Tag Archives: Mindfulness

What is EMDR – and Why is it So Effective?

Francine ShapiroDuring REM sleep, the brain is attempting to process survival information until it’s resolved.

Eye Motion Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a potent trauma treatment developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro (left), a literature professor who was diagnosed with cancer.  The shock of suddenly finding her survival was under threat, affected her so strongly that Dr. Shapiro mindfully paid attention to how her body was reacting.

She discovered by accident that when the survival fear got intense, her eyes would sometimes move back and forth diagonally or from side to side, as if in dreaming – following which she felt less upset, much to her surprise.

So Dr. Shapiro began to study mind-body programs for trauma and PTSD – and went back to school for a PhD in trauma psychology.  EMDR, the treatment she developed,  is now used by the Departments of Defense and Veteran’s Affairs, the World Health Organization, and many others.  Dr. Vincent Felitti, co-director of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, recommends EMDR as “highly effective” for the healing of trauma.

In EMDR a therapist moves a finger or two from side to side (or diagonally) before the patient’s eyes.  This guides the eyes to move as they do during the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) phase of sleep in which we do most active dreaming. Dreaming can “process” a lot of trauma, move it from short-term memory banks where it feels like a terrifying flash happening “right now,” to long-term memory banks where we feel it’s past and we’re “over it.”

I use EMDR to calm myself at home, sitting with eyes closed and moving my eyes back and forth while focusing on the upsetting thought until it dissipates.  This works with upsetting incidents in the present, such as arguments.  I also use EMDR to heal grief over specific past incidents such as hurtful acts by others. But long-term healing needs a therapist.

It had been thought that EMDR is best for “incident trauma” due to one or any finite number of incidents, such as battlefield traumas, car accidents, rape, threats such as Dr. Shapiro’s cancer, or incidents like mine above.

EMDR  had been considered iffy for developmental trauma which starts with fetal stress and continues while the infant brain is developing. As Dr. Bessel van der Kolk notes, it’s a continuum of panic until we become a “frightened organism.” Drs. Shapiro and van der Kolk have said that in developmental trauma, EMDR may bring up infant feelings so overwhelming as to be re-traumatizing. [FN1]

More recently, however, Dr. Sandra Paulsen and colleague Katie O’Shea  have had success using new EMDR methods they’ve created specifically to address developmental trauma, documented in  “Neurobiology and Treatment of Traumatic Dissociation.” [FN2] Here’s a summary: http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/emdr-sandra-paulsen-developmental-trauma/

“EMDR is effective and well-supported by research evidence for treating children with symptoms accompanying post-traumatic stress (PTSD), attachment issues, dissociation, and self-regulation,” GoodTherapy.org also recently reported: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/emdr-for-children-how-safe-and-effective-is-it-0430155

Dr. Paulsen’s collaborator Dr. D. Michael Coy details how he keeps patients safe while going deep into infancy with EMDR on his website:  https://www.dmcoy.com/main/my_practice/emdr-therapy/emdr-pre-verbal-trauma/.  See also Dr. Coy’s comments below, including a link to the EMDR International Association’s EMDR therapist finder directory: http://www.emdria.org/search/custom.asp?id=2337

I still say, as in my book title, “Don’t Try This at Home.”  Please do not “do it yourself.”  Get a highly-trained attachment-based psychotherapist and/or EMDR specialist with a lot of specific training in your type of trauma.

When Nightmares are Real

Until you’ve been beside a man/ You don’t know what he wants
You don’t know if he cries at night/ You don’t know if he don’t
When nothin’ comes easy/ Old nightmares are real
Until you’ve been beside a man/ You don’t know how he feels
Bob Seeger

Francine Shapiro Getting_Past_Your_Past_smallDr. Shapiro gave a terrific webinar on EMDR which even explained what nightmares are, how they work in trauma, and how we can leverage this to heal traumatic feelings.  It was Dr. Ruth Buczynski’s April 17, 2013 interview for the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM) “Trauma 2013” series.  [FN3]  Her book is seen above (please click on the graphic to see it best; my software’s not behaving well…)

“Disrupted REM (Rapid Eye Movement ) sleep is often a marker of PTSD,” Shapiro said. “The earlier memory in PTSD, the trauma, is being held unprocessed with the emotions as physical sensations.  The brain continues to try to process it; sleep researchers say that during REM sleep, the brain is attempting to process survival information until it’s resolved.  That’s why we’ve all had the experience of being disturbed at something, going to sleep, and feeling better about it, with a better understanding of what to do next.

