Can we really think our way out of unhappiness?

anxietyimageWe live in world filled with research from Neuroscientists proving that our brains are the cause of everything that arises within us. We are told to think differently if we want to feel differently. More and more we are given snippets of studies demonstrating that our thoughts are the cause of everything we do, say and feel. But have we really got the whole picture?

Neuroscientists neglect the scientific fact that the heart actually sends 3 times more mood altering signals to the brain than the brain does to the heart. And that the Vagas nerve, which is located at the core of the stomach, sends 9 times the mood altering signals to the brain that the brain does to the body. Scientists have now realised that more than 60% of the heart is composed of neurons with the same structure as those in our brains. We have also discovered that the Vagas nerve is largely comprised of these neurons as well. Does this suggest that both our hearts and our stomachs actually have the capacity for intelligence similar to our brains?

With this in mind, the research is starting to suggest that although there is much use in changing our thinking to improve the way we feel, we could get better results if we worked more on our bodies than our thoughts.


You can’t think away most feelings!

To make such a statement suggests that in fact our brains are not in complete control of our experience and unfortunately this is often true.

Unfortunately what most of us try to do is to think our way out of feeling what we don’t want to feel, such as sadness, anxiety and anger, and by trying to figure out the cause of the feeling, or how to fix the feeling, the person loses contact with the feeling momentarily, only to have the experience re emerge later, and then the cycle of thinking kicks in and the cycle continues. Many people who try to fix their emotions like this find themselves waking in the night with that very same feeling back to haunt them for hours on end before getting back to sleep.

I see this approach to attending to our experience a little like trying to wash one’s car by watering their plants. No matter how much watering one does, the car still remains the same.

Similarly with situations where we want to change the feelings of sadness or anxiety and others, rather than moving our awareness away from the feelings and to our thinking, what ultimately transforms our felt experience is moving our awareness towards and into the feelings.

For example, when we are sad, rather than thinking through how to be happy, sit with and fully experience the sadness. Allow the feelings to pour through your being without judgement or resistance. It can often be easier than you think, and by doing this the sadness shifts and changes and the body’s innate wisdom of the sadness (the what’s and the why’s of the sadness) are realised like flashes of recognition giving rise to new ways of being with sadness. And we often realise truths about our sadness that all the thinking in the world wouldn’t achieve. When one sits with their experience without trying to change it a very strange thing occurs. The experience actually changes. In Gestalt therapy we call this the paradoxical theory of change. The paradox being that when we accept what is and allow what is and fully be what is within us, change occurs.

So next time you feel blue, angry, anxious or lonely try this out. Remember, allowing the feeling is the key to transforming the experience.

Teenager boys – Anger, powerlessness and rage.

psychotherapy teenage boyTeenage boys face many challenges as they navigate adolescence and one of the biggest is how they navigate their emerging anger and aggressions.

Often, as a teenagers testosterone levels increase and biologically they are faced with an increase in their aggression and anger; how well they have been set up through their life to navigate these often primal and powerful feelings will determine whether they assimilate this energy as an adult ; either in a positive and assertive way, or whether they become stuck and powerless or rage-full and uncontrolled.


The Primal disconnection.

There are many ways in which a coming of age male learns to disconnect from their anger. Helping them to understand how this came about and facilitating a safe and constructive way of using it, allows new choices for them which ultimately has them once again accepting their anger and being able to assert themselves to get what they need in life.

So how is it that boys disconnect from their anger in the first place?

Some of the main ways this disconnect occurs comes from their own experiences of anger, how they experience anger from others and what beliefs come from this.

One belief I face often from teenage boys is that anger is wrong, or not allowed.

If a child has experienced their parents fight in destructive and even violent ways, or if the child has been victim of misplaced anger or rage from another, then the boy often creates a rule in himself that will ensure such situations do not occur again in their own life. This rule is generally “ anger is bad, if I become angry then I am bad”, or “ I must stay away from anger because it’s dangerous”. Such a belief underpins their anger and stops them from accessing it. Even when the anger is accessed they will typically move away from it quickly to avoid, in their estimation, “being bad”, or that they feel suddenly “too dangerous”. The result of such a block is that the boys lose something of their own personal power. So in the school yard, this boy will end up conceding in all manner of ways to the boys who are in full charge of asserting their will and their needs. Ultimately this results in a teenager who struggles to both ask for what he needs and to stand up for what he believes.

The flip side to this block can be like a rage filled pressure cooker where the boys anger, although not allowed, grows and grows until a single instance brings all the anger out at once. Typically this is experienced as uncontrollable rage and the boy, rather than feeling in control with his anger, feels powerless to his anger, which further confirms their belief that anger is bad. The more this cycle continues the worse the rage gets and the stronger their belief anger is bad.

In either case, the way forward is in helping the teenager experience their anger in new ways. In therapy, talking about the rules and beliefs of their anger is often a starting point but its typically not enough. What I’ve often found is that the teenager needs to have an actual experience of their anger that produces a different and positive result, so they can start to understand anger’s usefulness when used assertively.

This approach requires the therapist to be in a solid relationship with the young man while they access their anger, to be able to truly hear the needs under then anger, to demonstrate that their anger can be held and that they are still accepted once their anger arises. Being able to provide this setting allows quite a sudden and powerful reframing of anger and typically frees the teenager to be in control of his own anger.

Once it is achieved the teenager has some quite predictable changes in their life. They feel more comfortable with peers and less focused on pecking orders within social groups. They feel less anxious in themselves and become more expressive in social settings, and they are also free from recurring angry thoughts, which were previously caught up in their blocked anger.

What I find most interesting about this process is that once they have finally experienced their anger in more positive ways, within 1 or 2 sessions they share that they do not need to return and that life is now somehow back on track.

Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine in Pregnancy

acupuncture fertilityPart 1 – Early pregnancy

Congratulations, you’re pregnant! While you might be thrilled to bits, you might not yet be experiencing that “glow” everyone talks about. In fact you might be feeling distinctly unglowing! Some women breeze through this stage of pregnancy but many find their energy is at rock bottom and they experience anything from “morning sickness” to all-day queasiness to outright nausea and vomiting. You may also feel anxious about the weeks and months to come, especially if you’ve previously had fertility struggles or a miscarriage.

The good news is that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can help with many of these conditions.

You might be wondering if acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine are safe in pregnancy. The answer is a resounding “Yes”, as long as given by a qualified practitioner who has been trained in the points and herbs to use during pregnancy and those to avoid.


Quell nausea naturally

Some researchers think that the heightened sense of smell and aversion to anything but the blandest of food could be part of an evolutionary mechanism to protect the embryo from food poisoning. Perhaps pregnancy hormones boost our sense of smell to protect us from consuming food that has gone off or would be harmful in another way. This certainly seems to make sense given that we did not have fridges for most of our evolutionary history!

Some women experience disabling nausea to the point where they can barely get out of bed and their diet becomes very restricted. If you are finding it hard to cope with morning sickness, acupuncture can be very useful. Unfortunately this has not yet been well proven by medical research. However, one study looked at 88 women with morning sickness who received either acupuncture plus acupressure or medication plus vitamin B12. The women who had acupuncture/acupressure had similar relief to those who took medication. Although it took longer to gain this improvement, the acupuncture group were actually better able to function in everyday life than those who took the drugs.


Boost your energy levels

Feeling extremely tired in early pregnancy may be another evolutionary adaptation, as it encourages us to rest during this time. That being said, if you are completely wiped out and unable to get out of bed, then treatment is a good idea.

I find acupuncture very helpful in gently boosting energy levels in early pregnancy. Treatments concentrate on boosting energy production by working on specific meridians (energy pathways) and organs, depending on your symptoms, pulse and tongue pattern. In this way, treatments are tailored to suit your individual circumstances. As well as very gentle needling, we warm key points on the body by applying a herb (moxibustion).


Calm your mind

Acupuncture is fantastic for calming the mind and harmonizing the emotions. Many women find themselves feeling anxious at the change in their circumstances and wondering how they will cope with pregnancy, birth or being a mum. Acupuncture treatments, as well as talking it over with a trusted friend, or if necessary, a counsellor, can really help. It can also help you sleep better at a time when hormonal changes may be interfering with your night’s rest.


Protecting the pregnancy

One of the things you may be concerned about is miscarriage, which is something no-one wants to experience. Most miscarriages are caused by chromosomal abnormalities in the embryo, and cannot be avoided. However, other causes do occur, where something seems to go wrong in the implantation process. So, particularly if you have had more than one miscarriage, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine may be of benefit. We theorize that these therapies counteract an over-active immune system or aid implantation in another way. This is certainly borne out by studies on animals. There has not been much research done on this in humans, but one study of 250 women who had become pregnant after IVF showed that those who took a Chinese herbal formula as well as a standard medication (progesterone) to support the pregnancy had a significantly lower miscarriage rate (13% miscarried) than those who just took the progesterone (23% miscarried).

Several acupuncture points are also used to reduce the chance of miscarriage. I recommend that women who’ve had previous miscarriages, especially if a chromosomal cause has been ruled out, have acupuncture weekly from conception (preferably before, as part of a pre-conception program) until about 12 weeks. Herbs would also be useful in this situation.

If you do experience bleeding in pregnancy, as alarming as it seems, remember that reasons other than miscarriage are often found, such as bleeding from the implantation site and hormonal changes affecting the cervix. Get checked out medically (see your obstetrician or ask your GP for a referral to your hospital’s Early Pregnancy Unit) and also see your acupuncturist as soon as you can, and hopefully your mind can be put at rest.


Moving past the first trimester

Once they get past the first 13 weeks, many women find they start to feel much better, with energy levels picking up and nausea subsiding. This is when the glow starts! See next month’s newsletter for more about how acupuncture can help later in pregnancy.


More information?

For more information or to make an appointment to see Toby or Louise, our Acupuncturists, call 9904-1333 or contact us here: Contact.

Choosing a Chiropractor

Choose A ChiropractorChoosing a chiropractor is an important decision. A chiropractor helps to improve your health by looking at your spine and nervous system and their relationship to the rest of the body. Before putting yourself in the hands of a chiropractor there are some things you should consider:


Chiropractic Qualifications

All chiropractors in Australia study at university for five years. Check that your chiropractor is government registered and covered by private health insurance. Find out if they belong to a professional body such as the Chiropractors Association of Australia (CAA).

Net Chiropractors

Search the Natural Therapy pages directory to find a chiropractor near you. To find one thatís appropriate think about proximity to work or home. Will it be easy to get to appointments? Does the chiropractor work after hours or at weekends?

Chiropractic Communication

Personal recommendation is an invaluable tool when looking for a chiropractor. Ask friends, family, colleagues and other health practitioners. Find out if the chiropractor has experience treating your particular health issue. If so, what was the outcome?

An Affordable Service

Initial consultations usually cost more than follow-up appoints. Check if you get a rebate from your private health insurer.

Caring Chiropractors

Itís important to choose a chiropractor that you feel comfortable with and who you feel cares about your health. Ask questions about their skills, experience and style. If you donít feel happy after the initial consultation find another chiropractor.

You want a chiropractor who understands your concerns, cares about your health and who makes you feel confident on your journey towards better health.