Jan 23

Join the Mindfulness Revolution – 10 Awareness-building Moments Every Day

  A recent issue of Time Magazine had a feature image on the cover for mindfulness, calling it a revolution. You might be asking; why has it become so popular? You might even wonder; what is mindfulness, really?  You may even want to know how you can develop it, or why you would want to.

Here are four definitions of mindfulness, all of them accurate.

  1. Mindfulness is awareness.
  2. Mindfulness is being more present – More embodied in the moment.
  3. Mindfulness is calm, alert, presence with equanimity (Equanimity is being even-minded or non-judgmental).
  4. In the book Full Catastrophe Living, the author Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as paying attention on purpose in the present moment without judgment.

Click on this link to continue reading the article and to see lots of other great posts: Your Positive Oasis

Jan 10

Coaching vs. Therapy

Feeling more balanced and having a sense of inner calm can be outcomes of both coaching and therapy, and there are some similarities in the approaches which can include deep listening, educating and suggested action steps.

There are also differences between coaching and therapy. Depending on where you are in your recovery, you may find tremendous benefits from working with either kind of professional.

Generally, coaching can be more suitable for the less acute situations, where with some guidance the client can become more empowered to help themselves. Coaches don’t give medical advice, consult on the use of medications, or work with clients who need critical help – these are the areas for a therapist.

Depending upon the stage you’re at in your journey of recovery, one of these approaches could be more appropriate and effective than another. Some clients are in a place to work with both types of professionals. For instance the client may see the therapist for medical assistance, or therapy, while at the same time working with a coach to facilitate healing by learning somatic-based mindfulness (body-based) practices.

If you’re unsure where you would benefit most, don’t hesitate to speak with your therapist, or to inquire with me about coaching.

You can reach me at virtualbrad@gmail.com

 

Jun 07

Inner Critic Attacks

critic1Everyone does some of these some of the time. Trauma survivors tend to do many of them excessively. This list is useful for greater awareness, and to begin quieting the voice of the inner critic. I’ll post a future article with more information on managing the inner critic and cultivating the alternatives to these perspectives.

 

 

  • Perfectionism – Not trusting that the imperfect is perfectly okay
  • Black and white thinking – And all or none. Not trusting gradations
  • Self-disgust, Self-hate, Toxic Shame – not trusting that you’re okay
  • Worrying excessively -(overly), Micro Management, Obsessing, Looping, futurizing
  • Catastrophizing, Awfulinzing, Drasticising, Hypochondriasizing
  • Devaluing comparisons between self and others
  • Shoulding – Excessively thinking you Should have, Would have, or Could have…
  • Workaholism – Over-productivity, Busyness
  • Time Urgency / Rushing, being in a hurry
  • Harsh judgment of self and others / Name calling (not trusting imperfection)
  • Negative Focus
  • Disabling Performance Anxiety – Not trusting ability as good enough
  • Perservating about being attacked
  • Victim mentality
  • Being mostly in the head (dissociated) – Not being very embodied

Much of this list comes from the book Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving by Pete Walker

Jun 06

Trauma Toolkit – 70+ tools for making life better

tool boxHere’s a list that can be used as a toolkit by trauma survivors. You may review it to learn, and remind yourself that these are inherent human rights. Any of these can be areas of challenge for trauma survivors. The list comes from the excellent book Complex PTSD: From surviving to thriving by Pete Walker. Amazon link. In the book the author, who’s a therapist, says that clients who printed out and carried this list with them for periodic review found it to be very helpful to their healing.

To greatly strengthen the effectivness of these tools, I suggest making the tool you’re working with a somatic (body-based) experience, rather than merely a thought. The way to do this is to take a moment to tap into the felt-sense that the tool evokes. For example, if you’re working with your ability to say no (tool #2 in the second list); imagine and drop into the felt-sense of this; the grounded, solid, and unmoving felt-sense of assertively saying “no”. This felt-sense may be weak at first, but with practice becomes stronger.

