Category Archives: Coping Strategies And Tips

Feelings Of Emptiness : A System To Reduce Them

reducing feelings of emptiness

It is extremely common for those of uswho have suffered severe childhood trauma, especially if we’ve gone on to develop borderline personality disorder (BPD) as a consequence, to experience feelings of profound despair and emptiness – this involves feeling that life is utterly devoid of meaning or purpose and a general sense of being emotionally numb or ‘dead inside.’

Such feelings of emptiness are also symptomatic of clinical depression and anhedonia (a condition that prevents one from being able to experience any feelings of pleasure), both of which illnesses are associated with the person suffering from them having undergone early life trauma).

How We Attempt To Cope With Feelings Of Emptiness In Dysfunctional Ways :

Dysfunctional ways of trying to lessen feelings of emptiness include the following :

  • overeating
  • drinking too much
  • harmful use of narcotics
  • smoking
  • overspending / compulsive shopping
  • overuse of internet / social media
  • overuse of computer games
  • gambling
  • promiscuous sex
  • inappropriately gaining attention of others (e.g. by getting angry, over-caretaking, being a compulsive ‘people-pleaser’, blaming others)

The Link Between Feelings Of Emptiness And Self-Abandonment :

Feelings of emptiness have been linked to the concept known as self-abandonment. Self-abandonment is characterized by extreme self-judgment, ignoring / not paying proper attention to one’s feelings and emotions, dissociation, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-compassion.

Developmental And Systems Approach For Reducing Feelings Of Emptiness :

Charles Wang M.D, developed a therapeutic system to address feelings of emptiness called the Developmental And Systems Approach.

Initially, this system was developed to help to quickly stabilize psychiatric inpatients.

The system focuses on five key areas :

  1. The patient is helped to understand that feelings of profound emptiness are at the root of many of his/her problems
  2. The patient is helped to form a more accurate sense of his/her relationship with others with whom s/he interacts
  3. The patient is encouraged to understand the underlying causes of his/her ‘acting out‘ behaviours
  4. The patient is encouraged to accept that s/he is in a state of deep emotional pain in order to help to motivate him/her to undergo treatment
  5. The patient is empowered to undergo this treatment

As well as helping to reduce feelings of emptiness, Wang’s Developmental And Systems Approach also seeks to help individuals develop feelings of trust and security.

RELATED RESOURCE:

Hypnosis MP3 :

DOWNLOADABLE SELF-HYPNOSIS MP3 : FINDING MEANING IN LIFE.

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Book / eBook :

 

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

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

‘Distress Intolerance’ : Do Your Feelings Sometimes Feel Unbearable?

distress intolerance

The term DISTRESS INTOLERANCE refers to a frame of mind in which we consider the mental pain, anguish or discomfort we are experiencing to be UTTERLY INTOLERABLE AND UNBEARABLE so that we become frantic and desperate to avoid it/escape it.

The emotions we feel unable to tolerate usually belong to three main categories; these are:

  1. Emotions connected to sadness (such as depression, shame and guilt)
  2. Emotions connected to fear (such as dread, anxiety and terror)
  3. Emotions connected to anger (such as hatred, rage and frustration)

Those who have suffered severe childhood trauma, especially if, as a result, they have gone on to develop Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), tend to feel emotions particularly intensely, tend to have impaired ability to control their emotions, and tend not to be adept at self-soothing/ self-comforting/ self-compassion and are therefore much more likely to suffer from DISTRESS INTOLERANCE than the average person.

Unsurprisingly,the more we tell ourselves our feelings are unbearable and intolerable, the more difficult they become to manage. In effect, we start to feel bad about the fact that we feel bad. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as meta-worry (worrying about the fact that we worry) and adds a superfluous layer of suffering to our already less than optimal mood state.

A simple example of such meta-worrying would be:

‘My constant worrying is ruining my life.’  (but doing nothing to address one’s worrying)

 

THE PARADOX OF TRYING TO ESCAPE AND ‘RUN AWAY’ FROM OUR MENTAL DISTRESS

Counter-intuitively, research suggests that when we mentally struggle hard to stop feeling our emotional distress, frequently the effect is actually to intensify it (rather like thrashing about in quick sand – we just sink deeper in).

