Tag Archives: Limbic brain

Grief Recovery Handbook, 1 of 2

Grief Recovery Handbook,+20th+Anniversary+Expanded+EditionThe “Grief Recovery Handbook” by John James and Russell Friedman is an invaluable tool for healing emotional pain and loss.  It saved me after the death of my parents and my divorce, which all happened at once.

It shows us how to write “Grief Letters” to our  “dearly beloved,” and read it to a listener. This simple eye contact with another human, who need only be silent and accept our grief, pain, and yes tears, creates astonishing healing.  “This is why…God put tear ducts in our eyes,” says Dr. John Townsend.  “Someone should be looking at us when we are crying…Then we know that we are not alone, our tears are seen and heard.”

If you’ve lost a dearly beloved, you could just buy 2 copies, find a “grief partner” who’s also had a loss, and follow the book.  The grief letters may be straightforward for you, and then you’ll be “complete” and heal.  You may not need this blog.

But I had childhood trauma, and neither my parents, nor my ex, were “clearly beloved.”  There was a lot of muddy pain and hurt; I was stuck with “the death of a less-than-loved one.”  I had to walk a convoluted path to discover how to grieve pain from before consciousness.  It got dangerous.

It was March 2009 and my choir car pool buddy Steve was in a sea of emotional pain since his wife’s death; I’d advised him in 2008 to get the “Grief Recovery Handbook” by John James and Russell Friedman.  I thought it was about death, which clearly was his issue, not mine.  I thought my issue was to replace my ex with a new romance, so I got their other book, “Moving On.”  [FN1]

But Steve, ever the engineer, was determined to deal with pain scientifically. He took one look at the book and bought a second copy for me. “This is a program to retrain the emotions,” he announced.  “You need it too.” [FN2]

Thus began our three-year saga with the Grief Recovery Handbook or GRH as Steve fondly dubbed it. We wanted off the pain train, and bad.

“A broken heart is like a flat tire. Waiting for time to heal your heart without taking action, is like waiting for air to jump back into a flat tire,” the GRH begins. “That’s what the grief process does. It’s an action we can take… Action first, feelings follow,” it repeats. “Don’t wait to act until you feel better; you’ll never feel better unless you act.”

Most of what you know about emotional pain is wrong, the book next announces — we’ve all been taught Six Myths in particular which are a fraud. These myths make grieving impossible, forcing us to keep carrying the pain around, often for life:

1. Don’t feel bad.  (Don’t feel. Feelings are bad. Stuff it.)
2. Replace the loss. (Get a new spouse, just like a new cat.)
3. Grieve alone (Go to your room. Sadness is impolite. You’re bad.)
4. Just give it time. (Just sit; air will spring into the tire.)
5. Be strong for others. (Your feelings aren’t important, nor are you.)
6. Keep busy. (Distractions help us to stuff it.)

Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later

In a brilliant article “Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later,” James and Friedman compare the heart to an auto engine. It’s an imperfect world, despite the fantasies of perfectionists, so loss and hurt often start at an early age.  “You might recognize the title from an advertising slogan for an automotive product several years ago,” they write. The idea was that if you spend a little money on maintenance now, you might save a tremendous amount replacing an entire engine later. [FN3]

“In the auto commercial it was failure to change the oil filter which led to a build up of crud, which clogged and eventually destroyed the motor. Thus, buy an inexpensive filter now or buy a whole new engine later.”

As we go through life, they say, stuffing when we’re hurt instead of grieving, this “crud” builds up around our hearts and thickens year on year. “Grief is negative, and cumulatively negative,” they say, in a key insight.

Then a serious tragedy hits, like a death or divorce, and we don’t realize it, but it triggers all those past hurts we never grieved. Our hearts are breaking inside – but our heart is so hard outside, due to the thick crud, that we can’t see out, so we go into a tailspin.

Now we’re in big trouble and with decades of crud around our hearts.

What to do? Grieve today’s loss thoroughly; that may also help grieve the past, they advise. “Right after a loss, we have a direct pathway to our experiences in the relationship,” they say. “Death and divorce both tend to trigger memories about the emotional aspects of relationships that may never have been communicated about or completed…

“But as time elapses those memories are more difficult to access,” so we’ve got to start now. Otherwise “the build up of emotional ‘crud’ around the heart almost automatically tends to cause us to limit or restrict the kind of interactions that require an open, loving heart.”  We become unable to really relate to “safe” people, so we only find more bad relationships.

Grief Letters, Grief Partners

Flatten Me Brousblog1bWhat about action? You asked for it.
[Something’s wrong with my software; click on image at right of my 2009 cartoon “Flatten Me” to see it.]

The GRH details actions which are concrete, detailed, extensive, and time-consuming — i.e., credible, and scary as hell. We’d need to make a Loss History Graph detailing the major losses of our entire lives; determine which two or three personal relationships entailed the most losses; and then write a separate “Grief Recovery Completion Letter” to each of those persons. ( p145)

We start with the individual about whom we feel the most pain, and make a Relationship Graph of the major losses related specifically to them.

Next we abstract the incidents on the individual’s Relationship Graph into Recovery Components for that person. Then we turn the Components into a Grief Recovery Completion Letter (Grief Letter hereafter) to that person — and read it aloud.

Then we repeat all those steps separately for each other individual in relation to whom we’d felt significant loss or pain! Doing all this was going to take a big bite out of our lives, and we whined about it up front: Good Grief, Charlie Brown.

Complicated? Overwhelming?  Sure.  But wait – there’s more!

Stay tuned for Part 2…

Can’t wait?  Here’s the whole thing: http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/featured-topics/grief-recovery/

——————

Kathy’s news blogs expand on her book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Footnotes

FN1  James, John W.; Friedman, Russell, “Moving On: Dump your relationship baggage and make room for the love of your life,” M. Evans (Rowman & Littlefield), Lanham, MD, 2006. This is also a terrific book, if you’ve grieved your already huge losses (I hadn’t) and are ready to move on (I wasn’t).

FN2  James, John W.; Friedman, Russell, “The Grief Recovery Handbook,” Harper Collins, New York, 2009 (orginal 1998)

FN3  James, John W.; Friedman, Russell, “Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later,”  www.grief-recovery.com/Articles/Pay_Me_Now.htm, The Grief Recovery Institute, 2002

4,612 total views, 2 views today

Share Button

Psychotherapy and Love

Thich nhat hanh PlumVillage.OrgI went through three bad therapists before I found my current one, and for the first two years, I kept asking him the same question:  “You’re just a hired gun, right?  ‘What’s love got to do with it?’  What good can this really do me, since it’s just business?”

Then one day I was reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s “The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching” (photo above by PlumVillage.org).  On page 5, Nhat Hanh writes this of his youth in Vietnam: “I grew up in a time of war. There was destruction all around – children, adults, values, a whole country. As a young person, I suffered a lot. Once the door of awareness has been opened, you cannot close it.  The wounds of war in me are still not healed. There are nights I lie awake and embrace my people, my country, and the whole planet with mindful breathing…”

I dissolved in tears, that such a leader of men could live with this terrible pain.

Then he says: “Please don’t run away from your suffering. Embrace it, and cherish it. Go to the Buddha, sit with him, and show him your pain.  He will look at you with eyes of loving kindness, compassion, and mindfulness, and show you ways to embrace your suffering and look deeply into it. With this understanding and compassion, you will be able to heal the wounds in your heart…”

Just as suddenly I flashed on a picture of my therapist, grey beard and all. Whoa, he’s a Christian therapist, and I’m (or was) a nice Jewish girl from Long Island — so “trust me,” as we say in New York, Dr. R. was the furthest thing from my mind when I picked up Nhat Hahn’s book.

But now it hits me like a ton of bricks:

“Oh: Buddha!,” I said, speaking mentally to Dr. R.  “This is how you look at me, this is how you create deep changes in my soul…” And then I was really bawling and calling Dr. R’s tape to leave a message reading him Nhat Hanh’s passage — saying, more or less, “OK, now I get it!  This is real attachment, it’s the real deal!  Hey, Buddha…”

[ Find a good therapist: http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/resources/attachment-therapists-directory/  ]

Emotional Investment

Sir Walter Raleigh_by_'H'_monogrammistIn the years since, we’ve discussed it, and lived it, and he says it — but now I knew: Dr. R. is 100% invested in me.

