The Red Herring Effect

I was about to hit my stride when I wrote “Your Narrative Brain and Trauma Recovery”, but then Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur came around; I became contemplative and pondered the nature of healing and what keeps us trapped in the same cycles.  What is the nature of this repeating trek around the same mountain? Why do we do this? Posing the question in different terms, what prevents us from actually progressing and stepping onto the path to a new place? A destination of our choosing?

I suspect that it has something to do with truth and our capacity for grief.  Resiliency in a word.

What is resiliency?

“Healthy, resilient people have stress-resistant personalities and learn valuable lessons from rough experiences. Resilience is the process of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences. Resilient people overcome adversity, bounce back from setbacks, and can thrive under extreme, on-going pressure without acting in dysfunctional or harmful ways. The most resilient people recover from traumatic experiences stronger, better, and wiser.

When hurt or distressed, resilient people expect to find a way to have things turn out well. They feel self-reliant and have a learning/coping reaction rather than the victim/blaming reaction that is so common these days.” (Al Seibert, PhD)

It’s the learning/coping reaction when distressed that I want to discuss largely because we live in an age that is saturated with information.  There is too much to know and too much information to sift through.  How do we discern good and useful information from bad and useless information? When does doing helpful research turn into avoidance behavior and an excuse not to engage in decisive action? The world has changed drastically in the last twenty years, but humans have not.  We are still the same.  We still need to cope.  We still need relief from our suffering.  Our maladaptive coping strategies just look more sophisticated, and we might look more resilient than we actually are.

What point am I trying to make?

Sometimes in our process of trying to shake loose our bonds, we might feel like we are doing a more effective healing work than we really are.  Using my own journey as an example:

It’s no secret that I hail from an abusive family of origin.  My father and his wife were paragons of godly virtue and morality in public but nightmares behind closed doors.  It was systematic abuse meant to breakdown my personality, and it was intentional.  After I left my family, I felt ambivalence towards my father, but I felt nothing short of hatred towards my step-mother.  It was white hot, and I felt ashamed to feel such intense negativity.  I wanted to rid myself of it.  Ground it.  No matter what I did, I couldn’t.  She bore witness to all he did.  She egged him on.  She suggested certain actions.  I believed that some of the abuse would never have even happened had she simply been silent.  I blamed her entirely.  To me, it was her fault.

But was it?

As I progressed through the therapeutic process, I observed that I had placed all the blame for my father’s abuse upon my step-mother because I could not come to terms with what was actually true.  It was my father who abused me.  My father.  And, fathers are not supposed to abuse their children.  There had to be a reason for the extreme scenarios that I experienced.  I felt that I could reason my way through my experiences, but logic simply does not apply to the excruciating pain left in the wake of trauma.  Was my step-mother responsible? Yes, she was.  She enabled the abuse, but my father was responsible for my well-being.  He was supposed to model paternal love, caring, and nurturing, and he did the opposite.  My step-mother had nothing to do with his failure.  That was all on him.

Sometimes, during our healing process, our mind casts out a red herring.  A red herring is something that is intended to distract us from the more relevant issue.  Sure, my step-mother and I had things to resolve.  She was culpable, but my focus on her guilt distracted me from the more relevant issue–my father’s misdeeds.  If I was ever going to heal, then I had to stop focusing on the lesser crimes, release my hatred, and turn my attention toward the real issue that I was so vigorously avoiding.  I had to accept the hard truth that my father failed spectacularly in his role, and I was suffering inordinately for it.  It was very hard to accept.  Why? His spectacular moral failures led to questions about myself that were too painful to ask much less answer, but that is exactly why the therapeutic process exists.  It provides us with the context to dig our way through and out of the mire of the grief, pain, and confusion that the trauma of abuse leaves us with.  It is imperative, however, that we use the desire for truth as our shovel as it were.

That relentless drive to know the truth of our circumstances as well as the truth behind our habits, coping strategies be they maladaptive or healthy, and those things that fuel our thoughts and beliefs is what goes to stoking resiliency.  I am convinced of this.

So, be on the lookout for any red herrings in your life.  They often feel like truth, and in some ways they are, but they can keep you chasing your tail and circling the mountain for years when, in fact, you really want to find the road that leads you to the life you most desire.

Further Reading:



A Christian, A Jew, and a Muslim Have Lunch

I’ve written here in the past about my family–my mother’s family in specific.  I have avoided spending time with them for years due, in large part, to how I feel when I leave their company.  A certain feeling of social exclusion and judgment permeate all their gatherings, and I eventually decided that I was, to quote Danny Glover from “Lethal Weapon”, too old for that shit.

I am not trying to pick on conservative, Evangelical Christians here because the behaviors of a small group of people do not often accurately describe the group as a whole.  I grew up within white, conservative, Evangelical Christian circles–Southern white, neo-conservative Pentacostalism at my father’s house, Orthodox Lutheranism at my mother’s house, and Evangelical Lutheranism at my grandparent’s house.  All the while, I was a Jew hiding my identity at the desperate insistence of my Jewish grandmother.  It was a very weird way to grow up.  The problem for me, however, is that what I experienced this week with a member of my family does indeed accurately describe 21st c. Evangelicalism as a whole as I have experienced it over the years, and I am extremely troubled by it.

So, what happened?

I have successfully kept my separation of a year and pending divorce under wraps.  Few people actually know about it–only the people I have wanted to know.  No one in my extended family knows. Not even my mother! What a coup.  I have also successfully avoided seeing anyone in my family for over five years.  That, too, has been quite the coup.  Why would I do that?

The last family member I interacted with told me that my daughter’s schizophrenia diagnosis was from God.  And, then he quoted Romans 8:28 at me.  Ah yes, such words of comfort.

This is not a worldview I share nor is it a worldview I want my daughter around.  The last thing she needed to hear was that God gave her schizophrenia, and in his great sovereignty he knew what was best for her as she suffered through treatment after treatment, losing white matter in her brain.  As a 12 year-old.

I did, however, decide that perhaps I ought to finally bite the bullet and meet my cousin for lunch.  Perhaps I have been unfair and was viewing her through a filter of past woundedness.  I was completely willing to begin anew with humility.

How did it go, you ask?

Well, it was interesting.  Here is a snippet of our lunchtime conversation:

Me: “Here is a picture of the girls from Passover.” ::shows picture::

Cousin: “What does that mean? Passover.  What kind of church do you go to?”

