The Lighter Side of Transformation

with Lisa Wessan, LICSW

Pandemic Retreat Tip 3 – Shifting from Victim to Victor with the 2-2-2 Method of Transformation

Instead of feeling trapped inside your home or apartment, what if you started to see this as a temporary retreat? Can you turn this victim consciousness into a victorious consciousness?  What if you are being called to live, move and have your being refined in an enclosed space for a few weeks to evolve to a new level of consciousness? 

This appears to be a global retreat.  We are all being called to stay home and go within, on many levels.  The only real choice we have on this Earth is HOW WE RESPOND OR REACT to stress and crises. Moment by moment…victim or victor?  With ease or anxiety? We choose, again and again.

Go inside

I’m not going to list or catalog all the ways you can go inside…because you are smart, and have been aware of mindfulness techniques, prayer, contemplation, meditation, relaxation techniques, Reiki, yoga and much more.  There are many paths up that mountain to deepen your awareness, increase your insight and have more inner peace.  I’m just here to remind you of what you already know.

“Lisa, I know nothing about going inside myself.  Where should I begin?”  When I hear this,  I often invite my DBT Skills Students to use my 2-2-2 Method of Transformation.

What is the 2-2-2 Method?  The broad brush here is you spend two minutes connecting within, two minutes reading something inspirational and two minutes writing.  You can do these in any order. To feel successful and build momentum,  set a timer for six minutes each day for your practice.  If you stay in the process for six minutes, you’re good, even if you don’t tap each category perfectly.  The idea is to set your intention and do the best you can. 

Meditation:  Spend approximately 2 minutes sitting quietly, doing some kind of paced breathing.  During this time, consciously  seek to access your inner Wise Mind, Higher Power, Ha Shem, Christ Consciousness, Allah, Great Spirit, Buddha Nature, any label will work that is meaningful to you.

Reading: Spend approximately  two minutes reading from a personal growth book, inspirational  literature, Scripture, angel cards, your DBT book or whatever devotional or uplifting material you have handy.  If you have no inspirational literature, this will be a fun shopping trip for you.  Ask around, especially if you know someone who you admire for their mental and spiritual wellness.  See what they are reading. Take a risk and read it too.

Writing:  Finally, do two minutes of writing (in your journal or DBT worksheet).  You can just write what you are observing in your mood.  My favorite format for basic brief journaling is to write a fear list, do a quick brain dump and just get it out of your head onto the page.  Then make a gratitude list (6-10 items or so). Then make a to do list. Then if there’s still time, freestyle and just let it rip. See what comes out of you.

The 2-2-2 Method gives you a structure – but it is flexible – again, you can do these tasks in any order.  If you do this daily practice, this will help you advance and make a big difference over time.

If the timer goes off and you want to do more, that’s fine. But the six minutes a day minimum will be great for building momentum here.

Gentle Note: If you’re too busy to invest six minutes/day on your personal evolution, you are too busy. Dial down your Netflix, YouTube, Videogame and other streaming activities.  You are worth it!  Just six minutes/day will compound over time and create amazing changes in you and give you a life worth living.

Also, do NOT try to do this perfectly!  Allow some wiggle room on the 2-2-2 precision. It’s not exact, although sometimes it can be.

The 2-2-2 Method will give you a satisfying structure to add to your day.  Truly, this is such a good time to start a 2-2-2 practice and build from it.  Over time, you will see this move to longer sessions, and will feel deeply nurtured and empowered by it.

In closing, I appreciate Lynn Ungar’s approach to this pandemic…

Lynn Unger poem PANDEMIC

Stay safe and well,

Onward and Upward, 

Lisa Wessan

 

 

Leave a comment »

Coronavirus Retreat Tip 2 on Distress Tolerance Skills

Stay Home Stay OM

We are all struggling to feel safe, stable, useful and effective during this pandemic challenge. I know for sure that when I feel peaceful and useful, everything else falls into place.

Feeling peaceful and useful is the foundation for a great life…trying to be “happy” or “ecstatic” all the time is worthless to me.  Happiness is fleeting, and as much as I love ecstasy, it also does not last long enough. Being peaceful and useful, however, offers long term gains, which often bloom into happiness and sometimes the ecstatic joy of living.

HOW DO WE BECOME MORE PEACEFUL AND USEFUL? 

