The Thing We most Run Away From is the Truth

 

I started writing this just after I completed my therapy on Wednesday but was quite depressed so stopped, so here we go again.

I have started getting to the horrible heart of stuff, physiologically re-experiencing some of the abuse I had as a child, principally from my mother.

Re-experiencing this physically and emotionally has been tough. It also shatters some of the distorted internal working models I have about me in relation to my mother.

For decades I have been constantly “defending” her against my sisters, who are older than me and see our mother as quite scary, abusive, manipulative, seemingly uncaring, divisive etc.

I have guarded emotionally against these ideas although intellectually I know they are correct  and she was these things and much more.

I could not afford until now not to feel and confront some of deceptions and denials  I have had about in relation to my mother. To be honest I was unaware I harboured so many of them.

My childhood internal working model of the world could not have dealt with the crushing emotional reality that my mother could sometimes act in a violent, apparently “monstrous” way. To me in particular.

I chose instead, in order to survive childhood, an internal working model, continually developed throughout my life, that mother was a victim of circumstances, she was tragic, had mental health issues, addiction issues, that it wasn’t really her fault!?

But this is denial. I have had this model shattered in the last few days. My mother did act in violent, monstrous ways to me for a number of years, especially in very early childhood and this was in addition to all the other emotional heart ache of living with a mother who was rarely there for me as a son needing maternal affection.

These things happened. I have to stop denying this. I have built  a view of the world built on this denial. Instead of addressing the hurt I have experienced, the sense of injustice, the rallying against the world, all the things I felt about my mother deep down inside I have instead projected these feelings onto the world while “protecting” a false view of my relationship  with my mother. Even to the extent I have been hostile to my sisters on occasion for stating things about our past that were true and I did not  want to hear.

My internal working model is a fabrication and needs updating.

The fights I have with the world are really with my mother, the injustice I feel sometimes is really against my mother’s behaviour. It has been a lot to take in but it is what I  have to accept this.

Internal  Working Models colour how we perceive the world and how we think and act in the world. The matrix that is the world, the world we perceive via our senses is also perceived or coloured via our emotions and feelings. We perceive the world not as an objective reality but, subjectively in relation to how we feel about ourselves.

Much of what we feel about our selves is the consequence of our upbringing and also often the unresolved feelings we have about that upbringing. In other words, negative emotions and feelings about ourselves and our significant loved ones can distort how we perceive reality.

My mother is no longer alive and cannot go into recovery like me and make amends – hence therapy is being accountable, not responsible for the hurt of the younger me.

It is the extracting of emotional thorns which I have not stuck into me but which I have increasingly pushed in over the years. Slowly but surely they are being forced to the surface and a new skin will heal over the painful hurt of the past. I feel it is this organic in many ways. Our human organism is set up to heal.

There are sins of commission and omission. Now I am dealing with what was done to me, omission. I dealt with my sins of commission in my steps 4-9.

My sisters were not subjected to the same scale of physical, emotional and mental abuse as me. Paradoxically, this seems to have allowed them an emotional distance to see my mother more as she really was at times.  I have never been able to. I was deep in the hurt and abuse and had to make sense of it more than they had to although it has left lasting emotional scars for them too. My eldest sister seems in a trenchant denial about all of it, as if it never happened which seems the most intractable condition of all.

For years I would return home to visit my family and often there would be a falling out or even physical fights between my sisters and my mother. It used to kill me and I could never figure it out, why my return would provoke such extreme emotional behaviour, such an eruption.

They were unconsciously fighting over our past, and  I was like an emotional bomb ready to go off. I now have an inkling why they argued and fought. They were powerless just like me. They reacted differently, hating my mother on many occasions for what she had subjected us to as children and adolescents. Two sisters dismayed at me for “defending” and protecting mum after all she had done.

They didn’t realise I had to emotionally, it would be too much of an upheaval to suddenly realise what they were aware of and the extent of my maternally-based abuse.

I am getting there, but I will never end up at the same emotional destination of hating my mother. I love her. I understand her predicament. I am just trying to get well. I forgive her completely. I am just attempting to straighten out this emotional reaction to the world, that was  seeded in early childhood and which has reaped a terrible consequence in the succeeding years.

I choose to love rather than hate and always have done and always will do.

The problem with C-PTSD as opposed to PTSD in the insecure attachment and emotion regulation issues that have to be dealt with.

After my first bilateral stimulation session we did not do this process again in my last therapy session. We didn’t need to in fact as the emotions of early childhood came flooding back.

Turns out the thing I have most run from in my life  is the truth.

The truth of my mother’s frequent psychical abuse, the night violence.

All my life I have defended my mother, mainly against what she had done to others.

Getting to the start of realising some pain around this stuff made me realise that this was only the tip of the iceberg.

It was too much for me to become aware of , my mum as a violent night time monster so I did not, I constructed another view of her as victim and me as being the reason why she acted the way she did. I constructed a lie to protect me, although it appeared to simply be protecting her. This is what my sisters and me also have not realised before.

The truth is sometimes unbearable.

I had to re-experience the violence and finally express the feelings of being subjected to it.

Throughout my adolescence I was I was also an enabler to my mother, serving her her Valium, her solpadeine, be codeine prescription, her cocktail of legal, medically prescribed “buzzes” .

Her drugs, I helped service, unwittingly serve her the drugs she had become addicted to, I anticipated that our chemical bonding would raise her spirits, overcome her depression, soothe her anxiety,  our forthcoming chats and chemically heightened affection and warmth.

I loved it, this medically prescribed attachment, it was a whole lot better than nothing at all.

It was here that I learnt the mechanics of being an addict. I would use this working model in later life with my pseudo family of drug abusing friends, the same rituals of chemically induced attachment to other human beings.

It was all I knew , it was how I reared, how I grew up.

Her drug use was like one of those intimation fires around which we congregated to feel the second hand glow of enhanced human warmth. Via her drug use.

It was a lot better than nothing.

The artificial fire of drug using and belonging.

The second hand love.

My heart would even soar as I saw and heard those nose tingling bubbles of solpadeine  fizz and gently hiss in the bubbly water as I brought my mother her next fix.

My mum took drugs increasing as she become more addicted and more divorced from the self than beat her son.

This is where I learnt my drug taking behviour.

The truth had been become a foreign country for my mother and then increasingly for me.

I am still trying to get back home. To me.

Almost Time?

Tomorrow I am set for my next EMDR session.

The one thing I haven’t mentioned about EMDR and I should really for any of you lovely people considering this excellent treatment and that is that the treatment is very exhausting.

I spent three days on an adrenaline high followed by three days of pure exhaustion.

This is worth noting as it certainly effects one’s ability to do the things they normally do, such as their job!

I run my own business, I am self employed and I am not convinced I could do this EMDR treatment if I was not self employed. My wife did it while on sickness leave from her work.

Although, equally, I know of other people who have had to hold down a job while having EMDR therapy and did so. I am only talking from my own experience. My experience is that by the time the next EMDR therapy session is about to begin I am still recovering from the last one.

I have been dog tired, way beyond how tired I normally get and I do get tired quite often as I have a tendency to over do things, well everything really.

In addition to running my business, I do academic research with two Professors in a UK University, I blog on two blogsites, and I am carrying our hard manual building at least twice a week on a regular basis which is physically taxing. Most of this I haven’t had the energy for, in the last couple of weeks of EMDR.

EMDR treatment is fairly quick in it’s ability to quickly positive outcomes compared to some treatments  but it does  have the price of being very tiring.

I am writing this because I do not want to give the impression that it is simply a case of rolling up to treatment, it being great and then back for some of the same the next week! It is not like that, as I say it is exhausting.

I have also had over ten years in recovery which has helped greatly. I am not sure how I could have coped with this level of exhaustion eight years ago? Maybe I could, it is difficult to say.

I am not saying this to put anyone off, I think EMDR works for people in recovery whatever their length of recovery. I am just stating that it is very tiring and this should be factored into one’s awareness about doing EMDR.

Obviously I do not like being this tired but it is part of it I guess?

I find this level of tiredness makes me a bit more snappy with people, not as able to cope with frustration as usual and also it can create a low or sometimes negative mood that is not really linked to anything in particular other than being very tired. I have panda black rings under my eyes.

Okay that’s me done. An unusually short blog from me this time (shows how tired I am, lol!)

I do try to write shorter blogs but it rarely happens. Things gush our of me a bit and then I have written a chapter rather than a blog!!

All grist to the mill as they say in the UK. I would like to put this writing in a book one day. Explaining what happens in the brain of recovery but also using personal stories of recovery like the blogs I am writing now.

I noticed in my other blogsite Inside the Alcoholic Brain   that the most popular blogs by far have been on the topics of PTSD and C_PTSD and the treatment thereof via EMDR.

I think many people in recovery catch on to the idea eventually that they actually suffer C-PTSD (and other co-occurring disorders) and also insecure attachment the longer they are in recovery.

Through time recovery is about more than not relapsing, more than addiction and becomes a voyage of discovery and a search for increased well being and quality of life – William White calls it “better than well!”

These factors are also prompting me to do EMDR and finally get past my past. A past that has troubled me for over forty years.

I want to fully engage in the now, the present, I want the past fractures to be mended and the love that  I know is scattered across different areas of past and present life to finally be reconciled. .

I have choice now, I never had when in active alcoholism and addiction.

What a wonderful thing, choice!

