Using Cognitive Behaviorial Therapy (CBT)
Now that you have been medicinally and pharmacologically rewiring your body, you might as well do the same with your brain and your behavior. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you start to identify the thought patterns in your brain, the “what if” and “I could, but I’d rather not” thought patterns.
Exposure therapy can help stop the pattern in which you avoid more and more things in the world. This is a procedure where you use imagery and with a tremendous amount of support start to imagine past traumatic events and conceive present circumstances that remind you of them. With support, you’ll learn to desensitize your brain and body.4
It’s important, at this stage of your treatment, to tell yourself that you are a brave survivor for having come so far and that you want, paradoxically, to face new situations that might be scary and out of your comfort zone.
Holding two thought patterns that are seemingly opposite concepts (i.e., paradox) is the key to healing trauma. For example, “I love myself just the way I am” is a phrase that can be coupled with its seeming opposite, “I want to change.”
Often people who have a history of trauma and abuse have difficulty holding paradox and are prone to black-and-white thinking. So, you might say, “I’m a survivor, I’ve come this far, this is what I learned to do to feel safe.”
However, if the way you’ve learned to feel safe is by limiting your life to only one or two friends, you’ll feel less anxiety at first, but in the long run you’ll socially starve. Limiting happiness and freedom because you are panic-stricken means you are still shackled to your trauma.
That’s all right. You can love yourself where you are and want more.
How do you do that?
Dialetical behavioral therapy (DBT) helps you train your mind to handle seemingly opposite thoughts and get rid of the black-and-white thinking that escalates panic and limits your life. Dialectical behavioral therapy for many is the treatment of choice for PTSD and panic disorder.
This kind of cognitive behavioral therapy is based on Tibetan Buddhism and mindfulness. It helps you learn how to regulate panic, fear, sadness, anger, shame, and guilt. You may also want to consider hypnotherapy, EMDR (stands for “eye movement desensitization and reprocessing”), and other therapies that help people alter their mind-body networks for trauma.
Other Mind-Body Medicines for Panic and PTSD
In addition to 5-HTP, passion flower, lemon balm, rhodiola, and ashwagandha, you may want to consider also going to a psychopharmacologist if your panic gets out of control, for temporary medication support. But warning—try to avoid Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, and other benzodiazepines. Yes, they may help in the short term, but if you find that you’re using them for a very long term to curb anxiety and panic, you may find out, as I’ve said, that you end up getting two problems instead of one.
In addition to PTSD, you might find out you have an addiction, and then you’ll end up having to go to rehab to get off the Xanax, Valium, or Klo-nopin. Not easy.
Traditional Chinese medicine can be helpful to treat brain and body anxiety, especially after panic. Try these:
- If you tend to get hot/cold sweats—zizyphi spinosae
- If you tend to get shortness of breath and panic—lumbricus
- If your blood pressure tends to be too high or you get chest symptoms—uncariae
- If you have problems falling asleep—magnetium
- If you have stomach distress and panic—os draconis and concha ostrea
Perimenopause and PTSD
If you’re perimenopausal, and you have symptoms of anxiety and panic from PTSD, there are a variety of other medicines. Corydalis tuber treats nervousness, agitation, insomnia, and headache. Coptidis rhizome treats nervousness, anxiety, chest pressure, hot flashes, and memory issues. Then magnolia cortexpromotes relaxation, decreases anxiety, and helps with insomnia as well as the stomach upset.
When it comes to handling trauma, the first thing Louise does is have a person re-create it in herself and in her world. To help a person handle trauma from the past, especially childhood, she helps them create a “healthier inner child,” one with memories of safety and security. Other therapies do the same. They call it “re-parenting yourself.”
Louise’s affirmations for the inner childhelp you establish thought patterns in your brain for the child in you who saw the world as anxious and fearful.
So, before we get to those exercises, is there really a way that that could affect your brain?
Is there really a way that healing the inner child with affirmations could really rewire the injured brain circuitry of a person who has PTSD?
Quite possibly, yes.
There is a lot of science to suggest that past trauma changes the way we perceive the world. When you have trauma at a young age, the memory warps your brain circuits. Affirmations help you change the wiring.
So perhaps by doing these inner child exercises, we are implanting in our brain competing thoughts and memories that dilute or drown out traumatic ones. I don’t think you can ever remove a traumatic memory. Many wonderful, brilliant, and great people’s lives have been formed and directed by trauma.
