The Ventral Vagal
Expert advice by veteran Family Therapist and Psychologist
For many years, the autonomic nervous system was thought to be the sympathetic nervous system in balance with the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic revved the body up and the parasympathetic calmed it down.
Dr. Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory changed all that. As I am just summarizing the polyvagal theory, if you want more thorough information, just google Polyvagal theory.
Dr. Porges discovered that the parasympathetic system is composed of two branches of the vagus nerve which arise from different areas of the brain.
The unmyelinated branch is an ancient system found also in reptiles. Its action is below the diaphragm. Myelin is the outer coating of a nerve which allows it to transmit impulses more efficiently. This branch lacks myelin.
The ventral vagus which we are interested in is found only in mammals and it is myelinated. It arises from the brain very close to the area that stimulates the face muscles and voice box. Stimulation of the ventral vagal allows up to be more relational.
When we are threatened the responses come down the development chain starting with the most developed.
- Smile and try and act pleasant to defuse the situation.
- If that doesn’t work, we prepare for fight or flight.
- If that doesn’t work, the body may go into freeze mode. Freeze dulls pain if we are attacked and if the predator relaxes its grip it gives us a chance to escape.
This is all below the level of consciousness. We do not have voluntary control over these responses.
It is possible with chronic stress to get stuck in fight or flight or freeze. It is also possible to alternate between them.
The signs of hyper-arousal (fight or flight)
|Exaggerated startle reaction||Outbursts of anger|
|Feelings of panic and anxiety||Insomnia|
|Reduced tolerance for pain||Fatigue|
|Difficulty concentrating||Constantly being on guard.|
|Feelings of electricity going through your body especially the legs. (feelings of bugs under the skin||Frequent urination|
The signs of hypo-arousal (freeze) are:
- Feelings of being hopeless and helpless
- Dissociating into daydreaming, or into a book where you are startled if someone calls or touches you.
- Just wanting to be in a dark room, lying in bed with the covers pulled over your head.
- We can alternate between these two states.
Stimulating the Ventral Vagus.
The only way out of these states is to activate the ventral vagal (relational) nerve.
There is two-way traffic in this nerve. Many signals come from our internal organs and travel up the vagus to the brain. This is the “gut feelings” that we get.
Signals travel back down the ventral vagus to have a calming effect.
There are some experiments being done with electrical stimulation of the ventral vagus for depression and epilepsy.
While we can’t do that, there are things we can do for ourselves to stimulate the ventral vagus.
What We Can do at Home to Stimulate the Ventral Vagus:
Remember, safety above all. If you do not feel safe, it is below the level of conscious response, and the ventral vagal will not activate.
- Values: Friends, family good health and generosity are essential.
- Being creative: Whether through writing, art, acting, singing or dancing.
- Prolonged exhale is the best way to stimulate the ventral vagus. If you haven’t seen the video I usually make available, then follow the instructions for conscious breathing which will follow.
- Conscious Breathing: The breath is one of the fastest ways to influence our nervous system. The vagus nerve is stimulated when the breath is slowed from our usual 10-14 breaths per minute to 5-7 breaths per minute. Breathe in through your nose and give a very prolonged exhale through the mouth. Like you are saying AAH!
- Valsalva Maneuver: This involves attempting to exhale against a closed airway. You can do this by keeping your mouth closed and pinching your nose while trying to breathe out. This increases the pressure inside of your chest cavity increasing vagal tone.
- Diving Reflex: Considered a first rate vagus nerve stimulating technique, splashing cold water on your face from your lips to your scalp line stimulates the diving reflex. You can also achieve the nervous system cooling effects by placing ice cubes in a ziplock bag and holding the ice against your face and briefly hold your breath. The diving reflex slows your heart rate, increases blood flow to your brain, reduces anger and relaxes your body. An additional technique that stimulates the diving response is to submerge your tongue in liquid. Drink and hold lukewarm water in your mouth sensing the water with your tongue.
- The Butterfly Hug: The butterfly hug is a soothing gesture you can do anytime. Wrap your arms around your body at the level of the shoulders. Alternating pat one shoulder and then the other until you feel calm.
- Connection and Feeling Safe: Reach out for relationship. Healthy connection to others can initiate regulation of our body and mind. Relationships can evoke the spirit of playfulness and creativity or can relax us into a trusting bond with one another. While it is most effective in person, connection can be made through the phone or texts or social media. Texting only becomes a problem when it is used to avoid person to person contact.
This is a very simplified version of Dr. Porges polyvagal theory.
Contact Janette Strokappe for online counseling support
Relevance of Family Meetings
Expert advice by veteran Family Therapist and Psychologist
I work a lot with children and their families. The biggest complaint I get from parents is about the disrespect and arguing over doing chores. I strongly recommend no arguing with children, especially teenagers. That is a fool’s game. I would tell any child being disrespectful; you can talk to me when you are willing to talk to me respectfully. I would then disengage.
Instead I recommend monthly family meetings, more often if an emergency arises. These meetings are scheduled and everyone in the family attends, and there are no interruptions allowed. This is our time to talk about how the family is doing, and the children have a say.
We talk about who does what. Chores are assigned according to age. Even very little children can take their dirty dishes to the sink. Older children must realize that the little guys cannot do as much as they can, and that the day will come for the little guys as well.
I don’t recommend consequences for young children. I like behaviour charts where the children can mark down when they have completed a chore. This is done with a star or little sticker just to make it more fun. At the end of the week, if the chart is full, they get to pick the Saturday night video or what the family will be having for Saturday night supper. They do not get an expensive gift.
For children with ADHD, sometimes they need to see the reward before they will work for it. For these children I would make up a little treasure chest of things from the dollar store so the child can see the prize. If they complete chores as agreed upon, they get to pick one thing.