 

There is A Solution! To Complex Trauma

There is A Solution – To Complex Trauma

I suffered from my own active alcoholism for over twenty years and found a solution to my alcoholism via the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous and their 12 step program of recovery. A program of recovery  I still, for a large extent,  follow today. I generally trust God, clean house and help others, the three basics.

This program has not only saved my life but helped me acquire a new sense of self and a way of life and manner of living that I never knew existed.

I have added to my program of recovery by coming to understanding my disorder of addiction as one of emotional dysfunction.

I have difficulty identifying, labeling and verbalising emotions and this can lead to impulsive behaviour, poor decision making and  at times distress via undifferentiated emotions. In other words, I am not always sure what or how I am feeling.

I often need to discuss my emotions with others so that I can cognitively process them and identify them as feelings.

It is in identifying what I am feeling that then leads to rational goal directed behaviours rather than distress based impulsive decisions and behaviour. Processing my emotions, so that I actually know what I am feeling, helps with subsequent emotion regulation so that I do not emotionally react as much I used to, I do not need to react as much via ego defense mechanism, I do not need to have a life shot through with fear and resentment.

I can now say this situation or person made me feel like this, e.g. they upset me and I can then act accordingly and adaptively rather having rampaging revengeful thoughts fueled by  resentments and reactive behaviour.

These are some of the reasons why I have ten years in recovery, I have learnt ways, coping skills for dealing with me and my emotions, usually my negative emotions.

Via this new attitude and behaviour my brain I  believe has changed for the better, via neuroplasticity prompted by the adaptive behaviours of more mature emotional regulation, as opposed to immature emotional responding, the regions of my brain that control emotional response have altered and recovered.

My brain is now wired in such a way as to encourage more effective emotion regulation. Even when i do take something personally it does not last a mere fraction of the time it used and the intensity of the negative emotional reactions is so small compared to early recovery and the succeeding years. I can now live life on life’s terms a lot better (although far from perfectly).

However, regardless of all this improvement in my brain and behaviours, in my stress and emotion regulation, there have been several times when my recovery has been threatened.

Six years into recovery I thought I was going to relapse. I did not want to drink but I was so distressed emotionally that it seemed inevitable at one point. The more distressed I got the more my brain was screaming at me to drink. I was understandably shocked and dismayed, frightened and upset by coming so close to relapse.

To learn that I have a brain that will lead me to drinking alcohol when I have not desired to drink again ever! I showed me what could possibly meant in my case by the Big Book when it states “the alcoholic at certain times has no effective mental defense against the first drink” !

The distress that led to me having scant mental defense against the first drink was not prompted solely by my alcoholism. It was my alcoholism, which is it seems a parasite that feeds on motivation and emotion, was feeding like a parasite on the distress caused by unresolved complex trauma from childhood. In fact the distress in this instance was at Christmas and I could not stop thinking and feeling very emotional about my parents, who are now both sadly deceased.

It was more than grief, however, it was traumatic distress I now understand.

Why was I so distressed. It was this distress that was so active and apparent in my alcoholic drinking, the unbearableness of this distress prompted many a drinking spree.

It took six years of recovery to realise that I was still very effected by something profound to do with my parents. I then in later months became aware of the fact I often dissociate in a variety of ways. So badly that I can almost return to real childhood experience, or rather the somatic re-experiencing of being a traumatized child.

On one occasion I was so worried that I had inadvertently hurt the feelings of some one in AA that  I was convinced it would lead to their relapse and  I kept saying to my wife that I thought this guy will relapse and die because of me and what I thought I had done, which was a minor incident blown up to extreme madness by my catastrophic and paranoid  thought processes. It became evident that this minor episode was a trauma trigger to another incident in childhood, still unresolved in my psyche after decades.

My reactions were not actually about this guy in recovery who was fine and oblivious to my mad thoughts or even what my crazy mind had convinced me I had done to hurt him. This smallest of triggers propelled me experientially back through time to early childhood experiences

Interestingly, what I thought at the time and what I now know to be true is that a misconstruction of what is going at one point in time can be internalised as the truth and live on in our bodliy and mental responses to similar episodes decades later. The past quite literally lives in our bones.

My miscontruction by which I mean I perceive or build up a picture of what is happening now based on what I have pictured in my mind as happening in similar episodes in the past.

Over the next few months and through year 7 of my recovery I was steeling myself to start therapy again. Then my wife had a car accident and ended up suffering PTSD herself. I then shelved my own treatment plans as my wifes’ condition needed more urgent attention. For the next year and a half I helped my wife recuperate and get steadily more mentally well.

She used this therapeutic process that I had read about called EMDR and which after much research I recommended to her although I wasn’t really sure it would work. It was more hope than faith.

Miraculously it did seem to work, in fact it seemed way to good to be true. The effects were so profound.

My wife would say that she felt like some vital part of her brain had been “plugged in again”

She had felt the trauma had pulled some plug out in her brain and it had led to a whole assortment of psychological difficulties such as hyper-vigilance and perceptual distortions, e.g. seeing Bees as flying zeppelins, or constantly seeing errors every where. She felt she had lost her mind, as life seemed to overwhelm her, there was too much information somehow which she struggled to mentally filter.

The part of the brain that supposedly deals with these things is called  the cingulate cortex, mainly the anterior cingulate cortex, wedged  between the neo-cortex and the limbic regions of the brain. it deals with among other things, attention, stress and emotion regulation, emotion processing, with monitoring error in the environment.

It seemed to have been overloaded and compromised by her trauma and the reactions of her brain afterwards to that trauma. amazingly for her and for me the EMDR therapy seemed to put it all back in place, got her broken brain working again.

I thought this amazing but remained cautious and at times skeptical about ti it. To be honest, part of me did not want it to be true, as it meant I would have to give it a go myself at some stage.

I researched and researched trying to find some holes in this miraculous therapy. All the studies universally said it worked well, that the patient outcomes were positive and long lasting.

Damn I thought.

How could reprocessing memories from the past lead to such a profound alteration in one’s consciousness. The cingulate  cortex is also said to be the seat of consciousness in the brain.

How could this be? All that was really happening, to me at least, in her therapy sessions was a therapist moving her finger from one side to the other  while her eyes tracked these fingers, and while simultaneously thinking about a trauma experience from childhood.

The therapist also supported this process  by prompting her to  talk about what she was feeling in relation to whatever came up in her mind in relation to this bilateral stimulation.

There is so much to this therapeutic process than this I can assure you  but I don’t want to go into details now – if you want the technical stuff please go to http://insidethealcoholicbrain.com/2016/01/14/how-the-brain-reacts-to-emdr/

to see what happens to the brain etc during EMDR.

Here I want to describe how it makes you feel and maybe even suggest how it works.

The reason I am disclosing all of this, the inner workings of my traumatized and healing brain is simple – this EMDR does seems to be miraculous in it’s healing potential

Admittedly I have only had one bilateral stimulation session but i think I had good results already.

I have been a thirsty man for psychic healing for nearly 45 years so you will have to excuse me being so overwhelmingly grateful and overjoyed to have finally found a solution to the problems I had years before alcoholism and addiction and which not only fed into these disorders but which could actually prompt relapse in these conditions.

I left the session thinking what came up in our therapeutic exchange prior to the bilateral stimulation touched on things I had heard a thousand times before from the mouths of hundreds of people in AA meetings.

Are the majority of us in AA actually traumatised? If not by childhood or other traumas but by the trauma of addiction itself, having addiction or having had to live with addiction?

Is trauma the main reason people relapse?

All these questions have become increasingly pressing and urgent.

What is the bilateral stimulation like? Well originally you think what the hell is a bit of finger and eye moving going to achieve but I have to say that, under my therapist’s expert guidance I seemed to go back and find roots of some of my traumas, the roots of the self loathing and low self esteem and concept, the reason for  not thinking I am lovable, some of the reasons why my family grew into the thorny bush of recrimination in the way it did, out of the rough ground of our shared family trauma.

All from sometimes singular events.

In revisiting and re-experiencing one particular trauma that involved my sisters and i it suddenly occurred to me in my heart why everyone in my family grew up to be how they are, how they were amazingly based to a large extent on how they reacted to the actual trauma incident. We all reacted to trauma in different ways and this could have led us to have views about ourselves in the present that are steeped in reactions from the past. It showed how brain mechanisms conjure neural ghosts that haunt us decades later.

Echos of the past are materialised in  jaundiced perceptions of ourselves in the succeeding minutes, hours, days and decades, throughout the rest of our lives.

It is a startling insight.

How reacting to an event leads to a distress so powerful that flows around in the brain memory networks to fester in our psyches ever since. It is like a splinter that one knows is there but can’t quite get at.

The splinter,  the more you try to get at it, the worse it festers and day on day it gets worse and worse, more poisonous. It pollutes how we feel about ourselves, for years and years.

All because of not emotionally processing what was going on at the time, in a time long long ago. How profound is that?

When you are tracking the fingers as they move, and thinking about a trauma it feels like your brain elevates as the brain is super stimulated by all the activity –  one can almost feel like one is free falling to quote Tom Petty , free associating and free falling through the past to childhood. Or it is coming up the other way?

Either way,  one is suspended in lived experience, the amgydala has been hypoactivated so it is not as stressful as it could be – the brain is not cognitively imprisoned in the moment but letting the brain free to be how it is. It felt like the Matrix losing it’s coding script.

