The word “resolve” means to find a new solution to an existing problem. The origins of the word are rooted in old-world French and Latin languages to “go back” (re) and “loosen or dissolve” (solvere).
When trauma therapists say we have to resolve our traumas to find healing, this etymology makes sense: We have to go back to the trauma memories, experience them in a safe place, and at a safe pace to loosen or dissolve the pain and suffering they have caused.
Most people will not find this an exciting adventure, however. We start this process of grieving and releasing out of necessity. We can no longer bear the pain, and the level of suffering it has caused our health, relationships, and self-worth has to stop. That is when we are willing to start the work of resolving trauma.
Do all of our trauma memories have to be loosened from the ground where they were buried? Thankfully no. That can retraumatize us further. A trauma-informed therapist follows the principles of the 4 R’s, mentioned several times in this blog*. A trauma-informed program, organization, or system:
Realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery.
Recognizes signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system.
Responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices.
Seeks to Resist re-traumatization.
Processing every trauma that we have ever experienced can be impossible and impractical. We don’t always remember all of our traumas. Many of them are implicit or hidden from memory, mainly when they occur in life. Our mission is to find the root of the issue that will bring healing and stop the sting of the memory. We won’t forget, but we can no longer let trauma memories control us.
We have to resolve or loosen the damaging association trauma has on our identity. It occurs because of the shame that surrounds the trauma event(s), making bad things that “happen to us” feel like we are “bad people” broken and damaged beyond repair. That feels true because memories are recordings of the past to prevent us from further hurt. But they are not valid because what happens to us is not who we are.
It is usual for a child to internalize their experiences. We are supposed to learn and develop. If good things go in, then good things can come out. What happens if bad things go in? You know the answer…
What does it feel like when you notice your feet on the ground? What about your butt in the chair or the sunlight on your skin, or the wind on your face? Most likely, you weren’t noticing any of those things before I asked, right?
You are not alone. We seldom pause to get grounded and notice what sensory input is coming into our brains and bodies. We are detached walkers in the world, always focused on what is next. It is no wonder anxiety, and panic attacks are increasing at an alarming rate in the world.
Let’s take a moment and pause… Breath deeply in and out. Take stock of your five senses. Adjust your body to be more comfortable and Breath in and out again. Once more…
That might have been enough to settle you down a bit and allow you to feel more relaxed. The wonder is that it only took a minute out of your busy day…and you thought you didn’t have time for meditation!
Not having enough time is just one excuse for not pausing and breathing (what I call meditation). Another excuse is our uncontrollable mind. Our anxious thoughts want to wander constantly. It’s like a hyper toddler getting into everything and being totally unaware of the danger it keeps putting itself in. The reality is that everyone’s mind wanders. All of our thoughts move quickly and uncontrollably. Just like the parent who has to watch the busy toddler, you can parent your own thoughts and redirect them back to…the pause, the ponder the breath. Return to noticing the body. Notice even your thoughts and then go back to pause. Hopefully, you get the idea by now.
It is not the wandering thoughts we should be concerned about. Instead focus on the pause. The more you practice this, the more you will feel at peace. It literally retrains the nervous system and makes you more resilient.
>> Build a stronger nervous system with my “What the Hack? Learning to build a resilient nervous system” course at http://familyhealer.tv
Recently, I started using an acronym to help my clients manage anxious thoughts and emotions. It is P.R.A.Y, and it stands for…
P = Pause with a simple, deep breath. Close your eyes, rest your shoulders, stretch, and force your awareness to be still for the span of just one breath…and then another. Repeat as needed.
R = Reflect on what is happening in the now. Return to the now each time you wander to the past or future. What do I notice inside and outside of me now? Write it down if that helps, and it will. The training of the mind is hidden in this simple act of returning and reflecting. The more you have to do this, the more resilient you become as new neural networks are laid down. The nervous system loves habit, which is why it will resist breaking a habit.
A = Accept and Affirm what you reflected on. Accept what is happening without judgment, expectations, or resentments. I don’t have to like it. Say to yourself, I accept this “thought”, “feeling”, or “sensation.” Next, create an affirmation about what you want to believe or experience instead. It won’t feel true to say “I am confident and joyful” at the moment, but the more your repeat this affirmation, the more your emotions will go along with it. You are creating space for new thoughts and feelings that your nervous system was filtering. This shift from acceptance to affirmation will start to transform our mental states.
