Resources: TED Talks about Negative Feelings

I really enjoy watching or listening to TED talks.

My first experience of TED talks was through the BARCC Hotline when a counselor suggested I listen to Brene Brown’s presentation about shame and vulnerability.  Since then, I’ve discovered other wonderful resources about feelings, nutrition, brain physiology, magic, etc.

Unfortunately, I’m not that great about keeping up with TED talks and many other video resources.  Movies and video don’t really have a big impact on my senses, so they are low on my priority list for distractions, resources, or coping strategies.

In this way, I am grateful for my friends who do enjoy videos and share links on social media.  This video made its way to me via Facebook.  As I write this post, I’m listening to the TED Talk about negative feelings.

The free account won’t let me embed and show the video on this post, so please click on the link above or here to watch.

Psychologist Susan David shares how the way we deal with our emotions shapes everything that matters: our actions, careers, relationships, health and happiness. In this deeply moving, humorous and potentially life-changing talk, she challenges a culture that prizes positivity over emotional truth and discusses the powerful strategies of emotional agility. A talk to share.

This lesson took me many years to acknowledge, let alone understand.  Now, I’m working to accept my negative feelings.  Maybe some day, embrace them too.  Then I’ll be able to let those feelings go and move on.

Thanks for reading.

Recovery: Safe, Respectful Touch and why it’s so hard to find

An extra post this week…seemed important

Today has been one of those stressful, difficult days when everything seems designed to send a person straight into a panic attack or relapse.  Luckily for me, I had good friends and safety plans in place to help me out.  And I also got the bonus of cuddle time with a canine friend – safe, respectful touch.

Platonic touch.

That brings me to the point of this post.

Many survivors of trauma have a fear of or aversion to touch and physical contact.  I know I do.  And that isolation (touch isolation as termed in the article) hurts.  Safe, respectful touch is considered one of the basic human needs.  I get mine from canine and feline friends, acupuncture/body work, and massage with trusted professionals.  Sometimes friends are allowed to give and receive hugs too, but rarely.

However, there is also another group who is isolated from being able to give and receive safe, respectful touch: males of all ages in our culture/society.

A friend of mine shared this article on Facebook:

How a Lack of Touch Is Destroying Men

It explains so much in a thoughtful, respectful, compassionate way.  The author is a man writing to both genders about the importance of bringing safe, respectful touch back to society.  Platonic touch that offers affection, caring,  and gentle  without being sexual, aggressive, or violent.  Male to male.  Male to female.  Female to male.  Female to female.

why share now?

I was still feeling low and triggered, trying to find something to help me relax and let go of the shame when this popped up.  I read the comments first.  Then I read the article.  The contents resonated with the vulnerability I felt after dealing with the unexpected stressors.

I empathized with this man and all of the other males in the world who also felt the effects of this isolation.  Through this empathy, I felt validated and connected to a group instead of isolated and alone in thinking this way.

Conclusion

I feel compassion and empathy for anyone who lacks safe, respectful touch in their lives.  Personal experience shows me how much I am missing out on.  Some day, I hope to have that in my life again – with humans and animals.  And I wish for anyone who craves platonic , safe, respectful, affectionate, mutually shared touch among friends and relatives receives it.

How do you indulge your need for safe, respectful touch?

 

thanks for reading

Coping Strategy: Meditation Conflicts & Confusion

A quick review of my thoughts about and experience with meditation

I started meditating as a child in Taekwondo classes.  We had 5-15 minutes of meditation every class 2-3 times a week.  The purpose of that meditation was to practice focus and calmness – we focused on breathing in and out, sitting quietly, not moving.  As we got older, the focus transitioned to clearing our minds and letting thoughts flow in and out while focusing on our breath.  It was a sitting meditation with our eyes closed, posture straight.

As I got older and went to college, I learned about yoga and moving meditation too.  This was more like mindfulness meditation where the focus was on being present and acknowledging the sensations brought on by moving slow (yoga) or by the environment (walking meditation).  We let our feelings and thoughts flow in and out, acknowledging each bit while focusing on the deliberate, slow movement our bodies made with each position.

