Thursday, April 16, 2009

Meandering Michele's Mind: The Critical Question

I’m still thinking about the significance of the AMA study about how much and how quickly different therapies work. And I’m still not surprised that hypnotherapy has the best rate of return because we do our own healing in hypno.

I know this sounds strange because, after all, a professional practitioner is involved. But any hypnotherapist will tell you (pretty aggressively in my experience) that he did not heal you at all. YOU healed yourself and he just guided the way. Engaging the subconscious in the healing process is incredibly powerful because it is us talking to ourselves, and in that relaxed state we listen.

I think when we approach healing, we want someone to fix it. We are societally trained to seek the help of practitioners and professionals for everything in which we are not the expert. We are taught if we are not professionally educated in something we cannot possibly be adept enough to manage a procedure ourselves. And sure, this is true for things like brain surgery, rocket science and making an atom bomb. But here’s what I’m mulling today:

Who’s more professionally trained in ourselves than we are?

There is no one with more authority, more training, more education in our thoughts, feelings, emotions, needs and reactions than each of us. Which means, there is no one more equipped to heal us than we are ourselves.

Ever thought about that? Do you agree, or disagree?

(Photo: jhhwild)


LadyLeslie said...

I absolutely agree. No matter what healing you sign up for, no matter who you go to see for whatever type of treatment, if you're not ready to change or to make yourself better . . . it won't work.

On the other hand, if you decide that you're going to get better, nothing can stop you.

I came out about having PTSD to my friends a while ago, but many of them are still waiting for me to see a therapist or take drugs or something outside of myself to prove that I'm healing . . . but I know that I can be the measure of my own success.

I do most of my own healing, thinking, and processing privately. Then I process them all best by writing. The few times I've tried talk therapy have been awkward or downright confusing. I'm not opposed to any and all sorts of treatment . . . I will seek them if I need it.

It's so important to motivate yourself, to feel a sense of self-worth (even if you need to pretend at first), and to realize that helplessness is a delusion of the mind.

Michele Rosenthal said...

@Lady - "If you decide... to get better, nothing can stop you."

SO agree with you.

And also: agree with the idea that we must pretend to believe until we do.

Albert Einstein: "Imagination is stronger than knowledge." So important for us...

Anonymous said...

I mostly agree with this but I do have some caveats.

When I looked at the effectiveness of various treatments I did it scientifically since I didn't want to embark on any 'treatment' that wouldn't help or might even harm.

I'd already read several technical books on CBT for example and could see that it wasn't Rocket Science (I've done that) and could see that a lot of it could be self-directed.

I also realised that whilst I was capable of doing most that needed to be done there are somethings that I would not be capable of doing. At the top of that list was "spot my delusions".

I couldn't see a way that would allow me to spot wrong-thinking and wrong-beliefs that I didn't want to spot or didn't even know about.

For that I needed someone to tell me where my thinking and believes were un-normal.

Once I knew where the errors where they could be corrected.

I think it might have helped me to make more use of professionals than I did but at the time I considered legal bills to be more important than therapy bills.

I did try and seek help through the NHS (our free UK medical system) at one point but they wanted me to fight my case to get treatment and I barely had the fight in me to do what I needed to do. I had no desire to fight to prove that I was unwell.

Michele Rosenthal said...

@Mike -- Yes, the problem of our delusions. I agree it helps to have an outsider highlight where our thinking is askew. I wonder if there's some way for us to learn to do this... In your research have you come across anything that would indicate the possibility of this? Some process, outline, or procedure.

Maybe this is an impossible element. In our worst PTSD times it all feels so REAL we can't begin to imagine that any of it is an illusion/delusion.

I guess then, the idea of our being experts is that we know best what we need. We know the most basic elements of where our fears lie, which to me is the foundation for where healing begins.

Also, we know what we need. More than anything, I realized I needed to be able to see myself outside of my trauma, to define myself without it. No practitioner can make these decisions for us.

So, the PTSD experiencer as expert in his/her own healing process, conferring with other professionals along the way. How's that??

Would be interested in hearing the other things you spotted that we're not capable of doing. Maybe if we become more aware of them we could develop a capability...

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to add that I agree. For me the hardest part of my healing process is making myself face the truth about my life. Being honest about how the past was, who I am now and how the present is... it is very difficult and if I do not make the choice to do the painful work of seeing it all in an honest way- I can not recover. My therapist helps me out enormously... but mostly he has to help me by encouraging me not to be afraid of the past. Also as Mike H. mentioned here (or something very similar anyway...)- I need someone to help point out the things I am unable to see myself because I am too much 'in them'.