There are three things to remember about chores. First, the parent should demonstrate what they are looking for in, for example, a clean bedroom. Too many times, I have had kids tell me that they will clean the bedroom and mum or dad will say, “That’s not good enough”, but never explain why. The parent has to demonstrate what a clean bedroom looks like. Also putting things away properly, and what do they have to do for the parent to decide the bedroom has been cleaned properly. Is a clean bedroom, all the clothes put away properly, and nothing shoved under the bed?
The second thing is how many days a chore has to be done to get the privilege at the end of the week. Is it 5 out of 7, 7 out of 7. This is decided at the family meeting.
Thirdly, a time limit has to be set on the chore. Does the garbage have to be emptied by 6 o’clock in the evening?
We do make exceptions for special occasions. With our own children, mum and dad covered the chores if the child had a party or a concert. However, if the child wants to take on a sport where they need to attend once or twice a week, this has to be decided at the family meeting, so chores can be discussed again.
With older children, we use consequences. By that I mean removed privileges. Consequences need to be immediate and appropriate. We do not tell children that they can’t watch next week’s game. Instead it must be immediate. The consequence has to happen tonight. We don’t take away the European trip they have been planning for two years with the school.
Children get to have a say in what the consequence will be. If it is losing the phone, then the decision is for how long. If it is not playing video games for a day, then the computer, laptops, tablets and phones have to be turned over.
If the parents set consequences, then they must follow through. Parents must never undermine one another. If a consequence has been agreed upon, then both parents must support one another to make sure it happens.
What are the exceptions? If the family has been away for the weekend, having fun at a sport or just doing things together, we do not tell children to do chores the minute they walk in the door. The same goes for a teenager that has just played at a music competition, participated in the science fair or played in a sports tournament; we do not tell them “you’ve had your fun, now do your chores”. We savor the good times with them. Chores can wait until tomorrow, unless the dog needs to go outside.
Caroline Artley, LCSW-C is among the newest faces on Proventherapy.com, a site that provides a virtual office for individuals to meet professional clinicians to work out their problems.
Press Release: WHITE MARSH, Md. – Feb. 2, 2016 – PRLog — Caroline attended a Christian college to learn how to help people from a faith perspective, then she moved on to public graduate school for in-depth, rigorous instruction on diagnostic formulation and clinical intervention. She credits her undergraduate work with helping her to appreciate the intrinsic value of all people.
Caroline has worked with individuals aged 3-101, as well as the parents, siblings, adult children, and other caregivers involved. As a Therapist in the public mental health system for almost 10 years, she has treated a wide variety of issues ranging from mild anxiety and low self-esteem, to severe depression, unresolved trauma, grief/loss, and personality disorders. Additionally, as a Medical Social Worker for four years, she has counseled adult children of medically fragile patients through maintaining healthy family relationships and pre-grief. Working in such dynamic fields, she has been exposed to diversity of populations with multifaceted needs. Such exposure reminds her there can be many layers to one problem, requiring a lot of hard work and partnering with the client to achieve his/her goals. So, she opens up her virtual clinic at https://www.proventherapy.com to extend that healing touch through highly secured live and email channels.
Sessions with Caroline employ cognitive-behavioral, narrative, solution-focused, and family systems theories. But that is not all. She believes the relationship forged between the client and clinician is of paramount importance in the therapeutic process. She believes every person is different, every problem is different, and so the pathway to recovery must adapt to meet the person where they are.
“I incorporate pauses in our sessions from time to time, to check in with how the client feels about his/her progress. My clients’ problems often did not arise overnight, and they will not likely resolve so quickly either. At times this can feel discouraging to clients who simply want to feel better and move on with their lives. I like to continually ‘leave the door open’ for clients to be honest about the process of therapy.”
Addiction – Biological and Neurological Causes
An academic paper by
This paper is about the biological and neurological causes of addiction, how it affects many people, and systems of the body that are affected.
The category that addiction best falls into is a behavioral syndrome, noted for compulsive drug use with relapse into more drug use. Addiction can happen without being physically dependent, and physical dependency can happen without being addicted (Spanagel & Heilig, 2005). For the past 20 years scientists have looked at positive drug reinforcement as what lies beneath addictions. According to Spanagel & Heilig (2005), other neuronal systems must aid in addictive behavior, all systems work together. This means that one system affects the other. One of these systems, which detect influencing environmental stimuli, is the mesolimbic dopamine system, which affects the core brain reinforcement system. The hypothesis for the neurobiology of addiction is that there are changes on the molecular and structural levels that are irreversible, caused by the dopaminergic reinforcement system having synaptic plasticity, due to constant drug use. (Spanagel & Heilig, 2005). Scientists seem to think that there is some kind of modular switch that explains the irreversible transition from controlled drug use to compulsive drug use. These scientists say “It has been claimed that transcription factors such as “AFosB” may constitute such a molecular switch” (Spanagel & Heilig, 2005, p. 2). This transition factor builds up in the mesolimbic dopamine system with continuous drug use. However a modulator of transcription factors is Per2 and that does remain in the brain for quite a few weeks after drug treatment. Some change in the mesolimbic dopamine system that is irreversible that has been seen is the micro structural alterations on the dendrites of medium spiny neurons, which are the essential cell population inside the mesolimbic dopamine system. However, that change is not seen past 3 months after drug treatment ends. That contradicts the irreversible switch theory of moving from controlled drug use to compulsive drug use (Spanagel & Heilig, 2005).
