The Buddha and Psychotherapy

After Siddhartha Gautama was enlightened he became the Buddha. Before that time he had been first a great prince and then, after his renunciation, a wandering monk. His aim was to uncover the secret of suffering and find enlightenment. He tried several teachers, starved himself close to death, practised self-torture and meditation, but none of these worked. In despair he decided to sit under a Bo tree, not leaving until he had found either enlightenment or death. Four weeks later it came to him in the night. He ‘saw’ into the ultimate nature of reality: that it was without names, time or permanence. He realised that he was it and it he.

A few weeks after that he gave his first sermon in the Deer Park at Sarnath to five disciples. He told them that he had discovered that everything that arises is subject to cessation, including suffering. The path to enlightenment lay in the Four Noble Truths:

1.   Know that there is dukkha

2.   Understand the origin of dukkha in attachment

3.   Let go of attachment and dukkha

4.   Follow the Eight-fold path

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7 things they don’t teach you at therapy school

When I graduated as a psychotherapist in 1990 I had been taught a lot of things that were never any use in therapy – watching out for ‘transference issues’ was one of them. I had also not been taught a lot of things that I really needed to know but only found out later. So like most therapists I had to make it up as I went along. But now I have been doing it for 23 years I have learnt a few things I am going to share with you.

Here is my list of seven things that really do work.

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Removing traumatic memories from the brain

Do you have a troublesome or traumatic memory? Or so-called Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome – PTSD?

A common belief is that once you have one of these ‘memories’ then you are stuck with it for life and little can be done about it.

New research confirms that this is not true. if you interfere with the way in which people access these memories you can neutralize them. This is the basis for the EMDR technique which disrupts access to traumatic memories by asking subjects to keep their eyes on a moving finger while trying to recall the trauma at the same time. I must have used this technique countless times and have never yet seen it fail.

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How to treat drug addictions and alcohol problems – Part 3

Devil

This continues the series on drug addictions and how to eliminate  them by working through the Addictions grid shown at the bottom of this article.

This week we are going to focus on the Hypnotic Addictive Inner Voice. This is the bullying voice in your head which keeps going on and on about the need to have a drink/fix/smoke/pill, etc.

Often the tone to the voice, is seductive: pleasant, low, smooth and insistent. Some people describe the voice instead as loud, urgent and forceful. A smaller minority tell me they can’t hear a voice as such. Instead they feel the craving getting stronger and stronger as if there were a ‘beast’ on the loose inside their heads. When working with this type of client I typically ask them to ‘translate’ what ‘the beast’ is telling them into words and get them to work with it that way.

Why is the addictive voice so hypnotic? 

Because it works in exactly the same way as a hypnotist. It’s aim is to put you in a trance state in which every one of your choices is blotted out, leaving you with only one way to go. As in all good hypnotic suggestions the voice uses repetition, monotony and persistence – confident that, eventually, you will give in just as you have given in many times before. As the trance state builds you will be drawn in to recalling the ‘pleasure’ to be had from indulging;  more specifically the dopamine release which could follow on from drinking alcohol, using cocaine, or gambling on the roulette wheels. Conjuring up a state of carefree abandon in which you are relaxed, happy and comfortable in your skin. Or  as the stimulated, excited, outgoing, chatty joker in the party. Or having the  the ecstasy of winning thousands of dollars.

Typical ‘suggestions’ include:

  • ‘You’ve had a tough day. You need to unwind/relax….’
  • ‘You deserve this…’
  • ‘It’s been six months since you last had a drink. You’ve proved your point now…’
  • ‘Just the one…’
  • ‘No one will ever know…’ (or) ‘Everyone else will be drinking…’
  • ‘You know you really want one…’
  • ‘You don’t wanna believe everything John Eaton tells you…’
  • ‘The jackpot on that machine is full now….”
  • The alternative is so boring…’
  • ‘You know you are going to give in eventually so stop hanging around…’

The main reason why the Hypnotic Addictive Inner Voice can seem so overwhelming is because, without your realising it, it feeds on your own power. You give it power every time you ‘relapse’ so that it comes back stronger at you next time. You give it power when you fantasise about how good things will feel after you give in. You give it power by taking it seriously instead of treating it as a delusion. In fact you give it power just by listening to it. Each time you listen you are providing it with the oxygen of attention. Without that oxygen the voice will wither away and die.

So the simplest and most effective way to defeat the Addictive Voice is just ignore it. Note: I said this is the ‘simplest’ and ‘most effective’ way; I didn’t say it was the easiest. Most of my clients find it takes repeated practice before they learn how to switch off, accompanied by a lot of work on the ‘Fulfilment’ quadrant (see grid below). Giving up drink, or drugs, or gambling means breaking a well-established habit. That’s easiest to do when you have some better habits to replace it with.

In a large number of cases there is no need to do any work on the Internal voice simply because it’s power has been eclipsed by tragedy:

  • You are told you have a life-threatening illness
  • You kill or seriously injure someone else
  • Your partner/friends/parents/children abandon you
  • You are arrested by the police
  • You are found guilty and sentenced to community service or imprisonment
  • You lose your job or your reputation
  • You are declared bankrupt
  • You lose your home
  • You lose your driving licence
  • You get beaten up, robbed or raped while under the influence

As the person goes into shock the Addictive voice is now seen for what it is: delusional, destructive and degrading.  When the state of shock is combined with emotions like disgust and remorse, the power of the voice is broken at least temporarily and sometimes forever.  To be replaced by a different voice. One that disempowers the old voice; encourages you along the road to abstinence; reminds you about your need to work with emotions like disgust, sadness, boredom and remorse; focuses you on making amends with your family, friends and other people you may have harmed.

