MANAGING STRESS IN OUR LIVES

Saturday
Jul092016

SIMILARITIES BETWEEN YOUNG CHILDREN AND DOGS

I have been seeing similarities between young children and dogs.  This started after I had a number of patients talk about the benefits of owning dogs and how their dogs help them to feel calm and peaceful.  Some of my patients have used their dogs as "comfort" animals [like a "service" dog] and they tell me that their dogs are able to detect if they [the owners] are experiencing stress. One patient believes that her dog can detect when she starts to dissociate as a way of coping with stress. There are also reports of dogs helping people to overcome their depressive and anxiety symptoms by being with them and not judging them and requiring help to be fed and walked, etc.  

A lot of these attributes also apply to children.  Children are loving and caring as well as being non-judgmental.  I have patients who report that their children are alert to their [the patient's] stress level and can help them to stop their stress reaction by calling attention to the onset of stress and their parent's withdrawal.  I have witnessed young children be very tuned in to their parent's stress and will distract their parent so that their parent will stop their stress response and attend to their child, who keeps them in the present moment.  

Maybe children know mindfulness and meditative practices intuitively?  What do you think?

Monday
Jul042016

TO KEEP THINGS FROM GETTING WORSE

My patients have made it clear to me how important their feeling responsible for others is in maintaining PTSD symptoms. It seems that taking responsibility for others develops as a way of coping with abuse.  It makes sense in that people who are being abused are not being protected by adults around them and therefore they can feel more in control by taking on responsibility for others.  However, I have wondered what the nature of the control experience is.  Now I believe that it is to prevent things from getting worse. This idea has surfaced with many of my patients who come to me for help with PTSD. They believe that the abusing person will be less likely to lose control if they do this. They also do not feel confident enough to resist taking responsibility for others and standing on their own. Any person who loses control, or threatens to, can cause someone who has PTSD to respond by feeling responsible for them. This maintains the old pattern and as I have previously discussed the brain is very good at helping us to maintain old patterns of behavior.

The significance of feeling responsible for others is that when we act this way because of a fear that things will get worse tells our brains that we need to be on guard to be alert in case the something worse happens.  For this reason it is very important for people with PTSD to have a goal of no longer doing things to keep things from getting worse.  They need to be able to identify all the ways that they act this way and make it clear to themselves [their brains] that they want to stop doing this.  It also helps to be able to tell themselves that they no longer need to fear past stressful situations as they do not have any power over them now.  This requires that we choose to think of past stressful events and then, staying calm, tell ourselves that we no longer need to be stressed by these memories.  Even with this accomplished, the behavior pattern of doing things to keep things from getting worse can continue unless stopping it is addressed directly.  If it is not stopped, automatic stress reactions to past events will continue.  

 

 

Sunday
Jun262016

YOU'LL BE IN MY HEART

Dr. Payton

For some reason I listened to Phil Collins singing "You'll Be in My Heart" from the Tarzan movie.  After I listened to it I realized that I was singing to myself "I'll be in your heart." It seemed like a big difference and I wondered why I was doing this.  I will often follow my brain when it changes things or a memory pops up or an emotion seems to appear out of nowhere.  Since our brain's seem to be organized to give us information when we need it vs. when we demand it or want reassurance that we know something before we actually need to recall it [like for a test], I wonder if my brain is telling me something that could be important even if I don't recall requesting any information.  

So, what does it mean that I change the song from "you'll be in my heart" to "I'll be in your heart?"  Well, it reminds me of feeling responsible for someone in that I am somehow putting myself into the heart of another presumably to be able to watch over them and care for them.  Of course, it is up to the other person to decide who will be in their heart and not up to me.  This means that it would be better for me to be supportive of them and encourage them instead of taking over for them.  

After all, even with good intentions, if I take over for someone then I am saying that I don't believe they can handle a situation and that seems like I am insulting them. Even if they will have difficulty handling a situation and they feel that they need help, it is up to them to request it and then up to me to still encourage and support them before I take over for them. Taking over for someone does not seem like a good thing to do, even if it seems to be requested by the person. Really caring about someone [being empathic?] does not seem to involve taking over. What do you think?

Saturday
Jun252016

IS IT TIME TO STOP BEING NICE?

Recently a number of my patients wondered if they were being too nice to some of their friends or family members. So what is too nice?  For that matter, what is nice? In exploring this further, it seems that being too nice is often connected to doing things for others that is really their responsibility to do. There are usually easy explanations for why the other person needs someone to do things for them. Life has been hard for them or they can't seem to be able to make healthy changes in their lives or they were nice to you in the past or they expect it and it is very hard to not do it for them.  They would get very upset if you stopped.  So the solution seems to be to keep doing things for them until they decide to do it for themselves.  Surely they will see that it is not fair for you to have to do these things for them over and over.  Of course they don't ever seem to see this unfairness.  Why is this?

As I have previously blogged, once a pattern of behavior is established, the brain works to maintain it unless we give our brains very clear messages that we wish to change it.  So when we keep doing for others it makes them dependent on us to keep it up.  This dependence might be more understandable when you realize that doing for others is like telling those others that you don't feel that they can manage for themselves. So then they don't manage.  Now it may not seem as simple as that and yet I think it is.  If we would like others to take responsibility for themselves and manage their lives then we should stop telling them they can't manage by managing for them.  Easier said then done but when we choose to stop managing for other people we will feel a weight lifted from us and have a more satisfying and positive relationship with that person [after they react to you not managing for them].  Give it a try.

 


Friday
Apr292016

I LIKE YOU JUST THE WAY YOU ARE

I heard an interview on National Public Radio that aired March 11, 2016 [StoryCore.org] with Francois Clemmons.  Clemmons had been on "Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood" for many years and he was the first African American to have a recurring role on a children's TV show.  He shared that one day after hearing Mr. Roger's say something that he said at the end of each of his TV shows, "You make every day a special day just by being you, and I like you just the way you are;"  Mr. Clemmons asked Mr. Roger's if he was saying that to him.  Mr. Rogers’ replied "I've been saying that to you for years, today was the first day that you heard me." I was moved to tears hearing this as I realized that Mr. Roger's was able to say something that he believed and wanted to share, over and over again, hoping that he would be heard.  Mr. Roger's kept being himself and I believe knew that being heard by others was up to them and not up to him.  His job was to be himself and express what he believed without judging others...even if they took a long time to hear him.

So, how does this relate to the rest of us?  Well, I believe that we all have the same job as Mr. Rogers’ if we want to live happy and fulfilling lives.  To live every day true to ourselves and choosing to like others "Just the way they are;" we might then feel a connection to others and be happier with our own lives. These other people might even choose to hear us and feel our caring and then care more about themselves. Apparently being liked just the way we are makes it easier for each of us to accept ourselves and then choose to make healthy changes in the way we live our lives.  So, according to Mr. Roger's, it is important for all of us to like ourselves and others just the way we and they are.

And I thought "Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood" was only for kids.