Friday, December 19, 2008

Energizing The Journey

I have always been drawn to opportunities that create energy, vitality and connection. "Energizing the Journey" has been a work in process for the past twenty-three years of my professional life (check out my new web site http://energizingthejourney.com). At times in my work, I have experienced compassion fatigue through work, exposure to traumatic stress, and a brain that has it's own issues with winter in New England.


Since my experience working at Ground Zero following 9.11 in NYC, I have spent significant time educating myself around issues related to the brain and stress (traumatic or otherwise). This has resulted in discovering and refining several "power techniques" that provide highly effective and efficient results for stress and mind management.


In my energy "toolbox," Emotional Freedom Technique, Brainwave Music and Power Questions are a few of my favorite mental renewal techniques. These "power techniques" are effective for creating renewal and rebooting the mind, body and spirit.


I hope that during this busy holiday season you will take the time to practice some of your own tried and true methods for renewal. Here is one of my favorites...


Mental Acupressure

Stimulating acupressure points while mentally focusing on a distressing thought or feeling is quite effective for providing relief.
  • Tap 7 - 10 times at point located at the beginning of your eye brow EB

  • Tap 7 - 10 times on the side of your eye SE

  • Tap 7 - 10 times under you eye UE

  • Tap 7 - 10 times under your nose UN

  • Tap 7 - 10 times under your lower lip UL

  • Tap 7 - 10 times with your open palm at your collar bone point (where the neck meets the notch in your collar bone)

  • Take deep breath and notice change in focus and thought.

  • Enhanced results by naming your distress and saying "this ____ (ex. "holiday stress") at each of the designated points.

These technique is a shortened version of the Emotional Freedom Technique created by Gary Craig. Increases blood flow to the brain, clears mental clutter and interrupts "fight or flight" response. Persistence and continual tapping will provide results.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Greg

Sunday, November 23, 2008

U Can't Touch This!

MC Hammer's song "U Can't Touch This" isn't about body memory or sensitivity. But the title catches the experiences of many. Several clients have talked about having locations on their bodies that were off limits or extremely sensitive to touch. "The body holds the wisdom" reminds us that touch sensitivities are pointing toward the need for healing. I have found that EFT is a power therapy technique that provides a road map to relief.

When a husband read some of is wife's erotic email to her lover, he developed a touch sensitivity trigger by a specific visual image. After the hard work of repairing the relationship had been accomplished, his touch sensitivity still remained. An affectionate touch on his neck would send bolts of anger and charge through his spine. Even though he had chosen to forgive his wife, his body seemed to be sending a different message. It was still reacting with the same intensity of his first shocking discovery. Utilizing a "Tell The Story" Technique from EFT enabled this client to completely clear out his touch sensitivity. Both partners were grateful. The involuntary nature of his touch issue was painful reminder of the infidelity.

Another person had been living with a touch sensitivity most of her life. Just thinking about someone bumping into this sensitive spot on the middle of her back or being in a crowded commuter car was enough to trigger a SUD's of ten. Just thinking about focusing her mind on someone touching her mid back was enough to trigger a strong stress response (strained voice, facial tension and exasperation).

The Tearless Trauma Technique starts with this least disturbance and moves through to focusing directly on the worst aspect. We don't move to the next scene until each one is collapsed to a level of zero. In this manner, by the time we actually get to her focusing on someone or thing touching her back, her distress response is muted. After 60 minutes of clearing out each aspect that created a "ping," this person was able to completely eliminate her touch sensitivity. Several attempts to provoke hidden aspects fail to produce any touch sensitivities. All this client could say at the end of the session was "Wow!"

Four weeks later she reported that the problem was "gone!" She said, "....it is no longer a issue."

This client had told me that she had done extensive work through traditional talk therapy for her childhood abuse and trauma. Yet, it seemed her back was still clinging to old sensations. Tapping while holding in focus the shifting distress resulted in the removal of her touch sensitivity.

