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The Voices Within, Part 1

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The Voices Within, Part 1

 

By Paul Hubbard, MA

 

Voice Dialogue work is a psychotherapy modality developed by Drs. Hal and Sidra Winkelman Stone. It has roots in Jungian psychology and involves accessing different sub-personalities like the inner child and the inner critic, among many others. Most people go through their lives more strongly identified with particular sub-personalities, or primary selves, while generally dis-identifying from other, more opposite sub-personalities, or disowned selves (Stone & Winkelman, 1989).

In Voice Dialogue work one learns to identify both their primary selves, and their disowned selves. The primary selves are the part of the personality that one tends to be more identified with. For example, the selves that help one to better fit into and/or be more successful within a social circle or in the world in general that one moves in (Stone & Winkelman, 1989).

In Jungian terminology, the disowned selves are a part of the shadow (Stone & Winkelman, 1989). The shadow represents the aspects of “ourselves that we do not know or refuse to know, both dark and light. It is the sum total of the positive and negative traits, feelings, beliefs, and potentials that we refuse to identify as our own.” It is the “part of us that is incompatible with who we think we are or who we are supposed to be” (Richo, 1999, p. 1). 

In our relationships, we tend to attract others who reflect the disowned aspects of ourselves. The more these various aspects have been disowned or more deeply buried in the unconscious the stronger the reaction tends to be when we encounter others who live out more overtly the disowned parts of ourselves. “We can be helpless victims to the multitude of relationships in our lives that reflect our disowned selves or we can accept the challenge of these relationships and ask: ‘How is this person or this situation, my teacher?’” (Stone & Winkelman, 1989, p. 32).

What is common to all sorts of relationships is that people get in bonding patterns which are parent-child energetic dynamics wherein one person tends to be more heavily identified with a parental role and the other person tends to be more heavily identified with a child role. Bonding patterns happen in all types of relationships, including, but not limited to romantic relationships and actual parent-child relationships. The parental sides tend to be more power oriented and the child sides tend more towards vulnerability (Stone & Winkelman, 1989).

One of the goals in therapy using voice dialogue work involves accessing the aware ego, which is the part of oneself that has some separation from the sub-personalities and can even, through increased awareness, be aware simultaneously of two or more very different parts of oneself, like parental and child aspects, or our power and vulnerable sides. This is not necessarily an easy process and can be hard work at times, but it is possible even though generally one is not aware of a bonding pattern until after it expresses. With development of the aware ego, one can avoid getting into bonding patterns as intensely and then get out of them more quickly when they do occur. A key to this awareness is understanding the role of vulnerability in a relationship and how a disowned or unconscious vulnerability can be a trigger for going into a bonding pattern. If only one of the two people in the bonding pattern has some awareness that a bonding pattern is happening then it is much easier to avoid it being so painful. Having a sense of humor and being able to laugh is a good indicator of accessing the aware ego (Stone & Winkelman, 1989). 

 

Acknowledgements

Richo, D. (1999). Shadow Dance. Boston, MA: Shambala

Stone, H. & S. Winkelman (1989). Embracing Our Selves. San Rafael, CA: New World Library

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Ancient Ayurvedic Medicine and Its Application to Mental Health, Part 1

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Ancient Ayurvedic Medicine and Its Application to Mental Health, Part 1

family yoga on the beach at sunset

By Bonita Carol, M.A., CT. Ayurveda Health Practitioner

 

Ayurvedic medicine is a comprehensive holistic system of health care originating in India that spans over 5000 years. I have been an Ayurvedic health practitioner since 1991, having witnessed profound changes, such as stress reduction and reduced depression in clients in a short time, often within a month of adopting some of the techniques and knowledge of Ayurveda. This blog explores how the practice of Ayurvedic medicine can be a complementary modality to psychotherapy by including all aspects of the person: mind, body, environment, and soul. 

Ayurvedic medicine offers knowledge and techniques for understanding how to prevent mental and physical illness while improving well-being. In an age when toxins bombard the environment (EPA, 2016), high levels of stress and addiction plague society (Segura, 2013), and the cost of healthcare is skyrocketing (Bryan, 2016, para. 8), the need for preventive healthcare education and services seems to be at an all-time high. Ayurvedic approaches to psychology can help address some of the problems that challenge U.S. society, including Alzheimer’s (Rao, Descamps, John, & Bredesen, 2012), grief, depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, childhood autism, PTSD, adapting to change, and relationship issues (Elder, Nidich, Moriarty, & Nidich, 2014, para. 5). Ayurveda also offers alternatives for individuals who feel limited by the mainstream medical model or have not had success with medications or therapy alone, and want something more as an adjunct to therapy sessions.

