Posted by: faithful | August 29, 2016

hynotherapy and eye movement integration

More about Eye Movement Integration™

We are living in an age when all of us are more likely to be exposed to the tragedies of war, terrorism, natural disaster or other forms of violence. We need look no farther than the events of 9-11. In the United States tens of thousands of veterans of the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan have flooded treatment centers and overwhelmed the VA’s ability to respond. This is in addition to the more “homespun” causes of trauma we might experience in our own communities. But what actually happens when a soldier or civilian experiences violence, rape, severe accidents, physical or sexual abuse, or some other traumatic event?

Memory research has helped to clarify the nature of trauma and the body’s resulting neuro-physiological reactions. As an example, scientists report that the brain’s amygdala and hippocampus heighten their intercommunication as emotional memories are formed and the body is flooded with a variety of stress hormones (Richter-Levin and Akirav, 2000). At the same time it is believed that these changes may interfere with the brain’s processing of information about the event. In effect, a person’s ability to deal with a traumatic situation is blocked, causing the event to remain in an anxiety producing form when stored and retrieved as a memory. As a result, some people continue to recall the full force of an event, along with the spectrum and severity of emotions experienced at the time of the trauma. This seems to prevent the brain from adequately processing and categorizing the memory as, in the past, and of no current danger to the individual. Subsequently, the memory, including its associated emotions, is “replayed” or re-experienced in the present. This occurs in the form of flashbacks, nightmares, or panic attacks.

Eye Movement Integration™ (EMI) is a brief therapy technique that is effective in treating acute and post-traumatic stress, but also phobias, the symptoms associated with addictions and negative or self-limiting thoughts. I have been using this technique in my counseling work with clients for ten years – ever since I first saw it demonstrated by Ron Klein of the American Hypnosis Training Academy (AHTA). Ron has trademarked his version of EMI, and whenever the acronym “EMI” appears on these web pages it should be understood that I am referring to the EMI approach taught by Ron at AHTA. More information about AHTA training opportunities can be viewed at Ron is a master trainer and a person I am pleased to consider a friend and mentor.

I was impressed from the start by EMI’s power as a rapid and successful intervention for healing trauma. After I became an experienced user of the technique, I took advanced instruction from Ron and became a certified trainer of EMI. I now enjoy teaching other therapists how effective this technique can be in resolving the problems associated with anxiety and post traumatic stress. In fact, I have become somewhat of an expert in its use myself. I have added new features of my own to EMI that, I believe, further enhance its reliability as an effective intervention.

In the clinical setting, a therapist uses EMI to interrupt the patterns that were established as a result of a traumatic event. At the beginning of the process the client is first “anchored” in a safe, secure, confident, or competent state – usually based on a previous experience of their own. The client is then asked to think about the event and/or to project a representation (memory) of the event out on a surface away from where they are sitting (therapeutic dissociation). While the client is projecting the memory, the therapist asks the client to follow the movement of a finger or pen in the foreground with their eyes. Because eye movements are thought to relate to the processing of specific types of cognitive information, it is believed that this technique allows the brain to reprocess the event without its traumatic aspects. The changes achieved are often dramatic.

Video IconView Dr. Mike’s video demonstrations of EMI at a Northern Virginia Licensed Professional Counselors presentation in December, 2012 and at the American Mental Health Counselors Association Annual Conference in June, 2012.

I have more than a casual interest in techniques for treating trauma – for a very good reason. Before becoming a licensed professional counselor, I myself suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of childhood incest. I learned personally, and “from the inside out,” what it was like to heal from early abuse. During the course of my own healing, I was exposed to two of the most popular and “tested” approaches reported to be effective treatments for PTSD.  Based on my extensive work with EMI and my personal experience with other therapies, I have found EMI to be more efficient, safe, rapid and effective than the others. It’s also easier to learn. Of course, I’m biased, but I believe an objective comparison between EMI and other popular therapies would support my contention. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to convince researchers that they should look more seriously at EMI – not that I haven’t tried. But that’s another story. Look for more on that topic in my blogs.

I have given presentations about EMI and demonstrated its use at a number of national and international conferences, including the International Conference on Male Sexual Victimization (2010), the Annual Conference of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (2011), the Conference of the American Deafness and Rehabilitation Association (2011), and the Annual Conference of the American Mental Health Counselors Association (2012). I have demonstrated the use of EMI to graduate counseling programs on several occasions, and provided EMI trainings to hundreds of mental health professionals. In fact, every time I have given presentations or trainings, the results have been evaluated by participants as outstanding. There’s a reason for this. It works! But don’t take my word for it — read what one seasoned survivor had to say:

I saw Mike present an experiential workshop on EMI at the International Conference on Male Sexual Victimization in 2010 and was incredibly impressed! Afterwards, he accepted our invitation to present a similar workshop at a Vita Cycles retreat. He was able to attain amazing healing results with subjects in both situations. I’ve seen many practices for healing trauma in the last 20 years, and his use of EMI was the most efficient, rapid and easy on the client. What most impressed us was his ability to help his subjects, whom he had never met, desensitize a very painful memory in less than 30 minutes. In addition, the results have stayed positive months later for the one individual I’m still in touch with. Mike was very approachable, amiable and relaxed with us. I recommend Mike very highly for whatever he does, but particularly for his mastery of EMI to help relieve the distress of traumatic memories.
Bob Faw
President, Board of Directors
Vital Cycles

I am committed to promoting greater understanding of this technique and fostering its appropriate use by mental health providers with trauma survivors. EMI has been called “softer and gentler” than other approaches. Other techniques require a “working through” of the offending events that caused the trauma in the first place – akin to facing down one’s demons. The client is urged to confront or re-experience the full effects of the trauma (immediately or gradually) as a part of therapy. In contrast, EMI is able to reduce or eliminate post-traumatic anxiety without ever having to bring to life the recalled terror. EMI is simple yet successful. Everything a therapist needs to know can be taught in 15 hours of instruction. Not only that; successful results with clients can usually be achieved in three sessions or less as described in the following case study:

EMI Case Study

(The details in this case have been altered to assure confidentiality).

I received an email from a therapist who knew of my expertise in trauma and my use of EMI. She wanted to refer a young woman who was raped by an ex-boy friend, but was refusing to talk about it.  “Mary” was having flashbacks and nightmares during which she would “see” a vivid, movie-like reenactment of what happened during the rape.  Then she would get a knot in her stomach, and her legs would tremble. In her thoughts she would berate herself for not having done more to stop him. It was then five years after the rape, and she had been seen by three different therapists. The symptoms associated with what happened were causing problems in her marriage.  She’d never explained the details to anyone. She’d been too frightened and ashamed.

Her first therapist told Mary she wasn’t ready to discuss it; she needed more time.  The second said that she would use an eye movement therapy with her, but the technique might give rise to some intense feelings from the rape.  Mary refused treatment and didn’t return for a second session. Her third therapist told me Mary wanted to resolve this issue, as long as she didn’t have to explain what happened. She also told me that Mary was probably an alcoholic, so they had been working on substance abuse issues. She asked if I could help her.

I agreed to work with Mary, but she had to be prodded several times by her therapist and a family member to make an appointment. I tested Mary to see if she qualified for a diagnosis of PTSD. Mary’s score on the PTSD Checklist, Civilian Version, was 79, a very strong indication that she had PTSD. The test, developed at the Veterans Administration’s National Center for PTSD, consists of 17 questions with a potential range of scores from 17-85 — the higher the score the stronger the evidence of PTSD (Blanchard, Jones-Alexander, Buckley and Forneris, 1996).

Before we began I explained to Mary that I knew from her therapist why she had come to see me and promised she would not have to talk about what happened to her, unless she wanted to. She responded that she did not want to. I could see how anxious she was, occasionally looking at the floor and “collapsing” into the anxiety state she experienced whenever she thought about the rape. When I simply asked how she had been doing, one thing she told me was how she frequently hid in a closet, holding her arms around her knees and rocking back and forth, terrified. She reported doing that for hours at a time, only coming out when her husband was expected. She admitted “having a drink or two” to “numb” her feelings, but denied having an alcohol problem. She was able to meet her public obligations as a substitute teacher but was always afraid whenever she left home.

I commented how fearful she had to be when she was in the closet. She explained in detail what that was like, the thoughts she had and the associated feelings, giving me a baseline from which we could work. We weren’t discussing the rape but her habitual response to it. I asked if she would like to feel less fearful when she was in the closet, and she said yes. I explained how EMI might help and how it worked. I also told her that my number one goal would be to keep her safe while she was with me, never asking her to do anything she was unwilling to do. Before beginning I “anchored” her in a feeling of safety from a time in her past when she felt completely secure.

I already knew what it was like for Mary in the closet; she had told me. So I asked her to think of a recent time when she was there, a time that was typical, or a time that stood out in her mind. When she told me she had one in mind, I said I would be asking her to follow the pen I was holding with her eyes as she thought about that time.   We did one “round” of EMI and I asked her to think about the experience again and tell me if it was the same or different. She said it was different. She said, “I have less of a reaction to it.” We did it again. “It’s even less of a problem,” she said. We did it a third time. She looked more relaxed – less tense in the face, shoulders and arms, and she was breathing more evenly. She commented that she was feeling more positive – that it would be nice if she could go for walks like she used to. She questioned whether these effects would last. I told her they often did, but we would find out when I saw her next.

At her second appointment Mary reported she was still less fearful regarding her memory of that time in the closet, and she was expressing greater confidence. In fact, she had stopped retreating to the closet after our first appointment. “In general, I’m not as afraid,” she said. I explained that what we had done during the first session was a “band aid” – that we had not addressed the “real problem.” She said she understood.

When I asked if she would be willing to address the real problem, if she didn’t have to talk about it, she said yes with some conviction. She commented that she was willing to try EMI a second time, because it already seemed to help. Again, I first “anchored” her in a safe and comfortable experience from her past. Then we talked about how she felt and what her thoughts were when she recalled the real problem, while still assuring her safety and comfort. Again, I was not asking her to tell me the story, but to explain what happened to her as a result. We then did round one of EMI. I asked her if it was the same or different when we finished. She said it was “less than” it was before. I asked what that meant and she said, “I have less of a reaction to it.”  After round two, she said it was “farther away.” And after round three she said the knot in her stomach was not as tight and her legs were not trembling. She added that she was feeling for the first time like that memory was in the past. She said, “I want to move on.”

What happened next was typical of my EMI work with clients. Mary spontaneously described the worst part of the rape to me, complete with details – the information she had been holding inside for five years. I didn’t ask her to tell me. She was surprised when I pointed out that she had explained the worst of it without tears or the level of anxiety she had always experienced. She asked how I could change her thoughts and feelings about the rape so quickly, and we agreed that one day I would explain it to her.