Me: “I go to synagogue.”

Cousin: (stammering) “Synagogue? What are you…a Jew?”

Me: “Yes.”

Cousin: (staring at me with rising hostility) “I didn’t know that about you.”

Me: “Well, I am.  Have been all my life.”

Cousin: (setting her jaw) “Those people don’t believe that Jesus is the messiah.”

Me: “Unless a Jew is a messianic Jew, then, no, Jews do not believe that the messiah has come yet.  That’s correct.”

Cousin: (leaning across the table with an accusatory expression) “Do you? Because I’ve known you to believe that.  You need to set those Jews straight.”

This is a stunning example of bigotry and anti-Semitism in action, and it is very common in not only churches but in society at large.  “Those people…” and “What are you..a Jew?” are both examples of an us vs. them mentality.   Couple that with the conviction and hubris to take the position over another belief system that it must be “set straight” and you set the foundation for potential and real acts of violence against not only Jews but other groups who are different from the accepted majority.  People will naturally be suspicious of those who are different, but what was displayed in this conversation is under no circumstances acceptable.

We were in an upscale French restaurant.  During lunch, she reached across the table and said, “I need to pray for you,” and she then lifted her hand to the ceiling and began pleading the blood of Jesus over me rather loudly.  She did not ask if I wanted prayer.  She did not ask if I wanted my arm to be manhandled.  I even asked her not to pray for me.  I understand what that is.  It’s an expression of American Evangelical culture.  Not Christianity.  American Evangelicals often pray for people in public settings.  I’ve witnessed it many times.  I know other North American Christians who would never dream of doing that as it would be considered a boundary violation of the other people sitting nearby.  A cafe or restaurant isn’t a church and, therefore, there is no tacit consent to be around overt public prayer.  This isn’t about God.  This is about respect, and loving your neighbor is all about respecting them.

After I explained the nature of the domestic violence in my marriage, she asked me if I was going to reconcile with my ex-husband.  I wasn’t too surprised.  In a survey cited by Denise George in her book What Women Wish Pastors Knew: Understanding the Hopes, Hurts, Needs, and Dreams of Women in the Churchsix thousand conservative Protestant pastors were surveyed as to how they would counsel women who came to them for help with domestic violence. Twenty-six percent would counsel them to continue to “submit” to her husband, no matter what. Twenty-five percent told wives that the abuse was their own fault—for failing to submit in the first place. Astonishingly, 50% said women should be willing to “tolerate some level of violence” because it is better than divorce.  In my synagogue, there is a sign in the women’s bathroom for a local women’s shelter and a hotline number to call in case there is violence in the home and help is needed.  My cousin’s view lines up with the Protestant pastors’ views.

What can I say? My mother’s family are paragons of Christian values and virtues to everyone who knows them, and I don’t say that sarcastically.  They are well-known the Western Christian world over having golfed with Tim LaHaye, rubbed shoulders with Michael W. Smith at the Dove Awards, and published Christian books internationally; and yet they tell jokes like this: “What’s the first thing a battered women does when she gets home from the women’s shelter? The dishes if she knows what’s good for her.”

So, what’s my point? My point is that this double standard in terms of who gets treated well and who gets shunned, insulted, belittled, and ignored is the standard in American and Western Evangelical Christianity today.  I’ve observed and experienced this for almost 40 years, and it’s why I ultimately left the church.  I did some serious soul searching in terms of my own Jewishness.  Could I find a rewarding faith practice in a Christian faith tradition while practicing Judaism at home as I had always done? No.  The reason? This double standard as well as clashing doctrinal beliefs.

A 1926 review by the Reverend W.P. King (then pastor of the First Methodist Church of Gainesville, Georgia) of E. Stanley Jones’s The Christ of the Indian Road (published in 1925 by The Abington Press, New York City) succinctly illustrates my point:

Dr. Jones says that the greatest hindrance to the Christian gospel in India is a dislike for western domination, western snobbery, the western theological system, western militarism and western race prejudice. Gandhi, the great prophet of India, said, “I love your Christ, but I dislike your Christianity.” The embarrassing fact is that India judges us by our own professed standard. In reply to a question of Dr. Jones as to how it would be possible to bring India to Christ, Gandhi replied: First, I would suggest that all of you Christians live more like Jesus Christ. Second, I would suggest that you practice your Christianity without adulterating it. The anomalous situation is that most of us would be equally shocked to see Christianity doubted or put into practice. Third, I would suggest that you put more emphasis on love, for love is the soul and center of Christianity. Fourth, I would suggest that you study the non-Christian religions more sympathetically in order to find the good that is in them, so that you might have a more sympathetic approach to the people.

Dr. Jones’ statement that India is essentially holding Western Christianity to its own standard and, embarrassingly, it only finds itself under its own judgment seems accurate.  There is no adequate justification for what is passed off by many people today as “Christian” but is really just plain old racism, bigotry, and hatred.

I realize that there are many people who in no way identify with what I’m describing and who are, at the same time, practicing Christians.  They are hurt and rightfully offended by what is passed off as “Christian”. They might struggle and feel angry when other people accuse them for associating with what they perceive to be a bigoted and largely unkind religious practice.  Keep in mind, however, that the aforementioned quote was issued almost 100 years ago.  The Inquisition was led by Christians and lasted from the 13th c. until the 18th: “An estimated 31,912 heretics were burned at the stake, 17,659 were burned in effigy and 291,450 made reconciliations in the Spanish Inquisition. In Portugal, about 40,000 cases were tried, although only 1,800 were burned, the rest made penance.”

Or, consider this:

“My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers…was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. …Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross.”

It sounds very vehement, heartfelt, and devout, doesn’t it? Do you know who said this? Adolf Hitler.  In a speech on April 12, 1922.  Those vipers and adders he’s referring to are the Jews, and I have read many Christian books and articles that echo that sentiment.  My cousin’s attitudes are, in fact, fairly representative of American Christianity in terms of the bell curve.  She isn’t an outlier.  Her attitudes and views are relatively normative, and this hasn’t changed much over the centuries apparently.

Do you know how my lunch ended? Our server happened to overhear my cousin’s anti-Jewish remarks towards me when he was passing our table.  He stopped in his tracks and returned to our table.  He began asking me random questions in order to attempt to interrupt the conversation.