I returned to events prior to a major trauma and left my amazingly fractured memory of the trauma to come to the surface of my mind. As I did so I discussed the emotions I was feeling, being mindful of the sensations, seeing the past in a new light.

Taking out or allowing the emotional poison to be poulticed. In scientific terms I was properly processing the emotion, exorcising the emotional ghost.

It is the negative emotion, the traumatic distress which screams it’s echo through our lives. In taking the sting out of the emotion and the emotion out of the memory, we can not only silence the scream but put it to bed.

As I left the therapy session I remembered what my wife had said about some part of her being plugged back in again. I felt that some part of me that had been replugged that hadn’t been plugged in properly plugged in  for 45 years.

Is this not the root of my troubles when it comes to relapse risk – this trauma.

Should we not treat co-morbidity as soon as possible in addicts with co-morbid conditions? Do the high relapse rates reflect also  untreated co-morbid conditions and the effect this lack of treatment has on relapse.

Alcoholics and addicts often relapse due to distress or overwhelming negative or crippling negative self concept, most of which are exacerbated by co-morbidity.

Doesn’t this co-morbidity simply makes one’s addictve behaviour more chronic more severe?

I left the therapy on cloud nine, all strangely at one and attached to the world and it’s people. It was a very similar feeling to the feeling I had after doing my step 5 when I had confronted some of the damage of my past by admitting my wrongdoing to another person. It had that same cleansing feeling. That feeling that something was being or had been put right.

It turns out that marvelous feeling was on the surface of one layer of this onion called me. No doubt there will be more peeling of the onion to come, more tears and more wonderful days like today.

I have a way to go for sure. But I have that wonderful precious gift of faith that this will work, that I will one day get past my past.

I walked for miles afterwards stopping to have full blown conversations with people I know and haven’t seen in years. The sun shun on our conversations.

It felt like my emotional thawing is well under way.

I noticed the majestic clouds you get when you live by the hills which roll to  a seaside. I was fascinated by clouds in early recovery. And there they were again – floating past like great fluffy elephants,  great to be looking up, not always looking down, your downward gaze heavy with the past.

So far so good. I am energised today, I  thought I would be exhausted – I may be tomorrow but that will be another day.

Wrapped up warm tonight in bed with the knowledge there is a solution! Like in the early days of recovery when the Big Book, near by sleeping head, reminded of that fact too.

A Safe Place To Visit

Just finished my third EMDR terapy session and thought I would write now otherwise I probably will not get around to it. I find I am so exhausted the next day that it is difficult to blog.

I am finding that I have a lot of therapeutic benefit already from the treatment.

Today we got into the EMDR  protocol which mainly looked at mechanisms we will adopt if I dissociate while doing the actual eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) which we will tentatively start next week.

Essentially we spent 15-20 minutes learning the relaxing techniques and “safe place” techniques I will use if I dissociate as the result of the EMDR.

It is mainly to do with “safety of the client” protocols. I felt a great relaxing benefit from doing it today. I will practice the techniques once a day while I am doing this course of treatment.

We will also use smell as a way of coming out of dissociation if need be.

We may not need these techniques but they have to be put in place just in case.

My recent dissociation has been to do with feeling detached from “me” – my body and immediate environment. We discussed how we could deal with this possibility.

I have also dissociated to childhood on occasion and this was discussed too. This type of dissociation seems to take one back to the heart of the trauma. It is like a re-experiencing without having the memory associated  with it.  It is like being behind a wall on the other side of our life, aware of certain things but not able to see it clearly

I am not fearful of dissociating – I have a grasp now of what it is and how much I have been doing it over the course of my life.

I even research the brain regions involved in dissociation and it seems the parts that deal with self reference deactivate and there is a “coming away” from representations of self and associated memory.

I have the type of head that likes to know these things – you may have noticed!?

It is a disquieting, unsettling and stressful experience but is manageable I believe with these techniques.

I  have noticed how after only a few weeks my mind and behaviour has been tied to looking at photos of the past, my old friends and my family.

My nephew also contacted me out of the blue to say he wanted to visit  and I have resumed closer contact with one of my  sisters.

I have made it clear that I am doing therapy for trauma, whether my sisters need it too I am not sure. I am the youngest in the family and a boy so my circumstances might have meant I was more traumatised by events in my early childhood than others.

Interestingly I have found a school photo  of my sister and I which is a photo of us looking a bit shell shocked, in comparison to our smiling faces of the previous year’s school photo when we were beaming more confident, mischievous smiles at the camera. I am presuming this second photo was around the time of the major trauma(s) .

I also found a photo of me in my late 20s after a cocaine psychosis and I look haunted in the same way as the school photo.

I had presumed this was due to the psychosis which is not a very pleasant experience I can assure you. I now know where the phrase “climbing the walls” comes from after that experience I can assure  you!

Now, although the psychosis obviously affect me deeply I can also see trauma in this photo and many other photos of me. My wife told me I was very paranoid at the time too which is linked to psychosis but much of the paranoia linked clearly to what I had experienced in childhood.

It was not only alcoholism and addiction that ate into my soul like a parasite feeding on my troubled emotions,  in these photos of my emaciated drug using self but also complex post trauma.

Unresolved trauma too is like a parasite feed on one’s nerves too.

Then yesterday a person who married my cousin sent me a photo of me in a underage football team that  my dad and his friend organised. My dad is in the photo too of our team.   I suddenly realised how heart breaking it must have been for my dad, what happened to our family, my mothers breakdown and eventual Valium dependence. And the decades of consequence after.

My heart  went out o him. God bless him, he was a loving father, I miss greatly.

The plan now is to finish treatment – finish a novel I was writing for many years while drinking (which is 2/3s finished) and get my driving licence. I once passed the theory part but banged my head , got concussion and could not take the practical test.

So I will try again and then take time out, a month or so to travel back to Ireland and revisit my past and see some people I haven’t seen in many many  years.

Northern Ireland has been at peace for two decades but I have yet to call a complete ceasefire with myself and my past. Hopefully I will later this yer.

Recovery has given me so much and while others hit their mid life crisis I have barely begun living. I am a published scientific writer and want to follow that by the end of this year with a published novel too.

I have a very fragmented self, blow to bits by my traumatised mother and family and my traumatised, brutalised and war torn upbringing in Northern Ireland.

I can feel these disparate parts of self slowly and naturally drifting back into shape.

It will be a new me, the composite parts that make up me no doubt but it will have the same character I am sure.

I got lost thanks to trauma and chronic alcoholism and addiction. Ten years into recovery I am still beginning the amazingly exciting journey of uncovering, recovering, the person I am and the person I am supposed to become.

When the parts reunite I will be the fullness of me.

 

Getting Past Your Past

 

For those of you who read this blog, you will know I start EMDR treatment this week for my Complex PTSD.

In order to follow my progress it may be useful to know a bit more about what I am letting myself in for therapeutically.

Below I simply use excerpts from a great paper by Dr Shapiro, the originator of EMDR treatment who explains more eloquently than I can how EMDR works in freeing oneself from one’s past, suggesting perhaps that the negative “voice” of the past, but which stalks our living present,  talks to us via unprocessed memories from the past.

This makes sense to me because without memory we cease to be our SELF. It seems reasonable to suggest then that ironing out the temporal  wrinkles of the traumatic past by physiologically re-experiencing them in EMDR therapy will free us from maladaptive influence they have on our self perception and for them naturally to be replaced by more adaptive and realistic views of ourself as reflected by our relationships with significant others and via our life achievements.

The negative voices of the self are neural ghosts which still haunt us because they contain emotional and cognitive information in memory networks – previous experience became stuck like ghosts in the machine and by reprocessing these memories to disentangle their emotional grip we can safely exorcise these neural ghosts from our representations of self.

Borne in trauma, these responses were the responses often of children to trauma, they were traumatised responding to traumatising events.

They are out of kilter reactions to these events which colour present responding to everyday events although these events are no longer traumatising in themselves.

Previous events continue to colour our emotional responses to others and to ourselves. The critical voice that previous events were somehow our fault continue to live in negative critical self talk.

In other words we continue to be re-traumatised in our reactions to the world and ourselves. The voices of the child traumatised is the voice we still hear in our minds as adults. We still listen internally to a traumatised child’s voice in leading us in our responses.

It is not dificult to see how this becomes maladaptive and pathological. We are acting on cues from the past rather than seeing reality in the present as it is.

The past exercises an influence in us via these memory networks – when they are reprocessed and embedded in long term memory, replaced with more adaptive memory of who we are now then the past exerts less of an negative influence in the present. And we begin to heal in the present having gotten past our sometimes traumatic pasts.

That’s my take on the theory anyhow.

Here’s Shapiro’s take on it.

“EMDR is a comprehensive psychotherapy approach that is compatible with all contemporary theoretical orientations. Internationally recognized as a frontline trauma treatment, it is also applicable to a broad range of clinical issues. As a distinct form of psychotherapy, the treatment emphasis is placed on directly processing the neurophysiologically stored memories of events that set the foundation for pathology and health.

The adaptive information processing model that governs EMDR practice invites the therapist to address the overall clinical picture that includes the past experiences that contribute to a client’s current difficulties, the present events that trigger maladaptive responses, and to develop more adaptive neural networks of memory in order to enhance positive responses in the future.