Marj aka Thriver said...

I agree that we heal ourselves. But, a good therapist can be a crucial guide as we navigate this path. There are many techniques I would have never known about without the suggestion from my therapist.

zebra's polkadots and plaids said...

Michele and Mike - it is so amazing that the subject of how it is our thinking that holds us back in recovery has come up...I agree!

I have been fortunate to have worked with a therapist who uses the Trauma model of therapy developed by Dr Colin A Ross - I liken it to CBT on steriods! And one tool that I have learned to use is using David Burns' "10 forms of twisted thinking"...

For me this part of the process has been learning to recognize and identify the distorted thinking patterns I had developed as a victim/survivor and then practicing awareness of my thoughts, behaviors and feelings so that I could choose to respond differently.

This is so key to answering your first question to me Michele: just HOW do we begin to live in the moment? It takes time and effort, but I have found this to be the key to breaking free from the chains of the past and begin to live in the now and as you say, create my future.

Excellent subject!


Anonymous said...

I can tell you what is working for me regarding "wrong thinking" or catastrophic thoughts". It IS PAYING ATTENTION TO HOW YOUR BODY FEELS. Living in fear causes physiological destruction of the body. The "fight or flight" hormone (cortisol)is released every time you think fearful or negative thoughts. Prolonged cortisol exposure causes high blood pressure, cancer, mental illness etc. Please look up studies done by Robert Sapolsky (Stanford University) on this. As soon as I have a negatvie thought I redirect those thoughts INTENTIONALLY to something that makes me happy. (Painting or listening to music that makes me happy, or just saying to myself "I am NOT going there". If you are having negative thoughts you FEEL them literally and it is rally bad for your body. Pay attention to you heart rate, or the tightness in your shoulders, or however that panicked feeling feels to you. The pay attention to WHAT brings you joy or happiness (your body feels different when you experience that feeling) then DO that thing that brings you joy. It really works.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about all the typos- I got really excited to respond to this post!

Anonymous said...


I wonder if there's some way for us to learn to do this... In your research have you come across anything that would indicate the possibility of this? Some process, outline, or procedure.Well, that's a major topic and not a lot of it might be considered risk free.

I think first and foremost good friends and family who will tell you that "No, an alien is not going to steal your car and replace it with an identical evil one whilst you pay for gas".

Beyond that 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. I'm going to write something in detail on my own blog about this over a few postings. The series is called "Hardcore Zazen" which is a slight mis-nomer but it's in response to an article - Is meditation dangerous for trauma survivors by a guy I know called Brad Warner - a zen monk - who has a "Hardcore Zen" blog.

His article is reasonable but is as you expect written without direct knowledge of mixing the two.

Yoga (Hatha and Iyengar) can help because it helps us to start to trust and become one with our bodies, feelings and emotions once more. It's not going to be risk-free in the context of PTSD but it can help.

I've done a lot of contemplation work and belief deconstruction work - often based on CBT. The basic idea is to notice when I have an emotional reaction and then unwind it. "That stupid woman is taking too long to pay for her groceries". I backtrack "I'm angry". "Why am I angry?" "The woman is paying more slowly than I would like". "Is that my problem?" "Why does it matter how long she takes". "Ah, I'm not angry at her. I'm just angry. Why am I angry?" "Life is just so unfair?" "Is there a perfect life?" "What is unfair?" "The people who attacked me didn't attack Mike H, they attacked Anon. It wasn't personal". "Ah, life is not how I want it to be". "Is that life's fault?"

You can do a lot of good work yourself just by noticing when you react or with PTSD over-react to things.

At the heart of it all really is wanting to become healthy and wanting to remove beliefs that are causing you to be upset.

CBT is about replacing one belief with a different one. Zen is about just getting rid of the belief altogether. CBT is safer and easier.

Other things like Tai Chi and Dance can help - mainly things that make you more body and less mind. There's a lot to be said for taking our thoughts less seriously.

Exposure therapy is hard bloody work but it does work and does address the things that thoughts do not reach.

zebra's polkadots and plaids said...

excellent discussion! I so appreciate what everyone has to offer here! So many good points and experiences to look at - a true smorgasbord of information!

Michele Rosenthal said...

@EVERYONE! What an interesting discussion. I think we have the basis for a fabulous summmit! Look how we've covered these 3 themes:

1. how we can proactively retrain our thought processes and engage our intentions in the day to day.

2. the mind/body connection in healing PTSD

3. the value of external perspectives as they support (but don't determine) the healing journey

I say we all convene somewhere to hash it out and further the concepts. Say, Hawaii?? :)

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