Tag Archives: mind-body

mind-body

Breast cancer and the LoA: Please don’t be afraid to feel afraid

In my therapy practice in Bryn Mawr, I work with women who have breast cancer. They are often afraid of their fear: the Law of Attraction has become a monster for them. The issue is the LoA and how it applies – and does not apply – to getting and fighting cancer.

I have studied the LoA for years. There is a lot of (I believe rather immature) stuff on the internet about the LoA. “Think well and you will be well”, the teaching goes. I think it grossly oversimplifies the case.

And worse, I think it freaks people out.

Is there nothing to fear but fear itself?

So many women I work with are freaking out because they are scared, and they are scared of being scared. This puts them in a bind. They can’t begin to grapple with the fear, move through it, and let it move through them, because they are afraid that in being afraid they are making themselves sicker.

Because they are afraid of the power of their fear they don’t allow themselves to express it. Consequently, their fear has no way out. It grows in the darkness. And worse, these women feel shame because they have fear.

For most of us, a cancer diagnosis is @%*&# scary.

And then things get better. Most of the time – by far, most of the time – my clients do, too. They learn about treatment options and they start the marathon. They find out that the sun still rises and they still laugh and have fun.

The marathon ends and they reflect on how much they have gained: they know a lot about mindfulness and meditation, complementary therapies, nutrition and natural beauty products. They have learned to tell the people they love that they love them. They don’t sweat the small stuff.

But for many women, the road to recovery is fraught with the boogey man named LoA. They come to me and cry: I am afraid, and I am afraid that my fear is killing me. If I let myself feel afraid, am I making my cancer grow? I am afraid to let myself feel afraid, and I’m still afraid. I have no power over this fear. It feels like life and death.

Don’t suppress your emotions.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers. But I know my clients. I read the research. I talk to people. I listen. And I can tell you that there is not a shred of evidence that feeling afraid makes people sicker. On the other hand, there is research, including a study of 94 women with recurrent or metastatic breast cancer, showing that unprocessed trauma hurts.

David Spiegel, M.D., one of the study authors, says “people do better in the aftermath of traumatic stress if they deal with it directly. Facing, rather than fleeing it, is important… In other words, don’t suppress your emotions.”

Please. Don’t. Suppress. Your. Emotions.

Emotions are not “good” or “bad”. What we do with them, however, has consequences. Suppressed emotions can cause some serious mischief. Keeping our fear pushed down is exhausting. And it’s inauthentic. And we can’t heal what we can’t allow ourselves to feel.

I think that having a dialogue with our feelings is healthy. In English we say “I AM afraid”. Other languages express it as “I HAVE fear”, and there is a certain mindful distancing that comes from framing our emotions this way.

What I want to say to my clients, to all the women who are fighting the fight, to you, is this:

Please don’t punish yourself by fearing your fear. Let yourself feel your feelings. Let the fear move through you. You will find yourself on the other side of that feeling and see how much you have grown.

EFT Quick Start Guide

EFT, the Emotional Freedom Techniques, is a member of the energy psychology (EP) family of psychotherapies. These therapies combine Western psychology methods, mainly drawing on cognitive and behavior principles, with Eastern energy-based healing principles, including acupoint stimulation and chakra balancing. This mind-body approach allows EP techniques to facilitate rapid, positive change. EFT involves acupoint tapping with exposure to an emotionally-charged memory. In my therapy practice in Bryn Mawr, clients are making big changes with EFT.

What is EFT?

EFT combines acupoint stimulation with exposure to an emotionally-charged memory or experience. EFT is built on the theory that every emotional problem is rooted in a block in the energy system because any traumatic event, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can cause a blockage in an energy meridian. This blockage can be thought of as similar to a droplet of water inside a drinking straw. Just as we can tap on a straw to release a trapped water droplet, we can tap on an acupoint to remove a block from the meridian.

