Posts Tagged ‘ACCEPTANCE’

Intrusive thoughts tend to be experienced with a sense of “now-ness”

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Attention, Memory, Intrusive Thoughts, and Acceptance in PTSD: An Update on the Empirical Literature for Clinicians:

Jillian C. Shipherd and Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault

Excerpt:

“Additionally, intrusive thoughts tend to be experienced with a sense of “now-ness” (although the individual usually does not lose awareness of other aspects of the present moment, as in a flashback), and are regarded as separate from intrusive ruminatory or evaluative thoughts about the trauma (Hackmann et al., 2004).

In fact, the “now-ness” of intrusive thoughts is more intense in trauma survivors with PTSD as compared to those without (Schonfeld & Ehlers, 2006). As discussed previously, this is hypothesized to be related to the poorly elaborated memory and disjointed way that trauma memories are stored (see Ehlers, Hackmann, & Michael, 2004).

Although intrusive thoughts are an expected and normative part of trauma recovery, trauma survivors often report that the thoughts are disturbing, and are an indication that they are “going crazy” (Shipherd, Beck, Hamblen, & Freeman, 2000).

When an intrusive thought occurs, it can be associated with emotional distress, physiological arousal, and interference with concentration or task completion, lasting anywhere from minutes to hours.

It is understandable that survivors would want to avoid this experience (e.g., Lazarus, 1983).”

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My two cents: Psychological définitions do not describe my intrusive thoughts.

They are prolific in volume, but hold little fear, mostly unworthiness and shame mixed with anger.

The emotions of harm feel real. My intrusive thoughts are accurate, public sexual humiliation came from a real betrayal.

I can not reframe that in to anything good, after a childhood of abuse, this trauma destroyed trust.

Realize at 69 the damage between childhood and this betrayal is massive, I am still haunted, suffering to this day.

I have accepted it and surrendered to it, but that storyline continues.

I have done the work with therapists and this intrusive thought lives on.

Now, they say avoidance or trying to squash these intrusive thoughts does more harm.

So what does someone do, whose intrusive thoughts run constantly like mine at times?

How would you like the worst day of your life to play over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over?

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The Pauses……… are the weak points of the breath cycle.

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Meditation seems to scare many away, crazy connotations of monks in a cave, others find it extremely boring in the beginning.

So here is a crazy way my mind describes it.

Meditation for me, is just focusing on the four parts of the breath intently, as my listening skill becomes super sensitive to the tiniest sound, inside or exterior.

We are using at least two senses, ever present without thought needed.

Now let’s make it simpler to start. We will only use five breaths, easier to focus on small time frames as we get better.

It is easier to follow the the inhales and exhales inside our nostrils. The inhales are cooler than the warm exhales, the body is in motion, the chest expands or contracts.

The pauses are everyone’s weaknesses. They are like suspended animation, nothing is in motion. With practice these pauses can be the vehicle to the other side.

So here goes. Get an timer app, make the pauses 5 seconds. As long as we focus intently, the time frame can vary, maybe 10 second pauses feel more natural to you.

During the inhales and exhales, prepare for the upcoming five seconds, the key, the pauses. Anticipate the pauses like your finding buried treasure, this silence is golden for us.

So meditation has come down to us being able to focus for two five second periods on the pauses, during a full breath cycle. Inhale, pause, exhale, pause.

Five breaths, then take a break, assess and adapt and try again.

If you can can focus for five breaths like this, you are meditating. You will improve with daily practice.

In due time you can meditate for longer periods or use the focus you have built to unplug anxiety and panic during the day.

It’s not that complex, but your Ego will want to deter you from getting better, he/she never wants to give up any control.

Be aware of your inner critic, he /she is a pain in the ass.

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Sounds like PTSD to me

Breaking Barriers Australia (@breakingbarriersau)

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Sounds like PTSD to me.

Go visit a PTSD discussion board and you will see many self destructive behaviors.

Handling our trauma, dissociating into the middle of the storyline is jet fuel for PTSD.

Be aware, trauma thoughts are dangerous for us.

A technique using a large Circle, a big Zero 0

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Find a quiet spot, focus on the breath intently, slow way down, calm your being.

After the body calms, Visualize an enormous circle in front of you.

Bring all awareness to your body sensations, be extremely sensitive, explore the inner world.

Now let your trauma thoughts and feelings have an audience.

We are just observing them from a short distance. Next start filling the big circle, that zero with your trauma.

