Trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security. You feel helpless. The world feels dangerous. The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatised.
An event can lead to trauma if:
• It happened unexpectedly
• You were unprepared for it
• You felt powerless to prevent it
• It happened repeatedly
• Someone was intentionally cruel
• It happened in childhood
Emotional & psychological symptoms:
• Shock, denial, or disbelief
• Confusion, difficulty concentrating
• Anger, irritability, mood swings
• Anxiety and fear
• Guilt, shame, self-blame
• Withdrawing from others
• Feeling sad or hopeless
• Feeling disconnected or numb
• Insomnia or nightmares
• Being startled easily
• Difficulty concentrating
• Racing heartbeat
• Edginess and agitation
• Aches and pains
• Muscle tension
Trauma recovery tip 1: Get moving
Trauma disrupts your body’s natural equilibrium, freezing you in a state of hyper-arousal and fear. In essence, your nervous system gets “stuck.” As well as burning off adrenaline and releasing endorphins, exercise and movement can actually help your nervous system become “unstuck.”
Try to exercise for 30 minutes or more on most days, or if it’s easier, three 10-minute spurts of exercise per day are just as good. Exercise that is rhythmic and engages both your arms and legs (eg - walking, running, swimming, dancing) works best. Stay focussed on your body and how it feels as you move. Notice the sensation of your feet hitting the ground, or the rhythm of your breathing, or the feeling of wind on your skin.
Tip 2: Don't isolate
Following a trauma, you may want to withdraw from others, but isolation only makes things worse. Connecting to others face to face will help you heal, so make an effort to maintain your relationships and avoid spending too much time alone.
While you don’t have to talk about the trauma itself, it is important you have someone to share your feelings with face to face, someone who will listen attentively without judging you. Turn to a trusted family member, friend or counsellor.
Participate in social activities, even if you don’t feel like it. Do everyday things with other people, things that have nothing to do with the traumatic experience.
Join a support group for trauma survivors. Being with others who are facing the same problems can help reduce your sense of isolation and hearing how others cope can help inspire you in your own recovery.
Volunteering can be a great way to challenge the sense of helplessness that often accompanies trauma. Remind yourself of your strengths and reclaim your sense of power by helping others.
Take a class or join a club to meet new people with similar interests.
Tip 3: Self-regulate your nervous system
No matter how agitated, anxious, or out of control you feel, it’s important to know that you can change your arousal system and calm yourself.
If you are feeling disoriented, confused, or upset, a quick way to calm yourself is through mindful breathing. Simply take 60 breaths, focusing your attention on each out breath.
Sensory input. Does a specific sight, smell or taste quickly make you feel calm? Or maybe petting an animal or listening to music works to quickly soothe you? Everyone responds to sensory input a little differently, so experiment to find what works best for you.
Staying grounded. To feel in the present and more grounded, sit on a chair. Feel your feet on the ground and your back against the chair. Look around you and pick six objects that have red or blue in them. Notice how your breathing gets deeper and calmer.
Allow yourself to feel what you feel when you feel it. Acknowledge your feelings about the trauma as they arise and accept them.
Tip 4: Take care of your health
Having a healthy body can increase your ability to cope with the stress of trauma. Get plenty of sleep. After a traumatic experience, worry or fear may disturb your sleep patterns and a lack of quality sleep can exacerbate your trauma symptoms making it harder to maintain your emotional balance. Go to sleep and get up at the same time each day and aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
Alcohol and drugs can worsen your trauma symptoms and increase feelings of depression, anxiety, and isolation.
Eating small, well-balanced meals throughout the day will help you keep your energy up and minimise mood swings.
Try relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises. Schedule time for activities that bring you joy such as favourite hobbies.
Healing from trauma takes time. Be patient with the pace of recovery and remember that everyone’s response to trauma is different.
How Addiction Hijacks The Brain
Original Article Published July, 2011:
Desire Initiates The Process, But Learning Sustains It.
The word "addiction" is derived from a Latin term for "enslaved by" or "bound to." Anyone who has struggled to overcome an addiction — or has tried to help someone else to do so — understands why.
Addiction exerts a long and powerful influence on the brain that manifests in three distinct ways: craving for the object of addiction, loss of control over its use, and continuing involvement with it despite adverse consequences. While overcoming addiction is possible, the process is often long, slow, and complicated. It took years for researchers and policymakers to arrive at this understanding.
In the 1930s, when researchers first began to investigate what caused addictive behavior, they believed that people who developed addictions were somehow morally flawed or lacking in willpower. Overcoming addiction, they thought, involved punishing miscreants or, alternately, encouraging them to muster the will to break a habit.
The scientific consensus has changed since then. Today we recognize addiction as a chronic disease that changes both brain structure and function. Just as cardiovascular disease damages the heart and diabetes impairs the pancreas, addiction hijacks the brain. Recovery from addiction involves willpower, certainly, but it is not enough to "just say no" — as the 1980s slogan suggested. Instead, people typically use multiple strategies — including psychotherapy, medication, and self-care — as they try to break the grip of an addiction.
Another shift in thinking about addiction has occurred as well. For many years, experts believed that only alcohol and powerful drugs could cause addiction. Neuroimaging technologies and more recent research, however, have shown that certain pleasurable activities, such as gambling, shopping, and sex, can also co-opt the brain. Although the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) describes multiple addictions, each tied to a specific substance or activity, consensus is emerging that these may represent multiple expressions of a common underlying brain process.
