Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Thursday, May 24, 2012
I was fortunate to have Stephanie Potter of KBOO's show Recovery Zone, in Portland, Oregon interview me yesterday about healing from stress and PTSD. The show is 30 minutes long and features three different callers with excellent questions. I had a blast doing it and am thankful for a chance to help people go deeper in their healing process. Click here, for a link to the downloadable interview.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
This coming Thursday night I will be giving a workshop and book reading/signing at Quest Bookshop in mid-town Manhattan. We will be exploring yogic healing from traumatic stress. Expect to laugh, explore, engage and add more tools to your healing tool kit! You can find more information if you click here.
Monday, May 14, 2012
Maybe you have seen the discussion in the media lately around whether PTSD is a disorder or an injury. It is an injury.
Psychological trauma affects the entire body through the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) Axis. As we discussed before, (see The HPA Axis, Trauma and You), this axis governs the body's entire endocrine (hormonal) system. This is not in control of the victim, any more than bleeding and swelling is for the victim of a beating. PTSD always involves injury to the body's mechanisms. Always. This is one of the reasons the disorder is so painful and so hard to describe.
I have come to believe that all symptoms of PTSD are related to these disturbances or attempts to 'heal' the disturbances.
Let's take an extreme symptom, cutting or self-mutilation. We know in neurology that pain in one part of the body cancels out pain in another part of the body. This is a joke with my acupuncturist. Some times a painful needle will be inserted and he'll ask how my symptoms are. I'll answer, "fine, now that all I can feel is your painful needle!".
So, in a strange kind of way, cutting can be "adaptive" for forms of extreme trauma by managing through diversion and re-routing of pain signals, which then gives the victim a feeling of control.
Avoidance is another one of these symptoms. People with PTSD go to great lengths to avoid (or scare off, if it's a person) reminders of their trauma, sometimes resulting in strange "phobias" or behaviors. That saying, "you always hurt the one you love" goes twice for PTSD sufferers when their partners inadvertently trigger them. We need to learn when our PTSD injury is manifesting and make ourselves safe in ways that don't injure our relationships.
When medicine embraces the physiologic basis for PTSD, sufferers will finally gain the help that they need to heal from this profound HPA injury.
Monday, May 7, 2012
Last week my sweet kittie went missing. After a few very sad and anxious days, I realized that this event tapped into an outmoded deeply held belief that I did not realize I was holding. That belief is:
If I love something or someone too much, they will abandon or abuse me.
Sound familiar? It should. It is one of the most common beliefs of people raised in traumatic environments.
We all have core beliefs, about ourselves, about life, about love, about why we are suffering. These beliefs largely lay unconscious in our psyche, like a filter that colors everything we see. We don’t question these core beliefs because we do not know they are there!
People who live with PTSD have core beliefs that arise out of their traumas (and sometimes precede them). We do not choose these beliefs. In a sense they choose us. The purpose of mind, evolutionarily speaking, is to make sense out of a random set of stimuli, the environment we live in. Without mind, the world would be an inchoate mass of incoming information. Mind sorts, slots, and makes meaning of sensory input.
But it is also largely automatic and unconscious.
Our mind selects meaning similar to other messages we have been given by our families, our schools, our communities, our religions etc. Most of the time we are completely unaware of this process, just as you are unaware of your breathing right now. Think you’re aware? How many breaths have you taken in the last hour?
Right! Same with the mind. Our minds think and make meaning but we are largely unaware of the process.
So what does that mean for the person with PTSD? Well, traumatic stress ups the ante on thoughts. Our thoughts tend to be more highly charged, faster, more automatic and more intense when we are stressed. Sometimes they are helpful and help us survive. Other times not so much.
This thought that came to me: If I love something or someone too much, they will abandon or abuse me, it could have first arisen in my childhood, or maybe several lifetimes ago. But it has persisted, lurking in my mind like a malignant dustbunny. Once I became aware of the thought, I felt my body start to release. These thoughts, like shadows, melt away in the light of awareness. Do I still feel sad she is gone? Yes. But I no longer suffer from the underlying guilt and anxiety that went along with my unexamined core belief, which puts me in a much more functional position!
Now it’s your turn. What core beliefs do you have that may be holding you back from healing yourself?