While clinicians from the various psychological modalities agree on the symptomatology of the well-known disorders, their ways of conceptualizing and treating them differ as a result of the specific theoretical paradigm to which they adhere (Barlow et al. 2005). For EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing), this paradigm entails the view that psychopathology is based on memories of earlier disturbing experiences that have been incompletely processed by the brain’s inherent information processing system.

Incomplete processing means that a disturbing event has been stored in memory as it was originally experienced with the emotions, physical sensations, and beliefs fundamentally unchanged. Regardless of how much time has elapsed or whether the person remembers it, the memory remains unaltered and provides the basis of current responses and behaviors.

Most mental health professionals would agree that current clinical issues are based at least in part, on previous life experiences. However, the hallmark of EMDR therapy is the emphasis on the physiologically stored memory as the primary foundation of pathology, and the application of specifically targeted information processing as the primary agent of change.

The Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model (Shapiro 1995, 2001, 2002, 2007; Solomon and Shapiro 2008) guides the clinical application of EMDR…

EMDR’s three-pronged approach of past, present and future guides the clinician in identifying and processing, (1) the relevant past experiences that inform the client’s problems in the present; (2) the ongoing present experiences that continue to trigger maladaptive responses to current life demands; and, (3) templates of future actions to optimize the client’s capacity to respond adaptively given the current context of their lives. This article provides an overview of both the theory and practice of EMDR as a distinct integrative psychotherapy approach…

EMDR processing can eliminate the dysfunctional emotions and physical sensations inherent in the memory itself changing the client’s experience in the present. Similarly, the processing of pivotal memories has been reported to result in the normalization of attachment style in adults and children (Madrid et al. 2006; Kaslow et al. 2002; Wesselman 2007; Wesselmann and Potter 2009). It is important to emphasize that memories of even ubiquitous events appear to set the foundation for a wide range of pathologies…

… its overarching goal is to achieve an alteration of the underlying condition that is generating the dysfunctional response in the present as part of a comprehensive treatment effect. These outcomes are achieved by placing memory networks and information processing at the center of both treatment and practice.

Adaptive Information Processing Model

The theoretical foundation for the therapeutic application of EMDR is the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model developed by Shapiro (1995, 2001, 2002, 2007)…

According to this model, and consistent with neurobiological findings, one identifies and makes sense of new experiences within the context of existing memory networks. In addition, the information processing system functions to move disturbances to a level of adaptive resolution. What is useful is incorporated, what is useless is discarded, and the event serves to guide the person appropriately in the future…

when an event is not fully processed, the experience remains stored in memory with the emotions, physical sensations, and beliefs that were part of the original event. As a result, the memory is not integrated with other memories that were successfully processed. Consequently, when a similar experience occurs in the future, perhaps involving an authority figure like an insulting teacher, it triggers the unprocessed memory, which then automatically colors the perception of the present experience.

When clients seek psychotherapy for current problems in their lives, they are often focused on their symptoms as the problem. Consequently, the clinician wants to understand what the client is actually experiencing in the present, i.e., negative thoughts and feelings, uncomfortable body sensations that are out of proportion to the situations that are triggering the negative responses. Additionally, similar to other approaches such as psychodynamic therapy, the EMDR clinician seeks to identify the relevant past experiences that are perpetuating the maladaptive patterns of response, resulting in the client’s clinical complaints. According to the AIP model, the pathology is not driven by the person’s reaction (e.g., belief, emotion) to the past event as is postulated in cognitive-behavioral approaches. Rather, the reaction itself is informed by the responses and/or perceptions inherent within a dysfunctionally stored memory or network of memories that are disconnected from networks containing adaptive information.

…Clients are often relieved to understand that their problems have a neurobiological basis, as well as the universality of their human experience as a counterpoint to the common belief that they ‘‘should have’’ been able to resolve their problems on their own. We suggest that the presence of these unmetabolized components of memory explains why clients will often describe their childhood traumas in the same kind of language and intonation they used when the event occurred, and demonstrate the emotions, postures and beliefs consistent with that developmental stage. They do not merely describe the feelings of shame and helplessness of the past, but actually experience these emotions and physical sensations in the present.

These unmetabolized components of memory are accessed in a systematic way during EMDR processing. The targeted memory that is ‘‘frozen’’ in time becomes ‘‘unfrozen,’’ and new associations are made with previously disconnected adaptive information related to survival, positive experiences, and one’s sense of identity…

…processing allows an unpeeling of the veil to reveal and then resolve the core emotional source of the imagery (Shapiro 2001; Wachtel 2002). As this assimilation occurs, new insights and emotions emerge and the earlier affect states and perceptions are generally discarded. With the foundation of the fully processed memory, clients are no longer subject to the same emotional volatility, distorted perceptions and intense somatic responses, and instead experience a new sense of self that is congruent with their current life situation…

The client’s experience is more informed by the present, allowing for greater flexibility in their reactions, thus increasing the likelihood of developing more adaptive patterns of response that are informed by the current context of their lives…

In addition, new memories can be successfully incorporated as the therapist assists clients to acquire the social learning necessary to fill in their developmental deficits. However, until the processing of the earlier memories is complete, the dysfunctional neural storage will hamper the desired personal growth…

While specific stabilization and affect regulation techniques may be effective and highly desirable in many cases (Schore 2003), the instability is often caused by the unprocessed memories that are contributing to the dysfunction.

The overall goal of EMDR, therefore, is to address the current problems of daily living by accessing the dysfunctionally stored memories that are being triggered by the client’s current life conditions, and engage the natural neural processes by which these memories are transmuted into appropriately stored memories (Shapiro 1995, 2001, 2007; Shapiro et al. 2007; Siegel 2002; Stickgold 2002, 2008; van der Kolk 2002). The end result is an assimilation of the new information into extant memory structures. When this has occurred, individuals discover that, while they are able to verbalize the event and what they have learned from it, they no longer experience the associated negative affects and physical sensations. It is this rapid form of learning (i.e., reprocessing) that is the essence of EMDR treatment.

If you link to this reference below it contains a case study of EMDR in practice.

Reference

  1. Shapiro, F., & Laliotis, D. (2011). EMDR and the adaptive information processing model: Integrative treatment and case conceptualization. Clinical Social Work Journal, 39(2), 191-200.

Simplifying the Complex?

complex-post-traumatic-stress-disorder

 

Well I have booked my first two EMDR counselling sessions for next week and the week after. I also spoke with my counsellor who seemed a lovely, capable person.

We needed to differentiate in our conversation about suffering from PTSD and Complex PTSD.

I suffer from C-PTSD although I also fulfill the symptoms of PTSD as do the vast majority of those who suffer C-PTSD.

“The current PTSD diagnosis often does not fully capture the severe psychological harm that occurs with prolonged, repeated trauma. People who experience chronic trauma often report additional symptoms alongside formal PTSD symptoms, such as changes in their self-concept and the way they adapt to stressful events.

Dr. Judith Herman of Harvard University suggests that a new diagnosis, Complex PTSD, is needed to describe the symptoms of long-term trauma (1).

Another name sometimes used to describe the cluster of symptoms referred to as Complex PTSD is Disorders of Extreme Stress Not Otherwise Specified (DESNOS) (2). A work group has also proposed a diagnosis of Developmental Trauma Disorder (DTD) for children and adolescents who experience chronic traumatic events (3).

Because results from the DSM-IV Field Trials indicated that 92% of individuals with Complex PTSD/DESNOS also met diagnostic criteria for PTSD, Complex PTSD was not added as a separate diagnosis classification (4). However, cases that involve prolonged, repeated trauma may indicate a need for special treatment considerations.

What additional symptoms are seen in Complex PTSD?

An individual who experienced a prolonged period (months to years) of chronic victimization and total control by another may also experience the following difficulties:

  • Emotional Regulation. May include persistent sadness, suicidal thoughts, explosive anger, or inhibited anger.
  • Consciousness. Includes forgetting traumatic events, reliving traumatic events, or having episodes in which one feels detached from one’s mental processes or body (dissociation).
  • Self-Perception. May include helplessness, shame, guilt, stigma, and a sense of being completely different from other human beings.
  • Distorted Perceptions of the Perpetrator. Examples include attributing total power to the perpetrator, becoming preoccupied with the relationship to the perpetrator, or preoccupied with revenge.
  • Relations with Others. Examples include isolation, distrust, or a repeated search for a rescuer.
  • One’s System of Meanings. May include a loss of sustaining faith or a sense of hopelessness and despair.

What other difficulties are faced by those who experienced chronic trauma?

Because people who experience chronic trauma often have additional symptoms not included in the PTSD diagnosis, clinicians may misdiagnose PTSD or only diagnose a personality disorder consistent with some symptoms, such as Borderline Disorder.”

I mention these points because I have found that my wife, who has PTSD, reacts in very different ways to me and has different symptoms although I have PTSD as well as part of my C-PTSD.

I have a history, for example, of disassociating when very very distressed or angry which is linked to C-PTSD not PTSD. It is a maladaptive survival strategy and coping mechanism from childhood which is not longer required today. It once allowed me to abruptly distance myself from emotional turmoil. To cut myself off from what was happening around me, as if it wasn’t happening. This is often done in the face of extreme trauma/abuse.

I have other symptoms different from my wife too.

If you have been following this blogsite you will have appreciated some of my constant subject areas such as insecure attachment, co-dependency, emotional dysregulation, negative self schemata, and emotion processing deficits.

