From The Four Hour Work Week – is it procrastination or smarts?

I see lots of people who beat up on themselves for procrastinating while I slave feverishly away for usually the same result. So this, from The Four Hour Work week by Timothy Ferriss, resonated:

“Parkinson’s Law dictates that a task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion. It is the magic of the imminent deadline. If I give you 24 hours to complete a project, the time pressure forces you to focus on execution, and you have no choice but to do only the bare essentials. If I give you a week to complete the same task, it’s six days of making a mountain out of a molehill. If I give you two months, God forbid, it becomes a mental monster. The end product of the shorter deadline is almost inevitably of equal or higher quality due to greater focus.”

 

The Phantom Limb: An Analogy for the Un-Experienced Experience Model – by Bill O’Hanlon, Quick Steps to Resolving Trauma

Sometimes, when people lose a limb, they still experience, sometimes in a painful or bothersome way, sensations in the missing limb.

 

In a similar way, aspects of the person who goes through trauma may be missing, cut off, from their conscious awareness, but still intrude upon the person at times. It’s as if there is a longing for wholeness; those missing aspects want to connect to the whole person, but are not able to in the same way as before. If they can’t find their way back in peacefully, they might crash into the traumatized person’s life or experience in some disturbing form, such as flashbacks, self-mutilation, compulsive sexual acting out, or other things we in the psychotherapy world refer to as “symptoms.” The cut off pieces might be sensations, perceptions, memories, feelings, or aspects of their “personality.”

 

Illness versus disease

“Illness is not the same as disease. Illness is the human response to disease. It refers to the person’s subjective experience of how they feel but does not assume any underlying pathology. Illness can be either organic or psychological. A person can have a disease but not be ill. For example, a girl with epilepsy has a disease, but if she is not having seizures and the epilepsy is asymptomatic she is not ill. A person with a psychosomatic disorder, on the other hand, is ill but does not necessarily have a disease.”

From “Is it all in Your Head?” by Suzanne O’Sullivan, MD

More on OCD

I continue to read the book “The Man Who Couldn’t Stop,” by David Adam, and found the information about serotonin and OCD to be quite hopeful.

“The brain needs serotonin because, as complex and marvelous as it is, most of its neurons can’t communicate directly with each other. At the business end of these neurons there lies a tiny gap that separates them from their neighbours. For neuron A to pass a signal to neuron B it needs serotonin. Spare serotonin sloshing around in the gaps is reclaimed (taken up) by the neurons for when they will need it again. That is about all we need to know for sure about how serotonin works in the OCD brain. Much of the rest of the so-called serotonin hypothesis for OCD is based on some reverse engineering. The logic goes like this: The SSRI drugs keep levels of serotonin in the free space between the cells higher than they would be otherwise. The drugs inhibit the uptake. This seems to relieve OCD symptoms, at least in some people. Therefore, the reverse engineering says, OCD must be caused by abnormally low serotonin levels.”

OCD

I found this interesting. A succinct way to understand OCD.

“Psychologists have identified three types of dysfunctional belief important in the development of OCD. The first is an inflated sense of threat and personal responsibility. The second is perfectionism and intolerance of uncertainty. The third is a belief in the over-importance of thoughts and the need to control them. To be clear, to have one of these dysfunctional beliefs is not to have OCD, but it does increase the chance that someone will develop OCD, because they will incorrectly process the intrusive thoughts that are common to most people.”

From “The Man Who Couldn’t Stop,” by David Adam

Our Models of Reality

In my perpetual pursuit of trying to understand depression, this text taken from “The Untethered Soul,” by Michael A. Singer, resonated, made sense to me.

If anything happens that challenges how you view things, you fight. You defend. You rationalize. You get frustrated and angry over simple little things. This is the result of being unable to fit what’s actually happening into your model of reality. If you want to go beyond your model, you have to take the risk of not believing in it. If your mental model is bothering you, it’s because it doesn’t incorporate reality. Your choice is to either resist reality or go beyond the limits of your model.