Let me know if you find these lists useful, or if I can help you. Click here to contact me.

Intentions for recovery

  1. I want to develop a more constantly loving and accepting relationship with myself.
  2. I want an increasing capacity for self-acceptance.
  3. I want to experience increasing connection to myself on all levels (Felt-sense / I added).
  4. I want to learn to become the best possible friend to myself.
  5. I want to attract, into my life, relationships that are based on love, respect, fairness and mutual support.
  6. I want to uncover a full, uninhibited self-expression.
  7. I want to attain the best possible physical health.
  8. I want to cultivate a balance of vitality and peace.
  9. I want to attract, to myself, loving friends and loving community.
  10. I want increasing freedom from toxic shame.
  11. I want increasing freedom from unnecessary fear and worry.
  12. I want rewarding and fulfilling work.
  13. I want a fair amount of peace of mind, spirit, soul and body.
  14. I want to increase my capacity to play and have fun.
  15. I want to make plenty of room for beauty and nature in my life.
  16. I want sufficient physical and monetary resources.
  17. I want a fair amount of help (self, human, or divine) to get what I need.
  18. I want God’s love, grace and blessing.
  19. I want a balance of work, rest and play.
  20. I want a balance of stability and change.
  21. I want a balance of loving interaction and healthy self-sufficiency.
  22. I want full emotional expression with a balance of laughter and tears.
  23. I want a sense of meaningfulness and fulfillment.
  24. I want to find effective and non-abusive ways to deal with anger.
  25. I want all this for each and every other being.

HUMAN BILL OF RIGHTS [GUIDELINES FOR FAIRNESS AND INTIMACY]

  1. I have the right to be treated with respect.
  2. I have the right to say no.
  3. I have the right to make mistakes.
  4. I have the right to reject unsolicited advice or feedback.
  5. I have the right to negotiate for change.
  6. I have the right to change my mind or my plans.
  7. I have a right to change my circumstances or course of action.
  8. I have the right to have my own feelings, beliefs, opinions, preferences, etc.
  9. I have the right to protest sarcasm, destructive criticism, or unfair treatment.
  10. I have a right to feel angry and to express it non-abusively.
  11. I have a right to refuse to take responsibility for anyone else’s problems.
  12. I have a right to refuse to take responsibility for anyone’s bad behavior.
  13. I have a right to feel ambivalent and to occasionally be inconsistent.
  14. I have a right to play, waste time and not always be productive.
  15. I have a right to occasionally be childlike and immature.
  16. I have a right to complain about life’s unfairness and injustices.
  17. I have a right to occasionally be irrational in safe ways.
  18. I have a right to seek healthy and mutually supportive relationships.
  19. I have a right to ask friends for a modicum of help and emotional support.
  20. I have a right to complain and verbally ventilate in moderation.
  21. I have a right to grow, evolve and prosper.
  22. I have a right to life and full aliveness!

TOOLS FOR LOVINGLY RESOLVING CONFLICT

  1. Normalize the inevitability of conflict & establish a safe forum for it.
  2. Discuss and agree to as many of these guidelines as seem useful.
  3. The goal is to inform and negotiate for change, not punish. Punishment destroys trust.
  4. Love can open the “ears” of the other’s heart.
  5. Imagine how it would be easiest to hear about your grievance from the other.
  6. Say it as it would be easiest for you to hear.
  7. Preface complaints with acknowledgement of the good of the other and your mutual relationship.
  8. No name-calling, sarcasm or character assassination.
  9. No analyzing the other or mind reading.
  10. No interrupting or filibustering Be dialogical.
  11. Give short, concise statements that allow the other to reflect back and paraphrase key points to let you hear that you are accurately being heard.
  12. No denial of the other’s rights as outlined in the Bill of Rights above.
  13. Differences are often not a matter of right or wrong; both people can be right, and merely different.
  14. Be willing to sometimes agree to differ. Avoid “you” statements. Use “I” statements that identify your feelings and your experience of what you perceive as unfair.
  15. One specific issue, with accompanying identifiable behavior, at a time.
  16. Ask yourself what hurts the most to try to find your key complaint.
  17. Stick to the issue until both persons feel fully heard.
  18. Take turns presenting issues.
  19. Present a complaint as lovingly and calmly as possible.
  20. Timeouts: If discussion becomes heated either person can call a timeout [one minute to 24 hours], as long as s/ he nominates a time to resume. {See 1 below}
  21. Discharge as much of any accumulated charge before hand as possible.
  22. Own responsibility for any accumulated charge in the anger that might come from not talking about it soon enough.
  23. Own responsibility for accumulated charge displaced from other hurts. {See 2 below}
  24. Commit to grow in your understanding of how much of your charge comes from childhood abuse/ neglect.
  25. Commit to recovering from the losses of childhood by effectively identifying, grieving, and reclaiming them.
  26. Apologize from an unashamed place.

