Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Shame

There’s a big difference between believing you did something wrong/bad or that you are wrong/bad. I think healthy shame arises from within, toxic shame comes from outside. Our organism knows how to ‘do’ emotions, they’re hardwired, so why is there such a clamour and rush to get children to know about shame in particular? Do we not trust that they’ll learn what’s right or wrong as they grow?

Toxic shame comes in many forms; the shame of being abused, the shame of being neglected, the shame of not being loved, the shame of not having enough to eat, the shame of not always being able to hide from others finding out … Toxic shame is compounded when it is a family member who does these things to us. If your own parent doesn’t love you or take care of you, what worth do you have? What’s more shaming than that? Many times children are shamed as being from a ‘bad’ family and who wants the shame of belonging to a bad family? This sets up a terrible conflict between a desperate and natural need to belong and the shame of belonging to the ‘wrong’ family.


A so-called harmless and extremely common way of shaming is using shame to discipline a child. Why? Because it works, like a toxic treat. Is there anything more effective than making someone believe that what they did is wrong and that they are wrong for doing it? Toxic shaming is the laziest form of discipline at best and at worst leaves a lasting imprint that makes a person collapse into a diminished, smaller and more compliant form of who they truly are.

One possible outcome of persistent toxic shaming is not being able to be wrong. Being wrong, or taking responsibility for doing/saying something wrong, is just not an option because you feel as if you’re being annihilated if you admit to any wrongdoing. This causes havoc in your life and particularly your relationships, because it’s impossible to be in a relationship with someone who can’t be wrong and doesn't take responsibility.

Shame, like all emotions, is felt in the body and its sensations can be extremely uncomfortable. It is felt as heat, constriction, collapse, diminishment, smallness, badness, wrongness and many more. Try tapping on how shame shows up for you and get in touch with any negative core beliefs about yourself around shame and tap until they don’t resonate with you anymore.

Resources:
Listening to shame by Brené Brown https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psN1DORYYV0
Healing the shame that binds you by John Bradshaw https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5q2tZa1gp8Q

Friday, September 15, 2017

Why trauma is much more than a PTSD diagnosis

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is synonymous with trauma, however, many people who are traumatised might not receive a PTSD diagnosis.

There are two main reasons as to why:
1. Criterion A in the PTSD diagnostic criteria
2. There are many other signs of trauma besides the stipulated criteria in a PTSD diagnosis



Let’s discuss the importance of criterion A first. There used to be two parts to this criterion, A1 and A2, but A2 was deleted from the DSM-5, the most recent edition of the DSM, because it had no “utility”. A2 stated that: The person's response (to criterion A) involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror. Why A2 was deleted is beyond me, because without having a response to an event, it is impossible to be traumatised.

If the the American Psychiatric Association's (APA), “scientific” model of PTSD/trauma were replicable, an A1 event would always result in trauma. It doesn’t. Some people experience these events and don’t develop PTSD, or other signs of trauma. Why? In addition, many other experiences not listed in criterion A do result in trauma. Why? Because of the person’s response and experience of the event. This needs to be taken seriously as too many people who are suffering and desperate as a result, are not getting the help they need.

By deleting and not expanding on A2, the APA has undermined the importance of the subjective experience, deeming it non-scientific, which is just ridiculous. The implication is that criterion A is an objective measurement of trauma, which it is not. A huge contradiction in deleting A2 and calling it useless, is that the rest of the PTSD criteria, namely; B, C, D, E and G* only measure the person’s response. Crucially however, if criterion A is not nominated, the other criteria won’t even be considered. 

Conventional methods either ignore or overly focus on symptoms, instead of seeing them as a bread crumb trail to the causes. For example, if your blood test results fall within normal parameters (forget optimal), albeit at the cusp of the lower or upper end, your symptoms will be ignored and the dots won't be connected, you might even be passed off as a hypochondriac and if you're a woman you'll often be given a prescription for either anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication. Whereas,  if you can tick criterion A, the symptoms become all important in the sense of either squashing them with medication, which doesn't work long term, or using methods such as cognitive behavioural therapy which only 'talks' to the prefrontal cortex, which is often offline when traumatised. Things are changing, but too slowly for those who are suffering, this is why the importance of trauma-informed care cannot be overemphasised.

Trauma should be listed as an etiological factor for nearly every diagnosis in the DSM, along with any other root causes. Just imagine how the treatment of certain conditions would change if unresolved traumatic stress, giving rise to many symptoms, if not all symptoms in some cases, was addressed? Why not treat the cause(s) instead of the symptoms which very often puts us on an expensive, helpless and hopeless merry-go-round with seemingly no way of getting off? We need to ask who benefits from the system as it is currently set up, it certainly isn’t the tens of thousands, if not millions, suffering needlessly from unresolved traumatic stress in all its many manifestations.

*View the other criteria here: https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/PTSD-overview/dsm5_criteria_ptsd.asp

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Just imagine ...

