Posts Tagged ‘yoga’


Flashbacks, PTSD and You

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Of all the PTSD symptoms, flashbacks are some of the worst. They interrupt our sleep and our waking hours without warning. They chew us up and spit us out leaving us spent, exhausted and retraumatized. Flashbacks can really hurt us as they activate our amygdala, the crisis response center in the brain, and throw our entire nervous system into high gear. In the worst cases, we can momentarily lose touch with reality and become totally engulfed in a full body replay of traumatic events. As we heal from PTSD, it becomes essential to get a grasp on flashbacks and slowly eliminate them.

What are flashbacks?

Flashbacks are an involuntary and intrusive experience of a memory. Flashbacks can involve any combination of the senses: visual, auditory, kinesthetic (or feeling state), taste and smell. I have found that many people with traumatic pasts enter flashbacks regularly without knowing they are having one. Movie type flashbacks are obvious; for example a soldier experiencing himself back on the battle field. But flashbacks can also be, for example, an overpowering feeling of helplessness and abandonment in the present that is not in proportion to a current event.

I have come to see flashbacks as part of the body/mind’s attempt to heal. Persistent flashbacks are like a telephone ringing, or someone knocking at your door. They are your unconscious mind demanding that traumatic events in your past be dealt with and healed. Like a persistent visitor, the knocking will only get louder and more in your face if you don’t answer the door.

How can I get rid of flashbacks?

There is only one way to really get rid of flashbacks for good, and that is to dive deep into your mind and heal your PTSD by dealing with the traumatic events that caused your injury. I realize that this is not the answer that many want to hear. It is a bit like saying the only way out of your burning house is to walk straight through the fire. In the meantime there are things you can do to lessen the severity of flashbacks and help those around you cope with them:

– Learn your triggers and inform those closest to you. The more you know what causes flashbacks, the more control you have over them. Keep a log or map them, either mentally or on paper.

– Develop a twice-daily practice of invoking the relaxation response and by that I mean something like yoga, tai chi, progressive relaxation or centering prayer. Not drugs, TV or other escapist types of activities. These techniques have been shown to improve recovery time from flashbacks and decrease their intensity and frequency.

– Strengthen your mind! Flashbacks are a time disorder. Your mind gets sucked back to the time and place of injury. Don’t let that happen! Learn to stay in the present moment through meditation and grounding exercises. That way, when a flashback hits you can stay present and not get swept away in the memory.

– Talk about it. Ever since Freud discovered the “talking cure” we have known there is something magical about telling others about our difficulties. The more we process verbally, the less grip these events and memories have over us. If your memories are too intense to share with loved ones find a good trauma therapist (see my blog on finding a good trauma therapist!).

– Do not blame your self. Shame and flashbacks go hand in hand, and are often a part of the trauma being re-experienced. Be gentle with yourself and realize that this is a process that will take time to resolve.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. PTSD can be healed. That means you will reach a point where flashbacks are no longer a part of your life, at least not in such a pernicious form. We may always have unpleasant memories but when trauma is resolved, they no longer have the power to hurt us.

Blessings on your journey of healing.




Don’t Let Anyone Tell You That PTSD is Permanent

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I hear from a lot of clients and friends that they have been told by their therapists that they have to learn to live with PTSD.  “Walk beside it like a friend” is how one therapist put it.

 PTSD is not your friend.  You do not want its companionship for life.

 In the yogic model of the human being, there are multiple layers. We have a physical body, an energetic body made of prana or qi/ki, two layers of mind: one cognitive and one intuitive and a bliss body.  We cannot hope to heal PTSD unless we understand this important concept:

 All layers of our being are wounded by the injuries and abuse that result in PTSD.  PTSD is the manifestation of those wounds.

 In the Western model of medicine we treat only two of the five layers.  We treat the body and we treat the cognitive mind.  In other words we address less than half of the system that has been injured.  In many cases we don’t even treat both.

 Usually people with mental disorders are remanded to some variety of psychiatric care with little attention paid to the rest of the body.  Or the reverse. If the person expresses symptoms mostly through the body, it can take years for a physician to ask simple questions about a history of trauma. 

