Koopverslaving

Ik krijg de laatste tijd steeds meer mails vanwege mijn deelname als psycholoog aan het programma Koopziek op RTL 5 waarin ik mensen met koopverslaving behandel. Het blijkt dat veel mensen hiermee rondlopen maar niet geholpen worden omdat de verzekeraar het niet vergoedt. Ik behandel deze verslaving en andere problemen als eetverslaving, seksverslaving, alcohol- en drugsverslaving en depressie wel in mijn eigen praktijk. De website hiervoor is binnenkort hier te vinden. Ik behandel privé in een coachruimte in Amsterdam. Voor vergoede zorg omtrent verslaving kunt u zich aanmelden bij www.kickyourhabits.nl waar ik tevens werk als psycholoog. Voor meer informatie kunt u mij mailen op bjarne.timonen@gmail.com

The Blind Spot

We all have blind spots. Certain situations, people, or internal triggers that simply cause us to blank out and switch over to our automatic pilot. Afterwards we might wonder what the hell happened; Why did I behave like such a child? Why didn’t I speak my mind? The problem with blind spots is that due to previous , often hurtful, experiences, we have been conditioned to switch over to survival mode in which the ‘conscious brain’ is nearly completely inactive. In bringing blind spots into our awarenes it is very important that we activate our conscious brain whilst the situation is occuring. We can do this by staying grounded. Feel your feet on the ground, your breath and body, stay present. This seemingly minor difference in attitude can mean a world of difference in the way we act. It makes way for new pathways and we can actually experience that we can let go of old ingrained patterns. Make a list for yourself; what are my blind spots? What are the situations that get to me? The people that trigger me. And try to really stay grounded in these situations, see what happens then.

Meditation VS Therapy

In recent years many meditation teachers have written about the limitations of meditation and the huge amount of meditators who carry around unresolved trauma, often so deep that meditation can not reach it. The appeal for engaging in therapy has been vast; to get in touch with those areas where meditation simply does not reach. And to do so in an interpersonal relationship; it is where trauma usually started, it is also where healing begins. Sitting alone on a cushion often does not allow us to open up like that. But what if we have found our underlying storylines? Our deep sadness, grief and anger? There is a neurotic danger in this, being that we can get caught up in new storylines that our minds tend to create around these emotions. People can get caught up in these storylines for years, hopping from therapy to therapy, hoping to find final salvation from this pain. It is at that moment meditation can come back into play; because just like meditation, also therapy has it’s limitations, eventhough it can lead to incredible insight, healing and engagement, it does not free us from our daily neuroses. At a certain point we have to accept the fact that we have been hurt, we have to deal with it, we have to move on. These last bits of trauma, i believe, can only wear out by time and moving on. If we keep feeding our storylines, we keep feeding the trauma in a subtle way. We can actually trust our daily life and practice to do the rest.

Don’t listen to your ego

All day long our ego, or from a psycho-analytical point of view, our Super Ego is trying to whisper all kinds of commands in our ears; “Be perfect”, “Don’t have flaws”, “Show them what you’re made of”. Too often we blindly follow these commands, identify with them, causing a constant chase after a carrot on a stick, because the Super Ego is never satisfied. Try and challenge your Super Ego, be flawed sometimes, leave the spelling mistake in the e-mail you just wrote, wear the comfortable heartfelt band-shirt instead of the sharp looking, yet uncomfortable suit that your Super Ego picked out of your wardrobe. Try and go out running because you like it, not because you have to. How many people aren’t in a career, relationship or social group not because their heart is telling them to, but because they are doing what they think they have to do. The good news is; you don’t. you can free yourself from the prison of the Super Ego by going against it’s stream with your behaviour. Good luck.

Self-efficacy

One of the biggest problems that comes with depression is a lack of self-efficacy; the belief in one’s own ability to reach goals and solve problems. It often comes in the form of something psychologists call learned helplesness, in which small hindrances cause catastrophical thinking and a negative vicious circle of self-judgement and insecure behaviour. It contains the term learned, because it often stems from a childhood in which self-efficacy was not stimulated enough. Therefore it is very important in therapy to increase one’s self-efficacy. We as humans have amazing creative capacity, or as Trungpa said it; every situation is workable. When a problem is solved according to one’s own creativity it creates a lot of positive pride and flow. People become the artists of their own lives again, People learn to take care of themselves again so that they can start taking care of the world again.

The Angry Meditator

Mindfulness is often linked to the development of non-violence, non-hatred and compassion. This is all very true but it can also be a major hindrance. In many cultures there lies a taboo on the expression of anger, which is a very dangerous thing. Anger is one of the most beautiful and compassionate emotions we possess and the avoidance or suppression of it leads to a lot of harm, physically and mentally. Many people use meditation and the practice of compassion as a way to further avoid their feelings of anger, eventually causing a very isolated and disconnected practice. A healthy expression of anger, when needed, creates healthy communication and heartfelt connection. Many of us are hurt as children, because our parents didn’t respect our needs and did not create a safe environment to express the whole arrange of emotions. This constipated anger freezes in our bodies and minds and creates neuroses of which we ourselves suffer mostly. Learning to express these emotions again can be extremely liberating and very beneficial to our meditation practice. Anger, or healthy human agression, keeps us sharp and energetic and even more motivated to help other sentient beings. Mindfulness is a full embrace of the whole colour palet, all the emotions serve their function in becoming wholesome.