 In order to truly go beyond your model, you must first understand why you built it. The easiest way to understand this is to study what happens when the model doesn’t work. Have you ever built your whole world on a model of life predicated upon another person’s behavior or the permanence of a relationship? If so, have you ever had the foundation pulled out from under you? Somebody leaves you. Somebody dies.. Something goes wrong. Something shakes your model to the core. When this happens, your entire view of who you believe you are, including your relationship to everyone and everything around you, begins to fall apart. You panic and do everything you can to hold it together. You beg, fight, and struggle to try to keep your world from collapsing.

 Once you’ve had an experience like that, and most people have, you realize that the model you’ve built is tenuous, at best. The entire thing can fall apart. The whole model and all that it’s built on, including your entire view of yourself and everything else, can start to crumble. What you experience when this happens is one of the most important learning experiences of your life. You come face-to-face with what made you build the model. The level of discomfort and disorientation you experience is frightening. You struggle just to get back some semblance of normal perception. What you are really doing is trying to pull the mental model back around you so that you can settle down into your familiar mental setting.

 But our whole world doesn’t have to fall apart in order for us to see what we’re doing in there. We are constantly trying to hold it all together. If you really want to see why you do things, then don’t do them and see what happens. Let’s say you’re a smoker. If you decide to stop smoking, you quickly confront the urges that cause you to smoke. These urges are the reason you smoke. They are the outermost layer of cause. If you can sit through these urges, you will see what caused them. If you can get comfortable with what you see, you will face the next layer of causation, and so on, layer upon layer. Likewise, there’s a reason why you dress the way you do. If you want to see why you care so much about what you wear and what your hair is like, then just don’t do it one day. Wake up in the morning and go somewhere disheveled with your hair a mess, and see what happens to you when you don’t do the things that make you comfortable. What you’ll see is why you’re doing them.

 You are constantly trying to stay within your comfort zone. You struggle to keep people, places, and things in a manner that supports your model. If they start to go any other way, you get uncomfortable. Your mind then becomes active telling you how to get things back the way you need them to be. The moment somebody starts behaving in a way that is outside your expectations, your mind starts talking. It says, “What should I do about this? I can’t just ignore what he did. I could confront him directly or ask someone else to talk to him.” Your mind is telling you to fix it. And it doesn’t really matter what you end up doing, it’s all about getting back within your comfort zone. This zone is finite. All attempts to stay within it keep you finite. Going beyond always means letting go of the effort to keep things within your defined limits.

So there are two ways you can live: you can devote your life to staying in your comfort zone, or you can work on your freedom. In other words, you can devote you whole life to the process of making sure everything fits within your limited model, or you can devote your life to freeing yourself from the limits of your model.

Deepak Chopra

In trying to help depressed clients, I have needed to dig deeper into energy and spirituality. These clients are pushing me to learn more, to be open to more possibilities. This has lead me to listen and read more by Deepak Chopra. What a wonderful, brilliant man and mind.

I was moved by this quote: “You should be perpetually surprised that you exist and this should put you in a state of joy.”

The miracle of our existence….if we could let go of judgment and expectations and live in awe of life, we could let go of many of the things that make us feel failure and disappointment.

Chronic Pain

Quite often I see people with chronic pain. Some clients have no idea what caused the pain in the first place, others remember an initial injury. Either way Visceral manipulation seems to offer some hope in conjunction with hypnotherapy.

Visceral Manipulation in the Chronic Pain Patient

By Janice Webber, BScPT, Janice Webber Physiotherapy Services

Chronic pain patients typically show altered patterns of breathing such as apical with little to no lateral costal expansion. When assessed via capnography they often present with low CO2 values and have a difficult time in recovery of their breathing with stressed such as hyperventilation and talking.