Before our third session Mary sent me an email to let me know she had important things to share with me. We did not do EMI. She talked for the entire hour. She explained all the details of her relationship with her ex-boy friend, how she had to go through the legal system for protection and how, for the first time, she felt like she could put that behind her. But she also told me she was “angry” with me – angry because I had spoiled her plan to kill herself. It seems that she had prepared for her suicide well before our first appointment. She didn’t want to come see me in the first place. “What’s the use?” she had told herself. She was still considering suicide when she came for her second session, but she had begun to question her plan. After the second session she changed her mind after noticing a big difference in the tone of her journal entries before and after our two sessions. Mary also said she had poured all the alcohol in the house down the kitchen sink. She had no desire for a drink. She thanked me for helping her.

I saw Mary two more times — once with her husband to help him understand the extent of Mary’s illness and the significance of her improvements. Mary told him about the planned suicide. She also explained how bad she felt about having considered ending her life, about lying about her drinking and her neglect of him while she was suffering. Mary’s final session was designed to help her let go of guilt and shame that she still harbored for her past actions. At the end of our fifth one hour session Mary’s score on the PTSD Checklist was 24, a drop of 55 points from her pretest. A 10-20 point change is considered clinically significant, so her results were remarkable.  More than that, Mary no longer qualified for a PTSD diagnosis. I then referred Mary back to her regular therapist for follow-up. I can add that Mary’s “case” is not unique, but rather a good example of the power of EMI.

One month after my last session with Mary I got an email from her therapist. This is what she had to say:

“I finally met with Mary and her husband this morning and we had a closure session.  She told me about her treatments with you.  It is amazing what you were able to accomplish with your skills.  She seems like a different person and her husband agrees.  She said that she goes to the mall alone now and went to the beach herself.  She is beginning to smell the roses.  She thanked me for being here for her these past few years and for referring her to you.  I feel confident that she will be okay now.  However, I did encourage her to get another therapist to continue working on getting to know herself.”

The purpose of this case study was not to explain EMI in detail, but to portray how difficult cases of trauma can be resolved in a few sessions without requiring clients to actively relive a haunting traumatic memory. It’s also important to note that EMI can be utilized in conjunction with other therapies or by itself.

I have used EMI with combat veterans, police officers, firemen, 9-11 first responders, rape and sexual abuse survivors, men and women who were shot or slashed in armed attacks and parents who lost children to suicide or illness. None of them had to tell their stories while we did EMI. It wasn’t forbidden, but it wasn’t necessary. A few went ahead and described what happened because they wanted to. Either way the results were just as positive. Proponents of other techniques have argued that, if a client is not discussing or re-experiencing the trauma at the time of an intervention, the results will not be as successful or durable. I have found this to be untrue. I can attest that even the most difficult memories can be resolved without re-activating the offending trauma and without undue distress during a treatment session.


Eye Movement Integration History

EMI HistoryEye Movement Integration originated in the Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) field that formed in the late 1970s. More specifically, this technique was an outgrowth of the study of eye movement patterns by Robert Dilts and others (Dilts, Grinder, Bander and DeLozier, 1980). Dilts found that unconscious eye movements are systematic and correlate with the internal processing of different types of cognitive information. Although these results, originally labeled “eye accessing cues,” remain controversial, they nevertheless represent one of the more unique and useful of the NLP findings. I have decided not to include a separate section on NLP on this website, even though I am a trainer of NLP and a number of its presuppositions are important to understanding EMI. When I teach mental health professionals how to use EMI, these presuppositions are always covered in course materials and discussions. If you would like to learn more about NLP, one good resource is theEncyclopedia of NLP by Dilts and Delozier (2000). You can order a print version or view the encyclopedia online at In addition, there are hundreds of books and articles about NLP and plenty of information on the internet. Or you can take NLP courses from AHTA.

Connirae and Steve Andreas were the first to offer instruction in a specific therapeutic technique based on “eye accessing cue” research. They called this technique Eye Movement Integration. Although it originated in 1989, a recorded demonstration of the technique was first distributed in 1993 when a video was produced of Steve Andreas using Eye Movement Integration with a Vietnam veteran who suffered from PTSD. This DVD can be purchased

Ron Klein attended a training session given by Steve Andreas before developing his own expertise in using Eye Movement Integration. After a period of time Ron added new features to the technique. A good example of Ron’s approach can be seen in a videotaped demonstration he gave of EMI with a dog attack victim (2001). Ron’s additions to Eye Movement Integration included the “anchoring” of the client in a “secure or competent” state before accessing the response to the trauma, the use of therapeutic dissociation and the use of hypnotic language. But, with the exception of these enhancements, Ron’s version remains basically true to the one originally developed and taught by Connirae and Steve Andreas. He trademarked his modified technique as Eye Movement Integration™, and he has been teaching this version at AHTA since that time. As I wrote at the beginning of this section, it is Ron’s version of EMI that I learned ten years ago.

Developing on a separate track was another version by Danie Beaulieu and contained in her book Eye Movement Integration Therapy: The Comprehensive Clinical Guide (2003). This was the first complete text on the technique, its theory and its practice. She describes her approach as a combination of the original Andreas technique and another eye movement therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR was different from Eye Movement Integration. It was developed by Francine Shapiro (1989) and first reported at the same time that Eye Movement Integration was being introduced by Connirae and Steve Andreas. Beaulieu took a brief workshop led by Steve Andreas at the same conference in 1993 where he demonstrated Eye Movement Integration with the Vietnam veteran. Afterwards, she began to use Eye Movement Integration with clients, although she reports in her book that her initial results were varied. She found herself adding new dimensions to the technique and notes that about half of the changes she made to the Andreas’ protocols were based on her own “intuition and experience.”

About three years later she heard of EMDR and took both levels of its training between 1996 and 1997. I am not qualified to fully compare and contrast Eye Movement Integration with EMDR, because I have not had EMDR training. However, EMDR was used with me while I had PTSD, so I do have pragmatic experience with the therapy. Beaulieu, however, goes into some detail about the similarities and differences between Eye Movement Integration and EMDR. She describes in her book how she then adopted certain aspects of EMDR and made them part of her practice of Eye Movement Integration. Now that Eye Movement Integration and EMDR have been in use for over 20 years, it is apparent that the techniques have had an influence on each other, with elements of each found in the other’s practice. A full investigation of the history and interplay between these two techniques is best left as a topic for a future doctoral dissertation. However, a brief review of video demonstrations of these two interventions on the internet will show some obvious “cross-fertilizations.”

After years of using EMI with my own clients, it occurred to me that the efficacy of this technique could be further improved if I added strategic spoken utterances at the same time as the eye movements. It was important that I maintain the integrity of Eye Movement Integration as developed by the Andreas’ and enhanced by Ron Klein (EMI), while also bolstering the technique’s effectiveness with powerful NLP strategies. Among the additions were the use of reframing language and hypnotic “imbedded commands,” while the client is both thinking about the traumatic event and watching the movement of a pen with their eyes. The use of both was designed to correlate with the original eye accessing patterns reported by Dilts. One might think this could be a bit confusing for clients, but it actually works quite well.

This brief historical description may leave questions for those unfamiliar with EMI. If so, I encourage you to learn more, especially if you are a mental health practitioner. What I have endeavored to make clear is that the EMI I use with clients and teach in seminars is a direct descendent of those taught by Steve Andreas and Ron Klein. I have also drawn attention to the dynamic differences between the techniques taught by Ron and me when compared to other eye movement therapies. In our versions the client is “anchored” in safety or competence prior to beginning the eye movements (his innovation). Both Ron and I also use “therapeutic dissociation” as a part of our techniques (also his innovation). Because of these protections, the client is less likely to re-experience the multi-sensory anxiety of the original trauma while the eye movements are performed. And, most importantly, I have found that the use of EMI makes it unnecessary for clients to tell their difficult stories, for to do so unnecessarily increases the potential for severe reactions (what are called abreactions).

As I indicated, I am devoting time and energy now to increasing awareness of the simplicity and yet the remarkable effectiveness of EMI. If you have questions about training opportunities, or if you would like more information about EMI, you can contact me I am available to do short term (2-3 session) therapy work with clients individually, if they are referred by their therapist, to address problems associated with acute stress or PTSD. I am also available to teach the 15 hour Level I EMI program or the 7 hour Level II to mental health practitioners (see the course descriptions below). I am always eager give presentations or demonstrations of EMI, Ericksonian Hynotherapy or NLP. As a survivor of sexual abuse, and as a board member of Male Survivor: The Organization Against Male Sexual Victimization, I also bring a consumer’s perspective to each presentation I make. Think of it as a two for one sale!


EMI Course Summaries

Level I

This course begins with a review of the history and development of Eye Movement Integration™ (EMI) from its origins as a part of Neuro Linguistic Programming in 1980 to the present. Participants learn several NLP presuppositions upon which this technique is based and their relevance to EMI. Participants also learn how stress-causing events, thoughts, neurobiology and sensory information interrelate in the persistence of anxiety and traumatic memories. Through demonstration and practice, participants learn how to establish rapport with a client, test for eye accessing patterns, anchor a client in safety or confidence, determine the structure of an anxiety producing memory, use therapeutic dissociation, deal with client abreactions and effectively perform an EMI session and evaluate the results using a subjective units of distress (SUD) scale and the PTSD Checklist – Civilian Version.  Mastery of the skills taught in this course prepares participants to successfully utilize this technique with clients. This course requires 15 hours of instruction and is normally scheduled on two consecutive days. A certificate of completion from Phoenix Counseling & Hypnotherapy is awarded to participants who demonstrate mastery in course content.

Level II

Level II is designed for participants who have completed level one or who have sufficient experience in using EMI with clients (as determined by the teacher). The course begins with a brief review of the topics taught in level one followed by a question and answer period to make sure that any clarifications needed are satisfied. New skills taught in level II include the concepts of spoken “imbedded commands” and “reframing language” and how to integrate these NLP techniques when using EMI with clients. Sufficient demonstration and practice assures the acquisition of these new skills. Participants also present case studies of their own use of EMI, whether successes or failures, followed by “post mortems” and group discussion. This course requires 7 hours of instruction. Certificates of completion are also awarded for this program.


Andreas, S., 1993. NLP Eye Movement Integration, video, NLP Comprehensive, Boulder,  Colorado.

Beaulieu, D., 2003. Eye Movement Integration Therapy: The Comprehensive Clinical Guide, Crown House Publishing, Williston, VT.

Blanchard, E. B., Jones-Alexander, J., Buckley, T. C., & Forneris, C. A. (1996).Psychometric properties of the PTSD checklist (PCL). Behavioral Research & Therapy, 34, 669-673.

Deninger, M., 2010. Eye Movement Integration™: A “Sensational” Brief Therapy Technique for Reducing the Effects of Trauma. Presentation at Male Survivor’s 12th International Conference: Healing & Hope. March 18-20, New York City.