Schepis, Adinoff, & Rao, state that adolescents are more persistently and acutely affected by addiction than are adults. These differences possibly have to do with neuroplastic changes that aid entrenchment and accelerated use, which leads to more neurobiological liability and SUD (substance use disorder) being great factors as the outcome (Schepis et al., 2008). This study also shows that adolescents with a family history of substance use are more likely to have neurobiological and neurobehavioral dysfunctions (Schepis et al., 2008). Adolescence is the period when most neurons grow. Neurocognitive functions such as decisions, monitoring oneself, controlling impulses, and gratification delay, are relative to the PFC (prefrontal cortex) and the anterior cingulate activity; these things seem to be affected by changes in pretty much all of the neurotransmitter systems. The most important factors in becoming a SUD are alterations in the dopamine related systems. Dopamine is a key factor in the mesolimbic neural pathways (Schepis et al., 2008). According to Schepis et al., “This circuit originates in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and projects to the nucleus accumbens (NAc) and various limbic structures” (p. 8). A variety of environmental reinforcers trigger the mesostriatal to release dopamine (DA). In order to assign value to these reinforcing stimuli, there needs to be an increase in striatal concentrations of DA (Schepis et al., 2008).
In an article about SUD by Taylor, he explains Gray’s behavioral inhibition system (BIS) and the behavioral activation system (BAS), which, may be seen in the physiological reactions and shown in the psychopathology. Gray also says that the neural structure of the BIS incorporates information to the prefrontal cortex (PFC), and the neural structure of the BAS could be related to the dopaminergic reward circuit (Taylor, 2005).
Love passion, what some people consider an addiction, has neurobiological links with addiction. In love passion, neurochemicals that play a part in wanting that feeling all the time are dopamine, ocytocin, and vasopressin. Dopamine plays a major role in addictions. Other neurotransmitter systems that are common between addiction and love passion are GABA and glutamate, noradrenaline and serotonin, opioid, and cannabinnoid. These are implicated in the addiction process, as is the corticotrophin system that regulates the oxytocinergic and dopaminergic systems (Reynaud, Karila, Blecha, & Benyamina, 2010). Even though love passion is not considered to have a recognized definition or diagnosis criteria, it is very similar to addiction.
Alcohol affects GABAA receptors and a subtype of glutamate receptors called N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA). These neurotransmitters control the excitatory tone and activity of the brain. GABA is the inhibitory neurotransmitter and glutamate is the excitatory neurotransmitter (Devaud, Risinger, & Selvage, 2006). Incoordination, reduced nervousness, anticonvulsant, and relaxation, the symptoms of intoxication, are partly controlled by coming across these neurotransmitter systems. These actions show how the central nervous system (CNS) reacts to more GABAergic activity and less glutmatergic activity (Devaud, et al., 2006). GABAA and NMDA receptors are part of a larger receptor family and each has their own protein make-up. The different neurological responses are due to the combination of the different receptors. Men and women have a different chemical make-up as far as systems go. The difference between men and women when they drink is in the brain- and endocrine-mediated stress reactions. Men take the flight or fight response, whereas women tend to try to nurture the other and avoid aggressiveness (Devaud et al., 2006).
Another test shows that substance use and most psychiatric disorders are common and complex and have multiple genes that play into the phenotype, which show no pattern of Mendelian transmissions. There are two parallel mechanisms that influence this genetic complexity. One is the explanation of polygenicity, which means many genes come together at the same time to ensure vulnerability. In SUD, the genes that might be involved are genes related to drug-specific metabolism, neurobiological processes regulators similar to all abused drugs, and some that comorbidity-related that change environmental vulnerability. The second parallel mechanism that influences genetic complexity is heterogeneity, which shows that it is only one genetic variation that could make up a single specific phenotype that could be needed for the initiation and possibly the upkeep of addictions (Schumann, 2007).
Different people have different chemical make-ups, so everyone, more than likely, will have different effects from addictions. The many different receptors bind with different chemicals; if there is some disruption of that binding, many different affects could happen. Some people simply do not to become addicted to things, where others become addicted very easily. It is all in how chemicals bind together with the receptors, and apparently in the genetics.
Alcoholism is a terrible addiction that has been shown to be passed down from generation to generation. People who have a history of alcohol abuse in their family, have a greater chance of using themselves. According to previous studies Hanson, Medina, Nagel, Spadoni, Gorlick, and Tapert, (2010) hypothesis says that there is a difference in the size of the hippocampus of adolescents with a family history alcohol use problems and those adolescents who do not have a history of alcohol use issues. When the hippocampi of non-drinking youth with a family history of alcohol use was compared with youth who did not have a history of alcohol use in the family, those who had the history had smaller hippocampi or asymmetry that was abnormal (Hanson et al., 2010). The hippocampus is involved in making new memories. There is ongoing myelination in teen years, so if there is a problem with family history of alcohol use, then there will no doubt be a neurodevelopmental lag that hinders the proper growth of the left and right hemispheres of the hippocampus (Hanson et al., 2010). From their own preliminary findings, their hypothesis found not to be correct. Hanson et al. (2010) found that the hippocampal asymmetry was the same for youth with and without a family history of alcohol use.
Slutske et al. (2002) looked at four different studies on alcohol expectancies. Out of those four, three of them were done on twins. All of the participants of these studies were experienced drinkers (Slutske et al., 2002). What people expect of alcohol starts when they are young. Children see adults drink all the time, whether it is on the television, the radio, in a restaurant, or, sadly enough, in their own homes. From these experiences we can see how others are affected by alcohol. They look like they are having a lot of fun. Whether they are laid back and relaxed, laughing hysterically, or not afraid of anything, almost superhero type, so we expect what we see to happen to us. With that in mind we start to drink. Those who have a family history may start sooner than others, because they were exposed to it much younger and on a regular basis. In a recent study Slutske et al. (2002), examined how genetics, parents’ thoughts, and the same peer groups, affected thoughts of alcohol use, compared to thoughts of alcohol use with factors that are unrelated, peer groups that are not the same. What they came up with from this study, was that genetics alone did not make a significant difference, but when added to the family environment, together they made a huge difference on how people thought of alcohol and its use (Slutske et al., 2002). The thought here is that the social learning theory has more to do with alcohol use and dependence than does only genetics.