“The brain has done what it’s supposed to do: it’s processed the information, and now it’s guiding us appropriately into the future.  But if a trauma has disrupted that process, although the brain may be again trying to process this (survival information) in dreams, the person continues to wake up in the middle of a nightmare (ie., stop the processing prematurely), because it’s too disturbing.”

“When people are jarred from sleep because of a nightmare, the disturbing images can be difficult to shake,” Dr. Buczynski said on her blog April 12, 2013.  “Even though they’re ‘just dreams,’ nightmares can be very upsetting and can sometimes haunt us long after we’ve awoken. But believe it or not, there may be a good reason for them. Nightmares are part of the brain’s attempt to help us resolve traumatic experiences. But when they wake us up too soon, a key process for healing gets interrupted. So how can we finish what the brain is trying to start?”

“In EMDR,” Dr. Shapiro then explained, “we look for what are the nightmare images that a person can recall. One person would continually wake up from a nightmare of being chased by a monster through a cave.  So (in the EMDR session) we target that dream image, so she’s holding in mind being chased through a cave by the monster.  Then we start the EMDR processing – and it’s like a veil gets peeled back, and the individual sees what the actual experience was, and she reports, ‘OMG, that’s the person who molested me, chasing me through my childhood home!’

“The EMDR processing moves the past memory to resolution, and now the person no longer has that dream, because once it’s processed, it’s integrated with larger memory networks and arrives at adaptive resolution, so that dream image does not come back. So with EMDR you don’t have to try to change their mind about it or talk about it. It’s simply identifying the image and their thoughts that go with it, and then processing it (by EMDR) to complete resolution.”  Check out her video: http://www.nicabm.com/nicabmblog/the-brains-attempt-to-help-us-heal-from-trauma/

Dr. Shapiro reports fantastic results especially with rape victims and war veterans.  “These past traumatic experiences get locked into the brain until they can get processed… We try to process how the earlier traumatic memories created the problem, then we process their current situations that are disturbing, and then what might disturb them in time in future.  If they can’t identify the past memories, we talk about what is currently disturbing them.  That often automatically takes them back to the past experience — and in those instances where it (the past traumatic experience) hasn’t fully be stored (in  long-term memory,) we can see that it shifts (from short-term to long-term memory) and ultimately they’re no longer disturbed…

“My PhD dissertation on rape victims was published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress back when PTSD was viewed as intractable, but I was getting results in a single session,” Shapiro said. “So the controversy was: ‘how could anything be that rapid, and how could eye movements have any effect?’  There were 20 randomized controlled trials introducing EMDR. One done with rape victims was by a very experienced cognitive behavioral researcher viewed as extremely credible; she reported that 90% of the rape victims no longer had PTSD after three EMDR sessions.

“That corresponded to another study at the time published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology which showed the same with a mixed trauma group, that after three EMDR sessions, 84% no longer had PTSD.  We’ve continued to see that… a rule of thumb is, a single trauma can be processed by three 90-minute EMDR sessions.  A study by Kaiser Permanente that used 50-minute sessions found… that an average of 6 EMDR sessions, found 100% of single-trauma victims no longer had PTSD and 76% of multiple trauma victims no longer had PTSD.”