Bottom up

Therapies which have mindfulness as it’s core principle have been called the third wave of behavioral therapies. The first wave was behaviorism founded in the 50’s. Based on classical conditioning, humans were thought of as being born tabula rasa and could be conditioned into any kind of behavior. Then some psychologist started to question if the internal world of a human being really was the black box as behaviorism proposed, resulting in the second, cognitive wave of psychotherapy. It has since then helped people to cope much better with all kinds of disorders such as depression and phobias. Disorders where thought of as having their offspring in dysfunctional thought and believe patterns. The third wave, consisting out of therapies such as acceptance and commitment therapy, mindfulness based stress reduction, all have mindfulness, acceptance and basically non-fixing as it’s core. From behaviorism we made a long journey into the mind, and now even including the body. For many people mindfulness is of great therapeutic value; it learns people techniques to breathe into the body, watch the waves of the mind and become wholesome again. For many people, however, it helps but does not suffice. In Western psychology there is a strong tendency to have a limited view on the human potential, which I believe has it’s roots in our religious cultural backgrounds. I believe there is much more ground to gain by using the body and the emotions and energies it bears even more. In many tribal and shamanistic cultures this is the very basis of their psychology cultivated through dance and paralinguistic vocal expression. Thus-far a top-bottom approach has been the scientific paradigm, first looking at behavior, then trying to change thought patterns hoping for an emotional subjective change as a result. I have seen first-hand that when a bottom-up approach method is used, starting with the body and emotions first, people work their way up naturally. When all emotions can be fully expressed in an embodied way, people will naturally display healthy thoughts and behaviors. That change can then be strengthened with cognitive and behavioral methods and mindfulness as a continuation of this being human.

Contemplation, mindfulness and bodywork as an integrated method

Up to this point Western therapy has mainly focussed on the mind through cognitive therapy. In Buddhism similar cognitive, or contemplative practices can be found, such as metta or loving-kindness meditation. These are designed to create new, more compassionate pathways in the brain which scientifically have been proven to create enormous well-being. Unfortunately, Western cognitive therapy has thus far been limited with mostly training in healthy thoughts and behaviors which are focussed on the ’self’, instead of including others. Luckily some very promising researches are currently being done on metta meditation. I think loving-kindness as a cognitive or contemplative method is very effective because in itself it already ‘embodies’ more body-awareness, mindfulness and concentration. It is thus a more integrated method than standard cognitive behavioral therapy. Luckily, these past few years, mindfulness has often been added to the standard treatment of all kinds of disorders. This is positive, because it creates a healthy awareness of the body, emotions and thoughts, which in itself can be of enormous therapeutic value. However, it does not necessarily remove the root-cause of the disorder. For this, I believe, often needs to be worked more intensively with the body, supported by contemplative and mindfulness practices. Emotions are physical phenomena; a tightening of the muscles, vibrations, cold/warm sensations, transpiration. Whenever these emotions are not lived through well enough, they get frozen into the body, noticeable often through tension or numbness. This accounts even for emotions that occurred at the very early stages of life. Mindfulness helps to see how certain frozen parts of the body are immediately linked to unhealthy thought patterns. When you do both mindfulness and bodywork, you will see how through melting these body parts into emotions again, the negative thinking patterns will starkly reduce, often not even in need of any extra cognitive intervention. Contemplative or cognitive methods do however create a platform in which this more integrated and embodied way of working with disorders is facilitated, kind of like the oil in the engine. We have come a long way in recognizing mindfulness as a worthy additive to Western therapy, but I believe we are not there yet when it comes to seeing human beings as a whole when we only use therapeutic work on the mind and not also on the body.

Compassion is the most important ingredient in therapy

Why bonding is so important

The earliest bonding of a child with the caregiver is crucial to it’s development. All the qualities we are trying to cultivate in cutting edge therapies such as mindfulness, rational thinking, acceptance and compassion, are naturally embedded in a healthy bonding between parent and child. Any deficiencies in this bonding relationship, say because of stress from the parent’s side, will naturally cause deficiencies in one of these qualities, sometimes having great impact on a child’s development. Parental love, or love in general, floods the brain with the hormone oxytocin, which in it’s turn reduces anxiety and improves human connection. I firmly believe that all the other qualities of the human mind, including concentration, abstract thinking, empathy and creativity are all products of the loving kindness we received as children. I also firmly believe that we can make up for deficiencies later on in life by designing our therapies in such a way that they actually increase human bonding and have the human heart as the basis. If we trust on love, we can also trust the fact that all these qualities don’t necessarily have to be taught, or understood, they are qualities we already have inside of us, but they can only be truly fed by love.