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Our bodies are incredibly complex machines and part of this beautiful sophistication is the way they communicate with us. When we are acting or thinking in ways which are harmful to our body/mind/soul, we often consciously or unconsciously deny or ignore this reality for a multitude of possible reasons. However, if we continue to deny or ignore the current or potential consequences of our harmful thoughts and actions, these amazing machines called our bodies often do their best to let us know that we are heading down an ill-advised path and that we would be wise to take action.

What language does the body speak?

It is a universal dialect called pain and discomfort. No matter where in the world you live, or what your ‘mother tongue’ is, you understand the language of pain and discomfort. Headaches, stomach cramps, stiff neck, sore back, fatigue, frequent colds and infections, rashes and nervous tics are but a few of the most common ways our bodies let us know that something is wrong. However, because we have a long history in the Western world of separating the mind and the body, we often jump to the conclusion that our physical pain and discomfort must have a physical cause.

Now of course, this can often be the case, but for many people who suffer from the list of ailments listed above, a battery of standard medical tests often come up empty-handed. This is because many physical symptoms are the result of psychological distress. Many jump to the conclusion that this means that such ailments are ‘all in your head’ and as such do not actually exist. On the contrary, physical symptoms with a psychological cause are very real – they are simply the language our body is using to let us know that something psychological needs to be addressed.

There is thus, no physical cause which can be treated or cured, but rather it is a psychological – or even spiritual – problem which needs to be addressed. The ‘impress your family and friends’ word for the body’s ability to communicate psychological distress through physical pain and discomfort is called somatization.

In his 1996 book about Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis, Richard Harris points out that many of Freud’s early patients sought his help as a medical doctor and it was, in part, his interest in the very common phenomenon of physical symptoms with psychological causes which led him to develop psychoanalysis. In the present day, most diagnostic tools which are used to determine if a person is suffering from a mental health issue will include ‘frequent pain or discomfort with no known cause’ as one of the potential symptoms of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and several other conditions.

Turning your ‘crisis’ into an ‘opportunity’

So, while pain and discomfort can make it very challenging to live life to the fullest, it is the ability of pain and discomfort to capture our attention that makes it such an effective messenger that change is needed. If you are struggling with persistent physical issues, by all means, talk to your family physician or another health professional. However, if the standard medical tests come up empty, you may want to explore the psychological roots of your physical problems.

Chronic stress, unresolved shame/guilt, feeling hopeless and living a life that is not consistent with your deeper values are but a few of the psychological challenges which can manifest as physical issues or make pre-existing pain or discomfort feel even worse. As uncomfortable and frustrating as unresolved pain and discomfort can be, it may be an opportunity in disguise – an opportunity to explore, and perhaps even resolve, some deeper issues which are trying to get your attention.

To explore the psychological connections that may be underpinning your physical ailments contact one of our registered therapists for your confidential consultation today.


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 Can You Relate?

As one person struggles with recovery from severe childhood abuse (multiple kinds), she writes here about her view of alcohol throughout her journey. In the absence of effective coping strategies or when the stress becomes overwhelming, we tend to turn toward less healthy and unhealthy coping strategies. These can unfortunately offer temporary relief which itself become desired, yet, over the long run, poorer coping choices contribute to worsening thoughts, feelings and of course behaviours.

Check out the following list of pros and cons for alcohol use and you can determine if any of these may apply in your way of thinking…

PROS

  • I feel like I am close to being human
  • I’m not scared of noises I can’t identify
  • I’m not paranoid of people
  • I laugh and I can feel happy
  • I can walk in public around other people and feel like I almost blend in
  • I can express my feelings better or at least some
  • I can’t feel my constant anxiety, worry and stress
  • Flashbacks don’t stress me out as much
  • I eat…because I need to….
  • I dance, sing, swim, listen to music, roller blade , bike ride, play with the kids, jog because it’s fun
  • It tastes so good and feels warm inside my body
  • I don’t focus on anything bad… I just enjoy floating around with no inside pain
  • It feels familiar and comforting
  • I don’t feel so alone and hopeless

CONS

  • That makes me an alcoholic = not a nice label
  •  My liver probably hates it
  •  My moods, emotions, memories, identity can change quickly
  •  I have less control over who is in charge… if any….
  •  Past experiences have led to many undesirable consequences, eg. abuse, jail, loss of a child, suicide  attempts, car accidents, homelessness, etc.
  •  Shows a bad example to my children so it must be hidden and it makes me a liar
  •  I can’t afford it
  •  Sometimes it makes me not human
  •  Sometimes it makes me forget my body belongs to me and I don’t care about it
  •  I can be too impulsive
  •  I can find myself places I don’t want to be
  •  I forget who I am or where I am and where I belong..