Lately, it has been harder than ever to maintain my inner peace and feel useful.  I resist calling myself an expert, but I have learned a few useful tools and techniques in my practice as a human and therapist, which I want to share here – partly to help you feel better, and partly so that I feel useful sitting here in my house all day.

Let’s get to it…today’s tip has some useful skills for increasing your tolerance to distress and anxiety.

Mind/Body medicine works both ways.  First, every thought becomes a chemical reaction in your body.  Change your thoughts, change your experience of your life.
Second, “the issues are in your tissues.”  When you release the stress and toxins in your flesh, bones, muscles, skin, you feel a tremendous mental release and relief.
Let’s start with the empirically verified TIPP Skills  for quickly changing your body chemistry:tipp
Source:  Adapted from Linehan, M. (2015).Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets. New York: Guildford Press. P. 329.

Let me unpack these TIPP skills and add in my suggestions:

Temperature – you can create what’s call the “The Dive Response” in a few ways.  The Dive Response will lower your blood pressure and relax your nervous system.  Ways to shift temperature include:

  • Set up a bowl of cold water and dunk your face into it for as long as you can hold your breath. Do this a few times, until you feel relief.
  • Take an ice pack, wrap in a towel and place on your cheeks, brow, neck.
  • Hold ice cubes in your hands.
  • Freeze a lemon or orange, and squeeze the frozen citrus.  Provides cooling effect plus aromatherapy.
  • Take a washcloth and moisten with cold water, but it on your brow (better effect laying down.)

Intense Exercise – in addition to the jumping jacks, push ups, running, walking fast, fast dancing, Vinyasa and Ashtanga yoga etc, I recommend the “Cross Crawl.”  You can do this standing up or on the floor.  This is a movement that gets your heart rate up super fast, can be done in place, and in five minutes you will feel the shift and release. It also provides excellent mental stimulation and has been shown to improve memory, creativity and focus as the cross-lateral activity heightens the exchange between the left and right hemispheres of our brains.   “Therapeutically, cross crawl refers to any intentional cross-lateral activity in which you cross the mid-line of the body, such as touching opposite hand and knee or foot.  Performing this movement builds the bridge between the right and left hemispheres of the brain, allowing for electrical impulses and information to pass freely between the two, which is essential for physical coordination as well as cerebral activities, such as learning language, reading, and hand-to-eye coordination.” (Source: https://www.yourtherapysource.com/blog1/2019/06/16/cross-crawl/)

Paced Breathing – Whether you do the “Take 5” method, which is inhaling to count of five, holding for 5 and then exhaling to 5, or any variation of slowed down breathwork, it will work.   The only way to do this wrong is to not do it at all!  When we do this in my DBT Skills Groups, I add on the physical hand movement of placing the dominant hand on the heart area and the other hand on the naval area.  Touching these two power centers (Solar Plexus and Heart chakra) has an additional calming effect.   The body feels more centered and cared for, a sense of compassion flows, and we feel we are doing useful self-parenting in this position.  This is also considered the Reiki I position, which begins a deeply relaxing sequence of psycho-spiritual  events in the body.

Paired Muscle Relaxation – This is when we begin to scan our bodies head to toe or toe to head, and start to tighten and release muscle groups.  This can be done sitting or lying down. It is most effective to inhale, tighten, hold for a few seconds, and then release.   I sometimes like to pair the muscle contractions with cognitive suggestions, e.g. Breathe in harmony, breathe out chaos. Breath in unconditional love, breathe out fear. Breathe in acceptance, breathe out anger.

You can find many free versions of Paced Breathing and Paired Muscle Relaxation at Insight Timer, and all over the internet.   Insight Timer has versions as short as 2 minutes, and as long as 90 minutes for each of these processes. (I also have a few videos on YouTube concerning Body Scans and Paced Breathing as well.)

May these TIPP Skills enhance your Coronavirus Retreat today!

Onward and Upward in good health,

Lisa Wessan

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment »

Coronavirus Retreat Tip #1

Dog in mask

Over the years I have been trained up to always see the pros and cons of each challenge. Not to be in denial of the pain, trauma and suffering — but to see the possibility of hidden value in the challenges.  “What if everything that is happening to you is happening for you?” asked  Colin Tipping years ago in a lecture in New York.   That thought percolated through me for years before I could finally understand what it truly meant, and the freedom and peace of mind that comes from living with this deep level of acceptance. 

