PUBLISHED ARTICLES by DR. SCHOOLER
TRAUMA: MYTHS AND REALITIES
Douglas Schooler, PhD
Psychological trauma is widely acknowledged to be a major contributor
to addiction and human suffering in general. But as the mental health
profession has begun to focus more and more on trauma and its
effects some myths have crept into our thinking, conceptual mistakes
that have greatly slowed the healing process for many patients.
Myth: Trauma causes addiction
Reality: While trauma has contributed to addiction for many people,
the fact is that many people who have experienced trauma have
not developed addiction. They may have other difficulties, but it is
clear that there is no one-to-one chain of causality between trauma
and addiction. There are many ways to think about how trauma and
addiction are linked. One useful view is that the painful emotions
resulting from trauma use up valuable physical and psychological
energy that could be better used for fueling recovery. A related view
is that if we eliminate the painful emotions from trauma the patient
no longer needs substances to shut down emotional pain.
Myth: Trauma consists only of major events like rape, physical
assault or death
Reality: Any event, no matter how seemingly minor, that continues
to disturb a person long after it is over can rightly be considered
to be trauma. I’ve worked with many patients over the years that
were plagued by so called “normal” events that happened in school
or at home and when the trauma was resolved their lives changed
dramatically. I think of trauma with an uppercase “T” and trauma
with a lowercase “t”. Everyone has experienced the latter and it’s
worthwhile, in any therapeutic process, to clear up painful emotions
from lowercase “t” events. Let’s face it; the painful emotions related
to events that are long gone are usually worse than useless.
Myth: Trauma can only be healed by professional treatment
Reality: I have met numerous individuals who had gone through
very difficult experiences and now these experiences no longer
are disturbing or causing any symptoms whatsoever. However,
when significant symptoms are present (such as addiction) I
think it’s advisable for anyone caught in the addictive trap to seek
out a trauma specialist to at least investigate the possibility that
unresolved trauma is fueling compulsions to use substances.
Myth: Healing trauma is painful.
Reality: Healing trauma need not be painful. In fact, a painful
therapeutic process is a major obstacle to healing. How many people
are avoiding coming in to therapy because they’ve gotten the idea that
they have to suffer to heal what happened to them. They already have
suffered once, going through the experience. Do we in the mental
health profession think we can sell what we do by telling people you’re
going to get surgery without anesthesia? That’s a tough sell, to say the
least, and it’s dead wrong. Healing the painful emotions stemming from
past events is all about spreading the good news, first of all, that the
person survived the experience. That really is good news, because it
is likely that at least part of their mind hasn’t seen that and instead has
continued to perceive a threat from the event. Secondly, it’s good news
that the painful meaning that the mind of the survivor attached to the
experience is just that, a meaning, and not a fact. Once viewed as “just
a meaning” it can be discarded like an old magazine.
Myth: Trauma needs to relived and experienced intensely in order
to be treated.
Reality: Reliving trauma is certainly painful. However, it is not
necessary to relive experiences in order to heal them. In fact quite
the opposite is the case. Trauma can be resolved and healed
painlessly. Dr. Jon Connelly has created and developed a model
of trauma resolution that works quickly and painlessly and has
many hundreds of therapy session videos to document this fact.
His method is called Rapid Resolution Therapy. Other therapeutic
systems have reported success in healing trauma without pain
and one that comes to mind is the entire field of energy healing
including EFT or meridian tapping. Healing trauma should be and
can be a joyful process for both the therapist and patient because it
really is a process of spreading the good news and getting unstuck.
Myth: Healing trauma takes a long time
Reality: Trauma can be healed quickly, sometimes in just a few minutes.
Ideally the therapist realizes this is possible. Then it’s just a matter of
showing the mind what really counts, that the threat is over and done
with. It’s truly amazing how quickly emotions can shift when the specter
of threat is removed from every facet of the mind, including the deeper,
more primitive part of the mind that operates at a subconscious level.
