Behind the Pages with Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD

“The vast majority of drug abuse is associated with earlier trauma. It’s very rare to see somebody who becomes a drug addict who not also has a history of abuse and neglect.” Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD

Behind The Pages host Diane Goshgarian interviews author Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD about his new book The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. Interview recorded at 22-CityView Cambridge on October 08, 2014.

As I said last week, this book is essential reading if you are working in the mental health and addiction fields.

Classic Blog – ‘A journey toward recovery: From the inside out’ by Dale Walsh

IMG_2364-220x165My apologies for the pause in uploading blogs, but have been very busy working on our Sharing Culture initiative. More news on that front soon.

‘I read an extraordinary article by Dale Walsh written back in 1996 which really summed up what recovery and recovery principles mean to a person who has been suffering from mental health problems. I thought I would highlight some of the main points here.

The Problem
“For many years I believed in a traditional medical model. I had a disease. I was sick. I was told I was mentally ill, that I should learn to cope with my anxiety, my depression, my pain, and my panic.

I never told anyone about the voices, but they were there, too. I was told I should change my expectations of myself and realize I would always have to live a very restricted life.

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‘How Depression Can Bring Blessings in Disguise’ by Douglas Bloch

In this video. author and depression counselor Douglas Bloch talks about how depression and anxiety can bring unexpected blessings in their wake.

Breaking Trauma Trails: Facilitating the Healing of Indigenous People

4323131_origSince moving to Australia, I’ve become increasingly saddened, concerned and angered by the way that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are treated by many non-Indigenous people (including government). As a friend said the other day, it has to be seen to be believed.

The damage that has been done to Indigenous people here (and in other countries) as a result of colonisation is huge and it continues today. It is a great demonstration of the resilience of Indigenous people that they have survived.

I’ve decided to devote most of my time from now on to working with Indigenous people. I’ll be running this website and working on recovery-related projects.

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“We Shall Remain”

I love this film and song. Says so much and really impacts. It can have a healing influence.

‘WE SHALL REMAIN was created to address the effects of historical trauma in our tribal communities. Many times, these untended wounds are at the core of much of the self-inflicted pain experienced in Native America.

Much like fire, this pain can either be devastatingly destructive or wisely harnessed to become fuel that helps us to rise up and move forward in life with joy, purpose and dignity.’

Indigenous social and emotional wellbeing

imagesIndigenous people have a holistic view of health that incorporates the physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, social and environmental.

It includes healing oneself and relationships with others, such as family and community members. It recognises the importance of connecting to land, culture, spirituality and history, as well as the importance of bonds of reciprocal affection, responsibility and caring.

The Indigenous view of health people also recognises the importance of healing the community, rather than just focusing on the individual.

Indigenous people focus on social and emotional wellbeing, rather than on mental health. They view social and emotional wellbeing problems arising from a broad range of circumstances – unresolved grief and loss, trauma and abuse, domestic violence, removal from family, substance misuse, family breakdown, cultural dislocation, loss of land, racism and discrimination, and social disadvantage.

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Annalise Jennings and the Australian Aboriginal community of Napranum

Some of you will know that I run Sharing Culture, a website focused on the healing of historical, or generational trauma, amongst indigenous peoples of the world. I also blog regularly on this website.

Indigenous peoples have overcome great adversity arising from colonisation and its associated violence and control, as well as paternalism, racism, poverty and social exclusion. I am greatly saddened by what I see here in Australia and the disregard of the human rights of our First Nations people by government.

At the same time, I marvel at the amazing resilience of indigenous peoples in overcoming such adversity over the generations. As the Hon Pat O’Shane said, “I recognized the things that happened to the thousands of other Aboriginal families like our family, and I marvelled that we weren’t all stark, raving mad.”

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“The Other Side’ by Matt Samet

msametI’ve really enjoyed reading Matt Samet’s blogs on the excellent Mad in America website. Here is his first one, which provides some important insights int withdrawing from psychoactive prescription drugs and recovering from addiction.

‘With little fanfare and even a glance at the calendar to confirm it, I realized as I sat down to write this that December 5 marked the seven-year anniversary of the last time I took a benzodiazepine tranquilizer.