Dilts, R., Grinder, J., Bandler, R., and DeLozier, J., 1980. NLP (Vol. I), Meta Publications, Capitola, CA.

Dilts, R. and Delozier, J, 2000. Encyclopedia of Systemic NLP and NLP New Coding, NLP University Press, Scotts Valley, CA

Klein, R., 2001. Eye Movement Integration™: PTSD – Dog Attack (video). American Hypnosis Training Academy, Inc.

Shapiro, F., Efficacy of the eye movement desensitization procedure in the treatment of traumatic memories, Journal of Traumatic Stress, 2(2), 199-223

Posted by: faithful | July 23, 2016

childhood and adolescent development and addictions

How Psychosocial Development in Early Childhood Can Set the Stage for Addiction (video)

child development

Do you trust people? Do you trust yourself? Our trust is usually developed when we’re around zero to three years old.  We all go through a very similar psychosocial development in early childhood that forms us as adults. For those suffering from addiction, understanding these psychosocial stages starts the process of recovery.

Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages

Erik Erikson was a German-born American psychologist known for his theory on psychosocial development of people. He also coined the phrase identity crisis. Erikson’s model of psychosocial development is a very significant, highly regarded and meaningful concept in psychology.

erikson-stages-psychosocial-developmentBasically the theory boils down to this: Life is a series of lessons and challenges which help us to grow. Erikson’s psychosocial development theory helps explain why.

Erikson first published his 8-stage theory of human development in 1950 in a book called  “Childhood and Society.” In a chapter called ‘The Eight Ages of Man’ he put forth the foundations of the psychosocial development stages.

According to Erikson, emotionally we all grow up in 8 predictable stages.


Psychosocial Development in Infants (Age 0-3): Trust

Do you trust people? Our trust is usually developed when we’re around zero to three years old. When we are small children, if we receive the proper love from mom and dad, we’re fine. The things we worry about during this stage of life include getting fed, being comforted, teething and sleeping. If we’re in an environment that is really abusive or there’s some trauma or neglect during this time, then it’s likely that trust didn’t develop.

As we move forward in life it can sometimes become very scary. All the other psychosocial developmental stages and milestones are really founded in trust.

Virtues that are develop during this stage include hope and drive, which will inspire and motivate us later in life. On the other side of the coin, we can develop “sensory distortion” –  where we form an illusion of reality – and the tendency to withdrawal from our surroundings if trust is not nurtured and developed during this stage.

Trust v. Mistrust

Life Stage / Relationships / Issues Basic Virtues Malignancies
  • Infant
  • Mother
  • Feeding and being comforted,
    teething, sleeping
  • Hope
  • Drive
  • Sensory Distortion
  • Withdrawal

Psychosocial Development in Toddlers (Ages 3-5): Initiative

Inititative develops in the next psychosocial development stage. During this time we move away from the womb and learn to complete things. If problems occur during this stage it can be very difficult to get motivated and follow through on projects later in life. During this time, children experiment with their environment – this is why play is so important. If they lack confidence, they most likely won’t even try. So initiative doesn’t really get developed.

Key milestones during this stage include toilet training, coordination, walking and running. We develop our will power and self-control during this time by learning about consequences to our actions. Alternatively, if we don’t learn these lessons well, we tend to become impulsive, which can be a big contributor for substance abuse later in life.

Autonomy v Shame & Doubt

Life Stage / Relationships / Issues Basic Virtues Malignancies
  • Toddler
  • Parents
  • Bodily functions, toilet training,
    muscular control, walking
  • Willpower
  • Self Control
  • Impulsive
  • Compulsion
Psychosocial Development in Early Childhood (Ages 5-11): Self Esteem

We develop self esteem in the next psychosocial development stage, driven by our achievements and accomplishments. If we have confidence in our abilities, then we tend to feel good about ourselves in comparison to others.We think, “I’m just as good as everybody else.”

If we feel inferior and lack self-esteem, however, then we misperceive that other people are more important than ourselves. People who lack self-esteem try to find worth through others and tend to become people-pleasers. They begin to feel like an outsider looking in. It’s very difficult to be in a place of having no self-worth, no esteem.

Through our achievements and accomplishments, we also develop confidence, a purpose, and direction – I’m on a path and feel good about it. Alternatively, without proper self-esteem development, people become inhibited, closed in, and can lash out with ruthlessness.

Initiative v. Inferiority

Life Stage / Relationships / Issues Basic Virtues Malignancies
  • Schoolchild
  • School, teachers, friends, neighborhood
  • Achievement and accomplishment
  • Purpose
  • Direction
  • Confidence
  • Inhibition
  • Inertia
  • Ruthlessness

Psychosocial Development in Adolescents (Age 12-18): Identity

As an adolescent the development task is creating a self-identity. This is the time when a person must come to terms with their purpose in life and begin to answer “who am I?” Are they gay, straight, Republican, Democrat? During this stage it becomes a battle between fitting in with peer groups and social norms or becoming one’s own person.

If we have difficulty during this stage, then there’s quite a bit of identity confusion. Middle school and high school is the time to develop who we really are and with all the stress that goes on in those places.

Coming out of the adsolescent psychosocial development stage, we should have a clear sense of devotion and fidelity. Without this, we’re at risk to develop fanatical tendencies and repudiate and rebel against social norms.

Identity v. Role Confusion

Life Stage / Relationships / Issues Basic Virtues Malignancies
  • Adolescent
  • Peers, groups, influences
  • Resolving identity and direction
  • Becoming a grown-up
  • Fidelity
  • Devotion
  • Fanaticism
  • Repudiation

Psychosocial Development in Young Adults (Age 18+): Intimacy

In this example, we end at the stage of intimacy development. Intimacy means being in close quarters with another. If we don’t trust and don’t have a strong sense of self, then the notion of being intimate with another can feel very threatening. More than likely, people who fear intimacy will lash out through an angry outburst or run away when they feel trapped.

child teens-girls

20 Diversion Tactics Highly Manipulative Narcissists, Sociopaths And Psychopaths Use To Silence You

Shahida Arabi

Toxic people such as malignant narcissists, psychopaths and those with antisocial traits engage in maladaptive behaviors in relationships that ultimately exploit, demean and hurt their intimate partners, family members and friends. They use a plethora of diversionary tactics that distort the reality of their victims and deflect responsibility. Although those who are not narcissistic can employ these tactics as well, abusive narcissists use these to an excessive extent in an effort to escape accountability for their actions.

Here are the 20 diversionary tactics toxic people use to silence and degrade you.

1. Gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic that can be described in different variations of three words: “That didn’t happen,” “You imagined it,” and “Are you crazy?” Gaslighting is perhaps one of the most insidious manipulative tactics out there because it works to distort and erode your sense of reality; it eats away at your ability to trust yourself and inevitably disables you from feeling justified in calling out abuse and mistreatment.

When a narcissist, sociopath or psychopath gaslights you, you may be prone to gaslighting yourself as a way to reconcile the cognitive dissonance that might arise. Two conflicting beliefs battle it out: is this person right or can I trust what I experienced? A manipulative person will convince you that the former is an inevitable truth while the latter is a sign of dysfunction on your end.

In order to resist gaslighting, it’s important to ground yourself in your own reality – sometimes writing things down as they happened, telling a friend or reiterating your experience to a support network can help to counteract the gaslighting effect. The power of having a validating community is that it can redirect you from the distorted reality of a malignant person and back to your own inner guidance.

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2. Projection.

One sure sign of toxicity is when a person is chronically unwilling to see his or her own shortcomings and uses everything in their power to avoid being held accountable for them. This is known as projection. Projection is a defense mechanism used to displace responsibility of one’s negative behavior and traits by attributing them to someone else. It ultimately acts as a digression that avoids ownership and accountability.

While we all engage in projection to some extent, according to Narcissistic Personality clinical expert Dr. Martinez-Lewi, the projections of a narcissist are often psychologically abusive. Rather than acknowledge their own flaws, imperfections and wrongdoings, malignant narcissists and sociopaths opt to dump their own traits on their unsuspecting suspects in a way that is painful and excessively cruel. Instead of admitting that self-improvement may be in order, they would prefer that their victims take responsibility for their behavior and feel ashamed of themselves. This is a way for a narcissist to project any toxic shame they have about themselves onto another.

For example, a person who engages in pathological lying may accuse their partner of fibbing; a needy spouse may call their husband “clingy” in an attempt to depict them as the one who is dependent; a rude employee may call their boss ineffective in an effort to escape the truth about their own productivity.

Narcissistic abusers love to play the “blameshifting game.” Objectives of the game: they win, you lose, and you or the world at large is blamed for everything that’s wrong with them. This way, you get to babysit their fragile ego while you’re thrust into a sea of self-doubt. Fun, right?

Solution? Don’t “project” your own sense of compassion or empathy onto a toxic person and don’t own any of the toxic person’s projections either. As manipulation expert and author Dr. George Simon (2010) notes in his book In Sheep’s Clothing, projecting our own conscience and value system onto others has the potential consequence of being met with further exploitation.

Narcissists on the extreme end of the spectrum usually have no interest in self-insight or change. It’s important to cut ties and end interactions with toxic people as soon as possible so you can get centered in your own reality and validate your own identity. You don’t have to live in someone else’s cesspool of dysfunction.

3. Nonsensical conversations from hell.

If you think you’re going to have a thoughtful discussion with someone who is toxic, be prepared for epic mindfuckery rather than conversational mindfulness.

Malignant narcissists and sociopaths use word salad, circular conversations, ad hominem arguments, projection and gaslighting to disorient you and get you off track should you ever disagree with them or challenge them in any way. They do this in order to discredit, confuse and frustrate you, distract you from the main problem and make you feel guilty for being a human being with actual thoughts and feelings that might differ from their own. In their eyes, you are the problem if you happen to exist.

Spend even ten minutes arguing with a toxic narcissist and you’ll find yourself wondering how the argument even began at all. You simply disagreed with them about their absurd claim that the sky is red and now your entire childhood, family, friends, career and lifestyle choices have come under attack. That is because your disagreement picked at their false belief that they are omnipotent and omniscient, resulting in a narcissistic injury.

Remember: toxic people don’t argue with you, they essentially argue with themselves and you become privy to their long, draining monologues. They thrive off the drama and they live for it. Each and every time you attempt to provide a point that counters their ridiculous assertions, you feed them supply. Don’t feed the narcissists supply – rather, supply yourself with the confirmation that their abusive behavior is the problem, not you. Cut the interaction short as soon as you anticipate it escalating and use your energy on some decadent self-care instead.

4. Blanket statements and generalizations.

Malignant narcissists aren’t always intellectual masterminds – many of them are intellectually lazy. Rather than taking the time to carefully consider a different perspective, they generalize anything and everything you say, making blanket statements that don’t acknowledge the nuances in your argument or take into account the multiple perspectives you’ve paid homage to. Better yet, why not put a label on you that dismisses your perspective altogether?