Jun 02

Guided Imagery Exercise

One of the most powerful modalities for healing trauma is guided imagery. This is a process whereby you’re lead to decide what it is you want to work on and to come up with your own images for ways of addressing it. In other words you are lead through a process in which you tap into your creativity to further healing.

The guidance for this process can come from a recording, video, or experienced coach / therapist. As you become experienced with this method you’ll be able to create your own imagery sessions.

The power of this approach is in directly accessing your subconscious mind for positive change. This is much more than positive thinking, and it works very much like the placebo effect which is scientifically substantiated. If change were merely up to your conscious mind, you would have made the change already, right?

In one of my earlier sessions of guided imagery I was led to a place of deep relaxation and to imagining a picture of the problem and then the process of healing, followed by what the healed outcome looked like for me. This was a very powerful visualization that only took about fifteen minutes. I still occasionally take a minute or two to recall the images and always experience immediate relief.

The problem I wanted to address was a constricted breathing pattern whereby the diaphragm is not flexible and breathing is shallow. The image that I pictured in the session was that of a small bound-up stick person; ropes were wrapped tightly around the belly and chest area. The word I came up with to represent this was “bound”.

Next I imagined the ropes loosening and falling away, or becoming “un-bound”. And, the last image I came up with was a fuller, relaxed, un-bound, happy guy. The drawing represents what I saw. unbound

Most importantly, I vividly imagined and felt each of these three stages.

Two things have occurred over the months since doing this imagery exercise: My breathing is becoming less constricted (more free) because I have less tension in my stomach area (diaphragm). I’m also experiencing a more relaxed state more of the time, along with all the attendant benefits of a better regulated nervous system.

Click here to contact me if you’d like to know how guided imagery can help you with healing trauma.

Jun 02

Breathe – Relax – Sense Exercise

Most trauma survivors spend an inordinate amount of time in their head, and often in a negative way. Thinking unless focused on a task often defaults to negative self-talk which reinforces and can exacerbate tension in the body and unwanted physical symptoms. This perpetuates a state of dysregulation of the nervous system – stuck in either high-anxiety or exhaustion and depression.

This is a simple exercise that cultivates the state of relaxed alertness which feels better and is conducive to healing. The goal over time is to have this become your default setting more often.  The breathing portion helps with aliveness and being alert by oxygenating the body and brain. The relaxing segment helps with calmness and releasing tension, and the sensing facilitates greater connection to the body and senses.

This can be done either as a seated and focused practice or on-the-fly throughout the day. Some people like to adopt the use of triggers as reminders to practice. Choosing something like transitions as a trigger is effective. Examples of transitions could be every time you open a door; this could include the door to your car, your house, your office, or a store. So, every time you open a door you’re reminded to practice the exercise.

The exercise:

Breathe in. Place your attention on your breath while you inhale through your nose. Try not to alter your breathing, but to have it be a natural breath. It’s difficult not to alter the breath while paying attention to it, so go easy on yourself. You’re looking to just do the practice, not striving for perfection.