Then I started learning about Buddhism and meditation to clear my mind or free myself from the clutter of incessant thoughts and feelings.  This meditation was the most difficult for me as an adult because every time I started to clear my mind, my past memories (blocked by amnesia) would surface and cause flashbacks, anxiety, panic attacks, etc.  That kind of ruined the whole clear-my-mind and look into the emptiness goal.  Visualization worked better for me because I got to “paint a picture” with my imagination; less scary than looking into clear water or dark nothing.

Different kinds of meditation suit different purposes

The meditation taught in most therapy groups, sessions, and programs is mindfulness meditation.  Mindfulness can help keep an individual grounded in the present while also teaching how to slow down and be more aware of self/surroundings.  Mindfulness teaches individuals how to be more aware of one’s internal landscape and offer tools to cope with overwhelming feelings.

Focused meditation is about learning mental and emotional self control by letting go of feelings and staying calm.  This is not necessarily a bad thing; it helps build clarity of thought, compassion, and resilience depending on the goal of each session.  The hardest part about focused meditation is clearing one’s mind of stray thoughts and focusing on breathing or emptiness.

When I was in the partial programs, many of the moderators skipped meditation and dismissed it as too hard and not useful because of their failures to achieve positive mediation practice.  I felt angry when I heard this repeated; it made me rethink everything they taught.  Meditation helped me get to where I am and was my frame of reference so I could understand their emotion regulation concepts.

I use focused meditation to help with my shame and compassion work more than any other type.  It helps all of us (my alters and I) get in touch with the scary feelings from a safe and grounded place inside of ourselves.  The mindfulness meditation helps with the severe physical pain that comes from anxiety and body memories; we use this most often during panic attacks, nightmares, and insomnia.  And the moving meditation helps us cope with too much energy or compulsion to over exercise.  It offers a stretch and tone without a lot of exertion.

Lessons from almost 2o years of meditation practice

  • Meditation is hard
  • Meditation takes practice, persistence, and patience to learn
  • Trying to practice a focused meditation with DID and many alters is scary, confusing, and frustrating because the thoughts and feelings of other alters enter and flow through the same consciousness as the one trying to meditate.
  • Maintaining a level of physical stillness for some meditation practices with DID might be a big challenge
    • So far I have not found a way to stop my eyes from moving (sign of switching alters) when I practice a focused standing or sitting meditation with my eyes open.
  • Remember that meditation practice can be fluid and flexible to a degree
    • Try to accommodate personal quirks like alters or injuries in ways that still allow for beneficial practice
  • Clearing one’s mind is not exactly the goal – calming one’s mind is a better option
  • Calming one’s mind is scary for everyone because once you calm down, you can see everything you’ve been hiding from or ignoring or denying about yourself
  • The goal is not to attain emptiness or numbness, but to be able to  observe and acknowledge your internal feelings and sensations without having them take over your life.
  • The goal is to feel and let feelings/thoughts/sensations inform you and help make choices in every day life
  • Meditation helps me pause and step back when I feel overwhelmed, confused, or stressed out so that I can calm down and make choice based on emotion and logic instead of only emotion or only logic

Conclusion

Meditation is a skill worth learning.  There are many ways to learn, but I think that in-person lessons with an experienced practitioner are the best option for anyone with doubts and questions.  Instructors have experienced many of the barriers that frustrate people on all levels and can help students work through them one-on-one.

As with any strategy discussed here, practice, patience, and persistence make the difference between a useful and a not-helpful tool in the tool box.  Please take your time and go into each experiment with an open mind if you try out any of these options.  Then, if the strategy still doesn’t feel right, please move on or tweak the strategy in ways to make it useful to you.

Thanks for reading.

Anniversary: Family Reunions, Birthdays & Shame

Background

End of July and most of August are typically the time of year when out-of-town relatives stay at my aunts’ houses and visit for a long family reunion that ends with the maternal grandmother’s birthday.  Some used to stay with my parents, but that changed sometime when I was in college.  This is speculation because no one ever told me anything, but I guess my relatives couldn’t face the truth of who was acting out against (aka abusing and scaring) their young children.  It’s easier for them to blame the scapegoat than to face a reality they refuse to acknowledge.

