Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Healing Through Writing – A Solstice Poem

Writing can be a potent therapeutic tool, especially as an outlet to aid in the process of healing from grief. Recently, I found myself spontaneously writing this timely poem as I approach a significant anniversary of a traumatic loss in my life. 

It is a cathartic piece of writing for me; I'm sharing it here with the intention that it might evoke some hope for healing in your own journey.  


by Mary Von Ohlen

Yellow butterfly before my eyes
Where if you could I know you’d rise.

'Twas the smoothest landing we’d ever felt;
Then devastation never before dealt.

A decade of darkness, a wrong December,
Maybe some things better not to remember;
And others yet I yearn to find
From cloudy archives of my mind.

Forty seasons of missing you?
A day at a time, I pull through.

Like waves of the ocean are never done,
The tears now pass as quickly as they come.

With ironic twists, the energy shifts;
A soul returns, more lessons learned…

Realizing it will always be warm where you lie;
That the sun was so bright when we passed in the sky;
No present from you under the tree,
But your greatest gift is inside me.

Your soul still holds me tight for sure;
May solstice steal my light no more!

To look with wonder, no longer from fright;
Discover from darkness, there’s infinite Light.

As we embark upon winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the supportive energy of this season is ideal for introspection. To continue your personal path of recovery, consider writing a poem or simply journaling your thoughts and feelings in regards to any losses or wounds you may still carry.

I invite you to share your reaction to my poem or any other related thoughts on grief, healing, or the solstice in the comment section below! In addition to writing, check out the previous article on my top holistic resources to heal from grief.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Holistic Resources To Heal From Grief

recover from grief, grief in recovery
Healing from grief is one of the most challenging but expansive processes you may endure as a human being. Suffering a traumatic loss affects our physical body, our mental and emotional health, and our spiritual well-being. With that in mind, and having had my share of grief as well as lots of personal knowledge of and direct experience with the benefits of holistic modalities that helped me through grief recovery, I felt compelled to share some...

7 Holistic Resources that Helped Me Heal From Grief

1. EMDR For Grief 

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a therapeutic natural modality facilitated by a licensed psychotherapist or social worker. EMDR utilizes a method which simulates what our brain seems to attempt during REM sleep, allowing for a rapid processing of trauma. If you’re not familiar with this holistic form of psychotherapy, check it out. 

I actually chose to do an independent research study on this fascinating modality as a psychology undergrad. It was very new back then; I’m happy to see how widely it has since expanded. You can probably find an EMDR clinician near you. 

2. EFT For Grief

Emotional Freedom Technique, commonly referred to simply as “EFT” or “Tapping,” is a phenomenal tool for working through the various stages of grief. From the growing field of Energy Psychology, EFT combines the proven wisdom of ancient Chinese healing with modern psychology. This invaluable healing aid is probably my favorite of all time.

As an advanced EFT practitioner myself, I have had the honor of facilitating the EFT process with clients who presented with recent raw grief as well as old stuck grief. I have personally utilized EFT in my own process of healing from various forms of loss, including clearing PTSD symptoms associated with sudden tragic loss. I explain more about this mind-body technique and the different choices in which you may utilize EFT (from self-administered to professional guidance by a certified practitioner) in a previous article on Emotional Freedom Technique.

Note: if you prefer the more traditional route of working with a psychotherapist, seek out one certified in EMDR. Less traditionally but on the rise, you may find a psychotherapist in your area who is certified in Emotional Freedom Technique. Some EFT practitioners (coaches and therapists) offer distance appointments, as this technique can be facilitated via webcam or even phone once you are familiar with how it works.

3. Adrenal Support For Grief 

adrenal support for grief, resources for griefPhysically, it is very important to support your body under the stress of grief. The loss of a loved one, especially if sudden and unexpected, triggers the stress response and the cascade of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol as a result. Grief can consequently take a toll on your adrenal glands, which are responsible for the release of these stress hormones.

Have you ever seen someone who’s been under chronic stress? They can end up pretty sickly due to the physical brunt of the stress the body endures. Aware of this as a health professional, I knew it was important to tend to my physical wellbeing as much as I was able to, during the often exhausting grief process.

One simple action I took was to take a supplement for adrenal support. Adaptogenic herbs, such as ashwaganda, rhodiola, and eleuthro (siberian ginseng) can help support the adrenal glands affected by the stress brought on by grief. Adaptogens, as their name suggests, physically help the body adapt to stress. They have a balancing effect on the body. The supplement I personally use is Bliss Anti-Stress Formula which includes some of the aforementioned adaptogens and more. Check with your health practitioner before starting a new supplement.