 Most therapists and counselors pay little to no attention to anything but the latest “evidence-based” treatment, even though “evidence-based” most often means showing an effect for only 3-6 months.  Mental health treatment has become highly politicized and regulated, and essentially a casualty of the free market capitalist system here in the USA. 

 But I digress.

 As a therapist and a survivor, I am here to tell you that  you can heal fully from PTSD. In order to do this you will have to assemble your own treatment team and techniques to heal each of the layers of your being that were injured by trauma. That is essentially the thesis of my book, The Trauma Tool Kit: Healing PTSD From the Inside Out.

 Please don’t give up.  There is an end to suffering.  The “peace that passeth all understanding” is real.  It may take a while, years perhaps, but life these days is long. Keep going. You can heal fully from PTSD. 




Trauma and Psychic Ability

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This past week I presented workshops at the European Society for Trauma and Dissociation in Copenhagen, Denmark. Twice during the conference highly regarded researchers and treaters of trauma, psychologist Andrew Moskowitz and the parapsychologist Etzel Cardena wondered about the connection of PTSD and psychic experiences. In The Trauma Tool Kit (Quest, 2012) I have also noted the preponderance of unusual experiences that those with trauma report. The questions that came up was why. Why do people with high levels of trauma tend to report experiences in nonordinary reality?
Here are some of my thoughts on the matter.

1) Extraordinary Empathy. A person subjected to much trauma, especially growing up can develop certain survival skills. One of the skills of surviving an abusive home is to be able to anticipate caregiver’s moods and “manipulate” one’s caregivers into doing their job i.e. not being abusive but helping the child to grow and thrive. The child in this case has to develop preternatural attunement to the caregiver. Out of necessity the child may begin to develop telepathic capacity, exquisite sensitivity to mirror neurons in the brain and a sensitivity to electromagnetic energies emanating from the person.

2) Natural Psychic Giftedness is Aligned with Intergenerational Trauma. Many of the most sensitive and psychic cultures in the world are indigenous. Conquering cultures have gone out of their way to disable the extraordinary abilities of those cultures. Examples include the witch trials of the Inquisition, the British cutting off the fingers of Marma practitioners in India, etc. These conquered cultures store a great deal of intergenerational trauma that may predispose them to perpetuating the trauma through intergenerational abuse. We have seen examples of this repetition in Irish, Native American and African American families. In other words, the indigenous cultures already had these gifts and also manifest traumas recapitulating the original traumas of domination and assimilation so that the relationship is not causal but related to colonization.

3) Chakra Disruption. Shamanic healer Barbara Brennan has written extensively about the human energy body, which she can see clearly. She has noted that certain kinds of abuse, such as sexual abuse, can “tear” open the chakras of the body. This artificial opening then allows the energy body to be more permeable than someone who has not had chakric damage, leading to many kinds of phenomena in nonordinary reality.

4) Dissociation is a Condition of Psychism. All manner of psychic practitioners and shamanic healers need to learn to “unground” their consciousness in order to access information from other realms than the physical. If one has had early training in this from necessity caused by trauma, then one is already well on the way to developing these abilities by definition. This may be the reason that so many shamanic initiations include controlled traumas to open up the mind and supersensory perceptions (teen circumcision, fear trials such as being buried in the earth for several days, scarification, hallucinatory drugs and experiences, etc.)

5) Survival Techniques Facilitate Psychic Ability. Increasingly, trauma survivors are turning to techniques such as meditation, work with spiritual teachers and shamans to heal from extreme traumas. In India it is well known that intense yoga and meditation practices lead to the unfolding of psychic and occult abilities. When trauma survivors pursue these practices for healing, they naturally unlock thoses abilities, too.

It is good to see some of these avenues of thought being pursued in realms of academia and psychology. These pursuits are still fairly controversial in certain states and countries, but overall the public is becoming more friendly to these ideas. My next book Connected: How Reclaiming Your Indigenous Ancestry Can Heal You, Your Community and the World will be exploring these ideas in more depth. It is my strong belief that additional connection and perception may be the qualities needed by modern humanity to change the paradigm on planet Earth, heal the world’s traumas and brighten the future for us all.




Street Yoga: One of my Favorite Organizations!