On a larger scale, generalizations and blanket statements invalidate experiences that don’t fit in the unsupported assumptions, schemas and stereotypes of society; they are also used to maintain the status quo. This form of digression exaggerates one perspective to the point where a social justice issue can become completely obscured. For example, rape accusations against well-liked figures are often met with the reminder that there are false reports of rape that occur. While those do occur, they are rare, and in this case, the actions of one become labeled the behavior of the majority while the specific report itself remains unaddressed.

These everyday microaggressions also happen in toxic relationships. If you bring up to a narcissistic abuser that their behavior is unacceptable for example, they will often make blanket generalizations about your hypersensitivity or make a generalization such as, “You are never satisfied,” or “You’re always too sensitive” rather than addressing the real issues at hand. It’s possible that you are oversensitive at times, but it is also possible that the abuser is also insensitive and cruel the majority of the time.

Hold onto your truth and resist generalizing statements by realizing that they are in fact forms of black and white illogical thinking. Toxic people wielding blanket statements do not represent the full richness of experience – they represent the limited one of their singular experience and overinflated sense of self.

5. Deliberately misrepresenting your thoughts and feelings to the point of absurdity.

In the hands of a malignant narcissist or sociopath, your differing opinions, legitimate emotions and lived experiences get translated into character flaws and evidence of your irrationality.

Narcissists weave tall tales to reframe what you’re actually saying as a way to make your opinions look absurd or heinous. Let’s say you bring up the fact that you’re unhappy with the way a toxic friend is speaking to you. In response, he or she may put words in your mouth, saying, “Oh, so now you’re perfect?” or “So I am a bad person, huh?” when you’ve done nothing but express your feelings. This enables them to invalidate your right to have thoughts and emotions about their inappropriate behavior and instills in you a sense of guilt when you attempt to establish boundaries.

This is also a popular form of diversion and cognitive distortion that is known as “mind reading.” Toxic people often presume they know what you’re thinking and feeling. They chronically jump to conclusions based on their own triggers rather than stepping back to evaluate the situation mindfully. They act accordingly based on their own delusions and fallacies and make no apologies for the harm they cause as a result. Notorious for putting words in your mouth, they depict you as having an intention or outlandish viewpoint you didn’t possess. They accuse you of thinking of them as toxic – even before you’ve gotten the chance to call them out on their behavior – and this also serves as a form of preemptive defense.

Simply stating, “I never said that,” and walking away should the person continue to accuse you of doing or saying something you didn’t can help to set a firm boundary in this type of interaction. So long as the toxic person can blameshift and digress from their own behavior, they have succeeded in convincing you that you should be “shamed” for giving them any sort of realistic feedback.

6. Nitpicking and moving the goal posts.

The difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism is the presence of a personal attack and impossible standards. These so-called “critics” often don’t want to help you improve, they just want to nitpick, pull you down and scapegoat you in any way they can. Abusive narcissists and sociopaths employ a logical fallacy known as “moving the goalposts” in order to ensure that they have every reason to be perpetually dissatisfied with you. This is when, even after you’ve provided all the evidence in the world to validate your argument or taken an action to meet their request, they set up another expectation of you or demand more proof.

Do you have a successful career? The narcissist will then start to pick on why you aren’t a multi-millionaire yet. Did you already fulfill their need to be excessively catered to? Now it’s time to prove that you can also remain “independent.” The goal posts will perpetually change and may not even be related to each other; they don’t have any other point besides making you vie for the narcissist’s approval and validation.

By raising the expectations higher and higher each time or switching them completely, highly manipulative and toxic people are able to instill in you a pervasive sense of unworthiness and of never feeling quite “enough.” By pointing out one irrelevant fact or one thing you did wrong and developing a hyperfocus on it, narcissists get to divert from your strengths and pull you into obsessing over any flaws or weaknesses instead. They get you thinking about the next expectation of theirs you’re going to have to meet – until eventually you’ve bent over backwards trying to fulfill their every need – only to realize it didn’t change the horrific way they treated you.

Don’t get sucked into nitpicking and changing goal posts – if someone chooses to rehash an irrelevant point over and over again to the point where they aren’t acknowledging the work you’ve done to validate your point or satisfy them, their motive isn’t to better understand. It’s to further provoke you into feeling as if you have to constantly prove yourself. Validate and approve of yourself. Know that you are enough and you don’t have to be made to feel constantly deficient or unworthy in some way.

7. Changing the subject to evade accountability.

This type of tactic is what I like to call the “What about me?” syndrome. It is a literal digression from the actual topic that works to redirect attention to a different issue altogether. Narcissists don’t want you to be on the topic of holding them accountable for anything, so they will reroute discussions to benefit them. Complaining about their neglectful parenting? They’ll point out a mistake you committed seven years ago. This type of diversion has no limits in terms of time or subject content, and often begins with a sentence like “What about the time when…”

On a macrolevel, these diversions work to derail discussions that challenge the status quo. A discussion about gay rights, for example, may be derailed quickly by someone who brings in another social justice issue just to distract people from the main argument.

As Tara Moss, author of Speaking Out: A 21st Century Handbook for Women and Girls, notes, specificity is needed in order to resolve and address issues appropriately – that doesn’t mean that the issues that are being brought up don’t matter, it just means that the specific time and place may not be the best context to discuss them.

Don’t be derailed – if someone pulls a switcheroo on you, you can exercise what I call the “broken record” method and continue stating the facts without giving in to their distractions. Redirect their redirection by saying, “That’s not what I am talking about. Let’s stay focused on the real issue.” If they’re not interested, disengage and spend your energy on something more constructive – like not having a debate with someone who has the mental age of a toddler.

8. Covert and overt threats.

Narcissistic abusers and otherwise toxic people feel very threatened when their excessive sense of entitlement, false sense of superiority and grandiose sense of self are challenged in any way. They are prone to making unreasonable demands on others – while punishing you for not living up to their impossible to reach expectations.

Rather than tackle disagreements or compromises maturely, they set out to divert you from your right to have your own identity and perspective by attempting to instill fear in you about the consequences of disagreeing or complying with their demands. To them, any challenge results in an ultimatum and “do this or I’ll do that” becomes their daily mantra.

If someone’s reaction to you setting boundaries or having a differing opinion from your own is to threaten you into submission, whether it’s a thinly veiled threat or an overt admission of what they plan to do, this is a red flag of someone who has a high degree of entitlement and has no plans of compromising. Take threats seriously and show the narcissist you mean business; document threats and report them whenever possible and legally feasible.

9. Name-calling.

Narcissists preemptively blow anything they perceive as a threat to their superiority out of proportion. In their world, only they can ever be right and anyone who dares to say otherwise creates a narcissistic injury that results in narcissistic rage. As Mark Goulston, M.D. asserts, narcissistic rage does not result from low self-esteem but rather a high sense of entitlement and false sense of superiority.

The lowest of the low resort to narcissistic rage in the form of name-calling when they can’t think of a better way to manipulate your opinion or micromanage your emotions. Name-calling is a quick and easy way to put you down, degrade you and insult your intelligence, appearance or behavior while invalidating your right to be a separate person with a right to his or her perspective.

Name-calling can also be used to criticize your beliefs, opinions and insights. A well-researched perspective or informed opinion suddenly becomes “silly” or “idiotic” in the hands of a malignant narcissist or sociopath who feels threatened by it and cannot make a respectful, convincing rebuttal. Rather than target your argument, they target you as a person and seek to undermine your credibility and intelligence in any way they possibly can. It’s important to end any interaction that consists of name-calling and communicate that you won’t tolerate it. Don’t internalize it: realize that they are resorting to name-calling because they are deficient in higher level methods.

10. Destructive conditioning.

Toxic people condition you to associate your strengths, talents, and happy memories with abuse, frustration and disrespect. They do this by sneaking in covert and overt put-downs about the qualities and traits they once idealized as well as sabotaging your goals, ruining celebrations, vacations and holidays. They may even isolate you from your friends and family and make you financially dependent upon them. Like Pavlov’s dogs, you’re essentially “trained” over time to become afraid of doing the very things that once made your life fulfilling.

Narcissists, sociopaths, psychopaths and otherwise toxic people do this because they wish to divert attention back to themselves and how you’re going to please them. If there is anything outside of them that may threaten their control over your life, they seek to destroy it. They need to be the center of attention at all times. In the idealization phase, you were once the center of a narcissist’s world – now the narcissist becomes the center of yours.

Narcissists are also naturally pathologically envious and don’t want anything to come in between them and their influence over you. Your happiness represents everything they feel they cannot have in their emotionally shallow lives. After all, if you learn that you can get validation, respect and love from other sources besides the toxic person, what’s to keep you from leaving them? To toxic people, a little conditioning can go a long way to keep you walking on eggshells and falling just short of your big dreams.

11. Smear campaigns and stalking.

When toxic types can’t control the way you see yourself, they start to control how others see you; they play the martyr while you’re labeled the toxic one. A smear campaign is a preemptive strike to sabotage your reputation and slander your name so that you won’t have a support network to fall back on lest you decide to detach and cut ties with this toxic person. They may even stalk and harass you or the people you know as a way to supposedly “expose” the truth about you; this exposure acts as a way to hide their own abusive behavior while projecting it onto you.

Some smear campaigns can even work to pit two people or two groups against each other. A victim in an abusive relationship with a narcissist often doesn’t know what’s being said about them during the relationship, but they eventually find out the falsehoods shortly after they’ve been discarded.

Toxic people will gossip behind your back (and in front of your face), slander you to your loved ones or their loved ones, create stories that depict you as the aggressor while they play the victim, and claim that you engaged in the same behaviors that they are afraid you will accuse them of engaging in. They will also methodically, covertly and deliberately abuse you so they can use your reactions as a way to prove that they are the so-called “victims” of your abuse.

The best way to handle a smear campaign is to stay mindful of your reactions and stick to the facts. This is especially pertinent for high-conflict divorces with narcissists who may use your reactions to their provocations against you. Document any form of harassment, cyberbullying or stalking incidents and always speak to your narcissist through a lawyer whenever possible. You may wish to take legal action if you feel the stalking and harassment is getting out of control; finding a lawyer who is well-versed in Narcissistic Personality Disorder is crucial if that’s the case. Your character and integrity will speak for itself when the narcissist’s false mask begins to slip.

12. Love-bombing and devaluation.

Toxic people put you through an idealization phase until you’re sufficiently hooked and invested in beginning a friendship or relationship with you. Then, they begin to devalue you while insulting the very things they admired in the first place. Another variation of this is when a toxic individual puts you on a pedestal while aggressively devaluing and attacking someone else who threatens their sense of superiority.