That we acknowledge and address the effects of unresolved trauma in all its overt and covert forms.
Everyone having access to shelter, food, health and education as the absolute minimum.
People’s needs being met.
Chronic health issues being taken seriously.
Mental health stigma doesn’t exist.
Compassion is shown to anyone who has a dis-ease, mental or physical.
Having access to a menu of all available care options, even if we don’t have any financial means.
Children are cherished, loved, hugged, kissed, protected, respected, taken seriously and allowed to be who they truly are.
That children can just be children.
That we value emotional intelligence as much as we do academic intelligence.
We are taught to be present to whatever is going on with us, and when we can’t, we could get the help and support that we need.
That symptoms didn’t rule and root cause(s) were valued and sought.
Israel not re-enacting its collective unresolved trauma and persecuting Palestinians the way Jewish people have been persecuted.
Imperialism and colonialism didn’t exist.
No one having to flee their countries out of necessity but because of choice.
No corruption.
Honest and accountable politicians.
Rehabilitating people who have committed crimes rather than punishing them and hardening them even further.
We cared about what happens to others the way we would if it were happening to us.
Men not being called sissies or cry babies when they are vulnerable and show emotion.
That it’s ok for men to be afraid and for women to be angry.
That women aren’t called bitches for being strong nor punished/bullied for speaking up and saying no.
Female genital mutilation didn’t exist.
Women aren’t punished for having sex and enjoying it.
Women could wear what they wanted without facing any consequences dictated and enforced by men.
Women had agency over their own bodies and lives.
Old age was valued.
There is no hierarchy of racism according to the shade of our skin.
People realising that white skin is a loss of melanin in northern climates so the body can produce enough vitamin D to survive and is not a sign of the ridiculous notion of supremacy.
People questioning themselves when they feel superior rather than acting it out.
Questioning the trillions spent on war when millions don’t even have any clean water to drink.
Not profiting from war or sickness.
Valuing people more than profits.
We are as kind to Mother Nature as she is to us.
Addiction is perceived as ritualised comfort seeking.
Not pathologising any manifestations of traumatic stress.
Religion didn’t exist.
We didn’t classify people, or their worth, according to their financial status.
Realising that violence is often (always?) the re-enactment of trauma.
We realise that we are collectively responsible.
We realise that we are all connected.
We feel we belong and have inherent value just because we exist.



Friday, August 25, 2017

Bracing against


Try tapping on the following script, making sure to customise it for you, diagram here.

Even though I brace when … I completely accept my need to brace

Even though I didn’t realise that bracing against … is what is keeping it in place, I’m open to learning how to release this …

Even though I don’t always have to work on this … I can take breaks when I need to and that feels …

Top of head: I have to brace against …
Eyebrow: Or it will swamp me
Side of eye: It’s too frightening to feel …
Under the eye: I don’t have to feel … all the time
Under nose: I can take breaks
Under chin: That part or parts need reassurance I’ll come back
Collar bone: I only seem to take notice
Under the arm: When I feel bad

Top of head: When they feel bad
Eyebrow: Otherwise I ignore them
Side of eye: So they have to get my attention
Under the eye: Any way they can
Under nose: I need to show them that I’ll
Under chin: Be there for them
Collar bone: For the good
Under the arm: And the bad

Top of head: They need to know
Eyebrow: I won’t abandon them
Side of eye: I don’t have to feel … all the time
Under the eye: I can soothe … instead
Under nose: I don’t have to fix this
Under mouth: I just have to be there
Collar bone: And be kind
Under the arm: To all parts of me and how they feel

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The importance of trauma informed care

If you knew that there was one root cause that is the foundation of most mental and physical illnesses, wouldn’t you want to know what it is? Wouldn’t you do almost anything to find out what it is, so you could finally get to the bottom of any chronic issue that is plaguing you or someone you love? Wouldn’t you wonder why anyone who is a health professional would not know what it is?

I sometimes think that I must be living in a bubble of people who know what the root cause is, because it is only when I enter the mainstream by say, going to a doctor, that I realise that many people don’t know and don’t even know that they don’t know. It always surprises me and leaves me quite frustrated. Or maybe, they’re not interested in finding and treating the root cause, because going down the road of symptoms is much more profitable because it’s a merry-go-round that you (the client or patient) can never get off and which, very often, if not always, leads to retraumatisation and a worsening of symptoms. I’d rather not believe the last scenario to be true, but unfortunately the evidence speaks for itself.

What is at the root of many mental and physical illnesses? The answer is: unresolved trauma. This might not be new to some of you and others might be saying that it couldn’t be so simple and others might be saying that I’m talking sh*t. But mountains of growing research and anecdotal evidence shows that unresolved trauma, particularly early in life, is the cause of a massive stress overload on our nervous systems leading to chronic health issues. A dysregulated nervous system results in a dysregulated body and mind.

