Category Archives: Coping Strategies And Tips

Exciting Early Research Findings on the Medication Propranolol’s (a Beta-Blocker) Effectiveness for Treating Symptoms of Trauma.

Recent studies on the beneficial effects of the beta-blocker medication PROPRANOLOL on REDUCING THE ADVERSE SYMPTOMS OF TRAUMA are very encouraging and exciting.

One study, by Dr Roger Pitman, involving 22 patients, found that anxiety associated with trauma was greatly reduced in those patients given the drug compared with those who were not given it.

In another study, conducted in France, it was found that anxiety in patients suffering the effects of trauma was halved compared to those patients to whom the drug was not administered.

HOW IS THE BETA-BLOCKER PROPRANOLOL THOUGHT TO WORK?

What is particularly exciting about this drug is that it is thought to actually WEAKEN THE NEURAL MEMORY TRACE OF THE MEMORY ITSELF.

The drug blocks beta receptors in the brain, reducing the effects of adrenaline on neurons (neurons are brain cells).

The drug works on the SYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM which has the effect of reducing physiological symptoms associated with anxiety such as a pounding, racing heart and rapid, shallow breathing (also known as hyperventilation).

Individuals suffering from the effects of trauma often report having vivid and intense memories of the traumatic event/s. It is thought that the drug addresses this problem by acting on the memory trace, causing it to fade away and decay normally, thus greatly weakening its grip on the individual and ameliorating symptoms of anxiety.

One study has even demonstrated that just a single dose of propranolol, in certain, specific cases, can be of benefit (although it is usually prescribed over the long-term).

FURTHER RESEARCH:

As stated above, research into the uses of this drug to treat the effects of trauma is at an early stage; more studies are being conducted. It should be pointed out, though, that the drug is not effective in every case.

Anyone considering taking the medication should discuss it with their doctor.

Best wishes, David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Borderline Personality Disorder: Raising Our Self-Esteem.

Borderline Personality Disorder: Raising Our Self-Esteem.

WHAT IS THE EFFECT OF THINKING BADLY ABOUT OURSELVES?

Individuals with low self-esteem constantly criticize themselves. We may even META-CRITICIZE ourselves (criticize ourselves for criticizing ourselves). We oftemn focus on mistakes and over-generalize from them, believing that these mistakes completely define us as a person (thus losing perspective and ignoring the positive things about ourselves; in other words, being biased against ourselves, often because we have been programmed to dislike ourselves during childhood).

This faulty thinking style leads to depression, guilt and low confidence. We may think of ourselves as: -stupid -unlikeable -inferior -weak -incompetent etc,etc…

We need to question our negative beliefs about ourselves and ask ourselves: ARE WE CONFUSING OUR THOUGHTS ABOUT OURSELVES WITH THE ACTUAL FACTS? One of the biggest dangers of self-criticism is that it can PARALYZE and DEMORALIZE us, taking away our confidence to try to develop ourselves in life. We feel doomed to perpetual, unremitting failure.

CONSTANTLY CRITICIZING OURSELVES IS UNFAIR:

We would not follow a friend around all day and focus his attention on his every little mistake by loudly announcing it to the exclusion of everything else, so why do we think it fair to do it to ourselves – undermining ourselves, chipping further away at our own precarious confidence?

CONSTANT SELF-CRITICISM IS COMPLETELY UNREALISTIC:

Often, we criticize ourselves with the benefit of hindsight – overlooking the fact that it was not possible to have this perspective at the time, and that we reacted AS THINGS APPEARED TO US THEN.

When we criticize ourselves in RETROSPECT, we do so with the benefit of information that was not available to us at the time we acted. CONSTANT SELF-CRITICISM PREVENTS US FROM LEARNING:

By constantly criticizing ourselves we take away our confidence to tackle problems in the future that could help develop us as a person; we keep ourselves ‘stuck’. We learn much better by PRAISING OURSELVES FOR WHAT WE DO RIGHT, NOT CRITICIZING OURSELVES FOR WHAT WE DO WRONG.

If we conclude we’re a hopeless failure, condemned to be eternally incompetent and useless, when we get things wrong, we will lose all incentive to perservere and make constructive changes in our lives.

CONSTANT SELF-CRITICISM IS MASOCHISTIC:

By constantly criticizing ourselves, we are kicking ourselves when we are down. We might be criticizing ourselves for such things as lacking confidence or always being miserable. It is important to remember, though, that other people, too, would probably see themselves in the same way if they had had the same experiences as us. It is a NATURAL and COMMON response to stressful events and does not mean that there is anything fundamentally wrong with us.