Narcissistic abusers do this all the time – they devalue their exes to their new partners, and eventually the new partner starts to receive the same sort of mistreatment as the narcissist’s ex-partner. Ultimately what will happen is that you will also be on the receiving end of the same abuse. You will one day be the ex-partner they degrade to their new source of supply. You just don’t know it yet. That’s why it’s important to stay mindful of the love-bombing technique whenever you witness behavior that doesn’t align with the saccharine sweetness a narcissist subjects you to.

As life coach Wendy Powell suggests, slowing things down with people you suspect may be toxic is an important way of combating the love-bombing technique. Be wary of the fact that how a person treats or speaks about someone else could potentially translate into the way they will treat you in the future.

13. Preemptive defense.

When someone stresses the fact that they are a “nice guy” or girl, that you should “trust them” right away or emphasizes their credibility without any provocation from you whatsoever, be wary.

Toxic and abusive people overstate their ability to be kind and compassionate. They often tell you that you should “trust” them without first building a solid foundation of trust. They may “perform” a high level of sympathy and empathy at the beginning of your relationship to dupe you, only to unveil their false mask later on. When you see their false mask begins to slip periodically during the devaluation phase of the abuse cycle, the true self is revealed to be terrifyingly cold, callous and contemptuous.

Genuinely nice people rarely have to persistently show off their positive qualities – they exude their warmth more than they talk about it and they know that actions speak volumes more than mere words. They know that trust and respect is a two-way street that requires reciprocity, not repetition.

To counter a preemptive defense, reevaluate why a person may be emphasizing their good qualities. Is it because they think you don’t trust them, or because they know you shouldn’t? Trust actions more than empty words and see how someone’s actions communicate who they are, not who they say they are.

14. Triangulation.

Bringing in the opinion, perspective or suggested threat of another person into the dynamic of an interaction is known as “triangulation.” Often used to validate the toxic person’s abuse while invalidating the victim’s reactions to abuse, triangulation can also work to manufacture love triangles that leave you feeling unhinged and insecure.

Malignant narcissists love to triangulate their significant other with strangers, co-workers, ex-partners, friends and even family members in order to evoke jealousy and uncertainty in you. They also use the opinions of others to validate their point of view.

This is a diversionary tactic meant to pull your attention away from their abusive behavior and into a false image of them as a desirable, sought after person. It also leaves you questioning yourself – if Mary did agree with Tom, doesn’t that mean that you must be wrong? The truth is, narcissists love to “report back” falsehoods about others say about you, when in fact, they are the ones smearing you.

To resist triangulation tactics, realize that whoever the narcissist is triangulating with is also being triangulated by your relationship with the narcissist as well. Everyone is essentially being played by this one person. Reverse “triangulate” the narcissist by gaining support from a third party that is not under the narcissist’s influence – and also by seeking your own validation.

15. Bait and feign innocence.

Toxic individuals lure you into a false sense of security simply to have a platform to showcase their cruelty. Baiting you into a mindless, chaotic argument can escalate into a showdown rather quickly with someone who doesn’t know the meaning of respect. A simple disagreement may bait you into responding politely initially, until it becomes clear that the person has a malicious motive of tearing you down.

By “baiting” you with a seemingly innocuous comment disguised as a rational one, they can then begin to play with you. Remember: narcissistic abusers have learned about your insecurities, the unsettling catchphrases that interrupt your confidence, and the disturbing topics that reenact your wounds – and they use this knowledge maliciously to provoke you. After you’ve fallen for it, hook line and sinker, they’ll stand back and innocently ask whether you’re “okay” and talk about how they didn’t “mean” to agitate you. This faux innocence works to catch you off guard and make you believe that they truly didn’t intend to hurt you, until it happens so often you can’t deny the reality of their malice any longer.

It helps to realize when you’re being baited so you can avoid engaging altogether. Provocative statements, name-calling, hurtful accusations or unsupported generalizations, for example, are common baiting tactics. Your gut instinct can also tell you when you’re being baited – if you feel “off” about a certain comment and continue to feel this way even after it has been expanded on, that’s a sign you may need to take some space to reevaluate the situation before choosing to respond.

16. Boundary testing and hoovering.

Narcissists, sociopaths and otherwise toxic people continually try and test your boundaries to see which ones they can trespass. The more violations they’re able to commit without consequences, the more they’ll push the envelope.
That’s why survivors of emotional as well as physical abuse often experience even more severe incidents of abuse each and every time they go back to their abusers.

Abusers tend to “hoover” their victims back in with sweet promises, fake remorse and empty words of how they are going to change, only to abuse their victims even more horrifically. In the abuser’s sick mind, this boundary testing serves as a punishment for standing up to the abuse and also for being going back to it. When narcissists try to press the emotional reset button, reinforce your boundaries even more strongly rather than backtracking on them.

Remember – highly manipulative people don’t respond to empathy or compassion. They respond to consequences.

17. Aggressive jabs disguised as jokes.

Covert narcissists enjoy making malicious remarks at your expense. These are usually dressed up as “just jokes” so that they can get away with saying appalling things while still maintaining an innocent, cool demeanor. Yet any time you are outraged at an insensitive, harsh remark, you are accused of having no sense of humor. This is a tactic frequently used in verbal abuse.

The contemptuous smirk and sadistic gleam in their eyes gives it away, however – like a predator that plays with its food, a toxic person gains pleasure from hurting you and being able to get away with it. After all, it’s just a joke, right? Wrong. It’s a way to gaslight you into thinking their abuse is a joke – a way to divert from their cruelty and onto your perceived sensitivity. It is important that when this happens, you stand up for yourself and make it clear that you won’t tolerate this type of behavior.

Calling out manipulative people on their covert put-downs may result in further gaslighting from the abuser but maintain your stance that their behavior is not okay and end the interaction immediately if you have to.

18. Condescending sarcasm and patronizing tone.

Belittling and degrading a person is a toxic person’s forte and their tone of voice is only one tool in their toolbox. Sarcasm can be a fun mode of communication when both parties are engaged, but narcissists use it chronically as a way to manipulate you and degrade you. If you in any way react to it, you must be “too sensitive.”

Forget that the toxic person constantly has temper tantrums every time their big bad ego is faced with realistic feedback – the victim is the hypersensitive one, apparently. So long as you’re treated like a child and constantly challenged for expressing yourself, you’ll start to develop a sense of hypervigilance about voicing your thoughts and opinions without reprimand. This self-censorship enables the abuser to put in less work in silencing you, because you begin to silence yourself.

Whenever you are met with a condescending demeanor or tone, call it out firmly and assertively. You don’t deserve to be spoken down to like a child – nor should you ever silence yourself to meet the expectation of someone else’s superiority complex.

19. Shaming.

“You should be ashamed of yourself” is a favorite saying of toxic people. Though it can be used by someone who is non-toxic, in the realm of the narcissist or sociopath, shaming is an effective method that targets any behavior or belief that might challenge a toxic person’s power. It can also be used to destroy and whittle away at a victim’s self-esteem: if a victim dares to be proud of something, shaming the victim for that specific trait, quality or accomplishment can serve to diminish their sense of self and stifle any pride they may have.

Malignant narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths enjoy using your own wounds against you – so they will even shame you about any abuse or injustice you’ve suffered in your lifetime as a way to retraumatize you. Were you a childhood abuse survivor? A malignant narcissist or sociopath will claim that you must’ve done something to deserve it, or brag about their own happy childhood as a way to make you feel deficient and unworthy. What better way to injure you, after all, than to pick at the original wound? As surgeons of madness, they seek to exacerbate wounds, not help heal them.

If you suspect you’re dealing with a toxic person, avoid revealing any of your vulnerabilities or past traumas. Until they’ve proven their character to you, there is no point disclosing information that could be potentially used against you.

20. Control.

Most importantly, toxic abusers love to maintain control in whatever way they can. They isolate you, maintain control over your finances and social networks, and micromanage every facet of your life. Yet the most powerful mechanism they have for control is toying with your emotions.

That’s why abusive narcissists and sociopaths manufacture situations of conflict out of thin air to keep you feeling off center and off balanced. That’s why they chronically engage in disagreements about irrelevant things and rage over perceived slights. That’s why they emotionally withdraw, only to re-idealize you once they start to lose control. That’s why they vacillate between their false self and their true self, so you never get a sense of psychological safety or certainty about who your partner truly is.

The more power they have over your emotions, the less likely you’ll trust your own reality and the truth about the abuse you’re enduring. Knowing the manipulative tactics and how they work to erode your sense of self can arm you with the knowledge of what you’re facing and at the very least, develop a plan to regain control over your own life and away from toxic people.

Shahida Arabi is the bestselling author of The Smart Girl’s Guide to Self-Care and Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself


Posted by: faithful | June 1, 2016

healing and meditation

How Meditation Aids Mind Body Health

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Do you categorize meditation as one of those tasks you really should get around to, but never actually do? Do you see it as something that only “ultra-spiritual” people pursue? If so, you’re not alone.

Many people have heard about the tremendous mind body health and wellness benefits of meditation, but they don’t take the plunge and practice. Why?

What is Mindful Meditation?

Mindfulness meditation is a western, non-sectarian, research-based form of meditation derived from a 2,500 year old Buddhist practice called Vipassana or Insight Meditation. It is a form of meditation designed to develop the skill of paying attention to our inner and outer experiences with acceptance, patience, and compassion.

Mindfulness is the practice of bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment, which can be developed through the practice of meditation.

Why don’t more people practice mindful meditation?

For some, it’s simply difficult to slow down. Our hurry-up culture trains us to be more and more “productive,” and thus, some feel that things like rest and meditation are wasting time.

Additionally, many people give up before realizing the benefits of meditation, which build with time and practice. For others, the silence requires getting deep with their thoughts and feelings… and that can feel threatening.

What is the Purpose of Meditation?

When you give yourself the opportunity to meditate, internal struggles can give way to a profound peace. However, when you first slow down and tune in to yourself, you may experience a lot of chaotic chatter. That’s completely normal, so don’t let it deter you.

With time and practice, you can learn to calm your mind and emotions. In fact, getting into the rhythm of your breathing can bring you back to Source. If you return to meditation and silence often enough, you will learn some profound truths about your own life.

In meditation, you often come face-to-face with yourself, and what happens next is telling. Do you like yourself? Do you know who you really are? Do you have a sense of purpose?

In the silence, you discover who you really are.

Are you able to simply be and appreciate the life you were given? Do your thoughts wander to projects left undone? Are you focused on the past or future? As thoughts emerge, you receive valuable information about yourself.

If you haven’t worked through your day to day issues, partially processed thoughts will bubble up from your subconscious. This is an invitation to clear up your own “unfinished business” and free your mind from clutter.

Common Resistance to Meditation and Mind Body Health

You may have difficulty making the decision to “do nothing” and meditate in the first place. Cultural conditioning tells you that hard work is the only way to succeed, and as such, you resist the idea of sitting still.

