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Case Studies - Page 4

As Amy left my office, we both felt encouraged. When a patient is able to achieve significant positive results in the first session, it's usually an accurate prognosticator of success to come.

Breathing is a powerful antidote to stress and pain because it enhances conscious, mindful attention, which becomes an immediate bridge between mind and body. When we tune in to our breathing, we're intervening at the basic infrastructure of pain and trauma in the reptilian area of the brain, known as the brainstem, which is linked to our basic life functions. When we breathe with awareness beyond the constricted, limited patterns of pain, we take charge of our healing in a primal way.

Sustaining Initial Change

Amy was all smiles when she appeared for her second session. "I had a good week," she said. "I used my life vest whenever my pain went up, and that helped. I was able to lower my pain medications a little bit because I didn't feel so desperate about taking them, which felt good. And . . . Jim and I had sex for the first time in a long time. It didn't hurt, and I even enjoyed it!"

As delighted as I was by these developments, I knew that we wouldn't be able to sustain this progress until we knew the triggers that increased her pain and the inner barriers that blocked efforts to resolve it. When I inquired about these issues, Amy replied that she felt her daughter, Suzanna, was somehow involved. "She got angry at me a few months ago and said she wanted to Ôdivorce' me, but then she had her appendix out, so I ended up taking care of her. She won't talk about our problems, and I'm not sure what to do."

I pointed out that, while she was telling me about her daughter, she'd bent over her abdomen, and asked if she was aware of that reaction. "Yes," she acknowledged, "my daughter is really a problem for me. I never wanted conflict with Suzanna because of how my parents' fighting affected me."

"Amy," I said, "tell me what you're aware of in your body when you think and talk about Suzanna."

"It's a terrible pain," Amy said, closing her eyes. "And it's burning and aching. And there's this terrible anxiety in my chest."

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