“Do you need a new napkin? Do you need more coffee? I think you need a new knife.  Can I get you anything? Anything at all?”

He hovered.  He stayed close by.  He heard her remarks on domestic violence, too, and he stood at a close distance and made empathetic eye contact with me.  He was Muslim.  So, there we all were.  The three behemoth monotheistic world religions having lunch together in such a strange way–Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.  She was attacking me for being Jewish and judging me for leaving my abusive husband because that wasn’t submissive.  He tried, within his limited capacity, to protect me.  And, it looked like one big hypocritical circus when she insisted on praying for me in public.  I looked at him. He looked at me.

This is not how it is supposed to be, but this is how it has historically played out between The Big Three.  So, what can be done then?

Follow Gandhi’s advice because it’s good advice.  And, the plain fact is that Christians have major reconciliation efforts to engage in.  Unapologetically.  There is no getting around the historical and present day facts.  Case in point:

“We don’t hate people because of their race. We are a Christian organization,” Frank Ancona, the imperial wizard of the Traditional American Knights of the KKK…”Because of the acts of a few rogue Klansmen, all Klansmen are supposed to be murderers, and wanting to lynch black people and we’re supposed to be terrorists. That’s a complete falsehood.”
“We want to keep our race the white race,” said Ancona. “We want to stay white. It’s not a hateful thing to want to maintain white supremacy.”
Earlier this week on Twitter, while talking to a user who expressed interest in joining, Ancona described the KKK as a group that’s “not about hate.” And asserted that the groups is “about love for God, race and nation.” He also claimed that Jesus was not a Jew, and said the crowd only “called him a Jew to mock him,” adding, “the Jews killed Christ.”
On his LinkedIn page, Ancona summarizes the work of his organization as striving “to increase awareness of the destruction of our constitutional rights and the plight of the white race in America. We teach traditional American values and keep alive our heritage and culture as Americans.”
Ancona lists the American Civil Liberties Union, which has represented the KKK legally from time-to-time, and church ministry and church leadership among his affiliations. He describes his interests as “history, heritage, restoring our republic and Constitution as originally written. … Educating the true chosen children of God, shining the light of Christ to dispel darkness, ingnorance [sic] and gloom.”  (online source)
It’s stunning, isn’t it? But, if you stand back and take it in, then the rising social hostilities towards 21st c. Christianity, or at least what is publicly perceived to be Christian, start to become legitimate.  And, at what point does public perception and experience start to become more truthful than that which is declared? In other words, what is truer? That which is declared or that which is expressed through action?
 Christian writer and speaker Brennan Manning said, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
For Christians, however, this is what is true:

“Because salvation is by grace through faith, I believe that among the countless number of people standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands (see Revelation 7:9), I shall see the prostitute from the Kit-Kat Ranch in Carson City, Nevada, who tearfully told me that she could find no other employment to support her two-year-old son. I shall see the woman who had an abortion and is haunted by guilt and remorse but did the best she could faced with grueling alternatives; the businessman besieged with debt who sold his integrity in a series of desperate transactions; the insecure clergyman addicted to being liked, who never challenged his people from the pulpit and longed for unconditional love; the sexually abused teen molested by his father and now selling his body on the street, who, as he falls asleep each night after his last “trick”, whispers the name of the unknown God he learned about in Sunday school.Manning_sm“But how?” we ask.

Then the voice says, “They have washed their robes and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” There they are. There we are – the multitude who so wanted to be faithful, who at times got defeated, soiled by life, and bested by trials, wearing the bloodied garments of life’s tribulations, but through it all clung to faith. My friends, if this is not good news to you, you have never understood the gospel of grace.” The Ragamuffin Gospel 


Make this your authentic lifestyle and message and you could actually make the world a better place.

Atonement and Forgiveness: Another Perspective

The Jewish New Year is fast approaching.  In the Jewish calendar, the month before Rosh Hashanah is called Elul.  In Jewish thought and tradition, the month of Elul is considered to be a time when God is “in the field”.  He is to be found.  The veil is thin.  Draw near.  So, what is the deal with Rosh Hashanah? It leads up to Yom Kippur.  Why does that matter? Isn’t Yom Kippur a line in that Train song? “How could you leave on Yom Kippur….” Why does this even matter? Let’s talk about it.

The subject of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is vast, but, in very simple terms, Elul is a time of stocktaking and introspection.  “Chassidic master Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi likens the month of Elul to a time when “the king is in the field” and, in contrast to when he is in the royal palace, “everyone who so desires is permitted to meet him, and he receives them all with a cheerful countenance, showing a smiling face to them all.” (Chabad)  As a Jewish writer points out, “As the month of divine mercy and forgiveness, Elul is a most opportune time for teshuvah (“return” to G‑d), prayer, charity, and increased ahavat Yisrael (love for a fellow Jew), in the quest for self-improvement and coming closer to G‑d.” (Chabad)

Christianity has a similar tradition found in Lent which precedes Holy Week and Easter, and Muslims observe Ramadan (The Muslim Lent: Ramadan Explained)  So, the idea of engaging in contemplation for the sake of personal betterment, increasing one’s awareness of our neighbor, and increasing our intimacy with God is indeed common.  To what end do we engage in this? There is a reason to be sure.

Have you ever met a person of faith, regardless of whatever faith they followed, who seemed to represent that faith beautifully? You may not have believed what they believed, but, after you spent time with them, you thought to yourself, “That was a lovely human being.  I respect that person so much.”  Conversely, have you ever met a person who made you feel sick to your stomach just by being near you? What seemed to amplify their noxious personality was their proclamation of religion.  You left their presence thinking to yourself, “Whatever they believe I feel mandated to personally oppose for the sake of all that is integrous and good in the world!”

I have had both experiences, and, in terms of faith and personalities, there may be a reason for that.  Furthermore, it’s entirely redeemable albeit unpleasant.  From what I’ve observed, it comes down to what one believes about present accountability.

I’ve written before that I grew up within Christianity.  I almost went to seminary.  I am, however, Jewish.  I can trace my family back to the time of the Spanish Inquisition.  We fled as conversos and maintained a secret and not so secret Jewish practice for centuries.  The tradition was passed to me when I was around ten years-old.  It is very hard to be Jewish alone, however, as there is a lot that one can’t learn by oneself.  I have learned a lot in a year since “coming out” of the converso closet.  One of the more fascinating things that I have learned has centered around Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur.