Every exhale, shovel some more inside the ⭕️ circle, all the worry, doubt, humiliation, loss and unworthiness we carry like an anchor.

When you have shoveled all you can, every exhale moves the circle farther away as it begins to shrink.

In a couple of minutes the circle is so far away, it looks like a period.

Do you notice any change?

We are trying to build some space, some distance between us and our trauma, between stimulus and response in waking life.

Remember, it takes repetition to handle trauma, to enjoy wellbeing.

My Wednesday meditation group leader, Cam, introduced this technique today.

I adapted it to trauma, fill that ⭕️ circle, it is like a door, an opening to jettison our PTSD.

Being able to focus on the breath and visualize things has helped me get better.

As usual, new things are awkward and we are not very good at it in the beginning.

You can do all this in private, avoidance is a big symptom.

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3 tools for calming the nervous system

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I know of three ways of depleting cortisol and adrenaline.

First is our diet, what we eat and how much body fat around our belly is influenced by our cortisol levels. Certain foods help deplete cortisol.

Second tool is Slowing the breath, focusing intently, activates our parasympathetic nervous system, applies the brakes.

This calms us, settles us down and lowers cortisol and adrenaline. It’s called meditation, it has many variations.

The third way is purely physical, aerobic exercise works like a charm.

Aerobic exercise to near failure works like a miracle. Start slow and adapt, then build up so you can exert maximum energy.

We have to want to heal more than any desire we entertain. I have never read that in any psychology book.

Therapy and my two therapists, one in San Diego then another in Eugene , helped me on my journey. I was encouraged to explore and try new things outside therapy.

Aerobic exercise and meditation were my two most valuable skills. Being a former pro jock, aerobic exercise was easy for me.

All my friends doubted I could ever meditate, I was always amped up, excitable and kind of high strung.

Do not let other people’s judgments rule our behavior. We get lost and run over by others because we are different, stay strong and try like hell in the face of worry and doubt.

I laughed at my friends, you think focusing on the spin of a baseball while hitting with 25,000 screaming fans can not be turned internally.

For a jock, being told we can not do something, is not something you want to bet against.

When my mind was frozen from trauma, my legs could still move and my willpower drove me to exhaustion.

Mechanically I can calm my body completely down.

We can not separate our mind from our body, they work as one.

There are many skills or tools we can learn to improve.

Yesterday, I started hiking to exhaustion again.

It’s half mental and half physical. It builds willpower.

How bad do you want to heal?

What is your level of commitment, are you in a little, a medium involvement or are you all in.

Intensity is a necessity for optimum results.

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An abused childhood brain

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There are events that change a life forever, the winner of the harmful events, trauma.

Can you think of the time before your trauma? How did your mind function? You have experienced the mind without trauma, remember back and mimic that experience.

You have a much better chance at healing than a kid abused throughout childhood.

For childhood trauma, many never knew a time without abuse, their minds were always in some form of survival mode.

We have to watch healthy people live or read books about what a mind without serious abuse feels like.

My childhood PTSD did not explode until my mid fifties, but I always had symptoms.

I was puking by the time high school arrived, my stomach and nervous system had PTSD symptoms. There was no safe place for me at school and especially at home.

Of course I hid any weakness from my father, I was terrified by that monster.

My anxiety levels were off the chart, there was no escape.

I have no idea what a mind without serious childhood abuse feels like. My mind never fully relaxes, ever, he is always on guard, always somewhat hyper vigilant.

Trust is something I tried once, it turned out to be the worst event of my life. We are terrible at picking a mate that is trustworthy.

I have read that we are incapable of having a healthy relationship, I finally agree. It is a consequence beyond our control, we did not ask to be abused as children.

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Navigating life with PTSD active

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My PTSD has come alive again with a repressed memory. How do I navigate life until this new trauma is integrated?

For most of us, PTSD either survives our healing efforts or there is much more trauma below the surface.

How do we live life until we heal? How do we respond to our trauma, do we avoid going near anything that feels dangerous?

I sure did for a long time. PTSD got much worse avoiding.

At my worst, agoraphobic for six months, I started a weekly exposure therapy. I would pick one day a week and go out and face my triggers.

The emotionally tainted fear was palpable, my resistance acute, it felt extremely dangerous. Part of PTSD’s irrational nature, it is an invisible battle inside our body and mind.

What is real and what is trauma? I do not have an answer for that, I am way to close.

Looking back, it took enormous courage to face mundane, neutral situations other people take for granted.

Where others see opportunity for attachment, we see danger.

