Hearing Voices: From The Inside Out

This is a lovely 14 minute clip of Eleanor Longden describing her journey from a perceived madness to recovery. Besides any doubts we may have of her diagnosis of schizophrenia, her process of recovery sounds very much like recovery from DID. Take care, take faith, and take hope.

Have I created my dissociative disorder?

Have I created my dissociative disorder? This really interesting question has been posted in the comments section and I thought it deserves a more in-depth response because I have heard this question asked many times over the years.

The question whether people (either clients or therapists) can create a dissociative disorder has kept the therapeutic community divided for many years now. The good news is that nobody really knows. Whatever people believe is just that: THEIR BELIEF. We don’t know enough about how our marvelous mind works to be able to give a definitive answer.

It might be wise to be cautious and not believe everything therapists (and other people) tell you – including myself here – because we all make up our own reality as we speak or think for that matter. Our perception is so fickle, it’s more about ourselves and our own history and experiences than what we perceive is going on in the world. When you find that you are able to quieten your mind and use the stillness to listen inside to your own wisdom, you will find your truth. That’s the only one that you can live by! Not my one and no-one else’s.

But I am diverting – back to the question: In my personal view it is naive to think someone only has to read a book and then can talk themselves into having a disorder so severe that it causes mental and emotional distress. “Inventing it yourself” implies a purposeful act – like creating a make-belief story that then is lived out. If we watch a movie we might be affected by it, but we still know it’s a movie, a made-up story, it’s not real. That step doesn’t seem possible for people diagnosed with a dissociative disorder (or any other disorder for that matter).

‘Inventing unknowingly’ is a contradiction in itself – it doesn’t make sense and isn’t really a thought-through statement.

I have always perceived dissociative disorders on a continuum of awareness. To use a stereotypical example: the academic in their ivory tower who is not aware of his/her other needs and feelings, and is complete ignorant about leisure, health, family, etc. This kind of ‘life’ is – even though socially acceptable and at times even admired – in my view very dissociative. It is just not recognised as a pathology because the person is not signalling that s/he is suffering.

The person that ended up with a diagnosed dissociative condition seems to me to be a bit further on the way to ‘mental health and inner peace’ because their awareness is awakened to the aspects of their lives that don’t work for them. One way of going through the mental disorders of the DSM is to view all (or most) of the listed disorders as people’s individual way of coping with the problems life is presenting them with. Does the depressed person chose to be depressed? NO. Does the anxious person chose to wake up anxious every day? NO. Neither does the dissociative person chose to see him/herself as fragmented and disconnected. Due to complex circumstances (age, resilience, support, ability to conceptualise, etc.) these people have learnt to respond to life through these specific ways. There is not really a choice as in “I am consciously choosing x”.

If we look at mental disorders from a medical/pharmaceutical perspective, the answer is usually: it’s some form of mental brain malfunction for which – thanks to pharma – we have a pill that can be prescribed and things may or may not improve. Because dissociative disorders itself don’t respond to pharmaceutical interventions, many people lean to thinking they can’t be real and therefore must be a creation of the patient or the therapist! There you have it!

If we look at mental disorders from the perspective of how human experience is created, than all our experiences are due to each individuals way of making sense of life and ability to respond to life. In that sense we do create all our experience – but is it inventing? Certainly not, it is just what every human being is doing, it’s how nature has designed us to exist.

If someone tells you that you are creating your e.g. dissociative disorder,  depression, or anxiety there is the implication that you’ve been naughty, it’s not real, you shouldn’t have done it, please un-do it quickly. They don’t understand it’s your personal response to life’s circumstances, it’s the best way you could cope with life given your resources, awareness, and thinking at the time. Once your awareness increases you will improve the quality of your responses to life.

Moving Past Sexual Abuse Group Starting Soon

Raeburn House, Auckland, New Zealand, is running another Moving Past Sexual Abuse group. In the past the group was organised as a support group in which participants would be surrounded by survivors who understood their experiences and sharing one’s stories and supporting each other was the strongest emphasis.

This new Moving Past Sexual Abuse group is about discovering ways of how to leave the abuse and the legacies of the abuse behind oneself. Rather than concentrating on what happened in the past the emphasis is on having a life worth living NOW, today, and the days to come.

You will be shown how it is possible to regain control and reconnect with joy, wisdom, and peace of mind. You will find that the capacity to live in wellness has always been dormant within you waiting for you to connect with it. The Moving Past Abuse group is geared to help you realise that potential!

You can expect that we will address how to deal with anger, difficult emotions, social connections, relationships with self and others, depression, perceptions, thought, and in general how not to be ruled by the past.

Here are the starting dates and details:

When: Mondays, 8 weeks, Starts 30 July
Time:·7:00pm – 9:00pm
Total Cost: $80
Facilitator: Gudrun Frerichs
Venue: Raeburn House, 138 Shakespeare Road, Milford

For more information contact Raeburn House, phone: (09) 441 8989 or emaillearning@raeburnhouse.org.nz.

Find more interesting groups run by Raeburn House by going to their website.