From Liking To Wanting
Nobody starts out intending to develop an addiction, but many people get caught in its snare. According to the latest government statistics, nearly 23 million Americans — almost one in 10 — are addicted to alcohol or other drugs. More than two-thirds of people with addiction abuse alcohol. The top three drugs causing addiction are marijuana, opioid (narcotic) pain relievers, and cocaine.
Genetic vulnerability contributes to the risk of developing an addiction. Twin and adoption studies show that about 40% to 60% of susceptibility to addiction is hereditary. But behavior plays a key role, especially when it comes to reinforcing a habit.
Pleasure principle. The brain registers all pleasures in the same way, whether they originate with a psychoactive drug, a monetary reward, a sexual encounter, or a satisfying meal. In the brain, pleasure has a distinct signature: the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, a cluster of nerve cells lying underneath the cerebral cortex (see illustration). Dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens is so consistently tied with pleasure that neuroscientists refer to the region as the brain's pleasure center.
All drugs of abuse, from nicotine to heroin, cause a particularly powerful surge of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. The likelihood that the use of a drug or participation in a rewarding activity will lead to addiction is directly linked to the speed with which it promotes dopamine release, the intensity of that release, and the reliability of that release. Even taking the same drug through different methods of administration can influence how likely it is to lead to addiction. Smoking a drug or injecting it intravenously, as opposed to swallowing it as a pill, for example, generally produces a faster, stronger dopamine signal and is more likely to lead to drug misuse.
Learning process. Scientists once believed that the experience of pleasure alone was enough to prompt people to continue seeking an addictive substance or activity. But more recent research suggests that the situation is more complicated. Dopamine not only contributes to the experience of pleasure, but also plays a role in learning and memory — two key elements in the transition from liking something to becoming addicted to it.
According to the current theory about addiction, dopamine interacts with another neurotransmitter, glutamate, to take over the brain's system of reward-related learning. This system has an important role in sustaining life because it links activities needed for human survival (such as eating and sex) with pleasure and reward. The reward circuit in the brain includes areas involved with motivation and memory as well as with pleasure. Addictive substances and behaviors stimulate the same circuit — and then overload it.
Repeated exposure to an addictive substance or behavior causes nerve cells in the nucleus accumbens and the prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain involved in planning and executing tasks) to communicate in a way that couples liking something with wanting it, in turn driving us to go after it. That is, this process motivates us to take action to seek out the source of pleasure.
Tolerance and compulsion. Over time, the brain adapts in a way that actually makes the sought-after substance or activity less pleasurable.
In nature, rewards usually come only with time and effort. Addictive drugs and behaviors provide a shortcut, flooding the brain with dopamine and other neurotransmitters. Our brains do not have an easy way to withstand the onslaught.
Addictive drugs, for example, can release two to 10 times the amount of dopamine that natural rewards do, and they do it more quickly and more reliably. In a person who becomes addicted, brain receptors become overwhelmed. The brain responds by producing less dopamine or eliminating dopamine receptors — an adaptation similar to turning the volume down on a loudspeaker when noise becomes too loud.
As a result of these adaptations, dopamine has less impact on the brain's reward center. People who develop an addiction typically find that, in time, the desired substance no longer gives them as much pleasure. They have to take more of it to obtain the same dopamine "high" because their brains have adapted — an effect known as tolerance.
At this point, compulsion takes over. The pleasure associated with an addictive drug or behavior subsides — and yet the memory of the desired effect and the need to recreate it (the wanting) persists. It's as though the normal machinery of motivation is no longer functioning.
The learning process mentioned earlier also comes into play. The hippocampus and the amygdala store information about environmental cues associated with the desired substance, so that it can be located again. These memories help create a conditioned response — intense craving — whenever the person encounters those environmental cues.
Cravings contribute not only to addiction but to relapse after a hard-won sobriety. A person addicted to heroin may be in danger of relapse when he sees a hypodermic needle, for example, while another person might start to drink again after seeing a bottle of whiskey. Conditioned learning helps explain why people who develop an addiction risk relapse even after years of abstinence.
The long road to recovery
Because addiction is learned and stored in the brain as memory, recovery is a slow and hesitant process in which the influence of those memories diminishes.
About 40% to 60% of people with a drug addiction experience at least one relapse after an initial recovery. While this may seem discouraging, the relapse rate is similar to that in other chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure and asthma, where 50% to 70% of people each year experience a recurrence of symptoms significant enough to require medical intervention.
Fortunately a number of effective treatments exist for addiction, usually combining self-help strategies, psychotherapy, and rehabilitation. For some types of addictions, medication may also help.
The precise plan varies based on the nature of the addiction, but all treatments are aimed at helping people to unlearn their addictions while adopting healthier coping strategies — truly a brain-based recovery program.
Current Reading: Zen Keys by Thich Nhat Hanh
...the kung-an (koan) can also become a great obstacle to Awakening if the practitioner thinks that truth is hidden in the kung-an and that one can interpret it in conceptual terms
If a kung-an (koan) is not adapted to the one for whom it is destined, it no longer has significance, even if it should come from the mouth of a Zen Master
The mind must be ripe
Mountains are mountains and rivers are rivers
True Mind is the radiant nature of Being, while False Mind is only the faculty of conceiving and discriminating