OVERCOMING OUR CRITICAL THOUGHTS:

-Spotting our self-critical thoughts: self-critical thoughts can become automatic, a routine we have never actively tried to change. We may not even have considered that we can change, assuming they were an essential and intransigent part of our nature.

But changing the way we think about ourselves changes the way we feel and behave, so it is necessary for us to stop being so hard on ourselves and focus much more on our positive qualities an our potential to grow as a person as we would like to.

We need to stop feeling excessive guilt and disappointment in ourselves and realize such thoughts are most probably the result of depressed, faulty self-judgments and do not accurately reflect the person we actually are.

We need to gradually distance ourselves from these erroneous, negative self-descriptions that we have, up until the time we undertake to change, imposed upon ourselves.

Challenging our negative thoughts about ourselves:

When we have negative thoughts about ourselves we can do the following:

-tell ourselves our thoughts about ourselves could be completely mistaken, unrealistic and unfair. Also, they may be caused by an irrational guilt complex and a subsequent unconscious wish to punish ourselves.

-concentrate on all the evidence AGAINST our negative view of ourselves.

-consider other perspectives: are we taking the most negative one possible?

-remind ourselves that our negative thoughts are keeping us stuck in our life situation, making us too depressed, unmotivated and lacking necessary confidence to develop our full potential and to change our lives for the better.

-remind ourselves that we are almost certainly judging ourselves too harshly; much more harshly, say, than we would judge a friend. -remind ourselves that it is irrational to write ourselves off as a person due to some past mistakes and weaknesses. -make more of our strengths and less of our weaknesses.

-stop feeling disproportionately guilty about mistakes made in relation to great stress.

RESOURCES

TEN STEPS TO SOLID SELF-ESTEEM MP3CLICK HERE

CHALLENGING NEGATIVE THOUGHTS MP3CLICK HERE

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

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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

How Adult Children can Manage Their Relationship with Parents who have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Part 1.

How Adult Children can Manage Their Relationship with Parents who have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Part 1.

Some of us experienced childhood trauma due to a parent being unstable. As has been described in previous posts, BPD causes great instability in individuals, which can have a very serious impact on that individual’s child/ren, so some of us who experienced childhood trauma may have grown up with a parent with BPD. This could have contributed to ourselves developing similar problems, or, even, to us developing BPD ourselves. However, whatever the state of our mental health, as adults now ourselves, we need to know the best way to manage our relationship with BPD parent/s in the present, and, also, understand what effect our parent/s condition may have had on our own lives. This is of particular interest to me as I was brought up by a highly volatile and extremely unstable mother.

POSSIBLE EFFECTS ON THE CHILD OF A PARENT WITH BPD:

Parents with BPD can lack the necessary resources to bring their children up – in the worst case scenario, this may lead to neglect and/or abuse.

Children of BPD parents have frequently grown up in a highly unstable emotional atmosphere, have witnessed highly distressing behaviour in their parent/s, and, often, have been on the receiving end of extreme hostility, expressed verbally and/or physically. Further, they may have been exploited by their parent/s burdening them with their own emotional problems. My own mother, for example, used me, essentially, as her own private counsellor from when I was about 10 or 11- years- old, and would, on top of this, very often be terrifyingly verbally aggressive and hostile.

With experiences such as these, as adults, we can feel that our childhoods were stolen from us and we may go on to enter a kind of mourning for the childhood we never had.

Being brought up with a parent with BPD leads to a much higher probability of us developing the following problems:

alcoholism – illicit drug use
– depression
anxiety – suicidal feelings/ suicide attempts/ suicide
– behavioural problems eg impulse control
– personality/emotional disorders

Indeed, this is not altogether surprising when it is reflected upon that, as children, we may have been exposed to many long, painful, distressing years of intense conflict and arguments, threats (eg of violence, or, as in my own case, of abandoment),and unpredictable, unstable and highly volatile emotions.

Whilst we may feel deep resentment for the way in which we were treated, not infrequently necessitating professional support to deal with it, it is necessary, also, to keep in mind that our parent/s with BPD have developed it due to their own personal histories,including psychological, biological and social factors. However, this is cold comfort when we are children struggling to understand ourselves and living in a permanent state of acute distress.