Relax on the out breath. Let go of any tension as you exhale. For many people there might be tension in the shoulders, jaw, diaphragm, or arms. It may help to consciously drop the shoulders a bit as you relax on the exhale.

Sense with whichever senses you like. It can be any one or more of the basic five: Sight, sound, smell, taste, or touch. There are others that can be used, but keep it simple in the beginning. The point is to engage your body by placing your attention of the senses. To start off you may want to pick two senses that seem the easiest for you to perceive with. To clarify, the sense of touch as used here means perceiving kinesthetically, which may be the pressure of objects against your body (feet on the ground, rear in a chair), or a breeze on your skin, or warmth for example.

The exercise can be done in one rotation of Breathe, Relax, and Sense which may take a few seconds. Alternatively you can do a series of rotations and take several minutes. It’s best to not make it longer and difficult, but to keep it easy and fun so that you’ll keep doing it.

Besides calming and regulating of the nervous system you’ll likely notice yourself becoming more present-moment focused, and you may experience all of your senses becoming more acute. This is a great exercise for calming a racing mind too.

Let me know if you liked this article – especially if you tried the exercise. Contact me (LINK) if I can support you in any way!

 

May 31

Menu of modalities for healing trauma

healing2Below is a menu of modalities for healing trauma. Most may be used by themselves or in conjunction with therapy or coaching.

These are what I consider to be the top modalities for healing; there are many others that can be effective as well. Further description of each of these will be included in future articles. In addition to these modalities there are dozens of exercises which fit into one or more of these categories and which will be described in future posts.

It merits pointing out that talk therapy (CBT. DBT, and interpersonal) are not listed here. This is not because they are not effective in appropriate situations, it’s that body-based therapies are sometimes underused  in treating trauma. Also they can sometimes do more harm than good when inappropriately utilized. By having the client re-experience the trauma, without a solid foundation and felt-sense of safety, they can be re-traumatizing.

Body-based approaches are not focused on the past, but on the present. They facilitate tapping into the trapped energy of the trauma and learning to process and integrate it so that the nervous system becomes well regulated. Greater relaxed alertness rather than fatigued anxiety is the result.

Note that a few of these should be used in later stages of treatment for severe cases as they can be re-traumatizing. Also, there are a few modalities that are best started with guidance. For example, even something as seemingly innocuous as meditation can be harmful if not approached properly. Meditation that is not body-based (is only in the mind) can cause or reinforce further dissociation rather than connection and awareness of the present moment.

  • iRest Yoga Nidra per the book: Amazon
  • Facilitate feeling safe – By the coach / therapist or for yourself
  • Shrinking the inner and outer critic
  • Managing flashbacks – Sometimes the lens through which life is experienced
  • Connection to self and others (relational)
  • Regulation of nervous system
  • Identity – Working on self-image
  • Focus on present
  • Integrating emotions – And awareness of affect
  • Grieving and angering
  • Re-parenting – Later in treatment in some cases
  • Somatic Mindfulness
  • Somatic Experiencing
  • Guided Imagery and evocative imagery
  • Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Deep Relaxation practices
  • Breath work – Some types are best done later in treatment for severe cases
  • Shadow work – Owning the disowned and unacknowledged parts of self
  • EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
  • Yoga and somatic types of meditation
  • Feldenkrais principles and work
  • Trauma toolkit lists for awareness
  • Heart Rate Variability measurements as a self-training tool (type of biofeedback)

May 31

Symptoms of C-PTSD

symptoms

For trauma survivors life feels difficult much of the time. They may experience only a few or many of these symptoms. This is a partial list. Survivors of C-PTSD (Complex PTSD) have symptoms but often don’t know that the cause was neglect. It’s not unusual for there to have been no overt abuse.