The ethanol in alcohol effects the predisposition of abuse and dependence. The way neural pathways are activated or deactivated by alcohol. With this in mind, research has turned to pharmacology, where medications affect cellular and physiological levels in the brain (Ray et al., 2010). These endophenotypes affect the subjective responses of alcohol, therefore may work to help treat alcoholism. The medication that is approved by the FDA has shown to lessen the good feelings of the alcohol, bring out more of the fatigue, stress, and confusion felt by alcohol use, therefore lowering the enjoyment (Ray et al., 2010).
Carlson (2010) explains that there are variations of genes that do play a big role in becoming addicted to substances. Environment also has a lot to do with whether you become dependent or not. He also goes on to explain that being prone to becoming an addict could be how your body metabolizes substances or by how the structures and biochemistries in your brain differ (Carlson, 2010).
A cause for alcoholism could be that the person is predisposed to the genetics of an alcoholic. However, just because you may be predisposed to alcoholism does not mean you will automatically become an alcoholic yourself. It may take outside factors to play a role in becoming an alcoholic. Coming from a line of alcoholics and seeing it every day, may have great impact on how you see the disease. Having friends that you spend most of your time with, could also have a great impact on whether or not you drink. A trusted friend, colleague, boss, or family member may offer you a drink to calm down, and it works, you like it, therefore you use it to chase away the blues or your bad day. You repeat these feelings of being alright enough that you now need it to get through your day. You become addicted.
Carlson, N. R. (2010). Physiology of behavior (10th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.
Devaud, L. L., Risinger, F. O., & Selvage, D. (2006). Impact of the hormonal milieu on the neurobiology of alcohol dependence and withdrawal. Journal of General Psychology, 133(4), 337-356. doi:10.3200/GENP.133.4.337-356
Hanson, K. L., Medina, K., Nagel, B. J., Spadoni, A. D., Gorlick, A., & Tapert, S. F. (2010). Hippocampal volumes in adolescents with and without a family history of alcoholism. American Journal of Drug & Alcohol Abuse, 36(3), 161-167. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Ray, L. A., Mackillop, J., & Monti, P. M. (2010). Subjective responses to alcohol consumption as endophenotypes: Advancing behavioral genetics in etiological and treatment models of alcoholism. Substance Use & Misuse, 45(11), 1742-1765. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Reynaud, M., Karila, L., Blecha, L., & Benyamina, A. (2010). Is love passion an addictive disorder? The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 36(5), 261-267. doi:10.3109/00952990.2010.495183
Schepis, T. S., Adinoff, B., & Rao, U. (2008). Neurobiological processes in adolescent addictive disorders. The American Journal on Addictions, 17(1), 6-23. doi:10.1080/10550490701756146
Schumann, G. (2007). Okey lecture 2006: Identifying the neurobiological mechanisms of addictive behaviour. Addiction, 102(11), 1689-1695. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2007.01942.x
Slutske, W. S., Cronk, N. J., Sher, K. J., Madden, P. F., Bucholz, K. K., & Heath, A. C. (2002). Genes, environment and individual differences in alcohol expectancies among female adolescents and young adults. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 16(4), 308-317. doi:10.1037/0893-164X.16.4.308
Spanagel, R., & Heilig, M. (2005). Addiction and its brain science. Addiction, 100(12), 1813-1822. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2005.01260.x
Taylor, J. (2005). Substance use disorders and cluster B personality disorders: Physiological, cognitive, and environmental correlates in a college sample. American Journal of Drug & Alcohol Abuse, 31(3), 515-535.
Certified Counselor, Fellow of the American Association of Philosophical Practitioners
LOVE AND SELF-LOVE
Sometimes it is said that our capacity to love others depends on our ability to love ourselves — the capacity for self-love. This may or may not be so. However our capacity for self-love is certainly a precondition for our ability to live good lives. As a part of leading a good life is feeling good, the ability to love ourselves healthily is an essential part of our overall mental and emotional well-being.
Counselors see many clients with problems relating to love, and most describe their difficulties and pain as arising from love (or absence of love) for and by others. However, these same counselors often see that the same people have issues with self-love. The culture in which we love is highly conducive to all kinds of problems with self-love. We share norms and values of our communities which are based on concepts such as duty and obligation: our self-esteem and our recognition by others are often predicated upon our ability to meet the community’s expectations. We work increasingly long hours and spend an increasingly large proportion of our overall mental energy on work-related issues. Our private lives suffer, but along with private lives, our ability to adequately appreciate ourselves is also damaged.
Alain de Botton once wrote that our self-esteem is a direct result of the relationship between the community’s expectations which we accept, and our ability to perform and achieve various goals. The epidemic of low self-esteem and depression, which in many cases bears strong links with low self-esteem, according to Botton, lies in the fact that, while our resources to achieve various goals rise with time (we have more technology, for example) at the same time the community’s expectations rise much faster. The result is seemingly paradoxical: while with the passage of time, as we grow older in our civilizations, we are able to accomplish more thinks, at the same time with time we feel under increasing pressure, less worthy and less able to meet the demands that are placed upon us. The result is that 20+ million people take antidepressants, and many do not take them as medication for depression, but rather as an ‘enhancement drug’: a drug that helps them perform better in the face of everyday adversity which is made up by the ever rising expectations that they wake up to each morning. We are expected to do more things, and to do them with a smile. At the same time, our own inner suffering often goes not only unrecognized, but unapproved of: one is not really expected to pay much attention to one’s own pain and sadness, because that diminishes one’s ability to be a ‘productive member of society’. The result: an epidemic of unhappiness.
