I’m contemplating an Ayhuasca retreat in order to get to the root of my C-PTSD of 50+ years. Continue reading
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Somehow I happened across this resource, apparently from a newsletter subscription and I’d like to pass it around as I think it offers great (free) resources and seminars as to understanding and addressing symptoms in the aftermath of trauma, commonly referred to as post-traumatic stress (PTSD). I myself am not too convinced of prolonged exposure-approaches or those based on CBT/DBT, but as I saw Bessel van der Kolk on the team as well as Dr. Peter Levine as a contributor as well as Dr. Stephen Porges, whose work takes the focus more to the domain of the (autonomous) nervous system (which I think is where trauma responses “live”), I was becoming more interested and so far, I find the information valuable and useful for anyone dealing with PTSD (and/or complex PTSD).
Viewer’s discretion is advised as with all things “exposure”, there’s always a risk of getting triggered.
It is becoming very evident to me that I have to undergo these sacred treatments using plant medicine, if I want to rid myself of yet-remaining, residual aspects of early and later trauma in my years of childhood and upbringing and with their outcomes wreaking havoc on my psyche – and hence life – to this day. I can almost put my own – cognitive – “fingers” on the places, where I’m still damaged and hurt – but can’t seem to get past those remainders all by myself. I had catalyzing experiences that came close to getting access to those very deeply rooted layers of inflicted pain and resulting damage, but I haven’t managed to resolve them – probably mostly for reasons of not having had an opportunity to integrate the experiences afterwards. By integrating I mean, talking it over with someone who carefully listens and takes an interest in seeing me process my emotions brought to the surface. Since I can’t have access to conventional trauma therapy, it seems the above – along with hopefully getting accepted into a MAPS.org phase III-study on MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in late 2016/2017 – is my only option left. Wish me luck, if so inclined. (I know, I have written about this and said this before… 😉 )
Read the full story here.
I soooo wish, I could call that person and discuss an appointment with her… For my readers suffering from (C-) PTSD, this is a must-read. MAPS.org hope to have MDMA-assisted therapy legalized by 2021.
For the nutshell version of Somatic Experiencing© as developped and applied by Dr. Peter Levine, treat yourself to this:
As it’s becoming more and more obvious that I’m very very unlikely to ever find help in the conventional medical/therapeutic system (for reasons too numerous to detail), I seem to turn to the unconventional and even illegal realm of medicinal treatment in order to get to continue to navigate this earth plane. Because my life got stripped of everything that should make life worthwhile to continue.
So, this “morning” over my usual coffee, I happened upon another interesting article on Amber Lyon’s reset.me-platform and found the above linked young man, whose own project called “The True Light of Darkness” is the follow-up of a two-part book about his a) research into and b) sharing of experiences with psilocybin mushrooms and the insights and behavioral modifications gained from that. In the context of this work I came across this video, where he talks about “COEX Systems”, a term coined by Stanislav Grof in his book LSD: Doorway to the Numinous: The Groundbreaking Psychedelic Research into the Realm of the Human Unconscious. Right away it strongly resonated with my own somewhat jiggery introspection into the root cause of my own trauma and strife with ongoing emotional pain that won’t let up one bit so far (despite my very committed efforts and some help from a compassionate therapist).
There are more and more experienced and legitimate researchers and therapists coming out of the closet of conventional in-the-box-thinking in regards to so-called “mental” illness – a misnomer IMO – and their causes and how to address them. Just recently, I linked to a video with Dr. Gabor Maté, who clearly identifies trauma as the root cause of all kinds of addiction according to his experience with thousands of patients he has treated.
As far as I’m concerned, I don’t seem to have other options left as to tap into the realm of psychedelics, most notably psilocybin, in order to continue my own path. Because frankly speaking, it’s come down to either this or …. in the very near future as the pain has become utterly unbearable and conventional options fall away one after another.
OK. This – is awesome!!! Treat yourself to these slightly under eight minutes in order to see living proof of how incredibly hard it is to unlearn something embossed in your neural pathways and try to relearn it in a different way! I’m now consciously taking this example totally out of context in order to illustrate how cognitive-behavioral therapy or dialectic behavioral therapy with patients of PTSD are almost destined to fail. “It’s as easy as riding a bike, you’ll never forget how to ride a bike”. We all heard this saying before. This movie proves how profound the concept behind this saying actually is. It’s even more profound and spot on when your neural pathways have been trained to respond to fear in a heartbeat – over and over and over again. Think about the fear response system in survivors of PTSD as an ultra-strong muscle: You’ve been going to the gym for years on end, going from the smaller weights to the middle range ones and ultimately to the very heavy lifting. And you’ve been doing this for years and years and years. What’s the result? You’re likely to have become your own version of the “Incredible Hulk”. The brain is no different in that regard: It strengthens those neural pathways that get the most exercise. And now some treatments expect us to “reprocess” those patterns that got almost literally set in stone from reliving traumatic situations by way of getting triggered any number of times? Ridiculous!
