thoughts)

– recalling pleasant memories

– imagining oneself in a very safe, secure and comforting place (see note at the end of this article)

 

b)  Simple self-soothing techniques that require only minimal equipment :

Examples include :

– reading

– writing (eg creative writing or writing a diary)

– listening to cathartic music

– skipping rope

– work / academic studies

c) Self-soothing techniques that require an investment of considerable time and effort :

Examples include :

– training for a sport

– learning a musical instrument

– learning to paint / draw

Another way of categorizing self-soothing techniques, concentrating upon PHYSICAL techniques that sooth the mind by soothing the body, is by organizing them in groups which correspond to our five physical senses, namely :

  1. TOUCH
  2. TASTE
  3. SIGHT
  4. HEARING
  5. SMELL

Again, I provide examples of self-soothing techniques that fall into each of these five categories below:

1) TOUCH :

For example, stroking a pet, taking a warm bath, using a foot spa, cuddling a soft toy.

2) TASTE :

For example, cooking a favourite meal and savouring it.

3) SIGHT :

For example, visiting a beauty spot

4) HEARING :

For example, soothing sounds in nature such as bird song, flowing water, breaking waves

5) SMELL :

For example, scented candles, aroma therapy

NOTE : Internal, mental visualization of a safe place, using self-hypnosis, can also be a very effective way of self-soothing. Click here for more information.

 

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

 

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Overcoming Early Life Insecure Attachment

effects of insecure attachment

As we have seen in other posts that I have published on this site, some babies are prevented from forming a secure attachment (bond) with their mother and this can have disastrous effects upon their future mental health.

What Can Cause An Insecure Attachment To Develop Between The Mother And Baby?

There are numerous reasons why this failure in healthy bonding between the mother and baby may occur, including:

– the mother being an alcoholic/drug addict

– the mother suffering from clinical depression

– the mother being abusive

– neglect

– the baby being separated from the primary carer (eg due to divorce, hospitalization, death)

(The list provided above is not intended to be exhaustive).

The Adverse Effects Of The Development Of An Insecure Attachment Between The Mother And Baby:

Whether or not a secure attachment is created between the mother and her baby has very serious implications as the quality of the attachment effects how the baby’s brain physically develops.

If a secure attachment has not been achieved, the child is at risk of going on to develop poor self-esteem, difficulties forming and maintaining relationships with others, problems with trusting others, an inability to effectively ‘self-sooth’ and reduced ability to cope with stress / weakened resilience.

Compensatory / Alternative Attachments :

However, if the child has had a bad start in life and has not been able to form a secure attachment with the mother, s/he still has the possibility of forming compensatory /alternative attachments with:

  1. Other Individuals
  2. Institutions, clubs, societies, groups
  3. Pets
  4. ‘Site Attachments’

Let’s look at each of these in turn:

1) Other individuals :

Such as friends, members of extended family etc

2)  Institutions, clubs, societies, groups :

Such as sports clubs, political societies, social clubs etc

3) Pets :

Mammals like cats, dogs and rabbits have a need to bond as we do. Also, stroking a pet is soothing and can have beneficial physiological effects (such as reducing heart rate and lowering blood pressure). However, bonds with pets should not substitute completely for necessary human relationships. ) I myself have a rabbit (called Rambo) who hops around my flat and is currently in the process of gnawing his way through all my furniture

 4) ‘Site attachments’ (familiar/comforting/soothing places of perceived safety and security):

It is also possible to become attached to places (this is sometimes referred to by psychologists as ‘site attachment’).

Children tend to have special ‘safe-havens’ that they can retreat to in times of distress (such as a bedroom, ‘den’ or friend’s house).

Adults, too, may have their own preferred retreats (such as a garden shed or allotment).

It is also possible to retreat into ‘a place of safety’ in one’s imagination; a particularly powerful and effective way of achieving this is through the use of self-hypnosis and visualization.

 

If sufficient compensatory / alternative attachments are made and these are stable, reliable and of good quality, the individual can still move from insecure attachment to secure attachment.

RESOURCES:

Downloadable MP3 self-hypnosis audio :

Develop a ‘safe place’ in your imagination with self-hypnosis. Click here.

eBook :

Above eBook now available for instant download on Amazon. Click here.

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

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Alleviating Depression With Self-Hypnosis.

hypnosis for depression

We have seen from many other articles that I have published on this site that those of us who have suffered significant childhood trauma are at increased risk of developing depression (as well as many other psychiatric conditions) in adulthood than those who had relatively happy and stable childhoods (all else being equal).

One method that can help to reduce feelings of depression, especially when used in conjunction with other therapies such as pharmacology and psychotherapy, is self-hypnosis.

One of the main prevailing theories of the cause of depression is that it arises due to imbalances in certain brain chemicals (called neurotransmitters), in particular serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.

