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.

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!

Coping When Disaster Strikes

A terrifying disaster like the Christchurch Earthquake has a huge impact on people. We are confronted with the fragility of life, with the unpredictability of our physical safety on this planet, and with our inability to protect ourselves and loved ones from such tragedies. Trauma people may have experienced earlier in their lives often gets triggered and they find themselves thrown back again into the depth of traumatisation.

When you have been touched by a traumatic event and you feel emotionally numb, irritable, angry, or tearful, don’t be self-critical because these feelings are some of the normal feelings people have as a response to an un-normal event. You might experience sleeplessness, hypervigilance, nightmares, or avoid thinking about what happend: all these reactions are normal. These symptoms may go on for several months and in some cases they could turn into a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Whilst we cannot ‘not’ be affected by trauma one way or the other, most people are free of any symptoms after a few months. However, there are a few things people can do to help coping whilst they experience trauma symptoms and to avoid longlasting problems.

The world has seen devastating catastrophic events such as natural disasters, extreme poverty and famine, wars, political terror, slavery, and the abuse of individuals on a grand scale. Yet, in the aftermath of devastation, traumatized individuals have usually been able to recover and rebuild their lives and their countries. One characteristic of human societies is that people come together and seek closeness with others to help with the integration of traumatic experiences. “Emotional attachment is probably the primary protection against feelings of helplessness and meaninglessness; it is essential for biological survival in children, and without it, existential meaning is unthinkable in adults” (Kolk & McFarlane, Traumatic Stress, 1996, p. 24).  Seeking and giving support when traumatic events strike is one of the most effective ways to help people cope.

In times of crisis and heightened stress the first rule of conduct is: BACK TO BASICS. In order to be able to keep up with the extra pressure on your emotional and physical functioning, its vital that you look after your basic needs first. You can only be of help to others when you are taken care of. A car without petrol is no use to anybody … it won’t run.

Make sure you get some decent amount of food – actually, foods high on carbohydrates (sugars) have a stress reducing effect – and don’t forget to stay hydrated. Without enough fluids we humans tend to not function that well. It is also important to get enough sleep, and if you can’t sleep, get some rest somehow. Stay active by either helping with the clean-up, running, cleaning up your yard or house, giving a hand to people in need.

It helps to stay away from alcohol, recreational drugs, and cigarettes. These substances compromise your thinking speed and quality, and they are an extra stress on your body.

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.

Staying Safe Over The Holidays

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The Christmas season is known as the ‘Merry Season’, the season of good-will where people come together with loved ones, families, and friends. Preparing for such gatherings, people buzz from shop to shop to presents, decorations for their home, and food. (Did I say cookies, chocolates, Stollen, and marzipan?)

For survivors, however, the holiday season can be anything but joyful. For some this time of the year triggers memories of abuse and they can feel stressed, anxious, depressed, or even suicidal. While that is often hard to avoid, it is possible to take some precautions to make this time as safe as possible. Here are some tips:

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