I’ve always felt that these concepts are poorly designed to say the least – and coming from people, who simply fail(ed) to have a good understanding of what trauma actually does to a person. I feel corroborated on this “gut instinct” of mine. (I put it in quotes, because it is less of a gut instinct, but rather the – rather bitter, disillusioned – conclusion after so many failed attempts at any number and shape of conventional therapy I’ve undergone earlier in my life…).
Until learning of Rachel Hope and her story and her stunning case and recovery I had become more and more sceptical that events so profound that they impact your entire being from the ground up can be healed. I had rather been leaning towards a burgeoning assumption that dramatic events – particularly when happening very early, e.g. in infant ages – rather leave irreversible outcomes. Luckily not! So the good news is: You can be healed 100% from very unfortunate events in your past life! But it takes almost equally dramatic healing approaches in order to give the brain an opportunity to be relieved from outcomes of drastic events in a person’s life that sort of “switched” their nervous system into ongoing survival mode, which it can’t snap out of by itsself or by approaches that hinge on the prefrontal cortex as a prime lever for change. According to Rachel’s story, her recovery happened by way of a dramatic reset of the brain in that she set out on rewiring those brain areas that stored the traumatic content.
Anyway. I wish, all CBT/DBT therapists made this small video a must-see content of their education. I don’t mean to say that CBT/DBT can’t have good effects in regards to a person’s concept of self and other, emotional issues. But I’ve always felt it’s just not the appropriate angle to come from when actually an entirely different area of the brain – the fear response system, the amygdala etc. – is at the root of the problem. To me, it always sounded like fighting a giant fire with a water gun …
But apart from all that and if for no other reason – it’s still an educating and as such entertaining little clip. Enjoy!
On Friday night, I had written a longer blog along with this video. For some reason, it vanished into the recesses of the server cloud at wordpress.com – or I was too drunk at the time to actually hit the “publish” button and closed that text window prior to saving. I don’t think this was actually the case as far as I remember, but maybe this was the universe’s/internet’s funny way of saying that my blog post sucked to begin with… 🙂 So here I am, trying to capture the thoughts and sentiments again that were sparked by this clip. First off, upon watching above linked video, I realized without a shred of a doubt that Dr. Maté is right. What he says about pain and the role it plays in an addict’s life resonates strongly with me. How am I being an addict? Well, I think, I’ve become an addict to food by way of recurring bouts of binge eating accompanied by the “bright” choice of washing said food down with fairly sizable quantities of alcohol. (they feel sizable to me, as my constantly overclocked, overheated, overcharged nervous system – a “gift” from a lifelong existing C-PTSD as I learnt in 2013 – doesn’t require large amounts of any substance to produce even wilder modes of altered consciousness). So in admitting to the fact that I have become addicted to food and quite a bit of alcohol, I just mean to say that I think I get the “addict” part of his monolog here (and since I am aware of the health risks coming from that behavior I think about replacing these choices of self medicating with cannabis, which I believe to go easier on the system according to the research I’ve done on it – and maybe even produce some welcome positive side effects in regards to physical and emotional health). The urge to soothe the pain by overeating and then slipping into a quite comfortable sedation, the latter amplified by alcohol, is a way of using these substances as a pain killer – or to drive out utter depression from sometimes feeling completely void, empty, destroyed inside. At those times, the feeling is that the sentient part of me is irreversibly shattered. (By now, I think I have come to understand this as a false assumption brought on by lingering outcomes of experiences from my early and later past growing up, which seem to have dominated my inner monolog and thought process for … well forever. But realistically speaking, for as long as I can feel anything, if even just for fleeting moments, the sentient part of my being can’t be dead. I try to remind myself of this during times of severe distress serving as an anchor for not losing sight of the goal and perspective).
