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.
Author: Martin Heidegger
“If I take death into my life, acknowledge it, and face it squarely, I will free myself from the anxiety of death and the pettiness of life - and only then will I be free to become myself”
Author: Friedrich Nietzsche
“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”
“You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.”
“Sometimes people don't want to hear the truth because they don't want their illusions destroyed.”
Author: Ludwig Wittgenstein
“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.”
“The real question of life after death isn't whether or not it exists, but even if it does what problem this really solves.”
“Nothing is so difficult as not deceiving oneself.”
“If people never did silly things nothing intelligent would ever get done.”
“A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that's unlocked and opens inwards; as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push.”
“Don’t, for heaven's sake, be afraid of talking nonsense! But you must pay attention to your nonsense.”
“Not how the world is, but that it is, is the mystery.”
Author: Jean-Paul Sartre
“Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.
It is up to you to give [life] a meaning.”
“Freedom is what we do with what is done to us.”
“It's quite an undertaking to start loving somebody. You have to have energy, generosity, blindness. There is even a moment right at the start where you have to jump across an abyss: if you think about it you don't do it.”
Author: Søren Kierkegaard
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”
“Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.”
“Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.”
“The most common form of despair is not being who you are.”
“What labels me, negates me.”
“Love is the expression of the one who loves, not of the one who is loved. Those who think they can love only the people they prefer do not love at all. Love discovers truths about individuals that others cannot see”
“To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself.”
“Face the facts of being what you are, for that is what changes what you are.”
“If anyone on the verge of action should judge himself according to the outcome, he would never begin.”
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
“Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.”
“Don't be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.”
“silence is the language of god,
all else is poor translation.”
Author: William Blake
“To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour”
“If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite”
“You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough”
“No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings”
“Great things are done when men and mountains meet”
“He who desires, but acts not, breeds pestilence”
“The fool who persists in his folly will become wise”
“I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create”
"He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sun rise”
Author: E.E. Cummings
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
“To be nobody but
yourself in a world
which is doing its best day and night to make you like
everybody else means to fight the hardest battle
which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.”
“Unless you love someone, nothing else makes sense.”
Author: Michael Meade
“A false sense of security is the only kind there is.”
“When faced with great danger and when people panic and seek a false sense of safety, run towards the roaring and go where you fear to go. For only in facing your fears can you find some safety and a way through. When the world rattles and the end seems near, go towards the roar.”
“In the end, what we fear will not go away, for it indicates what we must go through in order to awaken, become more genuine, and live more fully. The problem is that we tend to be most afraid of what our own souls require of us. Often our deepest fear is that we might become who we are intended to be, who we already are at our core. For becoming who we truly are requires the greatest amount of change.”
Author: Joseph Campbell
“Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.”
“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”
“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”
“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it's not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That's why it's your path.”
“Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths.”
“All religions are true but none are literal.”
“We're not on our journey to save the world but to save ourselves. But in doing that you save the world. The influence of a vital person vitalises.”
“All the gods, all the heavens, all the hells, are within you.”
“Where you stumble and fall, there you will find gold.”
“A bit of advice
Given to a young Native American
At the time of his initiation:
As you go the way of life,
You will see a great chasm. Jump.
It is not as wide as you think.”
Author: Carl Gustav Jung
“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
“You are what you do, not what you say you'll do.”
“Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.”
“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.”
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
“The pendulum of the mind oscillates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong.”
“Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol, morphine or idealism.”
“As a child I felt myself to be alone, and I am still, because I know things and must hint at things which others apparently know nothing of, and for the most part do not want to know.”
“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
“People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls.”
“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.”
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”
“In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.”
“Mistakes are, after all, the foundations of truth, and if a man does not know what a thing is, it is at least an increase in knowledge if he knows what it is not. ”
“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being.”
“Whatever is rejected from the self, appears in the world as an event.”
“Where wisdom reigns, there is no conflict between thinking and feeling.”
“We cannot change anything unless we accept it.”
“Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge.”
“Where love rules, there is no will to power, and where power predominates, love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.”
“No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.”
Author: Sigmund Freud
“One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful”
“Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility”
“We are never so defenceless against suffering as when we love”
“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways”
“Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength”
“It is impossible to escape the impression that people commonly use false standards of measurement — that they seek power, success and wealth for themselves and admire them in others, and that they underestimate what is of true value in life.”
“Everywhere I go I find a poet has been there before me”
“Dreams are often most profound when they seem the most crazy”
“A man who has been the indisputable favourite of his mother keeps for life the feeling of a conqueror”