4. Total Body Modification (TBM) and Neuro Emotional Technique (NET)

For unique comprehensive support of my physical health, I have often sought out practitioners who use holistic techniques called Total Body Modification and Neuro Emotional Technique. Both TBM and NET utilize applied kinesiology (muscle testing) to identify underlying physiological, structural and emotional causes of imbalance in the body. Both modalities involve subtle non-invasive techniques or remedies to stimulate the body to naturally “correct” whatever underlying imbalance is discovered. 

While I have also trained in some TBM and NET myself, I personally find this to be a modality best received by a fellow practitioner (unlike EFT, which I am able to effectively self-administer based on my training.) 

5.  Support Groups

Receiving the support of other human beings is crucial. Of my Top 7 resources here, support groups are the most affordable– often absolutely free– resource for grief support. It is easy to isolate in your grief; while taking ample alone time is part of the process, it’s crucial to balance it with human connection. 

If you’re a member of a spiritual community or involved in a 12 step fellowship, share about your grief there to receive support. Or specifically seek out a bereavement support group. You should be able to find a grief support group in your local newspaper, or checking with a local hospital or your town’s social services department to refer you to a group near you. 

Having already been connected to a community when I endured sudden grief, I personally received an outstanding amount of prayers, calls, messages of support as soon as my support network heard about my loss. In the intense shock of the initial loss, many of those specific messages are hazy at best but what stands out to me were two separate voicemails from long-term sober folk whose simple words “you don’t have to go through this alone” were the most comforting. 

Overall, the support from individuals who had been through grief and
experienced a similar type of loss as mine, were the most helpful. When you experience loss, you suddenly find yourself a member of a club you perhaps never realized existed… Based on your specific loss, perhaps you joined the ranks of the broken hearted, or the motherless daughters, the young widows, or whatever demographic that uniquely understands your brand of pain. As dark as that may sound, it’s important to connect with people with whom you can relate and ideally who can offer hope from the other side of that loss.

6. Spiritual Books on Grief 

Especially in early stages of profound loss, you may experience some insomnia. I recommend you keep spiritual books by your bedside for when that occasion arises. There are countless books on the subject of grief and loss. Especially if you naturally gravitate towards books, this is a time you could particularly benefit from the non-fiction variety to help further support yourself through the process of healing. You may find that you become more inquisitive about the afterlife, and if so, there are plenty of books on the topic of afterlife as well.

7. Spiritual Intuitives 

...with Roland Comtois
after an event in 2012. 
Reading the spiritual books on afterlife opened me up even more to the possibility of connecting with a loved one’s energy on the other side. Friends and acquaintances at the time recommended (without me even asking) specific intuitive professionals to seek out. That got my attention and I soon took them up on the suggestion. 

One was in a group format, with popular medium, Roland Comtois (check out his book, And Then There Was Heaven, in which my thank you note to him got quoted!). A seasoned intuitive named Denise Toth was amazing as well (I worked with her by phone, she is semi-retired in Georgia), and of course over the years I have relied on the intuitive guidance from my friend and colleague, the clairvoyant healer Rebecca Karchere

As much as EMDR and EFT helped me to shift the mental and emotional trauma behind the grief, I must say that the emotional/spiritual healing that occurred from my direct experiences with these psychic mediums, struck me as the most profound. It is difficult to articulate the nature of healing that can occur on this level – as with anything energy-related, it really must be personally experienced for full effect.

Pick a Resource That Resonates with You 

In summary, I implore you to be gentle with yourself during the emotional roller coaster of the grief process. Know that you will indeed feel lighter and stronger again. As always, I’m a big fan of taking advantage of resources that can accelerate any otherwise painful and potentially long process. 

I encourage you to pick one of the recommended holistic resources above that is new to you. If you really want to gift yourself the best self-care through your grief, pick one resource that supports the physical aspect, one that supports the mental/emotional healing, and one specific to the spiritual support. After all, you deserve a “whole” healing. 

Feel free to share your grief and healing experiences in the comments section below. Wishing you comprehensive healing and personal growth as you move through your own personal process of grief recovery!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Finding Your Flow

What Does it Mean to Find Your Flow? 

The term flow embodies a concept that is crucial in the field of healing and recovery, and also applies to life in general. When things are in sync or in harmony, there is a healthy balanced flow of energy. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine and meridian-based modalities such as Acupuncture and Emotional Freedom Technique, are rooted in the concept that the healthy flow of energy in our body facilitates a state of well-being. 
The definition of flow: a steady continuous stream of something 
positive flow, finding your flow, healing flow
Phrases that come to mind on this topic include “go with the flow” and “flow freely.” It seems to imply ease, simplicity, and effortlessness. 

Think of a leaf floating down river. It doesn’t put forth effort; it gets effortlessly carried along by the flow of the river. It doesn’t have to think about how to get around the rocks; the flow of the stream moves it gracefully around any obstacle. 