Even devoting 15 minutes a day to meditation may seem overwhelming for you.

If so, start smaller.

Dare yourself to spend 5 minutes in stillness, and see what happens. If it helps, you can reframe meditation as a personal development challenge.

“For a type A personality, it is not hard to push oneself hard. Pushing oneself to the limit is easy! The real challenge for the person who thrives on challenge is not to work hard.”

— Greg McKeown in his psychological bestseller Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Healing Potential of Silence and Meditation

Silence is a powerful healing tool. When you meditate, material from your past will present itself and give you an opportunity to apply love to the hurt.

Whether the thoughts are based on regrets, people who have harmed you, or people whom you’ve harmed, working through the turmoil takes commitment.

Fortunately, in the silence we are safe.

There is no past and no future; it is simply a slice of the present. The past is history, the future a mystery, but now is the gift and that is why it is called ‘the present.’

Consider the silence a present from God.

Psychosynthesis: Hearing God Within


According to psychosynthesis – a spiritually-based psychological approach – we are all created in the image of God.

We have God’s image inside of us. And when we slow down, connect to ourselves in the present, and operate from that place, God speaks.

The flip side of silence is turmoil.

In the turmoil there is no peace, and the voice of God is drowned out. We are disconnected from ourselves and reactive to life. When we’re stressed and separated from God, we try to protect ourselves from others.

In the turmoil our emotions unravel and our bodies break down. We become weak, literally and figuratively.

Renowned neuroscientist Candace Pert won a Nobel Peace Prize for proving that when humans operate from a positive, loving place, our brains secrete peptides that enhance our immune systems.

This makes us stronger, and it can even slow and reverse the aging process. Cultivating joy and peacefulness have proven health benefits!

Practicing Silence for Mind Body Health

Joy Meditation


For the next few minutes, take an opportunity to sit in silence and focus on everything that brings you joy.

To start, turn off any electronics, sit in a comfortable seat, and simply focus on your breath.

Once you have calmed yourself, bring to mind people, experiences, or things that make you happy one by one. You might think about a child, a pet, a flower, or hiking in the woods.

Surround yourself with feelings of joy and allow them to build within.

Free-Form Writing

If you continually face turmoil while sitting in the silence, free-form writing can help. Free-form writing is simply putting pen to paper and writing whatever comes to mind.

When you do this, stay with the flow. Don’t judge what is coming out. Just write down whatever you want and purge it out.

When you’re done, shred and / or burn what you’ve written.

Do not re-read or evaluate your words.

Instead, appreciate the way that writing helps you to release that which is just beneath the level of your conscious awareness.

Savor the Gifts of Silence

In silence, time seems to slow down.

With no distractions, you can hear your breath, your heartbeat, even God’s guidance. When you allow yourself to slow down, you connect with who you are; you return home.

If you have a hectic schedule and juggle the demands of work and family, silence can be a key to sanity and a balm for relationships. After all, how you are with yourself is how you are with others too!

In the silence, you nurture your connection to yourself and to God. You connect with the image of God that is within. When you operate from that place, you are complete.

You are at peace, your body is healthier, and you find happiness. And as you share that energy with others, you give them permission to do the same.

Mind Body Health Connection to Addiction Recovery

Can meditation / silence and mind body therapy help treat addiction? Absolutely!

Most addictive behavior like substance abuse or eating disorders are related to underlying mental or emotional issues. Unless those underlying causes are addressed, relapse is much more likely.

What is required is a holistic treatment approach that addresses all four levels of self—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual—in order to create alignment and a new status quo.

Learn more about underlying core issues and how they relate to healing addiction.

Posted by: faithful | May 17, 2016

mind and memory articles

Posted by: faithful | May 11, 2016

how contempt ruins relationships

This Behavior Is The #1 Predictor Of Divorce, And You’re Guilty Of It

Your body language speaks volumes.

05/09/2016 07:30 pm ET


Ever catch yourself rolling your eyes at your partner or getting a little too sarcastic during a conversation? Those seemingly small behaviors are not that innocent after all.

According to renowned researcher John Gottman, contemptuous behavior like eye-rolling, sarcasm and name-calling is the number one predictor of divorce.

For 40 years, the University of Washington psychology professor and his team at the Gottman Institute have studied couples’ interactions to determine the key predictors of divorce — or as Gottman calls them, “the four horsemen of the apocalypse.”

Contempt is the number one sign, followed by criticism, defensiveness and stonewalling (emotionally withdrawing from your partner.)

So how do you curb contempt in your own marriage and stave off divorce? Below, experts share seven things you can do to keep contempt in check.

1. Realize that delivery is everything. 

“Remember, it’s not what you say, but how you say it that makes all the difference. Contempt often comes in the form of name-calling, snickering, sarcasm, eye-rolling and long heavy sighs. Like a poison, it can erode the trust and safety in your relationship and bring your marriage to a slow death. Your goal is to be heard. You need to present your message in a way that makes this happen without doing damage to the relationship.” — Christine Wilke, a marriage therapist based in Easton, Pennsylvania

2. Ban the word “whatever” from your vocabulary.

“When you say ‘whatever’ to your partner, you’re basically saying you’re not going to listen to them. This sends them a message that whatever they’re talking about is unimportant and has no merit to you. This is the last thing you want your spouse to hear. Sending messages (even indirectly through contempt) that they’re not important will end a relationship pretty quickly.” — Aaron Anderson, a Denver, Colorado-based marriage and family therapist

3. Stay clear of sarcasm and mean-spirited jokes.

“Avoid sarcasm and comments like, ‘I’ll bet you do!’ or ‘Oh, that was super funny” in a rude tone of voice. While you’re at it, don’t make jokes at the expense of your partner or make universal comments about his or her gender (‘You would say that — you’re a guy’).” — LeMel Firestone-Palerm, a marriage and family therapist 

4. Don’t live in the past.

“Most couples start showing contempt because they have let a lot of little things build up. To avoid contempt all together, you need to stay current in your communications along the way. If you’re unhappy about something, say it directly. Also, acknowledge the valid complaints your partner has about you — you’ll probably be less self-righteous the next time you fight.” –Judith and Bob Wright,authors of The Heart of the Fight: A Couple’s Guide to Fifteen Common Fights, What They Really Mean, and How They Can Bring You Closer

5. Watch your body language.

“If you find yourself rolling your eyes or smirking, it is a signal that your relationship could be headed for trouble. Try taking a break from each other if things get heated, or try focusing on positive aspects that you like about your partner.” — Chelli Pumphrey, a counselor based in Denver, Colorado

6. Don’t ever tell your spouse, “you’re overreacting.”

“When you say your S.O. is overreacting, what you’re really saying is that their feelings are unimportant to you. Instead of telling your partner that they’re overreacting, listen to their point of view. Try to understand where they’re coming from and why they feel that way. They have those feelings for a reason.” — Aaron Anderson 

7. If you find yourself being contemptuous, stop and take a deep breath.

“Make it your goal to become aware of what contempt is. Then find out specifically what it looks like in your marriage. When you feel the urge to go there, take a deep breath, and say ‘stop’ quietly to yourself. Find another way to make your point. Contempt is a bad habit like smoking or nail biting. With work, you can break it.” — Bonnie Ray Kennan, a psychotherapist based in Torrance, California

Contempt is the worst of the four horsemen. In Dr. Gottman’s four decades of research, he has found it to be the #1 predictor of divorce.

When we communicate in this state, we are truly mean.  Treating others with disrespect and mocking them with sarcasm are forms of contempt. So are hostile humor, name-calling, mimicking, and/or body language such as eye-rolling and sneering. In whatever form, contempt is poisonous to a relationship because it conveys disgust. It’s virtually impossible to resolve a problem when your partner is getting the message that you’re disgusted with him or her.

Contempt is fueled by long-simmering negative thoughts about the partner, in the form of an attack from a position of relative superiority. Inevitably, contempt leads to more conflict rather than to reconciliation.

Take Jan for example. Coming home from a long day with the children to find her husband on the couch, she asks him for help in making dinner. When he tells her he is tired, she snaps:

“You’re ‘tired’?! Cry me a river… I’ve been with the kids all day, running around like mad to keep this house going and all you do when you come home from work is flop down on that sofa like a child and play those idiotic video games. I don’t have time to deal with another kid…just try, try to be more pathetic…”

Or imagine Luke and Emma at dinner, after she tells him she’d rather he not go out with his friends that night, he lashes out:

“You don’t want me to go out with my friends tonight? Surprise! When have you ever been okay with me going anywhere? Would you like to tie me to something in this living room to ensure that I never leave you?”

Dr. Gottman has found that couples who are contemptuous of each other are more likely to suffer from infectious illness (colds, the flu, and so on) than other people! Contempt is the most poisonous of all relationship killers – destroying psychological, emotional, and physical health. Anderson Cooper of CNN reacts to Dr. Gottman’s findings on contempt in this short clip:

Posted by: faithful | May 1, 2016

fast food alarm


Researchers have found a ‘striking’ new side effect from eating fast food
By Roberto A. Ferdman April 15

The fries are not all right. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, file)
This story and its headline have been been updated, with “alarming” being changed to “striking.”:

“We’re not trying to create paranoia or anxiety, but I do think our findings are alarming,” said one of the study’s authors, Ami Zota, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University. “It’s not every day that you conduct a study where the results are this strong.”

(Update: A few hours after publication, Zota called to say that in reading her quote she felt that the word “alarming” was too strong a word to use to describe her findings. Rather, she said “striking” was more appropriate, because it conveys the magnitude of the findings without assigning a sense of urgency.)

Critics of the fast-food industry have long warned about the perils of our addiction to processed food. Big Macs and Whoppers might taste good, but put too many of them in your body and it will expand as Violet Beauregard’s did in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (although maybe not quite as fast). The evidence is decades in the making. The rise of processed food, after all, has coincided with an alarming growth in the size of our collective gut.

But there might be some new powerful ammunition for those who could do without the food the fast-food industry serves.

Researchers at George Washington University have linked fast-food consumption to the presence of potentially harmful chemicals, a connection they argue could have “great public health significance.” Specifically, the team found that people who eat fast food tend to have significantly higher levels of certain phthalates, which are commonly used in consumer products such as soap and makeup to make them less brittle but have been linked to a number of adverse health outcomes, including higher rates of infertility, especially among males.

The danger, the researchers believe, isn’t necessarily a result of the food itself, but rather the process by which the food is prepared. The findings were published in Environmental Health Perspectives, a journal funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Eat butter every day and other government dietary advice we no longer follow Embed
Share Play Video1:47
The United States government once considered butter and margarine as one of seven food groups to consume daily. Look back at other advice that, sadly, is no longer a part of the USDA’s dietary guidelines. (Jayne W. Orenstein/The Washington Post)

Fast-food nation

In order to gauge how fast food affects the presence of certain non-natural chemicals, the team analyzed data for nearly 9,000 people. The data was collected as part of federal nutrition surveys conducted between 2003 and 2010. The surveys included detailed information about the participants’ diets, including what each had eaten in the last 24 hours. They also contained the results of urine samples taken at the same time, which allowed the researchers to measure the levels of three separate chemicals.

