Books Clients Have Found Helpful
Beattie, Melody. Codependent No More, How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987.
Gawain, Shakti. Creative Visualization. Berkeley: Whatever, l978.
Gawain, Shakti. Living In The Light. A Guide to Personal and Planetary Transformation. California: Whatever Publishing, Inc., 1986.
Kellogg, Terry. Broken Toys Broken Dreams. Understanding & Healing Boundaries, Codependence, Compulsion & Family Relationships. Santa Fe: BRAT Publishing, 1990.
Kreisman, Jerold J. and Straus, Hal. I Hate You—don’t leave me. Understanding The Borderline Personality. New York: Avon, 1991.
Naparstek, Belleruth. Staying Well With Guided Imagery. New York: Warner Books, 1995.
Naparstek, Belleruth. Invisible Heroes, Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal. New York: Bantom Dell, 2004.
Roizen, Michael and Ox, Mehmet. You On A Diet. The Owners Manual for Waist Management. New York: Free Press, 2006. (The best seller, reader-friendly book about the biology and psychology of fat, and easy to learn and do solutions to fit your life style.)
Roth, Geneen. Breaking Free From Compulsive Eating. New York: Signet, 1986.
6 Steps To Dispel Seasonal Blues
Days are growing shorter and darkness is descending earlier. Often this time of year begins a shift in our moods and we will notice less energy, perhaps greater interest in being indoors, and less interest in rising early. These changes reflect our natural biorhythms heralding in fall, preparatory for winter, the time of rest and reflection.
It is okay for us to slow down. In fact, it is important for our minds, body, and spirit to have a respite so that we continue to function well throughout the winter months. Here are seven ways to nurture Self through those dark days.
1. Simmer a Pot of Spices. Nothing smells better than a room fragrant with the soothing scents of cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. Remember those apple pies baking away in your childhood? Or perhaps it was the lavender or rose scent worn by a loving relative or drifting through a window from a neighbors yard. Smell is the most direct sense to the emotional center of the brain and it can quickly evoke joy when fragrances are associated to happy memories. So sample the herbs and spices and oils at your nearest health food store or food market. Choose those that warmly resonate for you, sprinkle them in a simmering pot of water, and enjoy a bouquet of warm and happy feelings.
2. Curl Up Under A Blanket. Nothing beats the luxury of awaking in the morning knowing you can stay in bed as long as you want. And when we give ourselves permission to do nothing for a while without censure or criticism we can relax and then return to our activities with renewed vigor and productivity. So treat yourself to a mental health day off and let your Self rest.
3. Take A Ten Minute Walk. Wrap up in a snuggly coat and muffler, cozy up in a toasty hat and gloves, and go out for a brisk early morning walk at dawn. Breathe in the crisp air and open your eyes to the sun rising. You will return home with energy to spare that will last you the whole day.
4. Schedule A Massage. For pure unadulterated bliss massage is the answer. There are lots of choices too: deep tissue, Swedish, therapeutic, shiatsu. You body will respond with a deep sense of relaxation and well being. And if you have a nearby massage school you can schedule a full hour massage with a student practitioner often for one third the normal cost.
5. Buy Yourself A Gift. Have you ever felt hurt when your birthday came and went and your friends did not remember? And do you remember how good it felt when they did? Well you can give yourself that feeling any day of the week by simply stopping by a favorite shop, picking out something you want, wrapping it up in some pretty paper, and putting it in a place where in the next day or two you will come across it. Your body, mind, and spirit will respond with a lightness of spirit when you treat yourself in this way. All it takes is a little thoughtfulness and you will reap the wonderful appreciation of your Self in feelings of lightheartedness and self-value.
6. Send Yourself A Greeting Card. Have you ever wondered what it would be like if your loved ones acknowledged you on a regular basis as a person in their life they valued and loved. Well this is precisely what you are doing when you go to the store and choose a card that beautifully expresses what a wonderful person you are. But even better, write a note to yourself in that card, and then address it and mail it to your self. When the card arrives several days later you will be delightfully surprised and warmly appreciative of the self-love clearly spelled out in that card.
There you have it. Some nurturing ways to beat the seasonal blues. Take your pick and enjoy.