Elul, the month before Rosh Hashanah, as I have explained, is a time of contemplation in order to ponder how your year went.  How did you do? How did you treat others? Do you need to make anything right? What would you like to do better? It is a time to look to the immediate past, assess the present, and adjust one’s trajectory.  Rosh Hashanah is then the entry point into the new year complete with seder when one begins to ask to be the head and not the tail.  Victorious and not defeated.  The greeting on these two days is “L’shanah tovah” which is actually a shortening of “L’shanah tovah tikatev v’taihatem” which means “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.”  Rosh Hashanah begins a ten day period of time that ends with Yom Kippur; this period of time is known as the Days of Awe or the Days of Repentance:

“One of the ongoing themes of the Days of Awe is the concept that G-d has “books” that he writes our names in, writing down who will live and who will die, who will have a good life and who will have a bad life, for the next year. These books are written in on Rosh Hashanah, but our actions during the Days of Awe can alter G-d’s decree. The actions that change the decree are “teshuvah, tefilah and tzedakah,” repentance, prayer, good deeds (usually, charity). These “books” are sealed on Yom Kippur. This concept of writing in books is the source of the common greeting during this time is “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.”

Among the customs of this time, it is common to seek reconciliation with people you may have wronged during the course of the year. The Talmud maintains that Yom Kippur atones only for sins between man and G-d. To atone for sins against another person, you must first seek reconciliation with that person, righting the wrongs you committed against them if possible.”  (Judaism 101)

This entire idea shocked me when I learned about it.  Growing up in a Christian environment, it was very foreign.  What kind of exacting accounting of my choices was this? My first response was fear.  I shared what I had learned with a friend who practiced Christianity, and their response was to dismiss it: “That’s nonsense.  Jesus covered all our sins.  We are free and forgiven.”  Is that true? Let’s look at Matthew 5.  Jesus explains very directly:

23-24 This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.”

Yom Kippur is referred to as The Day of Atonement in Leviticus 23.  Leviticus was written between 1440 and 1400 BCE.  Jesus was born sometime around 7 BCE.  Jesus was a practicing Jew as we all know.  He would have observed Yom Kippur, and he would have taught those who listened to his teachings how he interpreted Torah.  What is Jesus saying then? What is the greater implication?

In the words of Rabbi Moshe Brennan, “Yom Kippur is primarily about asking for God’s forgiveness. Making amends with humans is a separate thing.”

That’s what Jesus was talking about.  We can’t go to God and expect him to forgive us for something that is between us and someone else.  We have to do the work of resolving that before we attempt to resolve our personal issues with God.  Furthermore, our refusal to engage in this has a direct effect on the coming year:

“One of the ways we can demonstrate that devotion (to God), says Germantown Jewish Centre’s Rabbi Annie Lewis, is to repair the relationships in our lives, to follow not just the spirit of the law, but the very letter of it. “ ‘Yom Kippur’ comes from kapporet, which means to cover over something,” she explains. To draw on God’s abounding compassion, she says, we have to cover over the holes in our lives caused by past failings. “God will not grant us forgiveness from something we have done to another person until we seek forgiveness ourselves from the person. Yom Kippur is a powerful time to work on these relationships.” (Understanding Yom Kippur’s Focus on Atonement and Forgiveness)

Hence, the ten days that lie between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur exist to allow us to make amends and settle accounts not only with God but with everyone in our lives.  It is a time to do the hard things.

“Atoning and forgiving is only difficult if you are doing it right,” says Rabbi Eli Hirsch of Mekor Habracha, a Center City synagogue. “Offering quick and easy apologies means that you probably are not taking responsibility for the pain you’ve caused. And it’s interesting that we can sense when an apology is insincere…But God wants us to make amends because he cares about our relationships with each other. He demonstrates that by forgiving us again and again.” (Understanding Yom Kippur’s Focus on Atonement and Forgiveness)

This is what was missing in my religious experiences growing up.  This is what has been missing in my religious experiences as an adult.  I would watch the people around me mistreat their fellow congregants in big and small ways with little remorse.  Sometimes quick apologies were offered, but when forgiveness was not easily granted for pain inflicted a judgmental insult was rendered, “How can you be a Christian then? God forgives me! I have grace.”  Actually, no, you don’t.  It’s very clear here that if we wrong another person, then we have to make amends.  God does not do the work of forgiving us on behalf of another person if we haven’t actually sincerely apologized to that person and asked how we can make amends for hurting them.  Going further, it’s inappropriate for us to even be in church or synagogue offering worship to God when we know someone has something against us particularly if the reason they are hurting is our fault! Even Jesus said that.  The grace of God is not unmerited favor.  The grace of God is an empowering presence that equips us to do the things in life required of us that we may never have been able to do without it.

It’s shocking, but it’s necessary to know.  We really are accountable for our actions towards other people.  In the now.  To love God well means to love others well.  In the New International Version translation of the New Testament, the word ‘sin’ is mentioned 127 times.  ‘Love’, on the other hand, is mentioned 232 times.  People matter.  You and I matter.  How we are treated matters, and how we engage others on a daily basis matters.  We cannot engage in all manner of bad behavior towards our fellow humans while engaging in religious traditions, and then expect forgiveness from God.  We actually have to find the people we hurt and do something about it.  That is exactly why we require grace.  Why? Because doing that kind of work is scary and extremely difficult.  We often find out in the reconciliation process that we might not be as awesome as we thought we were, and it can throw us for an existential loop.  Weighing our self-perception against other people’s experience of us can be quite painful, but it can often be the catalyst to immense personal growth.  This is the gift of the Days of Awe.  This tradition exists for our well-being and healing.  Not for God’s.

I want to stop for a moment and address something.  I have experienced abuse and trauma.  What if a former abuser approaches you and asks for forgiveness? I have experienced this; not only was I frightened by the experience but I was also confused.

“But some things seem impossible to forgive. As the founder of JSafe, a Jewish organization dedicated to helping victims of domestic violence and child abuse, Dratch should know. How could atonement be made for those crimes? How could forgiveness ever be granted?

“Repentance is the obligation of the perpetrator and forgiveness is the prerogative of the victim,” Dratch explains. “In many cases, abusers follow the same steps as those who have committed other wrongs: admitting guilt, taking steps to make sure that the behavior is not repeated and sincerely apologizing to the victim. Those three things can take a lifetime to accomplish. Many abusers will not even admit their crimes and so can never earn forgiveness.”