They also show high autonomic nervous system levels such as sympathetic arousal of sweaty palms, increased pilomotor response, and easily irritated skin showing erythema. The vagal tone of the body has become altered.

The vagus nerve as part of the autonomic nervous system supplies the internal organs of the body. The internal organs are covered by a thin connective tissue membrane system which act as an interconnecting link from one organ to another. The internal organs are suspended from the diaphragm via this connective tissue membrane. The organs of the liver and stomach have direct connection to the diaphragm. The serous fluid with runs between the layers of connective tissue in the abdomen becomes more viscous after trauma such as motor vehicle accidents and surgery. As this fluid thickens, adhesions are formed. The adhesions restrict the movement of the organs in the abdomen. The organs such as the liver, stomach, duodenum, and large intestine can directly restrict the movement of the diaphragm. These organs are suspended are linked to the diaphragm via the connective tissue membrane system.

Visceral Manipulation is a form of manual therapy that addresses the anatomical and energetic relationships of the body’s organs. It is organ-specific fascial mobilization. Just like the more familiar joints of the body, our organs are designed to move against neighboring tissues; they slide and glide, and have normal range of motion. When a range of motion becomes compromised; whether on account of illness, injury, surgery or trauma; the body gets stuck and is forced to move around the restriction. In time, this creates a domino-like effect as the rest of the body compensates and shortens while trying to protect the underlying fixation.

Like a big snag in a sweater, the strain incrementally spreads outward across the very fabric of the body. Visceral restrictions are often the unexamined root of physical pain, as their musculoskeletal attachments and influences are structurally significant.

You may ask, “Why would you ever need your visceral organs manipulated?” That is a good question, which I will try to answer. There are definite links between somatic structures, such as the muscles and joints, the sympathetic nervous system, which is the “flight or fight response”, the visceral organs, spinal cord and the brain. An example is the sinuvertebral nerve, which innervates the intervertebral disk, and has direct connections with the sympathetic nervous system, which innervates the visceral organs. The sinuvertebral nerves and sympathetic nervous system are linked to the spinal cord which of course has connections with the brain. In this way someone with chronic pain can have irritations and facilitated areas not only in the musculoskeletal system (including joints, muscles, fascia, and disks) but also the visceral organs (including the liver, stomach, gallbladder, intestines and adrenal glands), the peripheral nervous system, the sympathetic nervous system and even the spinal cord and brain.

I think that attempting to discover each patient’s primary, or at least their least secondary problem or lesion is ultimately what we would all like to do. I feel if we are doing this, then we have a chance to be working on where the problem is located and subsequently giving the patient a better result.

With my own training, which is ongoing, I am able to many times locate the primary physical restriction, or primary lesion. I do this with a technique, Visceral Listening, which was developed by Jean-Pierre Barral, DO. This technique involves listening to the patient’s body with your palpating hand and feeling for the line of tension in the body. It is not a metaphysical type sensation. It is a direct physical line of pull that with instruction and much practice, is something that anyone can learn. In this way the practitioner can allow the body to reveal where the problems are located and which ones are more primary. The osteopaths have some sayings that I find useful and they are, ” Only the tissues know” and “Let the body speak”. The reason I find this type of evaluation so effective is that the body is much too complicated to “figure it out” with our heads; especially with chronic problems that have resisted treatment. But I have found that the story is all there in the patient’s body if you allow yourself to listen to it.

A final thought: I believe that each patient has an inherent ability to heal and function in good health. We don’t “fix” the patient as much as we take away the reason their body is not functioning well. Then, their body actually does the healing. I think this shows respect for each individual’s body and soul, and allows a more complete healing. This is a philosophy, based in osteopathy that I have found useful in my daily practice as a physical therapist.

 

PTSD & Meditation

I read this article this morning, and loved it. I tell my clients that mediation or just moments of mindfulness, heartmath, tapping, can slowly, but surely change your life. You don’t need hours of it, just moments of it. Begin by taking a breath in through your heart and then release. The brain and heart synchronize, taking brain waves down from beta to alpha – a light hypnosis where chemicals and glands automatically normalize.