Myth: Rape is equivalent to soul murder
Reality: While sexual assault is a major trauma for most survivors,
thinking of it as soul murder actually prevents total healing and does
the patient a great disservice. I’ve heard this soul murder idea on
TV numerous times, often by mental health professionals. But the
idea has permeated the wider culture as well and is an obstacle
to healing. How does one heal a murdered soul? It doesn’t seem
possible. Fortunately, the idea of soul murder is just that, an idea, a
way of thinking. It is time to get rid of it and replace it with ways of
thinking that actually facilitate total resolution and healing.
Myth: Major trauma like rape, war experiences, and other forms of
violence can never be truly and totally healed.
Reality: How many times have we heard TV news anchors say
something like: “And that experience is going to affect her for the rest
of her life.” And because TV is so hypnotic, the viewing audience is
nodding its collective head and even therapists are agreeing. Too bad!
This view is toxic to the healing process. Truth is that total healing is not
only possible, but has been achieved by so many people already who
have had effective treatment. This truth needs to get out to the survivors
of violence and other traumas that are still needlessly suffering.
Excerpt from SELF ESTEEM: HOW MUCH DO YOU REALLY NEED?
By Douglas Schooler, PhD
Self-esteem theory promotes the idea that it is desirable to think well and
highly of oneself. There are several pitfalls with this idea. First, thinking
anything about oneself requires one to become introspective and selfconscious,
to shift attention from what’s happening in life to oneself. In
my experience however, people suffering from emotional or behavioral
disorders are already far too self-conscious and introspective. They spend
a great deal of time wondering what’s wrong with them, trying to figure
themselves out. So I’ve come to realize that sustained introspection is
both an indicator and a cause of emotional disturbance. Only people who
are suffering do it; those who are feeling good from their life experiences,
rather than about themselves, are not thinking about themselves. They are
“into it”, in the “flow”; they are fully present. Just think about athletes fully
absorbed in their event. Are they thinking about themselves, are they trying
to understand themselves, wondering if they are worthy? No way. They are
in the moment, paying attention to what’s happening in the “now”, the place
(the only place) where life is happening.
Much of conventional psychotherapy is concerned with the client
developing insight into herself.
Excerpt from GETTING UNSTUCK: BREAK FREE FROM ADDICTIVE PATTERNS
Douglas Schooler, Ph.D
When you’re buried in an avalanche, the weight of the snow
squeezing the air out of you, you carve out some breathing space
and use your mind to stay calm while you wait for the rescue
team. You need professional assistance to break free. You know
they’re out there looking for you. Meanwhile you do something
effective to conserve your oxygen supply.
Someone buried in addiction has the advantage of knowing that
in today’s world the rescue team is as close as your cellphone.
Skilled professionals are ready to dig you out. But what can you
do now, on your own, to give yourself some breathing room and
begin your liberation from the weight of addiction?
The first thing is to realize that even though stuck may feel like
forever, it is temporary. In fact the concept of “stuck” is itself a bit
of an illusion. Life is not static, it’s always moving, but sometimes
the movement is not noticeable. But things are either getting
better or getting worse. As you realize this you begin to notice
your own direction and then take effective action to create “better
and better every day.”
What Keeps People Struck in Additive Patterns?
Douglas Schooler, Ph.D
Owner's Manual: Get a Mental Edge from Running Times
Learn to beat nervousness, mid-race demons
By Douglas Schooler, Ph.D
As featured in the May 2008 issue of Running Times Magazine
In some way or another, every runner gets pre-race nervousness, awkward mid-race moments of self-doubt or sometimes a lingering negative vibe that can spurred by a rough workout, a bad race or even overtraining. It's how a runner deals with those mental ailments that can determine how well he or she might run the next day or an important goal race later in the season.
One quick and easy way to tackle the mental aspects of running is through Emotional Freedom Techniques, or EFT. Perhaps best characterized as emotional acupressure, EFT uses gentle tapping on key meridian points to reduce or eliminate unwanted emotions or physical sensations, replacing them with feelings of comfort.
