Treating PTSD: 98% of What You Do Is Habit
Monday, November 16th, 2009 • Uncategorized •
A frightening thought, isn’t it, that most of what you do every day, all day is by habit? You wake up, get dressed and go about your day driven by several unconscious choices and decisions in every moment. You don’t wake up and ask youself, “Should I get dressed today?” No, you get up and grab some clothes without thinking about it.
Now, think about this: If we are habitual by nature what happens when we fall into the PTSD habit? Arghhhh! That’s right, even PTSD can become something we do without thinking about it. In fact, I bet if you look back over all of your PTSD behavior you’d say that, no, you didn’t choose any of it. Isn’t that right? I mean really, who deliberately chooses flashbacks, insomnia, intrusive thoughts, depression, dissociation, hyperarousal, hypervigilance, emotional numbing or any of the other lovely post-traumatic symptoms?
And yet, without fail you do them every day. Time to take one habit and replace it with another!
I’ve written before that there are only 2 natural fears: the fear of falling, and the fear of loud noises. ALL other fears are learned — which means they can be unlearned. One way to reprogram your brain is to give it new, exciting and altogether different experiences. Enter, the concept of joy….
You’ve gotten really good at the PTSD habit. So good, in fact, it’s become a very large focus of your life. OK, now let’s imagine you can change the PTSD state in which you live (because, you know, any state of mind you can imagine you can achieve). So, imagine you can choose a new habit to replace any bad habit you have. It will take some time; new habits take 21 days to form and solidify but you learn new things and develop new skills all the time. You didn’t begin with flashbacks, nightmares and insomnia…. Maybe you had flashbacks first, and you got so good at that your mind say, “Hey, let’s add some nightmares, too!” And then your brain was so good at the nightmares they were incredibly vivid and your brain said, “Enough! No more sleep.” And just like that you put together one habit and another and another until now you’ve got a string of really bad habits.
Creating new, good habits is just as easy although it may take a little more effort. You actually have to decide the habit you want, make time for it, identify how to develop it and put a plan in motion. But then, you take one good habit, and add another and another until now you’ve got something that continues to grow in strength. Synapses in the brain gain strength the more they fire. Hmmm. This means: If the good synapses fire more often and the bad synapses fire less…. Well, you do the math.
So, you see where a joy habit can get very interesting in the overcoming-PTSD mix. What do you think about that? Now are you a little more dedicated to the idea of what joy can do? Yes…? No…? Tell me what you’re thinking.
BRIDGE THE GAP Exercise
OK, so from last week’s exercise you have some clarity about your attitude toward joy. What did you find out? What’s standing in your way?
Your tasks today:
1. Look at each answered question from last week and ask yourself: If I was hearing this from a friend what would I say?
We’re very quick to help a friend see things from another angle but we don’t often do this for ourselves. How does a different perspective change your answer?
2. How does this change open up new possible answers?
3. Given these new perspectives, how do you now feel about joy now, and how it fits into your recovery program?
(Photo acknowledgement on Flickr.)
Tags: depression, dissociation, emotional numbing, fear, flashback, hyperarousal, hypervigilance, insomnia, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, post-traumatic, PTDS, symptoms, synapses, The Healing Power of Joy