Ayurveda also addresses existential questions, such as “Who am I?” It provides for personal and spiritual growth through knowledge about the experience of Atman and the numinous, which psychiatrist Carl G. Jung (1938-1940/1983) defined as “either a quality belonging to a visible object, or the influence of an invisible presence that causes a peculiar alteration of consciousness” that connects the individual with a force that transcends the personal self (p. 239). In addressing psychospiritual needs, Ayurveda defines two selves: The ego, or small self of ordinary awareness, is denoted by self with a small s; a capital S denotes the Self that transcends the ego, and is the silent witness and the universal backdrop for all thinking and feeling (Maharishi, 1983, lecture).

An Ayurvedic orientation may bring to therapy an extensive and comprehensive understanding of the source of the client’s problems on a physical, mental, intellectual, and spiritual level. An Ayurvedic treatment plan not only approaches the client from a cognitive level, but is inclusive of all areas of one’s life, from inquiry into the house one lives in, called Vastu or Vedic architecture; to lifestyle and habits, diet and nutrition, familial history, significant life events, and spiritual health. By understanding the etiology of the client’s issues from this comprehensive view, a solid treatment plan can be constructed that does not isolate any area of the client’s life and that contributes to growth toward wholeness.

This blog series explores how psychotherapy and Ayurveda might be used as adjunct therapy to provide additional support for clients to make profound changes in their psychological, cognitive, and physical health. The Ayurvedic practice of meditation, particularly Transcendental Meditation (TM), has been shown to support cognitive development and reduce psychological symptoms (Barnes, Bauza, & Treiber, 2003). For example, TM meditation is currently used in inner city schools to help students reduce violent behavior, improve grades, and reduce detentions (p. 1). There seem to be gaps in the fields of psychology and medicine to the extent that they may treat the mind and body as separate and body awareness appears to be left out of the therapeutic process. As heart health researcher Robert Schneider (2015) said, “Heart disease is now correlated with mental health” (lecture); to prevent heart disease, mental health issues need to be addressed.

Ayurvedic practitioners Nancy Liebler, a clinical psychologist, and public health expert, Sandra Moss (2009) impart about the mind–body connection in Ayurveda:

“Mind-body medicine and its emerging field psychoneuroimmunology are bringing the issue of the unity of the mind and body to the stage of modern science. The Vedic sages, on the other hand integrated this concept a long time ago. They looked for the unity that underlies all the systems of our physiology rather than the sole focus on the systems’ diverse functions. This is the holistic approach that we should consider when we study the global affliction of depression.” (pp. 32-33)

 

Ayurveda can have benefits for both clients and therapists. It brings attention to the way in which Ayurveda techniques can cultivate a deepened sensitivity, receptivity, and consciousness, making one a more effective therapist. This research supports therapists in working with clients who have an interest in integrative modalities and gives the client access to more choices in how to attend to mental health and cultivate personal growth.  In part 2 of this blog, I will discuss the effect of Ayurvedic enhanced interventions on ADHD and Autism.

 

Bonita Carol, M.A. is a certified Shaka Vansiya Ayurveda Practitioner and lineage holder by the late Ayurvedic Master Healer, Vaidya Ramakant Mishra.  She is a marriage and family therapist registered intern supervised by Dr. Leona Kashersky PsyD at Healing Pathways Psychological Services. For information on Ayurveda, please contact her at www.ayurvedahealthcoach.com(530) 401-8627

 

  

Acknowledgements

Barnes VA, Bauza LB, Treiber FA. Impact of stress reduction on negative school behavior in adolescents. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes. 2003;1:10. doi:10.1186/1477-7525-1-10. Retreived from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC155630/

Elder, C., et al. (2011). Reduced psychological distress in racial and ethnic minority students practicing the Transcendental Meditation program.” Journal of Instructional Psychology, vol. 38, no. 2.

EPA. (2016). Air quality management process. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/air-quality-management-process

Garrido, M. (2013, April,15). Vedic Philosophy and Quantum Mechanics On the Soul retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mauricio-garrido/vedic-philosophy-and-quantum-mechanics-on-the-soul_b_3082572.html

Jung, C. G. (1983). From Psychology and Religion (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). In A. Storr, The essential Jung (pp. 239-249). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1938-1940)

Liebler, N.C. and Moss, S. (2009). Healing depression the mind body way, creating happiness through meditation, yoga and ayurveda.  Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, (April 1983), unpublished lecture, TM Teacher Training Course, Maastricht Holland.

Rao, R. V., Descamps, O., John, V., & Bredesen, D. E. (2012, June). Ayurvedic medicinal plants for Alzheimer’s disease: a review. Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy, 4(3), 22. http://doi.org/10.1186/alzrt125

Schneider, R. (2016, Nov. 10). Dr. Robert Schneider Discusses Ayurveda and Vedic Psychiatry. Published lecture. paper University of Management, Fairfield, Iowa. Retrieved from youtube: Robert Schnhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ugr_Mslc5gk

Segura, G. (2013, April 22). Mass nervous breakdown: Millions of Americans on the brink as stress pandemic ravages society. Retrieved from: https://www.sott.net/article/261360-Mass-nervous-breakdown-Millions-of-Americans-on

 

 

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Using Meditation to Tame this Mind of Ours

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 Using Meditation to Tame this Mind of Ours

family yoga on the beach at sunset

 

By Nicolina Santoro, MA

Mahayana Buddha, the progenitor and prophet of the middle way, had encapsulated an entire philosophy into short, clear directives. “Commit not a single unwholesome action, Cultivate a wealth of virtue, To tame this mind of ours; this is the teaching of all the Buddhas” (Rinpoche, 1993). Meditation is part of the practice of taming the mind. Often described as the still mind, or still waters of the mind, meditation appears to be a kind of martial art for one’s thoughts. To even begin to feel the stillness of mind that comes with the practice of meditation, one must endure the onslaught of thought as it runs through the beginning meditator’s mind rampantly. Even more interesting, is the realization that this pattern of thought is a regular occurrence in the mind. Meditation highlights the never-ending barrage of thought, as the student tries to negotiate the noise to a place of quiet within the mind (Fontana, 1992).

Meditation is actually a common practice among many different platforms of faith, although called many different names throughout time, but the goal of calming the turbulence in the mind remains the same. The practical applications of meditation have far reaching benefits to those who suffer from a variety of illnesses. Mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and manias have all shown to be positively affected by the regular practice of meditation. Some of the therapeutic benefits of regular meditation practice include enhanced self-esteem, reduction in feelings of hopelessness and depression, and a sense of spiritual connection (Lindgren & Coursey, 1995).

Since the mind, by its various sense mechanisms can create and maintain a subjective reality, one seems to be at the mercy of the mind and its myriad of emotional states of being. Thoughts create emotional experiences based on the electrical impulses that send messages to various chemical centers to whip up recipes for certain emotional states. These emotional states hold tremendous power over self-efficacy, and emotional well-being. Most people have had the experience of having a “bad” day, or a lack of desire to get out of bed. These types of feelings and their sources are often overlooked by people experiencing them, as the emotional tide they create has a strong influence in coloring one’s perceived reality. Over time, the continuing pattern of similar emotional states can create long-term relationships between neurons in the brain. In other words, relationships between a thought and the subsequent emotional state that the thought triggered become a learned response with different chemical markers for different emotional states (Berger, 2006).

Meditation is the act of awareness, noting a thought as it travels through the mind’s eye, rather than grabbing on to it for dissection. It is in the act of dissection that the emotional response is created. A sort of fixation then occurs, making it very difficult to regain a sense of calm detachment which is the focus of the meditation practice. Observe, but be not of the waves of thoughts that roll through the ocean of conscious awareness, and breathe which is certainly not as easy as one might think.  Buddhism imparts that suffering, and dis-ease are certainly inevitable in life however, there is an opportunity for personal transcendence in the observation rather immersion in this state of suffering  (Rinpoche, 1993). A meditation posture is grounded, comfortable yet deliberate. One may elect to sit on the floor with legs crossed in front of them, arms relaxed and poised comfortably in the lap, eyes closed. One then begins to notice their breath, every inhalation and exhalation is noted in the awareness space. As this practice begins, the mind seems utterly flooded with thoughts, worries, randomness, and chaos. However, through each breath, the subject becomes accustomed to the flow of thoughts which become a sort of background noise, and the central focus of breathing creates an altered or trance like state in the consciousness of the meditator. This altered state of being allows the meditator to observe self from a place of detached compassion which is the place of mindfulness that the Buddha described (Rinpoche, 1993).

Common mistakes that people make when entering into the practice of mediation exists in the misapplication of the quiet mind concept. The term is slightly misleading. The mind, it seems, is never truly quiet. Thoughts run constantly because the mind is always taking in information, processing it, encoding it, retrieving it, and deciphering it. The stillness of mind exists in the unfettered observance of this process. Unfettered meaning that one never holds on to, or tries to single out the thoughts as they steadily move through conscious awareness of the subject. As meditation becomes familiar to the mind itself, the thoughts no longer control the emotional state of the meditator, and stillness is observed by a state of total acceptance, and symbiosis  (Fontana, 1992).

The meditation process has been reported to be difficult, and even frustrating to those who are new to the experience, but long term benefits have also been relayed by those who were able to get through the frustration, and experience the trance-like state where feelings of calm and clarity exist. Meditation as a response and treatment for stress is now common advice from health practitioners even in the west because of the positive impact it has on the central nervous system (CNS), (Fontana, 1992).  The effect that mediation has on the body is noted further in the American Psychological Association’s book entitled Integrating Spirituality into Treatment. Meditation lowers respiratory rate, heart rate, and brain wave states, placing the body in a state of rest which is very helpful in dealing with chronic anxiety. Meditation has also been used frequently in the redirection of addictive behavior because of the altered state that it can enhance bio-chemically. In behavioral and cognitive behavioral types of therapeutic interventions, meditation is also useful in the reprogramming of negative thinking, through the natural change in thought patterns that are facilitated by the practice (2006). 

Research conducted by Lindgren & Coursey, published in 1995 shows a strong positive correlation between the use of meditation practice and increased feelings of well being among those who suffer from severe forms of anxiety and depression.  Those who are being treated for more severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have also reported positive cognitive effects on mood and self-esteem (Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal, Vol. 18(3), pp. 93-111). These trends can enhance the level of care that practitioners bestow upon their clients, giving them the tools to help alleviate some of the distress associated with negative automatic thinking, placing some of the control back in their hands with regard to better self-care.

Self-care is something that even mental health practitioners overlook for themselves. In the mental health fields, burn-out among therapists and social workers is high. The culprit seems to be a lack of self-care and over extension according to the (APA). Regular meditation practice can also help alleviate the stress that in the field of mental health seems almost inevitable to its practitioners. Self-care processes that the (APA) advocates include the awareness of the levels and types of stress in the practitioner’s environment, case load management, outside support networks, and extra-curricular activities that promote a sense of health and well being. A professional support network, boundaries, and realistic expectations upon the self are also highlighted as areas to which the practitioner should attend for optimum results. The clarity that accompanies regular meditation can also invigorate a flagging practitioner, providing a sense of calm and clarity toward the greater good of all concerned (American Psychological Association, 2006).

 

References

American Psychological Association. ed. by Miller, W.R. (2006). Integrating Spirituality into Treatment: Resources for Practitioners. Washington: American Psychological Association.

Berger, K. S. (2006). The Developing Person. New York: Worth Publishers.

Fontana, D. (1992). The Meditator’s Handbook. Rockport: Element Books, Inc.

Lindgren, K., & Coursey, R. (1995). Spirituality and Serious Mental Illness: A Two-Part Study. Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal, 18(3), 93-111. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Rinpoche, S. (1993). The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

 

 

 

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Tonglen: A Buddhist Meditation Practice

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photo by Emily Roesly

Positive visualizing creates the reality you want!                                                (Photo by Emily Roesly, via morguefile)

by Nicolina M. Cahouette, M.A., M.F.T.I #77972

The Meditative Breath Practice of Tonglen involves visualizing a person who you believe is in pain or has caused you pain.  Contrary to our habit of avoiding pain, Tonglen invites us to breath in the pain we are perceiving.  Our bodies become “conversion machines”, and we use our out breath to release the pain, extending a frequency of love toward the person we are trying to help or forgive.

Pema Chodron explains how this simple act, rooted in awareness, broadens our understanding connectedness and human suffering, because we reinforce the reality of an empathetic connection as we visualize while breathing in.

According to The Tibetan Book of the Dead by Sogyal Rinpoche, Tonglen is effective in negating the restricting and sometimes detrimental influence of our ego because it  opens our hearts to those around us and encourages us to help others  without losing ourselves in their personal dramas. We are compassionate observers, and teachers who are also learning how the people around us are effected by their own suffering (1993, p.195).

Visualization is a powerful part of this practice, and it has a number of cognitive benefits. Continually visualizing scenes which evoke positive emotional states reinforces the production of neurotransmitters in the brain associated with positive emotional states. Further, it encourages the pruning of synaptic relationships that are counterproductive.

Tonglen Breathing Exercise SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

It is important to be in a quiet comfortable place where you can assume a comfortable posture.  Remember, comfortable for your body! You can sit on a cushion, on the floor, or on a chair.  Choose what is best for you. As this is a breath awareness exercise, it can be helpful to place your hand on your stomach to increase awareness of your diaphragm moving in and out with each breath.

While inhaling, visualize the pain associated with what you are trying to release around a specific person. Any confrontations or experiences that were especially salient to you will be a good fit for this exercise.

While exhaling, visualize having a positive healing experience with this person, that love is flowing from you, to the subject of your practice. This practice is a process of thought transmutation that encourages emotional healing around a person or experience.

A good rule of thumb when adopting any meditation practice is to accept that you may find it difficult to focus while you are experiencing the miscellaneous thought traffic that will drift in and out of your meditation time. Also, if you are a novice meditator, keep it brief at first. Start with 10 minute increments once daily until you can sit with ease, then increase the time in 5 or 10 minute intervals until you find what amount of time gives you the maximum ease and benefit.  Want some help?  Try this guided version with Dr. Miles Neale 

Rinpoche, S. (1993). The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. (p. 195).

NY:Harper Collins.

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