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.



2 Responses to “Authentic vs Authoritative Medicine Pt 2 – PTSD”

  1. Robin Harrison July 12, 2014 at 5:50 am #

    Your blog on Authentic versus authoritative medicine has prompted me to reply. I have read your previous blogs with interest, and understand the compassion from which you write but am not sure that in all cases I would agree with the conclusions that you reach. I would have, 18 months ago but life sometimes life throws curly ones in your path sometimes which means change, in all aspects of your life, if you choose to find your way through the chaos that ensures. And I do.

    Some 30 years ago, I experienced an operation, where the unaesthetic certainly paralyzed me, leaving me unable to move or speak, but left every other sense intact – feeling, hearing smelling and tasting. For some reason, and who knows why it seems that this was the time in my life that the full impact would present itself and I would be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

    So what have I discovered on this slow journey back to life, and laughter. That everything I knew about my mind and about healing was turned upside down in those first few months. That there are some compassionate and knowing doctors out there that seem to have stepped outside the prescribing, and simply listen and hold you while you find your way forward back to life.

    That the internet may seem to be a way of keeping you in touch with people, but when the computer is too difficult to sit in front of because of the frequency of the “waves” it emits then it can be a very lonely.

    That ACC simply works if you fit within the criteria and then only for some people.

    That the physical effects of Post Traumatic Stress are far worse that I could have ever believed even possible and so little understood by most people.

    That alternative medicine, can do extreme harm, in the same way that our current medical system can.

    But most of all I have learnt to be gentle with myself. To find joy in the most simple things so that I can live each day as it presents no matter how painful. To enjoy the company of those who know how to laugh so that I can also join in there laughter and make the day so much lighter.

    So thanks Robin thanks for your blogs and giving me the opportunity to reply, from a slightly different perspective.

    • rjlk July 12, 2014 at 7:43 am #

      Thanks so much for this full insightful reply, Robin! I totally connect with your healing through being gentle with yourself and through seeking those with light and joyful hearts. This seems to me to be the essence of deep healing. As far as as PTSD is concerned, I feel I have not reached many conclusions so far – only how I feel we as professionals approach those suffering. And yes for many like Anne, this is simply the start of a continuous,drawn out process. In particular, we as guiding professionals should from the start embody the essence of what you have learned – through engaging in compassionate listening, and by gently allowing the person to connect meaningfully with others by finding self compassion ‘within.’ My view so far is that those suffering like yourself and Anne are ‘far ahead of the game ‘ – involved in a deep healing process that is clearing the way now and for the future. The vast majority – including authority figures- are still blind to the collective trauma of the many thousands of years behind them. They still hold the damage and, unhealed, express it in their actions. They exist in a state of denial that leads them to behaving in an authoritative, separatist manner – compounding the problem. My message is that we should not simply stop at a diagnosis of PTSD, nor be locked dogmatically into any orthodox or unorthodox model of healthcare, but ‘be’ and actively promote the changes necessary so that remnants of past traumas are cleared forever. Wishing you well, Robin!

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