EFT can be used as a self-help tool as well as in clinical therapeutic settings. It is an effective tool for working with specific traumatic events, such as accidents and medical diagnoses, as well as more broad-based and seemingly intractable issues, such as depression or low self-esteem. We conceptualize this type of broader issue as a “table top” which is supported by traumatic, though often seemingly insignificant, life events or “table legs”. Using EFT, we remove each of the table legs until the table top collapses.

The EFT Protocol

In EFT, we tap on the side of the hand while repeating a setup statement: “Even though I have this problem, I deeply and completely accept myself.” Then we tap on a series of points while just repeating the problem: “But I have this problem.” Before tapping, we assess our subjective units of distress (SUDS). After one round, or several rounds, of tapping, the SUDS will lower to a 0 or 1.

What Does the Research Say?

Researchers in Seoul, South Korea have identified a physical substrate in the body, composed of very small blood vessels, which correspond with the acupuncture meridian system. These vessels comprise what researchers have named the primo vascular system, and seem to transport biophotons, or biologically emitted photon beams of light. This may be the first scientific explanation of the flow of chi.

While researchers in the East have been studying the body’s energy system, researchers in the West have been studying the effects of EP, including EFT. More than 100 studies have been published in peer-reviewed journals, and 98% have found energy psychology modalities to be effective. To date, four meta-analyses have been conducted, demonstrating a moderate to strong effect size. In the past five years alone, more than fifty studies have found EFT and similar meridian-tapping therapies to be effective for treating depression, PTSD, other anxiety disorders, food cravings, pain, and other physiological symptoms, including blood sugar management and side effects of cancer treatment drugs.

The Takeaway

EFT involves tapping on acupoints while remembering a traumatic event from the past, or while experiencing upset in the present. It is safe and easy to learn, and is an effective tool to relieve many forms of emotional and even physical distress. It may be the best psychotherapy you’d never heard of! Ready to learn more? Get in touch to start your journey to a happier life today.

EFT, the emotional freedom techniques

EFT, the emotional freedom techniques, is a simple, evidence-based technique that can help us resolve our emotional issues quickly and easily. In EFT, we tap on a series of acupressure points while thinking about an issue. In my therapy practice in Bryn Mawr, I have helped many clients make big changes using this simple process.

How to do EFT

When we start tapping on a problem, we might rate our emotional upset at near a 10 on a scale of 1-10. By the time we finish tapping, maybe repeating the series a couple of times, our emotional upset will disappear or nearly disappear, down to a 0 or 1. The whole process can take just a couple of minutes.

 

What counts as a trauma? “Big T and Little t” Traumas

Most of the time, our big emotional blocks – things like low self-esteem, thinking we are undeserving or unlovable, or even being afraid to drive on a highway – are actually built up over time because of traumatic events in our past.

This does not mean that we have all had huge traumas. Sadly, many people have had “big-T” traumas – things that involve violence, accidents, shock. But for most of us, it’s the “little-t” traumas that cause our problems.

“Little-t”  traumas are things that are upsetting or incidents that we interpret in an unhelpful way. These can be things like “the time Dad yelled at me”, “the time my classmates all laughed at me”, “the time I failed the spelling test”, etc. Built up over time, these can become the pillars that underlie our larger issues.

The table metaphor

In EFT, we use the metaphor of a tabletop and table legs. The over-arching problem, like low self-esteem, can be thought of as a tabletop; it is being held by the unresolved issues, or “table legs”. Best-practice for EFT is not to treat, or “tap on”, the tabletop, but rather to tap on the legs. We break its legs, and the table collapses.

Each of these “legs” can be conceptualized as a movie that lasts about two minutes, with a beginning, middle, and end. The movie can have a few crescendos. Each of those crescendos are appropriate for our EFT tapping intervention.

Our tables may be held up by ten different legs. Not all of the legs are equally strong. Some legs we rate at a 10 on a scale of 1-10; others may only rate as a 2 or 3. Interestingly, after we treat one or two of the legs, all the other legs seem to get a little smaller until the whole problem is resolved. If we have identified ten “legs” that underlie a problem, we may treat just six of them for the problem to get resolved.