Not the way he’s invested in 40lks or in paying his mortgage; he could make a living an easier way. Instead, he chooses to invest his emotions and attachment into his clients as a dear friend would. He chooses to lay his soul out under me like a warm limbic carpet of deep emotional support, as Sir Walter Raleigh did his cloak for Queen Elizabeth.

That takes courage and ginormous simply plain human compassion and sheer humanity.

Recently I read these words by Sir Richard Bowlby, son of the founder of attachment theory, addressing therapy for adopted children — but it goes for anyone who needs deep therapy, and it made my whole body sob:

“The… intervention …involves clinicians taping into their own empathic capacities to help children feel supported to such a degree that direct connections can be forged between the reality of children’s traumatic experiences and the parents and/or clinicians being able to tolerate their pain and so regulate the child’s distress down to a manageable level. The recognition that another person can truly understand and tolerate their pain can be a major contribution to the client’s therapeutic outcome. ” http://www.beyondconsequences.com/bowlby.html

If you consider the level of pain that I get into with developmental trauma since the sperm hit the egg, Dr. R. is tolerating hell on wheels – and that is because he did not shrink (ooooops, bad pun) from the only way to gain that skill: he has looked deeply within himself in years past, and he has done his own trauma healing as deeply as he’s asking me to do.

[This post originated when I saw a comment on an article by therapist Dr. Laura K. Kerr, in which the commentator felt that therapy can’t be more than a business transaction; original at: http://www.socialjusticesolutions.org/2015/04/01/trauma-informed-psychotherapy-puts-body-love-back-mental-healthcare/#comment-125547]

 “General Theory” on Therapy and Love:

Limbic Resonance - Boise State UnivThe psychiatric text “General Theory of Love” shows that human beings depends for survival on our mammalian “limbic brain,” and that as we grow, our minds and souls are healthy and feel well, or don’t, depending literally upon love.  [FN1]  (Click on graphic to open; from Boise State University News.)

It also documents that good therapy is nothing but love.  The problem, they point out, is that too many therapists can’t manage that kind of good therapy.

Our caregivers create our infant brain via “limbic resonance,” they report, the resonating of an adult’s limbic brain with an infant’s limbic brain — via attuned deep eye contact.  “By looking into his eyes and becoming attuned to his inner state, a mother can intuit her baby’s feelings and needs,” they write. “The regular application of that knowledge changes a child’s emotional makeup.”

When the mother attunes to the infant with deep love, the infant learns that love is safe, forms a secure attachment, feels a sense of belonging and a sense of peace.  “Attachment penetrates to the neural core of what it means to be a human being” they write, and thus the book’s title. It’s all about love and nothing but love. More details: http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/love-theory-2/

The book’s second half demonstrates that psychotherapy works when it does, only due to love — love precisely of the above deep nature.  And therapy doesn’t work when limbic resonance and love don’t flower.  It’s got nothing to do with a charity date or even such foolishness as “re-parenting.”

It’s just plain and simple deep human compassion, eye to eye.  For that reason, “psychotherapy is physiology,” they state.

“When a person starts therapy… he is stepping into a somatic state of relatedness, ” they report. “Evolution has sculpted mammals… (to) become attuned to on another’s evocative signals and alter the structure of one another’s nervous systems.  Psychotherapy’s transformative power comes from engaging and directing these ancient mechanisms.  Therapy is a living embodiment of limbic processes as corporeal as digestion or respiration.

“Speech is a fancy neocortical skill, but therapy belongs to the older realm of the emotional mind, the limbic brain.

“Love is not only an end for therapy; it is also the means whereby every end is reached. (p.168-9)  The first part of emotional healing is being limbically known – having someone with a keen ear [a good therapist-kb] catch your melodic essence.” (p.170)

Unfortunately there are a lot of incompetent therapists hiding behind their desks and diplomas, refusing to really relate. “Some therapists recoil from the pivotal power of relatedness. They have been told to deliver insight — a job description evocative of estate planning or financial consulting, the calm dispensation of tidy data packets from the other side of an imposing desk,” writes “General Theory.”

“A therapist who fears dependence will tell his patient, sometimes openly, that the urge to rely is pathologic. In doing so he denigrates a cardinal tool. A parent who rejects a child’s desire to depend raises a fragile person. Those children, grown to adulthood, are frequently among those who come for help.

“If patient and therapist are to proceed together down a curative path, they must allow limbic regulation and its companion moon, dependence, to make the revolutionary magic.

“Many therapists believe that reliance fosters a detrimental dependency. Instead, they say, patients should be directed to “do it for themselves” – as if they possess everything but the wit to throw that switch and get on with their lives.

Limbic Revision

Limbic Revision tumblr_nbam9cX0hI1tbev4jo1_500“But people do not learn emotional modulation as they do geometry or the names of state capitals. They absorb the skill from living in the presence of an adept external modulator, and they learn it implicitly,” the book states.  ” Knowledge leaps the gap from one mind to the other, but the learner does not experience the transferred information as an explicit strategy. Instead, a spontaneous capacity germinates and becomes a natural part of the self, like knowing how to ride a bike or tie one’s shoes.”  (p.171) (graphic by N.Bam on Tumblr)

“People who need regulation often leave therapy sessions feeling calmer, stronger, safer, more able to handle the world. … The longer a patient depends, the more his stability swells, expanding infinitesimally with ever session as length is added to a woven cloth with each pass of the shuttle, each contraction of the loom. And after he weaves enough of it, the day comes when the patient will unfurl his independence like a pair of spread wings. Free at last, he catches a wind and rides into other lands.” (p.172)

“Knowing someone is the first goal of therapy…  Therapy’s last and most ambitious aim is revising the neural code that directs an emotional life. (176)  Psychotherapy changes people because one mammal can restructure the limbic brain of another… (p.177)

“Describing good relatedness to someone, no matter how precisely or how often, does not inscribe it into the neural networks that inspire love. Self-help books are like car repair manuals: you can read them all day, but doing so doesn’t fix a thing.

“Working on a car means rolling up your sleeves and getting under the hood, and you have to be willing to get dirt on your hands and grease beneath your fingernails. Overhauling emotional knowledge is no spectator sport; it demands the messy experience of yanking and tinkering that comes from a limbic bond. If someone’s relationship today bear a troubled imprint, they do so because an influential relationship left its mark on a child’s mind.

“When a limbic connection has established a neural pattern, it takes a limbic connection to revise it. (p.177)”

“The person of the therapist is the converting catalyst, not his credo, not his  location in the room, not his exquisitely chosen words or silences… The dispensable trappings of dogma may determine what a therapist thinks he is doing, what he talks about when he talks about therapy, but the agent of change is who he is. (187)

“The brevity of mini (psycho)therapies is another efficient forestaller of healing. The neocortex rapidly masters didactic information, but the limbic brain takes mountains of repetition.  No one expects to play the flute in six lessons or to become fluent in Italian in ten. ”  (p.189)   “The skill of becoming and remaining attuned to another’s emotional rhythms requires a solid investment of years.”  (p.205)

“The limbic connectedness of a working psychotherapy requires uncommon courage. A patient asks to surrender the life he knows and to enter and emotional world he has never seen; he offers himself up to be changed in ways he can’t possibly envision. As his assurance of successful transmutation he has only the gossamer of faith…

“Only human love keeps this from being the act of two madmen. (p.190)”

———————————

Kathy’s news blogs expand on her book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Footnotes

FN1  Lewis, Thomas, MD; Amini, Fari, MD; Lannon, Richard, MD; “A General Theory of Love”,  Random House, New York, 2000.
Dr. Lannon interviews at: www.paulagordon.com/shows/lannon/
Preface excerpts at:  www.nytimes.com/books/first/l/lewis-love.html
Dr. Lewis specifically on therapy:  www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/1503539.Thomas_Lewis

3,200 total views, 8 views today

Share Button

Tapping (EFT) 2 of 2

Tapping Points 2015 Nick EBook diagramI’ve used Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), aka tapping for years, as I wrote in Part 1 on  “what is tapping.”

Now for how to tap. “Focus on the negative emotion at hand: a fear or anxiety, a bad memory, an unresolved problem, or anything that’s bothering you,” says Nick Ortner, author of “The Tapping Solution.”

