Archive for June, 2009

Instant Gratification Takes Too Long

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Impulse control is fundamental for living effectively in the present moment. Squashing down those primitive emotions that threaten to overwhelm, holding back those body twitches that have me grabbing for food, cigarettes or alcohol, sitting on my trembling hands so I don’t email something inappropriate, do something dangerous, smack someone annoying, buy something I can’t afford or say something I might end up regretting. I can resist anything – except temptation.

In his book, Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman talks about an impulse control experiment where a class of four-year-olds are given a choice by their teacher. One marshmallow now – or two marshmallows later, after he has returned from a fifteen-minute errand. This simple experiment has proved remarkably accurate in predicting impulse control and general emotional intelligence later on in life.

Results show that about one third of the class grabbed the marshmallow as soon as the teacher left the room. I would easily be in that one third; my blood pressure would have risen and I would get red, sweaty and prickly within seconds. My husband, at age four, judging by his adult behaviour now, would wait patiently for the second marshmallow. My oldest son would have grabbed the first marshmallow, eaten it and remained happy. My daughter would have snaffled the first marshmallow, conned some poor sucker into handing over their marshmallow and looked serene and angelic when the teacher returned to the classroom. My youngest son would study the structure and content of the first marshmallow intently under a microscope while waiting for the second, pocket them both, hoard them in his cupboard and promptly forget about them.

Lack of impulse control is related to Attention Deficit Disorder. This comes in handy if you are hunting a woolly mammoth with a spear in your hand and one manages to creep up behind you and lunges with the business end of some very long sharp tusks. In that instance, quick reactions and fast impulses will save your life. The slower, more thinking caveman will end up as breakfast for the beast while the quick …


High School Reunion – Part Two

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

What a difference thirty years make! I went to an all-girls Catholic school, St Brigids Ladies College, in very parochial, Lesmurdie, Western Australia. I was voted by some as most annoying, by others extremely rude, by one girl an iceberg, by another a fun person but by all and sundry I have been defined as the world’s most fanatical Bay City Rollers fan. And that’s a beautiful thing!

I spent first year high in a rough public school where I was bullied, beaten and bashed up on a regular basis by local school thugs and people I’d never met before. I ended up a library refugee. Luckily we moved house and my parents enrolled me from the government-sanctioned war zone that was Kelmscott High School to the gentle sloping hills of Lesmurdie in the charming little olde-worldly sanctuary known as St Brigids Ladies College, but not before I got my revenge.

In 1976 my thirteen-year-old self made a phone-call bomb-threat to my previous school and I ended up in court with a stern warning. But now I was safely ensconced in a private school isolated in the Darling Ranges where luckily for me, the toilets were used for their designated purpose rather than ramming someone’s head down the full bowl, holding it underwater and flushing it. It used to be called the Royal Flush but I believe it is now called water-boarding.

I no longer felt threatened, but I was still fighting an invisible war inside my head and the only friends I had were the Bay City Rollers. I was rude, hostile and defensive to those girls who had only ever known St Brigids, and in hindsight those girls were kind, caring, nurturing and welcomed me with open arms. However, this was nothing that thirteen years of therapy didn’t finally sort out.

I had attended with much trepidation the 20th in 1999 and it settled the ghosts somewhat but last Friday it resurrected those ghosts into real people who rock and roll and some with far more personal history than I ever had to contend with at St. Brigids.

I was scared, I almost didn’t go due to a …


Love Makes the World go Round

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

There’s a powerful pull that’s stronger than the gravitational force that keeps the moon spinning around the earth and the earth revolving around the sun. Known as attachment process, it’s the biological super-glue that bonds people, society, mothers and babies, and families together. It’s also a close relative to a process called neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to change and grow neurons through kind and nurturing experiences.

These growth patterns and changes can be seen through imaging techniques. Psychotherapy speaks of mirror neurons in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain lighting up and reflecting synchronously between traumatised client and therapist to build up a solid relationship as the basis for permanent positive brain changes. Buddhists talk about feelings of loving/kindness as a collective experience. Corporate team building exercises are designed to invoke tight-knit feelings of community between employees. Shared experiences produce shared memories that bind two people or a group of people together. But the biggest prize for attachment process and neuroplasticity belongs to pregnant women who can form a bond with their babies even before they are conceived.

George Lucas knew all about attachment process. The force in Star Wars is based on the psychic connections which organise and propel human relationships towards loving harmony and unification. But not all mothers feel that indecipherable, indescribable, intensely superheated affinity towards their babies in that special manner society expects them to.

A long, long time ago in a research laboratory far, far away, attachment theorist and psychologist John Bowlby and psychologist Mary Ainsworth conducted separation and reunion experiments, called “The Strange Situation” with mothers and babies, in order to study the mystical, magical, magnetic duct tape that binds the genetic universe together.