For the purpose of the study, any food eaten at or from restaurants without waiters or waitresses was considered fast food. Everything else — food eaten at sit-down restaurants and bars or purchased from supermarkets and vending machines — was not.

The first thing the researchers found was that roughly one-third of the participants said they had eaten some form of fast food over the course of the day leading up to the urine sample collection. That proportion, high as it might seem, is actually in line with government estimates. In fact, more than a third of all children and adolescents living in the country still eat some form of fast food on any given day, a number that hasn’t budged in decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The second thing the researchers found is that those participants who said they had eaten fast food in the last 24 hours tended to have much higher levels of two separate phthalates — DEHP and DiNP. People who reported eating only a little fast food had DEHP levels that were 15.5 percent higher and DiNP levels that were 25 percent higher than those who said they had eaten none. For people who reported eating a sizable amount, the increase was 24 percent and 39 percent, respectively.

And the connection held true even after the researchers adjusted for various factors about the participants’ habits and backgrounds that might have contributed to the association between fast-food consumption and phthalate levels.

“We looked at it in so many different ways, and the effect still remains,” said Zota.
The problem with these chemicals
There is little consensus on the harms of phthalates, which are widely used in commerce and give materials such as food packaging added flexibility, except that exposure to them “is widespread.” But there is growing concern that the chemicals could pose a variety of risks, particularly when observed in the sort of levels seen in the study.

“There’s a vast amount of scientific evidence suggesting certain phthalates can contribute to several adverse health effects,” said Zota.

A 2012 study found a strong association between the presence of DEHP and diabetes. A 2013 study found that exposure to the industrial chemical can increase the risk of various allergic diseases in children. And a 2016 study concluded that it can also negatively affect child behavior.

While there is less evidence that DiNP is problematic, some recent research suggests it very well could be. A study undertaken last year, for instance, found that exposure to the phthalate was associated with higher blood pressure.

For these reasons, many governments have moved to limit exposure to the industrial chemicals. Japan disallowed the use of vinyl gloves in food preparation for fear that their use was compromising health. The European Union, which limits the use of the chemical, has been nudging manufacturers to replace it. And the United States restricted its use in toys. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services warned that DEHP is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”

To fear or not to fear
The reason people who eat fast food seem to have much higher levels of potentially harmful industrial chemicals is unclear. But it’s easy enough to guess: the sheer amount of processing that goes into food served at quick-service restaurants.

The more machinery, plastic, conveyor belts, and various forms of processing equipment that food touches, the more likely the food is to contain higher levels of phthalates. And fast food tends to touch a good deal more of these things than, say, the food one purchases at a local farmers market.
[What you need to know about trans fats]

“I really hope this study helps raise public awareness about the exposure problems associated with our industrialized food system,” said Zota.

Considering the prevalence of packaged food — and widespread exposure to phthalates (they can be detected in more than 98 percent of the population, per the CDC) — however, the takeaway isn’t necessarily that fast food is toxic. Fast food, after all, isn’t the only culprit here. Nor are less healthful things in general.

“It’s not fair to say, ‘Oh, these exposures only happen if you eat unhealthy foods,'” Leo Trasande, an associate professor of pediatrics, environmental medicine and population health at New York University, told Bloomberg.

Anything that’s gone through some form of processing or industrial packaging is vulnerable.

Still, given the new study’s findings, it certainly seems as though eating fast food is more toxic than avoiding it, and not for the obvious reasons. Perhaps that’s something many would have expected to hear, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

“Traditional fast food was never meant to be daily fare, and it shouldn’t be,” said Marion Nestle, who is the Paulette Goddard professor of nutrition and food Studies at New York University. “It’s too high in calories and salt and, as we now know, the chemicals that get into our food supply through industrial food production.”

Posted by: faithful | April 13, 2016

complex post traumatic stress disorder

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD)


complex post traumatic

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD)

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) is a condition that results from chronic or long-term exposure to emotional trauma over which a victim has little or no control and from which there is little or no hope of escape, such as in cases of:

  • domestic emotional, physical or sexual abuse
  • childhood emotional, physical or sexual abuse
  • entrapment or kidnapping.
  • slavery or enforced labor.
  • long term imprisonment and torture
  • repeated violations of personal boundaries.
  • long-term objectification.
  • exposure to gaslighting & false accusations
  • long-term exposure to inconsistent, push-pull,splitting or alternating raging & hooveringbehaviors.
  • long-term taking care of mentally ill or chronically sick family members.
  • long term exposure to crisis conditions.

When people have been trapped in a situation over which they had little or no control at the beginning, middle or end, they can carry an intense sense of dread even after that situation is removed. This is because they know how bad things can possibly be. And they know that it could possibly happen again. And they know that if it ever does happen again, it might be worse than before.

The degree of C-PTSD trauma cannot be defined purely in terms of the trauma that a person has experienced. It is important to understand that each person is different and has a different tolerance level to trauma. Therefore, what one person may be able to shake off, another person may not. Therefore more or less exposure to trauma does not necessarily make the C-PTSD any more or less severe.

C-PTSD sufferers may “stuff” or suppress their emotional reaction to traumatic events without resolution either because they believe each event by itself doesn’t seem like such a big deal or because they see no satisfactory resolution opportunity available to them. This suppression of “emotional baggage” can continue for a long time either until a “last straw” event occurs, or a safer emotional environment emerges and the damn begins to break.

The “Complex” in Complex Post Traumatic Disorder describes how one layer after another of trauma can interact with one another. Sometimes, it is mistakenly assumed that the most recent traumatic event in a person’s life is the one that brought them to their knees. However, just addressing that single most-recent event may possibly be an invalidating experience for the C-PTSD sufferer. Therefore, it is important to recognize that those who suffer from C-PTSD may be experiencing feelings from all their traumatic exposure, even as they try to address the most recent traumatic event.

This is what differentiates C-PTSD from the classic PTSD diagnosis – which typically describes an emotional response to a single or to a discrete number of traumatic events.

Difference between C-PTSD & PTSD

Although similar, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) differs slightly from the more commonly understood & diagnosed condition Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in causes and symptoms.

C-PTSD results more from chronic repetitive stress from which there is little chance of escape. PTSD can result from single events, or short term exposure to extreme stress or trauma.

Therefore a soldier returning from intense battle may be likely to show PTSD symptoms, but a kidnapped prisoner of war who was held for several years may show additional symptoms of C-PTSD.

Similarly, a child who witnesses a friend’s death in an accident may exhibit some symptoms of PTSD but a child who grows up in an abusive home may exhibit the additional C-PTSD characteristics shown below:

C-PTSD – What it Feels Like:

People who suffer from C-PTSD may feel un-centered and shaky, as if they are likely to have an embarrassing emotional breakdown or burst into tears at any moment. They may feel unloved – or that nothing they can accomplish is ever going to be “good enough” for others.

People who suffer from C-PTSD may feel compelled to get away from others and be by themselves, so that no-one will witness what may come next. They may feel afraid to form close friendships to prevent possible loss should another catastrophe strike.

People who suffer from C-PTSD may feel that everything is just about to go “out the window” and that they will not be able to handle even the simplest task. They may be too distracted by what is going on at home to focus on being successful at school or in the workplace.

C-PTSD Characteristics

How it can manifest in the victim(s) over time:

Rage turned inward: Eating disorders. Depression. Substance Abuse / Alcoholism. Truancy. Dropping out. Promiscuity. Co-dependence. Doormat syndrome (choosing poor partners, trying to please someone who can never be pleased, trying to resolve the primal relationship)

Rage turned outward: Theft. Destruction of property. Violence. Becoming a control freak.

Other: Learned hyper vigilance. Clouded perception or blinders about others (especially romantic partners) Seeks positions of power and / or control: choosing occupations or recreational outlets which may put oneself in physical danger. Or choosing to become a “fixer” – Therapist, Mediator, etc.

Avoidance – The practice of withdrawing from relationships with other people as a defensive measure to reduce the risk of rejection, accountability, criticism or exposure.

Blaming – The practice of identifying a person or people responsible for creating a problem, rather than identifying ways of dealing with the problem.

Catastrophizing – The habit of automatically assuming a “worst case scenario” and inappropriately characterizing minor or moderate problems or issues as catastrophic events.

“Control-Me” Syndrome – This describes a tendency which some people have to foster relationships with people who have a controlling narcissistic, antisocial or “acting-out” nature.

Denial – Believing or imagining that some painful or traumatic circumstance, event or memory does not exist or did not happen.

Dependency – An inappropriate and chronic reliance by an adult individual on another individual for their health, subsistence, decision making or personal and emotional well-being.

Depression (Non-PD) -Depression is when you feel sadder than your circumstances dictate, for longer than your circumstances last, but still can’t seem to break out of it.

Escape To Fantasy – Taking an imaginary excursion to a happier, more hopeful place.

Fear of Abandonment – An irrational belief that one is imminent danger of being personally rejected, discarded or replaced.

Relationship Hyper Vigilance – Maintaining an unhealthy level of interest in the behaviors, comments, thoughts and interests of others.

Identity Disturbance – A psychological term used to describe a distorted or inconsistent self-view

Learned Helplessness- Learned helplessness is when a person begins to believe that they have no control over a situation, even when they do.

Low Self-Esteem – A common name for a negatively-distorted self-view which is inconsistent with reality.

Panic Attacks – Short intense episodes of fear or anxiety, often accompanied by physical symptoms, such as hyperventilating, shaking, sweating and chills.

Perfectionism – The maladaptive practice of holding oneself or others to an unrealistic, unattainable or unsustainable standard of organization, order, or accomplishment in one particular area of living, while sometimes neglecting common standards of organization, order or accomplishment in other areas of living.

Selective Memory and Selective Amnesia – The use of memory, or a lack of memory, which is selective to the point of reinforcing a bias, belief or desired outcome.

Self-Loathing – An extreme hatred of one’s own self, actions or one’s ethnic or demographic background.

Tunnel Vision – The habit or tendency to only see or focus on a single priority while neglecting or ignoring other important priorities.

C-PTSD Causes

C-PTSD is caused by a prolonged or sustained exposure to emotional trauma or abuse from which no short-term means of escape is available or apparent to the victim.

The precise neurological damage that exists in C-PTSD victims is not well understood.

