Monday, April 30, 2012

A Neurologist’s Explanation for Trauma, Dissociation and Chronic Pain

Taken from

During his keynote address to the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, Dr. Robert C. Scaer invited fellow clinicians to “look beyond the dysfunctional behavior apparent in many PTSD patients to the neurophysiological and autonomic dysregulation that is the source of their symptoms and eventually their disease.”

“Medical science must shed the concept that a symptom, not measurable by current technology, is ‘psychological’ and therefore invalid,” he stated, and encouraged physicians to reject the pejorative implications of the term “somatization” and to stop further traumatization of patients by subtly implied rejection.

Referencing extensive research carried out over several decades, including that of Dr. Peter Levine in the field of somatic experiencing (SE), Dr. Scaer proposes a model of PTSD linked to “cyclical autonomic dysfunction.”

Case In Point: Whiplash Syndrome

According to Dr. Scaer, Whiplash Syndrome constitutes a model for traumatization rather than physical injury; many of its symptoms and clinical manifestations are in fact a universal, animal response to a life threat in the face of helplessness.

This hypothesis is based on the occurrence of dissociation at the time of the motor vehicle accident in the form of numbing and an altered state of awareness, often attributed to concussion.  Scaer reminded the audience that individuals who actively dissociate at the time of a traumatic event are much more likely to develop subsequent symptoms of PTSD than those who do not. Furthermore, he added, children are especially prone to dissociate at the time of a traumatic experience.

Whiplash Syndrome has proven very difficult to treat. Individuals who develop it after a whiplash trauma suffer continual headaches and pain, reduced movement at the back of the neck, tingling in the arms, lumbar pains, fatigue, sleep disruptions and reduced libido. Moreover, in a small percentage of people, these symptoms can persist for months or even years before settling. Yet, even then, residual long-term neck discomfort may be experienced.

These subsequent clinical symptoms are explained by theories of limbic “kindling,” Scaer said. Kindling, he explained, is the name given to the phenomenon of the progressive development of self-perpetuating neural circuits. The symptom can be produced in rats by repetitive time- and frequency-contingent regional electrical brain stimulation. The behavioral expression of kindling in humans may include epileptic seizures and is also a model for a number of clinical syndromes, including PTSD. Read on

Dissociation: the escape when there is no escape ~ Frank Putnam

Monday, April 23, 2012

Awareness and Introspection

Excerpted from Peter Levine's book In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness:

Though frequently used interchangeably, awareness and introspection are two very different creatures. Stated simply: awareness is the spontaneous, and creatively neutral experiencing of whatever arises in the present moment – whether sensation, feeling, perception, thought or action. In contrast, introspection is a directing of our attention in a deliberate, evaluating, controlling and, not infrequently, judgemental way. Introspection, while often valuable (and the essence of many talk therapies) can in itself become interfering, taking us far away from the here and now. The unexamined life, according to Thoreau, may not be worth living. However, introspective examination can become pathological, contributing to increased rumination, inhibition, self-consciousness and excessive self-criticism.

Awareness might be likened to seeing a glowing ember emanating the light of its own internal combustion. Introspection, on the other hand, is like viewing an object illuminated by an external light source, such as a flashlight. With awareness one directly experiences one's life energy as it pulsates and glows. In introspection, one sees only a reflection of the contents of one's life. Confusing thought and awareness, or equating them, is at the root of so much unnecessary human suffering. Insight, while important, has rarely cured a neurosis or healed a trauma. In fact, it often makes matters worse. After all, knowing why one reacts to a person, place or thing is not, in itself, helpful. Indeed, it is potentially harmful. For example, breaking out in a cold sweat when your lover touches you is distressing enough. Yet, having this same reaction, over and over, even after understanding why it occurs, can be further demoralising. Comprehending that what happened was merely triggered by an earlier event, while repeatedly having to endure its uninvited intrusion, can add crippling feelings of failure, shame and helplessness.

On the other hand, “simple” awareness, along with a fortified tolerance for bewildering and frightening physical body sensations, can seemingly, as if by magic, prevent or dissolve entrenched emotional and physical symptoms.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE)

I highly recommend David Berceli's tension and trauma release exercises which are very easy to learn from his DVD. Here is more on how the exercises help us to release any frozen energy from our bodies that manifest as trauma symptoms

Neurogenic Tremors (The body’s natural response)

It is not uncommon in many cultures to hear phrases such as: I was so frightened my jaw was quivering. I was shaking all over my body and I couldnt calm down. When I was giving that speech my legs were really shaking. My hands were shaking so bad I couldnt hold anything. I was so angry I shook all over. The experience of trembling is not only commonplace in our culture but it is a common experience to many mammalian species. This familiar, albeit disconcerting, experience is known as neurogenic tremors. It is well-known and documented that neurogenic tremors are a common result of a traumatic event.