What are the pros and cons of this Covid-19 challenge we now face? Here are some resources which have helped me sort this out and remain more peaceful and relaxed during this difficult time. 

To be transparent as ever,  I am feeling the full dialectical nature of this moment: sometimes I feel a deep peace and stillness within, and at the same time I feel the edge of a panic attack creeping up on me.  The difference between now and 30 years ago, however,  is that I have learned to observe my inner world so much better…so when I sense that edge, I use some breathwork, distress tolerance skills and physical release to shift out of it.  (More on those skills in the next Coronavirus post).

Over the next few days, I’m going to unpack some useful tips for coping with this extra level of anxiety we all share from the pandemic.  As always,  I have been sorting and cycling through my personal tool kit, plus I have found some new and impactful ideas that I will share here too.  The best of the best for you, my dear reader…as we trudge this road through the forced Retreat to wellness and bliss.

First, listening to Jack Kornfield  and Tim Ferriss discuss ways to re-frame and re-focus during this difficult time gave me more insight and some good practical advice. Kornfield’s  75 years on this Earth have been well spent.  As a brief overview, he was a Buddhist Monk in Thailand, then served as co-founder of the Insight Meditation Center in Barre, MA,  then became a psychologist. Now he is involved in many educational and activist programs to help bring mindfulness and other useful transformative skills to the public. 

Tim Ferriss is one of my favorite teachers. First, I love Ferriss’  passion for extreme wellness.  I love his awesome lifestyle hacks and his never ending curiosity about world class performers  and the minutia of their morning routines, what they eat for breakfast,  favorite books, how they sleep and more. He also has an impressive history of  brilliant investing, living with bipolar illness and managing well.  Yes, I’m a fan of Ferriss! 

You can access this podcast wherever you listen to your podcasts:  Listen to #414: Jack Kornfield — How to Find Peace Amidst COVID-19, How to Cultivate Calm in Chaos from The Tim Ferriss Show in Podcasts.

For your consideration, here is my brief summary of this  podcast. During this two hour, wide ranging conversation, you will learn: 

  1. During the first hour, “It’s not about perfecting yourself, it’s about perfecting your Love.”  Learning to live in this world with more love, embracing the inner and outer imperfections with radical acceptance is one path to more inner peace and joy here.  Kornfield delves into some wonderful coping and practice skills to help move through the anxiety and depression of these pandemic days.
  2. From 1:07 there is a discussion of psychedelic research aka Sacred Medicines, for the treatment of drug resistant depression and anxiety.   Kornfield discusses the mysteries of our multi-dimensional selves.  “We are learning to use sacred medicines to know who we are.”  Apparently, this paradigm shifting research helps us form more positive and useful world views. Ferriss cites exciting and impressive research coming out of Johns Hopkins Medical School which has gotten robust results.   After listening to this  segment, I made a note to read The Cosmic Game, by psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, which describes the wisdom and understanding that hundreds of trials of Sacred Medicines have offered seekers in laboratory conditions, to help better understand the nature of consciousness Itself. (As it happens, Harvard Medical School is hosting a large conference here in Boston  May 1-2, 2020, on Meditation and Psychotherapy: Learning from Non-Ordinary States).
  3.  From 1:23 Kornfield deconstructs suicide and suicidal patterns and how to reduce treatment resistant depression.  I was intrigued with this curious idea,  how we long for “sleep,” and how for some suicide is the big sleep that they think will solve their painful life for good. Suicidal people have  worthy intentions, not the best solutions…Kornfield’s approach to suicide is practical and soothing.  
  4.  From 1:32  Kornfield explains his trauma work, and how to be in the field of compassion which allows us to process the trauma successfully. “To witness with a loving gaze, it’s not who you are, it’s something that you went through.”   This reminds me of the teaching that “We make mistakes, but we are not a mistake.”   Again, learning to pause, observe, step back and see the pain as something that we passed through is very different then feeling a permanent imprint from it, rendering us emotionally compromised,  with anxiety, depression, PTSD and other conditions.  

I hope you enjoy listening to this podcast as much as I did.  It really gave me a booster during these troubled times. There is hope! There is a solution…

Stay tuned for my next Coronavirus Retreat Tip…may these tips serve you well! 

