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.

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. 

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!

Sexual abuse survivors have increased of psychiatric disorders

Der Schrei New research finds that a history of sexual abuse, regardless of the victim's gender or age when the abuse occurred, correlates strongly with a lifetime diagnosis of multiple psychiatric disorders.

In the July issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, researchers report that a history of sexual abuse is associated with suicide attempts, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, depression, and eating and sleep disorders. Additionally, associations between sexual abuse and depression, eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder were strengthened by a history of rape.

Read the full article here:
Sexual abuse survivors have increased of psychiatric disorders.

Do you have to hurt to heal?

Wild flowers  Someone has told me yesterday how hard it is to see other people hurt. That on top of your own struggle with hurting, hoping and intermittently wanting to give up, is a roller coaster that has many survivors walking along a thin line between surviving and not surviving.

Everyone has heard the proverb "It has to get worse before it gets better". That's of course not always the case, but, in general, that's the way it works. I believe, that's the way it has to work. It's part of the healing process. Let me explain:

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ACC clients ‘swamp-dwellers’ under new policy

Tuesday, 16 February 2010, 3:46 pm
Press Release: New Zealand Labour Party

ACC clients renamed ‘swamp-dwellers’ under new tough love approach

Injured New Zealanders will be appalled by the culture change taking place at ACC which has been advised to be less ‘customer-focused’ to begin ‘draining the swamp’ of ACC clients, says Labour’s acting ACC spokesperson Maryan Street.

‘The information is contained in two reports released to Labour under the Official Information Act, as part of its Government-directed ‘Value For Money Review’ and explains why increasing numbers of injured New Zealanders are suffering extremely shoddy treatment from the corporation and being declined cover they are entitled to.

 “The reports, prepared for the new ACC board last year, say ACC had ‘moved too far towards customer focus’ and needed to begin ‘tightening the gateway by reducing the level and costs of treatment provided – especially rationalising the range of services available’.

“Perhaps the most disturbing example of the callous new approach however is the phrase used in the Morrison Low report to the ACC board which talks about the need to ‘significantly cut back to essential and core (services) – effectively draining the swamp,” Maryan Street says.

“So ACC staff are now being encouraged to view ACC clients as swamp-dwellers? It’s not only offensive, it’s a very disturbing example of the type of culture now pervading ACC.

“And what happens if staff fail to adopt the new ‘tough love’ approach (another phrase being used)? The reports make that clear. If they don’t turn down enough claim applications they will get the sack.

“One report says ‘there is a need for ACC to adopt more business/insurance-like behaviours…this may mean changes in the staffing and skills mix’ and ‘the introduction of stronger performance management mechanisms’.

“These reports raise serious questions about exactly what is going on at ACC and what staff are being directed to do. The public has a right to know how the ‘gateway’ is being tightened and exactly what services ACC staff are now being instructed to refuse to provide.”

Dealing with the lack of memories

Waterdrop When it comes to memories of abuse or neglect, dealing with them becomes an important part of therapy – especially when survivors are flooded with memories and find it hard or even impossible to get some relief from them.

It appears to be similarly difficult to cope with the lack of memories. People may have a feeling, body sensations, or sense of having experienced abuse, but no picture or coherent story they can access.

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How To Deal With Anger

ANGER(3) Anger is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a normal reaction to being abused, betrayed, hurt, or otherwise disrespected. The important question is how to deal with anger appropriately. It is really important to remember that:

for many (survivors of abuse) anger is associated with strong feelings of fear, anxiety, guilt, or shame because often abuse was accompanied with anger and survivors don’t want to be like their perpetrators. This is, according to my understanding, often the reason why survivors to repress or suppress anger. However, the refusal to be angry (or give your angry parts room to express anger in appropriate situations, is in many ways the source of many anger problems.

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How Multiples Can Show Therapists How To Deal With Anger

Anger Not too long ago people involved in the business of therapy, counselling, self-growth, and change would universally claim that pent-up anger needs to be vented. Armed with sticks, bats, tennis-rackets, towels twisted to rock-hard batons, and telephone-directories clients were encouraged by their therapist to express their anger by bashing on chairs, tables, floors, or mattresses – with the occasional encouragement to “put some words” to it.

Although it might have been a great way of approaching anger issues in some cases, nowadays the agreed upon knowledge is that it only vents some energy but doesn’t deal with the underlying issue that caused the anger to be there in the first place.

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I don’t want to talk about sexual abuse

Childhood abuse, be it physical, emotional, mental, or sexual, has a
lasting impact on people. Unfortunately, often they are not even aware
that they are affected by it. They live out the abuse on a daily basis:
by not trusting others or themselves, by being unable to feel, by being
unable to regulate their emotions, by being distressed, reacting over
the top, having no self-confidence, feeling depressed, anxious,
suicidal. And the list could go on and on.

Many people I speak
to tell me that they don't want to digg up the past, don't want to talk
about it, don't want to open a can of worms, or don't feel able to deal
with it. They want to get over it, leave things in the past, leave
sleeping dogs lie!

Unfortunately it doesn't work like that. You
either deal with it, or you live it. I often hear "I can't afford to
see someone and deal with it". My response to that is "Can you afford
NOT to deal with it?" People find money for cigarettes, alcohol, cars,
mortgages, presents, friends, kids, … but not for themselves, not for
their own mental sanity and well-being. This does not seem to be a
priority in their lives. Off course, this too is a legacy of child
abuse.

Read here how any childhood stress affects you
and becomes deeply woven into your physical being, your identity, and
your personality. Maybe it helps you to see clearer what your next
steps are!