Under laboratory conditions a mother and her baby (around 12-18 months) were placed in a room with a one-way mirror. A stranger would then enter and the mother would leave for a short period of time. When the mother returned, her baby’s reaction to her absence and the presence of the stranger was studied, noted and recorded.

Approximately 60% of babies cried in a distressed fashion but …


The Wrong Medication

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

Being on the wrong medication for depression is worse than being on no medication at all. But being on several conflicting medications by several different doctors (all from the same practice though) is like trying to grow fresh fruit and vegetables in toxic wasteland next-door to a chemical factory.

I have always thought of myself as an informed, critical thinking person, but depression took away that functioning cognitive part of my brain and I needed to rely on the health profession to make me better. I believed in them.

In November, 2005, I’d had my first book serialized on ABC Radio which was also due for publication in April the following year and I worked part-time cleaning our local school (all writers have day jobs). I was crying three times a day and my trusted GP put me onto Zyprexa which is an anti-psychotic. I was depressed, but not psychotic.

I developed severe motor agitation in my legs (a euphemism for shaking, screaming and thrashing around uncontrollably on the floor in the fetal position with red hot pokers in my legs). I was crying all day, in physical pain, unable to sit still.

I went to the doctors again (different doctor in the same practice) who prescribed me Zoloft on top of the Zyprexa. It didn’t work. I went to doctors again who gave me another anti-depressive Aropax (I had three medications in my system by this stage) with no relief so I went to doctor again who prescribed valium – that worked over the top of other three somewhat and my motor agitation where I was thrashing my legs around, screaming on the floor, unable to get relief started to subside slightly.

I would wake up, have one second of pure clarity before my legs would start thrashing and would continue to thrash for the next eighteen hours. I would go for walks to ease the pain, but only round the nearest block because I was agoraphobic and only with someone else, I could not be alone, the psychic as well as the physical pain was unbearable.

During this time we could …


High School Reunions – High Anxiety or Settling Old Ghosts to Rest?

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

Most people at one time or another have to face school reunions. Some with the knowledge of being in the cool group, some with the pride of being in the brainy group and some who weren’t either cool or brainy but who turn up anyway because life has turned out ok.

I’ve got my 30th school reunion coming up but I have this dilemma. In 4th and 5th year high school this girl, Jackie, stopped talking to me because I teased her about a boy she met at a party. I probably overteased her. At least I think that is the reason. She didn’t talk to me for half of 4th year and all of 5th year and it really upset me. I tried to talk to her and asked her friends and they wouldn’t tell me why. I left school and it took me a long time to get over it.

I felt the punishment far exceeded the crime. Hello therapy.

She may or may not be at the St Brigids 30th reunion. She wasn’t at the 10th and wasn’t at the 20th. However facebook has dragged in many people whose whereabouts otherwise would remain a complete mystery. If she is at the 30th what do you think I should do? Should I say hello and be civil or should I just ignore her completely. I was over this but of course school reunions bring up all sorts of unresolved suppressed issues.

The reunion is on the 19th June. I would really appreciate any advice, anecdotes or feelings anyone has over this.


Catastrophizing

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

Having a car accident or getting mugged and having your handbag stolen is a devastating experience. But sometimes, it’s not just the event, the inconvenience or even the injuries or violence involved that causes overwhelming problems, it’s the personal stuff these incidents can bring up that can surprise and devastate even the most stoic of us.

Although hardly in the same category as a victim of crime or a serious vehicle prang, getting a very low (but still a pass) University mark for an assignment was just as catastrophic for me and brought up many hidden issues and past failings that were brimming under the surface. Low enough for me not to be aware of consciously, but high enough to come quickly to the forefront when something really upset me.

It’s not just a low mark I got, it was something that tapped into every failure in my entire life; my past relationships, weight gain, lack of career choices, jobs that didn’t work out and my shoddy parenting skills. Of course, I was a complete failure and going to fail my degree and never succeed in anything ever again. Most people when failing at something get up, dust themselves off and go about succeeding in something else. I believe what I do is called catastrophizing.

Other people would ring their tutor and get feedback, but for an obsessive/compulsive perfectionist control freak who suffers from on again/off again depression and anxiety, the obvious answer is to call either a suicide hotline or your therapist. And that’s neither an exaggeration nor a bad thing. A good cry, some advice and a sympathetic shoulder can work wonders.

I’m learning rapidly though. I only got my assignment result two hours ago and although I’ve run the gauntlet of many conflicting emotions, I’m now ok. I am not my University mark.

I know this is small potatoes compared to world peace and ending hunger. I know other people have bigger problems than I will ever have. I also know that I am studying to get into the therapy industry but unless the life I …


Therapy
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