Touch Sensitivities often have "feeder roots" that help to form symptoms. This is why EFT is so effective and rapid with children. They haven't accumulated the intertwined roots of toxic experience and negative beliefs that many adults possess. Some folk have reported being able to clear these symptoms on their own through tapping. Yet, most have found it more effective to have a trained EFT Practitioner lead them through the process. Solid skills, psychological knowledge of trauma work and good intuition can help to get at core aspects that create touch sensitivities and provide lasting relief.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Shorter Days

Most folk don't realize how much the decreasing sunlight can effect mood, energy levels and even memory. You don't have to be diagnosed with full blown Seasonal Affective Disorder to feel the effects of less sunlight. Sometimes folk who are borderline SAD can experience more symptoms during times of high stress, grief or anxiety. The current economic uncertainties can provide a context that triggers a higher number of symptoms.

Check out my article on SAD's "The Winter Blues" Nov. 2007 for more information and web links. Many symptoms manifest and act as a "yellow caution light" long before folk actually begin to feel depressed or experience intense periods of sadness.

Here is a review of the SAD symptoms.
  • Sleep problems
  • Overeating
  • Family / social problems
  • Lethargy
  • Physical symptoms
  • Behavioral problems

Light Therapy, exercise and both prescription and herbal anti-depressants have all provided relief for folk with varying degrees of symptoms.

Here is one link listed from my article in 2007.

http://www.nosad.org/

Monday, October 13, 2008

Part II: The Love Languages

Giving back massages is good metaphor for love languages. Most folk deliver the “amount of pressure” during a massage in proportion to the amount of pressure they like to receive. If you have a large frame, the pressure you like to receive is likely to be painful on someone who is smaller. A good massage is always determined by the response of the recipient.

The needed actions for communicating love are similar. One person who was an extreme extrovert, threw a “living loud” surprise 40th birthday party for her husband. He was much more reserved and introverted. Imagine his reaction, when he entered his home to a crowded room full of friends shouting “SURPRISE!” He was able to smile his way through the evening. Yet, his wife felt disappointed by his muted response to her efforts. His idea of the correct “amount of pressure” was a quieter evening with a few friends.

Gary Chapman’s book identifies five languages of love (The Five Love Languages: How To Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate). He writes about the actions couples can take to meet each other’s emotional needs. Here is a brief outline of his five love languages that lead to re-igniting a relationship of excitement and desire.

1. Words of Affirmation - Verbal compliments, or words of appreciation.
2. Quality Time - is about needing and wanting attention, giving undivided attention and focus to your partner.
3. Receiving Gifts - A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say, “Look, he was thinking of me” or “She remembered me.” Gifts are visual symbols of love.
4. Acts of Service - doing things you know your spouse would like you to do. You seek to please him/her by serving and expressing your love by doing things for them.
5. Physical Touch - is a powerful vehicle for communicating love. Holding hands, kissing, embracing, and sexual intercourse are all ways of communicating emotional love to one’s partner.

Reflect on our preference. Usually our primary language is discovered in looking at our most frequent manner of expressing affection to our partner. On the flip side, also look at what it is you most frequently request from your partner (affirmation, time, gifts, doing things or touch). Determine your partners preferred language by asking the same questions but in reverse.

Check in with each other and find out if you are both on the same page. Then make a commitment to focus on increasing the acts of affection for your partner’s primary preference. Do something each day for one week and see how it changes the “feel” of the relationship. Does it shift your perceptions and attitudes? Your partners?

Like the fuel gage on your car, using the love languages is helpful for assessing your sense of connection. Are you both running on empty, low, medium or high? Is your partner’s perception different? By checking in with each other and making adjustments, you can avoid running on fumes and supply the needed amount of affection.

There is a time when outside assistance is needed. Couples Therapy is helpful for partners that have been running on empty or low for an extended period of time. Some couples come to therapy to prevent deeper problems. Others come when they are stuck and feeling helpless to move their sense of connection and love forward.

Friday, September 26, 2008

On Marriage & Committed Relationships


M. Scott Peck, psychiatrist and author of the “The Road Less Traveled,” writes that the “in love” experience should not be called love. He states that the “in love” experience is a temporary emotional high. Brain research suggests that the neurological chemical changes of feeling “in love” lasts for 6 – 8 months.