It appears that much of this actually comes under the umbrella diagnostic criterion of C-PTSD. This is actually a good thing as I can seek treatment for much of the difficulties of my past at the same time. It may and probably will take longer than your average PTSD therapy but I am hoping it will be worth it.

“Cook and others describe symptoms and behavioural characteristics in seven domains:[13][14]

  • Attachment – “problems with relationship boundaries, lack of trust, social isolation, difficulty perceiving and responding to other’s emotional states, and lack of empathy”
  • Biology – “sensory-motor developmental dysfunction, sensory-integration difficulties, somatization, and increased medical problems”
  • Affect or emotional regulation – “poor affect regulation, difficulty identifying and expressing emotions and internal states, and difficulties communicating needs, wants, and wishes”
  • Dissociation – “amnesia, depersonalization, discrete states of consciousness with discrete memories, affect, and functioning, and impaired memory for state-based events”
  • Behavioural control – “problems with impulse control, aggression, pathological self-soothing, and sleep problems
  • Cognition – “difficulty regulating attention, problems with a variety of “executive functions” such as planning, judgement, initiation, use of materials, and self-monitoring, difficulty processing new information, difficulty focusing and completing tasks, poor object constancy, problems with “cause-effect” thinking, and language developmental problems such as a gap between receptive and expressive communication abilities.”
  • Self-concept – “fragmented and disconnected autobiographical narrative, disturbed body image, low self-esteem, excessive shame, and negative internal working models of self”.

Adults with C-PTSD have sometimes experienced prolonged interpersonal traumatization as children as well as prolonged trauma as adults. This early injury interrupts the development of a robust sense of self and of others. Because physical and emotional pain or neglect was often inflicted by attachment figures such as caregivers or older siblings, these individuals may develop a sense that they are fundamentally flawed and that others cannot be relied upon.[7][15]

This can become a pervasive way of relating to others in adult life described as insecure attachment. The diagnosis of …PTSD do not include insecure attachment as a symptom. Individuals with Complex PTSD also demonstrate lasting personality disturbances with a significant risk of revictimization.[16]

Six clusters of symptoms have been suggested for diagnosis of C-PTSD.[5][17] These are (1) alterations in regulation of affect and impulses; (2) alterations in attention or consciousness; (3) alterations in self-perception; (4) alterations in relations with others; (5) somatization, and (6) alterations in systems of meaning.[17]

Experiences in these areas may include:[4][18][19]

  • Variations in consciousness, including forgetting traumatic events (i.e., psychogenic amnesia), reliving experiences (either in the form of intrusive PTSD symptoms or in ruminative preoccupation), or having episodes of dissociation.
  • Changes in self-perception, such as a chronic and pervasive sense of helplessness, paralysis of initiative, shame, guilt, self-blame, a sense of defilement or stigma, and a sense of being completely different from other human beings
  • Varied changes in the perception of the perpetrator, such as attributing total power to the perpetrator (caution: victim’s assessment of power realities may be more realistic than clinician’s), becoming preoccupied with the relationship to the perpetrator, including a preoccupation with revenge, idealization or paradoxical gratitude, a sense of a special relationship with the perpetrator or acceptance of the perpetrator’s belief system or rationalizations.
  • Alterations in relations with others, including isolation and withdrawal, persistent distrust, a repeated search for a rescuer, disruption in intimate relationships and repeated failures of self-protection.
  • Loss of, or changes in, one’s system of meanings, which may include a loss of sustaining faith or a sense of hopelessness and despair.”

 

As I research C-PTSD it seems this disorder describes many of my symptoms and behaviours very accurately and there is also reportedly a high co-occurrence with C-PTSD and alcoholism and addiction.

http://insidethealcoholicbrain.com/2015/12/13/do-the-12-steps-help-with-post-traumatic-stress-disorder/

I will be interested in how it “treats” my addictive behaviours too as I believe much of these addictive behaviours were borne out on childhood traumas and abuse.

In other words, the symptoms of C-PTSD and other related areas like attachment, co-dependency, abuse, maltreatment, neglect and other adverse circumstances appear to affect the human brain in similar ways and each contribute to an increase in addiction severity.

I wonder in some ways if I will be treating the “roots of all my troubles” in more ways than one.

I will keep you posted as best I can. It will no doubt be painful at times. I am glad to have made start anyway.

I will post before the first two sessions are done of the following areas

What is EMDR?

Treating C-PTSD with EMDR?

How does EMDR work?

 

Until then?

 

 

 

 

Original Link

http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/PTSD-overview/complex-ptsd.asp

References

  1. Herman, J. (1997). Trauma and recovery: The aftermath of violence from domestic abuse to political terror. New York: Basic Books.
  2. Ford, J. D. (1999). Disorders of extreme stress following war-zone military trauma: Associated features of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder or comorbid but distinct syndromes? Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 67, 3-12.
  3. van der Kolk, B. (2005). Developmental trauma disorder. Psychiatric Annals, 35(5), 401-408.
  4. Roth, S., Newman, E., Pelcovitz, D., van der Kolk, B., & Mandel, F. S. (1997). Complex PTSD in victims exposed to sexual and physical abuse: Results from the DSM-IV field trial for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.Journal of Traumatic Stress, 10, 539-555.

 

It Works, If You Work It!?

 step photo-201

One of this blog’s  original purposes was to inform newcomers to recovery, and their loved ones, what to expect in mainly (but not exclusively) 12 step recovery groups, with the hope that this might help in taking the first crucial step towards recovery.

Not only recovery from alcoholism, addiction or other addictive behaviours but also from codependency, co-alcoholism which loved ones often suffer from too.

In recent weeks we have taken detours to examine other co-morbid or co-occurring conditions which contribute to severity of addictive disorders. Here we return for now to our original intention – to pass on what we have been freely given.

To pass on how you can recover form addictive behaviours and the evidence of the success of 12 step groups in this pursuit.

This interview below is from a expert into the Psychology of Recovery in 12 steps and other treatment modalities like CBT and Motivational Enhancement. His name is Joseph Nowinsky Ph.D.

The language of the interview is not too academic. In fact, it uses pretty straight forward language to explain clearly what happens in 12 step groups and what are the main ingredients in successful long term recovery. 

I have found myself that whatever I put into my recovery I got back in terms of improved emotional well being.

If you put the work in, you will recover just like me.

That is the message of Hope. If you want recovery bad enough, the chances are, you will recover.

This academic and therapist explains why this is the case, citing numerous academic studies which seem to be in line with the experiential and anecdotal wisdom handed down to me via 12 step recovery groups.

It kinda shores on what is known in these groups which is great as it helps dispel any existing doubt about their effectiveness.

Earlier this year, his new book looked at 12 Step outcomes. It’s called, If You Work It It Works! The Science Behind 12 Step Recovery . It is a jargon-free look at how, 12 Step modality help alcoholics/addicts.
Recently a growing chorus of critics has questioned the science behind this model. In this book, Dr. Joseph Nowinski calls upon the latest research, as well as his own seminal Project MATCH study, to show why systematically working a Twelve Step program yields predictable and successful outcomes.
He discusses these in this interview.
http://worldmusicsctv.tumblr.com/post/116530360726/myndtalk-joseph-nowinski-if-you-work-it-it

https://secure.assets.tumblr.com/post.js

it works 41RrGj7-BHL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_

 

The Voice of Unreason

 

That Self Assassin!

1131663.large

Here we are again at the start of a new week.

I run a business and things have become a bit hectic and busy so I have had less time to write.

It is stressing and I have to say, at times, distressing as much of the work I have been doing is promoting artists and via that promoting myself as an agent and creative director.

I have real issues with “presenting” myself.  Not promoting my work rather “exposing” myself to the wider world.

I don’t mind showing other people my writing, academic or personal, but I do not like actually putting me on public display. I can only suppose it too goes back to my childhood, some humiliating episodes in childhood or simply having a rampant low self esteem as a result of my upbringing?

The irony is that I can also be a terrible “show off” in public too?

I swing, as always between two extremes. Sound familiar?

Both, however, are maladaptive behaviours and both are both “needy”.

One is shame based and the other a release from feelings of shame, both are strangely inappropriate although I have to admit to really enjoying the showing off stuff.

Some days,  my self loathing can be quite intense.

I have been building an art gallery in my home which is hard work physically, mentally and emotionally and I noticed that I have actually started shouting abusive things at myself!

It at times, it is like having a “self directed Tourette’s Syndrome”!

All I get some times “is “You’re useless” “always screwing up!”  “You stupid arsehole” etc.

Reading this now it is almost comical in the way that hearing people with Tourette’s is almost comical.

You know you should not laugh as it is an incredibly debilitating condition but it is still funny however hard you try to stop laughing. It is a bit like laughing in Chapel as a child when you know you shouldn’t but that makes it worse and eventually you have to escorted from the building.

The main difference is that self-directed Tourette-type abuse is not funny in the remotest and like Tourette’s it can be very distressing and depressing.

I know one guy in recovery who was so chronically ill with alcoholism, addiction, PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder that he used to openly shout at himself in public like when on public buses and trains.

I have not got that bad but my neighbours can hear me for sure. I shout these things to myself so loudly that they surely hear them through the walls.

I have no doubt I alarm the neighbours on both sides of my house? Especially the student neighbours who do not know me, whereas my other neighbours have known me for nearly 15 years. They know my mad ways by now.