Here’s an ABC News clip by the CalSouthern School of Behavioral Sciences featuring Dr. Shapiro. Again it notes that EMDR is best done with a therapist, which is why they don’t post “How To” on the internet.  It also notes that in Shapiro’s original discovery, her eyes “flickered,” and therapists continue to have patients move eyes fast, “like watching tennis,” as one rape victim (who got huge relief) reports: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTLLfdcJE0Q

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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  Francine Shapiro, PhD, “The Power of EMDR to Treat Trauma,” April 17, 2013 and Bessel van der Kolk, MD, “Expanding the Perspective on Trauma,” April 24, 2013, webinars by the National Institute for Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM): http://www.nicabm.com/trauma2013/trauma2013-post/

FN2  “Neurobiology and Treatment of Traumatic Dissociation: Toward an Embodied Self,” by Lanius, Paulsen, and Corrigan, 2014, http://www.amazon.com/Neurobiology-Treatment-Traumatic-Dissociation-Embodied/dp/0826106315

FN3  Transcripts and recordings of this and five related webinars again at  http://www.nicabm.com/trauma2013/trauma2013-post/

More reading:

Shapiro, Francine, PhD, “Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with EMDR Therapy.”

Shapiro, Francine, PhD, “The Role of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy in Medicine: Addressing the Psychological and Physical Symptoms Stemming from Adverse Life Experiences,” Permanente Journal, Perm J. 2014 Winter; 18(1): 71–77   A substantial body of research shows that adverse life experiences contribute to both psychological and biomedical pathology. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an empirically validated treatment for trauma, including such negative life experiences as commonly present in medical practice. The positive therapeutic outcomes rapidly achieved without homework or detailed description of the disturbing event offer the medical community an efficient treatment approach with a wide range of applications. Methods: All randomized studies and significant clinical reports related to EMDR therapy for treating the experiential basis of both psychological and somatic disorders are reviewed. Also reviewed are the recent studies evaluating the eye movement component of the therapy, which has been posited to contribute to the rapid improvement attributable to EMDR treatment.  Results:  Twenty-four randomized controlled trials support the positive effects of EMDR therapy in the treatment of emotional trauma and other adverse life experiences relevant to clinical practice. Seven of 10 studies reported EMDR therapy to be more rapid and/or more effective than trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy. Twelve randomized studies of the eye movement component noted rapid decreases in negative emotions and/or vividness of disturbing images, with an additional 8 reporting a variety of other memory effects. Numerous other evaluations document that EMDR therapy provides relief from a variety of somatic complaints: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3951033/

van der Kolk, Bessel A, MD, “Restoring the Body: Yoga, EMDR, and Treating Trauma , July 11, 2013 interview by  Krista Tippett of OnBeing.Org.  Human memory is a sensory experience says psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk. Through long research and innovation in trauma treatment, he’s learning how bodywork like yoga or eye movement therapy can restore a sense of goodness and safety: http://www.onbeing.org/program/restoring-the-body-bessel-van-der-kolk-on-yoga-emdr-and-treating-trauma/5801

van der Kolk Bessel A, MD, Spinazzola J, Blaustein ME, Hopper JW, Hopper EK, Korn DL, Simpson WB,  “A randomized clinical trial of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), fluoxetine, and pill placebo in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder: treatment effects and long-term maintenance, J Clin Psychiatry. 2007 Jan; 68(1):37-46. Abstract: The relative short-term efficacy and long-term benefits of pharmacologic versus psychotherapeutic interventions have not been studied for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This study compared the efficacy of a selective serotonin reup-take inhibitor (SSRI), fluoxetine, with a psychotherapeutic treatment, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and pill placebo and measured maintenance of treatment gains at 6-month follow-up. METHOD: Eighty-eight PTSD subjects diagnosed according to DSM-IV criteria were randomly assigned to EMDR, fluoxetine, or pill placebo. They received 8 weeks of treatment and were assessed by blind raters posttreatment and at 6-month follow-up. The primary outcome measure was the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale, DSM-IV version, and the secondary outcome measure was the Beck Depression Inventory-II. The study ran from July 2000 through July 2003.RESULTS: The psychotherapy intervention was more successful than pharmacotherapy in achieving sustained reductions in PTSD and depression symptoms, but this benefit accrued primarily for adult-onset trauma survivors. At 6-month follow-up, 75.0% of adult-onset versus 33.3% of child-onset trauma subjects receiving EMDR achieved asymptomatic end-state functioning compared with none in the fluoxetine group. For most childhood-onset trauma patients, neither treatment produced complete symptom remission. CONCLUSIONS: This study supports the efficacy of brief EMDR treatment to produce substantial and sustained reduction of PTSD and depression in most victims of adult-onset trauma. It suggests a role for SSRIs as a reliable first-line intervention to achieve moderate symptom relief for adult victims of childhood-onset trauma. Future research should assess the impact of lengthier intervention, combination treatments, and treatment sequencing on the resolution of PTSD in adults with childhood-onset trauma: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17284128