Then, “while maintaining your mental focus on this issue,  use your fingertips to tap 5-7 times each on 9 of the body’s meridian points.”  (Click on “Where to Tap” diagram above from TheTappingSolution.com)  [FN1]

“Tapping on these meridian points, while concentrating on fully feeling and accepting the negative emotion, will allow you to resolve and displace those learned, habitual reactions this feeling would ordinarily trigger,” he writes.

You said it, brother Nick. “Fully feeling and accepting the negative emotion” is an incredibly key point; see below.

But please: if you have severe trauma, do not tap alone!  Do it with a therapist or trained practitioner, or don’t tap.  “Your mileage may vary.”

Tapping starts with 3 “prep steps” which take 5-10 minutes once we get used to it.  Here we take the time to become fully Present with ourselves, our body, and our emotions.  Actual feelings, and relief of feelings, occurs only “in the Now.”  To do it, we’ve got to be Present in the Now.

1. Identify what’s troubling you. It can a specific feeling or situation, or just general anxiety or “I feel lousy.”  Try to figure out “what bugs me the most and how do I feel about it now?”  Try to put yesterday and tomorrow out of your mind.  Just ask this “now” question until you feel some sort of answer.

2. Write down the intensity of your feeling on a scale of 0 (doesn’t bug me) to 10 (makes me jump out of my skin).  This “Subjective Units of Discomfort Scale” (SUDS) is useful because often we feel so much better after tapping that we simply can not remember how bad it felt beforehand.

3. Create a one-sentence “set-up statement” which says: I’m going to accept myself and practice self-compassion. I’m deciding to fully accept me as I am, the emotions troubling me, even my worst feelings.  Because, as Dr. Tara Brach says, “it’s only when we accept ourselves completely exactly how we are, that we become free to change.

Anxiety

Let’s take as a sample, the feeling of general anxiety – we’ve all had it, and when it gets bad, it can cause panic and illness.  1: Think of something that makes you feel anxious.  2. Write down the intensity on a scale of 0 to 10.

3. Here are “set-up statements” about anxiety I’ve found most useful, from Nick Ortner’s e-book 2012 edition: “Your set up statement should acknowledge the problem you want to deal with, then follow it with an unconditional affirmation of yourself as a person,” he writes:

–“Even though I feel this anxiety, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
–“Even though I’m anxious about [__ situation], I deeply and completely accept myself.”
–“Even though I’m feeling anxiety about [__ person] I deeply and completely accept myself.”
–“Even though I panic when I think about [ __ ] I deeply and completely accept myself. ”

We only need one set-up sentence. Create one or try the samples above.

At the end of my set-up I often add  “and all my traumatized emotions.”  I’ll say, “Even though I feel anxious and panicky, I deeply and completely accept myself, and all my traumatized emotions.”  ( My therapist applauded this. If we accept that our “crazy” trauma is not crazy, but it’s to be expected, given the nasty experiences we’ve had, that really helps heal it.)

Start Tapping:  

tapping karate-chop-pointThe rest of the tapping should take about 10 minutes more, again, after we get used to it:

A.  Tap the Hand for Set-up and Self-Affirmation:  Start by tapping on the Karate Chop point, the outer edge of the dominant hand on the opposite side from the thumb, using the four fingertips of the other hand.  While tapping, repeat the one-sentence set-up statement three times aloud. (Photo from Patricia Hope, http://www.towards-happiness.com/natural-treatment-for-insomnia.html )

To me, the Karate Chop feels very steadying, and I’m glad this is where we repeat our self-affirmation. When I feel really bad, I might repeat my set-up affirmation while tapping three times on each hand, alternating hands.

B: Tap through all the other Acupressure Points:

–“Use a firm but gentle pressure, as if drumming on the side of your desk or testing a melon for ripeness,” says Nick Ortner.
–“You can use all four fingers, or just the first two (index and middle fingers). Four fingers are used on the top of the head, collarbone, under the arm… wider areas.  On sensitive areas, like around the eyes, use just two.
–“Tap with your fingertips, not your fingernails.”

I learned to start tapping the top of the head; Nick likes to start at the eyebrow and end at the top of the head.  They call him the Tapping King and he’s got a bestselling-book The Tapping Solution.  But I stick with what works for me.  It  doesn’t matter as long as we tap most or all the points.

Next, we just flat out say what hurts.   I tap on my head, then my eyebrow, then the side of my eye, going through all the 9 acupressure points.

At each spot, in the anxiety example, I’d say:  “I feel so anxious. I feel so anxious and panicky.  I feel anxious and panicky about living alone (for example).”  Say what you feel, keep it short, authentic, and blunt.

As many tapping youtube videos show, when we tap from one tapping point to the next, what we feel can start to morph.  If we don’t feel our feelings, they can stay frozen for decades, but once we start to feel them, emotions are by nature fluid;  they start to release and change. As we feel them, they begin to dissipate. Then the next feeling underneath may bubble up.

Here are Nick’s names for the remaining tapping points,  to help read his diagram.   I tap on each of these  points and say several times at each point: “I feel anxious and panicky about living alone.”

–Top of Head (TH)  Crown of  head. Use four fingers.
–Eyebrow (EB)  Inner edges of the eyebrows near the bridge of the nose. Use two fingers.
–Side of eye (SE) The hard ridge between the corner of your eye and your temple. Use two fingers. Feel out this area gently; don’t poke your eye!
–Under eye (UE) The hard bone under the eye that merges with the cheekbone. Use two fingers, stay in line with the pupil.
–Under nose (UN)  between the bottom of the nose and the upper lip.
–Chin (CH)  centered between the bottom of the lower lip and the chin.
–Collarbone (CB)  Tap just below the hard ridge of your collarbone.
–Underarm (UA) On your side, about four inches beneath the armpit.

That’s it for Round 1.  Next: take a deep breath, and check if your SUDS number went down, because you might be finished.

But most of the time, I go through all the tapping points about three rounds.  For example, if after Round 1 you feel roughly the same and still feel bad, that’s normal; you’ll need a second or third round.  I need three, almost every time. In traumatic fear, I need four rounds or more.

If the number has risen or skyrocketed because we really “got in touch” with the feeling, that’s called spiking. *If you get overwhelmed, stop now.  Call a friend to help you calm down, breathe deeply, and drink some water.

I learned over time that spiking is a good result, as horrible as it feels in the moment – because in the next few rounds I can feel that nasty feeling so thoroughly that I pretty much get rid of it.

What very often happens to me is that I’ll do Round 1 and then Round 2, but I feel like nothing’s changing. It’s so boring that I start to feel like a jerk for wasting my time with this nonsense.  But I persevere.

Then sometime in Round 3 I’ll get a huge spike, and feel so horrible that I start bawling and must force myself to stay with it.  Then just as suddenly, the whole bad feeling is gone.  It simply disappears, to where I start thinking about my hairdo, or laugh and say “OK, done, what’s for breakfast?”

If I’m up at night anxious and I tap to get to sleep, very soon after the spike, my anxiety will evaporate and I’ll fall deeply asleep.

———————————

Kathy’s blogs expand on her book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Footnotes

FN1  Nick Ortner’s website has a free e-book on tapping:  http://www.thetappingsolution.com/free_tapping_ebook.html I’m ever grateful to Nick and Jessica Ortner for popularizing tapping and making it so accessible to us, diagrams and all. But I’m troubled by how their site has grown so commercialized.  To me, any pitch to become rich, thin, famous, etc. feels bad; it says we’re not good enough as we are; got to get out there and perform harder and faster.  To me that’s a recipe for more cortisol, stress and panic.  I’d rather focus on being a human being, not a human doing (to paraphrase Jon Kabat-Zinn).

3,470 total views, 4 views today

Share Button

Tapping (EFT) 1 of 2

tapping-points Color diagram PCOSDiva.comI’ve used Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) aka  Tapping for four years and gotten major relief from severe fight-flight emotions like fear and anger (emotions I could feel).  I’ve also gotten relief from physical pain caused by “frozen” emotions I couldn’t feel.  Click on diagram for full graphic  “Where to Tap” by PCOSDiva.com.  [FN1]

Please note: if you have overwhelming trauma, do NOT tap alone! Use a therapist or trained practitioner, or don’t tap; it’s not safe.