As someone said, we end up spending a large part of our day in cars which we are indebted for, but we need them in order to get to our jobs, which we may not love but we need them to make payments for our houses, in which we spend almost no time. It is no wander that ‘popping up’ an antidepressant along with the daily multivitamin comes to us naturally. It is difficult to love oneself if your day is such that you constantly work to meet the next expectation which, in fact, has nothing to do with who you are. Finally, it is very hard to feel content and plan a ‘good life’ for yourself, if your day is such that the only time when you can actually think about what a good life is for you is the half-an-hour before you fall asleep, without a notebook, a freshness of mind and morning optimism to look into the future with clear eyes.
How, then, do we love ourselves? Is there a method which we could remember, practice, or learn?
The method is the same as in loving others. Love is fundamentally an acceptance of the totality of another person. Love is not exhilaration, and it is not a positive pleasant emotions which lasts all the time. Love is a relationship with another person: the ability to appreciate their presence and the ability to adopt an awareness that we love them even when they irritate us, where this realization enriches us ‘on the inside’. I think that this means that love is basically a recognition of another person as significant to us — sufficiently so to become part of our life plan. Emotions play an important part in this type of relationship, but they are not all of it. German philosopher Axel Honneth argued that ‘recognition’ is a basic requirement for our identity, for our personhood, and our mental well-being. Sufficient recognition of someone else — as a lover, friend, human being and companion — amounts to love. The same principle applies to self-love. It is impossible to love ourselves if we do not recognize ourselves in all those capacities in which we recognize our lovers.
But what does this all mean in specific situations, when we face the pain or anxiety or the numbness of depression? How do we approach the difficult process of building self-love?
Consider the way to learn to love another person. We do this each time when we fall in love. The first phase is that you actually dedicate some of your time and attention to that person. You notice someone, and then you think about them. Sometimes you are immediately struck by them and become attracted to them, but more often than not falling in love requires that we ‘maul over’ someone as a candidate to become part of our lives, as well as about ways to approach them and win them over for ourselves.
Psychology operates with a concept of catexis, or mental energy. It is assumed that we all have a limited amount of catexis. According to some theories, catexis is generated by emotions, however I think that it is more useful to think of catexis as our general mental energy which derives from all mental processes and is at the same time consumed by other processes. After all, we are all familiar with the colloquial concept of ‘charging our batteries’ when we rest and do things that replenish our mental and physical energy, things that contribute to our well-being and prepare us for future trying situations. This, in the broad sense, is what catexis is.
When we fall in love with someone, we dedicate a considerable part of our overall catexis to that person. When we are young we spend sleepless nights thinking and fantasizing about them; when we are more mature we consider ways in which we could get to know them as persons and establish a relationship with them which would be best for the both of us, if not as lovers than as friends. There are innumerable ways in which we spend our catexis and time preparing ourselves to invite someone into our lives. This process is so demanding that sometimes it takes all of our time and energy: some people, when they are at a start of a relationship, find it difficult to work and meet their other commitments, because love takes so much of their energy. This is at the same time the reason why we are so often alone in the modern circumstances where we have so little time for our private lives. Some of us just cannot find time and energy to go out, to meet others, to dress up, maintain a casual and positive conversation, project good energy and optimism about the future — all these things are necessary for the start of a healthy new relationship.
The same reason makes it difficult for us to establish self-love. To do so, we need to think about ourselves and consider what kind of person we really are: which aspects of our personality are worthy of love by our own standards, and what a person like us would be able to give others as a lover, friend, colleague, neighbor, or parent. In other words, to establish self-love we need to understand ourselves and become interested in ourselves in exactly the same way in which, in order to love someone else, we first must become interested in them. And to become interested either in ourselves or in others we need sufficient catexis, sufficient inner resources in terms of mental processes, energy and time, to dedicate to the one we love, whether it is another person or ourselves.
Sometimes it is impossible to get to know yourself without a mirror. More often than not, that mirror needs to be both critical and supportive, both objective and able to provide creative interpretations. Especially in the circumstances where we have learned to forget about ourselves and have become accustomed to felling low because of it, ‘popping up a pill’ to get through the day, the aid of a mirror is a vital need without which we might flounder: our quality of life, our mental well-being, and our idea of the good life might all become lost in the murky reality of a depressing daily routine.
The mirror, the self-reflective tool, the beacon which guides us out of the murky waters, then, is counseling. In this sense, counseling is a tool to illuminate the way towards self-love, and self-love is a step in the direction of finding love in general. Finally, once we are able to feel love for ourselves and for others, we are pretty much in the clear of depression. The philosophical concept for this final outcome is ‘the good life’. It is probably a reasonable assumption that we all seek the good life, and it is probably fair to say that most of us never find it.
Good counseling is always about love. In fact, some philosophers describe good counseling as a loving relationship in itself. It is always empowering. And it always, whether we are immediately aware of it or not, leads to a better life, if not to an entirely ‘good life’.
Want to consult Prof. Fatic for your counseling needs? Please visit his online counseling clinic.
Spirituality in Psychology
An academic paper by
This paper is about exploring the use of spirituality in the practice of psychology and how it could potentially strengthen their bond with their patients. There could be a better understanding of issues and treatment if spirituality were apart of therapeutic practices.
Psychology got its start in ancient times from philosophy. Psychology remained part of philosophy until nineteenth century (Leahey, 2004). Here we have the beginning of the mind-body problem. To some the mind was our essence and the body a mere vessel. When the physical body died, the soul moved on to an afterlife (Leahey, 2004). The soul (mind) has the spiritual world knowledge, whereas the body has the physical world knowledge (Leahey, 2004).
