Posts Tagged ‘Mind’

Part two: What is Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Pixabay: sahinsezerdincer

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Complex post-traumatic stress disorder is a developmental trauma disorder (DTD) which is wildly different than post-traumatic stress disorder that normally, but not always, forms in adulthood.

The trauma model states that children who experience chronic sexual, psychological, physical abuse and neglect develop CPTSD.

However, it also forms in kids who suffer slavery, human trafficking, working in sweatshops, war or survivors of concentration camp environments and cults.

The trauma which causes this disorder may also include having experienced betrayal, defeat, and shame.

The reason children are vulnerable to forming CPTSD is that children do not have the cognitive or emotional skills to understand what is happening to them.

Since the abuse and neglect, they are experiencing is normally perpetrated by people they know and trust, to admit to themselves that these same people want to hurt them is akin to emotional suicide so they use other means to manage the trauma.

The psychological implications are enormous leaving the child with a complex mess of their core beliefs about who they are what they are.

This tangled mess becomes even more complicated by flashbacks, nightmares and other symptoms that are worse in adulthood.

Often, children experiencing interpersonal traumatic events experience a conundrum in their minds and some choose to dissociate the events away.

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Is Meditation The Reason Why This Monk’s Brain Is 8 Years Younger Than His Body? By Natasha Ishak Published March 18, 2020

Edward Wong/South China Morning Post via Getty ImagesYongey Mingyur Rinpoche (left) and Richard Davidson (right), who runs the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin.

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Over the course of 14 years, a group of scientists from the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison followed the brain development of Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, a Buddhist monk and meditation teacher who has been practicing since he was nine. 

According to Live Science, the study discovered that Mingyur Rinpoche’s brain appeared to slow in its aging over the course of a decade. Mingyur Rinpoche is 41 years old but researchers found that his brain matter seems to be eight years younger than what it should be. 

“The big finding is that the brain of this Tibetan monk, who has spent more than 60,000 hours of his life in formal meditation, ages more slowly than the brains of controls,” said Richard Davidson, a senior researcher on the study and a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the university.

Believed to be the seventh incarnation of Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, the meditation guru has been practicing since he was nine.

But how can you tell how old a brain is? Davidson said that it’s all in the brain’s grey matter.

“Grey matter is the neural machinery of the brain,” Davidson, who is also the founder and director of the Center for Healthy Minds, explained. “When the brain atrophies, there is a decline in grey matter.”

The study, published last month in the journal Neurocase, examined the changes in Mingyur Rinpoche’s brain over 10 years beginning when the monk was 27 years old.

Mingyur Rinpoche was the perfect subject to test the long-term effects of meditation on the human brain because of his remarkable life.

Believed to be the seventh incarnation of Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, master of the Karma Kagyu and Nyingma lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, Mingyur Rinpoche has guided other senior Buddhist practitioners in the methods of Buddhist meditation since he was a teenager.

As such, his brain experienced routine — even intense — exposure to meditation. Other past studies have suggested that there is some connection between routine meditation and the slowing of biological aging and the discovery by Davidson and his team seems to add to the growing evidence. 

During the course of the study, researchers scanned Mingyur Rinpoche’s brain four times using structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan the changes in his brain over time. The brain scans of a group of 105 adults sharing the same age as the Buddhist monk were also monitored and routinely compared to Mingyur Rinpoche’s test results. 

Then, using a machine learning tool called the Brain Age Gap Estimation (BrainAGE) framework, researchers were able to take the brain scans to estimate the age of the brain through its grey matter.

When they scanned Mingyur Rinpoche’s brain at 41 years old, his brain tested as if it belonged to a 33-year-old. In addition, the BrainAGE analysis found that the meditation guru’s brain had also “matured” early. Researchers are still trying to figure out what this maturing means but they do have a working theory.

There are areas of the brain that come online in the mid to late 20s, for example, regulatory regions of the brain that play an important role in self-regulation, in regulating our attention,” Davidson said. “It may be that these areas are maturing earlier in the meditators, and that would make sense, because we believe that meditation can strengthen these areas and these kinds of functions [in the brain].”

While these findings are certainly remarkable, there’s still a lot of possibilities that could explain Mingyur Rinpoche’s “young” brain. For one, researchers have yet to definitively determine whether it was solely his meditation practice that caused his brain to age slower. 

Some researchers think it’s possible that the brains of those who were born in the high altitudes of Tibet like Mingyur Rinpoche might naturally age slower due to the environment. There’s also the possibility that his Buddhist lifestyle — practicing a healthy diet and living in the low-pollution area of the Tibetan mountains — could have contributed to his “young” brain.

Nevertheless, the study does reveal that meditation provides some sort of health benefit for the body.