Also note:  I’m making “I Statements,” not giving advice. These tools worked for me to heal traumatic feelings — but “your mileage may vary.”

What is tapping?  In 1980 psychotherapist Dr. Roger Callahan “was working with a patient, Mary, for an intense water phobia, “ reports Gary Craig, Callahan’s student and creator of tapping. “She suffered frequent headaches and terrifying nightmares related to her fear of water… Dr. Callahan tried conventional means for a year and a half.”   [FN2]

“Callahan had studied traditional Chinese medicine, which calls the body’s energy ‘ch’i’,” reports Nick Ortner, author of “The Tapping Solution.”   “The Chinese discovered 100 meridian points along the body. They learned that by stimulating them, they could manipulate the body’s ch’i to heal symptoms and diseases.”  Ortner’s website has a free e-book on tapping. [FN3]

One day with Mary in 1980, says Craig, “Callaghan… decided to tap with his fingertips under her eyes, an end point of the stomach meridian. This was prompted by her complaint of  stomach discomfort. To his astonishment, she announced that her disturbing thoughts about water were gone, raced to a nearby swimming pool and began throwing water in her face. No fear. No headaches. It all went away….and has never returned.”

Craig codified Callahan’s process into a sequence of acu-points to tap. “You tap near the end points of numerous energy meridians without knowing which of them may be disrupted,” says Craig. This set of meridians seems to cover what we need to calm most emotions.

Tapping aims to replicate Mary’s experience.  First, “focus on the negative emotion at hand: a fear or anxiety, a bad memory, an unresolved problem, or anything bothering you,” says Ortner, such as Mary did with her fear of water.  Next, “while maintaining your mental focus on this issue, use your fingertips to tap 5-7 times each on 9 of the body’s meridian points.”  These are nine spots on the hands, face, neck and upper torso easily accessible, even in public. (Diagram again  at top.)  It’s a non-invasive activation of some of the same spots targeted in acupuncture, but no needles.

Pseudoscience?  Energy Disrupt?  Amygdala Message?

Amygdala 2How to Tap is in Part 2, my next blog (or start with the links above).

As to what it is,  I was surprised that Wikipedia says  tapping “has no benefit beyond the placebo effect,” is “pseudoscience and has not garnered significant support in clinical psychology.”  [FN4]

“When she was experiencing fear, the energy flowing through her stomach meridian was disrupted,” Craig said of Mary. “That energy imbalance is what was causing her emotional intensity. Tapping under her eyes sent pulses through the meridian and fixed the disruption… It is accepted practice to ‘treat the memory’ and ask the client to repeatedly relive some emotionally painful event,” Craig says. “EFT, by contrast, respects the memory but addresses the true cause… a disruption in the body’s energy system.”

Books like “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk, and “Healing Trauma” by Peter Levine do say that healing traumatic emotions is about working with the body and the body-centered brain stem.  Talking with the thinking brain about the horrible details of past trauma is often re-traumatizing, van der Kolk, Levine, et. al. warn.  [FN 5]

When danger threatens or traumatic memories make our current situation “feel” dangerous, the brain’s amygdala sends out signals that stimulate cortisol, putting us into fight-flight.  When we are thus emotionally “triggered,” we often go into a painful fight-flight panic.

Clinical psychologist David Feinstein and his Harvard colleagues have published studies (dismissed by Wikipedia) saying that both ancient acupuncture and tapping on acupressure points signal the amygdala to calm down. Feinstein believes both methods stimulate hormones which tell the amygdala that we are safe, so the amygdala stops the cortisol flood.

Or Just Feel My Feelings?

One thing is clear: if there were a tiger about to leap at me, I wouldn’t be sitting around tapping my forehead.  Maybe tapping the forehead, under the nose, etc., is enough to tell the brain that our situation is safe.

To resolve trauma, says Dr. Dan Siegel, we must process traumatic emotions out of short-term memory where it feels like “this hurts now,”  into long-term memory so we can feel “that was in the past.” One brain area pivotal to that processing is the hippocampus. But in fight-flight, the amygdala turns off the hippocampus, to save all our energy for fighting and fleeing.  Maybe tapping keeps my hippocampus turned on?

Or maybe it’s simply this:

Tapping gives us license to do something for which our society has no room: sit with, accept, and fully feel through our feelings, which the yogis call self-compassion. Tapping actually trains us to do this, which usually allows our body to release these feelings;  then suddenly we don’t feel so bad.

I’ve spent 5 years reading grief letters about my childhood trauma, using the rigorous  Grief Recovery Handbook.  Maybe folks who haven’t done all that, might not be able to access childhood feelings as I do when I tap.

But one thing for sure: in tapping, we focus on a bad feeling, and feel it, and accept it – rather than trying to suppress it.

If while feeling, it helps me to tap on a few ancient acupuncture points, no harm. Maybe having this finger-drumming as a structure allows me to trust that these emotions won’t overwhelm me?  All I know is: when I tap,  I almost always feel through a feeling. Then it dissipates and I get relief.

Next Time:  Part 2:  How to Tap.

———————————

Kathy’s blogs expand on her book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Footnotes

FN1 http://pcosdiva.com/2013/05/the-benefits-of-eft-for-pcos/

FN2  Gary Craig’s EFT Manual:  spiritual-web.comdownloadseftmanual.pdf.pdf

FN3  Nick Ortner’s website has a free e-book on tapping:  http://www.thetappingsolution.com/free_tapping_ebook.html

FN4  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotional_Freedom_Techniques#cite_note-Feinstein-4

FN5  Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, Dr. Peter A. Levine, Dr. Bruce Perry and others say in books like “The Body Keeps the Score” and “Healing Trauma” that healing trauma requires body work.

6,419 total views, 7 views today

Share Button

April-May 2015 “New Brain” Webinars

James ReeseDr. Daniel J. Siegel gave a webinar April 8 to kick off the 2015 “New Brain Series” of weekly webinars by the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM).  The series is airing Wednesdays April 8 – May 13, 2015, at 5 pm Eastern Time, repeated at 6:30 pm Eastern.

NICABM head Dr. Ruth Buczynski ran a terrific “Rethinking Trauma” series last year, pointing out that “talk therapy” can’t always cut it — we need body work and other alternative “somatic” therapies, as I’d written for months.  It’s still available; click here: http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/Ruth-trauma2014/

Ruth’s April-May 2015 “New Brain Series” weekly schedule is below, and what a great lineup.

Pat_Ogden AmazonI want to especially recommend two speakers I haven’t covered yet:  Dr. Pat Odgen (right) on “Why the Body Matters When Working with Brain Science,” and  Dr. Rick Hanson on “Why Ancestral Survival Skills Trip Us Up Today,” (otherwise known as the negativity bias of the brain, and how we can overcome it.)

RickHanson AmazonTheir past webinars have helped me enormously. (Rick Hanson, left)

I’ve done a series of blogs on Dr. Stephen Porges  and another series on Dr. Dan Siegel, who both were pivotal to my healing.