Positive Flow 

While pondering the term flow, I realized that not even one negative association emerged; flow seems to naturally have a positive connotation. The word flow itself elicits the concept of abundance. Everyone likes it when money flows, right? Even financial expert Suze Orman references flow. She said:
“When you are grateful—when you can see what you have—you unlock blessings to flow in your life.” 
Flow implies movement. Do things always seem to be in motion? Well, they should be—sounds like life. Our planet itself is always moving. All living things have constant movement. The lack of movement is essentially death. We stop blood flow, we’re doomed. No flow of oxygen? Death will follow. 

Movement is what drives our brain development (a topic for a future article, I won’t digress in explaining this here.) And conversely, lack of movement is what contributes to degeneration. 
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them—that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”–Lao Tzu, ancient Taoist philosopher
Blockage or resistance may be considered an antonym to flow. As the wise father of Taoism suggested in the aforementioned quote, resistance can bring discontent. Thus it would follow that flow is more likely to produce happiness.

In The Zone 

In Positive Psychology, flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.” (Wikipedia) 
Positive psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, claims that flow is the secret to happiness. Check out his Ted Talk on the topic: 

Any athlete or artist knows what it means to be “in the zone,” where it’s almost like you are on autopilot, effortlessly performing your passion as the energy or focus needed just seems to flow. 

We want things to flow. In planning for a positive process, such as in business, people will utilize a flow-chart. Flow also applies to ideas and creativity. A mastermind group may form for discussion to help elicit a flow of ideas. In order to organize my thoughts into this article, I needed to be in a state of flow as opposed to “writer’s block.”

Flow in Your Outer and Inner Environment 

In the practice of Feng Shui, your physical environment is designed to foster flow in alignment with your goals. Feng Shui experts help you de-clutter and strategically arrange your home or workplace using natural elements to balance the energy of the space. The intended outcome is to create harmony in your surroundings, which in turn supports positive shifts in the other areas of your life. 

finding your flow, flow of life, stream of energy
There are various examples of flow, such as a continuous stream of: information, ideas, money, oxygen, creativity… the list goes on. But most commonly, our minds may go to examples of liquids when we think of things that flow. Blood flow. A stream of tears. Bodies of water—such as a flowing river or the ocean’s tidal flow. All of these instances display how flow is an inherent inevitability found throughout nature. 

We also think of flow as pertaining to something that operates in a cycle or rhythm. Nature functions in cycles. From the planets in our solar system, to our ocean tides, and every living organism on earth, they all function in cycles and are comprised of energy. As human beings, we too are included on that list!

There are steady continuous streams of energy flowing through us. When these streams of energy are in proper balance and flowing freely, the result is wellness.

Spiritual Flow in Recovery

The primary text of Alcoholics Anonymous uses the term flow a few times. In each instance, flow seems to be utilized in a spiritual context.
"In the face of collapse and despair, in the face of the total failure of their human resources, they found that a new power, peace, happiness, and sense of direction flowed to them."—p.50
spirituality in recovery, spiritual flow, meditation in recoveryIn admitting powerless over alcohol or other drugs, and starting the 12-step process of addiction recovery, some early promises of a better life are offered as in the previous quote. It suggests that in letting go of trying to control things via self-will, we free of ourselves up to access a new form of power which will just flow in if we allow it.  

"As we felt new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of [a higher power], we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow, or the hereafter."—Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 63 
The A.A. authors directly associate this energy that flows with a spiritual form of power. 
"Much has already been said about receiving strength, inspiration, and direction from [a higher power]... If we carefully followed directions, we have begun to sense the flow of [the higher power]'s spirit into us. To some extent we have become God-conscious. We have begun to develop this vital sixth sense."—Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 85  
Here they seem to suggest that a new power – a sixth sense – comes to us by simply becoming aware of the spiritual energy that flows in. Again, consider the phenomenon in sports when athletes are "in the zone." In that state of flow, they have keen physical and mental awareness. Likewise perhaps, when in the spiritual flow we may have keen spiritual awareness.

Finding Your Flow 

Within our diverse array of holistic information and resources to be explored here, HealthinRecovery will introduce you to information and methods to help you remove anything that may be blocking or hindering your natural flow, to promote your body’s ability to heal itself, and empower you to connect more consciously with your own powerful energy— your higher self and/or higher power— to find your flow and enhance all aspects of your health in recovery. 

Please post a comment below to share your own thoughts or experiences on being in the flow.   

Thursday, October 5, 2017

4 Steps To Asking For Help

Asking for help is an essential part of self-care. There is no shame in it. Well, perhaps you’re one of the many who do in fact feel some shame around the thought of asking for help. For lots of people, this common human act does not come easily nor feel natural to do. So here are four tips you may find helpful in the process.

1. Assess and Acknowledge

asking for help

First, consider what you want to accomplish. What is it that you need or want to do that may require help? Obviously there are a ton of possible scenarios. Whether you need to ask for help in regards to your career, a family or relationship matter, a personal issue, or any other goal, write down what you want to be able to do or achieve.