Therefore, the crucial importance of any health professional being trauma-informed cannot be overstated. Too many doctors are handing out prescriptions for symptoms, with direct effects, not side effects, and sometimes those effects lead to death, or, at best, an extremely poor quality of life. There are too many diagnoses, many of them supposedly co-morbid, when the root cause is completely neglected. This is nowhere near good enough, too many are suffering, too many are at the end of their tether, too many are at breaking point, or have already broken down. We need to do a lot lot better, because unresolved trauma is the most important health issue facing our world today.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

I shouldn't be feeling this way

There’s no surer way for an emotion or physical sensation to get stuck than us thinking we shouldn’t be feeling a certain way. It could be that we believe that we ‘should be’ over it, or else the 4 biggies are getting in the way of us feeling the emotion or sensation. And they are:
  • It feels awful
  • Shame
  • Guilt
  • Disloyalty

Try the following set up statements to help you dissolve whatever blocks you might have when you ‘should’ on yourself.

Even though I shouldn’t be feeling this way, I’m a bad person for feeling this way, I am open to accepting this emotion

Even though I believe that this emotion is bad because … I accept that’s the way I feel right now

Even though this sensation feels awful, it’s not possible to feel it without … I accept how I feel

Even though I feel disloyal for feeling this way towards … I accept that I don’t want to hurt anyone

Even though I might be hurting myself by not feeling this feeling, I am open to feeling some of this feeling

Even though I should be over this by now (your belief or others?), I'm moving at a pace that feels ...

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Even though I'm afraid to go inside ...

Whenever an experience is too much for us, we have the ability to store it away inside our bodies and minds until we can feel it later. This is an absolutely brilliant coping mechanism that gets us through some tough times. Because storing it away has seemingly been so successful, we think we can do it forever, but we can’t. Our system becomes too full and starts overflowing with anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, heart disease, thyroid disorders and so on. I’m not suggesting that trauma is 100% responsible for every condition or symptom, but research shows that it plays a huge role in many dis-eases when it is unresolved and frozen for a long time.


Going inside our bodies can be absolutely terrifying, so we avoid it at all costs which is totally understandable. What we need to do is titrate, that is, go slowly, bit by bit, until the stored pain and hurt can be felt and released. This isn’t always what we want to hear when we’re suffering, we want it gone yesterday, but it doesn’t work like that. It has usually taken years for pain to accumulate and it will take time to sift through it, otherwise we risk extreme overwhelm which is counterproductive and can set us back and make us even more afraid of our pain. Try the following statements to help you find the courage to go inside at a pace that feels safe and comfortable for you. Repeat whatever feels right on the points, diagram here.

Even though I’m afraid to go inside, I accept how I feel

Even though I get overwhelmed by all the stuff stored inside, I don’t know where to start, I’ll do it at my own pace and I’ll do it with help

Even though a part of me doesn’t want to feel what’s inside, another part knows I have to feel it, or it will keep showing up in ways I don’t like, I accept this conflict and how both parts of me feel

Even though I’m scared of this mountain of hurt, it’s too big for me, I accept that it’s absolutely ok to be afraid

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The pain of disconnection

When something painful happens to us, we not only disconnect from the pain because it’s so painful, we also disconnect from ourselves; because the pain lives in us in some shape or form. This division within our self is called dissociation and it’s really important that we normalise dissociation as we all dissociate to a greater or lesser degree. Kathy Steele calls this fleeing from self, Mindflight, the opposite of what Daniel Siegel calls Mindsight.

When we don’t feel connected to our self and others, we feel pain on top of any other pain we’ve suffered like being unloved, unwanted, abused or neglected. Being and feeling connected is an essential biological, emotional and spiritual need throughout our life. Feeling connected is not optional, babies die without it, and adults develop all sorts of dis-eases, both mental and physical. It goes against everything we are as humans not to be and feel connected.


The nature of life is movement, not stagnation. Things will out, they’ll bubble up and create enormous pressure on us in the form of various symptoms and conditions, in order for us to connect with the part(s) who feel pain. Connecting with our pain is not the same as trying to fix the pain, that’s a relentless, exhausting and futile hunt which always eludes us.

Our pain doesn’t define us but it does become part of us in some way. It changes us, and if we feel it instead of acting it out, or in, it can bring out who we always were deep down while also transforming us.

Try the following set up statements and tap on all the points with whatever reminder phrase feels right.

Even though it’s too painful to connect with this pain, I honour my feelings

Even though this pain has remained frozen for so long, maybe it’s time to let it melt drop by drop

Even though I feel disconnected from … I am open to reconnecting

Even though a part(s) of me is afraid to reconnect with this pain because … I completely accept my fear, it’s ok to be afraid

Even though I don’t know whether I’ll be able to handle my pain, I am open to asking for help and support to get through this

Even though I wish it would all go away so I didn’t have to deal with it, I accept that need and desire