You can sign up to watch Ruth’s April-May 2015 “New Brain Series” free at the time of broadcast, or support the series by purchasing it and be able to watch, get audio mp3s, and transcripts any time. Here’s the link to watch live: http://www.nicabm.com/brain2015/freeconfirmed/?wemail=
Here’s the link to buy and download anytime: http://www.nicabm.com/brain2015/lay/info/

Webinar Schedule

The Brain In Two Places: Inside Your Head,  Embedded in the World  –  Dan Siegel, MD     Wednesday, April 8th    5:00 PM EDT & 6:30 PM EDT

Transforming the Brain through Good Experiences –  Rick Hanson, PhD  Wednesday, April 15th     5:00 PM EDT & 6:30 PM EDT

The Neuroscience of Willpower – Kelly McGonigal, PhD  Wednesday, April 22nd  5:00 PM EDT & 6:30 PM EDT

Unlocking The Enormous Potential of Neuroplasticity –  Norman Doidge, MD   Wednesday, April 29th    5:00 PM EDT & 6:30 PM EDT

How Neurobiology Changed the Way We View Trauma Treatment   –  Pat Ogden, PhD   Wednesday, May 6th    5:00 PM EDT & 6:30 PM EDT

Body, Brain, Behavior: How Polyvagal Theory Expands Our Healing Paradigm  –   Stephen Porges, PhD    Wednesday, May 13th   5:00 PM EDT & 6:30 PM EDT

———————

NICABM 2011-2014 Series Library on Trauma and the Brain: http://www.nicabm.com/programs/trauma/

Rethinking Trauma 2014 Webinar Series http://www.nicabm.com/treatingtrauma2014/post-info/
Peter Levine, PhD
Bessel van der Kolk, MD
Stephen Porges, PhD
Pat Ogden, PhD
Daniel Siegel, MD
Sebern Fisher, MA
Ruth Lanius MD, PhD
Laurel Parnell, PhD
Richard Schwartz, PhD
David Grand, PhD

New Treatments for Trauma 2013 Therapy Program http://www.nicabm.com/trauma2013/trauma2013-post/
Peter Levine, PhD
Bessel van der Kolk, MD
Pat Ogden, PhD
Stephen Porges, PhD
Francine Shapiro, PhD
Ruth Lanius, MD, PhD

New Treatments for Trauma 2012 Training Program http://www.nicabm.com/trauma-2012-new/
Bessel van der Kolk, MD
Pat Ogden, PhD
Stephen Porges, PhD
Belleruth Naparstek, LISW
Ruth Lanius, MD, PhD
Sue Johnson, EdD

New Treatments for Trauma 2011 teleseminar series http://www.nicabm.com/treating-trauma/?del=programspage
Peter Levine, PhD
Pat Ogden, PhD
Stephen Porges, PhD
Matthew Friedman, MD, PhD
Mary Jo Barrett, MSW
Allan Schore, PhD
Christine A. Courtois, PhD
Carol Look, LCSW

———————————

Kathy’s blogs expand on her book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Tags: Adult Attachment Disorder, Adult Attachment Theory, Neuroplasticity, Polyvagal Theory, Sensorimotor Therapy, Brain Science, Brain Stem, Limbic Brain, Fight-flight, Pat Ogden, Dan Siegel, Stephen Porges, Rick Hanson

3,904 total views, 6 views today

Share Button

“General Theory of Love” on Mammals

BrousBlog6c General Theory“A General Theory of Love”  by Thomas Lewis MD,  Fari Amini, MD, and Richard Lannon, MD, is all about why it’s so important that we are mammals.  They say it’s vital that we value our mammalian attachment system and stay close to other mammals.   Here are  quotes and some great MP3 audio clips from “General Theory,” to follow up on Dr. Stephen Porges’ writings on our mammalian attachment system last week.

“A body animated only by the reptilian brain stem is no more human than a severed toe.  Reptiles don’t have an emotional life,” says General Theory.  “The advent of the mammalian limbic lobe, uniquely, allows mammals to care for their own, have emotions, and risk and lose life for another.”

“When mammals showed up on the planet, their method of reproduction was different. Unlike reptiles, they gave birth to live helpless young that had to be nurtured or wouldn’t survive,” said co-author Dr. Tom Lewis in a 2008 interview.   “The parent had to monitor the physiology of the baby.

“This lead to the development of a part of the brain called the Limbic Lobe, which we share with all mammals.  Infants’ physiology is incomplete on its own; babies can’t get to sleep on their own, they need to be lulled to sleep; they can’t soothe themselves, instead they seek out someone who can soothe them.

“Just as infants need the regulating presence of the external contact figure, all of us are like infants, only bigger, and we also need the regulatory influence… Most people think their body is self contained, that sugar levels are monitored internally and so on, oxygen, hormones.  It’s very surprising that this not true – there are physiological parameters regulated by other people outside own body.

“In our culture we construe loneliness as weakness, as a character defect… But it’s based on brain evolution; there’s no choice about it. Just as when you’re hungry, or low on water and feel thirst, loneliness is a real physiological feeling telling you you need something vital.  It hurts so much because it’s important to your health.”

Love is the glue that keeps people and societies together, says Dr. Richard Lannon in a terrific series of mp3 clips of  interviews by radio host Paula Gordon.  He explains fundamental human biology which makes our connections to others fundamental.

He relates the mammalian brain’s limbic system to being alive, to parenting, to being happy, to appreciating beauty and explains why we cannot “think our way” to fulfillment:   http://www.paulagordon.com/shows/lannon/mp3/RLannonConv2.mp3

Dr. Lannon says it is good mothering which leads to secure attachment and explains the profound implications of the importance of optimally tuning in to a child. He describes how the ideas in General Theory of Love expand on (as well as part company from) traditional psychotherapy.

He reviews the profound, central importance of long-term, sustaining support networks for humans.  He notes that most social forces currently work in the opposite direction:
http://www.paulagordon.com/shows/lannon/mp3/RLannonConv3.mp3

Dr. Lannon explains why self-help books usually are no help. He distinguishes General Theory of Love from that genre, explaining why we cannot intellectually (neocortex) control our emotions (in the limbic brain.) He argues for integration of the different ways of knowing – thinking neocortex and emotional limbic – urging us to give the limbic system its due – while pointing to the terrible social price we are paying for not doing so.

He describes what happens when people do not attach, personally and in society.  http://www.paulagordon.com/shows/lannon/mp3/RLannonConv4.mp3

Humans have been given the gift of being a social animal, says Dr. Lannon, who urges us to be more of what we are. He reminds us that emotions are innate and that we all have them and must “tune” them, comparing this to tuning an instrument.

He describes humans as open-loop systems, deeply affected by our relationships with other and NOT independent of each other. He expands on, “We create each other.” He assures us that we can change, but only with the help of other people. He reminds us of the tremendous power social interactions have to heal, reminding us of research which shows that brains continue to grow into old age. http://www.paulagordon.com/shows/lannon/mp3/RLannonConv5.mp3

————————-
Kathy’s news blogs expand on her book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME:  The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.”  Watch for the continuing series each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Footnotes

FN1  Lewis, Thomas, MD; Amini, Fari, MD; Lannon, Richard, MD; “A General Theory of Love”,  Random House, New York, 2000.  See Dr. Lannon interviews at: www.paulagordon.com/shows/lannon/
Preface excerpts at:  www.nytimes.com/books/first/l/lewis-love.html
On therapy:  www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/1503539.Thomas_Lewis

4,375 total views, 5 views today

Share Button

Dan Siegel: Creating a Joyful Brain

Dan Siegel Quote on EmotionI’ve got some great short videos here by Dr. Dan Siegel, MD  — and even his friend comedienne Goldie Hawn makes an appearance.

I’ve also had a lot of demand for my book — but it’s not done. I’ve been too wrapped up in my fascination with brain science and lots of great networking resulting from that. Now I need to chain myself to my book files, so I’ll be blogging only every other Friday.

As reported the last few weeks, Dr. Siegel details how often we feel lousy because actually our brains are wired wrong from childhood. And now Siegel has shown we can actually heal that and rewire our brains. A fun and heartwarming video by Dan which elaborates this theme “How you can change your brain” is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4tR5Ebc4Mw&index=22&list=PL1A32ED7EF5F192F2

We often get sad-wired with attachment trouble as kids while the brain’s forming, due to implicit — body-only — memory created before we reach age 3, before we can think and remember. Two videos by Dan on this topic are here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zovtRq4e2E8&list=PL1A32ED7EF5F192F2
and here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGhZtUrpCuc&index=1&list=PL1A32ED7EF5F192F2

In coming weeks, I’ll be blogging on how Siegel actually healed the split-up brain of a 92-year-old lawyer.  The gentleman had great cognition, but couldn’t feel anything at all. It’s an amazing story.   To prepare, check out this video by Dan called “On Integrating the 2 hemispheres of our brains”  at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPjhfUVgvOQ&index=24&list=PL1A32ED7EF5F192F2

Dan on “Being” Versus “Doing” With Your Child – This video really helps show how poor Stewart the lawyer got so messed up as a child, because of lack of emotional connection in his birth home.  My blog introducing Stewart is at http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/daniel-siegel-4/

Stewart was taught as a kid to think about facts, but he couldn’t feel a thing.  It’s all in the development of our right brain vs our left brain.  Click here for Dan’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGUEDtGSwW4

Dan Siegel & Friend Explore the Brain: Mindfulness and Neural Integration at TEDx.  Dr. Siegel shows more on how mindfulness and meditation can help rewire our brains. Then a school kid walks on camera, and you’ll love what happens next.  Click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LiyaSr5aeho

Dan Siegel with Goldie Hawn at TEDMed 2009:  The comedienne explains her hunt for the “science of happiness” and how she teamed up with Dr. Dan.  Now they make school kids happy by helping them harness their brain power and grow mindfulness. It does turn out to create great joy — and better grades.  Click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OdBXGHwNCk&index=19&list=PL1A32ED7EF5F192F2

Mindfulness meditation has become an increasingly popular way for people to improve their mental and physical health…New research from Carnegie Mellon University shows even brief mindfulness meditation practice – 25 minutes for three consecutive days – alleviates stress.  Go here for more:  http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-07-minutes-mindfulness-meditation-alleviates-stress.html

I promised to blog on how Siegel actually healed poor Stewart’s split-up brain; I will, in Dan Siegel Part 5 (available here on Friday Aug. 8).