Y = Yield to the freedom of surrendering expectations, resentment, fears, and forgive yourself or others. This is actually the most challenging part. You have to walk out what you just affirmed over your life. Live an “unoffendable” life by continually for-giving back all the negativity life hands you. You have to forgive yourself for not being perfect, making mistakes, being discouraged, or hating yourself. One definition of yielding is relinquishing possession of something. That means that negative something you have been gripping so tight. It might also mean saying “no.” It could be simplifying your schedule. You know what it is…and it is time to let it go.
This past year presented so many different challenges and obstacles that tested our strength and resiliency. The global pandemic forced us to cope with situations we never even imagined, and a lot of us struggled with our mental health as a result. The good news is that there are tools and resources available that can support the well-being of individuals and communities.
Now, more than ever, we need to combat the stigma surrounding mental health concerns. That’s why this Mental Health Month Ron Huxley is highlighting the TraumaToolbox.com- what individuals can do throughout their daily lives to prioritize mental health, build resiliency, and continue to cope with the obstacles of COVID-19.
Throughout the pandemic, many people who had never experienced mental health challenges found themselves struggling for the first time. During the month of May, we are focusing on different topics that can help process the events of the past year and the feelings that surround them, while also building up skills and supports that extend beyond COVID-19.
We know that the past year forced many to accept tough situations that they had little to no control over. If you found that it impacted your mental health, you aren’t alone. In fact, of the almost half a million individuals that took the anxiety screening at MHAscreening.org, 79% showed symptoms of moderate to severe anxiety. However, there are practical tools that can help improve your mental health. We are focused on managing anger and frustration, recognizing when trauma may be affecting your mental health, challenging negative thinking patterns, and making time to take care of yourself.
It’s important to remember that working on your mental health and finding tools that help you thrive takes time. Change won’t happen overnight. Instead, by focusing on small changes, you can move through the stressors of the past year and develop long-term strategies to support yourself on an ongoing basis.
A great starting point for anyone who is ready to start prioritizing their mental health is to take a mental health screening at MHAscreening.org. It’s a quick, free, and confidential way for someone to assess their mental health and begin finding hope and healing. Ultimately, during this month of May, Ron Huxley wants to remind everyone that mental illnesses are real, and recovery is possible.
Check out the many mental health tools create free at the TraumaToolbox.com.
A common struggle for modern people is a disconnection between the head and heart. We know one thing to be true, in our head, but we don’t feel or experience that truth, in our hearts or lives. We might have “Know-ledge” that someone love us (a partner, family, friend) but we don’t feel or experience the “know-ing.”
The result of this disconnection is a wide rage of negative emotions and physiological reactions. This lack, of knowing in our hearts, is rapidly creating anxiety in the world. The manifestation is broken relationships, depression and suicidal ideations, and addiction to handle pain. A simple remedy is to reconnect the head and heart.
Neuroscience provides the key to reconnecting head and heart through the new science of neuroplasticity. This refers to the brains ability to reorganize into new networks and mental patterns. It used to be believed that the brain and nervous system only grew during childhood and then stopped. All our learned patterns were fixed once we were adults or at least drastically slowed down. We know know that this is not true.
Learning can occur across the lifespan and the brain can reroute circuits, repattern networks, and even create new brain matter in response to new social emotional inputs, environmental influences, repeated practices, and even small amounts of psychological stress (yes, stress). The brain can also relearn skills, like speaking and motor movement, following brain damage.
Because the brain can be redesigned it is called “plastic” or moldable. Children are an example of neuroplasticity. Developmentally, they are “experience-dependent” coming into the world with neuro-hardware possessing basic operating instructions but needing software or experiences from loving caregivers to program the brain and its resulting behaviors or actions.
The infant brain is primed for social contact and seeks healthy attachments. If those attachments are missed or the attachment bond is frightening, as in case of abused and neglected children, the result is a child with severe emotional and behavioral disturbances.
Fortunatley, if a chlid did not “inherit” a healthy attachment, an adult, through deep inner work and repairing with healthy adult partners, can “earn” their lost security.
NOTE: You can learn more about attachment in our free online course at Traumatoolbox.com
Here is a simple two-step practice that has been proven to change the brain in a positive way and connect the head to the heart:
1. Activate your head. What is you WANT to believe but don’t currently feel is true? Write this statement out on a piece of paper and say it outloud. Of course, it will not FEEL true because it is your head that is saying it, not your heart.
2. Activate your heart. Picture this statement “as if” it were true. Hold that image in your heart while you take slow, deep breaths. The breathing will keep the body from overriding the statements as not true. It just wants to protect you from hurt or disappoinment. Ignore it, or better yet, thank it for trying to protect you and continue to picture it.