Although none of this is in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous it is something I suffer from.  It is based on being distressed. I do not mean anguished but it often leads to this. Distress is that feeling of being not able to control things, being out of one’s comfort zone although I find this has been the case throughout my recovery. It also involves element of catastrophic thinking, frustration intolerance etc. I also was quite exhausted doing all this manual work so my ability to inhibit negative responses, self talk  and behaviours is lessened.

I am often out,  or put myself outside, of my comfort zone.

I am such a fear based person that there is a lot outside my comfort zone. Getting a job etc have all been extremely emotionally taxing. Getting as far as PhD was immensely taxing. Running my own business, building galleries while project managing a building crew was taxing, organising and hosting art exhibitions are all out there in the world of “not quite being in control”.

But I do them with God’s help and the support of others.

This is recovery to me – facing fear and recovering – FEAR. Fear is where  our illness lives and having faith that things will work out is where recovery is.

The more we face our fears the more we grow, in recovery. And grow up too, become more mature and less needy, dependent on others.

Being dependent is different from needing assistance from. I allow people to help me help myself, this is different to relying on others to do stuff for me.

So what’s with the Tourette’s then?

I on occasion can not help myself. I utter the insults to me and myself  automatically without  any conscious deliberation. They just come flying out!! They are responses to myself that are somehow ingrained in a self schema which, when distressed, is activated and the insults and self loathing come flying out.

So what’s the problem – what is making me distressed? this is the first port of call in recovery. Taking my own inventory.

There are a number of things going on here.

First I live beside University students how had a party the other night which was so loud that, after repeated attempts to ask them to stop, in the early hours of the morning we were forced to call the police. This sets up catastrophic thinking that they will continue and continue partying forever…!! I will NEVER sleep again!!

I will die from lack of sleep, go even more crazy, turn into a serial killer, go on a wild killing spree etc.

Relapse!!

This has led to us, and me in particular, feeling that our security has been threatened. The problem with living near students is that they can wake you from your sleep at any time which is greatly annoying and distressing, a couple of nights sleep deprived and I am wired! It is not for nothing that torturers use sleep deprivation techniques!

This has also fed into a  deep sense of shame. Why do I live besides students, a genius like me!?

Why haven’t I done better with my life (ignoring the multitude of near fatal conditions I suffer from of course) -shame leads to bruised pride and self pity, poor poor me.

I should have done better than this!!? God haven’t I been through enough already, Jeez I am running out of disorders to suffer from here!?

All this morass of self pitying was not helped by one of the students shouting at me, in this distress, very loudly in the middle of the street “Well if you CHOOSE to live in a STUDENT area what do you expect!!?”

I chose to live in a residential area surely? Now increasingly invaded by students who live here tax free in HMO properties owned by fat cat landlords who also do not pay any council tax. Essentially I am paying for their services and their right to abuse me in the street.

Every year this threatens to occur this scenario of students behaving immaturely and selfishly. It can wear you down after a while.

Hence Ia recurrence of my self pity syndrome.

So there you have it, people say negative shaming things and part of me goes, “hey I think  you’re right”?

Why?

My conscious mind doesn’t come to my aid and rebuke this nonsense – at best it sulks and at worse it joins in with the insults. Nice one mind, you’re a Pal!

There is no reasonable retort stating that the reasons I live here are varied, it is a superb location beside two parks, five minutes from a beach etc, it is a four story house with an amazing view etc

No acknowledgement of the fact my various conditions and disorders have kinda gotten in the way  of a good living and hence I do not live in a superb detached house overlooking a beach.

I respond habitually, in  fight or flight way as usual.  Sometimes I fight with them sometimes I join in with them and fight myself.

On top of this stress, my wife, a professional best selling artist, was featured in various National newspapers  which was a great bit of promotional publicity.  She also discussed the PTSD which she suffers too and how art is a therapy for that condition also. This unconsciously made me feel exposed as I was mentioned in the article too.

Later this week we are also being interviewed for one of main national and international television companies about my wife’s work. This is mildly terrifying and seems to have added to this unconscious feeling of being exposed.

In addition I  am organising two  art exhibitions which will be occurring in two and three weeks time respectively!

So I am very busy but that is not the main issue. The main issue is that I am both feeling exposed and feeling that the world will see that I am a fraud, not good enough, a failure, they will see through me, through my mask and see that I am no good.

I will be exposed and found out!

And the proof of this?

Of me being a failure?

I have done major renovations to my home in the last year or so, built two art galleries, ran my own business, helped turn  my wife into a best selling artist, internationally as well a nationally. I write and am currently in the process of trying to get two theoretical academic articles published with my co-authors who happen to be the two internationally esteemed and renowned academics and Professors I work with here in The UK. But still I feel rubbish.

Whatever I do is not quite good enough.

Or rather that voice inside, the one I often mistake for my own n says I am not good enough, defective, rubbish etc

This critical self, the self saboteur in extremis is a hell of foe.

Whatever good I do his voice says the opposite. The chronic malcontent. Especially when He thinks we are going to be “exposed” in some way?

Where the hell did this voice of my self assassin come from?

All this is made worse by the fact i have been in recovery a decade and still I get the  awful news about myself in my head, especially when distressed.

I want to add that I can deal with lots of stress, but distressed in slightly different in that it the result of negative emotions about me and typically in relation to some form of social interaction. It is a toxic shame in action, shouting it’s mouth off.

I cannot help myself sometimes!

In other words I sometimes have an impaired ability to self regulate, an impaired ability to relate to myself, to look after myself. I wasn’t taught this as a a child so my ability to relate to myself in a helpful, adaptive, healthy way is impaired.

This is what I think co-dependency is – we grew up trying to “perfectly” control “out there” because it was so threatening and did not how to learn to relate to ourself in a healthy way.

Instead of helping myself out, I make the situation worse when distressed. I become part of the problem instead of helping to find the solution.

Instead of myself helping myself to achieve a goal, my critical self makes the situation a whole lot worse. It adds negative critique, instead of positive suggestion, it  says I will fail because I am a failure at this, whatever that is.

So where the hell does this stuff come from?

Why does my internal critical self come from and why does it appears to loathe my so!?

I don’t loathe me, I can see my successes and qualities although have difficulty integrating this information in a self biography or curriculum vitae, or self schema – I struggle to internalise the good stuff at depth I guess. There are forces are work obstructing this process some opposing, concurrent schema of sorts.

I have more difficulty  believing my good press and readily accept my own bad press. With my my bad press I can kinda go , “Yeah, your’re right I’ve always been like that!”

When I first came into recovery  for my chronic alcoholism I thought these voices, previously silenced by the chronic consumption of drugs and alcohol were the voice of my “alcoholism ” but I did not realise until recent times that these voices  employed my alcoholism and addiction as sub- contractors to kill me.

They were separate from these conditions. These voices are of my initial condition which developed into later alcoholism and addiction.

They are the fertile ground where my addictive behaviours grew.

In the book Healing the Child Within, Charles Whitfield calls them repetitive compulsive behaviours.

It is not difficult at times to see my voices as being similar to those in other obsessive compulsive disorders.

Our thoughts are not our friends?

I have a mental disorder called PTSD,  called addiction, called  alcoholism, called co-dependency disorder, called child mistreatment disorder?

They are all separate but they are all the same as they have canalized into the same internal assassin.

In the early months of recovery from alcoholism and addiction this internal critique just wanted me to drink and die, now it just wants me to suffer by using the same pain inducing coping mechanism as before.

I may sound dramatic but when one realises that one’s self, not just the addiction, wants them to stop doing what is good for them then one is doing pretty well in their recovery.

This is why the recovery self is outside the selfish self.

We need help outside of ourselves, we need to help others outside of the self because the self has become disordered, as Bill Wilson would say “bankrupt”.

The self regulation networks in the brain are so impaired they are not in the service of our survival any more.

Certain views about myself, given to me not by my choice, not as the result of a feedback about my performance, my abilities, my characteristics, my personality, my strengths, not by how much I love others and help others…none of these seem to be in a positive feedback loop to me, updating me on how I’m getting on.

Instead they are certain views about myself ingrained in my brain and hence in my habitual responding to me which were implanted in my head, heart and mind by others, these are what gets amplified in these internal critical voices.

I have had them injected into my soul by the behaviours, reactions, words, actions and manipulations of others. As I loved these people deeply and could never countenance they were not looking after me, loving me, I  simply choose to believe what was input into my mind completely. I chose to believe it was not their fault, it WAS MINE!

This all happened because of me, because I am no good.

My co-dependent disorder is a multitude of of attitudes about me in relation to others and to the outside world which are so unhealthy and maladaptive that they endanger my very own well being. All inherited from those I loved most.

My co-dependency is an impaired relationship with me, myself and I.

Survival mechanisms learnt in childhood now threaten me and my well being.

I just read a pamphlet called the 12 signs of spiritual awakening, most of which I have experienced. But I am not always experiencing them.

The absolutist tone of these things make me angry in some way. The seem really idealistic which is another result of co-dependency. They also seem full of denial.

I find it destructive to float around denying what is going on really, with me. I don’t find much of this “spiritual stuff” real.

Isn’t simply handing over everything to God sometimes  a denial of how we are really feeling?

Isn’t it better, in order to help others, to simply share and discuss with a trusted other how one is really feeling, to learn to cope with it, internalise and process it so that one ultimately,  through time, learns how to deal with and regulate negative emotions rather than passing them all upstairs to God to sort out?

