Healing Depression and PTSD: Dr. James Gordon on Healing Times Radio

Listen to this conversation at the end of this post!

Dr. Gordon is a physician who, like Dr. Miller, while in medical school, became interested in a different approach to medicine, one which honored the potential for self healing and self help in medicine. He trained in Psychiatry, then went on to found, in 1991, the Center for Mind Body Medicine. Through the center he has trained thousands of health professionals around the world to apply Deep Relaxation, Meditation, Guided Imagery, and other person-centered approaches to deal with post traumatic stress during the acute phase – in trouble spots like Kosovo and Haiti, and with traumatized US veterans.

In this show we will explore the value of imagery for adjusting autonomic responses, as well as the immune and endocrine systems, and discuss the seven phases of depression, why it is better to not think of depression as a disease, but the start of an important life journey.

Dr. Gordon will present an overview of his latest book, Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven Stage Journey Out of Depression. We will touch on the importance of deep relaxation, the value of a guide, the dark night of the soul, and the spiritual connection.

Dr. Miller will then present a brief guided imagery experience drawn from his CD program, Escape From Depression.

Check out this short video showing Dr. Gordon’s work with traumatized people in the Gaza Strip

James S. Gordon, MD, a Harvard educated psychiatrist, is a world-renowned expert in using mind-body medicine to heal depression, anxiety, and psychological trauma. He is the Founder and Director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine, Dean of the Graduate School of Mind-Body Medicine at Saybook University, a Clinical Professor at Georgetown Medical School, and recently served as Chairman of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy.

Dr. Gordon has created ground-breaking programs of comprehensive mind-body healing for physicians, medical students and other health professionals; for people with cancer, depression and other chronic illnesses; and for traumatized children and families in Bosnia, Kosovo, Israel and Gaza as well as in post-9/11 New York and post-Katrina southern Louisiana.

His most recent book is Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven Stage Journey Out of Depression (Penguin Press).

This show will air Jan 2nd 11am-12pm (PST), 2011 and will be REBROADCAST January 10, 2011, 1-2pm at OpenMindRadio.com.

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As we are all aware, the winter months and holiday activities are a time of happiness for many people, while others seem to experience an increase of sadness and distress. Anniversaries can sneak up on us and change our mood at any time during the year, but especially during the midwinter holidays.

Often our first awareness of it is the change in our feelings; only later do we understand the full reason for our dreary mood. Anniversary or holiday blues are often attributed to the “stress” of holiday activities and expectations, but actually, there are several possible sources:

  • Those who find they feel “down” between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day may be among the 5-20% suffering from what is known as S.A.D. — Seasonal Affective Disorder. They’re reacting to the diminished amount of natural light; there seems to be a chemical change in the brain involving chemical melanin. People affected by S.A.D. may be helped when they extend their day with full- spectrum fluorescent light.
  • Annual activities make it easy to see the changes in our own lives and in the lives of our loved ones. Anyone who has experienced a major life change or loss since the last time the generations got together cannot help but be reminded of it during winter months when so much emphasis is on social contact and “tradition.” Increased sadness, nostalgia, or unexplained feelings of loss may actually signal that there are things that need to be acknowledged or grieved one more time. This is natural and normal grief. Grief is not the same thing as depression, although inadequately handled grief can turn into depression. Normal evidence of the passage of time can bring with it mixed feelings of pleasure and regret — things change, we get older.
  • Many people have a non-seasonal kind of depression that is biological or chemical in origin; they are somewhat depressed most of the time and may have the ability to disguise it from their own or another’s awareness — most of the time. This type of depression tends to become evident when compounded by any amount of stress and/or grief. Unnoticed at other times of the year, it is very likely to surface at this time.

Usually, depression involves the subconscious or conscious perception of a loss (potential or actual). The unconscious mind interprets it as loss, whether it has happened or not. It may be the loss of a relationship, possession, social status, or Self-esteem, the loss of a physical sense, or ability. If it hasn’t been grieved or accepted, energy continues to be lost from the psyche — it’s as if there were a perpetually open, unhealed wound. Grieving is healthy — it is what heals the wound.