POSSIBLE IMPACT OF A PARENT’S BPD ON THE CHILD:

1) The parent’s impulsivity: this could include alcohol, drugs, gambling etc causing enormous anxiety in the child and possibly in him/her developing similar problems in later life (due to the psychological concept known as ‘modelling’).

2) The parent’s dependency on child: for example, the parent may become emotionally dependent upon the child, using him/her as their personal counsellor, which can lead to the child feeling overwhelmed with concern, responsibility and anxiety, leading later to anger and resentment.

3) The parent’s volatility, instability and unpredictability: this, again, often leads to the child developing extreme anxiety and deep concerns about being abandoned – causing long-term, deeply ingrained insecurity (the parent may threaten to send the child away to live with relatives or to live in the care system).

4) The parent’s threats of suicide: again, this can lead to the child experiencing acute anxiety, possibly leading, later down the line, to the individual developing his/her own self-harming or suicidal behaviour.

5) The parent’s ambiguity towards the child: technically, this is known as ‘SPLITTING’- being consumed with passionate hatred towards the child one day, but then giving him/her extravagant praise the next – these polarized attitudes towards the child vascillating in a deeply confusing fashion. This will often lead the child to have an extremely unstable identity and self-concept – sometimes feeling they are better than others, but, at other times, feeling worthless, inferior and consumed with self-hatred. Thus, the child can grow up not quite ‘knowing who he/she is’.

This is not an exhaustive list, but, as I am trying to keep these posts to a manageable length and avoid swamping the reader with information, the picture the examples give, I think, is sufficient as an introduction.

In PART 2- I will look at suggested ways to manage our problematic relationships with our BPD parents.

If you would like to view an infographic on the relationship between having a mother with BPD and risk of suicidal behavior, please click here.

How Adult Children can Manage Their Relationship with Parents who have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Part 1.How Adult Children can Manage Their Relationship with Parents who have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Part 1.How Adult Children can Manage Their Relationship with Parents who have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Part 1.

The above eBooks are now available for immediate download on Amazon. $4.99. CLICK HERE.

Best wishes, David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Psychotherapeutic Interventions That Research Suggests Are Helpful For Individuals Suffering with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

Psychotherapeutic Interventions That Research Suggests Are Helpful For Individuals Suffering with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

A quick search of the internet reveals a very large range of therapies on offer which purport to treat BPD effectively. Indeed, the sheer range of putative treatments can seem confusing and overwhelming.

It is for this reason that I concentrate on just six treatments which research suggests are the most beneficial.

Let’s look at each of these in turn:

1) MENTALIZATION-BASED THERAPY (MBT).

My previous post on BPD referred to how people suffering from it have difficulties with how they are attached to (ie how they relate to) PRIMARY CARE GIVERS (eg parents). This can manifest itself in ATTACHMENT DISORDERS (which I also looked at in my last post) making other relationships they develop in adult life very difficult, volatile, complex, painful and distressing.

MBT seeks to help the person understand the roots of these difficulties and how their feelings and behaviours may be impacting on their relationships which in turn makes these relationships problematic.

Research shows that outcomes of MBT treatment have so far been very encouraging.

As well as reducing relationship problems, the therapy has also been found to lessen the likelihood of suicidal ideation ( thoughts and plans about suicide) and hospitalizations. Also, it has been shown to improve day-to-day functioning.

2) SCHEMA THERAPY.

Schemas are deeply entrenched beliefs relating to both oneself and the world in general. In people with BPD, these schema can be extremely negative (inaccurately so) and very unhelpful (or, to use a more technical term, MALADAPTIVE) to the individual who holds them.

Very often, they stem from a negative mindset which developed during the individual’s early life, due to, in no small part, childhood trauma. It is worth repeating that these negative schema can be very deeply ingrained and colour the individual’s entire outlook on life.

Schema therapy seeks to change these maladaptive schema into more adaptive (helpful) ones.

Treatment can be very lengthy, but there is strong evidence that it can significantly reduce symptoms of BPD.

Research into this type of treatment remains ongoing and I will report on any significant developments.

3) TRANSFERENCE-FOCUSED PSYCHOTHERAPY (TFP).

It is certainly worth first defining the psychotherapeutic idea of TRANSFERENCE:

it may be defined as: THE INAPPROPRIATE REPETITION IN THE PRESENT OF A RELATIONSHIP THAT WAS IMPORTANT TO THE PERSON’S CHILDHOOD.