It may be helpful to list any steps you know would be involved in the process of reaching your desired outcome. Then, separate out which ones you can do on your own without any further information or assistance, and which ones you require additional information or help to carry out. What don’t you know or what can’t you do on your own? You may need help in the form of information– perhaps expertise in an area unfamiliar to you, or physical help of some kind (ex: some things simply require an extra set of hands!), financial support, or something else.

2. Accept and Surrender

surrender, asking for help It’s okay to not know everything or be able to do everything on your own. Coming to this honest conclusion around what you need in order to move forward with a goal, which involves some degree of help, is essential to the process. Now that you see in black and white exactly what you need help with, can you accept that this goal of yours is not going to come to fruition without a little help?

There is a saying, “surrender to win.” It’s a prevalent concept in the addiction recovery community. Why? Because letting go and asking for help is often a necessary component to actually enjoying success in overcoming most of life’s significant challenges. Addiction is just one strong example.
Definitions of “surrender” include:
  • to agree to stop fighting, hiding, resisting, etc., because you know that you will not win or succeed
  • to agree to forgo especially in favor of another
You see, surrender doesn’t mean you failed. It’s about recognizing that you will fail if you don’t shift to the winning side. In our discussion here, the battle is in your indecision between trying to tackle some challenge alone versus utilizing help. On one side is you, the lone warrior, and on the other hypothetical side is the help of others. Surrendering means you give up that lone warrior losing battle– wave the white flag signaling you are ready to move over to the winning side: you plus help. Yay! Welcome to the winning team.

Okay, now are you ready to receive some help?  If yes, skip down to #4.  If not, that’s okay! You’re in the majority if step #3 applies to you. And more good news: you haven’t even asked for help yet but by reading this far you’re about to get some.

3. Remove Resistance

Let’s face it, you’re already stressed because of the situation you need help with, and the thought of asking for help is likely stressing you out even more. Regardless of the reasons behind your apprehension around asking for help, if there’s fear there then your physical and emotional system is likely responding accordingly– with the stress response. It’s easier to make a decision and act on it when you are calm and clear as opposed to in a state of stress. In the spirit of practicing receiving help, please accept this simple yet profound tool I’m about to share with you.

The best resource I know for removing resistance is a holistic technique called EFT which stands for Emotional Freedom Technique. Perhaps you’ve heard of it as EFT has significantly grown in popularity in recent years. It’s also casually referred to as “tapping” especially after Nick Ortner’s book, The Tapping Solution, became a New York Times best seller.

You can apply basic EFT as a self-care tool that will calm down your nervous system to take you out of that fight/flight/freeze response that stress has led you to. Furthermore, it can help you shift your limiting beliefs around the concept of asking for help – especially if you work with an advanced certified practitioner to customize the process with you. For more info on EFT, see my article "All About Emotional Freedom Technique."

4. Seek and Receive Help

Once you’ve acknowledged and accepted your need for some assistance, and
removed mental or emotional resistance to asking for help, you will find yourself more open and willing to actually ask for help. Now it’s time. You just need to determine where to go for help. That might be an obvious piece of the puzzle for you, or it may involve a little research but thankfully there’s something called Google for that.

 receive help, how to receive helpConsider again what you assessed in step 1 and what you need to get what you want. Seek out the information, physical support, or whatever form of assistance you need, from a trustworthy source. Set yourself up for success in that way. Obviously, don’t go to an empty well for water (someone who has proven to not be available for help) and I wouldn’t suggest going to your financial advisor for emotional support, or your psychotherapist for financial help. You get the idea.  Note: People who you have helped you in the past are likely to help you again (this is related to the Ben Franklin Effect.)

Bring that energy of openness and willingness you hopefully have just reached by this stage, and go ahead and take appropriate action by seeking out a reputable potential source of help and asking for it! If the first person, organization, or potential source of help does not come through for whatever reason, don’t give up! Stay open and willing and continue to seek until you receive the help you desire. Usually it is just a matter of time when you are in that place of openness and willingness to take action for your own self-care.

After Receiving Help, 1 Extra Powerful Tip:

Remember to really take in the results of stepping out of your comfort zone to ask for help and successfully receiving help. Don’t just express thanks to the person or source of support you received; actually feel the gratitude within you as you reflect on the help you manifested. I find that a grateful person typically receives what they need. Stay in that grateful vibe and you will continue to thrive!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Emotional Freedom Technique

What’s this “Emotional Freedom Technique” all about? Maybe you’ve heard of EFT by now. Even though it’s founder, Gary Craig, came up with EFT back in the early 1990’s, it has quickly gained considerably more traction in the past few years. Sometimes people aren’t familiar with it when I say “Emotional Freedom Technique” but then as I begin to explain it, they say “oh, you mean ‘Tapping’?” Yes. Emotional Freedom Technique is sometimes more casually referred to as “tapping” because of how you actually perform it. EFT is an invaluable resource for your physical, mental and spiritual health in recovery! Allow me to explain what EFT is, how and why it works, and how to go about using it. 

What Is Emotional Freedom Technique? 

EFT Chinese medicine, EFT accupressure
Acupuncture uses needles to stimulate meridians; EFT uses gentle finger taps.
EFT is a mind-body technique that is based on an understanding of Traditional Chinese Medicine and modern psychology, blended into a practical technique that falls under a newer category of healing officially termed, Energy Psychology. EFT has been explained in the shortest of terms as “psychological acupressure” or briefly described as “like emotional acupuncture without the needles.” These common comparisons are drawn because the technique involves applying gentle rhythmic stimulation (tapping) with your fingertips on a specific sequence of points on the body that correspond with the meridian system. 

While various early cultures recognized the presence of energy in the body, the ancient Chinese are credited with accurately mapping out the specific channels in the body in which the energy travels. Thousands of years later, the existence of these pathways called “meridians” have been validated by an array of scientific research. According to Chinese Medicine, each meridian is associated with an organ system, and each organ system relates to physiological functions as well as having a relationship to specific emotions. For example, excessive anger relates to the liver and would be indicative of a disturbance of energy flow within that organ system.

“What is a negative emotion? An emotion that is toxic to the body and interferes with its balance and harmonious functioning. Fear, anxiety, anger, bearing a grudge, sadness, hatred or intense dislike, jealousy, envy—all disrupt the energy flow through the body, affect the heart, the immune system, digestion, production of hormones, and so on.” —Eckhart Tolle
Gary Craig designed EFT which derived from Thought Field Therapy, a technique developed by clinical psychologist, Dr. Roger Callahan. After training with Callahan, Craig put together an algorithm based on TFT to form EFT as a more simple recipe that can be used effectively without the detailed knowledge of the meridian systems nor the diagnostic methods necessary in TFT. In this way, an EFT practitioner could use a basic sequence of points regardless of the different types of health complaints presented by the client, whereas in TFT there are many variations depending on the diagnosis. 

In the following youtube video, we briefly discuss the history of EFT, highlight some of the research on EFT and energy psychology, and explain some of the science behind how it works... 

During an EFT session, the practitioner will guide the client where and when to tap on a specific sequence of points and to simultaneously bring their awareness to the problem (negative emotion, belief, traumatic memory, or even a physical symptom), speaking specific phrases aloud about the problem. The psychological ingredients of the EFT process is akin to aspects of the well-established exposure and cognitive therapies from the field of clinical psychology. 

The premise of EFT is that all negative emotions involve a disruption of the client’s energy flow, and that the combination of the meridian tapping with the psychological process resolves that imbalance in the energy system and consequently the emotional discontent. The progress is measured by the individual’s subjective rating of distress, before and after each round of EFT, thus helping to determine when the issue or each aspect of the issue has been fully resolved.

How “Tapping” Became Even More Widespread

The casual reference to EFT as “Tapping” became more popular after Nick Ortner’s bestseller named “The Tapping Solution” published by Hay House was released in fall of 2014. This release was synchronistic as just a couple months later the unimaginable school shooting tragedy occurred in Sandy Hook, CT which just so happened to be Nick Ortner’s neck of the woods. Ortner launched into action, creating the Tapping Solution Foundation which supported bringing in top notch trainers to teach therapists, social workers, and holistic practitioners like myself, how to apply EFT for trauma to help spread this healing technique in the communities in and surrounding Sandy Hook, CT.

We often unknowingly stimulate
meridian points when stressed. 
Emotional Freedom Technique is also very popular in the UK, and there are practitioners all over the world. Over the years, the empirical data has mounted with a tremendous amount of documented case stories detailing the effectiveness of EFT. While there are thousands of pieces of empirical evidence for EFT’s success rate for a wide range of various physical and mental health challenges, the gold standard of research is by use of Randomized Controlled Trials. RCTs are typically what the American Psychological Association requires as part of their essential criteria for validating efficacy of a modality. 

The APA has deemed Emotional Freedom Technique as “efficacious” or “probably efficacious” for a variety of health issues including anxiety, depression, PTSD and phobias. EFT has also met the “evidence-based practice” standards set forth by the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices of the US Government. 

This ever-growing body of research and governing boards validating the effects of EFT probably also serve as a driving force behind the increase of EFT’s popularity among not only holistic health practitioners and coaches but licensed therapists in the mental health fields as well. If you’re interested in more details on EFT research, check out the Association For Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP) research section which even indexes the studies based on condition, scientific rigor, case studies, and review articles. 

How Does EFT Work?

EFT amygdala, limbic system
We know EFT affects the amygdala (a part of the limbic system that sort of acts like the switch that sounds the stress alarm) in a way that seems to calm down the stress response even when the client actively focuses on a negative thought or memory. Instead of triggering a cascade of chemical activity typically induced by anxious thoughts or memories, tapping on the EFT points down regulates that response– sending the signal instead that there is no need to “sound the alarm” so to speak. 

We also know from from controlled research, that EFT has been shown to significantly reduce cortisol which further points to this part of how EFT works. In a study by Dawson Church PhD, three groups were compared: individuals who received an hour EFT session, individuals who received an hour of talk therapy, and a control group who simply rested for an hour. Cortisol levels measured before and after revealed no significant reduction for the control group nor the talk therapy clients (no major change in stress physiologically) but a significant decrease in cortisol for those who received EFT (significant physiological stress reduction.) 

According to clinical psychologist David Feinstein, PhD who has extensively researched Energy Psychology, EFT works because:

“Emotional Freedom Technique tapping on acupuncture points (along with related techniques) while an anxiety-evoking memory or thought is brought to mind sends signals to the brain that turn off the anxious response in the moment and rapidly alters the brain chemistry that maintained that response.”
Ample evidence from the body of research on Energy Psychology points to the fact that Emotional Freedom Technique affects our stress response and somehow helps create a lasting cognitive shift. Explaining the exact mechanism behind this phenomenon can get technical. Instead, I will try to summarize it in the simplest of terms: 

By tapping on the EFT points, we are both calming the nervous system and helping facilitate the healthy flow of energy along the meridian system, which allow the body to be in an optimal state to heal itself. Doing this while focusing attention on the issue allows for a shift to take place in the mind and body. Unconscious, unprocessed aspects of physical and emotional issues can be uncovered and shifted safely and relatively quickly through this process. 

Again, it is research that validates just how effectively and rapidly these therapeutic changes can take place. Take for example the study “Psychological trauma symptom improvement in veterans using emotional freedom techniques: a randomized controlled trial” in which combat veterans with post traumatic stress disorder who were given six 1-hour EFT coaching sessions showed such significant improvements that 90% of the group who received EFT sessions no longer met the clinical diagnosis for PTSD! And the EFT results proved lasting at follow up months later. 

Who Can Benefit from Emotional Freedom Technique?

Honestly this is one of those techniques that can virtually benefit anyone. So if it resonates with you, try it! As I mentioned the how EFT soothes the nervous system, obviously anyone dealing with stress can benefit from tapping. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t qualify in that regard!
EFT basketball, EFT underlying issue, EFT for teenage issue
EFT resolved the cause of my knee pain
that began during high school basketball.

As a mind-body technique, EFT can simultaneously help with physiological and psychological benefits. For example, we might be targeting a physical symptom of yours, and at the conclusion of our session you report not only significant physical symptom relief but also notice decreased anxiety. Or, conversely, we may focus on resolving an anger issue and by the sessions’s end you notice your chronic pain has lessened along with your emotional resentment. 

Personally, I have utilized EFT over the years for all sorts of physical and emotional challenges and also to shift limiting cognitive beliefs. My first time doing EFT guided by a practitioner resolved a nail biting habit since childhood. Later, after going through extensive training on EFT myself, I was able to apply it to other issues both acute and chronic. EFT helped me discover and resolve the emotional underpinnings of physical issues such as knee pain and weakness that emerged as a teenager; process intense grief; heal from traumatic events; immediately diffuse anger or anxiety right when it arises; shift limiting beliefs around money and success; fend off shingles outbreaks (yup, it’s not just an elderly person’s issue! I had Shingles 3 times in my 20’s before I discovered this technique!) and improve my immune response by decreasing stress to avoiding getting a full blown cold or flu. 

Working with clients, I’ve guided individuals to use EFT with a wide arrange of issues and goals such as: past trauma, anxiety, physical injuries and pain, digestive issues, anger, depression, restrictive breathing, resistance to change, inner child issues, indecision, relationship issues, addiction recovery support, quitting smoking, weight loss support, and more! As EFT founder Gary Craig says “try it on everything!” 

EFT for Self-Care – Can you do it on your own? 

For many people, their first encounter with EFT may be hearing about it through a friend or health practitioner. A simple internet search reveals an overwhelming endless amount of websites, articles, videos, books, scripts – all sorts of info about EFT now. It can be confusing and you don’t always know what you’re getting.

EFT self-care, tapping on your own
Could animals be instinctively touching meridian points for their self-care?

You can self-administer EFT. In fact, Gary Craig came up with the technique in hopes of making it more accessible and applicable for the masses. Just tapping the sequence of points alone promotes a calming effect to your nervous system and is a healthy daily routine if you go no further than that. Doing EFT on your own can be effective if you know what you’re doing. Regardless, self-administered EFT is certainly not the same as working with a practitioner who guides you and directs the process, which in turn makes it easier for you and likely to be most effective. 

When I work with my clients, we do in-depth guided EFT sessions together with the goal of making accelerated progress on the clients’ specific individual goals but also, as a result, the clients get familiar enough with the process that I am able to then instruct them how to best utilize EFT between sessions and then on their own indefinitely for maintenance. This is a priceless self-care tool. While there are countless EFT videos and resources out there, I strongly suggest first receiving customized guidance from an accredited professional before delving in to the self-administered EFT on your own! It’s worth the investment in learning to gain knowledge in properly applying this lifelong tool. 

Working with an EFT Practitioner

Choosing the type of EFT practitioner depends on your personal preference and your health challenges or personal goals. Are you looking for someone with a medical background, or a more holistically-oriented background? Do you want guidance around a specific set of issues that would benefit from a specialty area or additional training by the practitioner – for example, addiction recovery specialty or weight loss? A holistic coach with background and training in those areas may be the best fit. Or for example, if you suffer from complex trauma and a mood disorder – that is definitely when a licensed therapist specializing in those conditions is ideal. 

When deciding on an EFT practitioner, consider if would you prefer a life coach or health coach, an energy practitioner, or a licensed therapist of some kind. Some people enjoy the professional yet slightly more casual relationship of working with a coach versus a traditional therapist; others like the clinical nature of working with a licensed therapist. I’ve met some clients who prefer not to get involved in the traditional realm due to privacy issues with insurance and not wanting to get labeled formally with a diagnosis in order to receive coverage from their HMO. To each their own– do what’s right for you.

Whether you choose a certified coach or holistic practitioner, or a licensed therapist– a psychologist, counselor or social worker– pick an EFT practitioner who has been formally trained (through advanced levels beyond just the basic level courses), via a reputable organization such as ACEP or AAMET. The largest international accrediting board for EFT practitioners is AAMET, The Association for the Advancement of Meridian Energy Techniques. 

I personally went through AAMET’s advanced trainings and found them top notch. Some EFT practitioners, like me, offer distance appointments via phone or webcam so location is not an issue. Clients who feel more comfortable in their home also tend to prefer this convenient option. 

Everyone's needs are unique – do what is best for your individual situation and find the EFT practitioner that resonates best with you. The important thing is that you are taking action toward your own self-care by seeking guidance in utilizing this fantastic holistic technique. Feel free to leave a comment below with any general questions about Emotional Freedom Technique, or if I can be of assistance in helping answer any individual questions you have about EFT, or to request a consultation, please contact me at MaryVonOhlen.com.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Connection & Well-being

In thinking about the relation between connection and well-being, it occurred to me that some of the most prominent and challenging mental health conditions today relate to a lack of connection. 

If I had to pick an antonym for connection in the social/emotional sense, it would be isolation. Anyone who is isolated is disconnected in some way. Isolation—or an absence of connection—can contribute or lead to depression, anxiety, and addiction. The reverse is also true: depression, anxiety, and addiction can be very isolating. 

Physically when we are disconnected, our health deteriorates. Take the example of the prisoner in solitary confinement—the ultimate punishment—which involves little or no light, no stimulation, limited movement, and no socializing. Imagine being alone in a dark room with no connection to the world other than an occasional delivery of food; disconnected from nature, people, information, stimulation of any kind... What happens? One can go crazy. The prisoner left alone in isolation long enough will experience a decline in health, both physically and mentally.

Connection is Crucial 

There are stages in life in which without connection we literally can’t survive. An abandoned infant will die if left alone long enough. The elderly can reach a point when they similarly rely on the care of others to meet their basic physical survival needs. An incident of acute injury for an otherwise self-sufficient human may require reliance on others for basic needs during a period of time. 

Throughout the animal kingdom there are examples of the importance of connection. Whether for hunting, migrating, or fending off dangerous predators, the concept of “strength in numbers” applies for survival. A wild animal is less likely to attack a group of its prey, however one is extremely vulnerable when isolated from its group. Check out the masterful meerkats: they rely on the power of their mob to defend against predators that would easily defeat them in individual confrontation. 

Beyond physical survival, people of course bond together for emotional support as well. Outside of the common social links to family and friends, when faced with a particular challenge, people will even seek out the support of strangers. One can find a support group for nearly anything they may experience. Why? There is comfort in connection, and value in shared experience. There seems to be a dynamic energy that accompanies human interaction – the collective energy of the group being more powerful than an individual’s alone. 
“Having supportive relationships is one of the strongest predictors of well-being, having a notably positive effect.” —According to the CDC 
Emotionally, our primary human needs and desires tend to inherently involve others, such as: to be understood, recognized, appreciated, or loved. 

Connection as Coping 

Abraham Maslow was one of the earliest psychologists to expand the field of behavioral psychology to focus on studying the nature of happiness. In 1943, Maslow introduced his famous hierarchy of needs, an approach to understand human motivation. A key element to his theory suggests a hierarchical order to the way we approach our needs. I might sum it all up as follows: first physical (survival and safety), then emotional and social, and then spiritual.

Once we have met our basic physical needs (food, water, air, shelter), we look to fulfill our emotional and social needs a.k.a. “love and belongingness needs” which include interactions with others—social, friendship, intimacy, etc. In light of our topic here, you could think of this category as our “connectedness” needs. Next comes what Maslow called “esteem needs”: our self-respect and reputation. Obviously our reputation has to do with how others perceive us, so this also pertains to connection in way. 

When we are fulfilling our needs in these first areas, Maslow believed us to be “coping” with life, i.e. meeting basic needs of life. Social connection falls in that “coping” realm. Next came Self-actualization needs, all about the motivation for personal growth and fulfilling one’s potential. In his later expanded-upon model, Maslow followed the self-actualization stage with “transcendence needs” which relate to a more spiritual fulfillment through the desire to help others succeed in their own self-actualization. 

Maslow suggests these higher order needs are what seem to create a more profound sense of happiness or deeper satisfaction versus the more fleeting momentary gratification of the lower level needs. In simple terms, we are more likely to derive lasting happiness from our self-improvement or from helping others grow than we are from having a meal or a one night stand. Essentially, beyond the basic needs for physical survival lies the need for connection and the need for purpose. 

Connection and Addiction 

The two higher level needs that Maslow highlighted in humanistic psychology, self-actualization and transcendence, are intrinsically met in 12-step addiction recovery. Positive personal growth is a natural subsequence of successfully doing the work involved in a 12-step recovery program. The Preamble to Alcoholics Anonymous states a “primary purpose” which involves not only staying sober but helping other alcoholics to achieve recovery. To achieve long-term success, the individual must not only engage in that recovery process which facilitates self-actualization; the maintenance phase of recovery involves meeting transcendence needs as well. 

During a Ted Talk in 2015 entitled “Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong,” Johann Hari reflects on his personal exploration around the world to study addiction in order to better understand those who suffer with it. His focus turned to this topic of connection:

((spoiler alert)) Johann Hari concluded: “the opposite of addiction is connection.” As a holistic addiction recovery specialist, I appreciate his perspective and agree with it, in part; returning to my original assertion that the opposite of connection is isolation, I do agree that isolation and mental dis-ease go hand in hand. Feelings of aloneness and of feeling “different than” absolutely feed addiction, as well as anxiety or depression. 

While some of the most profound solutions and truths in life are simple in nature, addiction is a multi-faceted illness. Suggesting “all you need is love” (cue the Beatles) is a beautiful but somewhat over-simplified explanation to this issue which by its nature suggests that it requires a more comprehensive and detailed approach. To honor the energy of Johann Hari’s intention, perhaps we could label any multi-faceted holistic approach to addiction under the broad umbrella of integrating connectedness and “coming from a place of love.” 

Connectedness in Spiritual Solitude 

Part of what makes me doubt that “the opposite of addiction is connection” is my suspicion that a sense of isolation, to some degree in each of us, is an ironic part of the human condition. A synonym for isolation is solitude—a state of being alone, implying being separate from others. I’m reminded of a poem that was sprung on us for interpretation as a pop quiz in college in our study of Canadian literature (yes, when you attend St. Lawrence University, just miles from the border, there are classes specific to Canadian culture!) 

This was the passage: 

I lie upon my bed and hear and see.  
The moon is rising through the glistening trees;  
And momently a great and sombre breeze, 
With a vast voice returning fitfully,  
Comes like a deep-toned grief, and stirs in me,  
Somehow, by some inexplicable art,  
A sense of my soul’s strangeness, and its part  
In the dark march of human destiny. 
What am I, then, and what are they that pass  
Yonder, and love and laugh, and mourn and weep?  
What shall they know of me, or I, alas!  
Of them? Little. At times, as if from sleep,  
We waken to this yearning passionate mood,  
And tremble at our spiritual solitude. 
—from “The Largest Life” by Archibald Lampman  
I recall noticing the subtle shift of the author’s perspective from writing in first person to switching to “we” in labeling this state of spiritual solitude. My interpretation was that Lampman was alluding to the irony in the fact that what we all share is that feeling of being alone at times. In the midst of those moments of spiritual solitude, perhaps a common thread to the human experience is pondering our purpose. We all wonder, “why am I here.” 

So, in connecting with each other, especially on an emotional and spiritual level—in sharing our fears, insecurities, perception of aloneness, our search for understanding and purpose—perhaps we tap into one of the most primary means of improving that very sense of spiritual solitude which seems to contribute to addiction and depression. 

In addressing any form of dis-ease or mental illness, we all can take a lesson from the successful approach of 12-step programs in that: recovery of any kind, not just with addiction, requires a “we” approach; utilizing connections and our connectedness as human beings is an invaluable ingredient to our individual and collective well-being.