Archive | July, 2014

Authentic vs Authoritative Medicine Pt 2 – PTSD

12 Jul

workplace bullying

In the last two blogs, I discussed how it is my simple goal to try to get someone better by forming a bond with this person, and then devising a plan which often involves the help of others. In short, team work is needed – communities heal and if I can help the person connect with selected friends, relatives, and the right professionals, then my job is often done and dusted. I may even be  permitted to be a member of this hallowed gathering of like-minded souls.

As so much dis-ease is, at its roots, the result of  the impact of abandonment and separation, it would seem a safe and sensible  place to start. After all, as my Buddhist and physicist friends frequently remind me, our separation from others, and from our universe, is but a delusion healed temporarily through the practice of meditation and chanting, and permanently within the space that follows our last earthly breath.

And so feeling alone, picked-on, abused or bullied goes against our natural order.  It is traumatic, stressful, and the effects, especially when experienced at a young age, can last a lifetime – in fact many lifetimes as we now know we can pass on these unresolved feelings to future generations. And receive them unwittingly from those who have gone before.

So when I say to someone they are displaying signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, then I am onto a pretty safe bet. Join the club, I say – each and every one of us is fully paid-up a member.

Of course there are extreme and tragic cases of PTSD;  the sexually and physically abused, the military personnel returning from war-torn countries, those seriously injured in accidents,and many others who have witnessed first hand man’s inhumanity to mankind as one group imposes their will violently upon another.

Every day, an average of 22 US war veterans are unable to tolerate the living hell of PTSD and end their own lives. It is for this very reason that money and resources are being spent both researching this condition, and devising effective plans so that the scars of battle are permanently healed.

The teams of therapists and doctors assigned to healing these veterans are frequently discovering that beyond the raw horrors of war, there often lie other horrors experienced in childhood -some remembered, some buried. Maybe the soldier they are seeing is holding the memories of many generations, all with unresolved PTSD impacting on subsequent offspring. At the least, the child will absorb the fear of the father. At the worst, the child suffers physically from his lashing out.

I have talked to several colleagues in the US involved in this essential work. They tell me for them it has proved life-changing – as they recognise these patterns, albeit milder versions, in their own selves. Their conditioned reactions to perceived threats, their addictive behaviour, and their feelings of unease.

And they have recognised it more and more in their ‘civilian’ practices – how widespread it has been for us all to be conditioned into fear, feeling belittled, and abandoned along the way. And so they are adapting  the healing methods they use on the soldiers  for use on the folk from all walks of life that come to see them, stressed by traumas past and present.

To help these folk heal the therapist cannot act in any way that separates he or she from the person. We simply cannot act autocratically, or lack empathy. Not only will this not help – it will worsen the situation.

Listening intently, without judgement, as I have frequently said, is the essential first step. Exploring the person’s childhood, and the lives of preceding generations is important. Sharing one’s own life can be helpful too (I don’t worry about perceived transference, as I believe we are all really in a perpetual state of togetherness anyway!)

And then therapies that may help – relaxation, meditation, breath work, certain pills (natural and synthetic), acupuncture and emotional freedom techniques. Each one individual to the needs of the person.

And so, at long last, I come to my second case. For confidentiality reasons, I have changed the name and other details but retained the essence.

Anne taught art at a co-ed intermediate school, and had felt so intimated by the critical actions and words of a senior staff member as to become extremely stressed . She couldn’t sleep, was off her food, and the atmosphere at work became so bad that she had to take time away from the job, and the students she loved so much.

And so when she came to me in this state, I listened as always, gently probing her early life for similar episodes with authority figures. We shared stories how our fathers had both served in wars, but wouldn’t talk much about their traumatic experiences.  We talked about holding the sadness and grief of previous generations – and of course their joys. We devised a plan that involved friends, emotional freedom techniques, and acupuncture with the idea that Anne would be able to resume her work, despite the continued presence of her senior work colleague.

For weeks all went well – I offered to communicate with the senior administration staff about her progress, if Anne felt this would help. Along the way, Anne had told  them about her version of PTSD.

It was clear though on talking to the school that this diagnosis was unwelcome. I explained that the only reason for making any diagnosis was  that planning could take place, and hopefully a cure elicited. I explained that already there were signs that Anne was feeling better, and would be able to return to work in the near future.

But no, for the school administration this diagnosis rang alarm bells.

They requested a report from me, together with an explanation of the theories I have alluded to in this blog.

They also requested that Anne saw a psychiatrist –  a decision which Anne felt duty bound to accept. The consultation took place – by this time Anne was already feeling better.

The psychiatrist’s report: no evidence of PTSD according to the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). There was some reference to to ‘alleged bullying.’  But my – our – diagnosis was well and truly overruled .

So here’s the thing. There are diagnoses for healing, and diagnoses for other reasons. Legal reasons. Liability reasons.  Political reasons.

Other people’s reasons.

