Pennick Family Therapy - How to Thrive
Pennick Family Therapy - "a place for change"

How to thrive in the face of adversity, setbacks, and losses...Bounce Back Tip # 52

Sing your heartache out.
(Love, love this!)

The Institute of Music, Health and Education has found that just 5 minutes of singing or humming can put you in a sunnier mood.... The cathartic power of music and singing has been recognized for eons. I am proud to admit that I sing with the car radio constantly and it always puts me in a better mood. Aristotle claimed, "When (people) have made us of the melodies which fill the soul with orgiastic feeling, they are brought a normal condition as if they had been medically treated." Think about that. Various religions throughout time have recognized how music helps people transcend dark emotions. Indeed religious leaders from around the world - who often can't agree on much of anything - all concur on the cathartic power of music on the mind, spirit, and the body. Today, music therapists actually prescribe treatments of singing, dancing, listening to much as a method to help people heal from trauma or difficult circumstances. I have used music therapy treatment methods with many of my clients; for example having them make mixes of their music that inspires them to listen to or to relax with. I have used music in session working with grief, anxiety, depression and anger issues. A strong believer in music therapy, Dr. Oliver Sacks reports in Awakenings how music therapy provides an outlet for people who are otherwise withdrawn and uncommunicative and helps ease the trauma of grieving. Many years ago, my father-in-law was suffering with Alzheimer's disease and we used music often to help calm him.

Here are some songs that I recommend: 





There are so many more...

Banana Boat Song, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Emotional Rescue, Like a Rolling Stone, My Way, Livin' on a Prayer, We are the Champions, and more.

When you are in the shower or bath, sing out your heart's content...or in the car like me! Avoid songs once shared with an ex or lyrics that verge on the maudlin. If none of my recommended songs cheer you up, try singing, "Do You Know the Muffin Man...The Muffin Man...The Muffin Man..." Hey, - it's hard to feel sad when you're singing a giddy tune. Don't scoff. Try it! LOL!

How to thrive in the face of adversity, setbacks, and losses...Bounce Back Tip # 53
What you're going through is not only human - it's reptilian!

Yes, tongue-tied.  Choked up. Speechless.  During my vortex mode I felt totally at a loss for words, how about you?  I was unable to express myself.  Yes, me - a writer, therapist, life coach, teacher and many other former roles where I had to speak a lot.
During times of extreme stress (vortex), we humans cross over into what's called "distress" and revert to our primitive (reptilian) "fight, flight, or freeze" responses.  The neurochemicals our bodies release while in this survival state take away nearly 80%....Yes, 80% of our ability to think!

Yikes!  An 80% inefficiency of the brain!  That explains a lot doesn't it.  That's a lot of brain inefficiency - especially considering we normally have three fabulous parts of brain circuitry to tap into:

1. The brain stem, or the reptilian "fight, flight or freeze" brain which focuses on survival.

2. The limbic system, or the "emotional" (right) brain, which is focused on feelings.

3. The neocortex, (a very important area) or the "rational" (left) brain, which is focused on thinking, problem solving, and goal creation.

 Dr. Mark Goulston, who has worked with suicidal teens and trained FBI and police hostage negotiators, knows all about bouncing back from challenging situations.  "When you're in full distress most, you lose your ability to think from either your neocortex or your limbic system.  As a result, you can't express feelings or interpret events clearly so you revert to your "reptile brain" seeking fight (in the form of anger).  Or flight (in the form of addictions or solitude).  Or freeze (in the form of denial or numbness)."

When I experience being robbed at gun point while working at a bank manager, I experienced this vortex and was completely in my "reptile brain" mode.  At first I experienced the denial and numbness to that I had hysterical paralyses for several days. Then came the flight with seeking solitude and withdrawal.  Finally I came to the anger.

Neuroscientists have witnessed how differently the brain works during trauma by studying SPECT (single-photon emission computed tomography) scans, which measure blood flow and functional activity in the brain.  For example, when a nontraumatic memory is induced in a Vietnam veteran, the brain synapses are shown to fire equally on both RIGHT and LEFT hemispheres and back and forth to each other.  However, when a traumatic flashback is induced, the brain's RIGHT hemisphere -where images, vision, and emotions originate - become extremely active while the LEFT side of the brain - where speech and logic exist - completely shut down. 

The lessons to be learned:

1. Trauma memories are stored differently than ordinary memories and have a harder time being consciously understood and processed.

2. There are neurological reasons why people undergoing trauma feel tongue-tied, choked up and speechless.  The left brain hemisphere is literally being locked up.

"What ultimately heals peoples says Goulson, "is the ability to integrate all three of the circuitries of the brain."  And he has devised the following exercise to help you do that.

If you're having a hard time talking and thinking clearly after a trauma, Goulson recommends that you close your eyes, visually recall your experience, then follow these six steps for "walking" your way from your lowest level reptile brain to your highest rational neocortex:

Step 1:

Become Physically Aware.  What are your physical reactions to distress?

Answer:  I feel  __________________ (tense, tight, numb, nauseated, etc.) in my ________________ (stomach, neck, head, back, etc.)

You start here because most people feel stress in a place they can name.  (And being able to come up with the correct answer to an exercise increases motivation to continue!)

Step 2:

Become Emotionally Aware.  What are the emotions that most closely fit with your physical sensations?

Answer: I feel _____________________ (angry, afraid, depressed, etc.).  Recent research by Matthew Lieberman at UCLA shows that simply being able to name an emotion halves your "amygdala activation," otherwise known as your emotionality.  So this step should calm you by 50%.

Step 3:

Become Aware of Your Impulses.  What do your feelings make you want to do?

Answer:  I have this uncontrollable urge to __________________ (run, attack, blame, make an excuse, feel sorry for myself, withdraw, etc.) Being able to translate a named emotion into a named impulse is the beginning of insight, which means you're already starting to tap into your neocortex.

Step 4:

Become Aware of Consequences.  What might be the results if you acted on your impulses?

Answer:  The negative consequences of my impulsive actions will be _____________________ (fall off my diet, stop exercising, get sick, lose my job, beat up on myself afterwards, etc.).

Step 5:

Become Aware of Alternate Solutions.  What would be a better thing to do right now?

Answer: Some positive, thoughtful actions I might take are ________________________________________ (do volunteer work, work on a project that excites me, exercise, call friends, etc.) 

Step 6:

Become Aware of Benefits.  Identify what you'll be getting by acting on the solution in step 5.  Then sit back, breath deeply, and remind yourself of the universal perks you'll receive now that you've tapped back into all three brain circuitries:

1. You will feel empowered to deal with challenges instead of avoiding them.

2. You will gain the respect of others and yourself.

3. You will dare to have goals for a happy life and pursue them.