For example, if our parents hurt, exploited or rejected us as children, in adult life we might feel that everyone we get to know will do the same, but without evidence that this will be the case (we are basing our view on a past relationship which is now not relevant).

The treatment aims to help individuals stop viewing present relationships in a rigid way determined by their painful past and show them that they could be misperceiving their present interactions with others ( including the therapist, as often individuals transfer the feelings they had for their parents as children -eg resentment- onto the therapist in the present).
Research, so far, has shown positive results and remains ongoing.

4) COGNITIVE THERAPY.

Cognitive therapy has long been known to be a very effective treatment for conditions such as anxiety and depression, and it is now being increasingly used to treat BPD. Studies of its effectiveness in relation to this have, so far, been encouraging.

One advantage of cognitive therapy is that it often leads to very significant improvements over quite short treatment periods. I myself underwent cognitive therapy and found it very beneficial.

Cognitive therapy focuses on correcting faulty, distorted, negative thinking styles relating to how we view ourselves, the world and the future. I write in more detail about cognitive therapy in the EFFECTS OF CHILDHOOD TRAUMA category of my blog.

5) DIALECTIC BEHAVIOUR THERAPY (DBT).

The studies on this therapy have , so far, given mixed results. It has been shown, though, in several pieces of research, to reduce the likelihood of suicide attempts in the individual undergoing treatment (the risk of suicide in people suffering from BPD without treatment is high).

Also, after a year of treatment, individuals report a more general improvement in their condition, but, unfortunately, often are still left with significant levels of distress. More studies are required, and, indeed, are being conducted to see if longer treatment periods yield better outcomes. I will report on any significant developments in this area.

DBT draws on psychotherapy, group therapy, meditation, elements of Buddhism and cognitive-behaviour therapy. More research needs to be conducted on the therapy to discover which of its varied components are the most effective in treating BPD. Again, I will report on significant developments.

6) MEDICATION.

Whilst there is, at the moment, no obvious, single medication to treat the whole range of BPD symptoms equally effectively, there are, nevertheless, established medications which can help with some of the symptoms the BPD sufferer might experience, such as anxiety and depression. This is, though, of course, the province of GPs and psychiatrists.

Psychotherapeutic Interventions That Research Suggests Are Helpful For Individuals Suffering with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)..  Psychotherapeutic Interventions That Research Suggests Are Helpful For Individuals Suffering with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

Above eBooks now available on Amazon for immediate download. $4.99 each. CLICK HERE.

Best wishes, David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Childhood Trauma and Self-Harm : How it can be Addressed.

Childhood Trauma and Self-Harm : How it can be Addressed.

Three key elements to reducing our risk of harming ourselves are:

1) distracting our thoughts away from self-harm
2) reducing the intensity of our emotional arousal to levels which we are able to manage
3) dealing with internal critical ‘voices’ (ie thought processes).

However, as self-harming is often deeply ingrained, we cannot expect instantaneous results. It needs working at.

Let’s look at each of the 3 elements in turn:

1) DISTRACTION: these can be very simple things such as listening to music, watching a movie, going for a walk or a run, reading, calling a friend, browsing the internet, doing something creative like art or craft (eg making a collage), taking a bath, and keeping a journal or diary (including writing down our feelings).

2) REDUCING THE INTENSITY OF OUR EMOTIONAL AROUSAL: one way to do this is to get the painful emotion out. Again, there are simple ways to accomplish this. They include: going for a run, punching a punch bag (or even a pillow), writing a letter to, for example, our parents (without actually sending it), writing out our feelings in a journal, calling a crisis line, going to an online chatline/support group and sharing our feelings, writing poetry about how we feel, playing moving music/crying.

RELEASING ANGER SAFELY:

Sometimes our anger can overwhelm us, so it is important to be able to discharge it in a safe way. Those of us who have experienced childhood trauma have very frequently been taught to blame ourselves. This can result in remaining angry at ‘the child within us’. It is therefore necessary to realize:

a) this child did nothing wrong and does not deserve our anger.
b) the anger needs to be appropriately and safely redirected at those who caused our childhood trauma (in a way which is not destructive to ourselves or them).
c) FEELING angry is not the same as EXPRESSING anger, so does no harm: so we don’t need to fear these angry feelings.
d)we need to stop repressing or misdirecting our anger (at those who do not deserve it – known as DISPLACEMENT in psychodynamic theory) as this can lead to it becoming obsessive.
e) we need to learn to express our anger safely, appropriately and positively. For example, writing a letter we have no intention of sending in order to release our pent up feelings, taking up Judo or a martial art, role playing with a friend or counsellor ( saying to him/her what we would like to say to those who caused our childhood trauma).