It is my firm opinion that using the criteria of a DSM diagnosis to dominate one’s assessment of someone suffering from emotional disorders is fraught with problems.It represents at best a flawed attempt to define a complex condition in linear terms. Helpful maybe for research papers, but potentially dangerous in the wrong hands. The act of defining a sensitive’s being’s  state of health by an authority figure in this way, could cause compounding stress on the sufferer – sadly I have witnessed this scenario all too often in recent years.

Such assessments should only be performed by health professionals who understand this, and have some conscious awareness on the roles empathy and intuition play alongside their analytical skills.

So it seems my diagnosis was ‘wrong’ according to the official specialist endorsed tick list. It has been rejected by the authorities. So the school administration is no doubt relieved.

And Anne – yes she is feeling better, and not panicking in the presence of her nemesis. She is sleeping well, and her students are delighted she is back.

And I  have a feeling her ancestors are feeling better too.



Authentic vs Authoritative Medicine Pt 1

1 Jul


I keep landing myself in trouble with the authorities. Let me explain.

I have always believed that the person seeking my help is the important one. So it is important and much simpler for me to devote my time and energy in helping that person achieve better health in the quickest and most economical way possible. Sometimes pills do this – for instance antibiotics for a bladder infection – and sometimes it is just listening. Sometimes something else.

In the early 80s, I started to use acupuncture for this very reason – what could I do in 20 minutes that would achieve this goal, and at the very least not make matters worse? After over thirty years I am still doing acupuncture – often with the same points and techniques I used at the start. In contrast, I have seen many many drugs come and go, as they have either proved unsafe for human consumption, or have been superseded by their latest model as their patents ran out.

Besides, I just love doing acupuncture – it seems to work for those coming to see me, and sustains me mind, body and soul.

But what I don’t love doing much is filling in forms. I do tolerate this activity more if it is directly beneficial for the person’s healing – sick notes, work and income forms etc. And I do accept there isn’t a job in the world that doesn’t include tasks that are a complete drag to perform. In fact, I have been able to take some selfish comfort in the fact that my working life is perhaps 1000% more fulfilling than the people devising such forms, or the people having to decipher the mess I make filling the things in.

But here (at last) is my point…..I am asked to write these forms because somehow along my life’s journey, without ever being asked, I have been perceived as an authority figure useful in confirming the story of someone with less authority and standing in society as myself. The reason behind the forms is almost always money. Somehow I am deemed responsible for saving government agencies, insurance companies, corporations, employers and last but not least individuals and employees, money.

Mind you, if I don’t quite use my authority properly, and seem to support the individual rather than the funding authority, my status is fairly and squarely reassessed. I can quickly become known as a lousy authority figure, and appropriate punishment and humiliation invariably ensues.

And this – initially at least- causes me to become a bit grumpy. I have even been known to swear. But then, after these fleeting dark times, a light begins to shine, and stars begin to twinkle. Stars that rapidly transform into the lucky variety – which of course I duly thank. For it is times such as these that are the inspiration behind this blog.

Examples please, you ask. Well I’ll give you two most recent – although I’ll do my best to disguise the individuals involved for confidentiality and ethical reasons (although you’ll know who you are.).

Firstly, we have in New Zealand an authority who funds accidents known as the ACC. They like people who have had accidents to get better quickly. If they don’t, and for instance suffer from pain for years, the ACC become unhappy and often go to great lengths to suggest ways to stop their funding. If someone in this sorry state comes to me, I firstly see if there is anything causing their pain to continue that I can help eliminate so they can feel better for good.

If this proves difficult or impossible, the next thing I do is find ways to minimise their pain and suffering – which is precisely what I had been doing with the divine Miss T for years. For her, the thing that worked best was acupuncture – for others it may have been Tai Chi, singing lessons, medications or seeing someone else. But for Miss T it was a monthly session of acupuncture.

But the funding authority in question was not happy with this. They banned funding Miss T’s acupuncture treatment, allowing funding only if the reason she consulted me was to fill in their forms, or to prescribe drugs (which don’t work, and have in the past caused dangerous side effects.) ie to behave like a proper doctor.

On discussing this with the young ACC case manager, I was quizzed: “So what is a doctor doing acupuncture for anyway?”

“Well,” I replied,” It is the only thing that seems to work for her, and to give her relief.”

“Does that mean it isn’t real pain then?” she countered. Obviously a student of existential philosophy, I pondered

After this things quickly got a lot worse. You know the scene, “Can I speak to you superior? “No she will say the same as me” (clairvoyant too, I pondered further). “Can we have a meeting here?” “No, we don’t visit doctors’ rooms anymore for health and safety reasons.”

Let’s be honest – I am a very disappointing authority figure. Oddly and frustratingly, very difficult to control, with a vastly inferior understanding of existential philosophy, and a piss-poor clairvoyant to boot.

Well this sorry exchange happened well over a year ago – and yes I could challenge the decision with more forms, and more phone calls. But the fact remains, the divine Miss T will only be funded if her doctor does his principal duty of filling in forms, or prescribe dangerous drugs that don’t work.

And example two?

Well, that will now have to wait for the next blog, because, as Trish always reminds me: “You don’t half go on….”