Everybody but atheists, have a faith that they follow. It has been addressed that psychologist show gain education and knowledge as to the role that religion and spirituality plays on personal factors (Shafranske, 2010). There was an introduction of value in different consciousness in therapeutic practices. It is very important for the therapist to integrate the patients’ spirituality in the course of interventions (Shafranske, 2010). It is also important to take into consideration the personal and professional influences of inspiration from the therapists’ point of view. This can greatly impact how the therapist entices the patient to open up, and help the therapist to relate better to the patient (Shafranske, 2010). “This leads to an associated point: Given the lack of attention given to the religious and spiritual dimension in most psychology training, how prepared are clinicians to be mindful of the potential impacts their religious and spiritual commitments have on their professional practice, to appropriately and ethically integrate spirituality in psychological treatment, or respond to emergent transcendent experiences” (Shafranske, 2010, pp. 125)? This seems to mean that therapists should have the understanding to be able to mindfully talk about spirituality in their practice and treatment plans for their patients.
Spirituality is hard to define, but it has been explained a few ways. One is that spirituality can be called one’s highest or ultimate values or reality, and the relationship one has with those realities or values (Braud, 2009). A second way is the belonging or link to the transcendental ground of being. Another is how people relate to God, other humans, or Earth. Some refer to it as how committed one is to practicing a particular faith. However, it is important to distinguish between healthy practices and beliefs and ones that are unhealthy to well-being (Braud, 2009). Yet another general term by Lindholm and Astin is involving the process inside when you look for personal authenticity, wholeness, and genuineness; transcending one’s center, having a deeper sense of connecting to self and others from having relationships and community, having meaning, direction, and purpose in life, being open enough to the possibility of a relationship with a higher being that is above human existence and knowing, and having a value for the sacred (Braud, 2009). There are other definitions of spirituality for femininity and other cultures. But they were not included in the ones above.
There is a relatively new field of psychology called transpersonal psychology. In addition to conventional ways, transpersonal psychologists use heuristic research, intuitive inquiry, organic inquiry, and integral inquiry. These are depicted in these psychologists by a higher level of integration and inclusiveness in the whole person, more variety of benefits and functions in a session, sources of inspiration, more ways of knowing, topics and questions researched, different ways of gathering, using, and explaining information, including epistemology and ontology, and ethical thoughts and values that are relevant (Braud, 2009). This gives a broader perspective of all aspects of the issues at hand.
When we think in terms of helping people with their psychological issues, it just makes sense to include everything you possibly can to understand what the patient is going through and how they see thing possibly running their course. Because a lot of people do follow some sort of faith, it is important for the therapist to know as much as possible about their patient’s spirituality, in order to help them the best way possible and include every aspect of that person as a whole. Having this knowledge will provide the best treatment plan for that specific patient.
Braud, W. (2009). Dragons, spheres, and flashlights: appropriate research approaches for studying workplace spirituality. Journal Of Management, Spirituality & Religion, 6(1), 59-75.
Leahey, T. H. (2004). A history of psychology: Main currents in psychological thought (6th ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Shafranske, E. P. (2010). Advancing “the boldest model yet”: A commentary on psychology, religion, and spirituality. Psychology Of Religion And Spirituality, 2(2), 124-125.
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Women and addiction
An academic paper by
This paper will look at women and addiction. Women have differences in treatment from men, so this paper will examine the differences between the etiology of addiction in men and women. Because men and women differ on many things, we will also look at the specific needs of women in treatment. This paper will discuss both the good and bad aspects of using single and co-ed gender groups in treatment. In addition, this paper will also see the co-occurring issues women face when they are in treatment.
Men and women differ in their makeup. When men and women drink the same amount of alcohol, even when the body weight is calculated for, women have a higher blood alcohol level (Frances, Miller, & Mack, 2005). Men have more body water and less body fat than do women. Men also have more alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), which is an enzyme in the gastric mucosa. This enzyme increases the metabolism of alcohol in the stomach, therefore allowing less to pass into the bloodstream (Frances et al., 2005). Women have a faster metabolism when it comes to alcohol, less of a tolerance for it, and their blood alcohol concentrations have great variability. These factors lead to more unpredictable reactions to alcohol that are more intense. A lot of the differences come from the differences in our blood. Women have menstrual cycles; therefore the plasma levels vary depending on the time of the month. When it comes down to the environment vs. genetics thoughts, it appears that women are more susceptible to environmental factors and men are more likely to have genetic factors influencing them (Frances et al., 2005).
There are few same-gender programs, but the few that there are have programs to meet the specific needs that women have, such as those that have dependent children. There is also a growing concern for older women who have not had addiction problems in the past; those who have lost many people they love, have declining health, and have access to prescription drugs, may fall into addiction. Women who are retiring may be lost and confused now that they do not feel they have meaning in their life (Matheson, 2008).
One concern that has been reported by women when in a treatment program that is co-ed is that they are afraid of being a target and being harassed sexually by the male staff members and the males in the group; this is a concern because there is still such a bad stigma attached to females with addictive disorders and who are in treatment (Matheson, 2008).
Women face many problems other than their addiction when they seek treatment. In the past, when women had a problem with addiction, their families tried to keep them secluded and out of the treatment setting. Many families figured that in isolation, the woman’s problem would just go away (Wechsberg, Luseno, and Ellerson, 2008). Very often when a woman did finally get to attend a treatment program, she already had poor mental and physical health. Not to mention the fact that the women had to still care for their families and could not leave home. Many have issues with transportation and child care. According to Najavits, Rosier, Nolan, and Freeman, 2007, women have more health problems related to substance use disorders (SUD), they are, higher rates of death, co-occurring mental health disorders, more stigma and social isolation, and get addicted quicker. Depression often occurs with substance use and women, clinicians need to determine with is the primary problem, and which the secondary is. The question to be answered is whether depression lead to abuse or abuse lead to depression. Often if the abuse lead to the depression, depressive symptoms diminish when substance use decreases (Frances et al., 2005). Women more often seek medical help for things such as anxiety, depression, infertility, sleeplessness, peptic ulcers, and hypertension. When a woman complains of these things, the clinician should delve deeper into whether or not the woman has an alcohol or drug problem (Frances et al., 2005).
