Posts Tagged ‘mind’


The Semantics of Rape

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Here is the definition of rape from the New Oxford American Dictionary:

Noun: the crime, typically committed by a man, of forcing another person to have sexual intercourse with him without their consent and against their will, esp. by the threat or use of violence against them: he denied two charges of attempted rape | he had committed at least two rapes.

Verb: (if a man) to force another person to have sexual intercourse with him without their consent and against their will, esp. by the threat or use of violence against them: the woman was raped at knifepoint.

Notice how that word “force” is used in both definitions of the word rape? Paul Ryan and those who wrote legislation with him apparently didn’t and somehow felt that they needed to redundantly modify rape with the word “forcible”. This is both insensitive and stupid.

Have you heard how water is powerfully wet? Or that mud is dirty? How about fatal murder or hot arson? You get my point. Aside from being poor English, this kind of language seeks to diminish women’s (and men’s) experience that rape is a form of violence that causes intense suffering over a long period of time. It suggests that there is a kindler, gentler rape that is somehow not forcible, perhaps even enjoyable as one Texan Republican gubernatorial nominee recently suggested.

By using the inflammatory words “legitimate rape” Republican nominee Todd Akin and others suggested to the American public that there is a form of rape that is OK. This is a powerful form of double speak, a sophisticated hypnotic suggestion to the audience that both suggests that rapes could maybe be OK in some circumstances while holding women responsible for proving the severity of rape to begin with and making them doubt themselves with the ridiculous suggestion that if they become pregnant it wasn’t a “real” rape.

In reality, rape is a terrible thing to come to terms with. The mind naturally wants to deny that it even happened. As I say in The Trauma Tool Kit: “the mind swerves away from trauma like a car careening around a deep, dark puddle…avoidance is nobody’s fault but is the very nature of trauma itself.” 

Either through deep cynicism or ignorance those who minimize rape (for some reason they are mostly male Republican candidates for office) are siding with the part of the brain that does not want to acknowledge the severity of this trauma. They want to keep the public in denial. Some want to legitimize their own or others’ bad behavior.

This is extreme dysfunction, folks. In order to heal society we need to call out every type of trauma for healing and expose it to the healthy light of day, not shove it back in the closet where it festers and stinks up the place. Every victim needs to be acknowledged and given access to healing. Every perpetrator needs to be brought to justice. If our candidates cannot speak truth and bring healing, then they do not deserve to hold a microphone, much less hold office.




5 Ways to Manage Post-Disaster PTSD

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I just had a lovely interview with Luke Hayes, of MyRecovery Disaster Resilience Radio. We discussed helpful ways to prevent and overcome post traumatic stress around natural disasters, that are increasing in frequency and intensity around the world.

1) Be prepared. Don’t think it can’t happen to you (denial). Have food and water items stocked. Know what kind of disasters could happen in your area. Make a plan for a quick evacuation. An ounce of preparation is worth a pound of loss later. We don’t think and plan well in the midst of crisis. So plan ahead!

2) Know where to find help. Form a community organization. Familiarize yourself with local assistance such as Red Cross, shelters etc. If your community does not have such assistance consider forming a group yourself. People have much less trauma when they feel looked after by their community.

3) Practice control over your mind and emotions now. The first technique I teach my patients about PTSD is a single pointed meditation. Focus on one object for 3-5 minutes at a time. Most of us have flabby mind muscles. This exercise strengthens our ability to focus in a crisis and its aftermath while staying calm. It is easier to keep the mind calm when we have practiced at it ahead of time.

4) If you have severe trauma after a disaster seek help. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Response) is a powerful modality that involves eye movements that dissipates traumatic responses. It seems to work best on those who did not grow up with tremendous amounts of trauma. The results can be surprisingly fast and powerful.

5) Restore yourself and your body after the crisis has resolved. The body is profoundly affected and in some cases permanently altered by trauma. The endocrine system and central nervous systems may take weeks to months to heal fully affecting appetite, weight, autoimmune responses, mood swings, sleep patterns, libido and other aspects of human life. Most people tend to underestimate the results of trauma. Take the time you need to get help and heal yourself. It may take some time. 

You are valuable. You are needed. You deserve to heal!




Core Beliefs and PTSD

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Last week my sweet kittie went missing. After a few very sad and anxious days, I realized that this event tapped into an outmoded deeply held belief that I did not realize I was holding. That belief is:

If I love something or someone too much, they will abandon or abuse me.

Sound familiar? It should. It is one of the most common beliefs of people raised in traumatic environments.

We all have core beliefs, about ourselves, about life, about love, about why we are suffering. These beliefs largely lay unconscious in our psyche, like a filter that colors everything we see. We don’t question these core beliefs because we do not know they are there!

People who live with PTSD have core beliefs that arise out of their traumas (and sometimes precede them). We do not choose these beliefs. In a sense they choose us. The purpose of mind, evolutionarily speaking, is to make sense out of a random set of stimuli, the environment we live in. Without mind, the world would be an inchoate mass of incoming information. Mind sorts, slots, and makes meaning of sensory input.

But it is also largely automatic and unconscious.

Our mind selects meaning similar to other messages we have been given by our families, our schools, our communities, our religions etc. Most of the time we are completely unaware of this process, just as you are unaware of your breathing right now. Think you’re aware? How many breaths have you taken in the last hour?
Right! Same with the mind. Our minds think and make meaning but we are largely unaware of the process.

So what does that mean for the person with PTSD? Well, traumatic stress ups the ante on thoughts. Our thoughts tend to be more highly charged, faster, more automatic and more intense when we are stressed. Sometimes they are helpful and help us survive. Other times not so much.

This thought that came to me: If I love something or someone too much, they will abandon or abuse me, it could have first arisen in my childhood, or maybe several lifetimes ago. But it has persisted, lurking in my mind like a malignant dustbunny. Once I became aware of the thought, I felt my body start to release. These thoughts, like shadows, melt away in the light of awareness. Do I still feel sad she is gone? Yes. But I no longer suffer from the underlying guilt and anxiety that went along with my unexamined core belief, which puts me in a much more functional position!

Now it’s your turn. What core beliefs do you have that may be holding you back from healing yourself?




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