Onwards and Upwards in good health, 

Lisa Wessan

 

Related reading: 

Dr. Abdu Sharkawy: My Turn: Mass panic may be worse than virus itself

 

 

Leave a comment »

Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm….How Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Skills help you learn to manage and cope better with difficult emotions

I’m excited to announce that we are hastening slowly to transform the world from the inner to outer, one DBT student at a time…

Up next: we will be exploring Mindfulness & Emotion Regulation skills from March 11 – June 17, 2020.

For all groups (Adults, Teens, Mastermind Groups) we have a minimum of six and maximum of 10 students.

Four leaf DBT

The Emotion Regulation module has four sections:

  • Understanding and Naming Emotions
  • Changing Emotional Responses
  • Reducing Vulnerability to Emotion Mind
  • Managing Extremely Difficult Emotions

DBT Mindfulness

The Mindfulness material includes:

  • Learning to be a good observer
  • Being non-judgmental
  • Staying in the present
  • Practicing being effective
  • Accessing Wise Mind (aka higher self, higher consciousness)
  • Understanding Reality Acceptance and detaching from negative or critical thoughts.

As DBT founder Dr. Marsha Linehan says, “It is difficult to manage your emotions when you do not understand how emotions work. Knowledge is power.”

  • We learn to cope better with social anxiety issues, negative thinking and get out of the Blame Game.
  • We learn to abstain from the “Compare and Despair” syndrome.
  • We practice  “Face it, trace it and erase it” as we work the DBT Skills and grow stronger and wiser with effective emotional regulation and expression.
  • We learn to access “Wise Mind” and regain our center, remain calm.  We learn to take a stand for our peace, and become bulletproof to bullies, nastiness and others’ negative remarks.
  • We learn to practice Radical Acceptance, as needed, and problem solve when possible. We are no longer victims.

img_8291
Lisa Wessan, LICSW
DBT Skills Trainer

If this sounds good to you, please get in touch with me to start  your enrollment process. 

For exact dates, fees, insurance,  FAQs,  location, DBT videos and more details, please visit www.lisawessan.com or call 978.710.8039.

Onward and Upward,

Lisa Wessan

 

 

Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2020. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment »

Lisa Wessan, LICSW, invited to participate in “Medicare for All Forum” with Senator Jamie Eldridge

=====================================================================

💥THIS EVENT HAS BEEN POSTPONED DUE TO THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC.💥
IT WILL BE UPDATED WHEN THE NEXT DATE IS SET AND ALL IS WELL.
STAY SAFE AND WELL IN THESE NEXT FEW WEEKS!

======================================================================

Is it a fantasy? Is it a dream? Who are we if we don’t think bigger, better, more expansively with each generation?  I am honored to be invited to be a panelist on this critical topic, as we hasten slowly towards a new horizon for healthcare.  Onward and Upward!

Medicare1 (2)

WHEN: Tuesday, March 31, 2020, 7 – 9 PM
WHERE: First Parish Church United, 48 Main Street, Westford, MA 01886
FEE: This is a free event, open to the public, but registration is required. Click HERE to register. [Clinicians can receive two CEUs for this event. Members of NASW can register HERE. ]

Description:

“Massachusetts has expanded health insurance, but still thousands of our families, friends and neighbors can’t see a primary care doctor, get routine tests, or fill a prescription. Working for a small company or holding part-time job can mean living only a short step from medical and financial disaster.

A Medicare for All solution is under consideration in the Massachusetts legislature. It is intended to restructure the way we currently pay for health care. The goal is to provide broader access, greater efficiency, lower costs, and better patient outcomes. The proposed system enhancements are designed to streamline and consolidate the finances and administration of healthcare in order to reduce cost, waste, and inefficiencies so that more time and resources for patient care is available.

The expert speakers on today’s program offer insights into the deficiencies of the existing system, the proposed Medicare for All legislation, the costs and benefits of a new system, and what will be required to make Health Care a Human Right.” [Source: Indivisible Westford]

Panelists:
Senator Jamie Eldridge – State Senator in Middlesex and Worcester Counties, Lead sponsor of S.683, An Act Establishing Medicare for All in Massachusetts.
Dr. Sara Clay MD – Internist practicing in Lowell, MA
Lisa Wessan- LICSW, Psychotherapist, Life Coach, DBT Skills Trainer, Author, Speaker, Consultant
www.lisawessan.com
Rebecca Wood- Community Organizer with Mass Care.