Although there are no precise estimates of the incidence and prevalence of neurogenic tremors, clinical experience suggests that it is not rare (Chou, 2004). The neurogenic tremors commonly reported in PTSD are also recognized as diagnostic features of Panic Attacks (300.21), Social Phobias (300.23), and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (300.02) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR, 2000).  The onset of these tremors can often be attributed to a traumatic event (Walters & Hening, 1992; Smaga 2003). Even though it is well accepted that body tremors are commonly present in a number of psychological illnesses, the purpose, etiology and potential therapeutic value of these tremors has received little attention in relation to the number of cases reported. Although the patho-physiology of tremors has made significant progress, many hypotheses on the purpose and value of these tremors are not yet based on sufficient data. Modern psycho-physiology needs to develop and test various hypotheses as a way of developing a rational medical theory and therapy to address this phenomenon (Deuschl et al., 2001). Read on 

Every muscular contraction contains the history and meaning of its origin ~ William Reich

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The true message

I'm reading a book at the moment called Therapeutic Communication: Knowing What to Say When by Paul Wachtel who talks about the main message that a therapist/practitioner conveys to a client. He believes that this message is always accompanied by a meta–message, or what I like to call, the true message. This meta-message communicates the true feelings and attitudes of the practitioner towards the client and it is this meta–message that has the greatest potential for therapeutic transformation or failure according to Wachtel.

People pick up on what we say, and in particular what we don't say, by our facial expressions, posture, gestures, dress and so on, and this is true in all walks of life. We have different ways of 'knowing' and 'receiving' information. We also pick up on what people say, and what they really mean, by our intuition. We usually feel this knowing as a bodily sensation or sensations if we are tuned in and we can all tune into our intuition and bodies with practice. Our body never lies.

Some might argue it is about perception, it is how we perceive things that other people say that determines how we interpret their message and while this is true to a certain extent, we know what we know. I believe it is crucially important to learn how to trust our knowing and intuition which is the same as trusting our self. If we are used to being criticised, questioned and having our feelings minimised we won't have very much self trust, so it is a very important issue to tap on. You can find a tapping script on self trust here.

Wachtel, Paul, L. (2011). Therapeutic Communication: Knowing What to Say When, Guildford Publications, New York.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Using EFT for type 2 diabetes

One of the best resources I have found for type 2 diabetes is Dr Ron Rosedale. His articles on Insulin and its Metabolic Effects and Diabetes is not a Disease of Blood Sugar are excellent and fascinating reads on how important the role of insulin is in the body. Elevated insulin levels are highly associated and even causative of: heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, obesity and many other so-called diseases.

The precursor to type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance which is when our cells become resistant to the effects of insulin. In other words, the body's cells are not listening to insulin so it cannot do its job properly. This is because the levels of insulin are too high in the body, it is akin to going partially deaf after years of listening to music that is too loud. This is where type 2 diabetes can seem the same as type 1 diabetes but it is not. In type 1 the pancreas produces no insulin, in type 2 the pancreas produces too much insulin, only the cells are not responding to it. Eventually, the pancreas can stop producing insulin, but this is a last resort and does not have to happen. There is so much you can do to prevent insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes by making healthier lifestyle choices to lower your insulin levels and keep them at optimum levels.

Cleaning up our diet is the first step and we can start by reducing foods that can cause insulin levels to spike such as refined carbohydrates, grains and sugars. Regular exercise helps improve our cells sensitivity to insulin, so keep active. Keeping our stress levels low is also very important, as when we are in fight or flight mode, we release cortisol and adrenaline which causes our blood sugar to elevate. The pancreas has then to release insulin to bring down blood sugar to safe levels. If the cycle of stress keeps occurring, over time, excess sugars will be stored as fat, mostly abdominal fat, because the body cannot clear the sugars fast enough as the cells have stopped responding to insulin correctly. Elevated insulin levels can also lead to chronic inflammation and cause a wide range of chronic health issues. All chronic disease is due to a miscommunication of messages between and within cells according to Dr Rosedale.

Try the following set up statements:

Even though I'm insulin resistant and that makes me feel ... I choose to listen to my body and all of its signals

Even though I haven't been listening to my body because ... I accept that it has been hard to hear what it has to say because ...

Even though I have all these symptoms (list them) and they make me feel ... I accept how I feel

Even though I have type 2 diabetes and I feel ... I accept myself anyway

Even though I am chronically stressed and can't seem to deal with stress, I choose to accept that I'm doing my best for now

Even though I just can't relax, because ... I choose to breathe into any discomfort I am feeling

Even though it is difficult not to fight my discomfort or how I am feeling, a part of me wants to just eat (or whatever else gives you comfort from stress) so I don't have to feel any stress, I deeply and completely accept myself anyway

The human body is not a single being, but a vast and beautiful community; a living republic of cells and bacteria, all working in harmony towards the continued survival of the being we call you ~ Ron Rosedale