  • Black & White / All or none thinking
  • Brain fog / difficulty concentrating
  • Addictions / addictive behavior
  • Emotional Flashbacks
  • Passive attitude towards life or alternatively overly aggressive (fight attitude)
  • Inner &/ or Outer Critic (Extreme criticism of self or others or situations)
  • Toxic Shame
  • Self-Abandonment
  • Social anxiety / general anxiety
  • Chronic exhaustion
  • Lack of affect (emotions)
  • Diminished capacity for connection
  • Attachment disorders
  • Shallow breathing
  • Body armoring (chronic muscle tension)
  • Abject feelings of loneliness and abandonment
  • Fragile Self-esteem
  • Developmental Arrests
  • Relationship difficulties: Overly avoidant or needy vs. secure in relationships
  • Radical mood vacillations
  • Dissociation / disconnection from self and others
  • Hair-triggered fight/ flight response
  • Over sensitivity to stressful situations
  • Suicidal Ideation

A variety of medical conditions due to trauma and a dysregulated nervous system may be present as well. These are often diagnosed as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, and others. These do occur independent of trauma, yet they’re also often associated with it.

May 31

Video Links – Guided Meditations & Talks

Here’s a list of videos that I’ve found useful for healing trauma:

  • Guided imagery: A 15 minute exercise by Martin Rossman M.D. – Author of the book Guided Imagery for Self-Healing – An Essential Resource for Anyone Seeking Wellness. YouTube Link

  • Paper Boats EMDR guided meditation (EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). A 15 minute professionally done recording. Headphones are suggested. YouTube Link

  • How Your Brain Can Turn Anxiety into Calmness: A long (1.5 hour) talk, but packed with great insights for healing. By Martin Rossman M.D. YouTube Link

  • Healing Your Body & Conquering Stress: A 20 minute meditation by Emmett Miller M.D. – Author of the book Deep Healing – The Essence of Body / Mind Medicine.  YouTube Link

  • Healing Developmental Trauma: A 2 hour workshop talk by Dr. Laurence Heller – Author of the book Healing Developmental Trauma. YouTube Link

May 29

Trauma Healing Books List

The following are what I consider the top books on healing trauma. Most deal primarily with developmental trauma (C-PTSD / Complex PTSD), but much of what they contain also applies to regular PTSD (shock or event trauma).

This list is here in the first article (post) so as to be readily available while more articles and information are made available on the site. I’ve studied these books and used many of the principles and exercises both for healing my own trauma and in working with clients.

  • How to Rebuild Yourself – Think different, know yourself, feel better – by George Alexandru Amazon Link

  • Self-Therapy – Free yourself from anxiety and depression, heal post-traumatic stress disorder and emotional trauma, deconstruct your Ego – George Alexandru Amazon Link

  • Healing Developmental Trauma – How Early Trauma Affects Self-Regulation, Self-Image, and the Capacity for Relatonship. by Laurence Heller Phd. Amazon Link

  • In An Unspoken Voice – How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness. by Peter A. Levine Phd.  Amazon Link

  • The Body Keeps Score – Brain Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma. by Bessel van der Kolk MD Amazon Link

  • Complex PTSD – From Surviving to Thriving: A Guide and Map For Recovering From Childhood Trauma. Pete Walker Amazon Link

  • The Tao of Fully Feeling – Harvesting Forgiveness Out of Blame. Pete Walker Amazon Link

  • Deep Healing – The Essence of Body / Mind Medicine. Emmett Miller M.D. Amazon Link

  • Full Catastrophe Living (Revised Edition)Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. Jon Kabat-Zinn Phd. Amazon Link

  • Wherever You Go, There You Are – Mindfulness Meditation In Everyday Life. Jon Kabat-Zinn Phd. Amazon Link

  • Guided Imagery for Self-Healing – An Essential Resource for Anyone Seeking Wellness. Martin L. Rossman M.D. Amazon Link

  • Shadow Dance – Liberating the Power and Creativity of Your Dark Side. David Richo Amazon Link

  • Somatics – Reawakening The Mind’s Control Of Movement, Flexibility, And Health. Thomas Hanna Amazon Link

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