Moderated by Beth Morrison, LCSW, Northeast Regional Coordinator for NASW-MA, Leader of Indivisible Westford, Progressive Mass Chapter

Co-Sponsors of event: NASW – MA, Westford League of Women Voters, Social Action Committee of First Parish Church United, Progressive Massachusetts, Indivisible Westford, Three Rivers Progressive Mass, MASSCARE

 

 

 

Leave a comment »

My Ongoing Battle of the Bulge Continues…I reached my 50 lb. milestone!

For those of us who have more than a few pounds to shed, it is usually requires a multimodal and multidimensional effort…To that end, below please find a brief summary of my Fabulous Foursome for Successful Weight Loss and Good Health.  Learn more here as we hasten slowly towards our best health and lifestyle ever! 

09/19/19 |

So it turns out that after taking at least 10,000 roads to wellness over the past 50 years, my sacred formula for success is a multimodal treatment plan combining Weight Watchers (WW),  Yoga,  Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Forest Bathing.

I’m grateful to share that I feel light as a feather…even though I have a long way to go.

For those of you still struggling with the 3Fs (Food, Fat, Fear), I’d like to invite you to pick at least one of these paths to wellness and begin to unpack the multidimensional conflicts that keep you in the Plus Sizes.

I’ll briefly describe each one, and may you find your solution soon!

1. WW (Wellness WINS! aka Weight Watchers)

First, let’s deal with the food. Good food, good mood, right?  Who is ever happy living in deprivation, with an “all or nothing” restrictive food plan?  For years, I used to manage my weight by eating no sugar, flour, booze, fried food and more restrictions.   I would be slim for a while, sometimes as long as seven years, but then as soon as I picked up one of the Forbidden Foods, e.g. chocolate, or wine, chips or whatever, I would blow it, fall off the wagon and spiral into a relapse of some sort. I believed the mythology that I could not eat one of anything, that for cookies, “One is not enough, but a thousand are too many.”    I was caught up in a kind of cult-like belief that I was a food and sugar addict and had to live my life in a Black and White, All or Nothing paradigm or else I would binge my brains out and be morbidly obese.

I even found doctors and research that supported this idea!  Fun fact:  this is NOT true.

I needed some serious cognitive restructuring, which I finally received. I had to let go of my former Belief System (B.S.) and move into a new realm where I knew nothing about food. Oh yes, I reached the critical point of being sick and tired of being sick and tired,  the best place to “achieve” the sweet surrender of the Beginner Mind.  I finally let go of my B.S., and opened my mind to a new way of looking at food, fat, carbs and more. It happened to be unexpectedly delivered by WW.

WW is an international organization, so you can join anywhere in the world you have internet service.  To sweeten this experiment, if you click on the link below, you can get a free month to try it out, and see how it goes.  That’s what I did.

[GET YOUR FREE WW MONTH TODAY!]

Fast forward to 2019… now it’s easier than ever to eat what you love and lose weight. Click HERE for one month free to explore… You can refund your misery after 30 days if this does not work for you!

The best part of WW is the Mindfulness training…there’s a lot of brilliant cognitive restructuring built into the weekly lessons and discussions in the Workshops, and in the online Connect community. Plus the WW App is totally genius for tracking your food (comes with the membership). I’ve used MyFitnessPal and other weight loss/fitness apps – this one beats them out hands down.

Good health is wealth, GO FOR IT!   [Note: don’t bother getting the WW cookbooks, because all of the recipes are online and the App.]

2. YOGA AND WEIGHT LOSS

I originally went to yoga just to STRETCH, to avoid getting injuries.  In the past, I would get Plantar Fasciitis,  shin splits,  and other sports related injuries because even at my top weight, I did a lot of walking, hiking and working out but not enough stretching. Yikes. It was a bitter and painful lesson to me, that not enough stretching causes incapacitation!

Imagine my surprise, when I started attending yoga classes, and discovered how much unexpressed grief, rage, sadness and other negative emotions I could release on the mat.  It was powerful for me, and continues to be a very helpful emotional release.  I need it.  It is definitely part of my weight loss success here.  See if you can find a yoga studio near your home or office.  Gentle suggestion: If you are new to yoga, or have any kind of physical challenge/injury/Plus Size body, start with the Restorative Yoga, which is deeply healing and relaxing.  That’s what I did.  I went from Restorative Yoga to more active Vinyasa Yoga (a bit more cardio).  I do both now.