Using alcohol comes with risk. Why do I sometimes feel like it’s worth it? It’s not. I know that. It’s just so nice to have a break from my dysfunctional exhausting brain.

 

Meta-Communication and Assertive Communication Skills


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The following post is submitted by a young man in his mid-twenties. He describes meta-communication and assertive communication skills and how he has applied these to turn around his poor communication learned from very violent, abusive and negative childhood experiences.


Meta-communication is communicating about how we are communicating: how a message or information is delivered, and is meant to be interpreted. It is based on the idea that the same message accompanied by various verbal and non-verbal deliveries can make a message mean something totally different, including its opposite, as in irony. For example, two people may discuss certain body language such as rolling the eyes, frowning or a shrugging of the shoulders to determine what message is being conveyed.

Assertive Communication uses both verbal and non-verbal communication to respect the boundaries of yourself and others. It is the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive. Examples of this include people who are able to maintain long-term comfortable relationships with other people and and are able to effectively express thoughts and feelings.

I was raised in a family where violence was present unnecessarily. It seriously got in the way of me learning proper assertive communication skills.

It was difficult to grow up having a father figure because of how my father was to my family. I was never taught proper social skills or had any examples provided to me. Because of how my father was, I knew everything about him was negative and I did not want to be like him at all… one bit.

In a way, it is hard to describe but I became a better man because of how my father acted. I learned how to treat others with respect and how to properly communicate. It is good to know that I have seen what the negative outcome will be without proper communication skills and to learn from that bad example.

Recently, my mother and I have been beginning to communicate better. I am now expressing more of my true thoughts to her by opening up, by using a more friendly approach to topics that usually would cause stress between the both of us. We are both using more positive expression and more positive body language.

Less nagging has been occurring leading to more different approaches to conversations that we ever really had before.”

I hope you are as inspired as I am in this young man’s story of pain and recovery, of his striving to overcome horrible experiences and learn more caring, loving and effective communication. Just because we may have grown up in families where violence and abuse existed doesn’t mean we must repeat this behavior. We can, with reading and good guidance, confront our way of interacting with others, learn new ways of communicating and develop meaningful, satisfying, long-term, loving relationships with others.

 


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ANTS: Our Thoughts or Not ?

The following contribution is from a middle-aged woman who suffered severe child abuse, sexual abuse, containment and physical violence as well as the early demise of her mother. Father’s subsequent downturn to alcoholism and grandparents scornful childcare assistance appear to have contributed, along with multiple sexual predators, to her ultimately suffering from complex post-traumatic stress “reaction” and dissociative identity symptoms. Despite the severe stress and strain on her psyche, she manages to strive to improve for her family and to attempt to regain her sanity. Her interpretation of how her brain works follows:

“I used to think that the four lobes of my brain just worked separately. Decisions made came from whatever lobe was healthiest at that moment. Like the wire connecting them together had a break in it. Over the years, I have tried to get control over which lobe would work but realized I don’t get to decide.

I have tried so many different attempts at control: changing my diet, adding different vitamins, punishment and rewarding the lobes that seemed to work best. Giving control to others who thought they could fix it for me using whatever methods they thought would work… (drugging, restraining, electrocuting, depriving, thought control, etc.). This has proved impossible so far.

Now I don’t think my four lobes work separately. I feel like my brain has turned into a giant anthill, each ant having its own job to do. Sometimes they seem to work together but sometimes they seem to eat each other and fight. It feels like a war inside the hill.