In my experience, the real work of love begins somewhere after the first six months to a year. Love born out of work and commitment has an emotional component and on good days can feel like an altered state of consciousness. Scott states that love unites reason and emotions. It involves an act of will, requires discipline, and recognizes the need for personal growth.

A Rabbi and I were discussing relationships. I asked him how long he had been married. He remarked, “Greg, I have been married and divorced and remarried at least 20 times!” And with a knowing smile, paused and stated, “…all to the same woman.” He still remains married after 35 years.

He reminds us that a loving marriage involves moments of flow/work, ecstasy/effort, bliss/consternation. Regardless of our maturity, each one of us still contains a small part that thinks a loving marriage should just flow and be driven by synchronicity 24/7. Most of us possess a wounded part that seeks to find a partner who will be our primary healer. But wisdom and maturity teaches us that we are our primary caretakers.

“Love Fusion” is when couples expect to effortlessly merge into a blissful state of need fulfillment during every waking moment. Most of you have felt the impact of bumping into disappointment and reality. At some point a partner will trigger old wounds and become the source of pain instead of pleasure. How a couple navigates through this new phase of “storming” will determine the depth of their intimacy. Love fusion is merely foreplay. It is not the real deal of intimate relationships. But it is a wonderful high and quite intoxicating!

Healthy marriages involve times of conflict, struggle, reason and choice. We each desire to be loved by someone who chooses us, helps us to feel visible in the world and sees something worth loving in the midst of our flaws and blemishes. This kind of love requires the energy of emotion, effort and discipline. Committed partnerships are crucibles that heat up and bring our “issues” to the surface. They are as Sex Therapist and author David Snarch likes to state, “…people growing machines.” Long term-committed relationships can have deep passion. Learning to walk along side each other without blame and confronting our fears is not a path for the faint of heart or for those who lack staying power. But the payoffs and rewards are high.

When couples come to me for counseling. They often arrive being experts at what is wrong with the other person. Rarely, are they as adept at understanding their own part in getting stuck. I start with the assumption that no one is to blame and everyone is responsible for the health of their relationship. My goal is to help couples find a road map that can lead to growth, health and intimacy.

Look for Part II: The Languages of Love

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Catching Up!


This photo was taken on my Ferry ride from Martha's Vineyard enroute to Woods Hole, Ma. The setting sun, shadows on the sails and the cooler evening air is a reminder that autumn is around the corner. Soon a different rythm will emerge with the change of seasons and school buses will visit our streets once again.

Some folk have emailed or called saying, "where have you been….you haven't entered a blog all summer." It also seems I entered the "no-post zone" this summer.

Let me catch you up on upcoming workshops. This Monday I will be doing a Stress Busters workshop in Plymouth, Ma. focusing on easy to "learn and use" one minute "stress busters." So many of the stress management workshops I have attended in the past require changing jobs or a personality rewrite. This workshop is for those persons who aren't already type B personalities and need relaxation techniques that are easy to use.

This month I will also being doing a workshop on "Self Acceptance and EFT." Folk are going to engage in a 30 day trail of self acceptance using EFT to tap away negative beliefs, experiences and emotions. Results will be astounding.

My newest workshop is on "Healing Sounds: Your Mind On Music." I am excited to introduce folk to the healing power of sound and designer brain wave music that is "hard to believe" effective. This brainwave music can increase focus, performance, clear mental clutter, instill relaxation, clear negative emotions, and induce a mental state for deep learning and intuitive insight. See my Feb article "What's in Your Wallet?" for more information on healing sounds.

More on relationships in my next entry. Enjoy the rest of your summer! Take care and be well.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Tree Top Bliss


Eyeing the pine tree behind my friend’s home, it became clear it was time to get a new perspective, literally. So, I begin my climb to the top. All “tree climbers” (yes, there is a national association of tree climbers) understand that certain pine trees provide great opportunities for reaching new heights. As I grabbed for the first branch on this tree, my friends Kent and Sue began to question if fearlessness was a form of foolishness. Ascending the tree, I moved upward carefully checking to see if each branch would hold my weight (falling is not an option). Climbing upward over the equivalent of several stories, I finally reached the treetop. Once at the top, I delicately pulled myself above the treetop to gain an unobstructed view (not an easy feet in the tree smothered landscape of Massachusetts). Once on top, there was not a tree or building blocking my view of the horizon. I just sat in my delicately balanced position and breathed in the rush of adrenalin, awe and breathtaking beauty of the East Bridgewater “skyline.”

