Tag Archives: Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback works: Van der Kolk

Bessel website pix vanderKolkportrait1Psychiatrist and trauma expert Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, MD posted a neurofeedback webinar August 9 that changes the map on trauma healing: http://neurofeedback2015.kajabi.com/fe/79711-rewiring-the-brain-free-ce-seminar . [Or try this link to a 5 min intro. His  72-min seminar is below at “Click Here to Begin Your Free One Hour:” http://neurofeedback2015.kajabi.com/fe/80095-support-neurofeedback-research-2015]

Please forward this to your lists of therapists, colleagues, anyone interested in healing. Dr. van der Kolk has promoted EMDR, yoga, and body work for decades.  Now folks with early trauma can check out neurofeedback.

I’ve so far done 10 months of neurofeedback and the healing is enormous. But it’s not known enough or funded. Getting word out could stop suffering.

At minute 20, van der Kolk shows graphics on how Sebern Fisher introduced him to neurofeedback. “She showed me drawings that traumatized kids did of their families (stick figures), then how they developed after 20 weeks of neurofeedback (real people), after 40 weeks (an attached group), and I was blown away by their development,” he said.

“There’s nothing I know that can do that,” he said. “When you see something like that, you pay attention. Can my psychoanalysis do that?  Can my acceptance and commitment therapy do that?  Can my friends who do EMDR or Somatic Experiencing do that?  No.  Nothing I know of can do THAT.  Time to learn new things.”

Don’t hire just any provider. A neurofeedback practitioner with 1. Five-ten years’ neurofeedback; 2. A certificate from EEGSpectrum.com or EEGInfo.com; and 3. Familiarity with attachment issues, is a good place to start.  A good neurofeedback therapist won’t do “one size fits all.”  Ask to be sure that they carefully adjust it to each individual and keep re-adjusting.

My blog on neurofeedback with links to Sebern Fisher interviews is here: http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/neurofeedback/

Find a Neurofeedback Practitioner Online Directories are here:
1. EEG Spectrum International: http://www.esiaffiliatesforum.com/providers  2. EEG Institute Directory: http://directory.eeginfo.com/
Sebern Fisher says both are fine. Only #2 had a provider near me; he’s great. He’s got all 3 features above.  My insurance covers it for a $35 copay.

Am I In Tune — Or Not?

Neurofeedback Before & After mirasol.netAs for me, I feel calmer, more centered, less frightened, and less easily triggered every day. It works on long-term issues.

Still, I felt shocked as van der Kolk described “ways of being” which I have in spades, but never knew are symptoms of brain disorganization. This knocked me for a loop:

“Our brain is shaped by human interactions, by the way that people respond to us, to rhythms, voices, touch, sounds, how we make music together,” he said. “We are rhythmic machines; I talk to you and move my hands, my face, and I image you responding in kind.

“But if you talk to your partner and they freeze their face, your mind goes blank — because we need feedback… If the world does not respond to you, if people do not smile at you, if as a little kid  when you come home people say, “Oh, you again”?  You miss the experience of being in tune with people. It goes to the very core of our central nervous system.”

At this point (6 minutes in) I had to lay down and sob for 10 minutes. Feeling what he said totaled me.  I had no attunement experiences until I was 4  1/2 and my sister was born. No responses, no rhythm.

“If you have many attunement experiences,” he said, ” when you get scared, someone’s there so the feeling gets repaired; someone gets mad but soon they repair it, then you get a sense of flow with other people. You know we can do things together, we can work things out. You know I can have a voice because my voice has an impact on you. You can have a voice because your voice has an impact on me.”

Again I was sobbing.  What is he talking about?  Have a voice, what’s that?  I never had an impact. Work things out?  Unheard of.  I’m terrified at mis-attunement.  I have no experience that what I feel matters.

In abuse or neglect, he said, “these neural rhythms get broken. The most important parts of the brain to grow in first years of life get you in tune with people, tell you what to be scared of, when to feel safe, how to connect, how to be in synch.”  I was never in synch.

At minute 15:30 he shows astonishing brain scans (click on graphic above). When normal people hear a strange sound (“eeek”), he says, they need to figure out what it means, “so all the different parts of the brain synchronize to focus on that. They’ve developed an N-200 filtering wave that says ‘ignore your phone, your hunger… just pay attention to this sound.’

“But traumatized people have enormous problems filtering out irrelevant information. They are hyper-stimulated by sounds, sights, images, body sensation, have a terrible time filtering them out. As you see here, traumatized people have very different wave forms. Different parts of the brain are not in synch… which explains why they have such a hard time learning from new experiences… taking new information into the brain, paying attention, taking in life as it comes, learning from it.”

That’s me. I’m hyper-stimulated by sounds, sights, images, body sensation. Half the time I can’t filter them out.  This last point really concerns me.  I had no idea that most people can filter out these things.

I just called my neurofeedback therapist and told him that I need a lot more help. “I’m afraid both of us under-estimate how disorganized my brain is,” I said. “You may want to try other areas of my brain for your sensors and/or other procedures” during neurofeedback.

Thank Heaven for neurofeedback and fighters like Dr. van der Kolk.

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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.

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Comments are encouraged, with the usual exceptions; rants, political speeches, off-color language, etc. are unlikely to post.  Starting 8-22-16, software will limit comments to 1030 characters (2 long paragraphs) a while, until we get new software to take longer comments again.

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My First Podcast 2 of 2

Part 2 “How to Heal” of my 11-6-15 podcast with therapist Jeff Friedman:

Allan Schore 2What books and resources would you recommend for trauma?
I really recommend Dr. Allan Schore’s Sept 2014 Oslo speech video “The Most Important Years;” on my Resources tab, see the subtab on Audios & Videos.  Dr. Schore (left) explains that babies are born screaming in pain because we’re designed for an adult’s emotional brain to show us “Someone cares, I can relax.”  Mom’s love actually creates the neural networks in a baby’s brain needed to calm down, Schore wrote in the’ 90s. Now, in the last 5 years, brain scans have proven him correct. But with infant developmental trauma and attachment disorder, no adult showed us how to calm, so we never did. Infant emotions are still crying painfully deep inside us, says Schore. We’re unaware of it, but that is the cause of our anxiety, fear, anger, and misery.

Several healing tools are really helping me now. Links to all these below are on my Resources tab, sub-tab Healing Tools.  I’m sorry to keep mentioning my website but I was forced to build it when I couldn’t find all this centralized anywhere else. My home page has almost 40,000 hits; my book tab over 12,000 hits and there are 4 more tabs. It gets hits because there’s a large amount of content on my pages.  Here are the healing tools:

Neurofeedback is a computer program which therapists use to train clients to calm brain waves. We with early neglect and abuse have disorganized brains and fear circuits dominate.  Neurofeedback can calm this by growing new neural networks, the way a mother grows a baby’s neural networks. I was moved to tears by Sebern Fisher’s recent interview “Neurofeedback in the Treatment of Developmental Trauma” on ShrinkRap radio, as she described how necessary love and attachment are to the creation of a human brain.

EMDR can resolve trauma using bilateral eye motion, bilateral sounds, or even tapping on either foot. When a therapist moves a finger from side to side before the patient’s eyes, it guides the eyes to move naturally as in rapid eye dreaming. That’s where we process most trauma. That means, we move traumatic memories out of short-term memory banks where it feels like a terrifying flash happening “right now,” into long-term memory banks where we feel it’s past, and we’re “over it.

Tapping: For years I’ve used tapping, aka Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). We use fingertips to tap a few times on 9 of the body’s acupuncture points. It’s a fantastic aid in calming down, or even just getting to sleep at 2 am.  I used it again just this morning to release a pile of anger.

Meditation: Meditation is where we ultimately need to go to fully heal, but it can be terrifying for us with infant trauma. To get started, we can work with our therapist on it, and meditate in groups. Please check Dr. Tara Brach’s “Basic Elements of Meditation Practice” videos on youtube; it’s also on my Resources tab, sub tab Audio & Video.

Books:  on my Resources tab, look for the subtab on Books:
–“The Grief Recovery Handbook”  by John James & Russell Friedman
–“A General Theory of Love”,  Thomas Lewis, Richard Lannon et al; 2000.
–“Healing Trauma: A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body,” Peter A Levine
–“Changes that Heal,” Dr. Henry Cloud
–“The Body Keeps the Score” Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, MD

Didn’t you say recently that there’s a lot of trauma in high places?
Yes, in part because emotional abuse is really hard to spot.  Emotional abuse alone can be just as damaging as overt abuse, but I didn’t know I had trauma the whole time I was a high-functioning business gal with a math degree, working with rocket scientists.  When I found out I had trauma, I used to say, “Nobody beat me or raped me.  What’s wrong with me!?”

What’s wrong was, I had a huge left thinking brain, but an infant’s right emotional brain that took a lot of damage.  As Allan Schore says, when the mom doesn’t grow the infant’s right brain, the child’s left brain often over-develops in an effort to control the emotional chaos.  My mom didn’t hold me as an infant or show me “it’s safe out here so you can stop crying,” to grow my right brain. So it remained an infant right brain.  Instead, I learned that “it’s dangerous as heck out here, the world is scary.”  I probably didn’t stop crying until my left brain grew myelin and began to think at 2 1/2 and I realized, cognitively, that if I didn’t shut up, they’d swat me.

I’ve been told: “Most people with what you have take it to the grave because they’re so intelligent, no one imagines anything’s wrong.”  One thing motivating me to finish this book is: I’m betting that 20 to 40% of smart people in high places have infant or child trauma hiding inside where no one can tell, just as I did. Maybe my book can help them wake up.

That’s why our corporations, governments and so forth make a lot of un-compassionate decisions.  No one showed them how to do compassion as kids.  That’s why wee spend over $80 billion a year to drug school kids into being quiet, but there’s no funding for serious therapy for children.

Maybe my book will help people see reality. Allan Schore said in his Oslo video that UNICEF put out a report in 2013 saying society needs a massive shift of resources toward making sure at least the child, from conception to age 3 at least, and families with young children, get major public support to try to stop child trauma at the source.  $80 billion would sure help.

Any closing thoughts?
Sebern Fisher hit it on the nose: the real answer to trauma is love.  Babies need our mothers to love us, to even just have the brain cells for emotional well-being. “We need to know that the Big Person who’s taking care of us, loves us,” says Dr. Henry Cloud, and then gradually a baby learns to grow “love inside” he says.

Or Not.  What if I didn’t get love as an infant?   Then emotional chunks of me are an infant’s emotions, and I need to find out about that.  Then I need to go where I can get that part of me loved!  Not to new parents, but I do need to feel the kind of love a good parent gives. And not to romance; we don’t want an infant or toddler on Match.com.  Instead, I need to learn that I can receive platonic love from a really fine therapist, and that I can love them back.  I need to learn that I can do deep platonic love with my Grief Partners and platonic friends at church or in small groups or yoga or meditation groups. I need to feel and give unconditional platonic love.

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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.

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Comments are encouraged with the usual exceptions; rants, political speeches, off-color language, etc. are unlikely to post.  Starting 8-22-16, software will limit comments to 1030 characters (2 long paragraphs) a while, until we get new software to take longer comments again.

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My First Podcast, 1 of 2

Jeff Friedman 2I’m excited to have just done my first interview on attachment trauma with therapist Jeffrey M. Friedman, LCSW of Aventura, Florida (north of Miami).  Jeffrey (left) interviewed me  November 6  for his new “Trauma-Informed Podcast,” a series on the prevalence of trauma – so we can stop passing it on from generation to generation. Click here to listen: https://soundcloud.com/east-coast-trauma-project/kathy-new-edits?utm_source=soundcloud&utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=facebook

Kathy on Friedman Podcast 11-6-15The interview summarizes my work: my trauma history, what I’ve done to heal with good therapy, and my sorry adventures into what does not work, such as sub-par therapy. We noted the prevalence of child trauma, how it’s likely affecting a high percent of government and corporate leaders, and the need to educate and help them. Here are interview excerpts:

What is a quote that inspires you that is related to trauma?
“Too many Americans are spurred to achieve, rather than to attach,” says A General Theory of Love; that’s at the core of  our society’s illness.  We’re rushed to compete and get the grade from age 5 or even Baby Einstein age, but there’s little talk of how to learn to attach compassionately to other human beings.  But we are mammals, and we literally need attachment to other mammals, physiologically as well as emotionally, just to live. The book, which is by three psychiatrist MDs, demonstrates that unless we reverse this priority, our society can only get sicker.

Where are you from and what type of work are you doing?
I’m from the New York City area, then lived 20 years in the Washington DC area. Now I live in Orange County, Southern California.  I run a website with resources on attachment disorder, AttachmentDisorderHealing.com , and I’m writing a book about how I only discovered my severe attachment trauma after I hit age 50, and how I’m healing.

What is your story of trauma and recovery?
I was  a high-performer who’d barely even heard of trauma. Suddenly I was divorced from a 27-year marriage, bankrupt, and homeless. “I married a bad man, now I’ll find a good man,” I thought. But I only found more abusive men, and it hit me: the common denominator is me!  Something’s wrong with me. Then both my parents died in 2008, but when my Dad died, I couldn’t cry. “Wow, I’m really sick,” I said, and took myself to therapy.  But I found 3 poor therapists who made me sicker, almost to the point of suicide.  So in 2009 I quit therapy.  What does not work is bad therapy.

Then I got something which does work, the Grief Recovery Handbook, which instructs us how to read letters to a Grief Partner about what’s hurting us emotionally. I wanted to heal from my marriage so I could date, so I read letters about my 27-year marriage to my partners for two years. But I didn’t feel better; I only found more pain. Reading about my marriage regressed me back to about when I met my ex at 18, but still more pain. Then I read letters about my Dad that regressed me back to age 5.

I removed 40 years of denial like rocks off my soul by releasing the anger and sorrow.  But I didn’t have anything under the denial; the further back I went, I just found more pain. Then I read letters to my Mom that regressed me back to infancy.  It’s all on AttachmentDisorderHealing on the New Book tab, in my Preface: “The Silent Epidemic.”

 What have you done that helped with trauma and what did not work?
I discovered I was maybe 2 weeks old inside. It was so terrifying that this time I did a huge amount of research, found a really good attachment-based psychotherapist and went back to therapy in 2011. Thus my book title: “Don’t Try This at Home.”  Don’t go it alone. What works is:  1. Do get a qualified attachment-based therapist but you must do serious research to find a good one.  2. The Grief Recovery Handbook works to get rid of denial,  but with severe infant trauma, don’t do it unsupervised! That was my error.   3. Then what actually healed my trauma was Body Work; Dr. Peter A. Levine’s Somatic Experiencing method helped me enormously. For Body Work, go to AttachmentDisorderHealing; fifth tab from left Featured Topics.  Subtab item #4 is Grief Handbook, then subtab item #5 is Healing: Body Work, with links to videos and books.

What advice would you give to those dealing with their own trauma?
I can only tell you what I learned: Don’t, don’t, don’t try this at home; I’ve put my last nickel into a good attachment-based psychotherapist. Second, later I discovered the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) and I wish I’d had that at the outset, to find out scientifically how bad and what type my trauma is.  On AttachmentDisorderHealing see the 4th tab Blogs for my blog on the AAI.   Third, I worked the Grief Recovery Handbook (GRH) with a partner but I wish I’d kept a therapist thoroughly informed, it was dangerous not to. GRH can get rid of denial barriers so we can benefit from the next deeper steps. Fourth and most important is: Body Work.

Not reading books about Body Work – doing body work.  Reading a book about singing is different from physically singing; reading a book about sex is, well, you know…. We need to do Body Work, not hide in books.

But remember: Body Work won’t get through to us unless we do the other  steps first, especially if we have 20 or 40 years of denial to bust through.

Why can’t some Moms help their babies calm down?
Sadly, because Mom’s mom didn’t show her how, and grandma’s mom didn’t show her how; in my family I’ve traced it back to the 1800s and that happens a lot: inter-generational trauma.  That’s why I’m not satisfied with programs for child trauma alone.  We need those but we need more.

Fifty percent of parents out there themselves experienced some degree of childhood trauma, as the ACE Study shows.  So it’s baked into their brain cells to pass it on and traumatize their children, mildly or wildly.  Unless we have mass-based trauma healing programs for at least child-bearing aged adults, we can’t stop the cycle.

You can’t just hand a young couple a book and tell them carry the baby in front.  If they’re deeply wounded, they don’t have the biological capacity to attune to another human being, and they need to learn that, which means serious psychological work.  Otherwise they’re going to hurt babies and others until they get real emotional  healing.

More excerpts next time…

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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.

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My Neurofeedback Journey, 2

Tina Hahn ACEs Too High photoMy Neurofeedback Journey, 2 of 2
by Tina Marie Hahn
— as told to Kathy Brous

Tina added on July 11: I am experiencing major changes in my brain functioning so fast with neurofeedback, although as of this writing, I have only been doing it for three months. But in six months I seriously don’t think I will recognize myself anymore, and I say that after decades of struggle.  I truly recommend checking out neurofeedback, for anyone who has failed all the traditional approaches to trauma. Now back to my journey…

Major Trauma Release

On April 27, it had been about three weeks that I’d been working with the BrainPaint® desktop home neurofeedback machine.  I’ve been doing about 1.5 hours of neurofeedback a day. That turned out to be a little too much for me as a beginner, so I gave myself a break the last two days.

After my second “Alpha-Theta” training April 19, I could not stop sobbing during the session, or after — for 4 hours straight. It was cathartic. During the session my body was shaking — like really shaking. It reminded me of Peter Levine’s discussions and the video he has of the polar bear shaking after it was attacked and then later it came out of the trauma. It was incredible. I wasn’t just thinking this poison was coming out of my body — I was feeling it. I was shaking worse than if I had been locked for several hours in a deep freezer…

It really was amazing… I let go of a lot of stuff. I saw that my mother did the best she could. I could see myself letting go of the residual anger.

Then, the anger was replaced with a tremendous well of grief and loss. I realized that I was full of so much grief over what could have been and how my life might have been different if this had not happened to me — how my mother’s life would have been different if she had been able to feel love from her children instead of being so stressed that she allowed the most horrific things to happen to her kids.

I thought about how my brother wouldn’t be psychotic if he hadn’t been hurt so much…. How he could know happiness instead of his constant fear…..

And please know: it might not be good for most people to do this alone, as the title of your book says, “Don’t Try This at Home.”  For me, I’ve been working on confronting my childhood for decades, so I have an ability to tolerate this intense experience.  But for most people, unless you are willing to take chances and you’re pretty strong, a person might get really shaken up. It would probably be good to have a therapist to discuss what is happening and to process those deeply brain stem based emotions — or a group of healing friends. To have someone with you to support you would be helpful.

I might be doing better if I had a therapist too, but like Kathy I’ve had bad experiences with therapy so my confidence in it is low and anyway I’m in a rural area without much available.  But I think many people with severe childhood trauma like me who are considering neurofeedback might want to use it with formal support such as therapy or a support group.

For me, I wasn’t re-traumatized. That is all I want to say for now except I think this is a powerful tool!

Getting More Relaxed

By May 6, I found that we need to give the neurofeedback some time to settle into our brain, let the brain settle into new patterns. That’s why I’m not posting as much: I just don’t feel the need to reflectively respond to everything, and that means everything in general.  For someone with trauma, that’s progress.

I have been able to work through my anxiety and though it seems strange, send the emails and make the telephone calls that I need to make but generally procrastinate on. I have been cleaning and organizing. Usually I am so disorganized I am not good at this.

Now I am less reactive. I am certain of it.  When talking to others and they say something that would generally trigger me – I might still become triggered but there is more of a second or two to contemplate first.

I stopped doing several hours of neurofeedback per day. I think so much was making it very confusing for me to determine what was going on in my brain.  While I think generally it has all been effective, I like the general stabilizing non-linear protocol I began with.  I have done several more sessions of the “Alpha-Theta.” That is the type that has the capability to take us into the deep meditative state.

I haven’t had anymore of those really emotional spells during the “Alpha-Theta,” but my dreams have been more colorful. Actually last night I had the first dream in color and it was sad, but more positive.  Usually my dreams have always about big mean things trying to kill me.  So that is great, too.

I feel like I am better able to sit back, take in others point of view, back off from feeling like I have to do everything myself. I really feel this is great.  I also attribute it to the neurofeedback.  I feel like I could talk to people much easier now and have a great interactive conversation without feeling strange and out of place inside.  This is all awesome to me.

And I am feeling like moving into other areas of healing like meditation which I am not good at because of a “way too busy mind that is always quadruple tasking”.  I actually sat down and did about 15 minutes of sitting meditation yesterday and that was good.  So I think all in all this has been a very positive process for me.

I have also been taking others suggestions or at least listening and then making I think more informed decisions based on information from others. To me this is the start of trying to connect.

Also, though I don’t use Facebook much, I have been posting on Facebook more recently and will see people I know. Before, I would be afraid to send a friend request — I would be too afraid because I’m a bad person, that person wouldn’t want to be my friend.  But now, I have been taking chances, sending friend requests and guess what – people have been accepting.  I just find this totally weird for me.  I don’t look out of control outside but now, I am starting to feel more competent instead of “out of control inside.”  By that I mean that strange anxiety when you feel like you don’t belong, like you are an alien to a foreign species.  But now I’m starting to feel I do belong more, I’m feeling more human.

A Breakthrough or Epiphany?

On June 8, I wrote that I haven’t posted on my use of the BrainPaint® neurofeedback system for a month for a few reasons.

Good reasons: I felt so much better due to neurofeedback that I got too busy!  I’ve been out a lot, creating and attending meetings about the ACE Study and regional trauma-informed schools, and I’m writing several articles.  I’ve begun working on key things I used to procrastinate on, that’s also getting better with neurofeedback…  I can feel a real improvement in my impulse control and affect regulation (my ability to regulate my emotions is growing nicely.)

I still feel neurofeedback benefiting me in daily activities, for example if I want to write something that makes a point, I do it so that it’s not impulsive, and is worth reading.  My new ability to do that is part of the neurofeedback.

But I also missed a lot of BrainPaint® sessions. On the one hand, we do need time for the neurofeedback changes to settle into our brain. But I got 2-3 weeks behind so let me note: For anyone who decides to do home neurofeedback, it is important to follow the BrainPaint® policy to rate your goals and answer the assessment questions before each session, and also be careful to keep up with the updates they issue to their computer system.

I got behind on that because my cursor wasn’t working properly, I was blaming myself, so I missed a lot of sessions. Finally I called my BrainPaint® home neurofeedback coach and we learned it wasn’t my fault — the program needed an update, so it was updated June 5.

Then we reviewed and updated the BrainPaint® assessment together that calculated new protocols and she told me to stop trying to do everything on my own, to please call for help. I promised to follow the directions and did so over the weekend and — wow, did my brain move with the new protocols the system created!

In fact, as I was doing my session with the directed protocols, I came to what I have to call an epiphany.  Something has happened to me which feels weird, in fact it feels absolutely crazy (compared to how I used to feel).

I want to report it because it must be the neurofeedback which is really helping me. OK:

I’m often scared to take my dogs to the vet because the office is on a main highway, and the dogs jump out of the car as soon as a door is opened. I’ve been afraid one would jump out and get hit by a car. I have to put them in the back of the RAV4 when driving or I get a 60 or 45 pound dog in my lap, but I couldn’t get them out the back door due to trouble with the auto-lift gate.

Now yesterday while I was doing neurofeedback, for the first time in my life it hit me: Hey, I could go inside the vet’s office and simply ask a front desk person to help me so my dogs don’t jump out and get hurt. This sounds so stupid but it isn’t — it means for the first time in my life I considered asking another person for reasonable help!

That means believing people are supposed to help each other and that some people can be approached for help.

That’s a first step in trust. Amazing.
So I began to weep, really weep.
Let me explain why this feels so weird and crazy and amazing to me.

As many of us with a high Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) score, people have horribly hurt me. I’ve come to feel, I want no part of mammalian attachment to people (you call that “fur”) — even if it is the only way to heal. Trusting people is horribly scary for me for reasons like this:

When I was 7 or 8, I was with my dad in the car about an hour away from our trailer.  I never asked my dad for anything because he was incredibly mean. My dad smoked in the car with us kids inside.  But on this winter day, I had a cold, and as he is smoking, I suddenly couldn’t breath.  I am scared to death because I cannot breath. I timidly ask him “Dad could you please stop smoking? I cannot breathe.”  His response was “If you don’t like it, I can drop you off here right now and you can walk home!”  A very typical response. I don’t know how I managed to escape with my life in that small car for an hour as he puffed away while I was close to respiratory arrest… but I never forgot the incident or the horrible insensitivity.

From that time forward, I could not ask for anything reasonable – I could not ask for something reasonable to save my life.

To others, asking for assistance may seem like a no-brainer. But for me, tremendously hurt by my parents for years starting at a young age — to consider in the middle of today’s neurofeedback session that I could ask the vet for reasonable help — it made me weep.

And I’m going to try to no longer react immediately, even to such epiphanies, as I want to be more reflective going forward — another amazing plus of neurofeedback.  But wow, I have experienced an amazing movement of my brain that I don’t think could have occurred any other way.

I may even be able to move to where attaching to people becomes okay.
Oh and as I had this epiphany – my dogs ate my dinner and I didn’t get mad!

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Kathy’s blogs and Guest Blogs explore the journey of recovery from childhood trauma by learning about Adult Attachment Disorder in teens and adults, Adult Attachment Theory, and the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study.

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My Neurofeedback Journey, 1

Tina Hahn, 30 monthsMy Neurofeedback Journey, 1 of 2
by Tina Marie Hahn
— as told to Kathy Brous

I am Dr. Tina Marie Hahn, MD, advocate for Trauma-Informed Care and Communities, and survivor of actually ten Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). As a pediatrician, I screen parents and children alike for childhood trauma. That’s me at 30 months old and my background story is here: http://acestoohigh.com/2014/05…-her-ace-score-is-9/

I’ve been excited for some time to try neurofeedback, after listening to a talk given by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk and Sebern Fisher and reading Dr. van der Kolk’s latest book “The Body Keeps the Score” and a blog on Sebern Fisher’s work with neurofeedback here at http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/neurofeedback/   I then read three books on neurofeedback, including Dr. Fisher’s book “Neurofeedback in the Treatment of Developmental Trauma: Calming the Fear-Driven Brain” and decided to research several electronic neurofeedback systems for home use.

I report as a user/patient, not as a doctor or expert, because my experience so far has been fairly stormy — I’m just starting out, so I don’t know where this will go and I am not an expert. I feel I should warn readers: if you have experienced severe infant and childhood developmental trauma as I did, neurofeedback seems like a very rewarding method for healing — but it has intense risks if not done with care.

Please if possible, as Kathy’s book says: “Don’t Try This at Home.” Neurofeedback is designed to be done in a trained practitioner’s office. So for most people with trauma, probably it’s best not to do neurofeedback alone at home. Please try to do it with access to formal support, hopefully a good attachment-based psychotherapist who is very compassionate, so you can discuss what is happening and process these deeply brain stem based emotions with another human. If therapy is really impossible, maybe you could create a group of healing friends or at least have a friend come regularly to be with you while you do it or afterward. Some type of support would be key.

I had to opt for a home-use neurofeedback system because I am in a rural backwater where everyone knows everyone so I don’t feel comfortable sharing incredibly strong emotions. I’ve also had prior bad experiences with psychiatry plus right now there aren’t good practitioners anywhere near where I live. In fact, I might be doing better if I had a well-trained therapist possessing extensive knowledge of developmental trauma.

As to the level of pain in my healing with neurofeedback so far: I have been working on this level of emotional pain for decades, so (thus far) it seems I have an ability to tolerate this intense experience. (I won’t know how much I can tolerate until I go further, who knows.) But I did want to note that unless a person is willing to take chances and is pretty strong, they might get really shaken up.

The Fear-Driven Amygdala

I wanted to specifically treat my fear-driven amygdala that I have from being terrorized as an infant and child. I found one home system, which looked good, but it did not allow one to use different protocols to specifically calm down an overactive amygdala.

So I chose BrainPaint®, which did, and I was excited to get my BrainPaint® home neurofeedback system in the mail April 6. BrainPaint® sent an excellent 47 minute video tutorial showing me how to set up the system and before the first session, I had an 1.5-hour phone tutorial. The system is very easy to set up and use. Also we get 45 minutes of assistance by phone every month we rent the system, and we can pay extra for more telephone help if we need it. I will be texting or calling my BrainPaint® “assistant” to help me as I become ready to change protocols based on symptom improvement.

BrainPaint® is not cheap but mental health and well-being? Priceless. The BrainPaint® set I got has a minimum two months rental at $675 per month for shipping and a deposit; I initially paid $1,875. The deposit comes back when you send the rental back. Here is an introductory YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7s0AFjRVfmk

I did my first session April 7; it starts with a symptom checklist. I had lots of symptoms checked. The protocol chosen initially was to calm my right amygdala— but because it looked like so many areas were out of whack, I did something called “non-linear on T3 and T4″ (right and left temporal) to get the brain hemispheres in synch.

My first session was 7 minutes….. It was interesting.. Looking at a screen with fractal patterns and auditory inputs. After the first 7 minutes, I fell asleep for 2 hours. For me that is amazing because I don’t take naps and don’t sleep well… I feel relatively calm and just completed a second session for 14 minutes. I am now pretty tired.

I don’t know the outcome of this process, but I have a strong feeling that neurofeedback is going to help rid me of my low self esteem, my rough edges and though I am really tired, I think this is going to really make some good changes. It already did something, as normally looking at a computer screen would never make me take a nap.

More Good Results

On April 8, I had more good results:  I did a few more BrainPaint® sessions throughout the day. Then last night I slept the best I have in months!

On April 20, I did an “Alpha-Theta” session on BrainPaint® and had a rather weird experience so here’s what happened:

I am stuck inside an ostrich shell. I am really stuck. I am little but grown. I am pushing on the shell. It doesn’t move and all around me is space …. lots of space.. me in a shell… then I flash into the basement…. it is dark but there is a window a small window that is in the basement and I look outside trying to see the outside where it is light and bright and trees and leaves and I am stuck…

I don’t fight, I just flash back into the eggshell… then I think I cannot push this open… I will try to melt it away into infinity ..the infinity of equanimity ….. then it was done….

I suppose this is what we experience in the early sessions.

Coming July 24: Part 2 of Tina’s amazing report

———————————

Kathy’s blogs and Guest Blogs explore the journey of recovery from childhood trauma by learning about Adult Attachment Disorder in teens and adults, Adult Attachment Theory, and the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study.

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My Neurofeedback Journey – Dr. Tina Hahn

Tina Hahn, 30 monthsMy Neurofeedback Journey
by Tina Marie Hahn
as told to Kathy Brous

[Tina added on July 11:  I am experiencing major changes in my brain functioning so fast with neurofeedback, although as of this writing, I have only been doing it for three months. But in six months I seriously don’t think I will recognize myself anymore, and I say that after decades of struggle.  I truly recommend checking out neurofeedback, for anyone who has failed all the traditional approaches to trauma.]

I am Dr. Tina Marie Hahn, MD, advocate for Trauma-Informed Care and Communities, and survivor of actually ten Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). As a pediatrician, I screen parents and children alike for childhood trauma. That’s me above at 30 months old and my background story is here: http://acestoohigh.com/2014/05…-her-ace-score-is-9/

I’ve been excited for some time to try neurofeedback, which I began on April 6, after listening to a talk given by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk and Sebern Fisher and reading Dr. van der Kolk’s latest book “The Body Keeps the Score” and a blog on Sebern Fisher’s work with neurofeedback here at http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/neurofeedback/   I then read three books on neurofeedback, including Dr. Fisher’s book “Neurofeedback in the Treatment of Developmental Trauma: Calming the Fear-Driven Brain” and decided to research several electronic neurofeedback systems for home use.

I report as a user/patient, not as a doctor or expert, because my experience so far has been fairly stormy — I’m just starting out, so I don’t know where this will go and I am not an expert.  I feel I should warn readers: if you have experienced severe infant and childhood developmental trauma as I did, neurofeedback seems like a very rewarding method for healing — but it has intense risks if not done with care.

Please if possible, as Kathy’s book says: “Don’t Try This at Home.”  Neurofeedback is designed to be done in a trained practitioner’s office.  So for most people with trauma, probably it’s best not to do neurofeedback alone at home. Please try to do it with access to formal support, hopefully a good attachment-based psychotherapist who is very compassionate, so you can discuss what is happening and process these deeply brain stem based emotions with another human. If therapy is really impossible, maybe you could create a group of healing friends or at least have a friend come regularly to be with you while you do it or afterward. Some type of support would be key.

I had to opt for a home-use neurofeedback system because I am in a rural backwater where everyone knows everyone so I don’t feel comfortable sharing incredibly strong emotions. I’ve also had prior bad experiences with psychiatry plus right now there aren’t good practitioners anywhere near where I live. In fact, I might be doing better if I had a well-trained therapist possessing extensive knowledge of developmental trauma.

As to the level of pain in my healing with neurofeedback so far: I have been working on this level of emotional pain for decades, so (thus far) it seems I have an ability to tolerate this intense experience. (I won’t know how much I can tolerate until I go further, who knows.)  But I did want to note that unless a person is willing to take chances and is pretty strong, they might get really shaken up.

The Fear-Driven Amygdala

I wanted to specifically treat my fear-driven amygdala that I have from being terrorized as an infant and child. I found one home system, which looked good, but it did not allow one to use different protocols to specifically calm down an overactive amygdala.

So I chose BrainPaint®, which did, and I was excited to get my BrainPaint® home neurofeedback system in the mail April 6.  BrainPaint® sent an excellent 47 minute video tutorial showing me how to set up the system and before the first session, I had an 1.5-hour phone tutorial. The system is very easy to set up and use. Also we get 45 minutes of assistance by phone every month we rent the system, and we can pay extra for more telephone help if we need it. I will be texting or calling my BrainPaint® “assistant” to help me as I become ready to change protocols based on symptom improvement.

BrainPaint® is not cheap but mental health and well-being? Priceless. The BrainPaint® set I got has a minimum two months rental at $675 per month for shipping and a deposit; I initially paid $1,875. The deposit comes back when you send the rental back.  Here is an introductory YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7s0AFjRVfmk

I did my first session April 7; it starts with a symptom checklist. I had lots of symptoms checked. The protocol chosen initially was to calm my right amygdala— but because it looked like so many areas were out of whack, I did something called “non-linear on T3 and T4″ (right and left temporal) to get the brain hemispheres in synch.

My first session was 7 minutes….. It was interesting.. Looking at a screen with fractal patterns and auditory inputs. After the first 7 minutes, I fell asleep for 2 hours. For me that is amazing because I don’t take naps and don’t sleep well… I feel relatively calm and just completed a second session for 14 minutes. I am now pretty tired.

I don’t know the outcome of this process, but I have a strong feeling that neurofeedback is going to help rid me of my low self esteem, my rough edges and though I am really tired, I think this is going to really make some good changes. It already did something, as normally looking at a computer screen would never make me take a nap.

More Good Results

On April 8, I had more good results:  I did a few more BrainPaint® sessions throughout the day. Then last night I slept the best I have in months!

On April 20, I did an “Alpha-Theta” session on BrainPaint® and had a rather weird experience so here’s what happened:

I am stuck inside an ostrich shell. I am really stuck. I am little but grown. I am pushing on the shell. It doesn’t move and all around me is space …. lots of space.. me in a shell…
then I flash into the basement…. it is dark but there is a window a small window that is in the basement and I look outside trying to see the outside where it is light and bright and trees and leaves and I am stuck…

I don’t fight, I just flash back into the eggshell… then I think I cannot push this open… I will try to melt it away into infinity ..the infinity of equanimity ….. then it was done….

I suppose this is what we experience in the early sessions.

Major Trauma Release

On April 27, it had been about three weeks that I’ve been working with the BrainPaint® desktop home neurofeedback machine.  I’ve been doing about 1.5 hours of neurofeedback a day. That turned out to be a little too much for me as a beginner, so I gave myself a break the last two days.

After my second “Alpha-Theta” training April 19, I could not stop sobbing during the session, or after — for 4 hours straight. It was cathartic. During the session my body was shaking — like really shaking. It reminded me of Peter Levine’s discussions and the video he has of the polar bear shaking after he was attacked and then later came out of the trauma. It was incredible. I wasn’t just thinking this poison was coming out of my body — I was feeling it. I was shaking worse than if I had been locked for several hours in a deep freezer…..

It really was amazing…. I let go of a lot of stuff. I saw that my mother did the best she could. I could see myself letting go of the residual anger.

Then, the anger was replaced with a tremendous well of grief and loss. I realized that I was full of so much grief over what could have been and how my life might have been different if this had not happened to me — how my mother’s life would have been different if she had been able to feel love from her children instead of being so stressed that she allowed the most horrific things to happen to her kids.

I thought about how my brother wouldn’t be psychotic if he hadn’t been hurt so much…. How he could know happiness instead of his constant fear…..

And please know: it might not be good for most people to do this alone, as the title of your book says, “Don’t Try This at Home.”  For me, I’ve been working on confronting my childhood for decades, so I have an ability to tolerate this intense experience.  But for most people, unless you are willing to take chances and you’re pretty strong, a person might get really shaken up. It would probably be good to have a therapist to discuss what is happening and to process those deeply brain stem based emotions — or a group of healing friends. To have someone with you to support you would be helpful.

I might be doing better if I had a therapist too, but like Kathy I’ve had bad experiences with therapy so my confidence in it is low and anyway I’m in a rural area without much available.  But I think many people with severe childhood trauma like me who are considering neurofeedback might want to use it with formal support such as therapy or a support group.

For me, I wasn’t re-traumatized. That is all I want to say for now except I think this is a powerful tool!

Getting More Relaxed

By May 6, I found that we need to give the neurofeedback some time to settle into our brain, let the brain settle into new patterns. That’s why I’m not posting as much: I just don’t feel the need to reflectively respond to everything, and that means everything in general.  For someone with trauma, that’s progress.

I have been able to work through my anxiety and though it seems strange, send the emails and make the telephone calls that I need to make but generally procrastinate on. I have been cleaning and organizing. Usually I am so disorganized I am not good at this.

Now I am less reactive. I am certain of it.  When talking to others and they say something that would generally trigger me – I might still become triggered but there is more of a second or two to contemplate first.

I stopped doing several hours of neurofeedback per day. I think so much was making it very confusing for me to determine what was going on in my brain.  While I think generally it has all been effective, I like the general stabilizing non-linear protocol I began with.  I have done several more sessions of the “Alpha-Theta.” That is the type that has the capability to take us into the deep meditative state.

I haven’t had anymore of those really emotional spells during the “Alpha-Theta,” but my dreams have been more colorful. Actually last night I had the first dream in color and it was sad, but more positive.  Usually my dreams have always about big mean things trying to kill me.  So that is great, too.

I feel like I am better able to sit back, take in others point of view, back off from feeling like I have to do everything myself. I really feel this is great.  I also attribute it to the neurofeedback.  I feel like I could talk to people much easier now and have a great interactive conversation without feeling strange and out of place inside.  This is all awesome to me.

And I am feeling like moving into other areas of healing like meditation which I am not good at because of a “way too busy mind that is always quadruple tasking”.  I actually sat down and did about 15 minutes of sitting meditation yesterday and that was good.  So I think all in all this has been a very positive process for me.

I have also been taking others suggestions or at least listening and then making I think more informed decisions based on information from others. To me this is the start of trying to connect.

Also, though I don’t use Facebook much, I have been posting on Facebook more recently and will see people I know. Before, I would be afraid to send a friend request — I would be too afraid because I’m a bad person, that person wouldn’t want to be my friend.  But now, I have been taking chances, sending friend requests and guess what – people have been accepting.  I just find this totally weird for me.  I don’t look out of control outside but now, I am starting to feel more competent instead of “out of control inside.”  By that I mean that strange anxiety when you feel like you don’t belong, like you are an alien to a foreign species.  But now I’m starting to feel I do belong more, I’m feeling more human.

A Breakthrough or Epiphany?

On June 8, I wrote that I haven’t posted on my use of the BrainPaint® neurofeedback system for a month for a few reasons.

Good reasons: I felt so much better due to neurofeedback that I got too busy!  I’ve been out a lot, creating and attending meetings about the ACE Study and regional trauma-informed schools, and I’m writing several articles.  I’ve begun working on key things I used to procrastinate on, that’s also getting better with neurofeedback…  I can feel a real improvement in my impulse control and affect regulation (my ability to regulate my emotions is growing nicely.)

I still feel neurofeedback benefiting me in daily activities, for example if I want to write something that makes a point, I do it so that it’s not impulsive, and is worth reading.  My new ability to do that is part of the neurofeedback.

But I also missed a lot of BrainPaint® sessions. On the one hand, we do need time for the neurofeedback changes to settle into our brain. But I got 2-3 weeks behind so let me note: For anyone who decides to do home neurofeedback, it is important to follow the BrainPaint® policy to rate your goals and answer the assessment questions before each session, and also be careful to keep up with the updates they issue to their computer system.

I got behind on that because my cursor wasn’t working properly, I was blaming myself, so I missed a lot of sessions. Finally I called my BrainPaint® home neurofeedback coach and we learned it wasn’t my fault — the program needed an update, so it was updated on Friday [June 5].

Then we reviewed and updated the BrainPaint® assessment together that calculated new protocols and she told me to stop trying to do everything on my own, to please call for help. I promised to follow the directions and did so over the weekend and — wow, did my brain move with the new protocols the system created!

In fact, as I was doing my session with the directed protocols, I came to what I have to call an epiphany.  Something has happened to me which feels weird, in fact it feels absolutely crazy (compared to how I used to feel).

I want to report it because it must be the neurofeedback which is really helping me. OK:

I’m often scared to take my dogs to the vet because the office is on a main highway, and the dogs jump out of the car as soon as a door is opened. I’ve been afraid one would jump out and get hit by a car. I have to put them in the back of the RAV4 when driving or I get a 60 or 45 pound dog in my lap, but I couldn’t get them out the back door due to trouble with the auto-lift gate.

Now yesterday while I was doing neurofeedback, for the first time in my life it hit me: Hey, I could go inside the vet’s office and simply ask a front desk person to help me so my dogs don’t jump out and get hurt. This sounds so stupid but it isn’t — it means for the first time in my life I considered asking another person for reasonable help!

That means believing people are supposed to help each other and that some people can be approached for help.

That’s a first step in trust. Amazing.
So I began to weep, really weep.
Let me explain why this feels so weird and crazy and amazing to me.

As many of us with a high Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) score, people have horribly hurt me. I’ve come to feel, I want no part of mammalian attachment to people (you call that “fur”) — even if it is the only way to heal. Trusting people is horribly scary for me for reasons like this:
When I was 7 or 8, I was with my dad in the car about an hour away from our trailer.  I never asked my dad for anything because he was incredibly mean. My dad smoked in the car with us kids inside.  But on this winter day, I had a cold, and as he is smoking, I suddenly couldn’t breath.  I am scared to death because I cannot breath. I timidly ask him “Dad could you please stop smoking? I cannot breathe.”  His response was “If you don’t like it, I can drop you off here right now and you can walk home!”  A very typical response. I don’t know how I managed to escape with my life in that small car for an hour as he puffed away while I was close to respiratory arrest… but I never forgot the incident or the horrible insensitivity.

From that time forward, I could not ask for anything reasonable – I could not ask for something reasonable to save my life.

To others, asking for assistance may seem like a no-brainer. But for me, tremendously hurt by my parents for years starting at a young age — to consider in the middle of today’s neurofeedback session that I could ask the vet for reasonable help — it made me weep.

And I’m going to try to no longer react immediately, even to such epiphanies, as I want to be more reflective going forward — another amazing plus of neurofeedback.  But wow, I have experienced an amazing movement of my brain that I don’t think could have occurred any other way.

I may even be able to move to where attaching to people becomes okay.
Oh and as I had this epiphany – my dogs ate my dinner and I didn’t get mad!

———————————

Kathy’s blogs and Guest Blogs explore the journey of recovery from childhood trauma by learning about Adult Attachment Disorder in teens and adults, Adult Attachment Theory, and the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study.

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Neurofeedback: Healing the Fear-Driven Brain

Sebern FisherPsychotherapist Sebern Fisher gave a great webcast on October 22, 2014 in the NICABM series, about neurofeedback (biofeedback to the brain), which gives us access to our brain function frequencies.

Neurofeedback, she said, is a computer program therapists use in their office, training clients on it to get them in touch with their own brain waves, learn what’s good for the brain, and calm their thoughts.

The brain is organized from the womb in oscillatory patterns, Ms. Fisher says, so we with developmental trauma, early neglect and abuse, have disorganized and dysregulated brains.  Our fear circuits dominate.  Neurofeedback can calm these erupting circuits and even grow neural connectivity, which helps us create a more coherent sense of self, so we feel safer and more centered. [FN1]

Folks with difficult parents often grow up with a “fear-driven brain” as I did — and it’s a huge relief to find out we’re not freaks — we’re a chunk of the mainstream.  In fact, maybe 50% of Americans have some degree of this “attachment disorder” due to parents who were too scary to attach to. Of course it’s not their fault either; odds are, our grandparents were too scary for our parents to attach to, and so on back, inter-generationally.

I was particularly struck watching Ms. Fisher’s NICABM video as she repeated again and again how many people are walking around with a “fear-driven brain.”  Her 2010 radio interview “Attachment Disorder, Developmental Trauma and Neurofeedback” says she spent decades trying to heal kids with early attachment wounds, but found we can’t talk to the parts of the brain formed from conception to 36 months; those parts have no speech. So she made no progress until she tried neurofeedback in 1996. It can talk to those parts: http://www.futurehealth.org/Podcast/Sebern-Fisher-Attachment-by-Rob-Kall-100516-497.html

I’d bet maybe 20% of us have “developmental trauma” like that, as I do, which means that life was one continuous trauma “since the sperm hit the egg.” For what it looks like when Mom is too scary for her child to attach, check http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/developmental-trauma-2/

I was moved to tears by Ms. Fisher’s more recent interview “Neurofeedback in the Treatment of Developmental Trauma,” as she described how deeply necessary love and attachment are to the creation of a human brain. It’s because we crave the regulation of our nervous system which love can bring, that our brains respond to neurofeedback signals which feel calmer and even loved: http://shrinkrapradio.com/452-neurofeedback-in-the-treatment-of-developmental-trauma-with-sebern-fisher-m-a/

And: here’s an amazing blog by Dr. Tina Hahn MD, “My Neurofeedback Journey,” on the BrainPaint® home neurofeedback system she’s using.

Find a Neurofeedback Practitioner: Online Directories:
1. EEG Spectrum International [Ms. Fisher’s husband John Fisher was president of this co.] Directory: http://www.esiaffiliatesforum.com/providers
2. EEG Institute Provider Directory: http://directory.eeginfo.com/

Trauma, Up Front and Personal

Ms. Fisher got into therapy and attachment work in the first place because she herself had developmental trauma.  She also had a lot of head injury and traumatic brain injury.  One of the first things to be healed when Ms Fisher began neurofeedback herself were her terrible migraines, which have never returned.  She still uses neurofeedback because, she says, “I have had a lot of head injuries so I am at a greater risk of Alzheimer’s than other people, but all of the signs of head injury and traumatic brain injury that I had are all gone.”

Here are some salient quotes from Ms. Fisher’s  NICABM interview:

“Neurofeedback is biofeedback to the neuronal activity of the brain. It is a computer interface where you pick up the firing of the brain in the EEG (electro-encephalogram) in real-time, scrolling for a therapist and client to look at together. By challenging their brain through feedback, we can see that the EEG is changing,” she starts.

“And obviously the change that I am most concerned about is change in levels of fear. Mostly what I am concerned about is quieting fear, so let’s take that situation. We know that the fear circuits are in the temporal lobe and that survival’s fear circuit, the survival amygdala, is in the right hemisphere. We’re trying to say to the brain – not to the person– “Stop practicing that fear-driven over-arousal. Chill. Get quiet!”

“Now, if people could do this on their own, they wouldn’t need the game or the neurofeedback. [So she’s never harsh on the person; she just re-trains their brain.] We have to find the frequency that works for that particular individual – it’s going to be different for everyone. They tell me two or three days later that, on the whole, they have been calm, they have been sleeping, they are less reactive, and/or they are making easier eye contact. That is what I mean by works….

“I had a young woman, who had been adopted from a third-world country. She had been in an orphanage after having been delivered in a shoebox from a police station. They fed her with an eyedropper, not ever expecting that she was going to live. She had every possible level of disorganization: she couldn’t read; she bumped into doorjambs; she had a very difficult time negotiating through life.

“I was now meeting her out of a mental hospital, and she was in her twenties. [After neurofeedback training] she comes in and tells me this story. She was always the last one chosen for any sports team, as you can imagine, when she was a kid, and now she’s stabilized enough to be dating. She is out with a guy, they are waiting to go to a movie, and they go to a batting cage – she hits 90% of the balls. Therapy could never get somebody from bumping into walls to being able to hit 90% of the balls! Her boyfriend was very impressed…

“Neurofeedback is deeply organizing to the nervous system. This goes deep into the nervous system; neurofeedback is healing deep into the CNS, the central nervous system, and through the brain.

“I had one patient who was given the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder and had been hospitalized multiple times. She very much wanted to do neurofeedback training because she felt like she had gone as far as she could with psychotherapy, and she still wanted to drive off a bridge every day!  We used two different protocols: the eyes-open protocol – it doesn’t matter what the specifics were for her – but she got stabilized in 20 sessions, and then we did the alpha-theta protocol. She did 30 or 40 sessions. All together, she had about 60 sessions, then it was over. She did not meet any criteria for Borderline Personality and she no longer wanted to jump off a bridge.

“She actually got married and had a baby, and went on to advance her career. I saw her once after that ending, and it was when a pet that had been her primary object of attachment, was killed in a freak accident. She came back in and she was very distressed. An additional trauma can also throw the brain back into its known pattern of firing. So we trained about four times, to address the state she was in, and she very quickly reorganized and was off again.

Repair of Attachment with Neurofeedback

(Interviewer Dr. Buczynski): “How do you think of attachment and repairing of attachment in regard to neurofeedback?

Fisher: “Oh, that’s a wonderful question, and it is somewhat amazing that this happens. In my experience, what I have seen is that people always seem to want relational connection.

“Things can get in the way – if you are having something akin to a seizure and you’re constantly living in fear; it is very difficult to imagine relationship as a primary part of your life. But we are social creatures; we are meant to relate to one another. That is our safety; that is our harbor, as my patient said, and when you find a way to quiet the fear-driven brain, what emerges quite spontaneously are the attachment circuits.

“I had one patient who was self-abusing and dissociative when she came into sessions. She had not seen her mother nor talked about her mother – so this wasn’t a result of conversation – but her mother had not behaved ideally. She came in one day [after neurofeedback treatment] and said, “I think you might be interested in this: I called my mother last night.” It was spontaneous, and now we could talk about the reality of her mother’s trauma.

“Now, this had been presented to her multiple times, and it even occurred to her, but the dysregulation and high arousal of her nervous system made it pretty meaningless. I see that happening a lot. I see spontaneous family reunion that I have nothing to do with orchestrating, and often, without even talking about it, I see it happen with people who train their brains.”

———————————

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 “Neurofeedback: Soothe the Fear of a Traumatized Brain: How a New Intervention Is Changing Trauma Treatment,” Sebern Fisher, MA, BCN, Psychotherapist and Neurofeedback practitioner, Private Practice, Northampton, MA;  10-22-14 Webinar interview by Dr. Ruth Buczynski, National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM), http://www.nicabm.com/treatingtrauma2014/post-info/

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Comments are encouraged with the usual exceptions; rants, political speeches, off-color language, etc. are unlikely to post.  Starting 8-22-16, software will limit comments to 1030 characters (2 long paragraphs) a while, until we get new software to take longer comments again.

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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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