 

The Recipe

Want to give it a try? The picture below shows the EFT tapping points. The basic EFT “recipe” is this:

Begin by tapping, using all your fingers of one hand, on the outside of your other hand while repeating the setup statement and affirmation below. Do this two times:

Even though I have (this problem), I deeply  and completely accept myself.

Then tap on the points while repeating the problem:

But I have this problem…this problem…this problem that’s an 8 on a 10-scale…this time that ______…this ____ problem … this 8 …this time that _____ … this problem

EFT Tapping Points
TH: Top of Head
EB: Eyebrow
SE: Side of Eye
E: Under Eye
UN: Under Nose
Ch: Chin
CB: Collarbone
UA: Under Arm

More information

There are lots of websites, YouTube videos, and books about EFT. While EFT can be used effectively on your own, using EFT in a clinical setting with a trained therapist is even more powerful. This may partly be true because when we think about traumatic incidents from our past it can be hard for us to stay focused and follow the process clearly. When there is another person to hold the space, keep calm, and guide you through the process, EFT is very powerful.

If you would like to learn more about EFT, shoot me an email or give me a call. In my therapy practice in Bryn Mawr, I help clients using a variety of effective techniques like EFT. You can also check out the website of its founder, Gary Craig, at www.emofree.com.

Establishing Right Human Relations

The following article was published in the summer issue of The Beacon. In my therapy practice in Bryn Mawr, I try to bring this perspective in all my work with clients.

The effort to establish right human relations is helpful, indeed essential, in integrating the personality with the soul. The lack of “right relations” comes most often from a selfish attitude and an emotional body that is not held steady in the light. It is disharmony in personal relations that very often causes a person to decide that he or she must get hold of him- or herself and make some changes. Our relationships are indeed our greatest teachers.

The desire and the need for harmonious relationships is quite often the thing that puts us on our Path. The pain we feel as a result of disharmony is a real pain; brain imaging studies show that physical and emotional pain “light up” the same regions of our brains. What’s worse, the pain we feel when we are the perpetrator of disharmony is like added salt in our painful wound; we feel embarrassed, ashamed, or guilty, in addition to our angers and fears. This is a powerful combination that makes most eventually decide that Something Must Be Done.

The work, once committed to, involves a complete reorientation of thinking – away from oneself as victim, toward oneself as creator. When taking stock, we learn to reframe our point of view to include perspective-taking and empathy for the Other. We begin to practice “not taking it personally” and to recognize that when our emotions are getting riled up, it is not actually about the Other person, but about some wound in our own Self that is needing to be healed. We begin to have compassion for ourselves and to forgive ourselves ― that is an essential piece of personality integration. No longer can the mind spend oodles of energy denigrating the emotional body; instead the ego learns to befriend the inner child and to work with it, to heal it and create peace rather than continuing disharmony.

As we practice detachment, not taking things personally and not assuming that we know what the Other is thinking or feeling, we begin to task ourselves with cultivating Right Speech. We begin to be careful with our words, which slows down our emotional reactivity. Our relationships increase in harmony. With more harmony, we are able to create a spaciousness that allows us to strive for utter harmlessness and self-forgetfulness. The body relaxes; health ensues. The seven points of light begin to radiate and we become a fit vehicle of expression for the Soul.

When we have committed ourselves to a spiritual path, our lives change in incredible ways. The old emotional reactions and underlying assumptions give way to a light and peaceful experience. The very intention to bring more “spirituality” into our lives does indeed invite light, and love, and goodwill. These are the cause and effect of establishing right human relations.

A constant reorientation to spiritual values changes a person. At the moment we decide that there Must Be Something More, and determine to find it, our lives change course. A meditation practice may be the single most important tool for self improvement, and such a practice can be hung on the scaffolding of just about any religious or non-religious tradition. Whether we are searching for Peace through mindfulness or are devoted to the Buddha-nature, the Christ, Ishvara, the Divine, or the Beloved doesn’t matter. We begin to ascend the mountain and as we climb, we find that all of our paths converge.