My tree top bliss was interrupted by the voices of my friends urging me back down. Climbing down is always more difficult than going up. But with both feet back on the ground, I could still feel the rush of energy and excitement.

Carl Jung, a well known scholar in the field of psychology and religious experience states that each one of us has a soul that longs and urges us in various was to become the “wholeness embedded within us.” My belief is that we are all created in the divine image with purpose and possibilities. When we get caught up in our endless “to do” lists we get over focused on limitations, and lose perspective on possibilities.

Climbing to new heights always puts me in touch with something beyond myself. This different perspective of looking down on the world creates a shift that engages my imagination and shifts my viewing of the world.

Not everyone needs to climb a tree to make a shift. But when we get stuck in our perceptions or actions, shifting our “viewing” or “doing” can create positive changes. In the land of making change, sometimes a little results in a lot.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"Change Your Brain!"


Have you ever had that experience of driving yourself crazy looking for something that you have misplaced? One time when my mind was overstressed from a lengthy “to do” list, I found myself frantically rushing around the house looking for my keys. As it became clear they were lost, I stopped to retrace my steps and located them in the refrigerator reclined against the bottle of Orange Juice.

Understanding how your brain works can help a wide range of behavioral issues that might not be considered “clinical” but are still annoying and sometimes difficult to manage. “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life,” by Daniel Amen is a book I highly recommend. It helps to get a handle on how your brain works and is full of self-help ideas for creating a more balanced brain (which translates into less lost keys).

Some folk need the support of therapy and meds to sustain a balanced brain. But for most of the population, folk experience more typical problems without realizing that their brain might be working against them. Most ongoing persistent behavioral problems have roots in a troubled or unbalanced brain. The good news is that this is a non-judgmental approach to self-care and personal growth. Knowing that your brain might be working against you is better news than believing that you are inherently a jerk, flawed or insensitive. Taking meds or supplements and/or learning behaviors that can create better brain balance is like putting on badly needed glasses after squinting your way through life. It is amazing how it can change your view of the world!

My new brain road map has helped me to create a customized toolbox of techniques for clearing my mind of unwanted stress. In previous blogs I have mentioned how tapping, and music can provide great stress relief. Simple changes in routine can also make a big difference. I now place my keys in the same container located in the same place every day when entering the house (almost everyday – I have “routine & structure issues”). That simple intervention has saved a lot of time and stress.

Below is a quick summary of Amen’s Five Different Brain systems.

Amen Brain System Quick Reference

Pre-frontal cortex - "The Supervisor" - guides focus, decision making, and planning. When under-active it can create a state of being restless, inattentive, easily distracted, terribly disorganized, and impulsive.
Self-help: create mental action step templates to create focus and to stay on track.
Better yet - listen to bio-lateral music to create focus when dealing with boring and tedious detail work (see previous blog).

Cingulate System - "The Gear Shifter" - helps in shifting between thoughts and behavior. When the CS is overactive it results in excessive worry, rigidity and over-focused anxiety.
Self Help: use distraction to derail rigidity and oppositional behavior.
Better yet - use the “Serenity Prayer” to acknowledge what you can and cannot control.

Deep Limbic System - "The Bonding Mechanism" - impacts bonding, motivation and mood control. Limbic hyperactivity has many of the symptoms of mild depression, including negativity, sadness, feelings of hopelessness, and an overabundance of automatic negative thoughts.
Self Help: identify automatic negative thoughts and talk back to them (Stop It!).
Better yet - go exercise and change your brain chemistry and mood.

Basil Ganglia - "The Idle Regulator" - impacts motor control and idle speed. When the BG is over active it increases anxiety, fear, panic and avoidance of conflict. When under-active it impacts fine motor control and the ability to concentrate and focus.
Self Help: try different relaxation exercises and meditation.
Better yet - get a copy of “Total Relaxation” by Kelly Howell and feel the rapid relaxing effects of alpha brain wave music.