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The Body Keeps the Score – Bessel van der Kolk

Bessel Book bodykeepsscore “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk, MD, will “permanently change how psychologists and psychiatrists think about trauma and recovery,” as trauma scholar Dr. Ruth Lanius writes.  She was the first to call developmental trauma a “hidden epidemic,” source of my book’s subtitle “Silent Epidemic.” Dr. van der Kolk repeats this in his new book.  [FN1]

And it is about the body. “Infants are psycho-biological beings, as much of the body as of the brain,” writes Prof. Ed Tronick, author of the Still Face Experiment. “Without language or symbols, infants use every one of their biological systems to make meaning of their self in relation to the world.  Van der Kolk shows that those same systems continue to operate at every age, and that traumatic experiences, especially chronic toxic experience during early development, produce psychic devastation.”

I reported van der Kolk’s work on developmental trauma and on getting the military to recognize PTSD in March 2014.  When the New York Times damned van der Kolk’s insistence on body work in June 2014, I roasted them.  In this book, van der Kolk makes his case much better than anyone else could.

I’m having trouble reading the book; I keep starting to sob. That started on page 3 where Dr. van der Kolk describes his heart-breaking childhood experience in bombed-out post-war Holland, with his father prone to violent rages, and his mother acting out her childhood trauma on him. I could feel that little boy, what he’s been going through all these years, and see the depths of what he has accomplished by giving his life so passionately to heal himself and all the rest of us.

These are “good sobs;” they feel good, because once again van der Kolk has told the truth about reality where few dare. Half the human race has had significant childhood trauma, and most of them are in complete denial and live in a state of dissociation, aka freeze or numbness. People in trauma, he writes, feel “numb” to most of life. One patient felt “emotionally distant from everybody, as though his heart were frozen and he was living behind a glass wall. He could not feel anything except his momentary rages, and his shame.”

Dr. Stephen Porges calls van der Kolk’s book a “courageous journey into the parallel dissociative worlds of trauma victims and the medical and psychological disciplines.” As van der Kolk and Porges have said before, medical and psychological experts have been just as much in denial and dissociated regarding the serious nature of trauma as are the traumatees.  “As our minds desperately try to leave trauma behind, our bodies keep us trapped in the past with wordless emotions and feelings,” Porges says. “Van der Kolk offers hope by describing treatments and strategies that have.. helped his patients reconnect their thoughts with their bodies.”

Why all the denial?  “We don’t really want to know what soldiers go through in combat,” writes van der Kolk. “We do not really want to know howe many children are being molested and abused in our own society and how many couples – almost a third –engage in violence at some point…. We want to think… of our own country as enlightened civilized people. We prefer to believe that cruelty occurs only in faraway places like Dafur…”

Solutions for Recovery

Bessel van der KolkLet’s get right to what everyone wants to know.  Here are Dr. van der Kolk’s “Paths to Recovery,” which I think of as  “body solutions” :

— Healing starts with owning our “self,” 100% total acceptance of our self, exactly as we are today, no guilt, no self condemnation. It means developing pride in who we are; only by accepting ourselves as we are now, do we become free to change. We must respect our body for putting us into trauma freeze; it was the only way to defend us, as Stephen Porges says at the end of my blog last week.