3. DIALECTICAL BEHAVIOR THERAPY (DBT), SOLUTION-FOCUSED THERAPY AT ITS BEST

These skills of Emotion Regulation, Distress Tolerance, Interpersonal Effectiveness and Mindfulness  are necessary for the cognitive restructuring you need to move away from that toxic All or Nothing mindset, designed for Recovering Perfectionists like me.

Big Bonus:  DBT relieves depression, anxiety, mood swings, OCD spectrum and other behavioral issues that can be barriers to weight loss, and other long term goal driven projects. 

Grateful and shameless plug: If you follow my blog, you already know that I am a passionate DBT Skills trainer, and believe that these courses should be taught in third grade to all humans.

That said, if you are north of Boston, or near Westford, MA, you could check out my DBT Skills Groups. If not, search for your nearest DBT group in your area.   (As it happens, our next round of DBT groups for teens and adults on Mindfulness & Emotion Regulation are starting in January, so if you are interested, fill out this contact form and I’ll send you the new flyer and registration info.)

4. FOREST BATHING: DEEP HEALING FROM HIKING OR WALKING IN THE WOODS

If you’re still reading this, you are clearly motivated to make a change.  So are you truly sick and tired of being sick and tired?  Is this it?  Are you DONE suffering with the 3Fs?  If so, put on your walking shoes, sneakers or hiking boots and spend a little time on the trails.

It has been my experience that there is a healing force field that is very strong in the woods.  You need to drag your tired self over there and walk, even for ten minutes, to get into that healing field. Even better,  hug a few trees.  See what happens.

Selby 1
Selby Gardens, Sarasota, FL (December, 2019)

Notice if you suddenly feel as if your head has cleared, and you feel a bit more peaceful, or, dare I say it, even joyful?  I am 100% confident that the time I spend in the woods has contributed to my weight loss, and not just because I am burning fat on the trails.  No, it is the good energy shift I feel.  It helps me make more loving choices with my food, and my thoughts are transformed into better thoughts.   If you are curious, you can learn more here…

You might also enjoy this article I wrote, that was published in the SOCIAL WORK VOICE journal,  about the clinical benefits of walking in the woods,  Wessan, L. (2018). Walk and Talk Therapy: Moving Towards Wholeness. The Social Work Voice. Sept/Oct; 16-17.

In sum, I hope at least one of these four options — WW, Yoga, DBT or Forest Bathing —  help you in your journey towards wholeness, lightness and feeling good in your body.   May you find that peace with your food soon, however you get there!

Onward and Upward,

To your best life ever,

Lisa Wessan

Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2019. All rights reserved.

 

Leave a comment »

From Borderline to Balance: Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (DBT-PTSD)

When I first became interested in the Dialectical Behavior Therapy methods and curriculum (DBT), one of my mentors said, “Lisa, I strongly advise you NOT to get involved with this work. If you offer DBT Skills, you will attract the WORST clients!  They will all be severely agitating with Borderline, Bipolar or severe mood disorders, it will be a nightmare for you!”

I heard what she said, and I did respect her opinion, but there was something so powerfully intriguing about the evidence-based science behind DBT, and the fact that so many people were getting well from it – who had been considered “treatment resistant” prior to their DBT exposure.

I do like a challenge, however, and I was not afraid of this high risk population. Something inside me told me to continue…against the advise of this mentor, and others practitioners I knew.

So fast forward to today, six years post-DBT training, sharing the DBT curriculum with teens (14-17) and adults (18+) in my office in Westford, MA for several years now.  I have had the privilege  of witnessing dozens of my DBT clients, in both individual and group therapy, go through this cognitive re-structuring process, shed their false beliefs, deconstruct their traumas, grieve and move on to have healthy, happy, contented lives.

In the process, I have learned that approximately 70% of my clients with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) suffer from severe co-occurring post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),  related to traumas that occurred during childhood. These traumas were not processed or expressed at the time,  and they caused a corruption of the client’s personality, mental and social skills.

These unresolved traumas, when treated, often bring upon a rebirth process, and the client is no longer exhibiting the Borderline symptoms.  Therefore, I humbly submit that it would serve everyone if BPD could be renamed Intense Trauma Syndrome (ITS).