SOME DOs AND DON’Ts RELATED TO ANGER:

DO:

A acknowledge anger
N nip it in the bud
G get help for your anger if necessary (eg anger management classes)
E express anger constructively
R release anger appropriately and let it go

DON’T:

A avoid it
N numb it with food/ illicit drugs/alcohol etc
G grin and grit your teeth (ie suppress it as it will just ‘fester’)
E explode
R rationalize it (ie explain it away)

3) DEALING WITH OUR INTERNAL CRITICAL ‘VOICES’: growing up with negative parents leaves many of us with a lot of negative messages running around our heads – we may have had horrible things said about us so often that we have INTERNALIZED them (ie come to see them as true so they form the basis of our self-concept). As adults, we first need to acknowledge that we have these self-lacerating thoughts. This is because the attempt to ignore them can paradoxically make them all the more intense and tenacious.

We may come to notice triggers for these thoughts. For example, if someone is just slightly off-hand with us we may feel we must be a horrible person who everyone will always reject as a matter of course. The root of this may be that we were rejected by one or both of our parents. Being able to trace our self-critical thoughts back to their roots in such a way, and, therefore, understand their triggers, can reduce their intensity of them quite considerably.

In order to retrain the way we think about ourselves, it is helpful, every time we have a negative thought about ourselves, to replace it with a positive one. It can be helpful, too, to write those positive messages down and to keep them somewhere they can easily be retrieved so that we can, on occasion, read through them. It is even possible to make an audio file of them and listen to them occasionally.

As time goes on, it is necessary to let our self-critical messages go and to stop emotionally tormenting ourselves – instead, we need to treat ourselves with compassion.

When individuals come to the point that they are ready to stop hurting themselves with self-critical messages, some make a kind of ritual out of it such as writing down all the negative thoughts they used to have about themselves on a piece of paper and then burning it or tearing it up and throwing it away.

In summary, then, we need to realize that we have absolutely nothing whatsoever to gain, for either ourselves or others, by constantly emotionally torturing ourselves. It is necessary, instead, to start treating ourselves with the love and compassion which may well have been denied us in childhood. We can give ourselves the love and compassion the child within us deserves.

Childhood Trauma and Self-Harm : How it can be Addressed.Childhood Trauma and Self-Harm : How it can be Addressed.Childhood Trauma and Self-Harm : How it can be Addressed.

Above eBooks now available on Amazon for immediate download. $4.99 each. CLICK HERE.

Best Wishes,

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

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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT) And My Experience of It.

Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT) And My Experience of It.

 

Childhood trauma can lead us to become severely clinically depressed as adults, and this happened to me. Electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) is only used as a last resort on people who are at high risk of suicide and/or are unable to function in even the most basic areas of life.

ECT is, in fact, misunderstood by the vast majority of people – many see it as barbaric and frightening. Such views, in large part, derive from the popular media (eg from films such as ‘One Flew Over the Cockoo’s Nest’).

However, most controlled research suggests that ECT is helpful as a treatment for severe depression (eg Pagnia et al., 2004). It is normally only used when other interventions, such as psychotherapy and drug treatment, have failed.

There are, though, some risks. Approximately 2-10 patients per 100,000 treatments (ie less than 0.01%) die during the procedure – however, this is no higher than the risk of dying from anesthesia alone (patients have a general anesthetic before undergoing ECT).

After the treatment patients might have headaches, aching muscles or nausea. Also, some patients experience some memory loss (but, generally, only mildly) which can last up to six months (Sackeim et al. 2007).

Patients who undergo ECT, however, tend to view it positively. In one study, 98% of patients who received it said they’d undergo it again if their depression recurred (Pettinati et al., 1994).

Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT) And My Experience of It.

MY OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OF ELECTRO-CONVULSIVE THERAPY (ECT).

My own depression was so severe and protracted that I underwent ECT sessions (an ECT treatment session normally comprises blocks of 6 individual treatments) on more than one occasion. I was suicidal and almost completely unable to function (not even able to carry out the most basic self-care, such as shaving, brushing my teeth or taking a bath or shower). As I say, these periods went on for several months, or years, at a time.