I had been prescribed the pills for a “panic disorder” starting at age 21, and took them daily from 1998 to 2005 as a “prophylaxis” against anxiety, in ever-escalating doses as prescribed. My final dose was, I think, a quarter-milligram of lorazepam, administered on the fourth-floor Affective Disorders Unit of the Meyer Psychiatry Building, at the Johns Hopkins Institute in Baltimore. I have not taken any since.

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‘Setting the Intention to Heal: The Starting Point of Mental Health Recovery’ by Douglas Bloch

dblochHere is such an important blog about healing and recovery. Thank you, Douglas.

‘“The readiness is all.” William Shakespeare

In my work facilitating depression support groups, I have discovered three essential factors to healing from depression, which I call ”the three pillars of mental health recovery.”  In my earlier blogs for Mad in America I wrote about two of these pillars  – connecting with community and using a holistic approach to treat symptoms. Now I would like to present the first and MOST IMPORTANT pillar – Setting the Intention to Heal.

I define setting the intention to heal as “making the decision that you want to get well, even if you don’t know how.”  Setting the intention to heal does not require that a person know the exact path that will heal him from a major depression or other mental health disorder. It just requires that he or she wants be well.

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Climbing out of addiction and depression: Margo Talbot at TEDxCanmore

Great talk and pics and one hell of a recovery!

‘Current research suggests that addiction and depression are symptoms of emotional distress, not causes of it, forging the link between childhood trauma and mental illness. Margo Talbot’s journey supports these studies.

Diagnosed Bi Polar at age twenty-two, Margo spent the next fifteen years in suicidal depression before discovering the healing power of presence as the antidote to emotional trauma. Being present to our thoughts and emotions, not running the other way or masking them. Where best to practice the art of presence than the frozen world of ice climbing…

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Family Stories, Secrets and Survival: Dr. Judith Landau at TEDxVailWomen

I can strongly recommend this extraordinary talk from Dr Judith Landau. It’s one of my favourites, found only this morning. Thank you BDawg!

This talk will provide you with insights into intergenerational trauma and how addiction arises as a coping response. It will show you a way forward to recovery and healing, through Story. Understanding the past can help us deal with the present and help create a better future.

Judith, thank you for this wonderful talk! Here is the Youtube intro:

‘Dr. Judith Landau tells the story of trauma and recovery through generations and gives clues along the way for healthier families.

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‘The Language of Recovery Advocacy’ by Bill White

Language“Words are important.  If you want to care for something, you call it a “flower”; if you want to kill something, you call it a “weed”.  Don Coyhis”

Some will question why we as recovery advocates should invest valuable time debating the words used to convey alcohol and other drug (AOD) problems and their solutions when there are suffering individuals and families that need to be engaged, recovery support resources that need to be created, communities that need to be educated, and regressive, discriminatory policies that need to be changed.

We must invest this time because achieving our broader goals depends on our ability to forge a recovery-oriented vocabulary.

Words have immense power to wound or heal.  The wrong words shame people with AOD problems and drive them into the shadows of subterranean cultures.  The wrong words, by conveying that people are not worthy of recovery and not capable of recovery, fuel self-destruction and prevent or postpone help-seeking.

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Balunu Foundation Cultural Healing Program

I love the look of this healing programme in northern Australia.

‘The Balunu Foundation Cultural Healing program delivers cultural healing programs to many at risk youth. The healing retreat and program are located in Darwin, NT and youth have attended the program from all over Australia.

Although the program was established to help address the many challenges faced by Indigenous youth, it has had as great an impact with non-Indigenous youth who have attended the program.

Balunu adopts a holistic and culturally appropriate approach to strengthening the youth with a major focus on suicide prevention, substance abuse, emotional, mental and physical trauma, intergenerational trauma, family disruption, homelessness, crime and education.

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‘Spirituality and Recovery’ by Bill White

Experiencing SpiritualityA new book, Experiencing Spirituality, co-authored by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham, has just been released.  It will find a broad and appreciative audience and will be of particular interest to addiction professionals, recovery support specialists, and people in recovery.

It is not a treatise on how to recover, but it offers profound insights about how to live one’s life in recovery.  Brilliantly conceived and beautifully written, Experiencing Spirituality is one of those rare books readers will return to again and again as a balm for old and fresh wounds and as a meditation on how to live a life of greater balance, fulfillment, and self-acceptance.

Kurtz is best known to readers of this site for his classic text, Not-God:  A History of Alcoholics Anonymous, Ketcham for her co-authorship of Under the Influence and Beyond the Influence.

