Kristin Ostberg’s article [September 1] about resilience and the neurology of happiness was welcome. Psychiatry has focused for too long on problems instead of solutions.
I do object to how the article suggested severe trauma usually causes permanent damage. Research on brief mental health treatments that work with the body’s nervous and endocrine systems suggests this damage can usually be reversed using eye movements, strobic light therapy, special music, acupressure, and other energy therapies.
I work at Healthcare Alternative Systems, Inc., where we provide free treatment to women who are survivors of severe abuse, domestic violence, and/or recovering from addiction. About 90 percent of these women have both issues. These therapies and the support of a group do seem to reverse many effects of severe trauma for those who are able to remain in treatment.
Acupressure makes it safer for these women to heal. One study found acupuncture made it ten times more likely for heroin addicts to be sober five years from now. The usual relapse rate is about 90 percent in five years and 50 percent in the first year. For example, one woman found it not only helped reduce the frequency and intensity of her heroin cravings, but also she reported in five minutes the pressure points started to take away the sense of constant anxiety over witnessing her husband being shot right in front of her.
Historically, many treatments for trauma believed they had to flood the client with negative emotions with the idea that “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” Many times this type of therapy only made things worse and gave birth to the idea that damage from trauma is permanent. Now open-minded holistic therapists are leading the way and letting people know that yoga, music, art, meditation, acupressure/acupuncture, homeopathy, and other integrative treatments can be part of healing from anything and can work in partnership with Western medicine.
Your article mentioned a way that stress could be turned off like a switch. This is taught by psychological approaches such as Rational Recovery and cognitive-behavioral. Basically there is an old (monkey mind) brain and a new one. One runs on fear, the other on love. Each moment we make choices that determine what gear we shift into. Victor Frankl created logotherapy and described in Man’s Search for Meaning some attitudes and beliefs that helped him survive a Nazi concentration camp. He says, “Hope is an orientation of the spirit and the certainty that things somehow make sense [for our long-term growth] no matter what happens.” Logotherapy, like Alcoholics Anonymous or other spiritual movements, focuses on control issues and how to have inner strength no matter what happens. The ways he thrived, despite extreme hardship, and energy-based therapies can help us all to break free from any fears and limits we feel imprisoned by.