When I had sat down that night to link to the video and add my personal comments, I had gone through a series of strong, negative emotions that brought me to the brink of completely freaking out with red rage over spending a couple of days at my former home. I say “former home”, because I feel that I have made a new home for myself where I currently live – and I think I did so more or less consciously, because that former home never felt much like a good home to begin with. For reasons too mundane to go into detail about, I had to accept help with money from family in recent years and in order to make it acceptable for me in some way, I tried to talk myself into the idea that this might also be an opportunity to regrow a relationship that has wreaked havoc on my very being from pretty much the get-go. So I guess I’m saying that spending those two, three days there exposed me to XXL-sized triggers, the nature of which I even believe the Buddha to have driven beyond any measure of impulse control, not to mention preserving the “sweet spot” of that heartspace of balanced and centered awareness. Needless to say that I have to make quite the effort to get more control over my life and my actions and decisions again, if I’m not to keep betraying myself completely and thus sabotage any serious attempt at healing the still lingering, deep wounds from the past and their outcomes. But I’m digressing.
Emotional loss and trauma – I think, I can say from plenty of years of personal, felt experience that Dr. Maté nails it here. There were brief moments in my more recent past and in an attempt to heal myself all by myself when I gave myself permission to feel that loss, be with that pain of having lost true connection with my former caretakers from early on, brought on by being seperated from them and then later for all the abuse that went on and prevented me from expressing the true nature of self or even getting seen and maybe even loved for it. Those things definitely didn’t happen in healthy ways and it became never more evident to me than over those recent few days.
I mention these things, because – quite naively – I believed that if I could access this deeply rooted pain over isolation and loss, and feel it and let it come out, a natural consequence would be that I’d thus release that pain from my bodymind. But I now have to admit to myself that this was indeed a short-sighted approach. “No man is an island”, the saying goes and I had to find out that this is true. In order to truly release the still largely unaddressed and unprocessed pain from my earliest days on the planet, someone has to be there with me when I’m with my pain, as Maté points out from his experience as a therapist. Apparently, it doesn’t suffice to just feel that pain and then let it come out (in quite violent emotional break- and meltdowns that sometimes lasted for hours). Apparently, the witnessing part is an important component I had overlooked and which seems necessary to experience some sort of natural bonding that should have happened much earlier and feel a sense of connection with someone in order to truly have a healing effect. And the other aspect I realize about this loss is that the need to fill that void left behind by initial emotional loss doesn’t vanish over time. Time doesn’t heal those deep wounds from the past at all. Only compassion does. At least, I hope so.
I would have preferred to do the healing all by myself. But apparently it doesn’t work that way. In terms of taking pragmatic steps, I am now happy to report that I have contacted researchers conducting clinical trials for MAPS.org and made it on a wait list for another round of phase III clinical trials some time in late 2016/2017. Frankly speaking, I have no idea how to keep going until then. I can only hope that my innate wish to live and become healthy, which has kept me going for 50 years, won’t let me down so close to the actual first-time ever prospect of experiencing a potential true recovery from those deeply engraved wounds from day one… Wish me luck, if so inclined!
Your Life After Trauma: Discovering The New You | Professional Perspective | Heal My PTSD. Michele Rosenthal, who wrote “Your Life After Trauma“, repeatedly addresses the core conundrum of (lost) identity after trauma and how to shape your new one. (Hence the title, I presume). I must admit that I haven’t read the entire book yet, just her excerpts and blogs, so forgive me if the point I’m about to make is redundant. In any case, I’d like to preliminarily agree on Michele’s finding that trauma impacts identity. I have heard other survivors say a similar thing, e.g. this gentleman (very worth watching, but another heavy trigger warning!): But I also think, there’s more to it than “just” identity (I must reiterate my trigger warning on what’s to follow in the next few paragraphs). How about restoring dignity? How does a survivor of trauma – especially those, whose trauma was inflicted upon by way of abuse of a perpetrator – restore self-esteem and a feeling of being dignified? How do I arrive at the perception of “operating” a healthy self when all the self I’ve ever known is one that’s defined by abuse and being manipulated into believing one was undeserving of dignity, respect and – to use the big word – love? (on a side note: Can we repair the relationship with an abuser and more importantly: Is it even within our responsibility or possibilities?)
