Helping patients deal with medical misinformation can be quite frustrating, especially when it causes them to act in ways that are dangerous. Here is a metaphor that helps me avoid getting into arguments and do something helpful.
Imagine that you have fallen off a sheer cliff. You have managed to grab hold of a tree limb that has grown out of the cliff face. If you look up you see nothing but sheer rock. If you look down you see a dense cloud concealing everything below your knees. Your legs vanish into that cloud, and no matter how far you extend your legs, all you can feel under your toes is empty space.
You hear a voice telling you, “The ground is only a few inches below your feet. Just let go.” What would it take for you to trust that voice? What would you feel as you loosened your fingers?
A patient who clings to medical misinformation is in the same position, whether the misinformation is about vaccines, pain medications, food, etc. . In order for us to help them change, we don’t need to prove that we are right, that we know more, or that we are so smart. We need to prove that we will be there to catch them
The following instructions are to help with stress and are not meant as treatment for any medical conditions. If you have any discomfort from any technique then stop using it.
Recovery breathing maintains our reserves.
Stress tends to wear us down physically and emotionally. In the model of stress that I use, this comes from our reserves being depleted. When our reserves are depleted we feel physically exhausted or emotionally drained. Even thinking about doing something can feel too much for us.
We need to maintain our reserves no matter what type of stress we are dealing with. Breathing techniques can help us do that.
We can optimize the rate we recover from stress by developing three aspects of breathing. These are
- Enjoying the breath
- Pacing the breath
- Deepening the breath
Continue reading Breathing for Recovery from Stress
Here is a video of my colleague Dr. Judith Andersen being interviewed for a Finnish show, Successful Mind, hosted by Teemu Karppinen. We were in Finland working on a stress-management program with Dr. Harri Gustafsberg. Judith and Harri created a successful program to reduce use-of-force errors by police officers, the International Performance Resilience and Efficiency Program.
I wanted to let visitors know about a site by Kevin Cuccaro, D.O.
Dr. Kevin has some extremely important ideas about pain and how to deal with it effectively.
His blog is Straight Shot Health
He also has a free class on ways of thinking about pain that can be transformative at The Pain Class
The free class is can be understood without having a medical background.
I see stress as being a factor in the experience of pain and am working on how the model of stress I use will work with his model of pain. I’ll post more as I make progress on that.
We had a lot of discussion in class. Many people talked about how much difficulty they had making a habit of exercising or of avoiding certain eating habits. We came up with some points to help with these.
Some principles involved in changing a habit are:
- The habit reduces discontent and that is what reinforces the behavior. The greater the reduction in discontent and the faster the reduction the greater the reinforcement.
- Negative emotions increase discontent and so we need to find ways of dealing with them that do not involve the habit we want to change.
- Pressure tends to increase discontent, so if the habit causes an increase in pressure then the discontent will come back quickly. We need to make sure that we find new habits that decrease pressure in the long run.
- Sympathetic arousal also tends to increase discontent. So when we are feeling tense, stressed or in pain we may be more likely to engage in the habit. We need to work on healthier ways to deal with those.
- We need to practice experiencing discontent without having our body respond with tension or strain. We develop discontent tolerance.
Continue reading Changing Habits – II
Many of us have habits we think we would be better without. Usually we have tried to change those, but too often without long term success. In this and the next two classes we will be looking at habits, the ways that habits develop, and methods and techniques for changing habits effectively and sustainably.
In our first session we will explore habits and the processes which create and maintain them. Continue reading Changing Habits – I
I am taking a risk here and using a summary of a report rather than digging into the report itself. However, the summary is pretty damning and explains why medical care costs so much. (If I find that the article has misrepresented the death rates between drug group and placebo then I will post a correction.)
Continue reading High Cost of Medicine – Useless Medications
Anger is a difficult emotion to deal with in ourselves. People I work with usually have similar questions about anger and I answer some of those here.
These answers incorporate some of the contemplative skills I discussed in an earlier post.
What is the purpose of anger?
Continue reading Anger and Contemplation
I work with many people who struggle with a sense of being uneasy, fearful, nervous, anxious, restless, on edge, tense, etc. Essentially these are all fear in some form or another. Relaxation exercises do not help because while they may give temporary relief, the fear comes right back.
This is caused by feedback among several brain areas. I will give a simple explanation of that here, as well as a simple and effective solution. An podcast version of this is available on Soundcloud. Continue reading Its Safe to Feel Fear
I had a request for a shorter version of the butter melting video and I added a relaxing audio to it. Also played around with a short intro to get more of a hang of using the software. The intention is to use the video to help you experience a sense of tension melting away and then rest in that relaxed state which is both recharging and healing. Enjoy!
If anyone is interested the software I am using for the video is Camtasia 2
I posted this at the request of a patient who thought it would help her relax.
For those who are not my patient the instructions are to imagine your body is like a lump of butter sitting in the sun soaking up the warmth of the sun’s rays and gradually softening.
It may be the most boring video on the Web.
I did not have time to edit it much but I will add a suitably boring, I mean relaxing, audio accompaniment soon.
I have had a few people with questions about how to use their imagination to evoke beneficial physical or emotional changes. There were a couple of points that they were struggling with. One was whether what they were imagining needed to look similar to what was going on in their body. Another was a tendency to get concerned if their image changed as they continued to practice.
To address these I will use a metaphor of a computer. Continue reading Imagination and Healing: A Few Points
One of the common themes I hear from addicts is how they experience their mind as hijacked. They are on their way to obtain drugs and the whole time they are telling themselves “Turn around!!! This is crazy!!! I can’t do this!!!” But their body is under the control of something other than themselves. I have also heard this from people who are addicted to behaviors other than just drug use, such as eating disorders or gambling. How can someone be a prisoner in their own body, watching in horror as they engage in behaviors that are abhorrent to them? To understand this let’s shift gears and look at the jewel wasp. Continue reading Addiction, the Brain, and the Jewel Wasp
I have had a couple of patients recently who described their intense emotional pain after hearing people make derogatory comments at them while they were shopping for food or in other public places. I think its obscene how it seems OK in our society to bash fat people for being fat. You’re not supposed to bash people because of their gender, race, sexual orientation or whatever (which is good), but if someone is fat then its OK (which is just wrong).
I want to explain why making people feel guilty about being fat just makes things worse, This has nothing to do with being politically correct, and everything to do with neuroendocrinology. Along the way I hope to give you some insights into the way the body deals with weight and fat that may help you understand how we can attain and maintain a healthy weight. Here we go. Continue reading Stress and Obesity, part I