In 1992, Kurtz and Ketcham co-authored The Spirituality of Imperfection, which used classic stories to explore the spiritual legacies of Alcoholics Anonymous.  The Spirituality of Imperfection is one of my all-time favorite books. 

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‘Shame & Empathy’ by Dr. Brené Brown

Here’s an early video (2007) from Brené Brown before her TEDx talks went viral. Shame plays a major role in keeping people locked into addiction. Developing shame resilience can play a major role in recovery. 

‘In an excerpt from her new psychoeducational shame-resilience curriculum, University of Houston researcher and educator Brené Brown discusses the destructive nature of shame and the healing power of empathy.’

Sharing Culture blog: Recovery from trauma

511+Nl1uNdL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_I am now blogging on my new website Sharing Culture and here is a recent posting.

‘Judith Herman’s book Trauma and Recovery is a classic. Judith starts the recovery part of her book, in a chapter entitled ‘A Healing Relationship’, with some important insights into recovery and healing.

‘The core experiences of psychological trauma are disempowerment and disconnection from others. Recovery, therefore, is based upon the empowerment of the survivor and the creation of new connections.

Recovery can take place only within then context of relationships; it cannot occur in isolation. In her renewed connection with other people, the survivor re-creates the psychological facilities that were damaged or deformed by the traumatic experience. These faculties include the basic operations of trust, autonomy, initiative, competence, identity, and intimacy.

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Sharing Culture

rsz_img_2891Please check out my new website, Sharing Culture, which focuses on Aboriginal healing. Here is what we say on our home page:

What is Sharing Culture?
Sharing Culture is a unique initiative to empower Aboriginal people to heal and develop resilience to historical trauma and its consequences. These consequences include poor physical health, mental health problems, drug and alcohol addiction, violence, abuse  and suicide.  

Sharing Culture is based on the core values of authenticity, connection, courage, creativity, empathy and forgiveness.

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‘Traditional Healing and Psychosis vs. the Promises of Modern Science’ by Jonathan Keyes

PdxJonMad in America just keeps getting better and better. I strongly recommend keeping an eye on this excellent website. Here’s a fascinating and important blog from Jonathan Keys.

‘As noted by Robert Whitaker in his book Anatomy of an Epidemic, the World Health Organization reported that the prognosis for someone experiencing psychosis is far better in developing countries than in industrialized countries

Mr. Whitaker and others posit that this is  due to the treatment models used in the developing world, as well as to debility and chronicity caused by psychiatric drugs themselves.  I think this is undoubtedly true.

A number of other reasons for the disparity in outcome have been suggested.  Some have put forward the idea that there has been a rush by consumers to apply for this disability money, leading to an increase in apparent chronicity.  While this is quite possible, I doubt that this alone explains the large gap in outcomes.

Other researchers have suggested that family and community support networks are often stronger in developing countries and that there is perhaps more tolerance and acceptance of people with psychotic tendencies.

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Ruby’s Healing Story

“But she said what she had to do first, before she started to heal, was to let the past go. And in order for her to let it go she had to forgive… she had to forgive the people in the mission, the missionaries, the manager of the mission. She had to forgive the station owner and his sons and workers. And she also had to forgive herself.”

Professor Marion Kickett shares the harrowing story of Ruby and describes how her early life experiences impacted on her later life, including the development of a drinking problem. By forgiving people involved in these terrible events, Ruby started a healing (or recovery) process which led to her realising a dream.

Marion is the new Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Studies at Curtin University in Perth and co-founder (with David Clark and Mike Liu) of Sharing Culture, a new initiative to tackle historical trauma and its consequences in Aboriginal peoples. 

‘Intergenerational Trauma & Healing, Part 1’ by Joe Solanto

For a while now, one of my blogs each day will focus on historical (or intergenerational) trauma and our new initiative Sharing Culture. Today, I introduce the first of three videos by Dr Joe Solanto of Canada about intergenerational trauma and healing.

In these videos, Joe ‘discusses what trauma is, how the experiences of colonization “qualify” as trauma, how trauma might be transmitted across the generations, crime and other social problems as understandable responses to trauma and implications for healing individuals, families and communities.’

In the first video, Joe talks about different types of trauma: Type 1 (acute), Type 2 (chronic) and Type 3 (intergenerational). If you enjoy this video, check out Part 2 and Part 3.