Rather belatedly here is part 2 of these short articles on stress and how to deal with it. In part 1 we focused on what constitutes a stress, how it can affect our bodies physically and then presented a simplistic model to show how these stresses can stay within the system. In this part we will briefly look at ways to deal with these stressors including coping, and also at therapeutic approaches to successfully treat these emotional traumas.
The 'need' to cope – is it needed?
There is a lot of work and literature addressing coping mechanisms. Mindfulness, meditation, yoga, breathing techniques etc. have all been found to have a positive effect on people who are stressed, anxious and / or depressed. These techniques work in a couple of ways: firstly they aim to 'de-stress' you meaning that your base levels of stress are lower and therefore you have a greater capacity to cope before your stress beaker overflows; secondly, they build resilience to stressors so something that may have previously been very stressful is now more manageable; and thirdly, they may give you a number of tools or techniques to use to deal with something that is stressful for you. This all sounds great and all of the techniques that I have listed above are very common for people to use. However, coping can take many forms and not all are healthy as you can see below:
drug abuse (inc. stimulants such as caffeine, energy drinks and so on)
keeping busy or avoidance
I would argue that coping mechanisms are not sustainable in most forms, though of course those such as mindfulness and meditation are obviously more healthy than over eating, alcoholism, self harming and so on. But what if there were a need to no longer have to cope? Do not think that I am suggesting that forms of mindfulness and meditation and such like are not useful or productive, but just for a moment imagine how much more effective they would be on an already de-stressed or Normal system. Instead these 'coping' mechanisms will become ways to optimise your system even further.
So if not coping then what?
Therapy techniques have now been developed that allow individuals to be able to process and resolve the locked emotions that make up part of the Stressed System and create the background stress levels. When I say resolve I do not mean remove the emotions attached to the event, instead these techniques remove the intensity of the feeling and stop the brain getting caught in the loop that happens with conditions such as PTSD. This allows the individual to 'move past' the emotions associated with the event having processed it and allows them to consciously talk about the event without being overwhelmed or going into a panic, or detaching themselves from what they are saying thus creating a monologue. So what may have previously brought about tears and a lot of emotion and rated as a 9 out of 10 can be reduced to a 2 or 3 and talked about without the welling of emotion. Once this memory and the associated emotions have been worked on and reduced in intensity they cannot come back and will stay resolved as the brain cannot create trauma for itself – remember it has to be an outside stimulus that was greater than our capacity to cope with at the time. Now of course there may be many inter weaved memories that all need to be worked on but the individual events will not return in intensity. This is the most effective way of treating emotional traumas and there is lots of research out there that shows talking therapies such as counselling are not the most effective ways to unlock and resolve the emotions surrounding historical traumas. Instead the techniques that work with the individual's sub-conscious which tap into techniques of hypnosis have been found to be the most effective in treating multi-layered and complex traumatic events which the conscious mind will not willingly go near, though these often require great skill from an experienced therapist.
For example I was recently working with a lady who happens to be a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) based acupuncturist who has had recurring right side ankle and hip problems that have gotten better for a time and then come back. When this happens it means one of two things: either as a therapist I am missing something physical that keeps bringing the problem back; or that there is something else at play that is causing the body to get stuck in this loop of physical pain. In this case because we have been able to help the lady get pain free for a couple of weeks before discomfort comes back again and when I have re-assessed her everything has pointed back in the same direction, coupled with the fact that she has on a couple of occasions had an emotional response when I have worked on her right hip (welling up of emotion, change in breathing, flushed face, tears behind eyes) which we have both noticed would suggest that there is an emotional content to her pain. So to test this theory we re-did the work that enabled her right hip to function without pain, and then we got her to think about 2 specific incidents that were emotionally traumatic and the pain in her right hip came back and undid the work that we had just done! In this case the lady needs to decide whether she is ready to deal with the emotional trauma that is linked to her right hip if she wishes to fully resolve the hip and ankle problems that she continues to suffer with.