It seems women benefit more from a same-gender treatment center setting. Women can feel safer and receive care that is specifically tailored to meet their needs. They can be with others who understand exactly what they are going through. Same sex clinicians would also benefit women with addiction problems, they can feel more comfortable talking with another women, this way they do not fear the judgment and thoughts of a man who they may feel sees them as promiscuous, asking for it, a slut, or a monster (Wechsberg et al., 2008).
There seems to be a great need for more funding and services for just women with addictions. They have many more needs as do their male counter parts. For the most part men with addictions do not need to seek care for children to attend a treatment program. Since males are generally the bread winners, they often have benefits to help them cover cost for treatments. Less fortunate women most often do not get the medical help they need because they do not have access to it. We, for the best interest of this world, need to recognize the need for treatment programs that specialize in the problems that women face when they have an addiction and need treatment.
Frances, R. J., Miller, S. I., & Mack, A. H. (Eds). (2005). Clinical textbook of addictive disorders (3rd ed.). New York: Guilford.
Matheson, J. L. (2008). Women’s Issues With Substance Use, Misuse, and Addictions: One Perspective. Substance Use & Misuse, 43(8/9), 1274-1276.
Najavits, L. M., Rosier, M., Nolan, A., & Freeman, M. C. (2007). A New Gender-Based Model for Women’s Recovery From Substance Abuse: Results of a Pilot Outcome Study. American Journal Of Drug & Alcohol Abuse, 33(1), 5-11.
Wechsberg, W. M., Luseno, W., & Ellerson, R. (2008). Reaching Women Substance Abusers in Diverse Settings: Stigma and Access to Treatment 30 Years Later. Substance Use & Misuse, 43(8/9), 1277-1279.
MEMORY AND LEARNING
An academic paper by
This paper is about memory and learning, and how it is connected. This paper will describe the role that memory plays in classical conditioning, instrumental conditioning, and the role it plays in the social learning theory. We all have memories. To learn something may be considered a memory for what was learned. We can learn by being conditioned to respond in a certain way. We can be taught that if we pass our tests in school, we will be rewarded with ice cream, or if we do badly on our tests we will have something taken away, classical conditioning. We can learn from how a situation turns out according to our actions. We can learn that if put things where they belong, we can find more easily, or we can learn that if we leave things just laying around we will have more difficulty finding them again, instrumental conditioning. We can pick things up by just being with other people. If we visit friends or family in the south, we can come home with somewhat of a southern accent, or we might catch ourselves saying things that we would not normally say, social learning theory.
Once you learn something, it is in your memory somewhere. Learning is when you gain knowledge of something (Terry, 2009). Memory is that knowledge that you have acquired that is recalled. Short-term memory is brief and generally forgotten within 15 – 30 seconds if it is not rehearsed. Long-term memory lasts longer and is stored more permanently (Terry, 2009). When you learn something, you just know it, like how to read a map. When you memorize something, you remember it for a specific reason, like a grocery list. Once you use that list, some components from the list disappear and are forgotten.
Learning and memory happen every day whether we realize it or not. We learn and memorize things through classical conditioning, instrumental conditioning, and most definitely through social learning theory. Classical conditioning is when at least two events, possibly more are connected in a relationship. Classical conditioning happens when there is a difference in the response to one of the events, thus showing something was learned (Terry, 2009). In classical conditioning, there are four components and they are acquisition, extinction, generalization, and discrimination. Acquisition occurs when there is a conditioned response to the conditioning event. Memory’s key role in this is that the response is remembered to recall and use again. Extinction occurs when there is no longer a conditioned response to the conditioning event. The role of memory in this component is to remember a different response so the old response disappears. Generalization occurs when there is a generalization of conditioning events to get the same conditioned response. A response is remembered and carried over to other events that are similar. Discrimination occurs when the conditioning events are seen differently and are able to have the conditioned response to the specific conditioning event instead of similar events. Specific events are remembered to elicit that response.
We also learn things through instrumental conditioning. Instrumental conditioning happens when the consequence and action are linked. When there is an action performed, there is always an outcome, so positive and some negative. Both positive and negative outcomes are remembered. We remember the positive outcomes because we like they way we feel, or we like what happens as a result from our actions. We remember the negative outcomes as well because they are negative. We do not like to feel bad, so we remember negative outcomes in order to avoid the actions that create them. People become addicted to substances because they like the way those substances make them feel. Children will do whatever they can; to avoid getting caught in an act that they know will cause them to be punished. Either the child will learn and remember that not performing that action at all, or they will learn a better way to accomplish what they want.
We all learn through social learning whether we want to admit it or not. Some of this social learning is great, and some of the social learning we pick up is not. Memory plays a part in social learning in that, we see our peers do something and they get rewarded for doing it. Others we see do something, we also see get punished for doing so. We remember how our peers were rewarded or punished. We remember these things in order to act in the manner that our peers did, or not to behave like them. In an office setting, we see our coworkers use the company computers for personal things. We see them get away with it by changing the screen when a boss walks by. Therefore, we think we can do the same. But what we may not see, behind the scenes, is that the company is taking measures to keep track of the computer use, to be able to follow websites that are visited and from which computers they originate from. Out of site from others, they may very well be reprimanded. A good social learning is learning from what we see our associates do when confronted with a group of higher administrative personnel. We can learn how their words, facial expressions, and body language affect the outcome of the meeting. We can then recall them so we can do the same when in a similar situation. We can also learn proper etiquette and good manners when in public places by watching how others behave.