Temporal Lobe - "The Inner Peace Regulator" - governs learning, memory, language and temper control. When the TL is out of balance, it can result in a struggle with memory, temper, irritability, and anxiety.
Self Help: moving, dancing and chanting are great ways to balance the temporal lobe.
Better yet - use the toning technique singing the some of the vowels sounds like “Ah,” “ou,” “ee” and “ay.” “Ee” and “Ay” help to release pain and anger (yes, this has been researched).

In my therapy practice, I give an “Amen Brain System Survey” to help folk map out their unique issues and strengths. For more information about Amen’s work, check out his website at http://www.amenclinics.com/

Sometimes medication is needed through a period of time to create balance when self-help behaviors are not enough. There is no shame in admitting the need for assistance in creating a more balanced brain and fulfilling life.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"What's in Your Wallet?" - Stress and Music


Fear and anxiety are emotions that can distort our view and experience of the world. Too much anxiety distorts the actual threat standing in front of us. The stress response is a good thing if you are facing a pit bull that is ready to turn you into a Big Mac. The adrenalin surge that appears during an argument with your partner isn’t really all that helpful.

Brain Stuff
Perceptions are negatively altered when your body and brain are “jazzed up” on excessive worry. Every anxious thought floods your brain with “worry” chemicals causing a neurological equivalent to someone yelling "fire" at a movie theater. This cascade of electrical and chemical responses can over time hard wire your brain to be addicted to worry and anxiety. Psychologist David Feinstein writes, “For better or worse, your expectations release a flood of chemicals in your brain. Every sensation, emotion and passing thought causes millions of neurons to fire together, shaping your next response to whatever life presents (The Promise of Energy Psychology)”

The Capital One commercial asks, “What’s in your wallet?” as if personal peace comes through having the right credit card. Imagine if we bumped into radio and TV commercials throughout the day that ask, “What’s in your brain?” Okay, that also might get annoying pretty fast. But the idea of being good stewards of our thoughts and feelings isn’t a bad idea. Constant stress and ruminations rob us of the ability to experience vitality and joy.

Interestingly enough, we can choose our focus of attention. The emotional tag our brain places on certain experiences and personalities can make that quite challenging. Often, we need assistance in redirecting our focus and internal reactions.

Practical Stuff
One of my favorite “brain based techniques” is called “The Dimmer Switch.” Next time you are watching a scary movie, cover over your left eye while continuing to watch the movie. This action blocks input to the right side of your brain visually and will drop your anxiety buzz by a few points. You also might try another technique by rolling your eyes slowly in a clock wise fashion and then counter clock wise. This can help to interupt the emotional tag your brain places on life's events. Add humming a few bars of "happy birthday" to turbo charge this effect. This bi-lateral stimulation of the two hemipheres helps to reduce emotional intensity and makes it easier to "think and act" rather than just "reacting."

Your Brain on Music
Brain research on relaxation and music yields some interesting results. Playing different types of music changes your brain chemistry. In effect, it can liberate your own brain’s inner resources to function at an optimum capacity. Mp3 players are now so inexpensive that most folk can load up their favorite relaxation music and have it available 24/7.

If your favorite song isn’t getting the job done, then you might need a more scientific approach to music. Check out the Brain Sync music produced by Kelly Howell (see link at top). This site has music that has been designed to increase brain waves correlated with focus, relaxation, increased creativity and even deep sleep. My experience is that they work exceptionally well.

In my mp3 player is Kelly Howell’s "Total Relaxation," "High Focus," "Deep Learning," and "Deep Meditation." They all work effectively and quickly to produce the desired results. My player also includes bio-lateral music by David Grand (http://www.biolateral.com/products.htm) that increases relaxation and assists with focus issues. Next to my stress buster mp3’s is my favorite good old fashion blues music. Track one of Gov't Mule is great for getting the juices flowing, but that is another story.

As with all "tools" if something doesn't work or creates more distress, trust your reaction and stop what you are doing and try another approach.