Frankly, I did not care whether I lived or died (actually, that’s not quite true, I wanted to be dead), nor what happened to me. Thus, when I was hospitalized, my psychiatrist strongly advised me to undergo ECT. I put up no resistance, nor would I have had the energy or will to do so.

Over the years, each time I underwent ECT sessions, the results were pretty much the same, so I’ll just describe the effect of one set of treatments:

The best thing about it was being given the general anesthetic – such was the extreme nature of my mental anguish that I constantly longed to be unconscious (or dead). Unfortunately, however, the treatment is quick so one is only unconscious for a few minutes!

When I awoke, I’d have very bad, pounding headaches and many of my muscle groups would be painful. Sometimes, I’d need to walk with a stick for a few days after the treatment until the muscles in my legs recovered.

Also, and this was frightening, for about the first five or ten minutes after the treatment I would be so disoriented and confused that I did not know where I was, or even WHO I was. It is impossible for one to imagine how disturbing this is until one has experienced the sensation for oneself. Fortunately, as I said, this did not last long.

On the topic of memory, it felt to me that my memory was impaired for a couple of years after the final treatment session (though not severely). I would make the point, however, that severe clinical depression in itself can impair memory so I cannot attribute it to ECT without some equivocation.

Finally, and most importantly, my own ECT did not have any beneficial effect on me whatsoever; my depression was not even slightly ameliorated.

Obviously, overall, my experience of ECT was fairly negative. However, it is necessary to stress that I am, of course, just one patient out of thousands who have received ECT, so not very much can be concluded from my personal experience it. The research I have already quoted suggests that, for the majority, it is beneficial. Indeed, there are many who believe it has saved their life.

Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT) And My Experience of It.

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

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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Challenging Our Negative Thoughts.

 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Challenging Our Negative Thoughts.

This article examines how we can use cognitive behavioral therapy to challenge our negative thoughts.

When we have negative thoughts, it is important to ask ourselves:

‘What is the evidence to support this negative thought/belief?’ OFTEN, WILL WILL FIND THERE IS VERY LITTLE OR AT LEAST NOT THE COMPELLING EVIDENCE WE’D ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED.

It is important for us to get into the habit of challenging negative thoughts in this way because very often the negative thoughts come to us autmatically (due to entrenched negative thinking patterns caused in large part by our traumatic childhoods) without us analysing them and examining them to see if they are actually valid.

So, to repeat, we need to try to get into the habit of CHALLENGING OUR NEGATIVE THOUGHTS AND ASKING OURSELVES IF THERE REALLY IS PROPER EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THEM.

A SUGGESTED EXERCISE:

1) Think of two or three negative thoughts that you have experienced lately.

2) Ask yourself what evidence you have to support them.

3) Ask yourself how strong this evidence actually is.

4) Now think of evidence AGAINST THE NEGATIVE THOUGHT.

Step 4 above is very important.This is because when we are depressed and have negative thoughts we tend to focus on the (often flimsy) evidence which supports them BUT IGNORE ALL THE EVIDENCE AGAINST THEM (in other words, we give ourselves an ‘unfair hearing’ and , in effect, are prejudiced against ourselves). This is sometimes referred to as CONFIRMATION BIAS.

Challenging our negative thoughts and FINDING EVIDENCE TO REFUTE THEM is a very important part of CBT. It is, therefore, worth us putting in effort to search hard for evidence which weakens or invalidates our automatic negative thoughts/beliefs.

ALTERNATIVE THOUGHTS:

When we have successfully challenged our negative thoughts, and found, by reviewing the evidence, reason not to hold them anymore, it is useful to replace them by MORE REALISTIC APPROPRIATE THOUGHTS.

One way to get into the habit of this is to spend a little time occasionally writing down our automatic negative thoughts. Then, for each thought, we can write beside it:

1) Evidence in support of the negative thought.

2) Evidence against the negative thought.

3) In the light of the analysis carried out above in steps 1 and 2, replace it with a more realistic, valid and positive thought. Here is an example:

Negative Thought: I failed my exam which means I’m stupid and will never get the job I wanted or any other.

1) Evidence in support of negative thought:

‘after a lot of revision, I still didn’t pass.

2) Evidence against negative thought:

‘I only failed by a couple of per cent and was affected by my nerves – failing one exam does not make me stupid’.