Sometimes, I think the poisonous ants are the big ones that overpower the small ones. The small ones have to fight and stay on alert at all times for the big ones. They have to follow the poisonous ants and do what they say, if they are not strong enough to fight. Other times, they get too tired and surrender themselves to the poisonous ants and get killed if they step out of line and do not follow. Sometimes, the small ants can win. It takes teamwork by many different small ants but they CAN choose their own job to do. It just takes more than one.

I can sometimes feel them in my skin and head. It makes me itchy. It makes me wonder if they are getting along or struggling. Sometimes, I see ants all over my bed or couch or wall…wherever I’m sitting. I think it’s the BIG ANTS making me see them and feel them, reminding me they are in control.

Sometimes, the small ants can be tricky and be poisonous too but you don’t know it at the time. You can’t assume anything with ants of any size. They switch jobs without notice. They fight without reason.

I don’t like ants. I enjoy spraying ant killer into their tiny hills. I like to put them out of their misery. I can’t imagine them being happy. God would likely disapprove, as he created such creatures but they can really torture you if they were to live inside your head. They have such a nasty sting for such a small bug.”


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A psychological term, from cognitive-behavioural theory, uses the acronym ANTS to refer to our “automatic negative thoughts” It almost seems as though the author of the words above has a hypersensitivity to her negative thinking processes. It would be nice, I suppose, if it were much easier to get rid of our ANTS or “Stinkin Thinkin” than it is. Help is available to reduce our ANTS.

Therapy is designed to help people uncover ANTS and find new ways to think that promote improved mental health. For help recovering from abuse, resolving relationship concerns or to improve your view of yourself, contact one of our registered therapists for your confidential consultation today.

 


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Welcome, Bienvenido, 欢迎, आपका स्वागत है, Fogadtatás

  • Canadian Birth Rate Low, Immigration To Thank For Growth
  • Canada’s birth rate is currently hovering around 1.67 children per woman, well below the minimum of 2.0 needed for natural population replacement.
  • For Canada, expanding our numbers means depending on immigration, which accounts for two-thirds of population expansion. About 250,000 immigrants, most of them from China, India, Pakistan and the Philippines, are accepted into the country each year.
  • “Some come from countries where economic, cultural and religious traditions have made larger families common”, said Jeffrey Reitz, a professor of ethnic and immigration studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.
  • At the current rate, if nothing changes, immigration — currently responsible for 67 per cent of Canada’s population growth — could account for 80 per cent of growth within the next 20 years, and nearly 100 per cent by the year 2061, Statistics Canada says.
  • I don’t see it really looking a lot different in the future than what it looks now,” McDaniel said. As older immigrants age and die, they will be replaced by new immigrants, changing and enriching the threads that make up the country’s multicultural fabric.

Between 2006 and 2011, around 1,162,900 foreign-born people immigrated to Canada.

Coming to a new country can be an overwhelming and challenging experience.

Why is it so stressful?

  • Feelings of loss
  • Parting from family
  • Language difficulties
  • Finding employment, housing, and education
  • Culture Shock
  • Enduring abuse, domestic violence and discrimination
  • Lack of understanding of healthcare system

Acculturative stress: My daughter is becoming too “Canadian”! I can no
longer relate to her!
Trauma: “I left my country at a time of war. Some of those thoughts still
haunt me” (Reena Hamid)
Discrimination: “My father left a great job back home. He now drives a taxi
in Toronto. I see how badly people treat him because his English is poor”
(Vivek Pratak)

Adjusting to a new culture and language is difficult as it is. Discrimination and multiple traumas (such as war and other types of violence in countries of origin) makes it even tougher. These challenges can weaken and challenge immigrants’ mental well-being. As a result, immigrants and their children can profit greatly from suitable psychological and social understanding and support.

Incorporating one’s culture of origin into one’s culture of new home is known as successful acculturation.