– Recognize that language is a “miracle and tyranny,” van der Kolk says. “Telling the story doesn’t necessarily alter the automatic physical and hormonal responses of bodies that remain hypervigilant, prepared to be assaulted, or violated at any time. For real change, the body needs to learn that the danger has passed.” At some point we must let go of all the verbiage as yackety-yack largely in the conscious frontal cortex and logical left brain.

Instead, we must grasp that there is something more fundamental underneath all that, lead by our body sensations, non-verbal subconscious, and non-logical right brain. The body literally needs to have many, often thousands, of new, good physical experiences, such as being taught to physically move or defend itself, just where it could not during the original trauma. Only these can create a “visceral” certainty of safety, to race the old experiences of danger.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is van der Kolk’s next step, to integrate the right and left sides of the brain. In trauma often neural pathways between them have been frozen; in developmental trauma from infancy, these pathways may not have developed well and must be developed now.  By moving the eyes back and forth, we simulate Rapid Eye Motion (REM) sleep, which the brain uses to take events of “now” (today) out of short-term memory, where feelings like fight-flight and trauma reside, and put them into long-term memory.  Instead of feeling as if our trauma is happening again now, it begins to feel like an old story that loses its sting.

Yoga then teaches us how to inhabit our bodies right here, right now; that’s why it’s been used as a path to enlightenment for thousands of years.  Easy to say, but the challenge is to actually practice it rigorously and regularly; only then comes the benefit.

Neurofeedback programs done by trained neurofeedback specialists really help.  Dr. van der Kolk also recommends the computer (and smart phone) -based electronic feedback system EmWave by HeartMath, which trains users to synchronize breathing and heart rates, known as heart rate variability (HRV). In good HRV, heartrate speeds up when we breathe in and slows when we breathe out.  But in trauma we lose HRV coherence; breathing is very rapid and shallow, and heart rate de-synchronizes from the breath, also hazardous to physical health.

Finding Your Voice:  As Bruce Perry says, “Patterned, repeated rhythmic activity”  can re-tune a traumatized brain stem.   Dr. van der Kolk likes  “communal rhythms” such as drum circles and dance.  He particularly likes theater work because it gives the players a substantial voice and a character they can use to express all their feelings in a way everyone can accept.

Trauma Experts Praise “Body Keeps the Score”

“This is an absolutely fascinating and clearly written book by one of the nation’s most experienced physicians in the field of emotional trauma. Equally suitable for primary care doctors and psychotherapists wishing to broaden their range of helpfulness, or for those trapped in their memories, ‘The Body Keeps the Score’  helps us understand how life experiences play out in the function and the malfunction of our bodies, years later.
– Vincent J. Felitti, MD
Chief of Preventative Medicine Emeritus, Kaiser Permanente San Diego;  Co-Principal Investigator, ACE study

“Breathtaking in its scope and breadth, ‘The Body Keeps the Score’ is a seminal work by one of the preeminent pioneers in trauma research and treatment. This essential book unites the evolving neuroscience of trauma research with an emergent wave of body-oriented therapies and traditional mind/body practices. These new approaches and ancient disciplines build resilience and enhance the capacity to have new empowered bodily (interoceptive) experiences that contradict the previous traumatic ones of fear, overwhelm and helplessness. They go beyond symptom relief, and connect us with our vital energy and here-and-now presence. A must read for all therapists and for those interested in a scholarly, thoughtful, tome about the powerful forces that affect us as human beings in meeting the many challenges of life including accidents, loss and abuse.
– Peter A. Levine, PhD, Author, In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness.

“This book is a tour de force. Its deeply empathic, insightful, and compassionate perspective promises to further humanize the treatment of trauma victims, dramatically expand their repertoire of self-regulatory healing practices and therapeutic options, and also stimulate greater creative thinking and research on trauma and its effective treatment. The body does keep the score, and Van der Kolk’s ability to demonstrate this through compelling descriptions of the work of others, his own pioneering trajectory and experience as the field evolved and him along with it, and above all, his discovery of ways to work skillfully with people by bringing mindfulness to the body (as well as to their thoughts and emotions) through yoga, movement, and theater are a wonderful and welcome breath of fresh air and possibility in the therapy world.”
– Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor of Medicine emeritus, UMass Medical School, Author of “Full Catastrophe Living.”