Why this anniversary is so scarring

But back to family reunions.  As scapegoat, I was mostly ignored or bullied by everyone.  And made to be the de facto babysitter as a young teen to keep me separated from the rest of my age-mate cousins and younger brother.  I didn’t mind because that gave me something to do with my time.  As I got older, though, so did the kids.  And the next generation of young children came from my older cousins – people who didn’t trust or like or respect me – and other relatives by marriage who didn’t want my help.  So I suddenly had nothing to keep the anxiety away.

And that generation of children were raised to treat me the same way as the adults.  And they did it with relish.  No one scolded them for being mean or indulging in bad habits around me, so they constantly made up ways to antagonize me.  And then with the silent treatment and shunning from the adults, I basically had no place to hide at family reunions.  No one to offer empathy, compassion, friendly conversation, etc.  And no place to go and cope with my anxiety or triggers.  I was on a stage with bright lights pointed at me all the time; they used every word, every gesture to humiliate and condemn me.

Typical Response

Dissociate, not leave the house, feel hyper-vigilant and scared all the time, stop sleeping, have nightmares, miss time from work, have panic attacks, severe body pain and memories, get sick, pass out, not eat, etc. for days or even weeks.  Lose time, lose memories, switch and practice self harm.

Response in new environment

Some disturbed sleeping, lots of anxiety, some flashbacks, lots of shame and tears, problems with my digestion and visit the bathroom a lot, increased body memories and body pain but not so much that I stay home and am incapacitated.  Some switching and reckless behavior – but that is more due to mistakes and learning a new environment that the shame capitalizes on than anything deliberate.

I am:

  • still working 5 days a week
  • going out with friends
  • active on the blog and website
  • going shopping/cooking/to restaurants
  • exercising
  • decorating my apartment
  • keeping in touch with safe family and friends (another post)
  • Utilizing my coping strategies (especially the hotline) while I try to find a provider here
  • making and keeping appointments for graduate school, scholarship research, etc.

Conclusion

The 2 months of anniversaries are tough.  Remembering how I was treated brings back lots of negative feelings that are hard to accept and cope with.

But being here in my new place, I truly feel safe and able to move beyond the typical fear.  Yes, it hurts.  yes I cry a lot.  Yes my body loses control sometimes.  Yes I feel aggression rise to the point where I scare myself of what could happen.

But it all goes away much faster.  I can let myself cry and experience all of these sensations instead of blocking them out.  And because of that, the pain and fear and anxiety lessen each time.  And each experience takes less out of me too.

So yeah, I’m still in rough shape.  The shame overwhelms me and causes me to apologize and over explain and feel terrible about good decisions.  It is constantly messing with my mind.  But I can get help from the hotline and my friends; they listen and help me find self-compassion through validation and reality testing.

I need my quiet evenings and 1 day a week of staying inside.  But I can spend that time being productive and happy (either doing something or doing nothing) instead of out of my mind with fear and disorientation.

Thanks for reading

DID Post: Clarification about POV for DID posts in general and the “DID Post: What does my internal system look like” post in particular

It has come to my attention that the tone and perspective of the posts written in the DID Posts category may be mistaken or misunderstood by guests and readers.

Many of the posts about DID are written by one or more alternate personalities who prefer to use a “locked vault” system of writing.  That means I (the one in charge of dealing with the outside world most of the time) am not directly involved in  the creation and editing of all of them.  Nor am I always the one to post the articles, re-read, edit, or check for potential miscommunications in tense, tone, or point of view (POV).  And the authors do not always realize how their words and writing styles could be interpreted by our guests on  the blog; especially the younger ones.