This is not “whoo-whoo” philosphy. This is science. Research has proven that daily expressions of gratitude create literal changes in brain structure and mental functions. This is measureable change! The brain looks for reasons to validate what it believes. If you believe that you people are rude to you, your reticular activating system (a group of neural connectsion in your brain stem that play a crucial role in maintaining behavioral arousl, direct focus, and conciousness) will filter sensor input to be congruent with the thoughts you think about yourself and your world. The brain validates what you believe! If you think people are rude, you will see rude people everwhere. They are not hard to find…
If you think that people are kind and generous toward you, the reticular activating system will filter out the rude people and notice only kind and generous people. In turn, this will reinforce your knowledge of kind and generous people, and increase your knowing additional kind and generous people, developing new neural pathways in the physical brain so you have new mental capacity and memories, and new moods and behaviors will develop.
If this doesn’t convince you, listen to this interesting fact:
The heart is a more power, electrical object than your brain! The heart is about 100,000 times stronger electrically and up to 5000 ties stronger magnetically than the brain. Although imperceptible to us, the heart give off an electromagnetic (EEG) field that can be measured up to three feet away from our bodies. It you are depressed, angry, bitter…can others experience it whether they mentally understand it or not? Of course, they can. Ask any highly sensitive person and they will tell you how challenging it is to be in a room with another sad or angry person. The emotional field will shift their emotional state as well unless they mentally (head and hearts connection again) rehearse this this feeling is not their but belongs to others.
Here’s another fact:
The heart is not just a blood-pumping organ, it is a sensory organ. It acts as a “sophisticated information encoding and processing center that enables it to learn, remember, and make independent functional decisions.”
An emotion is e-motion or energy in motion. It is not just thoughts, in our head, that direct our lives. Our heart is an important area of personal and spiritual growth as well. We need it to have healthy relationships, make successful business decisions, and overcome traumatic events. This latter area is called “neuroresilience” as is a term coined by Ron Huxley in his online course: TraumaToolbox.com
It is really time to stop using our heads without connecting our hearts. Use the two-step practice, allow the principle of neuroplasticity to affect new change, and find more freedom in thoughts and emotions.
No one, in my generation, has every experienced a global crisis like the pandemic that kicked off in 2020. The unfortunate consequence of this medical crisis will be a new global crisis that affects our mental health.
As a therapist that specializes in anxiety and trauma I have seen a dramatic increase of both in the lives of children and adults. Individuals who already struggled with these issues have increased in personal distress, substance abuse, and suicidal ideations. Even people, who never had problems with depression, anxiety, or panic are now showing symptoms that damage their jobs, health, and relationships.
Government agencies and mental health clearinghouses have ramped up funding to meet this challenge that is likely to continue for the next fear years. The cost is greater than the monies supplied to treat it. We all pay emotionally and spiritually.
Now is the time to address these issues with information, advocacy, and proven methods that help prevent and stop mental health concerns.
When it is chronic and untreated, adverse events can become toxic stress and severely impact individual health, social and cultural structure, and economic stability.
Trauma affects everyone and has known no boundaries. It affects children and adults from all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. It is one of the common denominators for individuals receiving services from social services organizations, and its structural disorganization shows up in correctional institutions, jails, schools, hospitals, and the workplace.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening with lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.” [https://www.integration.samhsa.gov/clinical-practice/trauma-informed]
The upside of recognizing the commonality of adversity and toxic stress causes us to respond compassionately to ourselves and others!
This continual horror, triggered by events in the individual’s world, leads to a nervous system shutdown that has repercussions in the ability to read and express social cues, access executive brain skills, and find motivation or purpose in life. For researchers like van der Kolk, the body is key to understanding trauma treatment. This insight into toxic stress opens the doors of hope to helpers burdened by the cold cognitive concepts consisting of thought processes alone.
Recognizing the body’s role on the mind and the mind on the body has opened the door to new therapies that allow for deeper healing!
Get more healing for you and your family with Ron Huxley’s online courses at FamilyHealer.tv or schedule a session with Ron today.
A common complaint of couples and families is poor communication. We have to communicate our needs, wants, and dreams. Trauma and pain can shut communication down or result in explosive words and feelings that damages our relationships. Here is a simple tool to help you build better communication skills. Use the acronym BRIEF to start improving your ability to connect today.
B = Be calm and concise. Request a good time to talk. Don’t discuss more than one thing at a time. “I would like to talk about what happened this morning. When would be good time to talk?”