Whether or not the abuser asks for it, victims often try to forgive as part of their healing process. “Jewish law does not oblige a victim to forgive,” Dratch clarifies. “But when you hold on to hurt or anger, you hold on to the crime and allow it to define you. By forgiving, people who have been controlled by others take control over their minds, bodies and self-images. They say, ‘I will not allow your actions to influence me any more. I will be the person that I want to be.’ ”

Forgiveness is very different than consequence, Dratch says, and one of those consequences is punishment. “Someone may hurt you and you may forgive, but perhaps you don’t want that person in your life anymore, or perhaps not in the way they were before,” he says.

Lewis also believes that forgiving is the key to Yom Kippur, even if there can be no concomitant forgetting. “What happens in the past doesn’t go away,” she says, “but we find a way to integrate it into the new people we become through the work of teshuvah, seeking to repair our relationships with ourselves, with God, with other people.”

The cycle of forgiveness has been constant for thousands of years, and has applied to all Jews, regardless of their importance. God loved Moses completely and forgave his sins, but that forgiveness did not mean that Moses was allowed to go into the Promised Land. That exclusion was the result of the wrongs he committed.

That’s the other purpose of Yom Kippur, Hirsch believes. “It is a cautionary tale that we carry with us,” he says, “because when it comes to forgiveness, God has the final say.” (Understanding Yom Kippur’s Focus on Atonement and Forgiveness)

It’s interesting, isn’t it? In the end, we are not intended to be victims.  We are supposed to be active in our lives.  We make choices.  We make amends.  We approach God.  We interact.  We engage with ourselves and others.  It makes sense.  We have options, and we exercise those options.  You don’t have to be Jewish to take advantage of the spirit behind Elul and the Days of Awe.  Doing a self-inventory, engaging in contemplation, engaging God, and checking in with the people in your life with humility and openness may be a practice you find rewarding and catalyzing.

Further Reading:


Understand Your Brain, Understand Yourself

To begin to get a solid grasp of where I’m headed in terms of changing your narrative and healing yourself in experiential ways so that you can change your trajectory in tangible ways, I highly recommend that you watch this documentary on the brain–“Automatic Brain: The Magic of the Unconscious Mind”.  It’s a little under an hour long.  It’s fascinating, and it will give you insight into how and why you function as you do on a daily basis.

You can also find it on Amazon Prime.

If you want to take it one step further, then watch this as well–“The Brain that Changes Itself” (also found on Amazon Prime in addition to YouTube).

Your Narrative Brain and Trauma Recovery

I’ve been thinking about the idea of catastrophizing and feeling suspicious.  Both of these fall under the larger heading of hypervigilance.  Bear with me as I explain this because it’s very important.

What is hypervigilance? It’s “an enhanced state of sensory sensitivity accompanied by an exaggerated intensity of behaviors whose purpose is to detect threats.  Hypervigilance is also accompanied by a state of increased anxiety which can cause exhaustion.”  (online source)  It is common for those who experience PTSD to also experience hypervigilance.  People with anxiety disorders are often hypervigilant.  People who suffer from chronic pain or chronic illness can also experience hypervigilance.

The two things that interest me here are the two states of mind that can often characterize, or add specific flavor, to a hypervigilant experience–existing in a suspicious state and/or consistently anticipating negative outcomes.  These two states of mind are often what make living with something like PTSD, for example, next to impossible because the suspicious, catastrophic free-flowing thoughts and tale-spinning seem impossible to manage.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t mind the startle response.  Feeling suspicious of others all the time and consistently anticipating a thoroughly negative outcome? I would rather be rid of those two altogether.

So, how do we do this?

I have and continue to study trauma and the latest research and clinical approaches to healing it.  My latest therapist, whom I chose based on his PhD in neuroscience, specializes in extreme trauma and trauma recovery.  I’ve put in years of work around recovery over the years, but I have never been able to shake this sort of hypervigilance.  None of the clinicians I’ve seen has addressed it adequately.  Frankly, that’s not good enough for me.  I don’t want to manage this.  I want to cure it.  So, how?

Let’s start with a premise.  I postulated that PTSD (and even C+PTSD) is an adaptation that enables survival.  It is not a disorder in terms of a mental illness diagnosis even though it exists in the DSM-V.  It is an expression of a human’s ability to adapt and survive even the most extreme circumstances.  After all, all people with PTSD have one thing in common–we all survived.  That is nothing to sneeze at.  That is actually a very big deal.  My therapist agreed with all of the above.  This is a point of view that is emerging in the clinical field.

There are people who can become very protective of the idea of hypervigilance and any other PTSD experiences as a pathology, and that is understandable.  Chronic PTSD can be disabling and create a strong feeling of “otherness”.  It can be the cause of extreme ontological alienation.  I’ve been there.  If it’s viewed as a pathology, however, which is what a disorder is, then it can’t be fully healed in a meaningful way.  We develop coping strategies in order to manage pathologies.  The Western Cartesian model of viewing and treating human beings and their pathologies doesn’t function from a “cure” paradigm.  I am, however, very tired of coping with hypervigilance.  I want a more elevated life experience.

I’m going to be blunt for a moment to prevent any accusatory emails.  This blog is almost seven-years old.  I can’t expect anyone to know what I mean by “trauma” in terms of my personal experiences because who has time to read all the contents and therein my background? At the same time, I don’t think that anyone should have to take out their Trauma and Suffering CV in order to gain credibility or gravitas, thus, permitting them to contribute to the larger discussion.  At the same time, I understand the urge to desire that.  People find it difficult to listen to another person’s opinions on something so personal as recovering from trauma without epistemic trust.  I thoroughly relate to this. I don’t like to be lectured on how to manage my fear by someone who has never been through anything terrible.  You need the epistemological connection.

So, for the record, I know trauma.  I’ve experienced incest, a childhood of systematic and ritualized sexual, verbal, emotional, spiritual, and physical abuse.  I was abducted and trafficked across the country.  I have lived most of my life in fear of someone.  Being found.  Being killed.  I have survived a highly unusual set of highly traumatic circumstances all of which represent extremes.  I should not be alive.  I know all about law enforcement. the realities of not getting justice, and keeping secrets.  So, when I write about recovering from trauma, what it looks like, how to do it, what’s hard about it, stalling out, and the next steps, I do not write about it from a removed, academic place.  I write about it from the arena.  I’m down there with you, taking ground and keeping it.  Sometimes I’m just trying to keep the ground I’ve got.