How Meditating in a Tiny Iowa Town Helped me Recover from War

By Supriya Venkatesan – a veteran of the U.S Army and Operation Iraqi Freedom. She is a freelance writer based in Princeton, N.J.

I didn’t know how to be a civilian after six difficult years in Iraq.

At 19, I enlisted in the U.S. Army and was deployed to Iraq. I spent 15 months there — eight at the U.S. Embassy, where I supported the communications for top generals. I understand that decisions at that level are complex and layered, but for me, as an observer, some of those actions left my conscience uneasy.

To counteract my guilt, I volunteered as a medic on my sole day off at Ibn Sina Hospital, the largest combat hospital in Iraq. There I helped wounded Iraqi civilians heal or transition into the afterlife. But I still felt lost and disconnected. I was nostalgic for a young adulthood I never had. While other 20-somethings had traditional college trajectories, followed by the hallmarks of first job interviews and early career wins, I had spent six emotionally numbing years doing ruck marches, camping out on mountaintops near the demilitarized zone in South Korea and fighting someone else’s battle in Iraq.

During my deployment, a few soldiers and I were awarded a short resort stay in Kuwait. There, I had a brief but powerful experience in a meditation healing session. I wanted more. So when I returned to the United States at the end of my service, I headed to Iowa.

Forty-eight hours after being discharged from the Army, I arrived on campus at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. MUM is a small liberal arts college, smack dab in the middle of the cornfields, founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the guru of transcendental meditation. I joked that I was in a quarter-life crisis, but in truth my conscience was having a crisis. Iraq left me with questions about the world and grappling with my own mortality and morality.

Readjustment was a sucker punch of culture shock. While on a camping trip for incoming students, I watched girls curl their eyelashes upon waking up and burn incense and bundles of sage to ward off negative energy. I was used to being in a similar field environment but with hundreds of guys who spit tobacco, spoke openly of their sexual escapades and played video games incessantly. Is this what it looked like to be civilian woman? Is this what spirituality looked like?

Mediation was mandatory for students on campus, and the rest of the town was composed mainly of former students or longtime followers of the maharishi. Shortly after arriving, I completed an advanced meditator course and began meditating three hours a day — a habit that is still with me five years later. Every morning, I went to a dome where students, teachers and the people of Fairfield gathered to practice meditation. In the evening, we met again for another round of meditation. During my time in Fairfield, even Oprah came to meditate in the dome.

I was incredibly lucky to have supportive mentors in the Army, but Fairfield embraced me in a maternal way. I cried for hours during post-meditation reflection. I released the trauma that is familiar to every soldier who has gone to war but is rarely discussed or even acknowledged. I let go, and I blossomed. I was emancipated of the unhealthy habits of binge-drinking and co-dependency in romantic interludes, as well as a fear that I didn’t know controlled me.

Suicide and other byproducts of post-traumatic stress disorder plague the military. In 2010, a veteran committed suicide every 65 minutes. In 2012, there were more deaths by suicide than by combat. In Iraq, one of my neighbors took his M16, put it in his mouth and shot himself. Overwhelmed with PTSD-related issues from back-to-back deployments and with no clear solution to the problem, in 2012, the Defense Department began researching meditation practices to see whether they would affect PTSD. The first study of meditation and the military population, done with Vietnam veterans in 1985, had shown 70 percent of veterans finding relief, but meditation never gained in popularity nor was it offered through veterans’ services. Even in 2010, when I learned TM, the military was alien to the concept.

But today, the results of the studies showcase immense benefits for veterans. According to the journal Military Medicine, meditation has shown a 40 percent to 55 percent reduction in symptoms of PTSD and depression among veterans. Furthermore, studies show that meditation correlates with a 42 percent reduction in insomnia and a 25 percent reduction in the stress hormone cortisol in the veteran population. To complement meditation, yoga has also been embraced as a tool for treatment by the military. With the growing acceptance of holistic approaches, psychological wounds are beginning to heal.

