Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: a discussion

Linked below is a thoughtful discussion of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD).

Personally, I think we all have CPTSD for how can the basic needs of a child (acceptance and security) ever be fully met?

A core aspect of Buddhist mindfulness training is noticing disturbing psychological responses the moment they arise. The ways these responses are dealt with and cured is a major focus of Buddhist practice.

The discussion linked below explores mindfulness in CPTSD therapy. It also describes the therapeutic concept “co-regulation,” which entails two people mindfully regulating or curing unwanted stressors together. (FIML does that extremely well, btw.)

Here’s the discussion. It’s a good read.

-Behaviors serve a purpose and are maladaptive attempts to meet an unmet need and trauma survivors generally have maladaptive behaviors which came from shame and recreate shame. If you struggle with an eating disorder, substances, or other compulsive or destructive behaviors, honor the need you were trying to get met, the feeling you were trying to feel/not feel, and work on addressing that in a substantial way instead of focusing on controlling symptoms or shaming yourself for “bad” behavior

-our childhood relationship solutions are our adult relationship problems. Complex trauma is attachment trauma, so we are all impacted primarily in our ways of relating to ourselves and others. Be gentle with yourself for the childhood solutions (fawning, complying, running, clinging, manipulating, avoiding, etc) that are now causing adult relationship problems. Don’t label yourself as co dependent or rush yourself to not feel what you feel – you’ve been programmed this way and it takes conscious unlearning and practice to create new patterns

-there is nothing wrong with craving deep, meaningful, secure relationships. We are meant to be connected and healing takes place not just in our relationship with ourselves but our relationship with others. Often children with complex trauma will develop one of two attitudes to cope. A) if I’m good enough I’ll be lovable or B) fine I don’t need these people anyways. If you need love and the needs are unmet those needs become so painful we sometimes shut them down, which creates inner tension because the deep need for attachment and love never truly goes away, it’s just repressed. Unfortunately, some “recovery from co-dependency” can mimic this message of needing to be independent, self sufficient, and shut down the need for co-regulation and attachment.

-co dependency isn’t about your relationship with anyone else,‘ it’s about a lack of a relationship with yourself

-identifying and healing my nervous system and attachment patterns and rebuilding self trust are the two most important parts of my healing (The main things I’ve learned as a CPTSD survivor and trauma therapist so far)

Global Workspace Theory and mistake awareness & correction

Global workspace theory is a description of how our minds work. The word global refers to the whole mind or brain, not the world.

The central feature of this theory—the global workspace—is conscious working memory, or working memory that could be made conscious with minimal effort.

This global workspace is also what a great deal of Buddhist mindfulness attends to. If we focus our attention on what is coming in and out of our global workspace, we will gain many insights into how our minds operate.

The Buddha’s five skandha explanation of consciousness can be understood as a form (or percepta) entering the global workspace.

Consciousness is the fifth skandha in the chain of skandhas. It is very important to recognize that whatever we become conscious of is not necessarily right.

With this in mind, we can see that being mindful of what is entering and leaving our global workspace can help us forestall errors from forming and growing in our minds.

In the Buddhist tradition, ignorance (a kind of error) is the deep source of all delusion.

But how do I know if the percepta or bits of information entering my awareness are right or wrong?

Well, there is science and Bayesian thought processes to help us, and they are both very good, but is there anything else?

What about my actual mind? My psychology? My understanding of my being in the world? How do I become mindful and more right about these?

Besides science and Bayes, I can ask an honest friend who knows me well if the percepta I think I just received from them is right or wrong.

If my friend knows the game, they will be ready to answer me before my global workspace changes too much. If my friend confirms my interpretation of what they just did or said, I will know that my interpretation (or consciousness) is correct.

If they disconfirm, I will know that my interpretation was incorrect, a mistake.

This kind of information is wonderful!

We calibrate fine instruments to be sure we are getting accurate readings from them. Why not our own minds?

This kind of calibration can be done in a general way, but you will get a general answer in that case. If you want a precise reading, a mindfulness answer, you need to play the FIML communication game.

Autocatalytic systems

An autocatalytic system is a system that can “catalyze its own production”. Autocatalytic systems are usually called “autocatalytic sets”, but for our purposes using the word system may make the concept clearer.