3) Alternative, more valid, realistic and positive thought:

I can retake the exam and still get the job. Even if I don’t get my first choice of job, that does not mean there won’t be other jobs I can get, and they may turn out to be better.

Getting into the habit of occasionally writing down negative thoughts, challenging them, and coming up with more positive alternative thoughts will help to ‘reprogram’ the brain not to just passively accept the automatic negative thoughts which come to us without subjecting them to scrutiny and challenging their validity.

 

Self-Help Link :

Ten Steps To Overcoming Negative Thinking. Click here for further information.

 

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

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How Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) Can Aid Recovery From Childhood Trauma.

How Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) Can Aid Recovery From Childhood Trauma.

WHAT IS COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY (CBT) AND HOW CAN IT AID RECOVERY FROM CHILDHOOD TRAUMA ?

Put simply, CBT works on the basic observation that:

1) how we think about things and interpret events affects how we feel

2) how we behave affects how we feel

therefore:

3) by changing how we think about things, interpret events and behave will CHANGE HOW WE FEEL.

I have over-simplified here but those are the essential three points and my aim in this blog is not to present information in an over-complex way.

RESEARCH

CBT is widely used by therapists to treat survivors of childhood trauma and there is now a solid base of research which supports its effectiveness. I myself underwent a course of CBT some time ago and found it very helpful.

WHAT WE THINK ABOUT THINGS DECIDES HOW WE FEEL

In this post I wish to concentrate on how our thinking styles affect our state of mind and emotions. Survivors of childhood trauma often develop depressive illness and, as a result, thinking styles often become extremely negative:
NEGATIVE THINKING

Depression often gives rise to what is sometimes called a COGNITIVE TRIAD of negative thoughts. These are:

– negative view of self
-negative view of the world
-negative view of the future

I have referred to this NEGATIVE COGNITIVE TRIAD in previous posts, but it is worth revisiting. The aim of CBT is to change these negative thinking patterns into more positive ones. It aims to correct FAULTY THINKING STYLES.

FAULTY THINKING STYLES:

Individuals who suffer from this cognitive negative triad of depressive thoughts, as I did for more years than I care to remember, are generally found to have deeply ingrained faulty thinking styles; I provide the most common ones below and give a very brief explanation of each type (if the examples seem a little extreme, it is merely to illustrate the point):

1) GENERALIZATION:

eg. someone is rude to us and we conclude: ‘nobody likes me or ever will’.

So, here, the mistake is vastly over-generalizing from one specific incident.

2) POLARIZED THINKING:

eg. ‘unless I am liked by everyone then I am unpopular’.

This is sometimes referred to as ‘black or white’ thinking ie. seeing things as all good or all bad and ignoring the grey areas.

3) CATASTROPHIZING:

eg. ‘I know for sure this will be an unmitigated disaster and I’ll be utterly unable to cope.’

Here, the mistake is to overestimate how badly something will turn out or to greatly overestimate the odds of something bad happening. It often also involves underestimating our ability to cope in the unlikely event that the worst does actually happen. Also known as ‘WHAT IF…’ style thinking.

4) PERSONALIZATION:

eg. taking an innocent, casual, passing remark to be a deliberate and calculated personal attack. Here, the mistake is thinking everything people do or say is a kind of reaction to us and that people are pre- disposed to wanting to gratuitously hurt us.

5) SELF BLAME

eg. someone says our team has not met its monthly target and we then look for ways to convince ourselves it is specifically and exclusively due to something we have done wrong. With this type of faulty thinking style, we blame ourselves for something for which there is no evidence it is our fault.

6) MINIMIZATION.

eg. ‘I failed one exam out of ten, therefore I’m stupid and a complete failure’.

Here, the positive (passing nine out of ten exams) is pretty much ignored (minimized) and the negative (failing one exam) completely disproportionately affects our view of ourselves. Individuals who minimize the positive tend to also MAXIMIZE (ie. make far too much of) the negative.

CONCLUSION.

What tends to underlie all these faulty thinking styles is that we UNNECESSARILY BELIEVE NEGATIVE THINGS IN SPITE OF THE FACT WE HAVE NO, OR EXTREMELY LIMITED, EVIDENCE FOR SUCH BELIEFS. Therefore, we unnecessarily and irrationally further lower our own sense of self-esteem and self-worth. Because of these faulty thinking styles, we increase our feelings of inadequacy and depression.

In my next post I will look at how we can challenge and correct these faulty thinking styles.

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

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