Monday, August 30, 2010

Panic, Biology, and Reason: Giving the Body Its Due

Article by Peter A. Levine, Ph.D., Director of the Foundation for Human Enrichment,
The Substitute Tiger

My interest in the essential role played by bodily responses in the genesis and treatment of panic anxiety began quite accidentally in 1969. A psychiatrist, knowing of my interest in “mind/body healing”-a fledging arena at the time, had referred a young woman to see me. Nancy had been suffering from panic attacks for about two years. She had not responded to psychotherapy, while tranquilizers and antidepressant drugs gave her only minimal relief. The referring psychiatrist asked me to do some “relaxation training” with her. My attempts were equally unsuccessful. She resisted; I tried harder. We got nowhere. Since I knew almost nothing about panic attacks at the time, I asked her for more detailed information about the ‘how and when’ of her attacks. Nancy revealed that the onset of her first attack occurred while she, along with a group of other students, was taking the Graduate Record Examination. She remembers breaking out in a cold sweat and beginning to shake. Forcing herself to complete the test, Nancy then ran out, frantically pacing the streets for hours, afraid to enter a bus or taxi. Fortunately, she met a friend who took her home. During the following two years her symptoms worsened and became more frequent. Eventually she was unable to leave her house alone and could not follow through with graduate school even though she had passed the exam and was accepted by a major university.

In our conversation, Nancy recollected the following sequence of events: Arriving early, she went to the cafe to have a coffee and smoke a cigarette. A group of students were already there, talking about how difficult the test was. Nancy, overhearing this, became agitated, lit another cigarette, and gulped a second coffee. She remembered feeling quite jittery upon entering the room. She recalled that the exams and marking pencils were passed out and that she wrote vigorously. She became almost breathless at this point and quite agitated--I noticed that her carotid (neck) pulse was increasing rapidly. I asked Nancy to lie down and I tried to get her to relax. Relaxation was not the answer. As I naively, and with the best of intentions, attempted to help her relax, she went into a full-blown anxiety attack. Her heartbeat accelerated further to about 150 beats per minute. Her breathing and pulse rate then started to decrease. I was relieved, but only momentarily. Her pulse continued to drop, precipitously to around 50 beats per minute; she became still. Her face paled and her hands begin to tremble: “I’m real scared…stiff all over…I’m dying…I can’t move…I don’t want to die…help me…don’t let my die.” She continued to stiffen, her throat becoming so tight that she could barely speak. Nancy forced the words, “Why can’t I understand this…I feel so inferior, like I’m being punished…there’s something wrong with me…I feel like I’m going to be killed… there’s nothing…it’s just blank.” (We had rather unfortunately co-discovered, some years before it was reported in the literature, “relaxation-induced panic syndrome.”) Read on

Monday, August 23, 2010

EFT and Safety

We must not forget that what Emotional Freedom Techniques does, is to discharge a short circuit in our energy systems. How we call up or evoke that energetic disturbance so it can be released, varies, we can do it with imagery, smells, sounds, music, metaphors, body sensations or some other representation of the disturbance. To dissolve the disruption effectively and thoroughly we need to be tuned into it as best we can. Being tuned in means to be associated with or to feel the energy of the feeling that caused the initial energetic disturbance in the first place. It's always about how we feel about "X" that causes our energy to short circuit. While sometimes it is necessary to go gently, the most important ingredient for someone to be able to tune in and fully associate with their feelings, is to feel safe enough to do so. We will not tune in or we will refuse to feel feelings that cause huge disruptions in our energy systems if we don't feel safe. So, if our feelings are causing the short circuit, let's use our feelings in a safe way to dissolve the short circuit.
What creates the safety that we need to feel those feelings? Someone being fully present with us, which has the effect of us feeling heard, understood and accepted and also having our feelings and experiences witnessed and validated. This experience is something we can fully place our trust in because it just cannot be faked. We will know whether or not we feel safe with a therapist or practitioner even though we might question our self, we'll know whether the person has created a safe place for us to open up and connect with our hurt and vulnerability.

The solution to the problem of the day is the awakening of the consciousness of humanity to the divinity within ~ Hazrat Inayat Khan

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Getting all parts on board

All YOU need to do is to have the WILL to Even Flow 
~ Silvia Hartmann

You can make life a lot easier for your self if you're willing. Willingness is probably the most important ingredient when you embark on a healing journey. You can do a lot when you're willing. Being willing means wanting to do something, not forcing yourself to do something, that's willpower, not willingness. Willpower takes effort, a lot of effort, it's sort of like swimming upstream, against the current with a big sack on your back, it's exhausting! And that struggle and effort are some of the most important reasons why we don't follow through on a lot of things that we say we want. When all parts of us aren't willing, we'll do all sorts of things to sabotage our healing efforts. Not being willing will manifest as:

~ Procrastination
~ Self sabotage
~ Conflict, particularly conflicted parts that want different things
~ Avoidance (denial, burying, stuffing, distraction, dissociation, suppression, shutting down) of the issue and the related feelings
~ Not feeling safe. Safety is one of the most important core issues to tap on, it underlies many if not all issues and is a primary reason for not being willing to heal

One of the most important things to tap on therefore, is being willing or wanting to heal. Try some of the following set up statements. Tapping diagram.

Even though I'm not willing to heal because … I completely accept how I feel right now

Even though a part of me is not willing because … I accept and understand how that part feels

Even though I'm not willing to feel … I accept how I feel about that

Even though one part is willing and another part isn't because … I completely accept and understand this conflict

Even though all of this feels forced, maybe because it's not what I truly want, I am now open to what my heart truly desires because I know it will be effortless

Even though I just don't want to make the effort, I accept how I feel right now

Even though I don't feel safe moving forward, I accept how I feel at this moment

Monday, August 16, 2010

Two sides of the same coin

golden waterfall, originally uploaded by paul (dex).