FIML is an autocatalytic system that allows partners to reestablish the terms of their relationship, their psychologies, and their comprehension of the world around them. Strictly speaking, FIML is a non-autonomous autocatalytic set because FIML uses an abundance of language and ideas that come from outside of itself.

FIML is a small set of precise behaviors that allow partners to communicate with great clarity and without interpersonal ambiguity. Interpersonal ambiguity is the cause of much suffering. FIML does not tell partners what to think or what to believe. It simply provides them with a set of tools that gives them the means to develop in ways that seem best to them.

FIML is primarily a communication technique, but the discoveries it leads to will cause partners to remake their understandings of who they are and how they understand themselves. Once partners have learned the system, they will find that it autocatalyzes, causing them to remake themselves with a freedom that had not been possible before.

FIML differs greatly from mainstream psychology because mainstream psychology is not autocatalytic. It is analytical, theoretical, or medical. The individual sufferer seeks a professional who diagnoses their “problem” based on a static standard and then prescribes medication or some kind of therapy that will also be provided by an expert. In contrast, FIML teaches partners how to communicate with sufficient clarity to comprehend themselves. As it autocatalyzes, FIML quite naturally leads partners to make beneficial changes in themselves as they discover new meanings in each other and the world around them.

I had been searching for a word like autocatalytic for some time. This morning I came across the following piece, which led to this post: The Single Theory That Could Explain Emergence, Organisation And The Origin of Life. The study on which that article is based can be found here: The Structure of Autocatalytic Sets: Evolvability, Enablement, and Emergence.

I am sure I have taken a few liberties with my application of this theory, but went ahead with these ideas anyway because one of the key features of FIML practice is it “auto-generates” or autocatalyzes itself. Once you get going and see how to do it, FIML practice almost runs by itself, allowing partners near infinite freedom to pursue whatever they want with it.

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first posted

Making Sense of the Mental Universe

Try reading the following paper while keeping the Mind Only Buddhist interpretation of our world in mind.

In 2005, an essay was published in Nature asserting that the universe is mental and that we must abandon our tendency to conceptualize observations as things. Since then, experiments have confi rmed that — as predicted by quantum mechanics — reality is contextual, which contradicts at least intuitive formulations of realism and corroborates the hypothesis of a mental universe. Yet, to give this hypothesis a coherent rendering, one must explain how a mental universe can — at least in principle — accommodate (a) our experience of ourselves as distinct individual minds sharing a world beyond the control of our volition; and (b) the empirical fact that this world is contextual despite being seemingly shared. By combining a modern formulation of the ontology of idealism with the relational interpretation of quantum mechanics, the present paper attempts to provide a viable explanatory framework for both points. In the process of doing so, the paper also addresses key philosophical qualms of the relational interpretation. (Making Sense of the Mental Universe)

Edit: The explanation offered in the linked paper, without saying as much, provides a very reasonable way to see Buddhist rebirth occurring without there being any soul or pudgala being reborn. Nothing need fly out of the body or transmigrate anywhere.

Instead, the classic Buddhist description of karma alone giving rise to a new life works perfectly. Rather than conceive of ourselves as fundamentally material beings, we can conceive of our personal individuality as being (a part of a “mental universe”) enclosed within a Markov blanket.

If there is still karma, a new Markov blanket or bodily form will be “reborn” or rearise after the extinction of its prior existence. In Kastrup’s way of putting it, our physical bodies are themselves Markov blankets causing or allowing us to arise as forms separate from the wholeness of the mental universe.

I suppose we might venture to say that enlightenment occurs when the karma, or reason for our separation in a Markov blanket, is gone and “we” remain the whole (of the mental universe) without being reborn (in a body).

Very small decisions and what they show about us

A very small decision I make on many mornings is which coffee cup is going to be mine and which goes to my partner.

The two cups we normally use are the same and I cannot tell one from the other. If I thought one was better than the other, I would give it to her.

What happens is at some point while I take the cups from the cupboard and set them on the counter, I incline toward deciding that one of them will be for me and one for her. This “decision” is so small I describe it as “incline toward deciding.”

