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.

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.

Right or Wrong?

My post about ‘Discounting the Past’ has generated  comments that got me thinking about the nature of human existence.  Let’s start with the biological fact that none of us is capable of experiencing a reality ‘out there’ that is shaped and made meaning of independently from what is already ‘in here’. “In Here” meaning our mental filters that consist of personal history, beliefs, values, gender, education, energy, and many more in addition to mental processes of deletion, distortion, and generalisation which our brain does automatically.

This means what’s real to me will be different to what’s real to you because you have different ‘stuff’ in your head. Hence the notion of different realities people operate from!

That means whatever we observe in the world around us can never be separated from the person that does the observing. There is no such thing as objectivity. Taking the example of doing research: the simple process of researching is already changing the subject that is investigated. Foucault did a great experiment that highlighted how people change their behaviours when they know they are observed. There is no such thing as objective research because choice of subjects, research design, way of questioning, way of interpreting the data etc. will already influence the outcome. That’s why there is no such thing as ‘research has proven’ because for every finding made there will be an equal amount of research that proves the opposite.

Does that mean that PTSD research is wrong? It may be, it may be not. It’s like the Dodo verdict from Alice in Wonderland: Everybody wins, everybody deserves a price! It all depends on where you stand. There is no right or wrong. Who am I to say that my reality is better or ‘righter’ than yours? I am simply sharing my truth – at this moment in time. The reader does not have to agree with me. If my posts have stirred up things, that’s good, I suppose. It gives people the opportunity to reflect on what this ‘being stirred up’ is all about.

Thinking about recovery from childhood sexual abuse within the framework of the 3 Principles of Mind, Thought, and Consciousness, whereby the focus is on the innate, unbreakable health present in each person that can be accessed once we become conscious of our negative thinking about ourselves and our lives and let go of that mode of thinking, makes a lot of common sense to me. It holds a lot of hope and the promise of regaining control of one’s life. Please, don’t take these 4 lines as a ‘treatment approach’, rather look at what my words are pointing at.

Is processing trauma for years better or worse than ‘leaving it alone’? Who’s to know. The proof really is in the pudding, as they say. If it works for the individual to go deeply into revisiting the past, if it makes life easier, if it makes people’s life more joyful, then there is your answer. If life remains difficult with numerous hospital admissions, suicidal thoughts, low self-worth, frequent anxiety attacks, long depressive episodes, isolation, and little joy it might be worthwhile to try on the ‘leaving it alone’ approach. See what happens when you take a holiday from your problems! The good news is that every survivor can find out for him or herself. There are several links in the sidebar of my website of sites that offer resources about the application of the 3 Principle understanding. Have a look around! If you like what you see and would like to explore this concept for your recovery, you can also contact me. 

Discounting the Past

Today I would like to respond to comments made earlier this month on the ‘home’ page here. My first impulse was being saddened by the confusion and despair readers felt by some of my latest post. However, it didn’t take long for me to get excited. Every time someone presents a challenge it gives me – and I suppose everyone – the opportunity to widen our understanding and deepen our insight. So I am very grateful for people to take the time and formulate their opinion and point out that what they are reading is not gelling for them.

It’s a tricky topic, the topic of “it’s just thought”, isn’t it? It’s hard to get one’s head around the fact that the world we experience is rather more a hologram created by our own thinking then a representation of what’s really OUT THERE. Especially when we end up with a badly bruised body or mind by our encounters with “out there”, be it objects or people’s’ actions. That’s however how it is – it’s a biological reality that we can’t grasp what’s out there without processing and interpreting it through our mental filters (history, beliefs, values etc.), through what’s ‘IN HERE’. It doesn’t mean you are doing something wrong or something bad. Experiencing your personal hologram as real is doing exactly what mother nature designed you to do: thinking that your thoughts are real. Everybody operates like that – nobody gets spared! Continue reading

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.

The ABC of Anxiety

I was watching breakfast TV this morning to catch up on the Cold Blast that has a tight grip on New Zealand for some days now. While sipping my hot cuppa after the weather update I listened to a psychologist talking about anxiety, how normal it is (according to her more people are suffering from an anxiety disorder than do from depression), how the body responds, and then offered a smorgasbord of suggestions how to deal with anxiety: relaxation, meditation, yoga, and if nothing helps seek out a health professional. This is the standard advice and treatment given for anxiety – besides drugs. How then is it that anxiety in increasing and people struggle with it for years? Can it be that there is something missing in understanding anxiety?

Anxiety is a derivation of fear. We never speak of a fear disorder, because fear is a NORMAL response to a dangerous situation. In a split-second the brain takes in the circumstances of the environment through the senses, evaluates it on whatever prior knowledge or experience people have of similar circumstances. Then it shoots neurological commands (mainly through the neurotransmitter adrenaline and cortisone) through our body to either freeze, fight, or flight. The commanding thought that goes with it is for example ‘Oh, help, run, or I am going to be killed’! When you stand in the middle of the road and a truck is coming you way, you want to quickly mobilize your body and get out-of-the-way. You will want to run. Fear helps you to do so. When the situation has passed, fear will leave your body and your physical chemistry will go back to ‘normal’.