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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

FN  Van der Kolk, Bessel, MD., “The Body keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma,” Peguin Press Viking, New York, 2014  http://www.amazon.com/The-Body-Keeps-Score-Healing/dp/0670785938#reader_0670785938

Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. is the founder and medical director of the Trauma Center in Brookline, Massachusetts. He is also Professor of Psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine and Director of the National Complex Trauma Treatment Network. When he is not teaching around the world, Dr. van der Kolk works and lives Boston, Massachusetts.

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Fire Up the Right Brain

Dan Siegel Website PicWhen we last left Stewart the 92-year-old lawyer in Dan Siegel’s office June 25,  “the presenting problem was:  his wife got sick, and he became more socially withdrawn… losing himself in his books,” Siegel said. “Rather than confronting what the illness of his wife of 65 years brought up in him, this unbelievable sense of vulnerability which he wasn’t prepared to sit with, he withdrew into his law books.”  [FN1]

Stewart could handle and remember lots of facts, like his or others birth dates, a left brain function.  But he had little or no emotional response, nor could he recall much about his fleshed-out lived experiences, like what he did on his son’s first birthday, a right brain function.  Pure dissociation.  “I think you’re living with half a brain,” Siegel told him.

So Dan set out to grow Stewart’s right brain.

“Our right human hemisphere is all about this present moment,” says brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor. “Information, in the form of energy, streams in through all of our sensory systems, then it explodes into an enormous collage of what this present moment looks like, what this present moment smells like and tastes like, what it feels like and sounds like.” [FN2]

Here’s what Dan did: “I told Stewart that I thought if we could drive energy and information flow through the right hemisphere of his brain, over a three to four month period, I believed we could stimulate neuronal activation and growth: we could get new synapses to form in the right brain that had never formed before.”

Dan gave Stewart a series of exercises which only the right brain could handle, so the neurons in Stewart’s spectacularly developed logical left brain would have to just stop firing awhile.  His right brain would have to step up. [FN3]

Fire the Right Brain Neurons

Brain_superior-lateral_viewFirst, Siegel said, the right hemisphere specializes in non-verbal responses, facial recognition and imitation, and other mammal to mammal relational expressions and body language – as distinct from verbal language and logic which are left brain actions.

So Dan started miming emotions with his face and body, only — no words. And Stewart had to try to mimic back his face and body motions — no words. “I would make a face, and he would imitate it—not name it because that would be bilateral integration, ” said Dan. “We wanted to get his right hemisphere going, and the right specializes in non-verbal response and facial recognition.”   Stewart watched while Dan demonstrated an emotion non-verbally, with face, with hands and body, and gradually Stewart found he could make his own face, hands and body imitate Dan — all without logic or speech.

Then Dan reversed it, having Stewart mime something without words, while Dan tried to imitate him. “It kind of became fun actually, like a game,” Dan said. “For homework, I would have him watch television with the sound turned off, so that his left hemisphere, which does language, wouldn’t get stimulated. The right hemisphere had to start watching the shows, and he had to get his right hemisphere to work.”

Second, Dan knew that emotions, as the word implies, arise  first as bodily sensations — motion in the body parts — which is communicated as raw data via body nerves to the brain, and finally analyzed and interpreted by the mind as “feelings.” But emotions, like most bodily data, are shunted to the right side of the brain for interpretation, as Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor describe the way incoming sensory data goes to the right brain, above.

Dan thought Stewart didn’t have that right brain function of assembling a map of how his body felt — which was why he didn’t have emotions. So he taught Stewart to create in his mind, an integrated map of his body, which only the right brain can do.

Dan taught Stewart to do “body scans,” in which attention is focused strongly and willfully (“mindfully”) on what is going on first in our head, then our face,  neck, chest, belly, legs, and so on, for prolonged periods of time — something Stewart had never spent 10 minutes on in 92 years. “He couldn’t check into his body to say, my heart is pounding, my stomach is churning, I’m breathing fast,” said Dan, so how could he know he was feeling an emotion?