For this, we all want to apologize for any miscommunications or accidental insinuations that came from the post 2 weeks ago entitled: “DID Post: What does my internal system look like“.  This post was written from the perspective of 2 alters between 10 and 12 years old with help from some of the other adults who related better to them.  One alter is female; the other is male.  They want everyone here to know that the post is written from the perspective of how they used the tools our therapist gave them and the process they used to get around, through, and away from many triggers that caused failure, frustration, anger, and grudging acceptance.  The post is not at all about the approach or method that our therapist uses.  In fact, it is the OPPOSITE of her approach in many ways.

The girl alter and the boy alter explain a bit about why they wrote what they did in that post at the end.

This will happen often with DID posts because writing a post about the DID experience is full of conflicting feelings, perceptions, attitudes, thoughts, and reactions.  For many posts, there will be a “process” or “method” type post written from the perspective of the alter or alters sharing their story that focuses less on introspective feelings and thoughts and more on the steps, strategies, and tools involved.  Later on, after the alters have had some down time to reflect on any changes between then and now, they might write about a similar experience with the introspective feelings and thoughts that show more of the therapist’s approach in offering strategies or homework; what their reaction was to that approach; and why they used that process.  We write our posts this way because trying to incorporate process and feelings into the same post gets too messy and complicated – not to mention LONG.

IT IN NO WAY REFLECTS THE THERAPIST’S ATTITUDE, APPROACH TO WORKING WITH CLIENTS, OR POINT OF VIEW ABOUT THERAPEUTIC METHODOLOGIES.

As a reminder, I will say once again that these posts are written from my or my alters’ point of view and perception of how any one or all of us used the tools.  It in no way reflects/assumes/insinuates/intimates the approach, attitude, therapeutic process, feelings, or intentions of any of the therapists written about here unless specifically noted within the article.

GIRL ALTER’S EXPLANATION OF THE POV: I spent too many years having to nag or repeatedly ask questions or do my own investigations to get answers from any female adults.  The answers they gave me were evasions at best and lies at worst.  Any creativity or intelligence/outside-the-box-thinking I showed got everyone in our system punished with verbal attacks, public humiliation, private beatings, bullying or increased sexual duties on top of doing my homework, by brother’s homework, laundry, housekeeping, and covering for my mom when she went into one of her moods.  So yeah, I was angry and upset.  I didn’t want to do the mapping exercise, but I wanted to know the rest of my family.  I tried and failed so many times.  I got lost in the dark.  I got eaten by the monsters.  I got trapped, stuck in mud holes up to my neck, dumped on, and had to relive every single punishment that came from being creative each time I tried to participate in the mapping exercise.  It wasn’t until one of the other alters was passing by and stopped to help me rescue myself from the flashbacks that I understood what the mapping and communication meant to all of us.  So yeah, I was pissed, angry, upset and confused.  I knew there were more like me inside, but I’d never really “met” them; only hear our therapist and didn’t understand why she never talked directly to me before until I met that alter.

BOY ALTER’S EXPLANATION OF THE POV: I hated being trapped in a weak girl’s body.  I was full of anger and resentment and confused about why I couldn’t be in charge all the time.  I was a boy, much stronger than anyone else (not that I believed anyone else existed at the time) and exactly what mom and dad wanted.  They wanted their first born to be a son not a daughter.  It wasn’t a big deal until the body turned 10 years old; that’s when weird things started to happen.  Instead of the penis appearing like it was supposed to according to mom, the body grew breasts and hips.  And our stomach started feeling weird sometimes.  I heard the therapist in session and always liked listening to her; she didn’t judge or push or force programs and lesson plans on me.  She didn’t pretend I was invisible either when I talked to her.  But I was in charge when I was out.  And I didn’t want to give that up.  I was the oldest, strongest, best and wanted everything to stay that way.  The mapping exercise made the monsters come out more often and gave them ore power over me.  I didn’t want or need help from the other imaginary people in here.  Or that is what I thought until I got kidnapped and forced into reliving the secret rituals again.  The alters who came and rescued me made time to teach me how to escape and protect myself first.  That’s when I learned I wasn’t the only one there.  They let me help rescue the others too; we all made it out safely.  And that’s how I became part of the map.  Grudgingly, with a chip on my shoulder.  So yeah, that attitude was all me, not our therapist.