Posttraumatic Stress (PTSD) (276)
We got this question from Julie a while back:
Before my traumatic experience, I meditated frequently (Buddhist style). After the trauma, for a while I found I could barely meditate. I wanted to jump out of my own skin whenever I tried to sit. What is going on here and what can I do about it?
This is very common in the aftermath of trauma, when cortisol and other stress hormone levels are abnormally elevated (for weeks and even months), and people are edgy, agitated, scattered, irritable, and basically still experiencing the effects of an acute physiological alarm state.
Usually this goes away by itself. Mindfulness meditation requires discipline and focus, and this may not be the time to demand that kind of concentration from your already overtaxed nervous system. Simple conscious breathing (Andy Weil has a great audio for this – might be just the ticket, or guided imagery, like our General Wellness or Guided Imagery Mix could carry you along, recruiting just enough of your senses and capturing a nice chunk of cognitive space in your brain to be of help, without asking you to do a whole lot.
Aerobic exercise, warm baths and body work would be worth a try too, as well as various kinds of moving meditation – yoga or qigong. All of these interventions have been shown to help balance cortisol and return the body to balance.
But mostly be patient with yourself and don’t ask yourself to do too much at this time. Simple, easy activities to help remind your body how to settle itself back down (it does know how to do this), like the ones I’ve suggested, will be just what you need.
Take care and good luck!
Researchers from the University of Missouri in St. Louis evaluated the treatment response trajectory for 69 male and female interpersonal assault survivors, using a modified Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) protocol that allowed survivors to receive up to 18 sessions of CPT, with treatment end determined by therapy progress.
Few sex differences were observed in trauma history, baseline PTS and depressive severity, Axis I co-morbidity, anger, guilt or degree of dissociation.
Women did report more sexual assault in adulthood and elevated baseline guilt, whereas men reported more baseline anger directed inward.
Attrition and total number of sessions did not differ by sex. Over the course of treatment and follow-up, men and women demonstrated similar rates of change in their PTS and depressive symptoms.
Someone just pointed out this comment on Amazon – it’s about our guided imagery for posttraumatic stress (Healing Trauma), where you enter your own broken heart, have a look around at the landscape, (which represents symptoms) and then travel under it to a deeper part of the self that is whole, beautiful and indestructible.
This imagery doesn’t work for everyone, but it does for a lot of people – people who are rebounding from all sorts of ugly, traumatic situations - and when it does, it really does, and that’s a beautiful thing. And yes, making you cry is part of the healing.
So the HJ staff says thanks to Nikoo from Connecticut for reminding us of the impact this imagery often has.
By Nikoo M "Nikoo" (Connecticut)
This review is from: Healing Trauma: Guided Imagery for Posttraumatic Stress (Health Journeys) (Audio CD)
I've been through therapy and listen to Tara Brach and Sharon Salzberg who have a lighthearted and practical way about them. I work with mindfulness but one thing I've had issue with though is "loving kindness". It's been very difficult for me to touch into my deeper compassion for others and a safe place for myself. This guided meditation got me there. It's amazing and will make you cry.
Just a quick question: I have been listening to your guided imagery program for post-traumatic stress. Am I supposed to actively picture all this stuff, or is it like hypnosis where I just sit back and relax and "not try" and am basically hypnotized by it?
I have been using it basically like hypnosis, even to the point where I don't remember any of it and open my eyes right at the second you tell me to.
I suffered two big traumatic experiences at a very young age. My father died when I was two, my mother when I was eight.
My brother & I went to live with my mom's sister, my aunt & my uncle. For the most part, it was a good experience, although she was young & having children of her own. I quickly became the babysitter, maid, nanny, as she worked part time.
Jealousy set in as I was in high school and was more involved in sports & school events and a boyfriend. I married early and have a wonderful marriage and 3 great boys of my own now - the twins are seniors.
My aunt & uncle divorced about 4 years ago and my aunt wanted me to take her side. During that time she blew up at me and one of the many harsh things she said to me was that she only raised me because "My mom didn't have enough guts to stick around & raise me herself".
People often ask if it’s really possible to recover from hideously traumatic childhood abuse. I’m delighted to report I’ve been lucky to know quite a few people who have.
Many become gifted therapists themselves, applying the intuitive gifts they acquired during traumatic times to help save their skins and psyches, to their work as healers. So maybe it’s time to again post our very own Lynne Newman’s story. Lynne was our first “Practitioner We Love” and we now proudly carry her guided imagery recordings.
Here she is – best to let her speak for herself.
I am Lynne Newman, a 63 year old woman, who has been on a healing, spiritual journey which has led me to this wonderful place. I now do only what my heart and soul tell me to do; it is no longer acceptable to do "what I have to do" simply to please others.
I am an EMDR therapist [Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing]. I am thinking that using alternating bilateral stimulation during a guided imagery session would intensify positive affect.
Any experience or research to support this idea? What’s your opinion?
John McCardle PhD.
I’m not yet aware of any research on this, but I’ve heard from many therapists, especially those treating posttraumatic stress, that this is a great idea. Bilateral tapping on alternating knees (or with arms crossed in a butterfly hug, tapping the upper arms on alternating sides) seems to increase the positive impact of each therapy in a lovely synergistic way.
Thank you for the information in the book, Invisible Heroes. As a trauma survivor of many years who has worked long and hard to regain my normal life, I have been misunderstood, mis-diagnosed and mis-medicated. My symptoms confused me and made me fear for my sanity. The book explains what I have been experiencing and puts the remaining pieces of the puzzle together, including my chronic fatigue. It also underscores the triumph of what I have achieved in conquering my panic and numbness. I am grateful that the fields of psychiatry and psychology are finally figuring post-traumatic stress out. -M.G.
I have been meditating for 20 years, since going to Benson-Henry's mind/body medicine program here in Boston, MA. It has been invaluable to me, as has been your website and CDs. I have much gratitude to you and all who have mentored me and guided me.
Here is my problem: I seem to have lost the ability to really go into a lovely, meditative state since the Boston attacks last April. I live in Watertown, MA, a few blocks from where the terrorists' gunfight occurred, and was in the midst of the lockdown, etc for those harrowing hours.
Thankfully, no one in my family or community lost lives or limbs, but many of us were affected. For me personally, I came down with a severe case of shingles 1 week later, and then slumped into a nasty, clinical depression and reactivation of PTSD from my childhood.