Recently, the clinicians at the Temenos Center were asked to share their experiences with and observations of the COVID-19 pandemic from their perspectives as therapists, to be shared during a Town Hall with a health advocacy group. We decided to put our thoughts together here, to share with our Temenos community as well.
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), formerly called Multiple Personality Disorder, is a psychological reaction to early trauma and abuse. Persons with DID often experience the symptoms of PTSD such as flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, and enhanced startle reflex, but also have dissociative symptoms such as losing time and feeling emotionally numb. The hallmark of DID is the presence of parts of the personality (“alters”, “parts”, “subpersonalities”, all mean basically the same thing) which take over behavior, are often in conflict with each other, and may be dramatically different than the everyday, “going on with life” part of the personality.
Much evidence now supports the understanding of Borderline Personality Disorder as a problem rooted in early development in which early misattuned/underresponsive or frightening caregiver interactions are internalized as disorganized attachment, followed by later relational trauma such as neglect or abuse (physical, sexual, emotional). In other words, “The issue isn’t what’s wrong with you; the issue is what happened to you”. The cause is relational/interpersonal, not biological or innate to the individual in the sense of a defect.
Body image is a term used to describe our thoughts and feelings related to our body and appearance. Engaging in a meditation ritual rooted in the Hawai’ian practice of Ho’opnopono can help us heal our relationships with our bodies.
Some may be wondering why The Temenos Center has been offering Yoga and Meditation as adjuncts to our psychotherapy services. Yoga practices, which include breathing practices (pranayama), posture practices (asana), and meditation (dhyana), are well known to foster physical health and well-being. Less well known is the recently growing research evidence for yoga’s positive effect on mental health. Recent studies have shown yoga practices to be of significant benefit for persons with anxiety, depression, PTSD, addictions, and eating disorders.
I thought I knew grief. I’ve said goodbye to grandparents and classmates. I’ve helped clients process their grief. I realize now that I never truly knew what grief was until I lost my best friend.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross identified 5 stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. She provided us with a language to understand the universal experience of grief. Though her model identifies these states as “stages”, the experience is not linear. We do not experience them in order.
An opinion piece in Sunday’s New York Times by a professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill- Cornell Medical College (Richard A. Friedman, “Psychiatry’s Identity Crisis”, July 19, 2015) extols the value of psychotherapy, and deplores psychiatry’s leaders “turning their backs on psychotherapy and psychotherapy research”. Psychiatry as a profession has gone in a decidedly biological and drug-oriented direction in the past couple of decades; it’s hard to find a psychiatrist trained in the last 15 or 20 years who still does much talk therapy. So even though he describes himself as “ a psychiatrist and psychopharmacologist who loves neuroscience”, Dr. Friedman nonetheless points out that “psychotherapy has been shown in scores of well-controlled clinical trials to be as effective as psychotropic medications” for many common psychological problems.
Mid-life today is not what it was 30 or 40 years ago. We have better health and can expect to live a longer life than our mothers and grandmothers. In 1900 a women’s average life expectancy was 47 years. In 1993 it was 75 years. Now in the 21st century, it is approaching 80, with some arguing that we should plan to live until 100. If we get stuck in a traditional view of mid-life as a period of decline after our youth, we don’t recognize the opportunities available to us. It is time for us to challenge and question our assumptions about age. It is time for a new model of mid-life.
One of the best books I’ve ever read about trauma and PTSD just came out in 2015, “The Evil Hours: A Biography of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” by David J. Morris. It’s not written by a clinician or researcher, but by a professional writer, former Marine officer, and Iraq war correspondent, who himself has PTSD. It is extraordinarily well-written and well-researched; he has educated himself in the history, theories, and most up-to-date research studies, reporting on them in a very accessible yet detailed and scientifically astute manner (The endnotes are extensive and worthy of an academic textbook). But what makes the book especially compelling reading is his way of interweaving the science with personal accounts of his own experience and that of others he’s interviewed.
An Educational Seminar for Spouses, Families and Trauma Survivors
Presented by Frank Schwoeri, PhD
If you or a loved one has PTSD, you know how it can cause strange and confusing symptoms and behaviors that can be hard to explain or understand. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is now the fourth most common mental health problem in the U.S. , with estimates that eight percent of Americans will have PTSD at some point in their lives. PTSD is very common in military veterans, first responders (police, firefighters, EMT’s, paramedics), and survivors of assault, childhood physical/sexual abuse, and even sometimes medical procedures. Persons with Developmental Trauma, complex PTSD from early childhood events, are often misdiagnosed as having Bipolar Disorder and/or Borderline Personality. PTSD is often complicated by attempts to cope with it through alcohol, drugs, or eating disorders, which can be the most evident problem, but trauma is often the root cause.
Mindfulness – awareness without judgment – of the sensations in the body can be a first step in developing a meditation practice, and very powerful while feeling difficult emotions. Unpleasant sensations are able to flow unimpeded when we notice them in the body and set our busily-thinking brains aside. The body can metabolize and digest tough emotional content faster and more permanently than our minds, which often stir us up and take us spinning in even more unpleasant and destructive cycles.