——————

Kathy’s news blogs expand on her book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Footnotes

For Dr. Dan Siegel’s biography, website, books and more: see Footnotes at bottom of  http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/Daniel-Siegel-3/

3,597 total views, 5 views today

Share Button

Dissociation Nation: Half a Brain

Dan Siegel Podium w. BrainDan Siegel’s webinar “How Mindfulness Can Change the Wiring of Our Brains,” which I found by accident in March 2011, insisted that we can re-wire our brains. Siegel actually used neuroplasticity and “mindsight” (see July 11 blog) to re-wire the brain of a ninety-two year old lawyer code-named “Stewart.” [FN1]

Stewart was an extreme case, but it’s how most of us live these days.  We live in “head talk” in our frontal cortex, pretty much in dissociation from the emotions in our mammalian limbic brain. Stewart existed entirely in his thinking brain, but said he didn’t know what feelings were.  He had almost no use of his emotional brain.  “He’s a good example of a need for bilateral integration,” as Siegel put it.

Emotions?  We think the objective is to get rid of ‘em, just “grow up” and be rational like Spock on Star Trek.  “Too many Americans are spurred to achieve (business, academia, etc.) rather than to attach (to other human mammals), warn three top psychiatrists in the key book “A General Theory of Love.”  We’ve been taught that our performance is our identity, so we over-perform, thinking non-stop. That leaves almost no hours for “face time” to simply “be” with and be present with live human beings.

Yet in fact emotions are sanity and mental health, not the reverse.  And that’s not an endorsement of road rage.  But we need secure attachment as kids, while our emotions first develop, to learn to govern (regulate) emotions by sharing them with our human mammal living group so we don’t go nuts.  Yet sharing emotions is far out of style these days, and  in the last census, “one third of American households were one person,” as Dr. Bruce Perry notes.  Having no social option, we dissociate from our emotions.

Stewart began acting strangely when his wife of sixty five years took ill, so his son brought dad to see Siegel. “Stewart comes in and his son says that he thinks his dad might be depressed,” Siegel said. “Stewart was withdrawn and cantankerous, but the feeling I got wasn’t that he was sad or depressed, but that there was something just kind of vacuous and disconnected about him.  When I got to talk to Stewart alone, he still didn’t seem depressed.  He seemed more aloof than anything else.”

Stewart’s thinking brain was in great shape; “his cognition at ninety-two was totally intact—excellent memory for facts,” said Siegel, and his legal business was  successful.

But when Siegel checked on Stewart’s emotions, the gent drew a complete blank.

Living with Half a Brain

Jill Bolte Taylor Brain Halves Crop, Ted 2-08And Stewart drew the biggest blank when Siegel asked him about his emotions during childhood.

“I did a brief Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) assessment, which I do with most of my patients,” Siegel said. (See my all-new blog on the AAI here; finally got the story.) The AAI shows how emotionally close the adult interviewee got to their parents as a child.

But that just annoyed Stewart. “He thought it was absolutely a moot point that I was reviewing his relationship with his parents almost 90 years ago…

“ ‘You’re out of your mind’ Stewart said,” Siegel laughed. “He insisted that ‘relationships didn’t matter,’ his son said; ‘he’s always had that attitude.’ ”  Stewart’s wife had more data.  “She said that his parents, as Stewart had also factually stated, were ‘the coldest people on the planet.’ They lacked the ability to see the internal world. Everything was about managing Stewart’s behavior and his physical externals—his food, his shelter, his schooling — but nothing was focused on feelings or thoughts, or the meaning of  things.”

Siegel pushed back, telling Stewart that they had to look into his childhood because “synaptic connections get formed early in life.” And then it came out that Stewart couldn’t remember much about his childhood experiences at all; he only remembered logical facts such as dates. This showed “a big difference between the left and right hemispheres of his brain,” said Siegel. Stewart could handle lots of facts with his left brain, but lacked recall of fleshed-out experiences, which are more an emotional phenomenon in the right brain.

Then Siegel gave Stewart the bottom line; he said that likely Stewart’s wife’s illness “had made him go more into withdrawal from relationships.”  He also said that his tests of right and left hemisphere functioning showed that Stewart’s right brain “wasn’t very developed.”

“I said, ‘I don’t think you’re depressed. I think you’re living with half a brain.

“And… I just want to offer you the idea that you did the best you could in childhood, but the lack of focus on you internal world didn’t develop that part of your brain, so you’ve lived a life dominated by one side and not the other.”

The photo above shows the actual normal separation of the two halves of a human brain, connected only at bottom by the corpus callosum, displayed by Jill Bolte Taylor in “My Stroke of Insight” on Ted Talks in February 2008.

“And when I asked how it felt when I said that, he paused and said he didn’t know what that question meant. He said that for his whole life, people have asked him how he felt, and he had no idea what they were talking about,” Siegel went on.

“Then, he paused again and said, ‘Maybe before I die, I can learn what that question means.’

“So then we went on a journey together,” Siegel said, “and the idea is this: if a part of your brain is underdeveloped, not destroyed, but underdeveloped, it can be changed. And even if it’s destroyed maybe you can sometimes get around that, as in abuse. I want to make sure to say that. Neuroplasticity, as you’ll see in Stewart’s case, exists throughout the lifespan.”

Next Friday August 1: More current news and videos from Dan Siegel and his collaborators.

Next blog Friday August 8:  Siegel and Stewart’s journey… not forgetting Jill Bolte Taylor.

——————

Kathy’s news blogs expand on her book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Footnotes

For biography, website, books and more: see Footnotes at bottom of  http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/Daniel-Siegel-3/

FN1   Siegel, Daniel J., MD, “How Mindfulness Can Change the Wiring of Our Brains,” National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM), www.nicabm.com; 2010 Webcast and my first NICABM webinar, downloaded March 31, 2011. Rebroadcast October 11, 2011.  http://www.nicabm.com/nicabmblog/meditation-medication/ and http://www.nicabm.com/mindfulness-2011-new/

3,043 total views, 5 views today

Share Button
Image

Dan Siegel on Explicit Memory

Dan Siegel hand model 3Dr. Daniel J. Siegel uses his “hand model” of the brain to show schools kids, and the rest of us, how we need all three of the brain’s main parts to be working, and to work together.  Say the wrist is the spinal cord.  Then the palm represents the reptilian brain stem, the thumb is the emotional limbic brain, and the fingers are the thinking frontal cortex. Video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=DD-lfP1FBFk

But last week, we said that neither the brain nor the mind can simply create memories like a video camera makes movies.  Instead, first we receive a flood of raw sensory data packets from the outside world which is scattered around the body, the nerves and the primitive reptilian brain stem.  And the primitive brain stem (palm of hand) doesn’t think — or have conscious memories.

For real permanent memory, which he calls “explicit memory,” Siegel says we need the hippocampus, which is up above the brain stem, in the limbic emotional lobe (thumb).  The hippocampus is responsible to A. integrate the raw sensory data into a coherent picture, and B. put a “time tag” on it – transfer it into long-term permanent memory, where it can be retrieved later.  That’s the only way to get it into conscious thought, which occurs in the frontal cortex, the highest cognitive part of the brain (the fingers in his model).