Anxiety on the other hand, is not so much about a real situation. Anxiety is being fearful of something that is not real. Anxiety is about something PEOPLE THINK is real – but it isn’t because it has not happened yet and may or may not happen at all. Anxiety is a feeling people have because they have a thought or a battery of thoughts about a future situation they are making up inside of their heads. “If I am late for work I will be fired” or “If I speak out I will be hurt” or “The share market will crash and I will lose my money” or “I might lose everything if there is another earthquake” or “If I get closer to my partner I will get hurt”. These are just a few examples of fearful thoughts, worries about possible future events or consequences that are the cause feelings of anxiety.

Unfortunately, the human brain has no way of distinguishing whether something is real or people just think it’s real. It will respond the same way as it does in dangerous situations: adrenaline and cortisone will flood through the body – yet there is nothing OUT THERE to respond to, only an imaginary threat. People don’t have to freeze, flight, or fight. The way I see it, spiralling anxious thoughts leads to more flooding with neuro-chemicals which might lead to a full-blown panic attack.

One might say there is no such thing as an anxiety disorder. It should be classified as a thought disorder – although I think it is not helpful to be seen as a disorder at all. It only benefits the pharmaceutical industry who can sell millions of dollars worth of drugs, without addressing the root cause of the anxiety, people’s thoughts, but instead messing around with people’s chemical make-up.

Anxiety is more about lacking understanding how our brain works. Once individuals can be helped to see that their thinking is causing their feelings, they are in control of changing that. They can let go of their worrisome thought by learning it is just a thought, it’s not real. The average person has 50,000-70,000 thoughts a day. Why not wait for a positive thought about NOW and give energy to that? Let go of the negative thought of what might happen if…, it’s not real. When you are in a calm state your inner wisdom will tell you whether you need to do something about your investment portfolio to be less vulnerable to share market fluctuations. It is not hard to see that a state of high anxiety is not helpful for making good decisions or plans.

 

Internal Warfare

A reader of this blog commented yesterday on my post “Achieving Co-consciousness” and described in deeply touching words the heartache of living with so much fear, not knowing, not understanding, and internal dissonance. Reading the comment I got a really good feel for the ‘outside’ people who try to manage the everyday life as best as possible, and the ‘inside’ people who seem to try to manage the inner world of memories and feelings that go with these memories.

My first thought was “just like it happens in real life when people go to war against each other”. Whether it’s the Germans against the Western World during the WWII, the Muslims against the Jews, the North Irish against the British, East against West, North against South, there is no difference. Each party is convinced they have a justification to go to war, fight for their right(s), even give their lives for the cause.

None of the parties is listening to what the other has to say. Instead, all they try to do is brow-beating the ‘opposition’ into submission, using all kinds of semantics or other intimidation methods. “I am right” … “… no, I am righter” (I know this is not correct english, go away spell-check!). All parties have their opinion already set in concrete. They are not open to new ideas. They don’t listen with care in their heart, they listen looking for evidence to agree or disagree with what is said. Hop over to my post “Just Listen” to get a clearer picture of what I mean.

What does that mean for ‘inside’ people and ‘outside’ people? Well, for starters, how well do you listen to each other? Do you listen with love in your heart or do you already have a judgement on your mind? And then, what happens when you (outside person) lose time and become an inside person? Do you then become part of the ‘inside group’ and become hostile, difficult, or not understanding?

Given that we can NEVER EVER see reality as it really is, that all we ever can know is ONLY our interpretation of that reality, its highly likely that neither inside nor outside people are getting the right end of the stick. Certainly when people are highly strung, emotionally distressed, or hurting lots, thinking and perceiving what is going on is unlikely to be very accurate. Only when you are in a calm state of mind and at peace is your mind in a state to get a clear picture.

I agree that it is much easier to understand the conflicting inner world when we talk about ‘parts’ – and each person has a psychological mind structure that can be understood by using the ‘parts-metaphor’. On a physical, observable playing field we are talking about the same person, one body, one heart, one set of lungs, and one mind. It’s important that we don’t lose sight of that! In physical reality, this internal warfare takes place in the very small space between your ears. Please, be nice to that poor, overworked, stretched out brain.

Thoughts upon Thoughts upon Thoughts

I have heard the other day that the average person has between 50 and 70 Thousand thoughts each day. Oh my goodness, that is between 35 and 50 thoughts a minute. No wonder I can’t remember where I put my keys this morning. That information is lost in the tornado of thoughts that is going through my brain. (Pew, for a moment I pondered about Alzheimer’s).

There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to the content of the thoughts we produce. It seems to come from all corners of our inner world, past – present – and future, as well as from stimuli from our environment. We are – or better our brains are – truly thought-producing machines.