A few months ago, I set about to read about catastrophizing and suspicious thinking, and I haven’t found much.  It’s all very “Calm down to calm down.”  For real.  I was once told by a clinician that in order to calm down I simply needed to calm down.  Brilliant! Can I generalize that? “To stop bleeding simply stop bleeding.”  In other words, what currently exists in the therapeutic mainstream is the Band-Aid approach:

“Catastrophizing is a cognitive distortion.  Change your cognitive approach.”

The cognitive behavioral approach can be effective, but it does not address the cause.   Let’s look at the cause then, and to look at that we must look at the brain and its actions:

“Our minds form cohesive narratives out of disparate elements all the time: one of the things we are best at is telling ourselves just so stories about our own behavior and that of others. If we’re not sure, we make it up – or rather, our brain does, without so much as thinking about asking our permission to do so.” (Our Storytelling Minds)

This is a very true statement.  This is something that my therapist discusses with me.  The brain does not rest.  It is incessantly active, forming memories, making connections, and reinforcing neural connections while pruning others.  It doesn’t need your permission to do this.  This is simply what it is designed to do.  You will find yourself making connections based upon how your brain fills in the blanks for you, not based on facts or truth.

“Consider a famous problem-solving experiment, originally designed by Norman Maier in 1931: A participant was placed in a room where two strings were hanging from the ceiling. The participant’s job was to tie the two strings together. However, it was impossible to reach one string while holding the other. Several items were also available in the room, such as a pole, an extension cord, and a pair of pliers. What would you have done?

Most participants struggled with the pole, with an extension cord, trying their best to reach the end while holding on to the other string. It was tricky business.

The most elegant solution? Tie the pliers to the bottom of one string, then use it as a pendulum and catch it as it floats toward you while you hold the other string. Simple, insightful, quick.

But very few people could visualize the change in object use (here, imagining the pliers as something other than pliers, a weight that could be tied to a string) – unless, that is, the experimenter seemingly by accident brushed one of the strings to induce a swinging motion. Then, participants appeared to spontaneously think of the pliers solution. I say spontaneously because they did not actually remember the stimulus that prompted them to do so. It was a so-called unconscious cue. When subjects were then asked where their insight came from, they cited many causes. “It was the only thing left.” “I just realized the cord would swing if I fastened a weight to it.” “I thought of the situation of swinging across a river. I had imagery of monkeys swinging from trees.”

All plausible enough. None correct. No one mentioned the experimenter’s ploy—and even when told about it in a debrief session, over two-thirds continued to insist that they had not noted it and that it had had no impact at all on their own solutions – even though they had reached those solutions, on average, within 45 seconds of the hint. What’s more, even the third that admitted the possibility of influence proved susceptible to false explanation: when a decoy cue (twirling the weight on a cord) was presented, which had no impact on the solution—that is, no one solved the problem with its help; they were only able to do so after the real, swinging cue—they cited that cue, and not the actual one that helped them, as having prompted their behavior. Explanation is often a post-hoc process.

Our minds form cohesive narratives out of disparate elements all the time: one of the things we are best at is telling ourselves just so stories about our own behavior and that of others. If we’re not sure, we make it up – or rather, our brain does, without so much as thinking about asking our permission to do so….Split-brain patients provide some of the best evidence of our extreme proficiency at narrative self-deception, at creating explanations that make sense but are in reality far from the truth. But we don’t even need to have our corpus collosum severed to act that way. We do it all the time, as a matter of course.”  (Our Storytelling Minds)

Apply this paradigm to your catastrophic and suspicious inner experiences, and, suddenly, it starts to make sense.  The brain is filling in the unknowns in your life with what is known–making estimations for you.

We humans don’t live with uncertainty well.  in order to make plans, you must fill in the blanks with some kind of anticipated outcome.  In order to get up in the morning and cultivate willingness to approach life, you have to have a sense of what daily outcomes might look like.  This is exactly how human beings have survived for thousands of years.  How will your brain solve for your unknowns then?

Well, if your childhood was catastrophic and subsequent relationships have been full of betrayal and abuse, then your brain will solve that equation for you–the outcomes will be catastrophic.  It’s not a question of values per se.  The brain is acting as the actuary.  According to your life experiences, it creates the most plausible outcomes within a template unique to your life, presents it to you, and then lists out a series of potential outcomes.  For example, what if you’ve experienced few positive outcomes in your life? What if your most recent outcomes were damaging and painful? Your brain is seeing to it that you survive, but, take note of this:

“W.J. (a man who had his corpus callosum severed to treat his epilepsy) came into the Sperry lab from his home in Southern California to find Gazzaniga waiting with a tachistoscope, a device that could present visual stimuli for specific periods of time—and, crucially, could present a stimulus to the right side or the left side of each eye separately. The patient had no problems identifying objects in either hemisphere and could easily name items that he held in either hand when his hands were out of view. Gazzaniga was satisfied. W.J. went in for surgery, where both the corpus collosum and the anterior commissure (a thin tract of white matter that connects the olfactory areas of each hemisphere) were severed. One month later, he came back to the lab.

The results were striking. The same man who had sailed through his tests weeks earlier could no longer describe a single object that was presented to his left visual field. When Gazzaniga flashed an image of a spoon to the right field, W.J. named it easily, but when the same picture was presented to the left, the patient seemed to have, in essence, gone blind. His eyes were fully functional, but he could neither verbalize nor recall having seen a single thing.

But he could do something else: when Gazzaniga asked W.J. to point to the stimulus instead of speaking, he became able to complete the task. In other words, his hand knew what his head and mouth did not. His brain had effectively been split into two independently functioning halves. It was as if W.J. had become two individuals, one that was the sum of his left brain, and one, the sum of his right.