HOW OUR BELIEF SYSTEM IS LINKED TO OUR STRESS INTOLERANCE :

Individuals who find distress very difficult to tolerate tend to have a set of beliefs that contribute to this intolerance; such beliefs may include :

  • it is essential I rid myself of these feelings immediately
  • these feelings are going to send me permanently insane
  • these feelings mean I’m a weak and pathetic person
  • these feelings are completely unacceptable

Such beliefs are sometimes referred to as catastrophizing beliefs and worsen our psychological state; cognitive therapy can help us to reduce catastrophizing thoughts.

 

HOW WE TRY TO ESCAPE OUR MENTAL DISTRESS

Three ways in which we try to escape our mental distress are as follows:

  • avoidance
  • dissociation (self-numbing)
  • self-harm

Lets look at each of these in turn:

1) AVOIDANCE :

For example, avoiding social situations due to social anxiety or avoiding going outside due to agoraphobia.

2) DISSOCIATING /SELF- NUMBING :

People may try to achieve this by using alcohol, drugs or overeating

3) SELF-HARM :

For example, some people cut themselves in an attempt to release emotional distress; this may be because the physical pain detracts from the psychological pain and/or because physical self-harm releases endorphins (the body’s natural pain-killers) into the brain.

 

WHY THESE METHODS DON’T WORK :

There are obvious problems with these methods which I list below :

  • whilst they may afford some short-term relief their long-term effects are damaging
  • relying in negative coping methods such as those detailed above erodes self-esteem and increases feelings of depression
  • continually ‘running away from’ and desperately trying to avoid difficulties means one never provides oneself with the opportunity to learn how to deal with them effectively or how to cope with distress using healthier methods
  • by constantly avoiding distressing emotions (e.g. by using drugs and alcohol) one deprives oneself of the opportunity to put one’s catastrophic beliefs (see above) to the test (e,g. the catastrophic belief that one’s feelings of distress are intolerable) and, hopefully, prove them to be inaccurate.

 

 

LEARNING DISTRESS TOLERANCE :

By learning to interpret distress differently (e.g. by changing our catastrophizing belief system in relation to distressing feelings) and how to develop healthier ways of coping with uncomfortable/difficult emotions we can start to put together a set of skills which will help us to cultivate distress tolerance (SEE RESOURCE BELOW).

 

RESOURCE :

TO DOWNLOAD DISTRESS TOLERANCE HANDOUTS FREE, CLICK THIS LINK OR CLICK ON IMAGE BELOW:

 

BOOK :

 

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

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Hypnosis For Headaches

Coping Strategies and Tips | Page 3

hypnosis for headaches

Research suggests that if we suffered from significant and protracted childhood trauma we will, as adults, have an increased susceptibility to suffering from headaches and migraines during our adult years.

Examples Of Research Studies Showing The Effectiveness Of Hypnosis For The Treatment Of Headaches:

1) A research study conducted by Olness compared the effectiveness of treating headache sufferers in three different ways:

Treatment Condition A: Participants in this group had their headaches treated with a medication called propranolol.

Treatment Condion B: Participants in this group were given placebos

Treatment Condition C: Participants in this condition were trained to use self-hypnosis to treat their headaches.

Results:

Those treated with hypnosis (treatment condition C) improved, on average, to a significantly greater degree than did those in both treatment conditions A (treated with propranolol) and B (given placebos).

2) Research conducted by Anderson was carried out by dividing the migraine suffers who participated in the study into two treatment groups as shown below:

Treatment Condition A : Participants in this group had their migraines treated using hypnosis.

Treatment Condition B : Participants in this treatment group had their migraines treated with medication

Results: Participants in treatment group B, who had their migraines treated with hypnosis were found, when followed up a year later, to:

– have experienced a significantly greater reduction, on average, in the severity of their migraines compared to those treated with medication

– have experienced a significantly greater reduction, on average, in the number of migraines they suffered from in comparison to those treated with medication

Additionally, in the hypnosis treatment group, a significantly greater proportion of participants reported that they had stopped suffering from migraines altogether than did individuals in the group who were treated with medication.

What Types Of Hypnosis Are The Most Effective For The Treatment Of Headaches ?

Alladin, in 1998, conducted a meta-analysis of the research conducted on the effectiveness of hypnosis fir reducing symptoms of headaches and migraines and concluded that the most effective hypnotic treatments were relaxation training and direct suggestion.

Resources:
Ease Tension Headaches
Combat Migraines Before They Start

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

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

How Deeply Do You Need To Be Hypnotized For Therapeutic Benefits?

hypnosis levels

Many people assume that the more deeply a person is hypnotized, the more likely it is that s/he will derive therapeutic benefit from the hypnotherapy session. However, this is not the case. In fact, for most (but not all) problems an individual seeks to address through undergoing hypnotherapy, only a light hypnotic state is necessary.