Learning and memories happen continuously. We are often conditioned and condition others without realizing it. When we pick a crying child or and over excited puppy, we are conditioning them to continue that behavior. Instrumentally we condition ourselves to eat healthier because we want to look and feel better. Socially we learn so much we do not even know where some things came from. Maybe a friend noticed a different walk you have all of a sudden. We learn all the time. Just think what we could learn if we really paid attention to the things we do, people we see, and the places we go.
Terry, W.S. (2009). Learning & memory: Basic principles, processes, and procedures. (4th ed.) Boston: Pearson.
In a new study conducted by the Sagol Department of Neurobiology at the University of Haifa and published recently in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers report that they’ve found a way to improve memory by manipulating a specific molecule that is known to function poorly in old age and is closely linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
“We know that in Alzheimer’s, this protein, known as PERK, doesn’t function properly. Our success in manipulating its expression without causing any harm to the proper functioning of the brain paves the way for improving memory and perhaps even slowing the pathological development of diseases like Alzheimer’s,” said Prof. Kobi Rosenblum, who heads the lab in which the research was done.
Previous studies at the University of Haifa and other labs throughout the world had shown that the brain’s process of formulating memory is linked to the synthesis of proteins; high rates of protein production will lead to a strong memory that is retained over the long term, while a slow rate of protein production leads to weak memories that are less likely to be impressed on a person’s long-term memory and thus forgotten.
In the current study, the researchers, Dr. Hadile Ounallah-Saad and Dr. Vijendra Sharma, both of whom work in Prof. Rosenblum’s lab at the Sagol Department of Neurobiology, sought to examine the activity of a protein called elF2 alpha, a protein that’s known as the “spigot” or regulator that determines the pace of protein synthesis in the brain during memory formation.
From earlier studies the researchers knew that there are three main molecules that act on the protein and either make it work, or stop it from working. During the first stage they sought to determine the relative importance and the task of each one of the molecules that control the activity of efF2 alpha and as a result, the ability to create memories. After doing tests at the tissue and cell levels, the researchers discovered that the main molecule controlling the efF2 alpha’s activity was the PERK molecule.
“The fact that we identified the PERK as the primary controller had particular significance,” said Dr. Ounallah-Saad. “Firstly, of course, we had identified the dominant component. Secondly, from previous studies we already knew that in generative diseases like Alzheimer’s, PERK performs deficiently. Third, PERK acts on various cells, including neurons, as a monitor and controller of metabolic stress. In other words, we found a molecule that has a major impact on the process of creating and formulating memory, and which we know performs deficiently in people with Alzheimer’s disease.”
During the second stage of the study, the researchers sought to examine whether they could manipulate this molecule in rats in a way that would improve memory. To do this they used two accepted methods, one using a drug called a small-molecule inhibitor and the other making a genetic change to the brain cells using a type of virus also used in gene therapy.
After paralyzing PERK’s activity or reducing its expression through gene therapy (which was done with the help of Dr. Efrat Edry, of the University’s Center for Gene Manipulation in the Brain), the researchers measured a 30% increase in the memory of either positive or negative experiences. The rats also demonstrated improved long-term memory and enhanced behavioral plasticity, becoming better able to “forget” a bad experience. In other words, on a behavioral level it was clear that manipulating PERK by either of two methods improved memory and cognitive abilities.
When the researchers examined the tissues on a cell and molecular level, the discovered that the steps they’d taken had indeed stopped the expression of PERK, which allowed the “spigot” — the elF2 alpha protein — to perform better and increase the pace of protein synthesis. Even more, there was a clear correlation between memory function and the degree to which PERK was suppressed; the more efficiently PERK was suppressed, the better the memory function.
But the researchers faced another problem. Previous studies that had manipulated PERK in general in genetically engineered animals led to fixated behavior. “The brain operates in a most sophisticated fashion, with each action closely linked to many other actions,” said Dr. Ounallah-Saad. “In our study we succeeded in maintaining such control of the PERK that it didn’t influence the retrieval of existing memories, or do anything other cognitive damage.”
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Press Release – 21 Nov. 2014: Janeen Wilson, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the state of California (August 2006) has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology. Janeen began practicing therapy in 2000 working with a variety of different therapeutic issues and problems. Janeen initially began working with women in Domestic Violence and with adolescent boys struggling with psychiatric issues, bipolar issues and attachment disruption that were in a Residential Treatment setting. Janeen has worked with all ages of children in school based settings and their families addressing issues related to family dynamics, ADHD and emotional disruption. Janeen became very interested in an strength based evidence approach (Multi Dimensional Foster Care) and was formally trained as a Program Director and Family Therapist through this program (MTFC). With this training she focused on assisting families in reuniting youth from foster care back to their homes and strengthening their family systems. She has also worked with families as the Director of the Family Stabilization Team in Boston, MA to prevent youth from being removed from their home, as an Outpatient Therapist and with specialized populations such as the blind. Janeen has worked with a variety of different types of people in different areas, ranging from the tundra in Alaska to urban Boston, rural and urban Pennsylvania as well as in Southern California.
Issues Janeen has worked with ranges from working with the blind community, SED children and their families, Adoption, Foster Care, as well as Addiction and Trauma. Janeen has also been formally trained to work with firefighters to address their specific needs related to work and trauma.
For the last two years Janeen has been working as a Individual and Family therapist in an inpatient dual diagnosis residential setting for individuals struggling with addiction and mental health/trauma issues. Now she has opened her virtual clinic at https://www.proventherapy.com.