When a person anticipates a loss and this perception is accompanied by fear, energy will also be drained away — in this case by fear. This energy drain leads to an inability to feel anger, to mobilize it, to protect what’s theirs — they feel helpless and weak. Continual fear further weakens them, leading to a reactive depression.

When the environment is especially chaotic, as it is these days (global warming, terrorism, financial meltdown, double dip depression, swine flu, Paris Hilton . . . shall I go on?), we often find ourselves feeling angry at the ineptitude of those we have chosen as our leaders. But when there is no adequate channel for its productive expression of this, the blocked emotion frequently leads to depression. Each additional perceived loss leads to more inwardly directed rage, resulting in guilt, shame, and obsessive self-recrimination.

A powerful antidote to energy-draining depression in any form is the development of a strong spiritual center, healthy Self-esteem and the ability to express anger in a productive way. The depressed “anger in” person may actually be harmed by instructions to “let go” of their anger and to “forgive.” To do this might possibly cut off the only path to healing because the inner anger is, in fact, the healthy desire to express and resuscitate the suffocating Self.

A change in environment – and this could mean a weekend in the country, visit with a positive, inspiring friend, church or other spiritually uplifting experience, exercise, or just putting on upbeat music – is an excellent first step. The seed of joy and freedom is within, and awakening it is the goal; we can learn to access that place within each of us from which deep healing arises. Complete resolution involves developing positive self-images, commitment to values that have deep meaning, releasing excess tension, and reengaging fully with life and love.

Anyone caught up in “Holiday Blues” deserves compassionate attention. Most of the time what is being felt is just a bit of grief and nostalgia. Sometimes it becomes “dysthymia,” or “subclinical depression,” and the suggestions above (perhaps with a little St. John’s Wort or 5 HTP), or the use of the “Escape From Depression” CD program is all that is needed. “Clinical Depression,” on the other hand, is something more serious. If you suspect this is the case, don’t underestimate the gravity of the situation — always consider professional help.

Signs of Depression

Don’t ignore signs of significant depression! Repeated tearful episodes, sleep disturbance, change in sexual function, hopelessness, helplessness, disturbed eating patterns, self-destructive (even suicidal) behaviors can all be signals that someone is in the grip of a major depression.

People who are this depressed often find it hard to engage in any form of treatment — to dedicate time and energy to something that they feel will/should fail is risking another disheartening blow to an already weakened ego. They may have little or no tolerance for change and not enough strength for introspection. (Research has shown that as a result of genetic factors, chemical usage, childhood trauma, and so forth, there may exist a structural change in the neuronal membrane and a deficiency of the neurotransmitter serotonin. In many such cases the newer anti-depressants — known as Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s) — can produce profound changes even when other approaches have failed.)

One of the symptoms of serious depression is to block or deny any form of help. A depressed person literally has no confidence in a happy outcome, so it is an act of courage for them to take any steps toward healing. If you are the person “standing by,” your tender regard and patience will be crucial. The most effective contribution you can make to their peace of mind is to listen without trying to solve anything to support them to seek professional help.

Helpful Audio Programs

The following programs could be used in conjunction with any treatment that a physician or therapist would recommend, whatever type of symptoms are being experienced.

Joy and freedom are your birthright! Claim them!

Related Guided Imagery, Hypnosis, and Meditation Programs

Guided Imagery to Escape From Depression

Meditation to Abolish Anxiety

Bestseller – Letting Go Of Stress

Start your day right with Launching Your Day Meditation

Learn the true words of The Serenity Prayer (Guided Imagery)

I AM: Awakening Self-Acceptance Meditation

An Answer to Cancer – How Guided Imagery and Meditation Can Assist in Cancer Treatment [Podcast]

Don’t feel like reading? Listen to the Podcast at the end of this post!