It kind of makes sense biologically, because stress is a thing that causes aging,” said Kiran Rajneesh, a neurologist who was not involved in the study. “Not just psychological stress, which is definitely a part of it, but also stress happening at the cellular level.”

Until scientists know for sure we’ll just have to be content with our “old” brains for now.

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Narayan Maharjan/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty ImagesBelieved to be the seventh incarnation of Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, the meditation guru has been practicing since he was nine. 

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Repairing Childhood Traumas impact on the 🧠 brain

https://irishroversbooks.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/lest-we-forget/

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What changes occur in the brain in childhood trauma? What are their effects?

• Reduced activity in Broca’s area (this is the area for speech). This can make it difficult to talk about trauma and describe it with detail (Hull, 2002). This is additional to trauma which is pre-verbal.

I have trauma that is pre verbal, it has a ghostly feel. It took years of meditating to be able to share my trauma with others.

• The hippocampus becomes smaller and its structure is interrupted (Wilson et al., 2011; McCrory et al, 2010). This can affect attention, learning and memory (Hedges and Woon, 2011; Pechtel and Pizzagalli, 2011).

Nothing has brought my memory back intact, many trauma memories are unfinished and confusing, incomplete and choppy.

• The corpus collosum which connects the left and right sides of the brain, is reduced. This prevents the two sides of the brain working in a coordinated way (Wilson et al., 2011)

Experienced meditators have a wider and thicker corpus collosum.

• Changes to amygdala function (Wilson et al., 2011; Pechtel and Pizzagalli, 2011). This can make a person more likely to react to triggers, especially emotional ones. People can experience emotional extremes and struggle to regulate their emotions.

My meditation practice calmed my amygdala and brought some balance. I could take the cortisol and adrenaline away with long deep,focused breaths.

• Reduced activity in different parts of the cortex- frontal lobes (McCrory et al, 2012). This can mean a survival response/s is triggered in absence of danger (Ali, et al., 2011).

Neuroscientists say meditation repairs the damage trauma does to the left prefrontal cortex.

• Changes in ‘reward pathways’. This can mean that survivors anticipate less pleasure from different activities, and may appear less motivated (Pechtel and Pizzagalli,)

I have been extremely motivated to heal. It’s just not an appearance of less pleasure, we serious abused kids suffer throughout life. Childhood trauma never totally leaves our being..

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Childhood trauma and the brain

Pixabay: OpenClipart-Vectors

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From https://www.blueknot.org.au/Resources/Information/Understanding-abuse-and-trauma/What-is-childhood-trauma/Childhood-trauma-and-the-brain

Excerpt: How does childhood trauma impact on brain development?

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Our childhood brains develop from the ‘bottom up’ i.e. the brain stem first. The survival functions develop before those for planning and impulse control. Our brainstem works fully when we are born. It controls basic survival functions such as heart rate, breathing, sleep and hunger.

We are also born with a functioning ‘threat detection’ system. In fact the amygdala can register a fear response in the final month before we’re born (Cozolino, 2006). We can develop a ‘memory’ of fear before we have language (i.e. this is pre-verbal), or can understand where the fear comes from. These ‘memories’ are stored in our body as body memories and emotions.

The hippocampus develops in response to our world into adulthood (Cozolino, 2006). Before the hippocampus develops we can’t consolidate ‘autobiographical’ memories. The pre-frontal cortex only matures in our mid-twenties.

Some parts of the brain grow and develop rapidly at certain ages. Overwhelming stress in childhood affects the way the brain develops (Gunnar and Quevedo, 2007; Pechtel and Pizzagalli, 2011). During critical periods of development, trauma can badly affect different areas. Positive experiences can help development. Negative experiences impair development (Wilson et al., 2011).

What changes occur in the brain in childhood trauma? What are their effects?

Childhood trauma can affect different parts of the brain. This helps explain many of the challenges survivors experience.

• Reduced activity in Broca’s area (this is the area for speech). This can make it difficult to talk about trauma and describe it with detail (Hull, 2002). This is additional to trauma which is pre-verbal.

• The hippocampus becomes smaller and its structure is interrupted (Wilson et al., 2011; McCrory et al, 2010). This can affect attention, learning and memory (Hedges and Woon, 2011; Pechtel and Pizzagalli, 2011).

• The corpus collosum which connects the left and right sides of the brain, is reduced. This prevents the two sides of the brain working in a coordinated way (Wilson et al., 2011)

• Changes to amygdala function (Wilson et al., 2011; Pechtel and Pizzagalli, 2011). This can make a person more likely to react to triggers, especially emotional ones. People can experience emotional extremes and struggle to regulate their emotions.

• Reduced activity in different parts of the cortex- frontal lobes (McCrory et al, 2012). This can mean a survival response/s is triggered in absence of danger (Ali, et al., 2011).