Gary Craig, a personal performance coach from Coulterville, Calif., developed EFT based on the work of psychologist Roger Callahan and what had been called Thought Field Therapy. In the mid-1980s, Callahan accidentally discovered that tapping on certain acupuncture points could rapidly eliminate anxiety and phobias. In my psychology practice, I use EFT to help clients recover from emotional trauma and all kinds of emotional suffering. And as a competitive masters runner, I also use it as a personal training and racing aid.
It's an easy technique that can be done in a few moments, regardless of where you are. You can use it to calm pre-race jitters while you're at work, apply it during a race to ease the pain of hard effort, and use it after a race to reduce pain of injury or the disappointment of perceived poor performance.
Follow the steps on the left to use EFT before or during a race. To use EFT to reduce bad feelings after a disappointing race, use a similar sequence. First, describe how you feel in your own words. Then begin a modified Setup phase by tapping the karate chop point continuously, saying out loud, "Even though I missed my goal time (or goal place) and feel disappointed (or angry or sad), I deeply and completely accept myself." Repeat two more times. Then tap the head and torso points as described above, using the Reminder phrase, "missed my goal disappointment." Take a deep breath, close your eyes for a few seconds, and then again measure the intensity of your feelings.
Assuming the intensity has decreased somewhat, repeat Setup saying three times, "Even though I still have some of that missed-my-goal disappointment, I deeply and completely accept myself." Then tap the head and torso points, repeating at each point, "the remaining missed-my-time disappointment." Take a breath, close your eyes, and then measure intensity again. Repeat, tapping until remaining intensity is level 2 or below. The Setup and Reminder phrases do not have to be exact, or grammatically correct, but should refer to a specific issue or event.
A competitive runner since the mid-1970s, Doug Schooler is a licensed psychologist and board-certified hypnotherapist based in Boca Raton, Fla. To learn more about EFT, visit http://www.emofree.com/.
How to use EFT to reduce pre-race jitters:
1. Pinpoint a problem. For example, let's say you want to reduce pre-race nervousness about next Saturday's 10K, several days or even just minutes before the gun goes off .
2. Rate your nervousness on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 standing for maximum possible nervousness. Let's say your rating of nervousness is a 9.
3. Tap the fleshy edge of either hand, between the bottom of the little finger and the start of the wrist, the part you'd use to "karate chop" something, with several fingers from the opposite hand, while saying something like the following: "Even though I'm nervous about next Saturday's 10K [or next month's marathon], I deeply and completely accept myself." Continue tapping on the edge of your hand, repeating that phrase two more times for a total of three repetitions. Tapping this way is called the Setup phase.
4. Now you are ready to tap points on the face and torso, on either side and with either hand. Gently tap seven to nine times on each of these points while saying, out loud, this reminder phrase, "10K race nervousness," once at each point: eyebrow near nose, bone on side of eye, bone under eye, under nose, indentation on chin, collar bone where it meets rib cage, under arm along side of body, top of head.
5. After tapping all the points, take a deep breath and close your eyes for a few seconds. Then open your eyes and notice your level of discomfort, in this example your level of nervousness about the race. Let's assume your perceived nervousness decreased from a 9 to 6. Next, you would repeat the Setup using slightly different language: Tap the karate chop edge of either hand while saying, "Even though I still have some of this 10K nervousness, I deeply and completely accept myself." Repeat two more times. Then, tap all the head and torso points as before, saying once out loud at each point, "the remaining 10K race nervousness."
6. Repeat step 5 until the perceived nervousness has decreased to level 2 or below. You can use an abbreviated version of EFT during a race or hard training. Simply tap on one or two of the points as you are running, while repeating silently to yourself "this discomfort" or "this heavy breathing" or just simply "RELAX." You can experiment with which point(s) and phrase(s) give you the greatest relief.