So imagine that your are the Stressed System in the Beaker Model and that every time an additional normal stress came along you would enter your red zone and you started having physical symptoms. What would you give to become that Normal System that could just take everything in their stride? Imagine that you are an anxious person, and that that anxiety has resulted from a historical trauma, or a pattern or traumas. For example imagine you had a troubled pregnancy that resulted in a termination and ever since then you have been anxious about your health, if you can resolve the emotions surrounding that incident you can effect the anxiety surrounding your health issues as a result because that is where they came from. If you can correctly identify a particular event that has led to the manifestation of a Stressed System then it is often possible to resolve it. If it is a pattern that has gone on for years then this is obviously more complicated and requires a therapist with a deeper level of working and greater skill. If it is a learned behaviour from a parent, such as anxiety, then this is often something that requires a different approach than an individual trauma. Whatever the pattern of how it manifested itself the idea is to bring the individual back towards a Normal system from a Stressed or Anxious state. Doing so will increase an individual's quality of life and enhance any coping mechanisms that they already have in place.
Sound too good to be true?
There is a lot of research out there that has consistently proven that EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing) is more successful in treating cases of PTSD than talking therapies, helping individuals return to normal life following a course of treatment. There are now also accelerated versions of EMDR out there with which it is possible to clear even severe individual traumas within a session, meaning that the individual only need to bring up that event once rather than multiple times, rather than traditional EMDR which is a slower process. Such is the efficacy of a couple of these techniques that the creator of the BLAST Technique offers people a FREE next session if the particular event that they were working on has not resolved. Of course it needs to be appreciated that in some cases there are traumas that have multiple layers and side to them and as such can often be cleared in sequence but not all at once. The beauty of some of these techniques is that they can also be done 'content free' which means that the client does not need to disclose all the details of the event that they wish to have worked on meaning that they can save themselves from any embarrassment they may suffer from retelling an event.
EMDR works by asking an individual to go back to the event and to experience how they felt at the time which is of course something that some individuals may be unwilling to do, but if you knew that it would be resolved within 30 minutes and that you would never have to go back there again would you choose not to go back there?
For those who are unwilling to go back to an event or those that have multi-layered events for example patterns of abuse then techniques that use hypnotic regressions, such as Cellular Release Therapy, are often the most suitable as the conscious mind which is continually trying to protect you is removed from the situation. Here the practitioner is just dealing with the sub-conscious and so this is much less stressful for the individual.
With all of these techniques that deal with the sub-conscious the client has to be willing to let go, this may sound like a silly thing to say but lots of people are so used to operating with traumatic events in their system that they are reluctant to let go. Others can become defined by their trauma, or allow their trauma to define them and want to hold on to it, and others who have experiences where trust was broken may have difficulty letting go and trusting the practitioner where modalities such as hypnosis are involved. I should just quickly note here I am no expert on hypnosis but some people believe that while hypnotised the practitioner could get you to do anything. This is not the case. They simply make suggestions to your sub-conscious, your conscious mind having been moved out the way, they cannot make you do things which would make you break your moral compass or that you would not already be inclined to do.
These techniques that work with the sub-conscious are relatively new when it comes to dealing with deep set trauma and because of this there are not a huge number of skilled practitioners around that practise these techniques though this is slowly changing. It should also be said that they are not a fix for everything and they cannot modify an individual's behaviour, they are however very good at resolving emotional trauma that you may not even know that you are carrying around with you. I have included a quick success story from a friend who uses Cellular Release Therapy in his practice who has recently been working with a 68 year old lady who has experienced huge benefits from working on some emotional issues which had been affecting her.
Cellular release therapy - Another success
I recently treated a 68 year old lady for some emotional problems, which related to her struggling on going outside for long periods of time, spending time with her grand kids and many more issues which I can’t comment on, due to being personal issues.
This lady often goes on a week’s holiday to practice meditation and meditates regularly during the week, but still struggled to keep her emotions in check.
After having her first session, I had some feedback after 5 days since her treatment, she had spent all weekend with her grandchildren and feels amazing, this was something which wasn’t achievable before the first session .
Fear of talking about problems is most people’s concerns, but once you have dealt with the issues, everything becomes easier to talk about, and then the emotional trauma has no charge, which enables you to live a better life. This lady is now able to live a more enjoyable life, even at the age of 68 years old, she is now able to cherish all the wonderful moments with her grandkids and family through dealing with some emotional issues.
If you have any questions from reading either of these 2 short articles then please get in contact.