• Changes in ‘reward pathways’. This can mean that survivors anticipate less pleasure from different activities, and may appear less motivated (Pechtel and Pizzagalli,)

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Our mind does not work the same when PTSD is active.

https://themighty.com/u/mrpositive/

I was force fed Lima beans once a week, I puked them, then got beat with a big paddle he drilled holes in to hurt me more.

Never have touched a Lima bean since childhood.

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Our mind does not work the same when PTSD is active.

Anxiety and fear switch the minds mode of operation.

A calm, safe environment has our mind relaxed, open and maybe looking for opportunity, we can think quickly and clearly.

A PTSD mind can spot imminent danger in a second, activating our defense mechanism.

A PTSD sufferer has practiced over and over his/her reaction to trauma, paved a highway to survival mode, becoming best friends with avoidance.

Our mind becomes confused, pressured by anxiety drugs as fear spikes, trying to escape at all costs.

Our mind panics, cognitive functions almost stop, fine motor skills are gone, tunnel vision ensues.

Severe cases mimic near death experiences.

PTSD fear is the worst fear we can imagine, it has the ability to fire our fight or flight mechanism 15 times a day.

The drugs are real, the PTSD is abstract and subjective to us and lives only inside our mind.

The drugs stopped secreting the first time I healed.

Now instead of my fight or flight exploding, my mood changes, spotted and pointed out by those close to me.

My abuse, now at 69, still impacts my daily existence.

It is humbling, frustrating and full of guilt when my PTSD upsets those closest to me.

Hard to not hold anger at our abusers.

There is no wand or pill or quick solution for violent childhood abuse.

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A technique using a large Circle, a big Zero 0

https://pixabay.com/users/analogicus-8164369/

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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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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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Looking back on the Week

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Description of this week: There is an internal war going on, battles are intermittent but intense.

My moods can switch instantly, the morose part brings many emotions, seemingly before thought even starts. Remember the defense mechanism fires immediately, the cognitive side is 5 seconds delayed.

PTSD triggers fire our defense mechanism, called our fight or flight mechanism. This is part of the mechanical, physical side of trauma. Think of that, a trigger fires before directed thought even knows what the hell just happened.

I have eliminated this repressed trauma three times, gaining some freedom for a few days, then it appears again. With my childhood trauma, once a piece was integrated, my improvement lasted.

So part of my day is good, part horrible and then the rest spent distracting my mind.

I have to play solitaire while I watch 📺 tv, it takes two things like this to prevent my mind from ruminating. Having chronic pain and being 69, I do not have the energy to go back to my workaholic distraction.

Much of my adult life, I see now, was spent working or being busy, overloaded to outrun what was chasing me. Spending time alone with my mind was avoided at all costs. Sound familiar?

Fear is not a big part of my PTSD lately, humiliation and shame are far more dangerous and debilitating.

Humiliation and shame have a huge impact on unworthiness.

Childhood abuse brings anxiety, fear and unworthiness at its core. Unworthiness and abandonment were my big fears as a child.

I was going to get beat severely no matter what.

I feared, but never cried, giving that son of a bitch (dad) any satisfaction.

Even as a little kid, there was a apart of me that would not let him think he could hurt me.

That’s hilarious now as he has stolen most of my adult life. I was using my only strength against him, sadly it was not enough.

It was the emotional crap that carried on inside. We all have strengths and weaknesses.

I can endure pain, unworthiness and shame are my weaknesses. Know your strengths and weaknesses.

For me going after the physical part of PTSD first, was using my strengths. I needed to take as much power away from PTSD before I attacked my weaknesses.

Common sense for me, comes from pro ball, how to improve and fill in your weaknesses.

It’s called the off season.

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The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo: Breathing

https://pixabay.com/users/openclipart-vectors-30363/

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“Breathing is the fundamental unit of risk, the atom of inner courage that leads us into authentic living. 

With each breath, we practice opening, taking in, and releasing. 

Literally, the teacher is under our nose. 

When anxious, we simply have to remember to breathe. 

So often we make a commitment to change our ways, but stall in the face of old reflexes as new situations arise. 

When gripped by fear or anxiety, the reflex is to hold on, speed up, or remove oneself. 

Yet when we feel the reflex to hold on, that is usually the moment we need to let go. 

When we feel the urgency to speed up, that is typically the instant we need to slow down. 

Often when we feel the impulse to flee, it is the opportunity to face ourselves. 

Taking a deep meditative breath, precisely at this moment, can often break the momentum of anxiety and put our psyche in neutral.”

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My two cents: how simple and eloquent can you describe life.

We get lost in the complexities of people and life.

Remember, we are the center of our happiness.

Focused breathing has helped me get better. I depend on its power and soothing properties.

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