W.J. was Gazzaniga’s patient zero, the first in a long line of initials who all pointed in one direction: the two halves of our brain are not created equal. And here’s where things get really tricky. If you show a picture of, say, a chicken claw to just the left side of the eye (which means the picture will only be processed by the right hemisphere of the brain), and one of a snowy driveway to just the right side of the eye (which means it will only be processed by the left hemisphere), and then ask the individual to point at an image most closely related to what he’s seen, the two hands don’t agree: the right hand (tied to the left input) will point to a shovel, while the left hand (tied to the right input) will point to a chicken. Ask the person why he’s pointing to two objects, and instead of being confused, he’ll at once create an entirely plausible explanation: you need a shovel to clean out the chicken coop. His mind has created an entire story, a narrative that will make plausible sense of his hands’ discrepancy, when, in reality, it all goes back to those silent images.

Gazzaniga calls the left hemisphere our left-brain interpreter, driven to seek causes and explanations—even for things that may not have them, or at least not readily available to our minds—in a natural and instinctive fashion. The interpreter is responsible for deciding that a shovel is needed to clean out a chicken coop, that you’re laughing because the machine in front of you is funny (the explanation given by a female patient when a pinup girl was flashed to her right hemisphere, causing her to snicker even though she swore she saw nothing), that you’re thirsty because the air is dry and not because your right hemisphere has just been presented with a glass of water (another study in confabulation run by Gazzaniga and colleagues). But while the interpreter makes perfect sense, he is more often than not flat out wrong.” (Our Storytelling Minds)

What this evidence has demonstrated is that our brains are often wrong.  

Our brains are performing a task, but those stories that seem to intrude on us when we find ourselves engaging in our daily lives, relating to others, trying new things, or surmounting obstacles are seldom true.  They exist within the template that our brain put together based upon what it interpreted as correct at the time.  Those interpretations may all be wrong.

In order to take control of that, we have to change that template.  Is it hard? Yes.  Why? It’s hard because you don’t have the neural connections to support a new template.  Yet.  Your current traumatic template is well-developed and functioning on autopilot.

So, where do you start?

That’s the next post.  Knowing, however, that catastrophizing and suspiciousness are functions of your brain attempting to interpret your experiences and environment might be the glimmer of hope that you need to be willing to keep going.  It can and will get better.

Further Reading:

Our Storytelling Minds: Do We Ever Really Know What’s Going on Inside? by Maria Konnikova



CBD, Endocannabinoid System, and PTSD

My last post was about PTSD.  I tend to jump around topically a bit simply because I’ll wake up in the morning sometimes with an idea in my head and think, “Oh, that would be interesting to write about.”  The topic of PTSD, however, is germane to this blog because I have written so much about it not to mention I carry that diagnosis.  I’ve had PTSD since childhood.  In my case, it is a chronic experience in which the general PTSD experience ebbs and flows.  Under high stress, it returns.  When life eases up a bit, all systems slow down, and I feel much more at ease.  It is practically a way of life at this point.

Life experiences have reinforced the PTSD experience as is the case for many.  Childhood trauma can set it in motion.  A later trauma will not only reinforce the biology behind PTSD but add additional symptoms to the overall experience.  Abusive relationships or even one primary abusive relationship continue to reinforce post-traumatic stress responses that interfere with activities of daily living and quality of life and relationships.  There is nothing new here in terms of a narrative.  Many, many people experience this.  How do we get out of it?

I have spent the last year inundated with post-traumatic responses and an equal desire to stop them.  It has ruled my brain and body.  Knowing why it’s there (leaving an abusive marriage) has not buffered the blows.  I have still had to “ride the waves” of the extreme emotional experiences caused by PTSD.

What do we do?

Enter an adjunct therapy…

My state has recently legalized medical cannabis.  No, our program is nothing like California’s or Colorado’s.  Only pills and oil.  There will be no recreational usage here say our legislators! At this point in the process, I don’t care about recreational usage.  I care about treatment.  So, let’s discuss cannabidiol (CBD).  What is CBD?

Cannabidiol—CBD—is a cannabis compound that has significant medical benefits, but does not make people feel “stoned” and can actually counteract the psychoactivity of THC. The fact that CBD-rich cannabis is non-psychoactive or less psychoactive than THC-dominant strains makes it an appealing option for patients looking for relief from inflammation, pain, anxiety, psychosis, seizures, spasms, and other conditions without disconcerting feelings of lethargy or dysphoria.” (ProjectCBD)

So, it’s actually helpful then?

“CBD may have therapeutic benefits in the treatment of various conditions, including chronic pain,anxiety,nausea,rheumatoid arthritis, schizophrenia,diabetes,PTSD,alcoholism,strokes and cardiovascular disease,cancer,and other ailments.

CBD has been shown to suppress colon cancer tumors in mice and to kill breast cancer cells in lab studies by Dr. Sean McAllister at the California Pacific Medical Center. However, cancer specialists caution that the efficacy of CBD for cancer remains to be demonstrated in actual human studies.

CBD also has anti-inflammatory, neuro-protective, and antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are thought to fight degenerative diseases and aging. CBD has also been shown to stimulate bone fracture healing in laboratory animals.” (CANorml)

THC, the component of cannabis that causes the “high”, is therapeutic as well:

“Scientists at the Scripps Research Center in San Diego reported that THC inhibits an enzyme implicated in the formation of beta-amyloid plaque, the hallmark of Alzheimer’s-related dementia. The federal government recognizes single-molecule THC (Marinol) as an anti-nausea compound and appetite booster, deeming it a Schedule III drug, a category reserved for medicinal substances with little abuse potential.” (ProjectCBD)

I was recently certified for medicinal cannabis in my state.  I sat down with a doctor who went over all my symptoms, and he recommended two blends.  A THC dominant blend for pain and nausea and a THC:CBD blend for other health issues.

A happy accident occurred.  While I was tracking my symptoms I noticed that my PTSD-related anxiety was decreasing.  I found the most relief with the THC:CBD blend.

I’m fascinated by this and naturally want to understand it.

Enter the endogenous cannibinoid system aka endocannibinoid system (ECS).  What is that? Well, it’s this:

“The endocannibinoid system is perhaps the most important physiologic system involved in establishing and maintaining human health. Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout the body: in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. In each tissue, the cannabinoid system performs different tasks, but the goal is always the same: homeostasis, the maintenance of a stable internal environment despite fluctuations in the external environment…

Endocannabinoids and cannabinoids are also found at the intersection of the body’s various systems, allowing communication and coordination between different cell types. At the site of an injury, for example, cannabinoids can be found decreasing the release of activators and sensitizers from the injured tissue, stabilizing the nerve cell to prevent excessive firing, and calming nearby immune cells to prevent release of pro-inflammatory substances. Three different mechanisms of action on three different cell types for a single purpose: minimize the pain and damage caused by the injury.