What’s the first thing to do if you get a diagnosis of cancer? Grab a deep relaxation and guided imagery CD!

Really. It could save your life.

When people first receive the message from their physician that their body may be harboring a potentially fatal disease, they are usually dumbfounded, commonly frightened, and often emotionally traumatized. This is unfortunate, since such reactions of helplessness associated with the illness create an internal physiological and psychological state which may actually impair the body’s ability to defend itself against this invader.

Since guided imagery in the state of deep relaxation has been shown to assist the healing process in many illnesses, including cancer, it should be made available as soon as possible to anyone newly diagnosed with cancer – as well as those with other chronic illnesses. It’s the least expensive, fastest, and possibly the most important single thing you can do.

A patient’s physical comfort and perception of pain can often be markedly altered, as can their attitude, mood, willingness to undergo invasive procedures, or to participate actively in the treatment – even their ability to successfully survive the treatment. All these are profoundly influenced by the attitude and the mental self image he or she has, of the disease, of the treatment, and of those who are rendering care.

Certain ways of approaching the illness are far more likely to produce a successful outcome, cure and complete healing. Well-designed guided imagery and deep relaxation – what I call “ Software for the Mind ” – functions to enable the person to move through acceptance, to awaken the inner potential to heal and become whole, and to free the body of the stress that could otherwise worsen the illness. And the sooner an individual begins this process, the better.

I will describe some of the most important ways that these tools can be used as valuable adjuncts to treatment in a moment, but first lets look at the role of your mental imagery in preventing cancer.

Guided Imagery and The Prevention of Cancer

Of course the best use of guided imagery in confronting the challenges of cancer is to employ it at the stage of prevention Sometimes, for example, a woman with breast lump or unusual bleeding, or a man who notices an abnormal mole on his skin will avoid seeing a health professional because of fear they experience when they consider that this might be a cancer. Yet by avoiding that cognitive dissonance they fail to have the mass removed before it spreads, and while it is still curable. A different mental image can be developed, one which could tolerate the idea of having an unknown mass checked out, and save their lives.

Another example is represented by the person who needs to change their inner imagery is the person who engages in behaviors that can lead to the development of cancer – such as smoking or exposing him or herself to other toxic substances, or eating an unhealthy diet (fat, charred meat, low vegetable intake). Guided imagery techniques can help resolve the emotional states that underlie such self-destructive behaviors. A few counseling visits and/or the use of the appropriate CDs are often all that is needed. (For example, see Weight Loss/Management and Smoke No More )

The Power of Imagery and Meditation in the Clinical Setting

One of the physician’s first challenges is how to inform the person that they may have cancer. The mental image the doctor creates in the mind of the patient is very important.

Because of this natural reaction of fear, rather than face the emotions, the doctor will sometimes try to be matter-of-fact about it, saying something insensitive, like, “Your tests showed that you may possibly have a rapidly-growing cancer that could kill you within 6 to 12 months. I will take another biopsy today to confirm the diagnosis. Come back in a week and I will let you know what we find out.” Imagine how news delivered that way affects a patient! Yet it happens far more often than you’d think it would.

Now, compare how different the mental image and resultant inner experience are when, instead, the physician says, “We’ll have to repeat the tests we did last week. They are inconclusive. There’s a possibility that there are some atypical cells, and we want to run another test. The first one may be in error. I’m certain, whatever the result, that we’ll find a way to deal with it.”

Remarkably, I have heard dozens of stories from patients who were treated like the person in the first example, and sometimes even more crudely. The mental, emotional and physical shock they experienced at this time often proved to be quite catastrophic to their lives, leading to acute emotional problems, and often persistent depression and/or anxiety. It is not uncommon for this kind of shock to create serious disruption of relationships, social and work life – and, as you can imagine, fear of doctors and medical procedures, even when the first diagnosis turns out to be a false positive!