Our professional therapeutic approaches can help you and your children achieve successful acculturation by working with you on the following:

Learning to live with change

Understanding Canadian family law 

Separation from family

PTSD – post traumatic stress disorder or “reaction”

Solving issues within the family

Communicating with partners and children as well as coworkers 

Disciplining styles with children

Handling stress and burdens 

Welcome! At Jeff Packer MSW & Associates Inc., we use effective and culturally valid diagnostic tools sensitive and inclusive enough to account for cultural variability. If you’re looking for confidential and non-judgmental counselling services, book an appointment today.

or… Post-Traumatic Stress “Reaction” (PTSR)

“The anger, the rage, the hurt, and the cold loneliness that separates you from your family, friends, and society’s normal daily routine are so powerful that the option of destroying yourself is both real and attractive….It appears, it grows, it invades and it overpowers you….You cannot put these things behind you…And the more people advise you to do so, the more you get mad because you know these things will not disappear. Time does not help,” (from Lt-Gen. Dallaire; Davison, Neale, Blankstein & Flett, 2002, p. 197).

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is commonly known to be experienced by those who have fought in wars and experienced combat stress; however, it may also occur to individuals exposed to prolonged abuse, trauma, and victimization at home, school, work and in other social situations. Personal tragedy, natural disasters, or overwhelming life experiences also contribute to suffering and potentially being diagnosed with PTSD. The term “reaction” has been used increasingly over more recent years with symptoms following after trauma.

When we are exposed to difficult situations, it can sometimes feel unbearable to cope with. Excessive memory loss, increased doubt and insecurity, thoughts that bad things are inevitable, trouble sleeping and eating are just a few symptoms of excessive stress. At times, our family and friends may develop unrealistic expectations that we are “strong enough” to overcome life’s challenges. This may inhibit sufferers of PTSD from seeking help and being able to move forward. Living with untreated or under-treated PTSD, people may subsequently, over time, “experience problems with anxiety, depression, anger, guilt, substance abuse (as a means of self-medicating), marital problems, poor physical health, and occupational impairment” (Blankstein, et al.).

Feeling stuck in this dark place, as Lt-Gen. Dallaire describes above, can make us feel like there is no way out. We may be reliving traumatic experiences on a daily basis and not realize that there are ways to overcome the situation differently—ways to cope, ways to feel loved and supported (not shameful or guilty).

One-to-one therapy can help address the specific needs of an individual with PTSD. Group therapy may create a space of support for those also suffering with PTSD; being in the “same boat” with others who are able to relate to similar symptoms and experiences. Together, both individual counselling and support groups can help individuals overcome the symptoms and impact of severe trauma and regain a positive perspective on life. Call us today for an appointment and additional resources to assist you.

Horrendous secrets many people carry for months, years, decades and maybe even to their grave can lead to debilitating stress. This can result in what many people call a “break-down”.  It was historically referred to as a “nervous breakdown”, “hysteria” and “shell shock”.

I like to call it a “letting out“, in what may appear like sudden release of the awful trauma from the past. The information may be considered held in the background of the mind until the person suffering is better equipped to deal with it. It can take years to reach the point of release. When the abuse and violence happens during childhood, it is quite common to keep it secret; possibly not wanting further upset in the family, because of embarrassment, confusion, shame and guilt or simply because the child has no way of dealing with this at their age and stage.

This is a very serious psychological dilemma, a catch twenty-two. Victims are caught between two very stressful choices: speak up or not?

Studies show as many as one in four girls and one in six boys experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of eighteen. Not only is the offending behaviour severely troubling at the time, in the years that follow there is usually increase in emotional upset and imbalance. Negative thoughts can gradually increase with one’s heightened awareness of the nature of such an offence, the stigma associated and throughout the subsequent stages of sexual development.  

Of course, with the negative thoughts, or what I reframe as “stinkin thinkin“, comes negative emotional states and the negative behavioural patterns are not far behind. Those suffering from what Judith Herman (Trauma and Recovery, 1992) first called post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (or reaction – PTSR) may display symptoms often related to depression or anxiety, may engage in harmful and hurtful “risk-taking” behaviours, substance misuse and experience severe and chronic difficulties with relationships.

If you have experienced such a trauma, and feel ready and able to work on this obstacle to growth, I encourage you to seek out a specialized professional counsellor for assistance. There are also good books and resources to use in combination with recovery and restorative therapy. For more information on this and other issues  Contact us today