Resistance and Willingness are two sides of the same coin. Willingness will help you heal, resistance will stop any healing in its tracks. Willingness is an essential, and probably the most important, ingredient in the healing process. There's no bargaining to be done here, if you're not willing, you're going to find it exhausting struggling to do what you say you want to do. It will be uphill all the way. You will resist and fight every hurdle and obstacle you encounter which will drain your energy. You will hide, avoid, refuse to take responsibility, refuse to feel, want to be right all the time, project your stuff on to others, you'll do anything and everything rather than just start!

Do your self a favour at the start of the healing process, ask your self how willing you are to heal. Rate the truth of how willing you are from 0 to 10. Be completely honest. You can tap on all the reasons as to why you're not willing which will make your healing journey a lot easier and less painful. You might be surprised at the answers you come up with.

To heal we need to be willing to:
1 Look at something
2 Acknowledge it and
Feel it.

Willingness is not the same as willpower. Willingness is being open, being receptive and aware of what needs to be done. Willingness is effortless when all parts of you are on board.

What we call the secret of happiness is no more a secret than our willingness to choose life
 ~ Leo Buscaglia

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Emotional Flashback Management in the Treatment of Complex PTSD

This is a fantastic article by Pete Walker from

Early in my career I worked with David,* a handsome, intelligent client who was a professional actor. One day David came to see me after an unsuccessful audition. Beside himself, he burst out: "I never let on to anyone, but I know that I'm really very ugly; it's so stupid that I'm trying to be an actor when I'm so painful to look at."
David's childhood was characterized by emotional abuse, neglect and abandonment. The last and unwanted child of a large family, his alcoholic father repeatedly terrorized him. To make matters worse, his family frequently humiliated him by reacting to him with exaggerated looks of disgust. His older brother's favorite gibe, accompanied by a nauseated grimace, was, "I can't stand looking at you. The sight of you makes me sick!" David was so traumatized by the contempt with which his family had treated him that he was easily triggered by anything but the most benign expression on my face. If he came into session already triggered, he would often project disgust onto me, no matter how much genuine goodwill and regard I felt for him at the time.
I have come to call these reactions, typical of David and of many other clients over the years, emotional flashbacks—sudden and often prolonged regressions ("amygdala hijackings") to the frightening and abandoned feeling-states of childhood. They are accompanied by inappropriate and intense arousal of the fight/flight instinct and the sympathetic nervous system. Typically, they manifest as intense and confusing episodes of fear, toxic shame, and/or despair, which often beget angry reactions against the self or others. When fear is the dominant emotion in an emotional flashback, the individual feels overwhelmed, panicky or even suicidal. When despair predominates, it creates a sense of profound numbness, paralysis and an urgent need to hide. Feeling small, young, fragile, powerless and helpless is also common in emotional flashbacks. Such experiences are typically overlaid with toxic shame, which, as described in John Bradshaw's Healing The Shame That Binds, obliterates an individual's self-esteem with an overpowering sense that she is as worthless, stupid, contemptible or fatally flawed, as she was viewed by her original caregivers. Toxic shame inhibits the individual from seeking comfort and support, and in a reenactment of the childhood abandonment she is flashing back to, isolates her in an overwhelming and humiliating sense of defectiveness. Clients who view themselves as worthless, defective, ugly or despicable are showing signs of being lost in an emotional flashback. When stuck in this state, they often polarize affectively into intense self-hate and self-disgust, and cognitively into extreme and virulent self-criticism.
Numerous clients tell me that the concept of an emotional flashback brings them a great sense of relief. They report that for the first time they are able to make some sense of their extremely troubled lives. Some get that their addictions are misguided attempts to self-medicate. Some understand the inefficacy of the myriad psychological and spiritual answers they pursued, and are in turn feel liberated from a shaming plethora of misdiagnoses. Some can now frame their extreme episodes of risk taking and self-destructiveness as desperate attempts to distract themselves from their pain. Many experience hope that they can rid themselves of the habit of amassing evidence of defectiveness or craziness. Many report a budding recognition that they can challenge the self-hate and self-disgust that typically thwarts their progress in therapy. Read on.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Repairing injuries

Making friends with a condition or issue is the same as making friends with your self. It might be easier for us to believe, and more true, that instead of having created these issues, they are the manifestations of how we reacted and responded to life events that we had no control over. I don't believe we have 100% control over life's events, what we can control and choose is our ability to respond. 

But don't we need the resources to be able to do that? Does a three year old have the resources to choose her reaction or response to her father sexually abusing her? I don't believe so, she can't do anything about it except to cut off her pain in whatever way she can so she doesn't feel it, because it's too overwhelming. This cutting off or shutting down, can take the form of dissociating, acting out, becoming subdued and compliant and so on. I like the way traumas and conditions are described in Emotrance as “injuries to our spiritual or energetic body”, because that is exactly what they are. They hurt just like an injury hurts, but often these hurts are hidden and invisible. These Injuries need to be repaired so our energy can flow again. We can't repair what we are fighting and resisting, we are just making our injury bigger and sorer. We think we are resisting what happened or what was done to us, but in actual fact, mostly we are resisting feeling our own pain. We are fighting our self and our pain. Feeling our pain, making friends with it, is the way to repairing these old injuries.

That idea is fundamental ~ to feel pain and not to resist; to go towards it. It is an incredibly spiritual practice ~ Christy Turlington