Vajra Blue

Mindfulness and Compassion. Understanding trauma in young people.


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Trauma: unlearning the past to regain the future.

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Give me a child until he is seven, and I will give you the man.
St Francis Xavier paraphrasing Aristotle (with a certain sinister undertone).

Amongst all the great apes, Homo sapiens has an unusual gift. The ability to hear a sound and then to copy it.  This skill arises from an innate drive to learn language, and to communicate.  This is a hard wired aid to social living that has developed over millions of years of evolution.

This drive to learn is seen in the “babbling” phase that we all pass through as infants.  We make repetitive sounds, as if practicing, before we start to speak words. This stage occurs in children of all language groups, all of whom make similar sounds; it is also present in those children who are born deaf.
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Trauma informed care: an end to revolving door syndrome in mental health?

Sanctuary

 

 

“I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek. That was a long time ago, but it’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.”
Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

In my day-to-day working life I see many young people. Many of them have been given various mental illness diagnoses. While many of these are correct according to our “diagnostic” manuals, they add little to helping a young person find workable solutions to their dilemma.

As a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, I feel that my remit should lie in working to improve mental health and not just in treating mental “illness”. This is supported by the organisation for which I work.

The Recovery Model lies at the heart of its philosophy of care and is one of its guiding principles. This means that we should focus on helping young people, and their families, to enable the young person to lead the best possible life, no matter the nature, or degree of illness, or what sort of difficulties that they have.

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Mindfulness: Minding the Gap.

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The guy in the bright blue ute who cut me up on my way to work this morning, did not act to make me angry and reality would say that absolutely nothing happened.

I had to brake a bit harder than I wanted and the action disturbed my reverie and highlighted my being absent from what I was supposed to be doing at the time – driving. My mind flashed onto this event bringing to bear all the other times when I have felt discounted, unvalued, taken for granted, ignored or other similar experience. This results in a flash of rage bursting out “How dare he treat me so!” “How dare he put my life in danger.” And I am even further detached from the present moment, in my car, driving, right here right now.

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Containing consciousness: The clash between species and personal evolution.

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There were crimson roses on the bench; they looked like splashes of blood.

Dorothy L. Sayers
Strong Poison (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries)

For human mental health, there is an unfortunate clash between the way our brains evolved to maximise our chances of survival, and the way our mind has developed and evolved to meet the demands of consciousness.

There is a dynamic tension between them and sometimes the two act at cross purposes. The content of the mind can trigger a full-blown, physical survival response, such as a panic attack, that seems to erupt almost out of nowhere. While the fight and flight response to imminent danger, involves the inhibition of conscious thought.

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Mindfulness: a safety catch when dealing with difficult emotions.

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Light the blue touch paper and retire.
Instruction on a firework box.

The human mind has only a very limited bandwidth available for the conscious processing of incoming information.

This means that much of our response to events is unconscious.

Because of this, we have developed highly effective systems for processing most of the data that reaches our brain without bringing it to full awareness.

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Mindfulness: guarding the gates to our senses.

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In 122 CE, Hadrian, the Roman emperor, drew a line in the sand, and set limits to the size of the Roman Empire.

This step was necessary as the Empire had become increasingly unwieldy to administer. Instead of throwing even more money, and yet more troops at the problem, as many suggested, Hadrian determined on a different solution.

Boundaries were marked around the Empire, and although the walls and defensive works that he ordered to be built, did serve a military purpose, the main idea seems to have been to control what came in, and what went out of the Empire.

For many of us, deciding what we allow into our inner world is a major problem.

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