As I continue preparing morning coffee, my very small decision about which cup is mine spends more time in my mind. By the time I pour the coffee, I am generally always mildly set on which one is going to be mine for the morning and which hers.

My initial “inclining toward deciding” has changed into my being “mildly set on” which cup is mine. I might even feel a bit possessive toward “my” cup as I pour the coffee.

The main point is that once we make even a very weak decision or incline toward a weak decision it requires energy to change that.

Of course, I do not really care which cup I get and yet I have inclined toward one or decided on one of them. At some point in this process you have to do that.

If I try to change my decision once the coffee is poured and give “my” cup to my partner, I am aware of expending a bit of energy.

The energy required to change which cup is mine is greater than the energy required to decide which cup is mine. I only fell into my initial decision but must climb out of it if I want to change it.

I bet you do this or something like it, too. Just watch yourself and observe it happening. Once you see it, try changing to the other cup or whatever it is you have chosen.

It’s not hard to change your decision but it decidedly requires a little bit of energy. That may be some of the smallest mental energy you will ever exert, but you will have to exert it.

I find I feel a bit awkward when I change my initial decision. It seems my mind is already set at some lower level so the meta-level that  changes that does not have the right networking or connections for the transition to be completely smooth. This is the opposite of the initial decision which seems to have required little or no energy. And has managed to grow bigger all on its own, outside of my awareness.

Notice also, if you are like me, you will happily give your partner the better cup if one of them is better. That decision, too, will require energy to change, maybe even more energy than if the cups are the same. This probably happens because if you change your decision to the better cup (for yourself), you will also feel a bit selfish in addition to the above considerations. This will happen even if your partner wants you to change cups.

So either way—changing between two cups that are the same or changing from the worse cup to the better one—you will need to expend a bit of energy, even though your initial decision probably required none at all.

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first posted

Is the thought “I should have seen that” where we draw the line between higher and lower awareness?

As humans, we cannot but think sometimes: “I should have seen that. I had all the information but had not put it together.”

I am pointing this out because this ineluctable thought is an aspect of our consciousness itself and not of our culture or language, whatever those may be.

Do conscious beings who have no language think thoughts like this non-verbally? Do they have a sensation like we do that accompanies a similar realization in them?

Maybe they do and maybe they don’t. Non-verbal beings on earth obviously correct their behaviors, but how far does that travel in their awareness? Do dogs laugh at themselves? Do they have a feeling of self-recrimination as we sometimes do when we realize I should have seen that?

Is at least some of the feeling of shame grounded in this thought? Dogs clearly manifest shame.

Would a computer that can pass many tests of consciousness have the thought I should have seen that?

It seems to me that beings higher than us—angels, Bodhisattvas, Dharma protectors, prophets, and more—would very probably have this thought sometimes.

The full enlightenment of a Buddha as understood in the Mahayana tradition seems to indicate a state of awareness where the thought I should have seen that no longer arises.

In his life as we know of it, the Buddha did make new rules for monastics as conditions dictated. At such times, did he have this thought or not?

In your view, is the highest consciousness possible unbounded? Such that it must also think this thought?

Would you be happier if you never had the thought I should have seen that or not?

Is consciousness inert, like water, yet permeates everything? Inert but does not permeate everything?

I should have seen that is interesting because this thought seems to inhere in consciousness itself and not arise from language, culture, training, or other conditions. It seems to be accompanied by a sensation, at least in us.

Is it subject to Buddhist “dependent origination” and thus a feature of ordinary consciousness but not of ultimate consciousness?

Are the conditions it depends on its own conditions? Or other conditions? This might be a very big question.

A materialist would say consciousness is an epiphenomenon of matter dependent on matter. A true physicalist would not speak so fast because conscious may very well be a primary aspect of all things, even the driver of physical laws.

Is the thought I should have seen that where we draw the line between higher and lower awareness? Do single cells, which can change their minds, have a sensation that expresses this thought? Does God never have this thought? Do Buddhas?