Doesn’t God ultimately want you to be the fullest of yourself, to become the real you, the real me?

This is what it ultimately  comes down to,  becoming REAL.

Not the false, critical, self defeating, lying or inauthentic self. Not saying I am “spiritual  just because we pass everything upstairs  and not doing the work ourselves, not actually dealing with any real issues that we are having.

I know spiritual people who are completely unaware they suffer from PTSD, completely unaware they are close to psychopathic rages and are a danger to themselves and others, that they are run away trains in other’s lives. They smile when I suggest so, because they have had a spiritual awakening and they are “spiritual” man. They have had the type of spiritual awakening that somehow has not led to an emotional catharsis?

Spiritual is being real, authentic. Being the thing which is most difficult  for us, Being Real.

Here I am warts and all.

To be the real self in God is my ambition but it can be very emotionally painful.

God goes deep as it says in the Big Book but if is deep through many layers of the onion, and the peeling of each layer can bring many tears but the tears are healing, they are reservoirs of hurt, caused by a multitude of woundings in our childhoods.

That’s the case with me anyways.

My internal critique never stops me writing this stuff. Funny that. I am dealing with my distress and I am also telling His story too. It does not have a problem with the truth but worried about the consequences of being truthful.

Anyway, I hadn’t intended writing any of that either.

I was leading up to a bit in the book where it discusses being brought up in a family which can be called a “what will other people think” family – where the family pulls off the “perfect family” routine in public but are very different in private.

Mine was like this.

One woman, Cathy describes her experience and it was one I really related to, perhaps you will too?

She talked of always having a “feeling of preparing for”,  learning early to try to bottle tensions by anticipating what needed to be done next to make it easier for her mom.

“I consciously worked at not needing anything from anyone again to hopefully cut down on some of my stress.”

She talks of her mother and “taking care” of her by not being a bother… by anticipating how she would want me to be.

“For most of my adult life, I have wavered between pleasing her and being very rebellious around her wishes for me.”

“…my adult life became mere survival. I didn’t have capacity to…maintain relationships. I moved out on room mates. I left jobs after I had personality problems with bosses…”

” I wanted people  to think I had it all together and didn’t need anything from anyone but inside I was so needy that whenever I did have a friend I expected to be fulfilled from that one person.”

In recovery from eating disorder…” for the first 6 months I didn’t feel any emotions or at least I couldn’t identify any.!

In time…”I was slowly getting a growing sense of self esteem from real, honest interactions… acknowledging that I have feelings, to identifying them and finally expressing them to be able to feel my healing.”

…”telling the truth has been .. incredibly freeing for me…being honest with myself has been the core of recovering ..

“…I came into recovery with no sense of self…it takes time to even get an inkling that I have a right to be myself.

I relate to Cathy so much in some many ways we might have come from the same family.

Most of the the self abuse I am on the receiving end from myself  of comes from actual abuse experienced in childhood.

“child abuse is common in all sorts of troubled families. (some) forms of abuse are more difficult to recognise as abusive…mild to moderate physical abuse, covert or less obvious sexual abuse, mental and emotional abuse, child neglect, and ignoring or thwarting the child’s spiritual growth.”

My mother would often use God in her abuse. When I was “naughty” she would tell me how God was also very displeased, and upset with me too!  If I upset my mother I was upsetting the whole Catholic Church!

All the angels and saints and you my brothers and sisters, pray for me… they were all looking on at me in my shame and guilt. When I was bad the universe open it’s clouds so that the celestial forces could shake their heads in disappointment as they peered down at me in my shame and guilt.

Upsetting my mother was like upsetting the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus

It was difficult in recovery when I heard that I had to choose a God of my understanding because the God of my understanding couldn’t stand me!

Fortunately I was so ill by that stage it wasn’t really a choice at all.

In fact God came and got me (but that’s another story for another day) and took the choice factor out of the question. I would not have chosen God who bullied me as a kid.

I understood Him as a revengeful and disapproving God, in cahoots with my mommie dearest.  I still think today that God is adding up all my sins for the final chit chat at the pearly gates.

Not the God I know today. The opposite in fact.

According to this book there are also 7 commonalities or parental conditions which exist in stifling the child within or to use stronger language to the “murder of the child’s soul”

These include inconsistency, unpredictability (both add up to crazy making”), arbitariness and chaos.

These in turn add up to promote a lack of trust or fear of abandonment

Inconsistency

Many troubled families are inconsistent  through consistently denying feelings of many family members, …these function to control and shut down family and individual growth.

Unpredictable

Family members learn that they can expect the unexpected at any time.

They usually live in chronic fear, as though “walking on eggshells” of when they will suffer their next trauma.

Arbitrary

The arbitrariness means that no matter who the family member is or how hard they may try, the trouble person would still mistreat them in the same way. In a family where rules have not rhyme or reason the child loses trust in the rule setters and in himself…unable to understand the environment.

Chaotic

Chaos manifested in any of the following

  1. physical or emotional abuse which teaches the child shame, guilt, and “don’t feel”
  2. sexual abuse which teaches  the same plus fear of losing control.
  3. regular and repeated crisis which  teaches a  crisis  orientation in life.
  4. predictable closed communications which teaches “don’t talk” “don’t be real” and denial
  5. loss of control. which teaches obsession with being in control, which teaches obsession with being in control, and fusion and loss of boundaries or individuation.

The next time you hear that negative self loathing critcal internal voice try to catch yourself and say to yourself it is the echoing voice of a very troubled and distressed child. Imagine a seven year old tugging on your are for help, solace, reassurance.

Mistreatment

in various forms can be subtle although damaging to the growth development and aliveness of the true self and includes…shaming, humiliating,degrading, inflicting guilt, criticising, disgracing, joking about, manipulating, deceiving, tricking, betraying, hurting, being cruel, threatening, inflicting fear, bullying, controlling, limiting, withdrawing or with holding love, not taking you seriously, discrediting, invalidating, misleading, disapproving, making light of or minimizing you feelings, breaking promises, raising hopes falsely, responding inconsistently or arbitrarily,

I get a lot of these in my critical self voices, they are the quiet indirect voice of my mother but sounding like me. The sound of my distressed self screaming rebounding his distress and blame onto me for things other people did.

Denial of feelings

troubled families tend to  deny feelings

where anger is chronic it often takes other forms eg abuse of self, or others.

reality is denied and a false belief system of reality is assumed as true…

this fantasy often binds the family together in a further dysfunctional way. This denial stifles and retards the child’s development and growth in the crucial mental, emotional and spiritual areas of life.

This is one of the main reasons why I am not close to my siblings today – I can no longer support  a shared, but false belief system about our “shared” upbringing. The denial they have about the past is the same denial that almost  killed me.

I was not in denial about my drinking, but I have been in ferocious denial about the thing that caused my difficulties and which still needs treatment.

My co-dependency.

Recovering is Uncovering

codependency

I have picked out some words for Healing the Child Within by Charles L. Whitfield  to describe my co-dependent self, borne out of my relationship with my dysfunctional family…false, plans and plots, fearful, envious, critical, idealized, perfectionistic, other-orientated, loves conditionally, hides or denies feelings, rational/logical, childish, pretends always to be strong, distrusting, avoids being nurtured, controlling, self righteous, presents a public self.

This is in direct contrast to the person or true/real  self I feel I have become or am becoming in recovery.

Words to describe this real or recovered self would be – authentic genuine, spontaneous, loving, expansive, giving, communicating,  loves unconditionally, compassionate, feels feelings (still often with the help of others) assertive, intuitive childlike, (more) playful, vulnerable, more trusting, enjoys being nurtured, surrenders.

I hasten to add that many of these are still  works in progress, but I am definitely growing more year by year in the fuller expression of most of these words.

Recovery has continually revealed the real self. There are many other aspects the real me to be uncovered

Recovering means uncovering me in so many ways. The real me lost under the debris of others’ behaviours, words, and resonating memories.

How to spot me in the false self of a co-dependent mode is easy, if you ask me how I am and I answer I am “Just Fine” – just above the victim threshold.

Unreal. Detached from the real me.

My false self can be like my critical parent still barking in my head.

My mother was “fine” on a good day!

Most days she was a martyr and often spent prolonged periods of time, days and days on occasion, in her bed in a stew of self pity and recrimination.

I would care for her. I resented her stupor, sometimes revolted by her behaviour and demeanor.

Slowly, slowly her lack of emotional response to me, her son, would chip away at some indefinable part of me. My heart, chip, chip, I closed my heart off. Became numb. Mainly anyway, I left a piece of my heart alive just in case…

Just in case, she would change, accept me for myself and respond like other mothers did to their loving sons.

Nothing hurts like hope.

Equally part of me internalized that in the absence of love, at least I could get attention if I acted in a similar way to my mother.

At least I could take someone as a prison.

Mum had two main prisoners, serving their time at home, after my sisters had escaped.

My father and I.

I tended to many of my mothers needs, shopping, cooking, making her many cups of tea, trying to resurrect her from her long bouts of depression.

I looked after her needs while submerging many of my own needs.

I denied my needs so that I could idealize my mother’s cause for me, her martyrdom for me. She could have killed herself but did not,  she just struggled on, without much word of thanks from her undeserving children, most of whom had left home as soon as they could.

When she did arise from bed it would be in the mid afternoon. Still in her dressing gown. She would stay up until the wee ours of the morning too, praying for us all, me and my sisters. God we needed it. See, we had all, for some reason, let her down. Been the ruin of her.