With this awakening of inclusiveness, there can be no denigration of another spiritual tradition, no room for thinking “my way is the Right Way, and yours is, say, a ‘political ideology’”. From our place of inclusiveness we gain empathy and search for the reasons why people behave, often badly, the way they do. Rather than condemning and judging, we seek to understand and to aid, even as perhaps we wish that the reins of power were held by more-evolved hands.  Yet we find solace in knowing that we all learn through pain – individuals and groups alike,

As we work to invoke the Soul, not only do our worldly views become larger and more inclusive, our close personal relations do as well. We cannot but feel hypocritical if we make a fuss about a spiritual practice and then yell at our kids and criticize our spouses. Any momentary experience of mystical union rings hollow if followed by a fight at home.  The Love of the Soul has made its healing felt in every level of our personality-being and we begin to love and forgive ourselves, and from that peaceful place it is impossible to not-love or non-forgive others. And incredibly, when others criticize us we are far from defensive but rather seek to understand and find common ground. Exuding peace and love, others want to know how did we do that? Having sought the Light, the Light of the Soul has made its presence known and we are changed, and we are agents for change. Our seven centers begin to blaze and light our way, and light the Way for others.

EFT for PTSD

A treatment for PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) that uses no drugs, has no side effects, and really works―does that sound too good to be true? Research shows that such a treatment does indeed exist. EFT, the emotional freedom techniques, can resolve PTSD symptoms in as little as five sessions. Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest hospital systems in the US, just published clinical guidelines for using EFT to treat PTSD. The guidelines were created by Dawson Church and colleagues, after reviewing the literature and surveying 448 practitioners to see how clinicians are getting results. Their recommendation: five to ten sessions of EFT for people with PTSD. EFT works for PTSD. I use it in my therapy practice in Bryn Mawr.

PTSD: military, accidents, and beyond

We often think of war veterans when we think of PTSD, as well we should: the VA estimates, conservatively, that between 11% and 20% of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD (other sources put the rate at closer to 30%). The rates are even higher among Vietnam War veterans, with nearly a third suffering from PTSD. But PTSD is not just a problem for the military. Indeed, it can affect people who have been in any traumatic situation: those who have been in serious accidents, victims of violent crimes, or diagnosed with life-threatening diseases can develop PTSD; the death of a loved one can cause PTSD-like symptoms.

PTSD prevalence

Nearly 8 of every 100 Americans are likely to experience PTSD during their lifetimes. Most people will go back to normal after a traumatic event, but some will develop symptoms that last more than a month (subclinical PTSD) or three months (clinical PTSD) and that interfere with their lives. The symptoms involve avoiding or “numbing out”; re-experiencing, often with nightmares or flashbacks; and some type of hyper-arousal, like being easily startled, on edge, having trouble sleeping, even having angry outbursts.

Treating the “un-treatable”

After World War II, people used the term “shell shocked” to describe the symptoms of PTSD. For decades, it was believed that veterans could not recover from PTSD. More recently, researchers have been looking for ways to resolve the previously “unresolvable”. Pharmaceuticals have not been an effective solution. In a creative move, the US government invested millions of dollars in a virtual reality technology to help veterans with PTSD. But that program is only available to some veterans, and is very costly and hard to replicate. EFT is effective, safe, has no side effects, all for the price of a therapy session ― except for veterans, who can get services for free through The Veterans Stress Project.

To learn more about EFT and other kinds of energy psychology, see emofree.com, energypsych.org, and my website, transformative-therapy.com. EFT for PTSD can get your life back on track.

Five affirmations to help get you through difficult times

All of us have to go through tough times at some point in our lives–it’s part of being human. When the going gets tough, it’s helpful and even important to remember that this too shall pass. Until that happens, here are some affirmations to help you keep the faith:

  1. I will fully accept that which is for the highest good of all. And then trust that what is happening is really for the highest good. In every situation, there really exists that which is for the highest good of all. The universe has the ability to “make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”, as the old saying goes. In time, just about every experience we meet has an upside. When we can transcend the limits of this lifetime, that silver lining exists in every single Bar none. Find it.
  2. I trust that everything is in divine order. This bears repeating and so makes a good affirmation! Everything is in divine order. Sometimes we can’t see that from our limited perspective and because of our desires and attachments to particular outcomes. But our personalities aren’t in control. Surrendering to the divine order of things helps ease the pain when our desires don’t align with what is happening.
  3. I vow to learn my lessons well. Every difficult situation comes to us in order to teach us something important. And as we have heard and even experienced, when we don’t learn the lesson, the lesson gets harder. With this in mind, consider your role in the difficulty and try to find out what your lesson is. Once you’ve learned it, the lesson will be over.
  4. I strive for detachment in all things. Attachment leads to suffering, as the Buddha taught us well. When we are able to detach, suffering ends. It is a practice, which means it won’t be perfect. But practice now.
  5. I surrender to the guidance of my Higher Self. Your Higher Self is that part of you that connects you to the divine. When you are centered in your heart, peaceful and loving, you are connected to your Higher Self and you radiate that peace and love to everyone and everything around you. It is possible to remain heart-centered even when going through challenging times. Doing so makes those times much easier to bear.

How to face our fears–and find they’re not so scary after all

Fear. So chaotic, and so much a part of life–at times. Fear causes a state of inner chaos, part of the lower “ego” self and its wandering, racing, jumpy thoughts. We let those thoughts take us for a wild ride, going down rabbit holes, through wormholes, into black holes. It isn’t pretty and it isn’t helpful.

When we are pushed and pulled by untamed thinking, it’s as if we are letting the car drive the person. But there is hope! We can take the wheel and get back into the driver’s seat by taking hold of our thoughts.

One strategy to do this is to be still with those thoughts. Follow the scary ones down to their logical conclusions, and keep asking “and then what”? The answers are not as horrible as they seem to be when we are running away from them, or letting them run away with us.

We lean into the thoughts, facing them bravely. We shine the light of clear reason on them, and find there is really no monster under the bed after all. We move into those thoughts, and nurture them, and love them, and laugh with them.

And we heal ourselves.

The physiology of the brain

Meditation has many benefits, and the practice actually changes our physiology. Researchers have conducted studies to find the chemical changes that occur inside our brains when we meditate. Here is what they’ve found:

Meditation reduces cortisol and adrenaline. Adrenaline is the “fight-or-flight” hormone which increases heart rate and blood pressure. Cortisol is the primary stress hormone which increases blood sugar, suppresses immune function and digestion, and acts on brain regions connected with mood, fear, and motivation. Chronic stress has been linked to depression, anxiety, heart disease, weight gain, digestive problems, insomnia, and problems with learning, concentration, and memory.

Meditation increases DHEA. This chemical is known as the “anti-aging” hormone; its levels begin to drop at about age 30, and this decline is related to a host of conditions including weight gain, cancer, and heart disease. Because of its link to ageing, people are experimenting with DHEA supplementation. But meditation alone boosts DHEA levels. Feeling younger already?

Meditation releases dopamine: Dopamine is linked to our ability to focus and acts on the pleasure and reward centers of the brain. Because of its involvement in pleasure and reward, dopamine is implicated in addiction. ADHD is believed to involve decreased dopamine levels. Healthy dopamine levels seem to help us feel rewarded, experience pleasure, and to focus.

Meditation boosts serotonin: Serotonin helps us feel calm and happy. Serotonin deficits are linked to depression, anxiety and insomnia; in fact, the SSRI antidepressant drugs such as Prozac are designed to boost serotonin levels. Serotonin is such a big part of good moods that it is sometimes called the “happiness hormone”.

Meditation boosts oxytocin: Known as the “love hormone” or the “monogamy hormone”, oxytocin makes us feel calm when we are with loved ones, especially when hugging or cuddling. It is released by mothers during childbirth and causes the production of milk in mammals. It is also released during orgasm and is thought to explain why we tend to feel close to partners after we have had sex. It has an inverse relationship to stress and stress hormones. And the more oxytocin we have, the more we are likely to trust others.