These questions address the realm of forgiveness and for me, that was and still is the hard part, the part that sits at the root of perceived isolation: Our commonly accepted notion of a “good person” includes the ability to forgive a wrongdoer and “rise above”, be “the bigger man (or woman)”. While forgiveness is certainly a noble trait in a person, I think there can be situations when forgiveness becomes impossible, particularly so, if one gets programmatically humiliated over long periods of time and where one’s idea of self hinges on the concept of being merely an extension of another person’s self – serving no other purpose than helping them to compensate for whatever shortage of love they went through (and thus technically creating a situation of co-dependency and thus completing the cycle of abuse). Now, I’m aware that human history sports some almost superhuman acts of forgiveness, e.g. the late Nelson Mandela’s approach on those people in power, who held him incarcerated for almost all of his life. Or take Dr. Martin Luther King’s philosophy – or the New Testament. The list goes on. There are numerous approaches and philosophies that posit forgiveness as the ultimate personal liberation from a place of suffering and the quintessential climax of personal evolution. I think I get the idea behind that and I also think I can see, how releasing a grudge can be relieving and liberating. But can forgiveness really work unilaterally? Is it really forgiveness, if a victimized person decides to sort of “embrace” the actions of a previous perpetrator and arrive at an understanding that doing what they did was part of their particular journey? Or is it rather betrayal of that part of self, which got humiliated and trampled upon? If I “let go” and “move on” – doesn’t it automatically include turning my back on that part of self that got hurt so badly? How do I really reconcile the story of the battered child? By telling them “farewell, kid!”? If so, then this certainly comes at the price of sacrificing a part of true identity which got lost in the drama of abuse, never to be restored or healed. It actually then means consciously burying a part of self that got destroyed by a perpetrator (which then – to me – requires grief counselling to come first before taking any other steps in a therapeutic process). Can this really be the idea behind forgiveness, i.e. helping a perpetrator by consciously killing and burying a part of self that is a genuine aspect of an individual’s personality? Doesn’t this mean I’m becoming a complice in the act? And if so – how can I look at myself in the mirror and not feel a sense of shame and guilt towards myself? It seems paradoxic to me to speak of “recovery” and “healing” when that particular path of recovery requires me to betray and actually sever an aspect of self I’ve always felt to be at the core of my being (and an aspect of self I seem to have a much easier time of accepting and lovingly embrace). It’s a paradox I haven’t been able to reconcile so far and it seems to stand in the way of truly getting to move on. Sure, we can always introduce the concept of “time” and how an adult self no longer is equal to the child self. Of course, it isn’t as we had to adopt a number of coping techniques in order to survive and function. So I think, I have been – albeit unconsciously – shaping an identity from the debris of my former child self. And I think I have succeeded in doing that. But … along with all the “progress” and increasing ability to adapt to the challenges in life, there’s been this nagging sense of betrayal at the core of my inner monolog. There’s always been a sense of perpetration on my part – and that sense of betrayal seems to revolve around that abused and battered child self, who never got their former reality validated and acknowledged for what it was: A living nightmare, a prison, an incarceration! Personally, I don’t think there can be any true recovery, if one’s past doesn’t get validated at some point. If that validation doesn’t happen – e.g. by the perpetrator saying or signalling: “I see you and I see what I’ve been doing to you” and then ideally going on to say “I’m sorry, please forgive me!” or in some other way, by e.g. the so-called “empathic witness” as Alice Miller called it – then I think dignity remains impaired and control over one’s life and actions isn’t really restored, unless – and this is important! – we take other actions to address this situation, e.g. by firmly divorcing a former perpetrator from our current life. (which is also an aspect that keeps coming up in Jeff Brown’s work of removing the debris of a hurtful past and reshaping the human being at the core of one’s individuality and which seems to be an essential step in empowering oneself and reclaiming autonomy). So, what was I saying? Are we stuck in the past forever, unless a perpetrator asks our forgiveness? And can we only move on by betraying that aspect of self that got shunned and shamed from early on? I truly don’t know. Time and again when pondering this particular conundrum, the answer seems to be – a rather devastating – “yes”. I hope, someone out there strongly opposes and tells me otherwise. And if not: Can life still be worthwhile, albeit being severely damaged and then needing to arrive at a place of acceptance as the inevitable grounds of operating from? I’m in the process of finding out, I guess.
(P.S. I think, you’ll understand my trigger warning by now. If this blog has triggered you, I do ask your forgiveness for potentially having done so… But it seems to me that all the sources I’ve consulted so far and all the conversations I’ve been having in regards to this – maybe minus Jeff Brown’s work – seem too easily ready to sidestep this aspect)
Let me have your thoughts, if so inclined. Better even: Tell me, I got it wrong (and how I got it wrong)
Here’s another one by Dr. Levine. Now, this may trigger some. However – and seeing as I come from a history of abuse in early and later childhood, which was largely emotional and verbal, I don’t recall sexual abuse – I find him to be spot on with everything he says and particularly how he says it. I also find him to come across as very compassionate, very understanding, astute and open-minded and seeing those traits from his speech here and the work he refers to, that alone has comforting, reassuring qualities where I’m concerned. But see for yourself, if so inclined.