 

What Is The Function Of These Brain Chemicals?

 – Serotonin is thought to be involved with appetite, digestion, social behaviour, sexual desire, sexual function, sleep, memory and mood.

 – Norepinephrine is thought to be involved with the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response.

 – Dopamine is thought to play a very important role in internal reward-motivated behaviour (eg the pleasurable feelings generated by sex or a large gambling win).

In order to attempt to correct this chemical imbalance, and thus alleviate depressive symptoms, medications are frequently prescribed. Unfortunately, however, not everyone finds them effective.

Another way to alter the brain’s chemical balance in those suffering from depression, research has shown, is by self-suggestion, as used in self-hypnosis, and by altering a person’s level of expectancy regarding their recovery (which plays a major role, of course, in the placebo effect); both of these phenomena have their foundations in the well known phenomenon of  mind-body connection.

Indeed, self-hypnosis combined with psychotherapy and/or drug therapy may be a particularly effective way of alleviating depressive symptoms.

Depression can also be exacerbated by loneliness or due to poor relationships with significant others (an illustrative example of this is that, on average, married people are significantly less likely (some research suggests up to 70% less likely) to suffer from depression compared with their non-married counterparts; here, again, self-hypnosis can be of use in order to assist us to  improve our interpersonal relationships by, for example, helping to repair our disrupted unconscious processes, allowing us to be more able to give and receive love/affection, making us less withdrawn, and reducing tendencies to judge ourselves and others in an overly negative manner.

Related Resources :

depression and anxiety

Above eBook now available on Amazon for instant download. Click here.

 

Self-Hypnosis Downloadable Audio MP3s:

 

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

 

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Basic Human Emotional Needs

basic human emotional needs

We have seen from numerous other articles that I have published on this site that if we suffered significant childhood trauma we are at much increased risk, as adults, of developing various psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, complex post traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism / drug addiction.

These mental illnesses can lead to a whole host of behavioral problems such as an inability to control emotions and unstable personal interaction, especially with intimate partners.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that, due to such problems, many of our emotional needs may fail to be met.

But what are our basic human emotional needs? I list some of the main ones below:

 

A LIST OF SOME BASIC HUMAN EMOTIONAL NEEDS (in no particular order) :

Image result for unmet emotional needs

A CAPACITY TO TRUST : this includes both being able to trust others and trust oneself

OPTIMISM / HOPE FOR THE FUTURE : having the ability to adopt a positive mental attitude whilst guarding against unrealistically high expectations

A MEANINGFUL LIFE PURPOSE : including meaningful work and relationships

CONTRIBUTION TO SOCIETY / OTHERS : having a sense of ‘giving something back’ in life

CONNECTION TO SOCIETY / OTHERS : feeling connected to one’s community, culture, family, friends and society in general

ABILITY TO ADAPT / FLEXIBILITY : having good coping abilities when things work out less then ideally / not as one expected

SENSE OF CONTROL / PERSONAL AUTONOMY : having freedom of choice and being able to direct one’s own life / confidence to make one’s own decisions

A CAPACITY FOR SELF-ACCEPTANCE : including being in touch with, and respectful of, one’s own needs and being compassionate with oneself when one makes mistakes

FREEDOM FOR SELF-EXPRESSION / AUTHENTIC LIVING : not being afraid to be oneself and being able to express that self free of fear or intimidation

STATUS AND RECOGNITION : being treated as an equal and being accepted for oneself ; not being treated as inferior / beneath others / as a ‘second class citizen’

FEELING SAFE AND SECURE : this includes feeling safe within one’s family and in one’s personal space and being free from fear of physical or psychological attack/intimidation

LOVE AND AFFECTION : this includes being able to both give and receive love and affection

(NB. this list is not intended to be exhaustive)

 

Of course, different individuals will attach different degrees of importance to the above emotional needs.

WHY MIGHT OUR EMOTIONAL NEEDS REMAIN UNMET?

Accepting, admitting (both to ourselves and to others) and facing up to our unmet emotional needs can feel very awkward, uncomfortable or painful. Indeed, we may avoid thinking about them, or distract ourselves from them by, for example, working excessively hard (sometimes informally referred to as ‘workaholism‘) albeit, perhaps, with a constant, inner, vague aching sensation for something of fundamental value missing from our lives (even though we may not be consciously aware of, much of the time, what that ‘something‘ is), creating a sense of emptiness.

A certain amount of courage may, therefore, be required if we are to set about trying to meet our thus far unsatisfied emotional needs, whether we attempt to do it with the aid of a professional therapist, through self-help, or through a combination of the two.

Related Resources:

Get in touch with your emotions – click here

Improve self-acceptance – click here

Learn to trust again – click here

Control your emotions – click here

Increase positivity – click here

Accept love – click here

Develop optimism – click here

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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