If further work on wiping out the Addictive Voice is required then my client and I will use one or more of the many techniques for overcoming negative Headmind states which I have described elsewhere on this blog:

Switching off the chatterbox

Do you control your mind or does it control you?

How to make that breakthrough

 

Quadrant2Image

How to improve your mood with Tyrosine

Chemical

I received a big post following my first article in the current series on Addictions and it seems there is a high demand for a series like this.

Why? Are addictions to drugs and alcohol a bigger problem than we realise?

Meanwhile, one reader would like to know what people can do about it if they have Dopamine deficiency. Depletions can occur genetically in the brains of some people, although they are more common in habitual drinkers and drug users. However, if you suspect your mood is low, or that some of your cravings are running away with you, or that you could just do with a boost then there is no harm in trying a Tyrosine supplement for a few days.

Typical symptoms include:

  • Loss of interest/pleasure in activities
  • Chronic boredom
  • Lethargy
  • Agitation/restlessness
  • Poor concentration
  • Low mood

In my view Dopamine depletion is sometimes mistaken for Serotonin deficiency, which occurs in clinical depression and I wonder that this subject has not been explored in greater depth in developing treatments for depression.

There is a natural way to boost Dopamine levels and that is to consume Tyrosine, an amino-acid which the body uses to synthesise Dopamine in the brain. It is also helpful to take vitamin B6 with Tyrosine supplements as this enables the body to break down the Tyrosine faster.

Tyrosine is also found in soy, chicken, fish, avocado pear, bananas, milk, cheese, yogurt, nuts, pumpkin seeds and in sesame seeds.

I have worked with several cocaine addicts who have found Tyrosine and Vitamin B6 helpful in reducing cravings and restoring mood levels.

I would be interested in hearing from any readers who have tried Tyrosine supplements, or Tyrosine-rich diets.

 

Four main causes of depression – and what to do about them

Wispy

The first month of 2011 has come and gone and the statistics show that January is the most ‘depressing’ month, in that more people will seek help for depression than at any other time of the year. As it happens, I have been more than usually busy with depressed clients since the New Year came on; a fact which prompts me to write this article.

First, lets be clear about what clinical depression really is.

In my view, many of the people who are diagnosed by their GP as having depression are not, in fact, clinically depressed at all. Instead, they could be sad, fed up with life, or unhappy. This is one reason why anti-depressants don’t work for the majority. Anti-depressant drugs such as the SSRIs – which increase the amount of serotonin in circulation in the brain – will only work, obviously, if the patient has serotonin depletion, which will only be the case if they actually have clinical depression.

Whether you are depressed, sad, fed up, or unhappy, this article will still apply to you.

Here are the four main causes:

1. Prolonged anxiety caused by negative Headmind thinking.

If you are a habitual worrier, perfectionist, or guilt-tripper then, on a daily basis, your body will become accustomed to very high anxiety levels. Since Bodymind cannot tolerate over-arousal for too long, it will seek to reduce the problem by damping down the system. Typically, this means reducing serotonin (which elevates mood), which leads to the symptoms of clinical depression. In this respect it has been estimated that over 70% of depressed people also have high anxiety levels.

The solution is to change the way Headmind works.

2. The person has developed a ‘hopeless’ mind-set

This problem is typically developed by over-conscientious people who have not learnt how to say ‘No’ or recognise their limitations. The result is that they take on far too many burdens, obligations and responsibilities. Or else they forget to take time out for themselves and keep that crucial work-life balance. One result is burnout.

Depression occurs when personal Headmind reacts to overload by just giving up (a slightly weird response, given that it was faulty thinking that gave rise to the problem in the first place). A common outcome is that the person turns into a victim of some kind.

The most common Headmind defect here is ‘Failure thinking’, which ignores realistic solutions on what to do about overload and, instead, magnifies problems, concludes that there is nothing that can be done about them, and triggers anxiety with the thought that disaster is inevitable. This leads to first anxiety and then to the ‘damping down’ response I described in the previous item.

The solution is to develop a solution-focused, or problem-solving approach to problems. I am in the middle of writing a series on this so please check back for articles on ‘success thinking’.

3. The person has lost her passion for life.

People who have become disillusioned do so as a result of trauma of some kind: the death of someone close, break-up, or departure. Or betrayal, or rejection, by someone they once trusted. Or the usual disasters which befall all of us from time to time but which setbacks the ego will not accept.

In other cases, the depressed person has simply got confused and lost his way. This could be because he has become addicted to trivialities – newspapers, games, television,  the social round, internet-surfing, etc. Or is stuck in routine in which one day is more or less like the next, and which becomes a kind of living death. Once Bodymind sees what is happening here it starts to release copious amounts of the emotions known as boredom and frustration. But here is what is strange: when some people notice they are bored they don’t do anything about it. Instead, they read boredom as another sign that life is hopeless. So they stagnate, more and more.

The solution is to reconnect to Bodymind and your passion.

4. Headmind is blocking the release of strong emotions, such as anger and sadness.

A  build-up of unexpressed or unresolved emotion leads to a similar effect as chronic anxiety: a dangerous level of over-arousal. Once again, Bodymind tends to counter-act this problem by reducing serotonin.

The solution is to find a way to release those emotions.

If you are not depressed right now but you think you might be going that way, then you can find out more about how to stay out of depression here.

Contrary to common belief many people do find a way to improve their mental health without needing to consult a psychotherapist and some of my articles show you how to do just that. But if you do need assistance then you can contact me over on the psychotherapy website.

Image by pinksherbet