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I found Street Yoga when I was writing The Trauma Tool Kit. They are an amazing group of people working hard to bring yoga and mindfulness to at-risk youth in need. If you are inspired please click on this link.

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INSOMNIA!

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Insomnia and PTSD go together like a mosquito bite and itching but with far worse results. Insomnia is not only a consequence of traumatic events but, left untreated, can result in such chronic medical conditions as mood disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, and even fibromyalgia, a painful condition affecting joints and tissues throughout the body.

There are roughly 4 types of insomnia:

1) Early awakening
2) Inability to fall asleep
3) Repetitive waking throughout the sleep cycle (usually every 90 min)
4) Unsatisfactory sleep

There can be other physical or disease processes that interfere with sleep so the first step with insomnia is to get a medical exam to determine if there are any conditions, such as sleep apnea (poor breathing during sleep) that are resulting in awakening or unsatisfactory sleep (waking up tired).

With PTSD the two most common types of sleep disorder I’ve seen are the inability to fall asleep or waking approximately every 90 minutes. These are so common that if I have a patient walk in with those symptoms there is a high likelihood that they have suffered past traumatic events.

Why?

The answer is simple. REM (rapid eye movement) sleep occurs approximately every 90 minutes. In this stage of sleep the brain processes memories and emotions. That is what the brain is hardwired to do and why people normally wake up feeling refreshed.

But if the memories are too scary and overwhelming or if the conscious mind is not ready to assimilate the information a person will shut down the REM process by popping prematurely out of sleep. Similarly with sleep inhibition or the inability to fall asleep, the mind is unconsciously resisting the process of assimilation or digestion of overwhelming experiences.

For these reasons, sleep can start to feel like a very overwhelming experience and can snowball into its own traumatic situation. Insomnia breeds its own special kind of anxiety. A secondary trauma develops: the fear of not being able to sleep.

What to do?

Here are three steps to getting back to a restful night even while healing from trauma:

1) Unwind the fear about falling asleep. If you are awake use your time productively. Do some yoga postures and relaxation exercises. Or read something that is “good for you” like history, medical information or a religious text. The mind wants to shut down out of boredom after a while, just like in school. Do not read Stephen King or the latest murder mystery! Tell yourself that you will not be awake forever and allow yourself to be awake if you need to be. You can always nap tomorrow. The more anxious you are about being anxious the less chance sleep will come.

2) Develop excellent sleep hygiene. Sleep in a dark room without computers, tv’s etc. Turn off bright lights at least 2 hours before bed (yes that includes all media screens). Abstain from caffeine and sugar for 6 hours before bed. Develop a routine. Etc.

3) Most important: Start addressing your traumas! Your unconscious mind wants you to heal and will keep throwing up traumatic dreams and memories until you get the point and deal with them. Seriously. The best cure for insomnia is curing your PTSD. Find a great counselor or program and get to work! 

The alternatives to not addressing insomnia are unbearable. Pills only work for so long. If you resolve the underlying issues be they physical or psychological you will be well on your road to healing and back to the land of Bedfordshire in no time.

Sweet dreams.







KBOO Interview on Recovery Zone

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I was fortunate to have Stephanie Potter of KBOO’s show Recovery Zone, in Portland, Oregon interview me yesterday about healing from stress and PTSD. The show is 30 minutes long and features three different callers with excellent questions. I had a blast doing it and am thankful for a chance to help people go deeper in their healing process. Click here, for a link to the downloadable interview.




The Trauma Tool Kit Has Arrived! *GIVEAWAY*

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Hi all,

I’m happy to tell you that The Trauma Toolkit: Healing PTSD From the Inside Out is now in bookstores across the United States and is shipping from online booksellers. I had the privilege of finally holding my own copy this week. In celebration I am giving away three copies to the first three readers who link to this blog and comment below. Please be sure to send me your address privately if you see your name in the first three comments! Here’s to healing from traumatic stress! Blessings, Sue




POLL UP!

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Hi Friends,

I’ve just put up this poll about ways people handle extreme stress or PTSD.  When you are triggered, where do you go for relief? What’s most reliable for you?  You can check more than one answer.  If your favorite treatment is not on the list, please share it for others in the comments section below!  I look forward to seeing your responses! 

Love and Blessings, Sue




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