R = Recognize the other persons situation. See to understand be being understood. For example:
“I realize you were busy trying to get ready for work and worried about your meeting today when…”
I = Use “I Messages.” “You messages” create defensiveness. I messages create safety that allows you to be heard and known. For example:
“I feel hurt and ashamed when you call me ugly names and slam the door.”
E = Express your wants and needs. Families can develop rules that wants and needs are not allowed. Complete inner lifes can be shut down by angry, abusive parents. For example:
“…and I need you be respectful towards me and not run away when we talk.”
F = Focus on a solution that will benefit both of you. This communication skill is not just for me. It creates a win/win opportunity for both parties. For example:
“I will TRY not to talk to you in the morning when you are on the way out of work or I would like to start seeing a marriage counselor together.”
Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.
If you want better results, then forget about setting goals. Focus on your system instead.
The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become.
The Four Laws of Behavior Change are a simple set of rules we can use to build better habits. They are (1) make it obvious, (2) make it attractive, (3) make it easy, and (4) make it satisfying.
Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior.
It is tradition, at the beginning of each year, to set New Year Resolutions. We have great intentions for lasting change but soon lose motivation and drive to complete them. Consequently, most people will stop trying to set habits to avoid the disappointment of failure. There has to be a better way to see real change that actually work, isn’t there?
Enter the book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. As the byline states, this book will help you “build good habits and break bad ones.” Sounds simple!
The key to making changes in your life that are successful is to take a new perspective of change from the one’s we are used to. The problem isn’t us. It is the systems we surround ourselves with that fail us and result in feelings of failure. See big idea #2 above.
The book lists 5 Big Ideas about how to create effective habits. You will have to read the entire book to get all the details for each big idea or you can read this summary here (Link) or watch a YouTube video here (Link). I have affiliate connections to there resources…
My focus for this blog article is on big idea #3: The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become. Repeats this big idea to yourself a couple of times. Let it soak in. It is possible that everything you have tried to do to change your life has been wrong. You might have blamed others for the way you are or blame your bad luck or situation. These could be serious issues that make your habit difficult but it is not the final reason. Or, as I like to say, “it is a reason but isn’t a good excuse.”
Real change occurs from the inside out. This is true of parenting, marital relationships, business endeavors, or anything you attempt to do in your life. A habit, by definition, is a the tendency to behave or act in a regular manner. Habits require very little energy because it has become an automatic way of reacting. Initially, they take a lot of energy and practice but soon become reflexes that take little to now thought to initiate. It is their strength and their weaknesses when we try to break them.
Many habits start out of a reaction to traumatic situations. They start off as ways of coping with stress and pain, splitting off parts of ourselves to manage or protect from further pain. This may be a very “normal way to react in a very abnormal situation.” Unfortunately, traumatic habits can end up being “abnormal behaviors” in a new, more “normal situation.” The ways you had to behavior in an alcoholic home, for example, may not serve you will now, in a healthier relationship and home.
Find a way to change or develop new habits can become extremely urgent to maintain a healthy relationship and avoid new forms of pain in our lives.
One place to start is with you. Work on your character issues instead of waiting for others to change. The only thing you have 100% guarantee of change is through your own growth. You can change other people. You can coerce them, threaten them, or manipulate them but that will always backfire on you. Stick with you and the big idea working on who you want to become.
Start with a vision of what character traits you wish for yourself and picture how these traits will bear positive fruit in your life. It is just imagination so you run no risk of disappointment at this stage. Be sure to write this vision down. It may change from day to day but continue to modify it till you have something that truly inspires you. People have motivation for things they really want and desire. Make this idea of a new you very attractive!
Problem are destined to get in the way of this new habit of being you. That is a good thing. What is predictable is preventable. Predict what will get in the way, how you will look your motivation, who will try to stop you, what limitations might pop up…Set a plan for how you will encounter them before they show up so you are ready.
Small changes every day will reap big results in the end. Focus on a 1% change every day. That’s not a lot, right? You can do one thing to be a new, better version of you each day. Taking on too much, too soon, will choke out your efforts.
Use the power of gratitude for positive things in your life every day. Science has demonstrated that gratitude changes the very structure of our brain and enhances motivation to healthy, positive behaviors.
The effects of COVID-19 has resulted in many business and services moving to remote work. This has many benefits and costs for society and this is especially true in the field of mental health.