Third, Dan gives Stewart autobiographical exercises. “I asked him, ‘before you came to the office, you woke up. How did you wake up?’  He said he got up, he had breakfast, and he got in the car. I said ‘Let’s back that up, which foot got out of the bed first?’  He had to go from factual memory, to having a sense-of-self in time. That’s a right hemisphere specialty. Obviously your sense of self, if you don’t have an autobiographical sense of self, is pretty thin.

“Now you would say: hold on, my left foot got up, and then I had breakfast. How? You didn’t fly to the kitchen…Well I went to the toilet first, then I washed my face, then I took a step, etc…  Then he would start making a map of what he experienced that morning…

“And over time, with autobiographical memory exercises, non-verbal exercises, bodily exercises, and starting to then name feelings, we would put on facial expressions of these feelings — and then he started to change.  It was actually quite startling.

“One moment is telling…  He had mentioned that his brother had lost his leg in a skiing accident, but it didn’t matter, you know, because of his dismissal of relationships. He knew the facts of it, but not the feelings of it. A few months later, he was saying something about his grandchildren going skiing, and I thought there was something related to his brother, so I brought it up and he started to get tearful. I asked him if it was about his brother, he said no.

“I asked him what he was feeling and he looked at me and said that he couldn’t believe that I had remembered what he’d said, and that I really knew him. He said, ‘I can’t believe you remember who I am.’  And there was this shift of the feeling of his presence in the room.  He began to be able to articulate that he felt sad, that he could feel heaviness in his chest, that he was aware of his body in new ways.

“It was a moment of connection with him that didn’t exist before. And from that time onward the feeling in the room was like I had a whole person with me. There was this natural unfolding.  Once you allow these areas to be differentiated and honored, they can naturally find a linkage often.  And that’s what happened with Stewart.

“Empathy became something he did. With the right hemisphere focused on his interior, it also naturally began to focus on the interior of other people — me, his wife, his friends.  And that Presence you have when you’re interested in the interior world of other people, is a totally different way of being on the planet.

“His son reported that his presence around his grandchildren really changed. There was even one time Stewart came in and told me that I wasn’t going to believe what happened. He said they were saying goodbye to some people, and his wife put her hand on his shoulder, and he told her it felt good. Then she asked him if he wanted a back massage because in 65 years of marriage, he never let her do that. So she gave him a shoulder massage, and he said it felt fantastic. I asked why he’d said no for 65 years, and now at 92, he said yes.

“He said that he had been so terrified his entire life of needing anyone because he was never able to need anyone in his childhood, and that now he felt as if he could be that vulnerable to his wife and he could say that he needed her.

“His wife actually called me and asked me if I had given him a brain transplant because he had become a different person.  It wasn’t just that he was more present with relationships; internally, he felt this sort of playfulness. So, that’s how we could tell that something shifted with him.

“It was incredible and I have to say if it were just Stewart, I’d feel really nervous about reporting such a thing in a book, but I’ve worked with a lot of people with avoidant attachment histories, who as adults have dismissed attachment with the same paradigm, and it comes out the same way almost every time. [FN5]

“Now I get these beautiful cards from Stewart every winter. The last one said, ‘Dan, you cannot believe how much fun I’m having. Thank you’.”

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Next Friday August 15:  Special guest blog on how the ACE Study is finally being put to good use in pediatrics

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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
Bio, website, and more of Dan’s books in Footnotes at end of http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/Daniel-Siegel-3/

FN1    Siegel, Daniel J., MD, “The Developing Mind,” National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM), Apr 6, 2011 p.20-22   www.nicabm.com Apr 6, 2011 p.20-22

FN2   Jill Bolte Taylor,  “My Stroke of Insight,” Ted Talk of Feb. 2008,  http://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight

FN3   Siegel, Daniel J., MD, “How Mindfulness Can Change the Wiring of Our Brains,” NICABM, www.nicabm.com; 2010 Webcast; 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/

FN4   Siegel, Daniel J., MD, “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.