She struggled on regardless, asking God to forgive us.

My father also acted like my mother’s parent and caregiver. He had also let her down, more so in some ways that her kids.

We were all such a disappointment. After all she had done for us too?

After a long day at work my father would often then cook tea, shop, try and gee up Mum, cajole her from out of her depressive bouts. Just like I did.

Like father like son.

I had other chores too, lighting the fire, vacuuming the floors etc.

I was my mother’s carer in many ways.

Or enabler.

How I longed for her to rise from her bed and look after me for a change.

It is heart breaking even writing this. All the days, weeks, months and years I waited and hoped for my mother’s undivided attention, nurturing love and help with some of MY Needs, emotional and otherwise but this rarely happened.

As the years went by I resented her for this, her behaviour disgusted me, made me ashamed. So I tried harder with the same results, so I tried harder still…with the same results.

I thought it I were more perfect then it would turn her around, perhaps if she was really proud about my many achievements then she would get better. I was the best at most things!

But she didn’t and I felt worse.

I kept trying but nothing seemed to work long term anyway. There were a few stirrings of life here and there before a   relapse back to old behaviour.

So I worked more at controlling the possible outcomes. Usually with the same results.

Do something enough times and it becomes learnt behaviour, ingrained in the brain. In implicit memory, the memory that persists without you having explicit conscious awareness of it.

Perfectionism. If only I could be more perfect. How unrealistic is that?

This has resulted in a knawing feeling ever since that no matter how hard I try it is never good enough.

It is one aspect of my recovery I can still struggle with, even though I know where this feeling was incubated, still I act on it.

How the past is a puppeteer?

Was it always like this? This unsuccessful meeting of some of my primary needs? It seems this was the case in very early childhood.

Although life would be easier if it was simply black and white, this or that. Mum did love me, I know that. She did not harm me deliberately, I don’t think so anyway.

She was emotionally very ill. And while I watched her in that fog of emotional illness, I stopped listening to me and my needs. I stopped listening to the inner voice and decided that if I wanted to survive without it being so painful I would have to increasingly ignore it.

It only echoed my distress back to me. Gradually I repressed it’s pleading and gradually through time I became deaf to myself and my needs.

I became emotionally mute. Emotionally numb to quote Pink Floyd.

I have often written about how addicted people lose the ability to live with their emotions. My emotions were suppressed so many times that they became so inaudible, muffled out through time, that I lost the ability to hear them, read them, speak them, and hence share them.  As a result I could not be be real with other people.

Eventually I could barely differentiate one feeling from another. They all became distressing feelings I ran away from, escaped from or avoided. They were not my friends, they were not helping so I ran way from my internal self to try and find the answer out there.

Outside of my Self.

Recovery has been coming back home to me, to learning to listen again to that almost mute emotional self, encouraging it too speak again. Convincing it that it would be heard and listened to.

That is a huge part of recovery, people like us, listening to our stories.

Being listened to, accepted, respected and loved back to health.

Others listening as we share our past  with others helps free ourselves from the past –  by examining it honestly, laying the past bare, and by exposing to the light of truth we can vanish it and consign it to our long term memory, where it belongs.

It is undifferentiated emotions which keep these episodes and and memories alive. It is previous emotions that haunt us today and it is these emotions that get healed and find peace.

Anyway I had no intention of writing any of that – stream of consciousness stuff, live!

So how did the child within become so stifled?

Whitfield talks about having our fundamental, primary needs stifled in childhood.

He talks about Survival, safety and security – our need for attention, mirroring and echoing. guidance, being listened to, our need to be real, our need to participate in things in the family home, our needs for acceptance which includes a need to be taken seriously, a freedom to be the real you, a tolerance of your feelings,  a validation of yourself. a respect, a belonging and love.

Personally I first had these needs met fully when I went into recovery and into the rooms of 12 step recovery. How many of us come home in recovery?

Whitfield writes of other needs such as the opportunity to grieve loss and to grow, support, loyalty and trust, encouragement to accomplish – to be creative, have a sense of completion, to feel we have made a contribution.

These seem to be more part of this second stage of recovery I have now entered.

When I look at my childhood I am not sure how many of these survival needs were fully met.

They seem to centre on the need to express oneself fully and be nurtured in that pursuit. For me this failure to have these primary needs met led to a stifled nurturing, a stunted growth, a developmental delay, in emotional expression and emotion regulation.

It is via our reciprocal mirroring of emotion control that the areas of the brain that are involved in emotion regulation actually grow. This is why co-dependency, insecure attachment all link to the brain mechanisms of emotion processing and regulation. I never learnt how to deal with my emotional self, hence it became a distressed self which impulsively and then compulsively ran away from itself.

We can shore up what was missing in our development by practicing this reciprocity with people we love now and people in recovery.

We can all come home to ourselves in recovery.

Starting Second Stage Recovery…

 

co dep images (45)

Identifying the problem.

Today we cite and paraphrase widely from the book  Co-Dependence:Healing the Human Condition  by Charles Whitfield.

I am aware of more recent work on Co-dependency which I will get to in time but I want to start with this book because it is clearly written and seems to know what it is on about.

What is Co-dependence?

“Co-dependence is a disease of lost  selfhood.

Co-dependents becomes so preoccupied with others that they neglect their True Self – who they really are.

…dysfunction…associated with… focusing on the needs and behaviour of others…we lost touch with what is inside us; our beliefs, thoughts, feelings…wants, needs. sensations, intuitions…part of an exquisite feedback system that we can call our inner life…our True Self.

…we learn to be co-dependent from others around us…Co-dependence is fundamentally about  disordered relationships.

…co-dependence comes from trying to protect our delicate True Self (Child Within) from what may appear to be insurmountable forces outside of ourselves…

…When our alive True Self goes into hiding, in order to please it’s parent figures and to survive, a false, co-dependent self emerges to take its place.

…We thus lose our awareness of our True Self…We lose contact with who we really are…

Gradually, we begin to think we are that false self…

Co-dependence…it the base out of which our other addictions and compulsions emerge…what runs them is twofold: a sense of shame that our true Self is somehow defective or inadequate, combined with the innate and healthy drive of our true Self to realize and express itself.”

Cardinal Characteristics

  1. It is learned and acquired
  2. it is developmental.
  3. It is outer focused.
  4. It is a disease of selfhood
  5. It has personal boundary distortions.
  6. It is a feeling disorder.
  7. It produces relationship difficulties with self and with others.
  8. It is primary.
  9. It is chronic.
  10. It is progressive.
  11. It is malignant.
  12. It is treatable.

Learned and Acquired

We develop co-dependence unconsciously and involuntarily. In it’s primary form, it begins with mistreatment or abuse to a vulnerable and innocent child by it’s environment, especially it’s family of origin…it appears to come about by the following process, which I call wounding.

The Process of Wounding

…this process is largely unconscious.

  1. Wounded themselves, the child’s parents feel inadequate, bad and unfulfilled.
  2. They project these feelings onto others, especially their spouse and their vulnerable children.
  3. In a need to stabilize the parent and to survive, the child denies that the parents are inadequate and bad and internalizes…the parent’s projected inadequacy and badness, plus a common fantasy: “If I’m really good and perfect, they will love me, and they won’t reject or abandon me.” The child idealizes the parents.
  4. Because of the above, the child’s vulnerable True Self is wounded so often defensively submerges (“splits off”) itself deep with the unconscious part of the psyche …the child goes into hiding.
  5.  The child takes in whatever else it is told…about others and stores it in its unconscious mind (mostly)…
  6. What it takes in are messages from major relationships. The mental representations of these relationships are called “objects”…laden by feelings and tend to occur in “part objects” (such as good parent, bad parent etc)
  7. The more self-destructive messages are deposited more often in the false self…( …the internal saboteur….negative ego …or internalized…rejecting or otherwise mistreating parent).
  8. A Tension Builds.  …negative ego attacks the True Self,  thus forcing it to stay submerged, keeping self esteem low. The child’s grieving of its losses and traumas is not supported…The outcome can be a developmental delay, arrest or failure.
  9. Some results include chronic emptiness, sadness and confusion, and often periodic explosions of self destructive…behavior – both impulsive and compulsive – …that allows some release of the tension and a glimpse of the true Self.
  10. …The person maintains a low self esteem and remains unhappy, yet wishes and seeks fulfillment. ..”

Most of the above would strike a cord with many alcoholics I think.

How undifferentiated emotion and feeling states lead to (distress based) impulsivity and compulsive behaviour and how we glimpsed and experienced True Self in additive behaviours.

I used to say in AA meetings that I became more me when I drank alcohol. I used to say to my wife that I drank primarily to get away from this (false) me.

The impulsive and compulsive behaviours began when I was a child, it was football, sugar, sweets, running way from home,  and then cigarettes, and then space invader games and gambling machines before I hit the the jack pot with alcohol, the “coming home to the real me” drug that provided the temporary relief form the tension of my divided self and made me connect with the thing I am most frightened of, people.

I entered AA like an infant who knew nothing about anything…I just had an intellect that was sure it knew everything about all there is to know. The battle was almost done. Then I surrendered.

This final  piece describes me when I finally got into recovery.

“arrested development”,…”failure to complete psychological autonomy”  and this is what 25 years of drinking was trying to hide.

Then it was time to get real!