Nelson Mandela, for one, was imprisoned for 25 years and, to say the least, was subjected to catastrophic humiliation and physical and emotional suffering that later took its toll on his physical health. And his trauma gave birth to a form of wisdom that is a revolutionary force to create peace in our society. You don’t want to remove all your traumatic memory, do you?
If you do, think again.
Erasing traumatic memory may remove sources of wisdom that could inform your future avocation or calling. Once again, try a dialectic: I, Mona Lisa, personally can understand the desire to wipe out pain and suffering in one’s past—and (notice I didn’t say “but”) I choose instead to think of all the sundry painful and traumatic events in my life as, in fact, a credential.
Many people think my best credentials are my B.A. from Brown University, my M.D. or my Ph.D. and certification in psychiatry. That may be true, and you may also agree that I’ve received wisdom in some other critical ways:
- Scoliosis and having a rod in my spine with a fusion from my neck all the way through
- Epilepsy and narcolepsy, where I “fall asleep,” once falling asleep while running across a bridge and getting hit by a truck and thrown 86 feet, fracturing my pelvis, ribs, and scapula and probably sustaining a brain injury
- Bilateral invasive breast cancer with a double mastectomy and reconstruction
- During one spinal fusion revision surgery, bleeding out on the table, taking 10 minutes to be resuscitated, and being in the ICU for two and a half weeks
- Foot-long clot in a vein in my left hip
- Four small bowel obstructions
- Dyslexia and ADHD
Suffice it to say, it’s been a bit of a ride. I managed to survive, maybe even thrive, despite the fact that I have a lot of scars on my body and my brain, and yes, maybe a vulnerability in my spirit, though I wouldn’t want to admit it. I bring to you this credential. Now join me in Louise’s meditation.
In the exercise below, Louise tries to help us rewire our brains’ vision, hearing, and memory circuits by guiding us through an inner child meditation; she tries to re-create a safer and more loving world. Perhaps she is helping us rewire our amygdala and hippocampus circuits as we “re-parent” ourselves.
Inner Child Work Meditation
See your inner child. Notice how the little child looks and feels. Comfort your child.
You might apologize to your little one for having neglected it for so long and only berated it and scolded it in the past.
But now you can promise your inner child that from now on, you will always be there for it, you will never leave it alone, and whenever this child wants your comfort or advice or playtime with you, you will always be there.
You acknowledge that this relationship with your inner child is one of the most important in your life.
Tell your child how much you treasure it. Build its self-esteem and self-worth with praise.
See your child relaxed, safe, peaceful, enjoying itself, laughing, happy, playing with friends, and running free. Enjoying everything it does, school, studying, being creative, sharing with others, touching a flower, hugging a tree, picking a piece of fruit, eating with delight, playing with a puppy or a kitten, or swinging a swing high above, laughing with joy, running up to you, giving you a big hug.
See the two of you, healthy, living in a beautiful, safe place, having wonderful relationships, parents, friends, co-workers, being greeted with joy wherever you go. Having a special kind of love with a special person.
Now visualize the teenager within you, being comforted as it moves through the bewildering time of puberty that marks the transition from childhood to adulthood, building its self-esteem and self-worth.
Visualize the adult in you now with love and congratulate yourself for having come this far. You were always doing the best you could at any point in time and space.
Build your own self-esteem and self-worth. The love and acceptance you have for yourself now will make it easy to move in the next level of self-love.
You are very powerful. You have the power within you to help create the kind of world you want all of us to live in.
Louise also offers Affirmations for PTSD:
I am harmless to others and others are harmless to me. I feel safe with the young and with the old.
I feel safe with those who are like me and those who are different from me.
I feel safe with animals, I feel relaxed with animals, I live in harmony with all animals.
The weather is my friend. I am in harmony with all of life—the sun, the moon, the winds and the rain and the earth and the movement of the earth. I am at peace with the elements. I am always comfortable in any weather. My body adjusts to the outer temperature. I am at ease.
I have also learned to be tranquil. In the midst of chaos, I can be tranquil. Tranquility is inner peace.
I practice being peaceful when others are agitated. I do not have to buy into people’s agitation.
For me, peace of mind and loving myself is the most important state I can experience.
By changing my thoughts, I now create peace in my world.
Peace replaces fear, terror is replaced by tranquility, scariness becomes serenity, uncertainty becomes confidence.
Love replaces hate. Repression makes for freedom. I bless all people with love, I surround the planet with love.