Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The mindbody split

The mindbody split is nowhere more obvious than in the medical model approach to health. There is an unfounded assumption that mental health has only a psychological cause and a physical health issue has only a physiological cause. But we are not disconnected bits and pieces, every single part of us is interlinked and interdependent. The health of the whole depends on the health of its parts.

When it comes to mental health, I think we’re often frightened of the power of the mind and the devastation that can ensue when things go awry. We feel we don’t have as much control over the mind as we do the body, hence the heavy emphasis on medication as the main treatment by psychiatry to keep people in check. Short term, this is often necessary, however problems arise when this is the long term approach and treatment. Medication does not get to the root of the issue, symptoms are just suppressed and the long term effects of medication on the body and mind of the person suffering are horrendous and often cause an early death. Sadly, society in general doesn’t seem to care as long as ‘these people’ are out of sight or kept quiet.

When mental health professionals speak of dissociation, they often don’t differentiate between psychological and somatic dissociation. I think some of them aren’t even aware of somatic dissociation as a phenomenon. This mirrors the mindbody split that is evident in most of the world. It is also because of the major emphasis on psychological processes in psychology and psychiatry. However, there is some dissonance here because of the current emphasis on biologic psychiatry and many somatic symptoms being included in psychiatric diagnoses. The truth is, there is no coherent theory of mental illness in mainstream psychiatry and there never has been.

Why am I speaking of dissociation in particular? Because of its inherent link with trauma. Trauma is one of the biggest unresolved issues in our world and is responsible for many of the problems that we see; addiction, violence, wars, abuse, neglect, homelessness etc. Irish psychiatrist Ivor Browne, defines trauma as unexperienced experience and I believe the mechanism by which an experience remains unexperienced, is dissociation, both psychological and somatic dissociation.

We’ve all been traumatised, or hurt. It’s just a matter of to what degree. Judging by all the problems in the world today, it is safe to say that many of us remain traumatised. Which also means that we’re all dissociated and again it is a matter of to what degree. There is nothing to be frightened of here, it is normal and human to want/need to avoid pain, the more pain we feel or is inflicted upon us, the more we will dissociate. I think it is crucial to normalise trauma and dissociation so we lessen any stigma and shame attached to these phenomena. Problems arise when we act our trauma out, individually and collectively, which is why it is so important that it be taken seriously and effective approaches to resolving it are widely used.

I’d like to see the day when the treatment of any health issue is truly integrative and proper weight is given to both somatic and psychological issues. As regards dissociation, screenings such as the Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES) and Somatoform Dissociation Questionnaire (SDQ ) could be combined, because where does the mind begin and the body end? There is no clear delineation, they are interlinked and interdependent and we need to assess the health of both.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

This will never end

“This will never end”, is a really common belief that keeps us well and truly stuck. It engenders a sense of helplessness, powerlessness and hopelessness which feels absolutely horrible. This belief and all it entails, is often worse than anything that came before it because we fear that how we feel will go on forever without any respite.

One of the main reasons we stay in this unbroken loop is because we keep avoiding unpleasant and uncomfortable emotions (assuming any traumatic experiences are over). It is natural and normal for certain emotions to arise depending on what we’re experiencing, it shows that we’re human. How these emotions were received by others early on in our life is usually when the problems start.

You might have learned that it is unacceptable to be angry, especially if you’re a girl or that you’re weak for being afraid if you’re a boy. We then start to believe that we are unacceptable, weak and bad for having these emotions, because the adults in our lives couldn’t handle us displaying certain emotions that they had an issue with (most likely learned from their parents and so it goes).

We learn self-regulation (how to handle our emotions and resulting body sensations) from being co-regulated, that is; soothed, reassured, accepted, understood and loved. Self regulation is a skill that can be learned like any other and even if we didn’t have a relational home when we were younger, we can give it to ourselves and get it from others.

Try tapping on:

Even though I have this belief that this will never end and that makes me feel … I accept how I feel

Even though this belief brings up unbearable sensations in my body that I feel I have to avoid or else … I accept how I feel

Even though it feels hopeless (or I feel hopeless) and the first time I remember feeling this way was … I accept how I feel

Even though it feels like this will never change, I can choose to make some changes that I have control over and that feels …

Then tap on whatever feels right through the points until you find some relief and hope to give you the strength to make the changes you need and want to make.

Thursday, November 09, 2017


Acceptance is oh so hard to do, especially when there is something going on, or went on in your life that you can’t accept. We can’t accept things for various reasons, but the biggest one I think is that something is causing/caused us pain. We think that if we accept it, it’ll stay (or go as the case may be) and that is unacceptable.

Write down the two sentences below and fill in the blank. Work on one issue at a time. Rate the percentage of what you can’t or can accept. Say for example, you write down 80% for ‘can’t accept’ and 10% for ‘can accept’ on the same issue, there’s a mismatch. Can accept ‘should be’ 20%, so by writing it out this way, you can really see the truth of how you feel and what you can truly accept right now.

1. I can’t accept …
2. I can accept …

Accept what you can’t accept for the moment. You are doing the best you can for now and you will increase your acceptance of something when you are ready. If you have judgements or criticisms about what you can/can’t accept, why, any urgency etc., you can tap on them. Remember being aware and acknowledging something is there can be really helpful, even if we can’t accept it right now.