C-PTSD Treatment

Little has been done in clinical studies of treatment of C-PTSD. However, in general the following is recommended:

  • Removal of and protection from the source of the trauma and/or abuse.
  • Acknowledgement of the trauma as real, important and undeserved.
  • Acknowledge that the trauma came from something that was stronger than the victim and therefore could not be avoided.
  • Acknowledgement of the “complex” nature of C-PTSD – that responses to earlier traumas may have led to decisions that brought on additional, undeserved trauma.
  • Acknowledgement that recovery from the trauma is not trivial and will require significant time and effort.
  • Separation of residual problems into those that the victim can resolve (such as personal improvement goals) and those that the victim cannot resolve (such as the behavior of a disordered family member)
  • Mourning for what has been lost and cannot be recovered.
  • Identification of what has been lost and can be recovered.
  • Program of recovery with focus on what can be improved in an individual’s life that is under their own control.
  • Placement in a supportive environment where the victim can discover they are not alone and can receive validation for their successes and support through their struggles.
  • As necessary, personal therapy to promote self-discovery.
  • As required, prescription of antidepressant medications.

What to do about C-PTSD if you’ve got it:

Remove yourself from the primary or situation or secondary situations stemming from the primary abuse. Seek therapy. Talk about it. Write about it. Meditation. Medication if needed. Physical Exercise. Rewrite the script of your life.

What not to do about it:

  • Stay. Hold it in. Bottle it up. Act out. Isolate. Self-abuse. Perpetuate the cycle.
  • What to do about it if you know somebody else who has C-PTSD:
  • Offer sympathy, support, a shoulder to cry on, lend an ear. Speak from experience. Assist with practical resolution when appropriate (guidance towards escape, therapy, etc.) Be patient.
  • What not to do about it if you know somebody else who has it:
  • Do not push your own agenda: proselytize, moralize, speak in absolutes, tell them to “get over it”, or try to force reconciliation with the perpetrator or offer “sure fire” cures.

C-PTSD Support Groups & Links:

Posted by: faithful | April 2, 2016

polyvagal nerve (from youtube)



Posted by: faithful | April 2, 2016

brain based therapy

John Arden on Brain-Based Therapy

by Rebecca Aponte

The outspoken author of Brain-Based Therapy discusses the value of integrating therapeutic approaches, including neuropsychology, nutrition, exercise, CBT, motivational interviewing, and the therapeutic alliance.

RA: Let’s walk through a hypothetical. I come to see you because I feel depressed and generally anxious, and this has been going on for some months now. Where would you start to look for the cause of my feelings and some relief?

JA: It’s interesting that you say depressed and anxious, because under Pax Medica, if you were depressed and anxious together we would have two diagnoses on Axis I—a comorbid problem. Well, you’re one person. Are these two genetic disorders you have? What a silly idea. And the prescribed pharmacological agents actually work against one another. These stupid benzos, which are really a nuisance in the mental health world, would actually contribute not only to addiction, tolerance, and withdrawal problems, but also to depression. And then you’d toss in an SSRI or something like that, so you’d have this weird cocktail.

There is an interesting neurochemistry that occurs with anxiety and depression. For example, for 90 minutes after you experience a severe stressful incident, your levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin will be down. Let’s say that you’ve just found out that you can’t get into school. All the PhD programs have turned you down. That’s a pretty big blow, right?

So you’re going to get a downregulation of all those neurotransmitter systems, and you’re going to withdraw a little bit. But it’s what you do with that neurochemistry and those neurodynamics that can tumble you into more anxiety and more depression, or get you out of it. If you do things that kindle up the same systems that would get you more anxious and depressed, you’ll get more anxious and depressed.

Now, we’re going to have bumps in the road. It’s what you do in response—it’s that resiliency. Some of the positive psychology spinoffs are paying attention to that, and of course the counseling psychologists have long done that.

RA: So, if I were your client, would you want me to tell you about something stressful that happened and what I did afterwards?

JA: I often do that, just to get an idea of how people react to certain events in their lives—to get a characteristic description. I’m also paying attention to the way they describe them to me, because that interaction between us is so important. It replicates other relationships they’re having that might have great continuity with the earlier attachment-based relationships. It tells me a lot about how I can intervene, because I don’t want to create more resistance. I do like Milton Erickson a lot—that indirect approach. I’m not going to want to shut you down and have you screen me off, but rather do somemotivational interviewing to some degree—which is very Rogerian, in fact. Bill Miller was a Rogerian from the school that I came from.

RA: Out of curiosity, did you study with him at UNM?

JA: No, I didn’t. In fact, I didn’t know about him until after I left. I don’t know if he was there then—that was 30 years ago. But had he been there and I missed him, I would have been disappointed, because I really like his contribution to the substance abuse community.

RA: And substance abuse is one thing that we haven’t really touched much on in terms of what neuroscience is really teaching us. There’s big debate about whether addiction is a genetic disorder.

JA: There is some literature to suggest that if you have two alcoholic parents, your vulnerability to become an alcoholic is heightened. But let’s say the concordance rate is 50 percent. Well, what about the other 50 percent? It isn’t a one-and-one factor.

In a discussion I had with Fred Blume, one of the pushers of the alcohol gene concept, I asked, “How about an acquired disease? You guys are really into this disease concept.” AA’s really into it. AA and NA are the most powerful self-help groups in the world, in my opinion. My sister-in-law’s life was saved as a result. Fantastic groups. I love their little jingles and all that. But they’re too into this disease concept. It’s useful in early recovery, but you could create a disease. It’s bidirectional. The more I drink alcohol, the more I feel like I need alcohol, because my biology changes. I downregulate various neurotransmitter systems, so now I feel like I need to mellow out because now I’m downregulating the synthesis of GABA. That means I need more GABA-like effect because I’m always dampening down glutamate.

What I think therapists ought to be paying attention to is how these various substance abuse habits, if you want to call it that, create psychological symptomatology. [quote:I see all sorts of people here in the North Bay who are suffering from anxiety and/or depression, and I find out they’re just drinking a glass or two of wine at night.

RA: That’s a lot of wine, though.

JA: I think it’s a lot of wine. I drink a glass every week or two. It would be nice if you could have two glasses of wine a night, but my sleep gets all messed up. You get the mid-sleep-cycle awakening and all that. And that’s a small snapshot. What about the next week? These are subtle effects, but when I used to do neuropsychological testing and psychological testing, and then later teach it, we used to say, “Don’t test a wet brain for up to three months after your last drink.” There are all sorts of artifacts to subtle alcohol consumption.

And red wine isn’t that cool, you know. It’s the resveratrol in the skin of the red grape. You can drink Welch’s grape juice and still get the same effect. You don’t need the alcohol.

RA: And what about other drugs? I haven’t heard too many therapists saying that they necessarily ask their clients, “Do you smoke pot?”

JA: Everybody here does. And pot is one that I really pay close attention to in the North Bay, because of all these people on medical marijuana cards. They have a sore back. Well, give me a break. So do I, but I don’t smoke marijuana now. I did 40 some years ago as a young hipster, but I’m glad I stopped 40 years ago, because otherwise I’d be muddled and kind of down. THC is chemically structured like a neuromodulator called anandamide, which is Sanskrit for “bliss.” It orchestrates the activity of a number of neurotransmitters, so when you’re stoned you get what we call virtual novelty. “Look at this cup! God, that is so incredible. Look at the way it’s shaped, and the colors! This is amazing.” Then the next day you get what we would call in the ’60s “jelly brain,” because everything’s downregulated now. And you never get the same high.

So now what we see are all these people smoking medical marijuana who have low-grade depression. They can’t remember much, because they downregulate the acetylcholine release in their hippocampus and have symptoms very much like ADD. God, I get people with ADD evals all the time who are smoking marijuana.

So with regard to substance abuse, psychotherapists should perform a full analysis of everything the clients are doing, instead of saying such things as, “Do you abuse alcohol?” I want to know what they’re consuming rather than ask blanket questions.

RA: Well, what’s abuse? “Yeah, I have five beers a night, but I’m fine.”

JA: Exactly. But if somebody’s drinking two, I’m concerned about that, especially if she’s anxious or depressed. Or if somebody’s taking a toke of marijuana a night, and he’s coming in with this low-grade depression, muddled thinking, and attentional problems, I’m concerned about that.

Defining Therapeutic Success

RA: In the way that you’re visualizing therapy, how do you define therapeutic success?

JA: We’re always a little too symptom focused. I still think we ought to be paying attention to symptoms—that’s an important part of the picture—but we also ought to pay attention to what clients are telling us about their overall improvement and their perspective in life: “I’m feeling so much more hopeful and so much more resilient and I’m not as easily stressed.” And we’re getting more of that from the outcome management process, instead of, “You originally came in with these panic symptoms. How’s the panic doing?” “Oh, I don’t have those panic symptoms anymore.” Well, that’s good. That’s only part of the picture, though. There’s got to be a larger look at things: is the relationship improved, for instance?


Brain-Based Therapy and Practical Neuroscience: Attachment & Emotion Regulation
John Arden, Ph.D

You change the brain by getting out of your comfort zone. You don’t want to stay in a state of low-stress, boredom or depression -nor be in a state of high stress or anxiety. You should strive for a level of optimum stress. 

Be on the look out for periods of flux or readiness for change. Work with the person wherever they are and as early as possible.

Relationship-there was a study done that concluded that the therapist’s relationship with the client was more important to the client’s functioning than the relationship between the medication and the client.

Harm can be done when the therapist makes the therapy process too comfortable for the client. Again, you need to be pushed out of your comfort zone to grow. “Safe Emergency.” Sometimes you need to risk the relationship to gain a relationship.

30% of waking hours are spent daydreaming or ruminating. This is when you use your Default Mode Network. 

If you avoid what makes you anxious, you will become more anxious over time.  If you do what you feel like doing, you will get worse. You’ve got to get out of your comfort zone.

Worries are possibilities not probabilities.

The Pre-Frontal Cortex


The PFC is the control center of the brain.
It is the last part of the brain to myelinate. This explains some teenage behavior. 

Are teenage brains really different from adult brains?

Left Frontal Lobe

Positive emotions

Approach Behaviors

Label thoughts and feelings

Develop new narratives to alleviate anxiety and stress

Right Frontal Lobe

Negative emotions

Withdrawal behaviors

Feeling overwhelmed


Neurogenesis is the process by which neurons are generated from neural stem cells and progenitor cells. Most active during pre-natal development, neurogenesis is responsible for populating the growing brain with neurons.
Stress (and other factors) can decrease neurogenesis.
Exercise can increase neurogenesis.

What Brain Insights Can Boost Your Student’s Classroom Success?

Mirror Neurons

You see a stranger stub her toe and you immediately flinch in sympathy, or you notice a friend wrinkle up his face in disgust while tasting some food and suddenly your own stomach recoils at the thought of eating. This ability to instinctively and immediately understand what other people are experiencing has long baffled neuroscientists, but recent research now suggests a fascinating explanation: brain cells called mirror neurons.
Those with ASD see and read faces as though they were objects therefore they do not read emotions they way that those not on the spectrum do.

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