Category Archives: Coping Strategies And Tips

Self-Soothing : Three Categories Of Techniques

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

Self-Soothing : Three Categories Of Techniques

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

Overcoming Early Life 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 :

Overcoming Early Life Insecure Attachment

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

Self-Hypnosis For Depression

 

Self-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.

Self-Hypnosis For Depression :

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 for depression (utilizing self-suggestion) 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.

 

Self-Hypnosis Downloadable Audio MP3s:

 

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

 

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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) :

Basic Human 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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Feelings Of Emptiness : A System To Reduce Them

Feelings Of Emptiness : A System To Reduce Them

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.

Feelings Of Emptiness : A System To Reduce Them

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.

Click here for further details.

 

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' : Do Your Feelings Sometimes Feel Unbearable?

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 :

'Distress Intolerance' : Do Your Feelings Sometimes Feel Unbearable?

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:

'Distress Intolerance' : Do Your Feelings Sometimes Feel Unbearable?

 

BOOK :

 

FREE APP, CLICK LINK BELOW:

DBT911

 

 

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

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Hypnosis For Headaches

Hypnosis For Headaches

Is hypnosis effective for treating 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)

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Copyright 2016 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

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

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

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