New: Moving Past Sexual Abuse Seminar

Raeburn House is running again a sexual abuse survivor group. In previous years the survivor groups were ongoing support groups that accommodated survivors to attend for several terms. They were designed following the three stages of Judith Herman’s model described in Trauma and Recovery (1992). Since then our understanding of recovery has evolved and the new group will take place with an emphasis on learning rather than sharing one’s experiences.

We will explore the three principles that are behind our psychological experience so that people can overcome the debilitating symptoms often found in the aftermath of sexual abuse. That involves gaining an understanding of how our feelings are created, how to deal with low moods, how to discern between low quality of thinking and high quality of thinking, and how to cope/deal with distressing feelings.

When: Wednesdays, 8 weeks, Starts 2 May 2012
Time:·12:30pm – 2:30pm
Total Cost: $60
Facilitator: Gudrun Frerichs
Venue: Raeburn House, 138 Shakespeare Road, Milford

To enrol contact Raeburn House directly on (09) 441 8989 or email learning@raeburnhouse.org.nz.

Messages From The Past

Messages from the past are a bit of a mixed bag, aren’t they? Remember the movie ‘The Goonies’, where kids are finding an old treasure map in the attic and get quite excited about the possibility of helping their parents out financially, ending up – after overcoming dangerous booby traps – finding an old pirate ship full of jewels and gold?  Happy ending, but a nail-biter in between. I suppose, one could say the message was a positive one, given that it evoked excitement and hope.

Other messages from the past are not so positive. Most people who read this blog have had a history of abuse and neglect. They struggle with old messages either given through hurtful words and actions or through neglect, the absence of caring and nurturing words and behaviours. In short these messages can be summed up as ‘you are not worthy of care, love, and protection. One can easily see that the later messages are negative ones given they can be emotionally crippling and causing symptoms (low/no self-confidence, lack of self-care, lack of emotion regulation skills) some people label as ‘mental illness’.

Most survivors, if I would be able to take them onto a journey into the past whereby we could visit a fellow survivor in her childhood and observe a situation when they are being hurt, would say without hesitation that the fellow survivor does not deserve to be hurt, it’s not her fault, there was nothing she did wrong. Indeed they would immediately see that the parent and/or abuser were accountable of their acts no matter what excuses they would utter.

How come that people carry these message for years and years in their hearts? Partially because there are strong painful emotions accompanying abuse and emotions act like glue, they make memories stick! Another reason is that abuse happens mostly in childhood when the kid’s cognitive development is mainly shaped by egocentrism causing her to believe that she ‘made’ it happen.

Looking back as adults, we can see easily the fault in such thinking. How then are we to understand survivors tendency to nurture these old negative messages from the past? Especially given that often the message sender was ‘out of his/her mind’? Given that what a person says or does has all to do with that person and with nobody else. Given that a statement such as “you are …. xyz” can’t possibly be true and accurate given that whatever a person perceives is filtered through his/her own history, filters, biases and subject to distortion, deletion, and generalisations.

I hope that survivors give some attention to the function of thought in human’s experience of creating reality and scrutinize their own thoughts about themselves. Thinking “I am not OK” or anything negative about themself can’t possibly be real because it does not take the whole person into consideration and completely ignores that thoughts are just thoughts. They are like a picture of a person but never the living person. A living person is more than a picture can ever convey.

I wonder what help my readers with putting their self-perceptions into perspective. If you want to know how understanding the processes of thought, mind, and consciousness can help you to have a better life, and if you want to know how to let go of a child’s perspective, follow this link and contact me.

PTSD Viewed Through the Lens of 3 Principles

Those who have followed this blog are aware how intensive I have covered the issue of overcoming the legacies of abuse and neglect. The simple reason is because dealing with flashbacks, memories, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, and a toxic self perception seems to be the tragic struggle most survivors have in common. Not only that, it’s also a struggle that seems to take many many years to overcome for a large number of survivors.

But what if it doesn’t have to take forever and forever to deal with the aftermath? I don’t know any survivor who wouldn’t want to shorten the time until s/he is OK again, having a peace of mind, being in touch with a natural sense of well-being, balanced life, and overall contentment and happiness.

I have found this blog post that offers a challenge to those approaches to therapy with traumatised people who focus on re-visiting the traumatic moment, catharting feelings and emotions, and re-interpreting past experiences. Instead, principle based psychology is resting on the notion that every human being has an innate sense of health that we can access through our thoughts. It is important to understand the connection between thoughts and feelings. If our thoughts are negative and/or painful (for example: “I am such a cot-case”) we will feel depressed or sad or anxious. Thus the quality of our thinking determines the quality of our feelings.

Sydney Banks, who first conceived the Three Principles said “The most important thing to remember is it’s not what you think – it’s the fact that you think. Thought holds the secret to all our happiness, all our sadness. Once you realize the power of thought, I guarantee your life will never be the same again. If you have a positive thought and you put life into it…positivity happens
and you start to live in a positive life”.

Hop over the blog and read the challenging article. I would be interested to hear what your opinion is! Read this fascinating article here!