How do we act like normal people who feel no danger, no anxiety? I have never pulled it off when my PTSD was active.

Even if I had the courage to practice exposure therapy, I was a mess, anxious and guarded the whole time.

My mind could hardly think, it was scouting for imminent danger instead, confused and nervous.

A few minutes felt like an hour, I was heading right at my trauma fears, the opposite of avoidance.

All of this is invisible to everyone around us. It is a lonely journey until we improve.

Afterward, I was euphoric, in the face of PTSD fear, I had triumphed. A small victory, but a vital one.

For me and for you, we must find the courage to face our trauma fears or we will suffer.

I focus on improving, healing is to large a concept for us.

Work to improve a little each day, healing is so much bigger an animal. Keep it simple.

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Be a Thought Detective

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Can you follow your awareness back to its origin? How big is your awareness?

Can you visualize yourself sitting on a couch watching TV? Can you add a rerun of yourself from last week as the show playing?

Observing the thinker, with practice you can see you sitting on the couch.

Can you watch your mind, be aware of your thoughts. Who is the person that is aware of those thoughts? Not the thinker, we are observing him/her over there.

There is a separation between me and the thinker, we are not the same.

Is that guy in the rerun real? Some people on that television have been dead for decades. Does that TV bring them back to life?

Bringing awareness to our thoughts, uncovers the raging river, rapidly flowing through our consciousness.

60,000 thoughts everyday, one every waking second, how and why do we choose the scary ones, the negative ones, or the ones that are unworthy over the happy, kind ones?

We only choose a small percentage each day.

Experienced monks have trained their minds to let all those thoughts pass on by.

Emotions rarely uncenter them. They exist with their minds living in the current moment, void of random thought. For the most part they direct thinking when they need to, otherwise they are in observer mode.

Thoughts and emotions are partners, they choose which emotions stay and which ones go by by. Without random thoughts to latch onto, negative emotions learn to stay dormant.

Think what that must feel like for us.

Awareness uses all our senses plus intuition in one dimension, then past awareness of danger is prioritized.

Be a detective, awareness is your vehicle.

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Somedays the shit (trauma) is just alive

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Somedays the shit (trauma) is just alive, intrusive thoughts never stop, enough fear drugs flow to start the snowball rolling down that old hill.

I have learned to live with, how do you describe, some pain, how do you quantify that in words, without getting upset.

Yes, being abused as a kid has given me a sick sense of gallows humor. We were the opposite of spoiled.

The things I write.

Life is far more serious for us kids. At school I was different. They were calmer, freer, not anxious, not apprehensive, not afraid, some were confidant.

How? I always knew I had to go back home, how could you not be anxious, afraid, sick to your stomach.

As a kid, I knew something was wrong with my dad.

I know pain has been and will be part of my life, why get upset unless it doubles.

Striving to heal is totally different than the reality of being in emotional pain.

I would describe my PTSD pain as emotional (abstract).

The physical abuse I have endured was easier to move on from, the emotional crap left deep scars.

I felt special the first time I healed. PTSD exploded again, then the Second PTSD War started.

Special left my vocabulary.

If we were honest, we would see PTSD takes over for a while, until we center ourself.

I get lost but I find my way back.

It is not the life I chose, but is the one I live and accept today.

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Happiness versus Emotions

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“Authentic happiness is not linked to an activity; it is a state of being, a profound emotional balance struck by a subtle understanding of how the mind functions.

While ordinary pleasures are produced by contact with pleasant objects and end when that contact is broken, sukha (happiness) —lasting well-being—is felt so long as we remain in harmony with our inner nature.”

Matthew Ricard in his book “Happiness”

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My two cents: When I am thinking about my past or projecting into the future, happiness is always absent.

Happiness versus emotions. Happiness lives inside us.

Happiness is much more solid, much longer lasting, and contains contentment while emotions are ephemeral, transparent and fleeting.

Our Ego loves using emotions to be upset, outraged at others.

Do you feel more righteous when strong emotions are added to a judgment? I know when I am angry, common sense stops and I am capable of things not even imagined when calm.

Wellbeing or happiness is much different than an emotion, like momentary joy or achievement.

Hell, I have had ten different emotions while writing this post.

Which one is me?

We all have the same amount of emotions, so emotions do not make us unique.

I have had periods where my need for approval wanes, life becomes easier as PTSD retreats.

Emotions can last as little as five seconds when not grasped.

Emotions are fine, bathe in the positive ones and let the negative ones die a death of starvation.

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