How a person is treated by his or her health professional is critically important, and the skills of empathetic communication and guided imagery are most valuable. I have always started my training of medical students with this wisdom. After all, what we want most is a happy, healthy patient. ( Verbal First Aid by Dr. Prager is an excellent read for Health Professionals and laypeople alike.  Listen to the Healing Times Radio Archive of my interview with Dr. Prager on my show, Healing Times Radio).

Early Cancer Treatment

Once a cancer has actually been diagnosed, there are several opportunities for the use of deep relaxation and guided imagery – to improve healing function and eliminate unnecessary emotional stress (for the diagnosed individual and their support network). As you probably know, stress has been shown, in many scientific studies, to inhibit healing. By using guided imagery you can enable yourself to maintain a positive self-image, a feeling of empowerment, and confidence in your ability to tolerate your treatment well – and to heal.

Depression and anxiety due to personal fears or cultural expectations add to the inadvertent negative imagery the patient experiences from health personnel, family, and the environment. These have been shown to interfere with the inner healing process. Such emotional states can cause a person to fear valuable and even curative therapies – and that same fear may interfere physiologically with the effectiveness of any that are tried. (see Freeing Yourself From Fear )

The purpose of guided imagery and relaxation is:

· 1. To enable identification with the strong, successful part of the Self – the part that believes/knows healing and wellness are possible.

· 2. To understand at a deep level the meaning of the Serenity Prayer , the role of acceptance, courage, and wisdom, and how to access them

· 3. To experience the confidence and empowerment that is gained by coming into the present moment

· 4. To discover how to let be what is, and to access the inner ability to respond mindfully, and not merely react .

In our culture we use denial a great deal. Every physician gets to see at least one person who was so fearful of finding a lump they refused to have the recommended regular examinations. Deep Relaxation provides an excellent way for the psyche to be prepared to accept the truth of the moment – it is the antidote to fear, and it eliminates the reason to avoid seeing the truth. After all, the acceptance of what is true in the moment gives you the power to use the resources you have available to successfully address the situation and gain the best possible outcome. And when it comes to cancer, the outcome is what really counts the most . ( Abolish Anxiety is an effective program for dealing with unnecessary fears of this kind). Once relaxation has been achieved positive image outcomes can be suggested and visualized.

Imagery and Interventions

You will also find that deep relaxation and guided imagery are extremely useful before, during and after therapeutic interventions – such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. (see Cancer Support Programs including Optimizing Chemotherapy and Optimizing Radiation Therapy )The use of these Software For The Mind tools can help reduce the discomfort and side effects of radiation and chemotherapy, thus allowing the use, in some cases, of even larger doses, thereby ensuring better chances of complete success. Imagery such as a shield protecting the normal cells of your body from radiation – or from toxic chemicals – tends to increase your sense of empowerment and involvement in the healing process, markedly improving outcomes, whether or not there is a direct impact upon the actual membranes of the cells in question. ( See Healing from Cancer, )

Guided imagery, along with deep relaxation, is also effective for dealing with the surgery that is sometimes needed by the cancer patient. By using image rehearsal techniques for days or weeks before the surgery, you train the mind and body in how to respond to the anesthesia, the surgery, and the healing. By the time you are in the operating room, your body is primed to go into anesthesia quickly, thus reducing the amount of anesthetic agent your body will have to take in and detoxify – making the surgery safer, and recovery faster. Further, when this is combined with the use of these techniques after surgery there is less pain and swelling, ambulation is faster, and healing time and hospital stay are shortened by about 25% (and that means 25% less opportunity to acquire a hospital-based infection with antibiotic-resistant bacteria). (see Surgery, Operations, and Procedures and ).

Can The Mind Really Fight Cancer?

It is important that when someone gets injured or sick, we see two separate, but related, phenomena – the disease and the illness. In the case of cancer, the disease is represented by the abnormal cells that are attempting to grow without bounds. The illness is the loss of weight, the fatigue, the pain, the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness, the fear that treatment will not work, and the other unpleasant experiences represent the illness .