Below I list the six levels of hypnosis a person can potentially experience (I say potentially as not all people are equally responsive to the process of hypnotic induction) and then go on to explain how each of these levels affect the hypnotized individual together with which problems are best dealt with according to the specific level of hypnosis into which the individual has been induced :

Six Levels Of Hypnosis :

1) light catalepsy

2) moderate catalepsy

3) deep catalepsy

(Catalepsy is characterized by a trance like state, lowered activity of the conscious brain and reduced registering of the external environment by the senses).

4) analgesia / no stress

(Analgesia is the loss of the sensation of pain)

5) light anaesthesia

6) deep anaesthesia

Now let’s look at which levels are best suited to the treatment of which conditions :

Levels 1-3 (Alpha brain wave activity) :

An individual at these levels of hypnosis responds best to hypnotherapy for, for example:

– the elimination of habits (such as nail biting)

– anxiety

– confidence

– sexual dysfunction

– motivation

(this is far from an exhaustive list).

Another benefit of being hypnotized at these first three levels is that they encourage the production of serotonin in the brain (a lack of which is associated with clinical depression).

Levels 4-5 (Delta brain wave activity) :

These two levels of hypnosis may be utilized so that an individual may undergo dentistry work without the need of anaesthetic. They may also be induced in the patient to facilitate minor surgery.

Finally, these levels of hypnosis may be used to help a patient relive traumatic experiences (a technique for treating PTSD) whilst feeling safe and secure. Obviously, this requires a relevantly qualified and experienced hypnotherapist.

Level 6 (Theta brain wave activity) :

This deepest level is sometimes used to facilitate psychosomatic healing.

Conclusion:

To reiterate, then, for most problems levels 1-3 (see above) are the most appropriate levels of hypnosis into which the individual should be induced.

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

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Hypnosis For Anxiety

hypnosis for anxiety

If we suffered significant and protracted trauma during our childhoods, we are far more likely than those who were fortunate enough to have experienced a relatively stable and secure upbringing (all else being) to develop severe anxiety and associated conditions in adulthood.

We feel anxiety when we perceive a threat (and the threat may be real or imagined).

Our perception of being under threat causes stress hormones, such as adrenalin and cortisol, to be released into the brain.

The release of these stress hormones into the body can result in distressing physical sensations; these differ depending upon the particular individual concerned and include the following (to list just a few examples):

– headaches

– stomach aches

– dry mouth

– trembling

– heart palpitations

– sweating

– feeling faint/dizziness

– hyperventilation

Vicious Cycle:

These physical symptoms of stress form part of a vicious cycle; this viscous cycle is caused by the various aspects of stress feeding off one another as I describe below:

1) Anxious thoughts lead to the production of stress hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol

2) These stress hormones produce physical symptoms in the body which exacerbate anxious thoughts

3) These further anxious thoughts then cause yet more stress hormones to flood the brain…and, thus, the vicious cycle continues

How Do You Break This Vicious Cycle?

In order to break this vicious cycle, a component of it needs to be broken so that the elements it is made up of can no longer feed off one another. Hypnotherapy can do this in different ways, for example:

– the excessive production of stress hormones flooding the brain can be halted using self hypnosis techniques such as calming imagery/visualisation.

OR:

– anxious thoughts can be reduced under hypnosis. This can be achieved in many ways, two of which I describe below:

1) The ‘Helium Voice’ technique:

Under hypnosis the individual is given the post hypnotic suggestion that when s/he has self-critical thoughts during internal dialogues (i.e. negative, introspective, mentally internal self-talk) the ‘voice’ of these thoughts will sound squeaky and high-pitched (as happens when a person inhales helium from a balloon), thus rendering them ridiculous and robbing them of any credibility (whilst this sounds silly, it can be remarkably effective).

2) The ‘Compassionate Friend’ Technique:

To simplify: under hypnosis, the individual is given the post hypnotic suggestion that when s/he has negative, anxiety producing thoughts s/he will be able to imagine what an ideal compassionate friend would say in response to them in order to comfort and reassure, so it becomes rather like having a tiny personal counsellor taking up residence in one’s head!

And, finally, many readers will already be aware that mindfulness meditation is often an extremely effective way of coping with stress and anxiety, though requires practice.