The endocannabinoid system, with its complex actions in our immune system, nervous system, and all of the body’s organs, is literally a bridge between body and mind. By understanding this system we begin to see a mechanism that explains how states of consciousness can promote health or disease.

In addition to regulating our internal and cellular homeostasis, cannabinoids influence a person’s relationship with the external environment. Socially, the administration of cannabinoids clearly alters human behavior, often promoting sharing, humor, and creativity. By mediating neurogenesis, neuronal plasticity, and learning, cannabinoids may directly influence a person’s open-mindedness and ability to move beyond limiting patterns of thought and behavior from past situations. Reformatting these old patterns is an essential part of health in our quickly changing environment.” (Introduction to the Endocannabinoid System)

Phytochemicals like CBD and THC, for example, are then known in the context of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) as phytocannibinoids because they are plant-based cannibinoids.  Our body already produces cannibinoids.  It has been postulated that homeostasis cannot be maintained when there is a lack of natural cannibinoids in the body, hence, disease processes begin and other syndromes like Fibromyalgia appear.  Other brain-based disorders like anxiety, for example, of which PTSD is one appear on the scene.  The brain cannot engage properly in neurogenesis and loses some of its neuroplasticity.  Reintroduce cannibinoids to the body in the form of phytocannibinoids like CBD and watch the body return to homeostasis.

Months ago, I wasn’t sure what I thought about medical marijuana.  To be honest, I didn’t think about cannabis at all.  A close friend of mine, however, had a daughter with intractable seizures who finally found relief in the form of CBD oil.  I had never heard of CBD.  I was then faced with my own biases around the idea of cannabis.  What did I even know about marijuana aside from having grown up watching Cheech and Chong films along with my not too recent viewing of “Pineapple Express”? Honestly, I only had second-hand knowledge at best.  I knew absolutely nothing about medical cannabis.  Surely, James Franco would not be the one certifying me for medical cannabis, right?

I have learned more about medical marijuana in the past year than I ever thought I would.  I have also learned that it is practically impossible to recover from certain conditions if the body lacks what it is naturally supposed to have.  I can do all the right things in the way of therapy (which I have done and continue to do).  I can follow the right diet (which I do), and I can take even drastic steps to make my life better (which I did).  But, if your body doesn’t have what it naturally requires to heal and maintain its ideal state of health, then those steps feel like walking through setting cement.

My conclusion? A 4:1 THC:CBD oil is highly therapeutic for neuralgia, nociceptive pain, migraines, and the symptoms of anxiety and perseveration that are comorbid to PTSD.  This is, however, not a legal alternative for many people as medical cannabis is not available in many states.  So, in the meantime, let me refer you to Dixie’s Botanicals CBD Hemp Oil Products.  It’s legal.  It’s CBD-based.  Check them out!

For further reading on PTSD and CBD, I recommend ProjectCBD‘s list of studies on CBD and PTSD: PTSD and CBD.  I also recommend ProjectCBD in general for further education on medical cannabis.

If you really feel like getting your feet wet, then I recommend this book:



Click image for link

The world is changing, and I think that it’s changing for the better.  There are options for achieving relief, recovery, and, ultimately, healing.  We just need to expand our vision and take an honest look at our biases and their origins.

Further Reading:







Post-Traumatic Stress…Disorder?

Eric Maisel proposed a few years ago that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) isn’t actually a disorder nor should it be labeled as such.  It should just be termed post-traumatic stress response or something similar.  Others are starting to agree with him.


Well, if we step back for a moment and take a look at why PTSD develops in people in the first place, then you might see that Maisel et al make an excellent point.  Let’s use the example of a war veteran.

After experiencing the inexplicable and nightmarish realities of war and its inherent violence and atrocities, how does one imagine a healthy individual to respond afterwards? One could anticipate flashbacks, avoidance, isolation, nightmares, and hyperarousal reactions including anger outbursts, tension and hypervigilance.  One would expect somatic symptoms as well like migraines, tension headaches, and other physical symptoms.  This isn’t unusual.  In fact, it was asserted that a healthy person would return from war with some kind of post-traumatic response in place, and this very response reflects their prior mental health.

What does that mean? Everyone has a different level of tolerance for trauma.  What one person can tolerate may vary wildly from what another person can tolerate.  Someone may be able to return from war and integrate into society and family life with greater ease than another person, and this is almost certainly to do with the resiliency factor.  Everyone has their own resiliency spectrum.  For those with a lower tolerance for trauma then,  it is completely normal and to be expected even that they would return from a war setting experiencing a post-traumatic response.

Labeling a completely normal human response to trauma a “disorder” stigmatizes trauma survivors.  Anyone who has been through trauma and admitted it to the wrong person knows all about this.  It also keeps people away from the very environments that would allow for healing.  Many trauma survivors already struggle with that uniquely depersonalized feeling that causes them to feel like they are on the outside of their lives looking in.  Adding stigma to the emotional experience amplifies that ontological isolation–the Outsider Experience–and perpetuates the anxiety that a good future is for other people.

PTSD is a brain-based experience.  Studies have shown that the size of the hippocampus is a factor in the development of PTSD.  This is why two people can go through the same trauma while only one develops PTSD.  Those with a smaller hippocampus may be genetically vulnerable to the development of PTSD after trauma.  The emotional experience of PTSD is an expression of an experience originating in the brain, and your brain believes that it is doing its job.  Even the post-traumatic response lies on a spectrum.  Some people experience it acutely while others endure a chronic experience.

Much of what has been labeled as “disorder”, in my opinion, isn’t that disordered at all.  It’s an expected response.  In fact, it’s the brain adapting to fit an extreme environment–even if that extreme environment is very short-lived.  The problem that exists is retraining the brain.  Telling the brain to stand down.  Adapt again.  The environment has changed yet again.  I think, hence, that PTSD is an adaptation, not a disorder.

The good news is that there is help for that.  We adapted to a situation in order to survive it.  We can adapt again in our lives in order to do more than survive.  In order to really live and regain a sense of control.  Discover our options.  Create happiness.

EMDR and doing therapeutic work with a qualified therapist will get you there, but, in case you can’t pursue that yet, this book will get you started: