13 April 06

Psychotherapy with Dr O (Part 2)

Dr O was listening to Beethoven and reading Synaptic Self by Joseph LeDoux. He read my homework: a thought journal detailing my recent nightmares about being chased and shot, and a description of the anxiety I experienced when asked to speak at a Smart Recovery class. I was expecting him to begin by stating how I'd scored on the personality test.
“Why do you do yoga?”
“Because I’m trying to achieve some balance in my life.”
“Yoga means union. In the context of universal energy, you need to increase your awareness of the universality of your life.”
“How does that relate to my problems?”
“What do you want to do with your problems?”
“Get rid of them.”
“All energy is constant through the universe, psychic energy or whatever. If you get rid of your problems, then you must consider what you are going to put in their locations. You must clarify your thinking, and consider multiple solutions to your problems. Do you have hermit fantasies?”
“It’s funny you should ask that because a friend recently called me the quintessential hermit. I certainly don’t come out of my cell very often.”
“Using phrases, you can redefine yourself, and challenge your own assumptions. You can redefine your language using yoga, by changing your thinking, and thinking comfortably.”
“How did I do on the personality test?”
“Primarily, you showed an anxiety disorder, and also social detachment – which is an inability to socialize, not antisocial. In the sub categories, physiological stress shows, and anxious thinking, inability to relate to others, your need for attention is high, sense of importance is quite high.”
“High enough for delusions of grandeur?”
“No. Just high. Take the quite off. Your level of looking for cheap thrills is high. You have polysubstance abuse, anxiety, and borderline tendencies. You have a fear of being abandoned.”
“How high?”
“High enough.”
“If I have a polysubstance-abuse problem, yet drugs are readily available in prison, then how come I’m not doing drugs?”
“Your problem is in remission due to prison. Getting arrested was a slap upside your head. You realised, ‘Holy shit. What have I been doing?’ If you hadn’t been arrested would you still be doing rave parties?”
“I honestly don’t know. I was tapering that activity off, but who’s to say whether I’d get stressed out and go wild again. I see how vulnerable I can be.”
"You obtained a definition of who you were through partying. On drugs, your anxiety went away. You surrounded yourself with folks in similar situations, and there’s generally no true bonding in those environments. The club drugs you did caused a cascade of neurotransmitters. With huge amounts of drugs in the system, the brain operates at another level. Studies of substance abuse have shown volumetric reductions in the limbic system and short-term memory areas. You also show a sense of lack of social skills.”
“When I was asked to read at the Smart Recovery class, I felt I was drowning. All that existed was me and the booklet I was reading from. I ended up gasping for air, and my nose started running. I’ve only got like that in recent years. After I was arrested, at the Towers jail, I volunteered to read a passage from the Bible in a packed room. I did it easily and coherently, and I was praised by the priest afterwards. Ask me to read in front of people now, and I become a basket case.”
“Are you familiar with the fight or flight response?”
“Yes. When you feel threatened the chemicals in your body prepare you to either fight or run for it.”
“What about the third response: freeze?”
“Like the deer in the headlights?”
“Yes. This happens with most primates. During freeze, all that exists in the world are themselves and the thing they are looking at.”
“Like the pages I was struggling to read.”
“Yes. The situation seemed worse than it was. You needed to step back and breath. You weren’t breathing effectively.
“But it was pages long, and I was trying to get through it as quickly as possible to end my discomfort.”
“Then you should have stopped, and took a deep breath at the end of each paragraph. Your discomfort was a state of mind. Your classmates were not going to beat you up because of the way you were reading. The situation was in control, and you were not. You must learn to be able to say to yourself, ‘I’m going to do what I can do today, no matter who is in front of me.'”
“OK, I’ll try,” I said. “From looking at my test results, can you tell me where my mental-health problems sit in comparison to an average person?”
“If I told you that, I fear you would use it as an excuse to say that’s who I am.”
“But I’m trying to learn about these problems, including doing a psychology correspondence course, to help understand myself, and to get better.
“Do you think a medical student doing a correspondence course could successfully perform an appendectomy?”
“No, of course not. But at least I’m making an effort.”
“I don’t want you to beat yourself up with labels. I want you to be able to say to yourself. ‘I am perfect’,”
“But isn’t that egotistical?”
“No. I would like you to consider that in the context of your yoga. Read about your connection to the universal. And for your homework, I’d like you to observe, and to write down positive and negative thoughts – but don’t do another nightmare journal. I’m trying to raise your awareness of your thinking.”
“You’ve begun to do that already, by making light of my panic in the classroom. I appreciate your help."

Email comments to writeinside@hotmail.com or post them below
Copyright © 2005-2006 Shaun P. Attwood

4 comments:

mws said...

Hi. I'm a reader from Thailand. I read Shaun's stories through Cosmopolitan British version of January 2006 issue.
I've read books about life in prisons in Thailand and I think ones in the US are not much different, might be tougher. I admire Shaun's sense of humour. Seems like he tries to lighten up himself although he's going through a hard time. I just want to encourage your family to keep doing what you're doing. I know you have been his greatest support. And the next time you get to talk to him please tell him that he has another encouragement on the other side of the world. So stay strong.

Tony said...

Oi, tosser.

The Doc is right. Why try label yourself, worry over "who you are"? Stop it.

You're Shaun, a flawed human being. Live with it, embrace it and come to love it.

Eventually your need to know what others "think" of you will disappear and you'll become a little less flawed.

Stick with it son. You're on the right track.

Tony

Pippa said...

hi shaun, your blogs are getting deeper aren't they? perhaps it's just because i know a bit more about you now. your writing is much nicer to read, in my opinion anyway.
i have to disagree with this "You're Shaun, a flawed human being. Live with it, embrace it and come to love it."
i think the opposite: i think everyone is perfect. oke, we all make mistakes or annoy people but that's part of who we are, making mistakes doesn't mean that we aren't perfect. to me perfection doesn't mean never doing anything wrong or never upsetting someone, never being mad. how can you love yourself if you think that everything you do is another one of your 'flaws'? each mistake develops us as people and we learn things from others.
my little sister teaches me to laugh and not care what anyone will think of me, to be free and stay true to myself. when a little girl of 10 can teach something like that, is that not perfection in its greatest form?

Anonymous said...

Dr O said:- "You obtained a definition of who you were through partying. On drugs, your anxiety went away. You surrounded yourself with folks in similar situations, and there’s generally no true bonding in those environments. The club drugs you did caused a cascade of neurotransmitters. With huge amounts of drugs in the system, the brain operates at another level. Studies of substance abuse have shown volumetric reductions in the limbic system and short-term memory areas." Zen says:- Drugs offer immediate access to altered states of consciousness, but sadly few stop to program themselves to take advantage of the opportunities offered on the spiritual levels - if indeed they realise they ARE on a spiritual level. 'Spiritual' here means simply 'creation of life', and should not be confused with 'religion', which is a degraded version of spirituality because it is not your own firsthand experience. Science gets excited about changes in the brain because it has yet to realise that the 'mind' is NOT contained in the brain - the mind is universal. Dr O refers to 'no true bonding', but the point is that in a crude and primitive fear-based society, he perhaps forgets that the ONLY experience many have of uninhibited unconditional love is on drugs! However, as many do not pre-program themselves as to what they want to achieve while in an altered state of consciousness, they have no, or limited ability, in grounding the experience in the physical world. This is why it is essential to ONLY take new drugs within someone who is both spiritually evolved, and experienced with that particular drug. Dr O's statement that you should see yourself as 'perfect' also needs slight amplification to 'perfectly able to experience yourself at every moment'. This is because the physical world is ALWAYS the perfect reflection(s) to our choices. This period of imprisonment has given you opportunity to see yourself as you would never have done without being jailed. Far from being a 'loser', you have gained insight, and have begun to make a positive impact upon others. This is why your blog has proven such a success, and has demonstrated that you are loved and cared for WITHOUT the need to provide for others as you previously did to, in a sense, buy acceptance qand popularity. In short, you had erected a Mask of Fear which you are beginning to strip away - heence the anxiety. Face The Fear as I have previously shown you - one small fear at a time - and with each success your confidence will grow, and anxiety will fall away. When it arises, look it in the eye, identify the fear, say 'I Face The Fear!', and the One Mind in this Universe ( within which we are all contained ) knows immediately. As you grow, others will come to you to learn. This is the baton in the relay race called life - it can never be held on to, can only be passed on. This process never, ever ends, because only bodies die. Continue to inspire others, and allow their inspiration to inspire you further. Good luck! Zen :-)