While it has not been conclusively demonstrated, a positive attitude and effective imagery can directly kill all cancer cells, studies have shown they are enormously effective defeating the illness. And when a person is less ill, they have a better chance of responding to any threat to their balance of health, and of surviving treatment that is powerful enough to cure the disease.

Some of the imagery approaches that have been found to be effective involve visualizing the cancer cells as being weak, confused, disoriented mutant bodily cells that need to be eliminated. Correspondingly, the cells of the immune system are seen as powerful, wise, and capable of attacking and destroying these cancer cells. Sometimes the imagery used is realistic, and sometimes metaphorical (which is how the mind impacts the body anyway). So a given person may see the cancer cells as mice and the immune cells as hungry cats, or see the cancer cells as outlaws wearing black hats, and the immune system’s cells as the good guys wearing, of course white hats. Still other people have less violent imagery, such as coming into harmony and simply halting the growth of the cancer cells, creating a safe long term balance.  In this way the healthy body establishes a balance with a tuberculosis bacterium, thus preventing its spread while not eliminating it completely (a kind of New Paradigm solution). Healing From Cancer guides imagery in this way, while the DVD, Immuno-Imagery , shows how this happens using photomicroscopy as well as interpretive animation.

(For more information about the roots of disease and its symptoms, and how to address them, see Deep Healing – The Essence of Mind-Body Medicine .)


In Conclusion

So, once again I say (only a little tongue-in-cheek), maybe the first and best thing to do in dealing with cancer, before or after it is discovered, is to use deep relaxation, meditation, and guided imagery tools. Through them you can “Change Your Mind – And Change Your Life.”

Discussion, comments and questions: A t the end of this post you will find a place ‘Join the Conversation’. I would love to hear from you.  Feel free to answer some of the questions below or let me know whatever is on your mind.

1. Have you used alternative therapies in Cancer (or other chronic illness)?

2. How about Guided Imagery? How did it work?

3. Feel free to ask questions

•   •   •   •   •

Click HERE to learn more about Dr. Miller’s Cancer Support Guided Imagery and Meditation CDs, MP3 Downloads, DVDs and Books.

The first podcast below is the recording of Dr. Miller reading this article ‘An Answer to Cancer’

The second podcast below is a recording of Elizabeth L. Richeson, Ph.D., M.S. PhysPharm speaking about her own use of Dr. Miller’s Guided Imagery recordings in her profession and in her personal battle with Cancer.

Green Exercise Heals the Mind

Exercising, even for just five minutes, in a “green space,” such as a park or trail, can boost your mental health, according to researchers in the U.K . 1

They looked at evidence from 1,250 people in 10 studies and found significant improvements in mood and self-esteem after just minutes of such activities as walking, gardening, cycling, fishing, boating, horse riding and farming. In each study, mood and self-esteem were measured using two widely accepted assessment scales. All types of green exercise led to improvements in mental health indicators.

Most surprising was that the largest effect was seen within five minutes! After that, increased green exercise continued to add benefit but with decreasing returns.

The health changes – physical and mental – were particularly dramatic in the young and the mentally ill. Interestingly, an even greater effect was observed when the activity took place in an area near water, such as a lake or river.

Study leader Jules Pretty, a researcher at the University of Essex, said those who were generally inactive, stressed, and/or mentally ill would probably benefit the most from “green exercise. Employers, for example, could encourage staff in stressful workplaces to take a short walk at lunchtime in the nearest park to improve mental health.” He also said exercise programs outdoors could benefit youth offenders.

Once again, we have solid evidence that even a short period of green exercise can provide a low cost and drug-free therapy to help improve mental wellbeing. Anyone experiencing depression should be certain to add this kind of activity to whatever treatment or self-help regimen they have chosen.

Other powerful tools for helping to heal from depression, sadness and grief are presented on “ Escape from Depression, ” a two CD program for learning how to use your mind, meditation, imagery, autosuggestion and affirmations to speed your recovery.

For a set of effective imagery tools for dealing with loss of any kind, “ Accepting Change and Moving On ” can also be downloaded or purchased on CD.