And the good news is that you don’t have to be a Zen master to receive these benefits. If you are interested in beginning a meditation practice, the most important thing to remember is probably that it is a practice. Be patient with yourself as you begin to try a new skill and remember all the benefits your brain will receive!

A Tale of Two Clients: The one at the beginning of the session, and the one at the end

I love my job. When Paula (not her real name) came in to the office today, she seemed a little agitated. As she brought me up to speed on what had happened since our last visit, she told the story of overwhelm: too much to do, not enough time to get it all done. She said she felt literally and figuratively out of balance and that was only part of the problem. She began to cry as she said that she was tired of living with fear. It was clear that she needed healing.

I love using guided meditation with clients. We are able to make a lot of progress in a little bit of time. Today, I guided Paula into a meditative state which set the stage for her conscious connection with her Higher Self. We cleared her mental, emotional and physical bodies. Then, one by one, we dissolved blocks: trauma, fear, sadness, and vulnerability melted away.

When my clients are meditating with me, I can feel their energy move and often see color changes in the energy around their bodies. Love that. I would never have believed this was possible if it hadn’t happened—but it happens. Today, as these blocks were being released, I could feel the energy spinning in a slightly dizzying way. I could also actually see Paula’s energy getting lighter and brighter as we went along.

After our big clearing exercise, we connected Paula to her inner yin and yang qualities, or inner male and female selves (we all have both). This is one of the things I love best to do with my clients, because it is so helpful. Today, as soon as we connected to Paula’s male self, I felt an incredible heat as the energy flowed. Her male self wanted more organization; her female self wanted more self-care and meditation. She made adjustments and agreements, and visualized herself getting these things in place.

I love seeing my clients getting happier. By the end of our session Paula’s entire demeanor had changed. Her color was brighter, she was more calm and relaxed, and she had a plan. As we reflected on the work, Paula told me that she also had felt heaviness being cleared away, and made a motion of her hands pushing out from her heart. She had come in to the office stressed, tired, and “crooked” inside. She walked out empowered, relaxed and energized, and in alignment.

I love my job.

The signs are there, but are you looking?

gorgeous sky

I had been thinking of going to graduate school but I was afraid. It would cost money and time that I was not sure I had to invest. It seemed like I already had a lot on my plate as a single mom of three young kids. And it had been a while since I’d done the school thing. I graduated from college thirteen years earlier, and had taken some more undergraduate classes since then, but it had been years since I was in a classroom. Formal graduate education was daunting.

However, I didn’t have another plan. I was teaching yoga and had been studying Reiki. I had considered learning massage and trying to earn a living as a massage therapist/Reiki practitioner/yoga teacher. But I had another thought—that maybe I should get a master’s degree in counseling and become a therapist.

I was on the mailing list of Immaculata University, which is a beautiful school close to where I live. Earlier in the summer I had attended a yoga teacher training, and one afternoon I decided to dedicate my practice to getting clarity on the grad-school issue. At the end of class, I had my answer: go to grad school. I stood in front of dozens of my fellow students and shared what I had received. But then I went home and chickened out. Instead of registering for classes, I continued spinning in fear and doubt.

At the end of the summer I went to the beach for a vacation. Early in the week I headed to the water’s edge to do a surf-side meditation to get clarity on this issue (again!). I sat down, closed my eyes, and asked for a sign. I heard one of those advertising airplanes overhead, and thought “No, I’m not going to look—I’m doing meditation.” But I couldn’t help it. My eyes opened up and I saw the banner: Immaculata University. No kidding, though I did laugh. I packed up my chair, went back to the house, went on line and signed up for a class right away.

My story was legend at school. I heard that they’d only flown the banner once or twice that summer, and we laughed that clearly it was for me and that with my tuition fees, it did indeed pay for itself! One of my teachers wondered how many people in the same situation would have not looked up, or not noticed, or not heeded the “coincidence”.

Ten years later I can say without a doubt: I’m glad I did. And I am certain that, even if they are not always literally signs, we DO receive signs that point us along our way. Once we accept that these signs exist, staying calm and centered to the best of our ability helps us begin to notice them. And they carry the constant reminder: We are never alone.