Resources:

Hypnosis For Generalised Anxiety Download – Click here.

Mindfulness Meditation Hypnosis Pack – Click here.

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

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Controlling Anger And Other Emotions

controlling anger

We have seen that significant, protracted childhood trauma, particularly if it leads us to develop borderline personality disorder or complex post traumatic stress disorder, can result in us having extreme difficulty controlling our emotions, such as anger and anxiety, as adults : in psychological terms, we are at risk of developing emotional dysregulation.

Sometimes, intense emotions become so painful that, as a defense mechanism, we shut our these feelings down (we may do this deliberately by using alcohol and drugs, or it might happen automatically – in the latter case we are said to be dissociating).

REASONS SOME INDIVIDUALS KEEP THEIR EMOTIONS ‘BURIED.’

Some people try to keep their emotions ‘buried’ (suppressed). There can be a number of reasons for this, including:

– growing up in a household in which any display of emotions and feelings was considered a sign of weakness or ‘not the done thing’

– being in an occupation in which displays of emotions are not encouraged e.g.police, military

– fear of losing respect

– fear of losing control

THE PROBLEM OF SUPPRESSED FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS:

However, keeping feelings and emotions buried takes up large amounts of mental energy and means they tend to be kept simmering beneath the surface, building up pressure and ready to explode.

And, very often, the emotion of anger is the one that is nearest to the surface, and therefore the one that is most frequently experienced and expressed.

HOWEVER, anger very often conceals, and has its primary roots in, the fundamental emotions of FEAR and HURT.

So, in fact, very often, when we express anger, what we are really expressing is this fear and hurt; to put it concisely:


OUR FEAR AND HURT IS MASQUERADING AS ANGER.


 

Acknowledging Our True, Authentic Feelings And Having The Courage To Express Them:

It is therefore necessary to become aware of the real feelings behind our anger, feelings that are likely to be intensely painful and that we have preferred not to acknowledge (or even not allowed ourselves to become consciously aware of) and to start the process of expressing them, understanding their origins, working through them and resolving them (ideally with a highly trained, professional therapist).

By getting in touch with our feelings beneath our anger, and working through them therapeutically, we can reduce or overcome outbursts of rage, self-destructive behavior and bodily complaints such as fatigue.

If we do not get in touch with feelings such as hurt and fear (completely normal emotions that everyone experiences to one degree or another), but instead keep them ‘locked out’ and ‘buried’ , we pay the very high price of not being able to get in touch with, experience or express positive emotions, such as happiness and joy, too. Our aim is to feel comfortable with all our emotions and to channel them constructively.

What We Can Do To Help Ourselves To Control Our Emotions :

In order to control our emotions we can apply certain skills, such as:

– learning to identify what we are feeling and linguistically label our emotions e.g. ‘anger’, ‘fear’ etc – when we verbally name our emotions and describe them in spoken (or, indeed, written) language we are more likely to be able to control them and are less likely to act them out.

– acknowledge and accept emotions nonjudgmentally (as taught through mindfulness).

– change our thinking. Our feelings are connected to our thinking processes – consider trying cognitive therapy which can help retrain our thinking style and which, in turn, can lead to much improved emotional experiences.

eBook:

control anger

Above eBook available for instant download on Amazon. Click here for more details.

Resources:

control angerControl Anger Pack (Download or CD). Click here.

 

control emotionsControl Your Emotions (Download or CD). Click here.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

 

 

 

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Mental Health For Parents

mental health for parents

Many parents with mental health problems are concerned about the effects their condition may have upon their children and also about how to better cope with the stresses that being responsible for one’s children’s care inevitably entails (even for parents who are mentally well, of course!).

In the United Kingdom, it is estimated that approximately sixty percent of adults suffering from a serious and chronic mental health problem (such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia) have children. And many more people with less serious mental health issues also have children, of course. Then, on top of this, many individuals addicted to alcohol or drugs are responsible for bringing up children, as well.

If a parent has a mental health problem, s/he can find that it interferes with his/her ability to be an effective parent, especially if s/he also has to hold down a job and/or has a poor relationship with his/her partner or is a single parent.

We know from the extensive research that has been conducted in this area that children who grow up with a parent who is suffering from significant and enduring mental heath issues are more likely than other children (all else being equal) to have psychological, emotional and/or behavioral difficulties (this, in turn, can make parenting harder still, thus leading to a vicious cycle).