Explicit memory is what we usually “think” of as memory; it’s a “thinking memory” or “cognitive memory,” a memory we can remember in our thinking brain. It’s “the whole movie,” for which a caption of sorts has developed in the higher parts of the brain to say: ‘this is a dog, and it’s this particular dog right now” – as opposed to that dog you saw in 1994.

But there are (at least) four ways in which the hippocampus may not be available  –  which means, humans easily may not remember traumatic events, Siegel shows.

Four Ways to Turn Off Hippocampus

Scarecrow That's Me all overFirst off, from conception to 36 months, even in a 100% healthy child with secure attachment, the hippocampus isn’t working yet; doesn’t have enough myelin to fire, it’s just not online. Events which happen during this first 45 months of life just don’t automatically become conscious memories.  Siegel gives an example of a toddler bitten by a dog.  But this is also true for any memory function a toddler has, of all events pleasant or frightening, before the hippocampus is fully working around age 3.

“Let’s say I’m 6 months old and I’m bitten by a dog on the hand,” Siegel says. “And then I’m 2 and again I’m bitten by a dog on my hand. So I’m going to have a feeling of fear when I see dogs, I’m going to have a feeling of pain in my body,  I’ll have many memories, all implicit – feeling of fear, feeling of pain in my hand, visual what does a dog look like, barking sound what does a dog sound like – and the feeling that I want to get ready to run

“Implicit memory when it’s encoded and just stays in that pure form goes into storage where it’s just changes in my synaptic connections,” he says.  It’s purely a set of raw unconscious body memory packets.

Without a functioning hippocampus, the data sits scattered all over the body – like the straw Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz.  “They tore my legs off and threw them over there,” he says. “ Then they took my chest out and threw it over there.”  “That’s you all over,” says the Tin Man.

So neither of these two incidents, the bite at six months or the bite at age 2, ever got integrated into a coherent conscious memory  – nor did they ever get a “time tag” put on them, a clear concept that the two incidents happened in 1992 and 1994, say.

What happens to this person as an adult 20 years later in 2014 when he sees a dog?  “Now today I hear a dog barking,” Siegel goes on, and my brain goes to retrieve whatever memory it has of “dog.”

“The retrieval of a memory is the firing of neural patterns that are similar to but not identical with, what was encoded at the initial time of the experience.

“But here’s the most important lesson about memory integration:  Implicit-only memory does not feel like it’s coming from the past.  When I hear a dog, I just feel fear, period.  I don’t say,  ‘Oh, I was bitten at six months, at two years… yeah, dogs can hurt you.’  No; I just feel scared – and I get ready to run [without thought.]  Maybe I focus on the fangs of a little puppy and I see a wolf – not just a little cute puppy.  Fear hijacks my perceptual system.” [ FN1]

Second, the hippocampus itself can be damaged during those 45 early developmental months (one reason it’s called “developmental trauma.”)  If an infant or toddler has repeatedly frightening experiences, such as hostile adults continuously in the home, the neurology of the primitive brain stem gets thrown off enough that it can harms the development of the higher brain lobes — which are outgrowths of the brain stem. The hippocampus can be badly damaged, to where when we feel scared irrationally, we physically can not “think our way out” just as Dr. Bessel van der Kolk told the New York Times.

This was me; I’d been told that I’d had infant trauma from conception to 36 months.  Listening to Siegel it hit me that talk therapy (and other cognitive work) regarding events and feelings during years no one can remember, had to be a waste of time. Siegel said the memories were lying around un-assembled in my body.

One of the next webinars I heard was his friend Dr. Peter A. Levine, talking about how to assemble these body memories, using “somatic experiencing.”  So I took Dr. Levine’s book “Healing Trauma” to my therapist and said: “Sorry you’re not familiar with somatic work, but I got traumatized before I was 3 and had a thinking brain, so the trauma’s baked down into my body parts, where talk and cognition can’t get at it.  This book is what we’re going to do.”  Our results were spectacular. [FN2]

Third, Siegel said that even if the hippocampus develops pretty well, trauma after 3 years of age and at any point in life, floods the body with so much stress hormones that  this can turn off the hippocampus. “If you massively secrete cortisol stress hormone, at the same time you’re secreting adrenaline, cortisol, in high amounts, shuts off the hippocampus temporarily.  Over the long run, it can actually kill hippocampus cells.

“But adrenaline increases the synaptic changes in implicit memory. So what we’ve just described, a useful vision for PTSD, is a model for explaining flashback of phenomena: when an implicit memory is reactivated without any explicit elements, the hippocampus hasn’t been involved to experience these things in awareness. So it’s not the same as unconscious memory or anything like that. These are elements encoded, stored and now retrieved into awareness, but when they’re implicit only, they have no tagging that they’re coming from the past.” [FN3]

Fourth, there are types of trauma where a person older than age 3 with a functional hippocampus can literally, during a traumatic event, dissociate themselves to avoid experiencing it when it’s happening  – so they can’t remember it later.  “You can divide attention,” says Siegel.  “If you’re being attacked you can focus on a beautiful beach, so you’ve taken your hippocampus out of the picture – but unfortunately you can not block the implicit coding [of the raw separate bodily memories of what was actually being done to you -kb]…

“If you were betrayed by your father or mother, if they abandoned you or hurt you or ignored you in terrible ways, it makes no sense that that would happen to you. So how do you make sense of something which doesn’t make any sense?,” says Siegel.  “It turns out that the part of our hippocampus which is the narrator is in the left hemisphere, but it has to draw on the hippocampus in the right hemisphere for storage of autobiographical data.

“Say your dad drank and he attacked you — so you dissociated and thought about the beach.

“So now [years later] the therapist asks you ‘What did that feel like, were you terrified of your parents?’   Your left narrator wants to cooperate, so it calls over to the right side and asks ‘Any feelings of fear of parents over there?’ and the right side answers back ‘Nothing over here, Dan, but sand and water.’  But your body also feels fear and you  may be sick to your stomach — none of it conscious.”   [FN4]

——————-

Kathy’s news blogs expand on her book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Footnotes

FN1   Siegel, Daniel J., MD, “Domains of Integration,” July 27, 2010 lecture audio  http://www.drdansiegel.com/uploads/DomainsofIntegration.mp3  To download, right click Play arrow, left click Save Audio As  [or go to http://www.drdansiegel.com/resources/audio_clips/  scroll down to title, right click to download]

FN2  Levine, Peter A., PhD, “Healing Trauma: A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body,” ‘Sounds True, Inc.,’ Boulder CO, 2005; ISBN 1-159179-247-9

FN3   Siegel, Daniel J., MD, “How Mindfulness Can Change the Wiring of Our Brains, October 12, 2011 Webcast, National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM), http://www.nicabm.com/mindfulness-2011-new/

FN4   op cit  FN1  Siegel, “Domains of Integration”

Daniel J. Siegel, MD, is clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine on the faculty of the Center for Culture, Brain, and Development and founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center.  He is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute. He is also Founding Editor for the Norton Professional Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology which contains over three dozen textbooks.

Must-read interview:
Siegel, Daniel J., MD, “Early childhood and the developing brain,” on “All in the Mind,” ABC Radio National, Radio Australia, June 24, 2006 at: www.abc.net.au/rn/allinthemind/stories/2006/1664985.htm

Books by Dan Siegel:
–”The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are,” (Guilford, 1999). How attachment in infancy and childhood creates the brain and the mind.
–”Healing Trauma: Attachment, Mind, Body, and Brain,” Marion F Solomon, Daniel J Siegel, editors,  New York, NY:  W.W. Norton and Company;  2003.   357pg  Reviewed by Hilary Le Page, MBBS at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2553232/
–”The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being,” (Norton, 2007)
–”The Mindful Therapist: A Clinician’s Guide to Mindsight and Neural Integration,” (Norton, 2010)
–”Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation,” (Bantam, 2010)
–”Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive,” (Tarcher/Penguin, 2003) with Mary Hartzell
–”The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind,” (Random House, 2011) with Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D
–”Brainstorm: Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain,”  (Tarcher, 2013)

8,494 total views, 12 views today

Share Button

Dan Siegel on Re-Membering Trauma

brousblog4a Siegel Hawn CooperDr. Daniel J. Siegel, MD (far left) introduced me to brain science, and I write about brain scientists like him ‘cos they saved my life. Without them, I’d still be a successful, all-head talk technical writer for Pentagon sales.  I’d be unaware of my childhood attachment trauma, unable to feel my past, dissociated, and miserable with anxiety.  My cholesterol would still be over 240, my kidneys headed for failure.