Here is why:

  1. The term Borderline is heavily stigmatized in my guild.  “Borderline” sounds as if someone is on the edge of a cliff about to jump, perhaps on the verge of…suicide? Murder? Something worse?  Witness my mentor’s advice above, plus,  each week I receive calls from clients who tell me “No one will work with me because I am Borderline.”  This is frustrating and heartbreaking to me.  Why is this heavily traumatized group eschewed because of their condition? Where should they go?  How will they get well?   If BPD was re-labeled as Intense Trauma Syndrome, I think they would be helped by more therapists!  But this requires more than a branding campaign…
  2. Borderline clients often exhibit highly dissociative symptomatology, chronic suicidality, and ongoing non-suicidal self-injury.  This is also a big turn-off to my guild.  Many of my colleagues will NOT work with suicidal clients.  Why?  Too much liability, too many collateral calls, too much danger. Moreover,  my clients feel as if they are tacitly shamed by the mental health profession for being Borderline.   Yet I have found that this population, when they are truly sick and tired of being sick and tired, pick up these DBT Skills and other therapeutic interventions, and start their healing process.  They do agree to a Safety Plan and stick with it. They learn, grow, and become healthier and successful members of society.   They do recover!
  3. When I tell my Borderline clients they have Intense Trauma Syndrome, and request that they stop describing themselves as Borderline, they start to feel so much better about their emotional challenges.  Many Borderline clients have described severe shame and self-hate due to their diagnosis. They feel hopeless and bereft of a cure. Receiving the Borderline diagnosis can make them feel worse! Here’s the H.O.P.E.  for Borderline clients,  Hold On, Pain Ends.

Solution Focused Therapy

My DBT Skills groups cover the entire curriculum in one year (42 weeks), which includes the strengthening of the commitment to wellness and psychoeducation, DBT skills training, skills-assisted exposure, with radical acceptance of the past trauma and its effects on their lives.

Four leaf DBT

Finally, we explore the promotion of self-compassion and efforts to prepare for returning to everyday life, to build a life worth living. When a client has graduated from their Intense Trauma Syndrome to the more normative anxiety, career, dating, relationship challenges they are on their way to be fulfilled and satisfied with their lives.

The Intense Trauma Syndrome causes people to become quite polarized in their thinking. They often see the world in black and white, all or nothing, right or wrong, good or evil terms.  There is not much wiggle room for the vast spectrum of imperfection that exists in all of us!  One of the earliest cognitive shifts we work on is the ability to hold OPPOSITE VIEWS in their minds without having a meltdown.

For example, I teach them that it is perfectly all right to love someone, but also hate them at times. It is fine to be in a room of friends or family, and yet feel very lonely.  It is not a serious problem to want to go out, and want to stay home.

Prior to learning DBT skills, these opposing thoughts would cause a lot of stress for them, and cause them to feel as if they were having a meltdown.  To help them decompress from their polarized inner self-hating dialogue, I have learned to reduce their stress by saying, “You are not having a breakdown, you are having a breakthrough!”  This often helps them to reframe the intensity of their emotions into a more helpful view.

Borderline1

What they need to learn is to go within and ask, “What do I need now?”  or “How can I make this better?”   Instead of saying “What’s wrong with me? Why am I like this?   I hate this!  I feel crazy! I can’t take it, I want to die!”

I teach my clients to stop asking WHY questions, but to ask HOW questions instead.  When we ask WHY, “Why am I like this?  Why don’t I enjoy parties?  Why am I so annoying to people? Why is this person ignoring me?  Why do people dislike me? “Why am I still single?” they are on a slippery slope into anxiety and depression and possible self-harm.

When they learn to ask HOW questions, they start to change, “How can I make this better?”  “How can I be useful?”  “How can I learn to stay calm when I am triggered?”  The HOW questions lead to discovery, growth, healing and empowerment.

In Conclusion

Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a powerful healing modality.  From my experience, those clients suffering with BPD are particularly helped by this cognitive restructuring process, since typical pharmacological and talk therapy interventions do not help them very much.  From my perspective, DBT really feels like a new software program is slowly downloaded into their minds and replaces their previously corrupted and faulty software that was hurting them.
Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2019. All rights reserved

 

 

Leave a comment »

Some Mindfulness and Emotion Regulation Resources for a More Peaceful Holiday Season

Hi,

I hope this message finds you well.

During the holidays, especially Thanksgiving-Christmas/Hanukah/Kawanzza-New Year’s-Valentines Day, aka The Red Zone, there are many more opportunities to feeling the pain of Compare and Despair, neglect, arguments,  loss, grief and a boatload of intense feelings.