Always Looking Through The Rear-View Mirrow

Someone asked me yesterday whether there is some therapeutic benefit to telling a client what they went through wasn’t that bad and others had is worse. 

My first reaction was to shake my head. Who would say something like that to a person unless there is an intention to hurt? It sounds so puntive and discounting of a person’s emotional pain.

My advise was to go back to the therapist and express how this statement has made her/him feel. Asking for clarification and what intention the therapist had when making such a comparison. Of course there is always someone on this planet who has had experiences that were worse than our own. Thats not a hard thing to figure out.

On the other hand, sometimes you come accross a person who is very attached to her/his traumatic experience(s) so that being a victim of abuse/trauma becomes a life-position. I liken it to

“Going through through life as if you are driving in a car looking constantly into the rear-view mirror.

It’s easy to see that such a driving habit comes with huge dangers. The driver is bound to crash into all sorts of objects and obstacles and is a menace to him/herself and others. A challenge like the the above statement might help such a person to move out of the victim position and look into the future rather than ruminating about past experiences most of the time. However, I hope people are able to find more effective and gentler ways of shaking the foundations of a habitual victim-position of helplessness and hopelessness.

Sometimes a critical statement like the one above does not come from a therapist or other people in our lives, but from ourselves. We give ourselves a hard time for ‘not getting on’ with things. Rather than joining the blame-game and giving yourself a hard time, a much better question would be “What resources do you need, what skills do you need to learn, what self-care practices do you need to apply to be able to start looking into the direction you are driving: FORWARD!

Learning Some Tricks of the Trade

Have you ever wanted to learn some tricks of the counselling trade? I find myself often intrigued by the numbers of people who want to ‘GET OVER IT’ as quickly as possible. And fair enough! Why would you want to spend months walking down a certain path when there is a quicker way to reach your destination?

Over the years I have found that some things – especially in the field of human development – take time. Like a seed you plant into the earth needs time to germinate and grow for a certain time to become a flower, brush, or tree, people need time to grow. But there are conditions that can speed up that growth: for the seed that would be fertile soil, enough water, warmth, and protection from bad weather or weeds.

For people’s growth and healing similar ‘speeding up’ processes are possible. You can learn to connect better with people, you can be more confident, you can stop being anxious or depressed … and it doesn’t have to take much time at all. NLP, or neuro-linguistic programming, has given us plenty of great tools to speed up certain growth processes.

I am offering a series of 6 Saturday workshops, starting 30 April 2011, where I will pass on a range of very useful NLP tools and skills that people can then apply in their daily life.

If you are curious and would like to know more about it, go to my website, drop me an email, or call me for a chat about the workshop.

Survivor Support Groups Term II/2011

The new dates for the Sexual Abuse Survivor Support Groups at Raeburn House are finalised. There are still a few spaces left for both groups. It is advisable that participants are in some form of counselling so that any critical issues that might be triggered by group conversations can be worked through appropriately. People should discuss with their counsellor their wish to attend our support groups.

Moving Past Sexual Abuse
This group looks at the long term effects of abuse and explores how to move past them. Besides attending to difficulties participants encounter in the present, we will spend time each session exploring: disclosure, safety, self-awareness, coping strategies, boundaries, stress, and trust.

Thursdays, 10 weeks, starts 5 May 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Facilitator: Dr. Gudrun Frerichs
Total Cost: $60
Surviving Sexual Abuse
This group aims to aid recovery and strength for women in a safe environment. Besides attending to difficulties participants encounter in the present, we will spend time each session exploring: group members’ relationship styles, family dynamics, understanding and embracing sexuality, feelings, shame, assertiveness, support systems, and self-esteem.

Wednesdays, 10 weeks, starts 11 May 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Facilitator: Dr. Gudrun Frerichs
Total Cost: $60

Course bookings and payments can now be made online
at www.raeburnhouse.org.nz

138 Shakespeare Road
Milford, North Shore 0622
PO Box 36 336
Northcote, North Shore 0748
Raeburn House
Phone: (09) 441 8989
Facsimile: (09) 441 8988
Email: info@raeburnhouse.org.nz

Letter To My Younger Self

Today I came across a lovely blog post from a fellow blogger. The title is “Letter to My Younger Self”. I became curious to see what Rachel (the blogger) wrote. Those of you who know me will understand that: I hold the strong belief that a big part of the recovery journey  is to find a place of compassion, love, understanding, respect, and appreciation for the younger SELF who managed to cope with the abuse.

When I make this statement I hear frequently “Yes, maybe, BUT see how much I am struggling, see how much I am in pain, see how difficult it is to reverse the dissociation”. The way the younger Self coped is creating a whole lot of problems today.

My counter argument is usually: The younger You cope with something horrendously difficult and confusing the best thing s/he could. With the limited resources and understanding a child has; and often with barely any support. You can now, as an adult, make the necessary changes.

However, the first step is to give recognition to the child in the form of love, care, respect, understanding, appreciation. It won’t be long until one by one your problems will start melting away. I encourage you to read the ‘Letter to my younger self” by clicking on the link!