The reasons why children living with parents with mental health problems are more likely themselves to develop problems (as referred to above) may include:

– the genes they have inherited from their mentally ill parent

– the unstable/stressful / chaotic environment in which they are being brought up

– a combination of the above two factors (genes and environment always interact)

– growing up in poverty (parents with mental health problems are more likely to be living in poverty than are mentally healthy parents).

 

What Factors Help Children Of Mentally Ill Parents To Develop Resilience?

Different children will, of course, be affected by the mental health problems of their parents in different ways. Factors which can make these children less likely to be significantly damaged by their parent’s mental illness include the following:

– counselling and support involving the whole family / family therapy

– consistent parenting

– having another parent or primary care-giver who is not mentally ill and who spends significant time giving the child emotional/psychological support

– having supportive and loyal friends whom one can trust and confide in

– having supportive teachers

– having a supportive school counsellor

– having supportive and emotionally available relatives

– being part of a young carers group

– having an ‘out of home’ hobby/activity which provides a sense of safety and stability (eg a scout group / boarding school)

RESOURCES:

ADVICE FROM MIND ABOUT PARENTING WITH A MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEM:   CLICK HERE.

PARENTING SKILLS DOWNLOADABLE MP3 OR CD – CLICK HERE

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

 

 

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Reducing Hyperarousal Caused By Childhood Trauma

hyperarousal

We have seen that the experience of severe childhood trauma can lead to severe symptoms hyperarousal in adult life due to damage incurred to the development of the brain’s limbic system. Below I provide some definitions of hyperarousal:


– a state of increased psychological and physiological tension marked by such effects as reduced pain tolerance, anxiety, exaggerated startle response, insomnia, fatigue and the accentuation of personality traits

Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medical, Nursing and Allied Health


Excessive responsiveness to sensory stimulation.

Medical Dictionary


– A state of muscular and emotional tension produced by hormones during the fight or flight reaction.

Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine


 

If we are in a hyperaroused state, the symptoms that it may induce in us include the following:

– an excessive proneness to outbursts of anger and rage, even in response to provocations which most would consider minor

– insomnia, especially difficulty falling asleep and frequent waking

– frequently feeling extremely on edge

– frequently feeling threatened as if in imminent danger

– impaired ability to concentrate

Although the state of hyperarousal, resulting in the fight or flight response, has evolved to help us survive when in REAL danger, it becomes dysfunctional when it is frequently, unnecessarily triggered, as can occur in those who have suffered significant childhood trauma.

hyperarousal

For example, if we keep flying into rages due to small provocations (that don’t seem, to others, to warrant such a response) we may find it hard to maintain friendships and relationships.

It is also important to understand that hyperaroused states, such as rage and intense anxiety, may often be triggered in survivors of childhood trauma by unconscious causes.

For example, we may not realize that the reason we keep getting angry when interacting with authority figures is that they remind us, on an unconscious level, of an abusive parent (and also of the trauma we experienced as a result of that parent’s abuse). In other words, in such a situation, the brain is ‘tricked’ into believing that the anger we express towards the authority figure will protect us from the trauma our abusive parent caused us (or from similar trauma); the brain’s rule of thumb here appears to be something along the lines of, ‘once bitten, twice shy.’

WAYS IN WHICH WE CAN REDUCE OUR DYSFUNCTIONAL STATES OF HYPERAROUSAL:

1) We need to reassure ourselves that feelings of hyperarousal, such as increased heart rate and hyperventilation, can’t harm us and that we therefore don’t need to fear them (we won’t die from them or go ‘crazy’ as some in the grip of panic attacks – caused by extreme hyperarousal – fear).

2) We need to accept the feelings of hyperarousal as, paradoxically, trying hard to ‘fight’ them tends to increase their intensity

3) We need to allow our bodies to relax and dissipate muscular tension.

4) We need to allow ourselves to breathe slowly and gently rather than hyperventilate

5) Rather than try to ‘force’ unpleasant thoughts from our minds, we need to accept them and remind ourselves that they are only thoughts (which may, in any case, be wrong or inaccurate) and can’t harm us; in relation to this, one method is to treat our thoughts passing through our minds like leaves floating by on the surface of a stream – we can just observe them neutrally and non – judgmentally without getting caught up in them or emotionally engaging with them.

6) Reduce caffeine, nicotine and alcohol

7) Eat well, get sufficient sleep and relaxation, avoid stressful situations whenever possible, take regular exercise

Resource :

Traumatic childhoodRelaxation Techniques – click here.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

 

 

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery