Sunday, April 19, 2009

Healing PTSD: Becoming Mindful, Finding Balance

Mindfulness is a really crucial aspect of how we heal. PTSDers have such a tendency to not be mindful (we dissociate and thereby escape the horrible pain of being mindful) that it's a sort of foreign and non-instinctive issue for us. Well, it's time for that to change.

When we become more mindful we begin to heal. Mike H made a great comment on Thursday's post. Among other things, he wrote,

...there's a lot that can be done via meditation such as zazen and mindfulness - which is basically learning to listen to your body and not take your thoughts so seriously. But in the context of trauma this can be tough work because it allows the truth to arise and for our mistaken beliefs to fall away. It's not going to be pleasant. It can make the PTSD feel worse before it gets better.

Surely, in my own experience when I began to heal things got MUCH worse before they got better. But that's the way it has to be. We spend so much time avoiding thoughts about our trauma; it's impossible to think we'll have an easy time when we deliberately analyze it. Also, we spend so much time deliberately constructing our misbeliefs that it's like stripping off a costume when we begin allowing them to fall away: We feel naked and raw and exposed. Welcome to the wonderful world of healing PTSD. If you don't feel uncomfortable you're not healing. If you don't have moments that looking at the truth makes you want to crawl under a rock, then you're not looking closely enough.

A defense to keep us grounded through the healing process is to develop better control and adeptness at mindfulness. Meditation is a great tool for this. Recently, I asked a colleague, Kevin Boon, if he knew of some good resources for learning about meditation. His mission is "to teach the art of bringing balance into our lives within our careers, family, relationships, health, well being and activities that reflect our life passions". A pretty comprehensive (and healing-supportive) list, so I thought he'd have an interesting perspective. He replied with the links below, which offer a veritable Sunday brunch buffet of great tips for learning:

Basic Principles of Meidtation, including a walking meditation exercise

Do you have tips, tricks and favorite acts that develop mindfulness and balance? Leave a comment or shoot me an email.

(Photo: Mr Kiki)


Kevin Boon said...

Some great ideas here. Our thoughts and emotions can at times feel overwhelming and I've found often they create stress or tension in the body. Breathing, meditation or just being quiet with your thoughts are all practices that enable you to get in touch with the stress in your body.

If there is continued stress I'll bring awareness to the tension (in my body) then meditation, breathe and conscious attention are all good practices that can have an incredibly healing result but also can take time and patience.


Elizabeth Stanfill said...

Hi Michele,

I have been meditating for about 10 years and one thing I noticed is that it does get worse before it gets better. My take on that is, we start to notice our thoughts. There are so many thoughts and because we become better at noticing them it seems overwhelming.

I remember it taking like a month before I could really learn to quiet my mind. But now that meditation is such a regular practice, like brushing my teeth lol, I do not want to live with out it.


Donna said...

Thanks for reminding me of this earlier this month. I remembered this post, and utilized it at the clinic this morning. Sometimes it's essential to remember to stay in the moment, and not allow yourself to get sucked back into the nightmares, flashbacks, and fear.

Michele Rosenthal said...

@Donna - So glad this post was helpful. It's such an easy concept -- to remember and also to forget!

If you'd like to write about how you applied it in the moment of anxiety, feel free to contact me about guidelines for a guest post at parasitesof.themind @

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