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Crisis

Trauma is distressing and so it's little wonder that we can experience intense states of distress leading to crisis – but how do we manage them?

Crisis, Grounding, Suicide and Self-Harm

When we think of issues such as suicide, self-harm and crisis, our thoughts can turn immediately towards risk: how do we minimise the risk of harmful and potentially even fatal actions?

I look at things from a slightly different perspective – not least because I struggled over many years with suicidal thoughts and using self-harm as a coping mechanism. Instead I see suicide and self-harm as our best attempt at the time to manage overwhelming distress. And so I’m interested in looking at how we can better manage that distress – firstly through the supportive, empathic presence of someone helping us to regulate our emotions, and secondly through developing the skills we need to be able to self-soothe – largely through psychoeducation.

I’m interested in the neurobiology of suicide and self-harm because it helps to reduce the shame inherent in these triggered states, and because it gives us actual, applicable tools and strategies to manage distress in a way that firstly does no harm. Psychoeducation helps us to find a way out of these hugely distressing states which often are based in trauma, and which also often involve various levels of dissociation.

Our focus should always be on reducing the pain – not on shaming, blaming, controlling, coercing or cajoling.

Explore my resources below, and especially my ‘Dealing with Distress‘ course to find out more.

Resources

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Dealing with Distress: Working with Suicide and Self-Harm

Dealing with Distress: Working with Suicide and Self-Harm

Our default response to self-harm and suicidality is to think in terms of ‘risk’. But what if that approach in itself actually increases the risk? What if, instead, we thought in terms of reducing distress, and what if by doing that it in fact also reduced the risk? This course looks at how to develop a collaborative – and kinder – approach to working with people in intense pain, and explains the fundamental but enlightening neuroscience behind both self-harm and suicide.

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Podcast: #1 – Suicide

Podcast: #1 – Suicide

In this episode I talk about suicide … my own experience of numerous suicide attempts, the hopelessness and sense of trappedness, and how I've moved towards recovery.

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Podcast: #2 – Recovery is possible

Podcast: #2 – Recovery is possible

Is recovery possible? I'd say it is … based not just on my own personal experience, but on the fact that it’s how our bodies and brains are designed by default. Often when people don’t recover, it’s a problem with the therapy or the ‘treatment’, rather than a problem with a person. In this thought-provoking podcast, I bring hope for healing.

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Podcast: #16 – Trauma needs a solution

Podcast: #16 – Trauma needs a solution

Trauma teaches us that we are helpless to act in the face of danger. But recovery from trauma involves learning to act, learning to take steps, learning to start to find and create the solutions. In this podcast, I talk about the symptoms of trauma and how they drive us towards a solution.

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Coping with crisis

Coping with crisis

Crisis makes sense. The adrenaline of it can become addictive, or be all we’ve known. Life doesn’t feel right if things aren’t frantic, if relationships aren’t disastrous. Crisis can be an attachment cry. Crisis is the language of emotions that we don’t know how to regulate.

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Managing triggers

Managing triggers

After trauma our brains are sensitised to threat and our amygdala – our brain’s ‘smoke alarm’ – tends to react to burnt toast as if the house is on fire. In this article I show how to turn down the sensitivity of our smoke alarm – and overcome the impacts of trauma.

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Managing flashbacks

Managing flashbacks

Coming to terms with flashbacks – understanding what they are, learning how to manage them, and eventually figuring out how to reduce them – is a cornerstone of recovery. Carolyn Spring explains what goes in the brain during a flashback and how to learn to manage them.

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What grounding is and isn’t

What grounding is and isn’t

What is grounding? What is its purpose and aim? What if a particular grounding technique isn't actually very effective at grounding? Do we confuse the outcome of grounding with a list of techniques?

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Suicide – to be or not to be?

Suicide – to be or not to be?

I could cope with it no longer. Every part of me – eyelids, throat, bowels – everything was clenched tight in a ball of furious unbearability. This feeling – such a feeling! – loomed up over me like some prehistoric sea-monster, ready to snap me up and devour me, ready to pilfer my bones and pick apart my brain. This feeling was too much.

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How to calm down

How to calm down

I was brimming. And I hated it. I hated being upset. The surge of emotion through my body. Being out of control. The pounding heart, the air being crushed out of my chest, the pain-stretchy zinginess in my arms and legs, and the scream … the lacerating, shrill shriek of a scream in my head. Ugh. Emotions.

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Three types of trigger … three techniques for taming

Three types of trigger … three techniques for taming

All I did was walk into the kitchen and pick up a cloth. But the sudden waft of bleach flung me far, far back into some childhood memory. I switched to a traumatised part of myself. I had been ‘triggered’.

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