Addiction: A Holistic Approach To Recovery
Those suffering from addictions habitually engage in compulsive behaviors to avoid feelings of depression, anxiety, and other distressing mood states. Holistic Therapy offers opportunities to safely experience painful emotions while learning ways to manage destructive thoughts and behaviors.
Many addictions recovery treatment programs focus on the distorted thinking and destructive behavior of the addict with less attention to the underlying emotions that drive negative thoughts and behavior. At best addicts in treatment might attend lectures and participate in groups where speakers and participants talk about and share feelings but they seldom offer sufficient opportunities for addicts to directly and safely experience what they are feeling and to creatively manage their feelings.
Holistic Therapy incorporates methods that do just this. Our emotions are what tell us how we are assessing our world and how we are experiencing it, and what we need to do. And they are directly accessed through all our senses. It is in engaging the senses that Holistic Therapy particularly excels in teaching how to effectively manage emotional reactions.
We have at least seven senses–touch, taste, smell, hearing, sight, balance, and internal sensations. Every second of every day our senses are picking up information, sending it to our brain, with our body consequently responding depending on how the brain interprets the data. Short of some kind of brain damage our responses will always include feelings.
Surprising to many recovering addicts is the idea that we cannot feel a thought. They are additionally surprised to learn that uncomfortable feelings are always physical sensation in some form. However, a thought can elicit a great deal of physical distress in the body if the brain interprets that thought as some kind of threat to the body.
For example, a worry of any kind usually has some kind of thought attached to it. But it is not the thought that a person is feeling but the body’s response to that thought.
Through a complex process the brain interprets the “worry” thought as a threat to the body and immediately begins preparing it to defend itself by pouring adrenalin, cortisol, and a host of other chemicals into the body to prepare it to fight, flee, freeze, or hide. That is how the brain responds to any stress. And the felt sensation of those changes and many others is tension or tightness or pressure or heaviness or a host of other physical feelings. At their most powerful, our fears and worries can elicit the excruciating pain associated to a heart attack. With no means to slow this process down it is not surprising that recovery fails.
Holistic Therapy teaches us how to effectively and consistently ease those distressing physical sensations by noticing what each of the senses is picking up. By helping to identify what thoughts are occurring and how the body is feeling Holistic Therapy gives recovering folks the power to manage the depression and anxiety that fuels addictive behavior.
As human beings we think, feel, sense, and do. We also have a mind-body-spirit that needs careful tending if we are to live peacefully and productively. Recovering from addiction, healing from the destructive consequences of addiction requires a treatment program to engage all these parts of Self. Otherwise, what results is a temporary respite with relapse following on its heels.
The Blind Bind Of Male Depression
Many men have a difficult time recognizing that they are depressed. Men often interpret the word “depression” as describing a state of helplessness or hopelessness, accompanying a general sense of feeling fragile or vulnerable. In many ways our culture conditions men to ignore these states or to experience little awareness of them. Men are taught “boys don’t cry,” and are uniformly rewarded with praise and validation when they “act like a man” instead of tearing up or expressing fear in response to a harshly distressing encounter. After years of this kind of persistent reinforcement these boys grow into men with a form of blindness whereby they often do not see or understand the nature of depression. In ignorance they become bound by painfully repetitive behaviors and feelings with no knowledge that they can change.
What men do recognize is the feeling of “stress” and they will commonly describe situations as stressful with no awareness that those situations are the triggers stimulating an internal state of dis-ease that often leads to depression. The following are some of the less recognizable experiences that men commonly describe as stressful and they are symptomatic of depression.
Symptoms of Depression
high levels of anxiety, irritability, and/or anger –low energy and/or fatigue — frequent worries about others’ opinions — loss or lack of confidence — loss of interest in favorite activities — weight loss or gain — loss of sex drive — sleep problems — inability to relax — addictions — obsessive-compulsive behavior — frequent suffering from vague physical ailments
Triggers of Depression
Many normal and joyous life experiences can trigger depression. A new relationship, a new baby, a new home or job, a large inheritance, or even winning the lottery. Each of these events bring additional and, at times, unfamiliar experiences that can inhibit a man’s ability to effectively manage these new experiences. If such a situation continues long enough a man’s self worth can diminish and depression can then set in.
Divorce, loss of a job, retirement, death of a loved one, constant and unrelenting pressures from others to do things their way–these also can tax a man’s sense of competency and self-worth. When having difficulty coping with these painful life experiences many men will present a “stiff upper lip” and try harder and harder. And if, by chance, they continue to have trouble functioning effectively, they will suffer intense anxiety, tension, and fatigue. With no relief they will begin experiencing more of the symptoms listed above.
Physical illness and unrelenting pain can also trigger depression. Pain is the body’s red alert system that something is misfiring, and the nervous system is the first responder to engage our defense system to bring relief. When pain is intense enough or it persists long enough it creates unrelieved stress on our natural biological defense systems. Once that happens our immune system and other related defense systems become compromised and can no longer provide necessary relief. One of the common results of this biologically-based depletion is depression. The biological and chemical effects of untreated depression then synergistically trigger an even wider system breakdown that further weakens our body and makes us susceptible to other physical disorders.
The Bind Of Male Depression
Men are conditioned from the time they are little boys to be problem solvers, doers, and thinkers. As such they push themselves to meet time lines, sales quotas, budget schedules, financial, emotional, and professional expectations of family and friends. They are not taught to consider or are not aware of the cost these pressures can impose on their physical well being and emotional peace of mind. They are blinded to the understanding that if the cost gets high enough fatigue, irritability, impatience, and the other symptoms listed above start to manifest. They do not recognize that in an effort to gain relief from these symptoms they engage in behaviors that potentially exacerbate the problem.
And so, in ignorance, they compulsively and impulsively bind with the distracting excitement or mind numbing experience of a increasing variety of behaviors. Some examples include alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, spending, long periods on the internet, and working harder and longer. Ultimately, instead of bringing relief, these binding behaviors bring an additional set of worries that now includes substance-related depression, financial debt, social isolation, family conflict, a shame-driven perception of self, and a widening rift between the painful state of depression and the support that can bring relief and healing.
Healing From The Bind of Depression
Men did not ask for this blind-bind state of being. And they cannot return to their pasts and change the experiences that conditioned them to overlook or ignore or to have little understanding of the symptoms of depression and the interactions that trigger it. However, men can learn to recognize the symptoms and seek help.
Depression is treatable and with the help of knowledgeable health care providers that include a skilled psychotherapist who has experience and training working with men in the treatment of depression and anxiety the blind bind of male depression can release. And with that release men can then acquire the tools to alleviate the symptoms of depression, to prevent its debilitating re-occurrence, and to live with a consistent sense of healthy and enjoyable connection with self and others.
For more information I invite you to call me at (410) 435-3755 or email me, in confidence, with any questions.
Patti Desert, LCSW-C, CEMDR, CP
Calming Anxiety With Breath Therapy
People suffering anxiety often focus on fearful thoughts of losing control or going crazy. Thoughts can trigger anxiety but it is the body’s response to the threat conveyed by our thoughts or our senses that accounts for anxiety. In other words, anxiety is the felt sensation of our body reacting in some distressing way. Some of those reactions include: increased heart rate, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, choking sensation, tightness in chest or elsewhere in body, nausea, dizziness, numbness, chills or hot flushes. Fortunately, it is through breath therapy that we have a means to calm our body and relieve the pain.
Breath therapy is a kind of mindful breathing whereby in different ways one focuses on breathing and simply notices it. This kind of breathing connects to chi, the body’s powerful healing energy. It is connection with chi that gets lost during anxious episodes. Mindful breathing reasserts chi connection. And as this happens it can evoke a warm tingling or a subtle vibration as it eases pain, accelerates healing, decreases respiration, invigorates circulation, improves digestion, and contributes to restful sleep.
Yogis have known this for centuries as have informal meditators, reiki practitioners, acupuncturists, body workers, osteopathic physicians, and other holistic health care providers. But you do not have to be a yogi practicing for years to learn these powerful breath techniques. Here are three examples:
Mindful Breathing–gently place tongue above the back of front teeth and rest it there with mouth gently closed. This is called the “yoga position.” It closes the energy circuit in the body protecting against dissipation of healthy energy. Focus on your breath cycles—deeply and slowly breathing in, breathing out. Notice points at which one phase changes into another. Do not force this, just notice for ten cycles
Letting Self Be Breathed–Lying on back, close eyes, arms at rest along side of body. Image the following: with inhale–the Universe is blowing breath into you, with exhale–the Universe is withdrawing breath from you. Allow yourself to be a passive recipient of this interaction. Hold your perception for ten cycles. As the Universe breathes into you try to picture your breath penetrating ever part of you down to your toes.
Bellows Breath (stimulating breath)–eyes closed, sit comfortably, back straight, tongue in yoga position. Rapidly breathe through nose. Action of chest should be rapid and mechanical, like a bellows. Breath should be audible both during inhale and exhale and as rapid as three cycles per second. If comfortable, engage for fifteen seconds, increasing by five seconds until you are up to a minute. After each cycle breathe normally. This is real exercise and you might feel some muscle fatigue in chest, at the base of your neck above the collar bone and in the diaphragm. You will also begin to feel a subtle but definite movement through your body when you return to normal breathing. Use this breathing method when tired
With breath therapy the more you engage with your breath the more aware you become of its subtle changes and the more easily you will be able to use your breath to calm anxiety. As always, however, when contemplating working with the body, check with your physician to verify no health conditions exist that would contra-indicate breath therapy.
Depression And Boredom: Top 6 Interventions
Boredom is that frustrated sense of having nothing interesting to do. It is the companion to loneliness and depression for when we are bored we are disconnected from a positive connection with our self. We no longer have a felt sense of our self as a productive, engaged, energized individual interested in our activities. When boredom continues unabated we can suffer classic symptoms of depression that include frustration, low energy, decreased motivation, emptiness, negative self-image, and long hours sleeping.
Here are six steps to get your energy revved up and to recapture a lively sense of yourself.
1. Go Dancing—you do not have to know how. Depression feeds on a lack of movement. It has less chance to take hold when we dance. All it takes is a curiosity and a willingness to try something different. Dance activities abound. Click on your local internet and check out the many choices, most of which offer free lessons and partners with whom to practice who are also there to learn and are grateful for a partner who has the same adventurous spirit.
2. Join A Singles’ Social Club—depression and boredom are isolating experiences. Social interaction is an effective antidote Go on the internet and bring up your city. Search for singles events and a whole host of choices will come up from opportunities to meet and greet singles over dinner, bicycling, backpacking, white water rafting, and parachute gliding, to name a few.
3. Start Your Own Club—if you cannot find any social clubs that interest you create your own. All it takes is an idea. Advertise in the “free activities” column of your local newspaper and hear your phone or email jump with interested folks.
4. Take A Course—Engage your mind and boredom releases. Local community colleges offer a large variety of courses for those interested in a particular subject rather than studying for a degree. Other venues offering free or low cost courses include neighborhood recreational councils, business retirement clubs, art supply stores, and workshops by experts who advertise in local newsletters.
5. Become A Docent—gaining and imparting knowledge to others powerfully dispels boredom and will increase your sense of competence, further fortifying you against tendrils of depression. Museums often look for volunteers to take training in order to lead groups on informative tours of exhibits. You can learn about art history, meet like-minded folks, and have opportunities to develop friends.
6. Volunteer Your Service—giving back to your community gives the reward of feeling kind and generous and doing meaningful work. These feelings impede the buildup of depression. Many organizations would be deeply grateful for your help. You could volunteer at a soup kitchen, your local historic society or railroad museum, or as a baby minder in your local children’s hospital. Also, look around in your town for tourist venues. Choose one that interests you and then call to offer your services.
In any of these ways you can learn and grow doing what you enjoy. And who knows, those of you singles might find your soul mate in the process. You certainly will have many opportunities to make new friends with similar interests and who will have more ideas for interesting and fun things to do. At the very least you are up and moving and exercising your mind, body, and spirit. And when that happens folks, you have no room for boredom and depression.
Of course, if you are struggling daily just to get out of bed or regularly have a marked diminished interest in things you might be suffering from clinical depression. In that case consulting with a psychiatrist and an experienced therapist who specializes in depression can help. Depression is treatable and you do not have to suffer from it.
The “Little” Traumas That Kill
Historically, trauma has been defined in the Diagnostic Manual of Psychological Disorders (known as DSM IV) as an experience that was life threatening. However, the DSM IV does not consider the “little” traumas that can slowly fracture the mind, debilitate the body, and kill the spirit.
These little traumas include a childhood fraught with financial insecurity wherein caretakers are forced to work long hours to pay the bills and put food on the table. Often these caretakers cannot afford childcare and are forced to assign one of the siblings the daily care of younger brothers and sisters for long stretches of time. The frightening burden of this kind of responsibility triggers enormous mental and emotional stress on and between all the siblings.
Little traumas also include children pressured to continually excel in school and sports, with the unverbalized but behaviorally threatening parental withdrawal of approval if performance falls short of parental expectations.
Little traumas include the sense of frustration or guilt children experience when an angry or tearful or frightened child is consistently criticized or punished for evidencing such feelings.
Little traumas occur when a child who looks or sounds or behaves different than the family norm is ostracized, ignored, discounted or otherwise shamed for his or her differences.
Of course children usually can neither safely escape such treatment nor change it and so they will many times resort to what physiologists label as the freeze response. Freeze behavior looks like the deer suddenly immobile when caught in the headlights of a car. It is also the frozen child hiding in the bedroom while mom and dad are raging. And it is the child who shuts down emotionally, detaching from feelings, thoughts, and sensations, when accosted by a bully at school.
The freeze response is a defense humans and most other animals use instinctively in conditions of no escape. And the internal experience of this response is rather like having one foot on the gas pedal of a car and the other foot on the accelerator. From all outward appearances the child is behaviorally quiet. Internally, however, the heart beats wildly and muscles are pumped up for action. The child’s body is expending enormous energy with no way to discharge it. Without intervention, this energy becomes locked in the body and can manifest in temper tantrums, raging, indifference, fighting with peers, conflicts with teachers, fear of social situations, inability to focus on school work, hyperactivity, and numerous other behaviors.
Without intervention even those children who grow into adulthood without major disruptive emotional episodes can ultimately become handicapped by the legacy of their frozen responses. Such powerful, biologically driven energy cannot remain locked in the body without the Self eventually paying the price. And the price is a range of emotional disorders that include anxiety, depression, social phobia, insecurity, chronic anger, chronic loneliness, binge eating, interpersonal conflict, and dissatisfaction with self and others.
The good news is that treatments exist that focus on helping clients discharge the frozen energy still locked in their bodies. These treatments are holistic in nature and as such offer clients powerful, practical, and portable methods to repair damage experienced by the Self, and in the process, to joyfully reclaim a consistently healthy mind, energetic body, and robust spirit.
Trauma: A Misunderstood Phenomenon
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is conventionally diagnosed when a person has been in some way exposed to an event that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury to self or others. The person must also have experienced intense fear, helplessness, or horror and currently is re-experiencing these states in some form or other. In children these feelings may be expressed instead by disorganized or agitated behavior.
However, the experience of trauma does not always fit the clinical category of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A person can experience trauma in ways other than involvement with an actual injury or threat to self or others. It is inadequate understanding of this expanded awareness of trauma that stimulates further confusion and stress in an already traumatized individual and has many therapists misidentifying the problem and thus effective treatment.
A diagnosis that more accurately describes trauma is Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Experiences of Extreme Stress. Included in these diagnoses is the understanding that trauma may not have involved actual or threatened death or serious injury to self or others. Instead it may involve a perception of threat in some way, a belief that one’s self is in jeopardy and that the threat bars any outlet to a feeling of safety. In this respect trauma compromises other than an individual’s physical well being. Rather it stimulates an ongoing fear of the abuser in thought or in person, disrupts memory and consciousness, diminishes a positive perception of self and a felt sensation that all is right in the world, and destroys the ability to consistently manage distressful physical and emotional sensations.
From this perspective depression and anxiety and the symptoms of a host of other diagnoses can denote an underlying experience of trauma. By noting these areas of difficulty in individual a therapist can determine whether or not the core problem is trauma. As importantly is the individual’s understanding how emotions relate to trauma and how they are the self’s wake up call that trauma has occurred.