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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).

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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/

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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.

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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/

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Dan Siegel: Re-Wire Your Brain

91 Overpass-2 006Like I say, Dr. Dan Siegel introduced me to brain science, and I write about brain scientists like him ‘cos they saved my life.  It was all an accident… or a God-send.

In August 2010  I heard psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud on CD saying, “we can now do scans of the brain of older kids who were… not held, comforted or soothed, and there are parts of the brain which are dark. There’s nothing growing in there — because nothing was planted; neurologically there’s literally no brain activity.”

That was me, and it hit me in the gut: “Oh, s#$%!  Parts of my brain are dark!”  I thought it was fried for life.  I was commuting and almost drove off this I-91 overpass near Anaheim, CA at 70 mph (view from my car, above).  It was no trip to Disneyland.

Later I learned what I had was  “developmental trauma.”

But in March 2011, Dr. Dan Siegel taught me that we can re-wire our brains. It was literally an answer to prayer.  I clicked the wrong link in a friend’s email and ended up by mistake watching a webinar by some guy named Siegel titled  “How Mindfulness Can Change the Wiring of Our Brains.” [FN1]

He announces with characteristic excitement (I do love him) : “We’re in a moment now of making one of the most revolutionary findings from neuroscience: neuroplasticity.

“Neuroplasticity is the way we can study how the connections in the brain… continually change throughout the life span… we’re now learning  that the brain doesn’t stop growing after childhood or adolescence; it continues to grow throughout the entire life span.”

Re-Wiring with “Mindsight”

Dan Siegel Mindsight cover1 “Experience drives those changes by activating the firing of neurons, and then as neurons fire, they can rewire their connections to one another,” and make new synaptic connections, Siegel said. We can even grow more myelin coating on the neurons involved in the new thought patterns where we want to focus our attention.

That leaves the bad old brain patterns we don’t want to repeat, the ones which cause us emotional pain, not so myelinated.  And as our new brain patterns create more myelin on the cells we’re deliberately firing in new ways, our new neural patterns  become supercharged to fire faster and at way higher efficiencies, he continued.

We can use mindfulness meditation, therapy, and even brain exercises, he said, to “focus attention, which is basically harnessing the power of the mind to focus energy and information flow through the substance of the brain. As you do that, you can change synaptic connections, you can stimulate the growth of new neurons” and develop mental skills which grow myelin. “In all those ways, we can change the physical structure of the brain to the focus of the mind.”

Plus, Siegel said, we can specifically use a technique he invented called “Mindsight” to become mindful of all our mental activities, and reorganize them, to re-wire our brain even more efficiently.  We can recognize that whatever happens to be mechanically flowing through our brain is not really “us.”  It’s just the mechanical patterns of neurons which have been firing on autopilot (brainlessly!) without our wanting or needing them to fire, often since infancy, and most of them since adolescence.

“Mindsight is the capacity to sense that those mental activities are, in fact, not the totality of who you are, “ he said. “So in that sense, it overlaps with mindfulness… but it goes beyond mindfulness because once you have this ability to sense that these mental activities are just part of your identity, you then specifically can move the way your energy and information flow is happening in your mental life, in your relational life, or even in your neuronal life….”

For more, get Dr. Siegel’s book ”Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation,” (Bantam, 2010) (see http://www.drdansiegel.com/books/mindsight/ ).  Also check out his Mindsight Institute at http://www.drdansiegel.com/about/mindsight/.  [FN2]

What immediately blew me away was how Siegel used mindsight to work with a  ninety-two year old lawyer who came into Siegel’s office with half a brain (Lawyer? Was that a no-brainer?)  Siegel completely rewired the man.

Details in my next post — in two weeks, on Friday, July 25.  I’ve got to bear down on completing my book, so I’m moving to a new schedule to blog every other Friday.

Next Friday July 18,  I’ll send you current news from Dan Siegel.

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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, http://www.drdansiegel.com 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,” 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/

FN2  Siegel, Daniel J., MD, “Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation,” Bantam Books, 2010

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)

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