But in March 2011, I clicked on the wrong link in a friend’s email and ended up watching a Dan Siegel webinar on how the brain works in trauma. [FN1]  That’s where my healing began.  Siegel flies around the world trying to alert parents and others about how childhood experiences affect the brain.  “You sent us a brain in the mail !” Anderson Cooper exclaims in this Sept. 2012 Anderson Live clip. [FN2]

Dan Siegel is sooo relevant to the May 22 New York Times’ dig against Dr. Bessel van der Kolk for speaking of “repressed memories.”  If it’s traumatic, we remember it, period, the Times says;  “Harvard psychologist Richard McNally called the idea of repressed memories ‘the worst catastrophe to befall the mental health field since the lobotomy’.”  But many of McNally’s peers said his allegation wasn’t proven.  Harvard’s Lisa Najavits called McNally’s statement “disappointing… landing too forcefully on one side…by no means an end to the debate.” [ FN3]

Siegel’s work suggests that the Times best go back to science school.  Dr. Siegel shows extensively that if it’s traumatic, we may very well not remember it coherently.

More important, we almost certainly won’t be able to feel the bodily feelings caused by the trauma, which are still stuck in our bodies.  And until we can feel those, we won’t be able to heal the trauma.  Siegel illuminates the numerous brain mechanisms which can cause our entire memory system to be fragmented and to misfire badly.

In that first webinar I saw by accident, Siegel said he got started in psychiatry in the 1980s studying the hippocampus, which integrates raw incoming sensory data, into composite conscious memory. Siegel shows there are (at least) four ways in which humans may not remember traumatic events – because their hippocampus wasn’t working.

Implicit Memory

Triune Sixtine Brainforest Octopus is viscera www.mindful.ca  4-625x1024Check out the history of the word “re-member”– in Shakespeare, for example. “Re-member” literally means putting parts of our body (members) back together again, ie, “getting ourselves together.” And now science has shown: memories actually start in the body, not in the thinking brain.

Memories start as raw incoming sensory data.   And if the hippocampus isn’t on duty, the body is as far as memories get; memories get stuck in the body.  (Illustration shows the “hippo” as a curved grey area center of brain by dancer’s foot.  Credit:  “The Brain Forest,” Copyright © 2012 by Dr. Stéphane Treyvaud. All rights reserved, at http://www.mindful.ca/in-detail/the-sixtine-brain/ ).

Say you’ve never seen a video, TV, or film; go back before that — to most of human history.  Siegel explains that if a dog approaches me, for example, my brain can’t just “take a video”and give me a whole, coherent overview, with headline “this is a dog.”  It also doesn’t automatically give me a date of today for this dog here, now.  Nor does it automatically tell me that I saw another dog back in 1994 and that was a different dog.

Instead, says Siegel, first, I get a flood of distinct sensory inputs which have nothing to do with each other – or with thought.  I get discrete packets of sensory data from the eyes, ears, nose, and other parts of my body.  My sense of sight gets a visual “look” of the dog; my sense of smell gets a whiff; my ears may hear a bark or pant.  All three are entirely separate incoming sensory data.  If a bottle of milk were coming, I’d get a touch memory as to its temperature from finger nerves, a taste memory from lingual nerves, etc.

These bits of incoming data are “implicit memory,” Siegel explains, “changes in synaptic connections…like puzzle pieces.”  Each one is a separate sensory memory housed primarily in the nerves reporting in from the body parts where it happened — optical nerve, olfactory nerve, auditory nerve and so on.

Each of those nerves also reports the different implicit data to the non-thinking instinctive brain stem, which also stores parts of these memories and — this is key — without being able to integrate them.  The lizard and frog in the cartoon represent the brain stem, ‘cos it functions at about the level they do – reflexively and by instinct.  No integration, no thinking.

But: what if the dog (or any other being or event) is hostile?  Now, I get an additional flood of unrelated data: my gut gets tight, my heart rate goes up, breath quickens, leg muscles tense to run. It all happens by instinct, instantly, and it bypasses thought altogether. Again: no thinking involved.

Check out the octopus at bottom of the cartoon. “Around our heart, lungs and intestines, we have a web of nerve cells so complex as to correspond in size to the brain of a cat,” says illustration author Dr. Stéphane Treyvaud. “Similar webs of nerve cells may also be found around the muscles.” It’s represented by the head and near arms of the octopus at bottom — and as Treyvaud notes elsewhere, he learned this in his studies with Dan Siegel.  [FN4]

Reporting up from all those visceral nerves of the body cavity is the vagus (10th cranial) nerve, which dumps all this lower body sensory data into the primitive brain stem, shown as the longer arms of the octopus reaching up to the green brain stem lizard.  Siegel and his colleague Dr. Stephen Porges write extensively on the neuroscience of this. [FN5]

Siegel refers to everything under the thinking frontal cortex as the “downstairs brain,” and this octopus is a good visual. Because if the dog, or anything else, is hostile, not only do I have all those sight, smell, and sound data packets to manage -– I’m also hit with a flood of “downstairs” bodily data packets.

Now what?  Well, now I need my hippocampus to be working, or I’m in serious trouble. Let that sink in until next week.

——————————

Kathy’s news blogs expand on her book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Footnotes

Daniel J. Siegel, MD, is clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine on the faculty of the Center for Culture, Brain, and Development and founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center.  He is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute. He is also Founding Editor for the Norton Professional Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology which contains over three dozen textbooks.

FN1   Siegel, Daniel J., MD, “How Mindfulness Can Change the Wiring of Our Brains,” October 12, 2011 webcast, National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM), www.nicabm.com http://www.nicabm.com/mindfulness-2011-new/

FN2  Anderson Live, September 24, 2012; also at http://www.drdansiegel.com/resources/video_clips/  then scroll down for 2012 videos

FN3  Najavits, Lisa M., PhD, Assoc. Prof of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School and Director Trauma Research, McLean Hospital, “Book Review, ‘Remembering Trauma’ by Richard McNally,” Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, Vol. 192, No. 4, April 2004  http://www.seekingsafety.org/7-11-03%20arts/4-04%20fin%20SCAND%20VERS-jnmd%20rev%20mcnally.pdf

FN4  http://www.mindful.ca/in-detail/the-sixtine-brain/

FN5  Porges, Stephen, PhD, 2013: “Body, Brain, Behavior: How Polyvagal Theory Expands Our Healing Paradigm,”  NICABM Webinar, http://stephenporges.com/images/NICABM%202013.pdf
— On Trauma, 2013: “Beyond the Brain: How the Vagal System Holds the Secret to Treating Trauma,” http://stephenporges.com/images/nicabm2.pdf
—  Academic background, 2001: “The polyvagal theory: phylogenetic substrates of a social nervous system,” International Journal of Psychophysiology 42 Ž, 2001, 123 146, Department of Psychiatry, Uni ersity of Illinois at Chicago, http://www.wisebrain.org/Polyvagal_Theory.pdf

Must-read interview: Siegel, Daniel J., MD, “Early childhood and the developing brain,” on “All in the Mind,” ABC Radio National, Radio Australia, June 24, 2006 at: www.abc.net.au/rn/allinthemind/stories/2006/1664985.htm

Books by Dan Siegel:
–“The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are,” (Guilford, 1999). How attachment in infancy and childhood creates the brain and the mind.
–“Healing Trauma: Attachment, Mind, Body, and Brain,” Marion F Solomon, Daniel J Siegel, editors,  New York, NY:  W.W. Norton and Company;  2003.   357pg  Reviewed by Hilary Le Page, MBBS at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2553232/
–“The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being,” (Norton, 2007)
–“The Mindful Therapist: A Clinician’s Guide to Mindsight and Neural Integration,” (Norton, 2010)
–“Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation,” (Bantam, 2010)
–“Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive,” (Tarcher/Penguin, 2003) with Mary Hartzell
–“The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind,” (Random House, 2011) with Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D
–“Brainstorm: Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain,”  (Tarcher, 2013)

11,330 total views, 17 views today

Share Button