The Affective System is key to determining this. The Affective System refers to a three-part system with which we are hard wired upon conception. It includes the drives, pain, and the emotions. Eating, drinking, and breathing are examples of three primary drives. Our emotions comprise the second part of our Affective System. Emotions regulate our drives so that we can experience a sense of healthy control. Pain is the third part of the Affective System. It is both a drive and an emotion and is the innate part of our affective system that signals danger.
It is the emotional part of our Affective System that uniformly debilitates trauma survivors. Our emotions are necessary to experience a felt sense of safety and fulfillment. They are triggered by thoughts, sensations, images, people, places, and things. And structures in our brain organize them to work properly.
Trauma disrupts this process of organization in the brains of trauma survivors and accounts for the chronic fear and/or anxiety survivors routinely report. Any effective treatment must adequately address this disregulation or clients will not heal. This is not to discount cognitive-behavioral therapies. They are important and effective therapies at different stages of healing. However, for sustained change, ultimately treatment will need to provide survivors a broader spectrum for healing that helps effectively change negative beliefs and conjointly provides methods for managing painful emotions, extinguishing painful reactions to debilitating memories, and helping survivors make accurate meaning out of their experiences. This holistic perspective recognizes that we are mind, body, spirit beings and offers methodologies that can gently, safely, and effectively support survivors to shift fearful thoughts and feelings, flawed sensing and defensive behavior to a state of confidence and joy.
What Is Holistic Psychotherapy?
The word holistic has been used to describe health care practices that include acupuncture, massage therapy, Reiki, naturopathy, and homeopathy. These practices attempt to bring harmony to the physical, energetic, and/or nutritional states of individuals.
Holistic Psychotherapy also seeks to bring balance between these systems. However, as with all psychotherapy, its primary focus is the treatment of psychological and emotional pain that manifests in depression, anxiety, trauma, and related disorders. It is the way in which holistic psychotherapy treats pain that marks its departure from conventional psychotherapy and denotes its singular effectiveness.
Generally speaking traditional psychotherapy focuses on problematic thoughts and behavior, interprets the underlining meaning of these thoughts and behavior, and then provides solutions that are practiced and adjusted as circumstances warrant.
Unlike traditional psychotherapy, Holistic Psychotherapy optimally fosters growth and healing by noting the synergistic relationship between all the ways we experience ourselves and the world, thinking, feeling, doing, and sensing. Holistic practitioners then channel this knowledge through methods that support the healthy interaction between the processes of the thinking mind, the feeling body, and the emotionally laden spirit to bring growth and healing.
Holistic Psychotherapy engages methods that encourage us to talk, feel, act and sense in ways that make our experiences manageable, safe, and empowering. Holistic Psychotherapy helps us make sense out of anxious and depressed states, manage overpowering feelings, bring solutions to our problems, and teaches us how to effectively plan for our future.
Holistic Psychotherapy recognizes, for example, that depression is a symptom. Depression might feel like the problem but it is really the messenger that tells us we are suffering an imbalance somewhere in self. Depression is the red light that signals us to stop. Just as you would not continue driving a car with the engine light blinking without risking breakdown so ignoring depression risks a physical and emotional breakdown.
Holistic Psychotherapy is the equivalent of preventive medicine. A holistic practitioner will assess what area or areas of self are causing distress—the mind, the body or the emotions and how each area is effecting the other. A holistic psychotherapist has state of the art tools and methods honed by years of practice and ongoing training to help you manage the problem while you are repairing it, and then guides you to develop preventive skills to protect against re-occurrence.
Holistic Psychotherapy is not eclectic psychotherapy or a bag of techniques learned once in a workshop. It is a conscious, skillful organic blending of eastern methods of healing with western healing psychotherapies that safely support you to engage all your ways of experiencing, thinking, feeling, sensing, doing so that you relate to yourself with understanding, respect, appreciation, and joy.
Holistic Psychotherapy recognizes that you have all the answers and its function is to help individuals, couples, and families identify the source of depressed and anxious experiences while helping to alleviate them, and then provides guidance to develop preventive skills to protect against re-occurrence. Answers with competence, responsible action, and a felt sensation of healthy control.
I hope this has answered some of your questions and I invite you to call me at (410) 435.3755 or email me for a free consultation to discuss what holistic psychotherapies would most benefit you.