Many of these thoughts will pass through our mind like a wee little flicker, barely noticed or not even noticed at all. Like an electric storm that runs through our neuro networks, fed by an energy I can only describe as life force. Buzzing, and buzzing all day long. Not only that, also buzzing at night, coming to us as dreams.  Because its our thoughts that cause our feelings its interesting to notice on which of the 35 to 50 thoughts a minute we focus on, isn’t it?

You may just have spilled a perfectly brewed coffee on your white carpet and start telling yourself off for being so clumsy, having ruined the carpet and so on and so on. It will be no surprise that you feel grumpy or depressed or ashamed, depending on what exactly you’ve been telling yourself. You might even have delved into the memory box and picked out other incidences from your earlier life where you have been clumsy and been told off for it … there is no end to thoughts that will confirm your initial response to spilling the coffee. With a little bit of hard thinking work you could manage to set yourself up for a pretty lousy day!

If you have this kind of incidences happen more regularly, you could even end up at your doctor’s practice and be given some antidepressants for what some people like to call ‘chemical imbalance’. Well, your thoughts might have caused a chemical imbalance, but it was your thinking all along, wasn’t it?

It’s important to realise as soon as you notice your thoughts that they are not real. They are just thoughts. You are not clumsy, you just spilled coffee and it left a mark. End of story! Happens all the time, all over the world. Is a stained carpet worth you being on antidepressants for the next 20 years? I am sure the pharmaceutical industry would say YES, of course. Our livelihood depends on it.

Having between 35 and 50 thoughts a day, just check out with for yourself which ones you would rather focus on. Let the self-punitive ones pass through your mind, don’t feed them, and wait for better ones to float to the surface. They will come: remember there are 50 to 70 thousand thoughts coming your way today. Let’s have a competition: Who’s got the best ones!

Before I go a little story I have treasured for years:

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two “wolves” inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.” (www.brightquotes.co​m)

I Can’t Trust My Memories

Upon the Sharon Armstrong post from a wee while ago where I talked about NLP and eye accessing cues that can indicate whether a person is remembering or is constructing a memory, I received an email from a reader asking whether there would be a way for her to know whether she is making up what she has been telling her therapist. I have heard over the years from so many survivors that they find it hard to believe that they have been abused.

Firstly, there is a difference whether you make statements to justify or explain the fact that you were recently caught with Cocaine or whether you talk about something that happened many decades ago in your childhood. Memories are not set in concrete like the content of a printer’s typeset drawer. They are subject to change over the years, some parts get ‘trimmed off’ and other parts get ‘added’ depending on what you do when you re-visit a memory.

Secondly, if you don’t believe that you have been abused, if you doubt your thoughts, wouldn’t it be a good idea to examine why it is important for you to know whether you have or have not been abused and to what extend? And thirdly, whatever the past trauma was, isn’t it important today to deal with the legacies of the trauma (depression, anxiety, stress, low self-confidence, poor social skills, dissociation, and overall poor self-relations) and re-build a healthy, happy, and balanced sense of self?

I think these are great questions to ask and work through with your therapist when you are not quite sure what it is that you are doing. Your therapist can give you an outside perspective that, together with your inside wonderings will hopefully form a picture that gives you peace of mind.

Fear not Fear

Fear in all  it’s many guises is probably the biggest obstacle survivors of abuse are confronted with. Even though fear is vitally important in warning people of impending danger, most survivors will experience fear, anxiety, panic, or even terror in a very crippling way. Rather than being a warning sign, fear is over-generalised and becomes psychologically unhealthy. 

Rather than assessing the situation that cause feelings of fear and looking for solutions, people focus on the fear itself trying their hardest not to feel the feeling with a general stance of avoiding. Avoiding places, avoiding people, avoiding thinking about their inner life, and avoiding challenging irrational beliefs. A lot of recovery time is spent avoiding those things and situations that trigger feelings of discomfort, fear, and doubt.

If you feel fear it’s no use to ignore it, avoid it, or push it away. Don’t hold your breath in the hope it will disappear. All you do is creating a power struggle between the part of you that feels fear and the part that doesn’t want to feel it. Fear turns into panick and ultimately you end up becoming fearful of the fear, feeling betrayed by your own body.

If you want to help yourself you need to find a way to access your adult rational thinking capacity and assess the situation you are fearful about. Is this about HERE AND NOW or is it about THERE AND THEN? Is your fear realistic, are you in some for of danger? If not, embrace your fear, welcome it, befriend it. Don’t ask it to go away, thank it for letting you know that there is something – probably in your past – that you need to deal with.

It helps if you have a plan to regularly ‘stretch’ by putting yourself into situations that, although safe, create feelings of discomfort or fear for you. Make the fear your friend and you will see, over time you will lose your phobic avoidance reaction (that cause fear to increase). Try it out! You have nothing to lose but the stronghold fear has on you.