The four-day training course to learn TM is now available at every Veterans Affairs facility for those who have PTSD or traumatic brain injury. Even medical staff and counselors who help veterans at the VA are offered training in both TM and mindfulness meditation. Additionally, Norwich University, the oldest military college in the country, has done extensive research on TM and incoming cadets, and many military installations have integrated meditation programs into their mental health services. When I had first learned to meditate, many of my active-duty friends found it a bit too crunchy. But with the military’s recent efforts at researching meditation and funding it for all veterans, the stigma is gone, and my battle buddies see meditation as a tool for building resilience.

For me, meditation has created small but significant changes. One day, while going for a walk downtown, I stopped and patted a dog. A few minutes later, I came to a halt. I realized what I had done. While in Iraq, during a month when we were under heavy mortar attack, a bomb-sniffing K-9 had become traumatized and attacked me. This, coupled with a life-long fear of dogs, had left me guarded around the canines. I touched the scar on my elbow from where the K-9 had latched on and could no longer find the fear that had been there. Soon I was shedding all the things that held me back from living my life in an entirely unforeseen way.

For the first time in my life, I found forgiveness for those who had wronged me in the past. I literally stopped to smell the flowers on my way to work every day. And I smiled. All the freaking time. I even felt smarter. Research shows that meditation raises IQ. I’m not surprised. After graduation, I went on to complete my master’s at Columbia University.

Fairfield is also home to generations of Iowans who are born there, brought up there and die there. Many of these blue-collar Midwesterners have had animosity toward the meditators. Locals felt as if their town had been overtaken. They preferred steak to quinoa, beers at the bar to yoga and pickup trucks to carbon-reducing bicycles. And with MUM having a student body from more than 100 countries, the ethnic differences were a challenge. However, things are changing. Meditators and townspeople now fill less stereotypical roles. And with the economic boom that meditating entrepreneurs have provided the town, the differences are easier to ignore.

It was strange for me to live removed from the local Iowans. When I went shopping at the only Walmart the town had, I’d see the “Wall of Heroes” — a wall of photos of veterans from Fairfield. One day, I noticed a familiar face — a soldier from my last assignment. Fairfield and other socioeconomically depressed areas are where most military recruits come from. Here I was living among them, but not moving in step with them. Having that synchronous experience made me come back full circle. When I had first learned to meditate, my teacher had asked me what my goal was. I told her, “I want to be in the world, but not of it.” And that’s exactly what I got.

For me, this little Iowan town provided a place of respite and rejuvenation. It was easy for me to trade one lifestyle of order and discipline for another, and this provided me with nourishment and an understanding of self. Nowhere else in America can you find an entire town living and breathing the principles of Eastern mysticism. It goes way beyond taking a yoga class or going to the Burning Man festival. I continue my meditation practice and am grateful for the gifts it has provided me. But in the end, my time had come, and I had to leave. As residents would say, that was just my karma.

Why it’s so Hard to come Home from War

“Well, I think we’re a completely alienated society, and we just don’t notice as much because most of us don’t have the experience of incredible closeness that soldiers are allowed to enjoy. We don’t notice because we don’t know anything different. I think Western society basically invented loneliness. Most societies through human history experienced tribal cultures, with people sleeping shoulder to shoulder in shelters and hunting together and raising children together. Everything was communal, and we just don’t do that, and I don’t think it works well psychologically. Soldiers actually do have exactly that experience in combat, and then the reentry into this alienated society we’ve created is extremely hard. There’s a reason Western society has such a high suicide rate, such a high depression rate, child abuse rate, crime rate, and so on. Those behaviors are at epidemic levels in our society; that’s the society soldiers are coming back to and it’s pretty shocking to them.”

May 30, 2014 / From Ideas.Ted.com