Traditionally mental health was done face-to-face, in a office with a licensed therapist. At times, it took place in the clients home, when they were unable to come to an office, due to health or lack of transportation. In rare cases therapy took place over the phone when all other options were not possible. Today, all of this has reversed with online options being the first choice and in office being last.
In reality, online options for mental health has been researched for many years, although the application of it was rare. As technology has increased, and federal and state laws have adjusted, we are recognizing as online or TeleMental Health works.
Information from a recent conference on TeleMental Health reveals 4200 articles show the safety and effectiveness of this modality.
Consequently, many clients are finding that the convenience of doing online options outweigh the disadvantages. Some of these advantages include not having to find baby sisters, more flexible appointment times, quicker access to help when needed, reasonable rates for therapy, and better time management.
Supportive research shows TeleMental Health to be effective in addressing a wide variety of mental health issues and concerns, compatible to in-person care, and is creating new models of care through the use of powerful technologies.
New models of therapy maybe be an example of “fighting fire with fire” where TeleMental Health/technology rises to the challenge of increased mental health and substance abuse problems in a world that is locked down and social isolated. According to a report by the Center for Disease Control: “Overall, 40.9% of respondents reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition, including symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder (30.9%), symptoms of a trauma- and stressor-related disorder (TSRD) related to the pandemic† (26.3%), and having started or increased substance use to cope with stress or emotions related to COVID-19 (13.3%).”
New models of care should not result in lower standards of care. TeleMental Health must follow the highest standards to deliver personal, confidential, and effective treatment. This involves appropriate informed consent, intake and assessment, progress note documentation, mandatory reporting, and duty to warn/protect.
Ron Huxley is a licensed marriage and family therapist with 30 years of experiences. He uses traditional and non traditional mental health models to provide the highest level of care to individuals and families. He has been the director of community-based mental health, provided direct and online training, and was involved in the early research and delivery models of telemental health with organizations such as the TeleBehavioral Health Institute (TBHI) and works with national institutions, such as the National Center on Adoption and Permanency.
You can schedule an online TeleMental Health appointment with Ron immediately or go take an online course on anxiety and trauma at FamilyHealer.tv
Unpleasant emotions include feelings of shame, guilt, anger, sadness, anxiety, depression, fear, and grief, to name a few.
The TED Talk speaker explores how emotional mastery is demonstrated by our ability to move past/through these unpleasant emotions and not be shut down or run from them.
By “move through,” she refers to the neuroscience idea that when an emotional feeling gets triggered, chemicals flood the body, activating bodily sensations that can put into a survival state of fight, flight, and freeze. Interestingly, we experience these unpleasant emotions in our bodies before we cognitively understand them. The body always reacts first, fast, and defensively. If unpleasant feelings come from a traumatic event, we will develop emotional programs that will be set in the body to protect us from other unpleasant feelings or situations. We may make a conscious vow to never “trust people again,” be put “into an embarrassing situation ever again,” or “never take such a risk like that again” to further protect ourselves from such unpleasantness. Emotional programs (from the unconscious body-mind) and cognitive vows (from the conscious thinking-mind) paint us into a corner. Although they protect, they also prevent us from growth and success.
The goal is to “move through” unpleasant emotions and not avoid or dissociate from them. To do this, we have to “surf” the wave of bodily chemical sensations and stand up on the board of our own conscious choices. That unpleasant wave of chemicals only lasts 60-90 seconds. That is less time that a song on the radio, explains the psychologist from the TED Talk. Unpleasant emotions rush and then flush from the body.
It is the fight or flight from unpleasant emotions that make the waves more significant and more threatening than they are, and the vicious cycle of the more chemical reaction and mental obsessions continue.
How do we “move through” emotionally unpleasant feelings? The psychologists claim that the uncomfortable sensations are like a wave of chemicals that go through us like a wave. It lasts only 60-90 seconds and then dissipates. Rush and then flushed by the body.
Different unpleasant emotions have different patterns of waves: Grief has waves after waves. Anger is perhaps a big roaring wave. Sadness is a slow, lingering wave. Shame a sneaky, rip curl of a wave. But all of them come and go. We can get back on the beach and feel stable again. The beach is the place of acceptance in this metaphor.
The speaker’s recommendation is to learn to surf the unpleasant waves, let them rise, and then let them retreat. Stop fighting them, fleeing them, or freezing in the middle of them. With consistent practice, insights into life and your character will develop. The speaker describes how we will be better able to pursue the goals you dreamed about, have courageous conversations, and feel more conformable in your skin. Surfing them won’t take a lifetime. It only takes a moment. The present now where change always starts.