Monday, January 31, 2011

You Don’t Know Jack

This is a very thought-provoking and emotional movie about Dr. Jack Kevorkian. I am not familiar with Dr. Kevorkian, other than the obvious, so I can not comment on the accuracy of the representation, but it is nonetheless a well produced, directed and acted film with extraordinary performances by Al Pacino and John Goodman.

The movie tells the story of Dr. Kevorkian from when he first decides to undertake assisted suicides, as well as his friends, supporters, and protesters. It also does a good job of showing Jack Kevorkian’s sometimes quirky personality and creative talents in poetry, art and music. As would be expected, it is a complicated story.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Art of Happiness

(By His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D.)

This is a refreshing book that happily doesn’t read like a self-help book, but is helpful. Because the Dalai Lama talks about feelings rather than diagnoses, there is something for everyone in this book.

Though the Dalai Lama is Buddhist and obviously draws on that experience, the book is non-dogmatic but does devote a chapter to the positive and negative influences of religion, in general.

I had one strong disagreement with the Dalai Lama’s point of view. For a meditation exercise, readers are asked to visualise a ‘…self-centred person…” on one side and a ‘group of people who are in desperate need of help’ on the other. He goes on to say, ‘the well-being of a group…is more important than that of a single individual.” It seemed cruel to me to label the self-centred person as not as needy of help. Certainly we should look for ways to help all of those in need. And while helping a group may mean helping more people directly, it is also important to remember that by helping the individual, we are also helping all the people that individual comes into contact with. The author of the book also had a problem with this, but never brought it up with the Dalai Lama.

I think it is good to read a little bit of this book everyday to encourage regular positive thinking (not unlike doing a daily gratitude list).

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bee Hive Metaphor

Each of us is composed of many different aspects of personality, as the division of labour is divided amongst a society of bees. Some of these roles may appear more dominant than others, as we all tend to have dominant traits. But in order to function optimally, each role needs to be recognised, developed, and receive an equal amount of credit for its contribution to the survival of the hive.

Members of the hive:

The queen is the sexually mature member of the hive. She is well taken care of by the other members of the hive who see that she is well fed and kept clean. The queen is an example of our need to be nurtured and our physical requirements in order for our entire being, or hive, to survive.

Worker bees have a variety of specialised roles -

Cleaner bees are responsible for the tidiness of the hive. If the cells of the hive are not sufficiently clean, the queen will not use them. This is a reflection of how important our physical environment is to our well-being and growth. (See environmental psychology). Not only does our environment affect our mental health, but cleanliness is also important for our physical health (even small things like dusting can improve our allergies and immune system). Similarly, other bees work are responsible for propolising the hive which aids in keeping the hive clear of bacteria and fungi and provides ventilation.

Nurse bees tend to the larvae. This can be seen as the need to nurture our childish side ensuring play, creativity, and ambition.

Wax bees produce the materials needed for hive construction and are responsible for the building and upkeep of hive cells. These bees may represent the need for constant maintenance, both emotionally and physically, and also serve to remind us of certain material necessities, emotional and physical. Builders also aid the construction of the hive. This could represent cooperation between our different aspects.

Some bees are responsible for storing honey and pollen, a reminder to plan for future contingencies and to ensure nutrients are available.

Other bees are responsible for feeding; it is not enough to simply have healthy food around, it must also be delivered, or eaten.

The queen’s attendants clean and feed the queen – hygiene, and again nutrition, are vitally important. Also, not only is it important to be tended to, but it is also important to assume the role of attendee and know how to care for the self and others.

Mortuary bees remove the dead from the hive by carrying them a distance from the hive. I think this not only represents the honour we should show the deceased who were important to us, but it also serves as a metaphor for how we should treat past events that we need to let go of – with care, grace, and respect.

Fanning bees control the temperature and air flow in the hive. Ambient temperature can affect sleep and mood. (See also Heat Therapy).

Guard bees protect the hive and its members. Although too much caution or violence can be a bad thing, it is important to ensure the safety of your physical and mental self by either avoiding dangerous situations or, when necessary, but standing your ground (in extreme cases, one may have to physically defend themselves, but we also need to protect ourselves from negative attitudes – both our own and from others).

Foragers gather food and material. They are also responsible for communicating to other foragers where supplies may be located. This may represent our practical self which needs to tend to day-to-day activities such as paying bills, ensuring food and toiletries are in stock, making appointments, running errands…

Here is an interesting article on how the division of labour is determined in bees.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR was discovered by Francine Shapiro in 1987 when she noticed a decrease in her anxiety when her eyes were moving. Since then, there has been much research into the efficacy of this therapy in the treatment of all types of psychiatric disorders, most commonly PTSD, though the neurological mechanism of action has yet to be discovered.

In EMDR, the patient is asked to concentrate on a troubling thought while the therapist directs their eye movement back and forth (auditory or tactile stimuli may also be used). The therapy also uses relaxation and positive imagery techniques. This combination of relaxation, cognitive methods, and distraction is probably what makes EMDR effective.

Evidence does suggest that EMDR is beneficial. Some studies claim it is superior to other therapies, while others suggest there is no significant difference. As with all therapies, I suggest a person be open minded to anything that might work and to work through the different types until they find what style, or combination of styles and medications, works best for them. (EMDR requires less work from the patient outside of sessions and arguments could be made on both sides why this may or may not be beneficial).

Findings indicate that the eye movement component in EMDR is beneficial, and is coupled with distinct psychophysiological changes that may aid in processing negative memories.
In most cases EMDR was shown to be effective at reducing symptoms up to 3 months after treatment. In one case benefit was maintained up to 9 months and in another (uncontrolled) follow-up treatment effect was present at 15 months. Two studies suggest that EMDR is as effective as exposure therapies, three claim greater effectiveness in comparison to relaxation training, and three claim superiority over delayed treatment groups. Of the studies examining specific treatment components, two found that treatment with eyes moving was more effective than eyes fixed, while three studies found the two procedures to be of equal effectiveness.
Our results suggest that in the treatment of PTSD, both therapy methods tend to be equally efficacious. We suggest that future research should not restrict its focus to the efficacy, effectiveness and efficiency of these therapy methods but should also attempt to establish which trauma patients are more likely to benefit from one method or the other. What remains unclear is the contribution of the eye movement component in EMDR to treatment outcome.$=relatedreviews&logdbfrom=pubmed
There was some evidence that individual TFCBT and EMDR are superior to stress management in the treatment of PTSD at between 2 and 5 months following treatment, and also that TFCBT, EMDR and stress management were more effective than other therapies.