You may also be forced to spend time with a relative you despise, or be tempted to eat food or drinks that make you feel sick. Being triggered all over the place your impulse issues may be whispering in your ear, “Drink me, eat me, buy me, smoke me, shop me, gamble me, escape into video games/Netflix” on and on.

Everyone goes through this, but some of us feel it a lot more deeply.

To that end,  I want to offer you a few resources from my MirthMaven archives to help you get through The Red Zone.  May you find some wonderful skills and tools here to get through those midnight blues, or whenever the intense feelings feel like too much:

  1. Extra Tools for Letting Go  (Wessan, November 2018, 25 min). You may enjoy this useful and entertaining video of ways to quickly let go of harsh feelings.
  2. The Red Zone – Chock full of tips and techniques for help with this holiday season.
  3. Compare and Despair – added insight for social media distress, feeling left out, unloved, unwanted.

As always, let’s remember that “Feelings are not Facts,” and to practice being a good observer as the storm passes through you. “This too shall pass” and “Never Give Up” have helped to carry me through some tough times in the past.  

At the very least, remember to use the “Take 5” breathwork method: breathe in to the count of five, hold for five seconds, and release to the count of five.   Repeat for at least six rounds of Take 5 breaths, to get re-centered and regain some inner calm. 

May you have  a more  peaceful holiday season,

thanksgiving2

Copyright © by Lisa Wessan 2019. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment »

My Butternut Bonanza, side dish or dessert

You asked, so here is my most recent discovery in the kitchen…

Butternut Bonanza (side dish or dessert)

Prep time: 10 Minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes
Team WW = 4 points (Serves 1)

Ingredients:

2 c. cooked butternut squash (or canned pumpkin)

Liquid Stevia to taste (usually four or five drops are enough, approximately half a squirt)
Cinnamon to taste
Salt to taste

½ c. Unsweetened apple sauce

¼ c. granola (my favorites are Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Fruit and Nut, or KIND Maple Quinoa Clusters)

My husband doesn’t like butternut, so I prepare this just for myself. I usually roast one whole butternut in four sections, good for four meals. But I add ingredients to only one section at a time.

First, I give it a good scrub down, to be able to eat the skin because the skin is loaded with nutrients. Second, scoop out seeds and discard. Cut in half, and then into quarters.

Spray your pan with Canola or other spray oil. I like to use a large CorningWare pan for this.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes (or longer, if it’s a bigger squash). For average sized squash, 50 minutes will be enough.

Take one of the quarters and with a fork mash up the squash within the skin adding Stevia, cinnamon and some salt. Return to shell of skin. Then top with applesauce, and  granola (think of a stuffed baked potato). If you have time, you could put the one piece back in the oven for 10 minutes to warm up the applesauce and granola, or eat as is. I think the warmth from the squash warms up the applesauce enough.

For the remaining 3 portions, definitely reheat each piece as needed, then mash with Stevia, cinnamon and salt, add applesauce and granola. It seems to taste freshest this way.

I hope you enjoy this savory side dish or yummy dessert!

Onward and Upward,

Lisa Wessan

Leave a comment »

One of my favorite dialectical quotes…

#DBT du jour:

“Love tells me I’m everything. Wisdom tells me I’m nothing. And between the two my life flows.”

– Sri Nisargadatta

What does dialectical mean?  Learn more HERE.

If you are challenged with depression, anxiety, social issues, relationship troubles, impulse issues or addiction, DBT skills will help you become healthier, stronger and more capable of coping with your emotions.  DBT is a Solution Focused therapy that gets effective results, and quickly!

Up Next:  Mindfulness and Interpersonal Effectiveness skills training in Westford, MA starts 11/06/19. Learn more HERE.

Fun fact: when you worry about the past too much, you become depressed; when you obsess about the future, you become anxious.  Learning to live in the present moment, aka practicing Mindfulness, can reduce 90% of your depression and anxiety.  Yes, you will still need to learn better ways to solve your life’s issues, but if you learn to stay in the  present  you will be so much more peaceful and useful.  Learning Mindfulness skills helps you get there.

If this speaks to you, please visit lisawessan.com and complete the CONTACT FORM.  I will contact you within 24 hours to discuss joining our next DBT group or working together individually, whatever you need.

Onward and Upward,
Lisa Wessan

Four leaf DBT

 

Leave a comment »