Notice that a great deal of humor depends on bringing to our awareness something maybe not that we should have seen but that we could have seen. Humor like that gives us no new information outside of our ourselves, though it does fit together information we already have in a new way,

So, I should have seen that can be occasion for delight and laughter. Fundamental to feelings of relief or peace of mind; it’s a feature of consciousness that arises in consciousness and that we react to consciously, almost always with some sort of sensation.

“Our Constitution doesn’t exist to protect us from religion; it exists to protect religion from government” Betsy DeVos

Too many misinterpret a separation of church and state as an invitation for government to separate people from their faith.

In reality, our Constitution doesn’t exist to protect us from religion; it exists to protect religion from government. The First Amendment affirms our free exercise of religion, and we don’t forfeit that first freedom to anyone or in any place, especially in public schools.

~Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos

Announcement of the Guidance on Constitutional Prayer in Public Schools

A universal feature of human consciousness is the capacity to sometimes say, “I should have seen that.”

By this I mean, you had all the information but had not fit the pieces together.

I can avoid waking my partner with the coffee timer (stove timer) by simply setting the timer for one minute more than I want and shutting it off early.

That knowledge was all there and I had used it for others timer chores, but not for coffee (French press) until yesterday morning. The reason probably is early morning haze, but that is not the deep point.

The deep point is the doing of that or the not doing of that could have been better and I can now wonder why I didn’t see it before. 

This small thing is compounded by my partner having already informed me that the timer sound does not and has never bothered her at all. And that looks like grounds for yet another I-should-have-seen-that moment somewhere down the road.

For why am I concerned if she is not and also I completely believe her? Is that a bug in my head or a seed of something more important?

Another example is for years I was not drinking enough water. The information was there, I had it all, but did not put it together for a long time.

Seeing this as a universal feature of human consciousness highlights in retrospect that a fundamental aspect of consciousness is its capacity to arrange or rearrange bits of information to affect intent.

When we rearrange even minor bits of known information, we can sometimes feel I should have seen that before. (If our rearrangement is based on new extrinsic information, we more often will feel aha, now I’ve got it or that will do it.)

Philosophically, I wonder if God also has this feature. That is, does this feature of human consciousness extend to the highest level of consciousness possible in our universe?

For hard atheists, the same question would be does an invented God have this feature?

How do angels or beings much higher than us but less than God see us?

Surely they will sometimes be perplexed by this same feature of consciousness. I expect that would make them sympathetic to us. Maybe they feel even worse than us.

Does this help explain to you why our world is so messy and sometimes just awful? And sometimes so beautiful?

ISTB – “I Said This Before”

My partner and I made up this acronym because we like to revisit subjects often, a valuable practice.

When subjects are revisited, misunderstandings can be exposed and corrected, changes in opinion can be voiced, new evidence or insights introduced.

Saying “ISTB” cuts off the horrible default response: “You already told me that…” or the feeling that such a response could be appropriate.

ISTB signals that either new information is forthcoming or the speaker wants to ensure that something—possibly something very subtle—has been understood in the way intended.

It might also simply signal that the speaker feels like saying what will follow for no other reason than that.

We say ISTB by just voicing those four letters out loud.

Group values and perverse individual needs for them: an example from NXIVM

The testimony below of Lauren Salzman can be interpreted in many ways.

One that stands out for me is how even a very wealthy person may need very weird external forces to provide meaning and direction.

This seems to be a core aspect of delusion in the Buddhist sense of the term.

You provide your own self-incriminating “collateral” material to join and stay in a group that then requires you to accept humiliation and punishment and even self-administer it while also continuing to provide yet more self-incriminating material.

The snake biting it’s tale is the traditional metaphor for this very graphic example of an ego entirely lost in self-delusion. The kicker is these initially “voluntary” behaviors were supposed to lead to some sort of “enlightenment” or “growth.”

I have no doubt that many very powerful groups use a formula similar to this to control their members and further their goals. If you think about it, there must be a lot of groups like this in the world because there is no better way to fashion a power- and/or crime-oriented organization.

This is the kind of senseless cycle Buddhist practice is designed to get us out of. Whether you manufacture your own delusive “values” or take on those of a perverse group, it’s much the same.

From Salzman’s testimony:

It wasn’t specifically about what would happen much beyond it was you were just in there until they let you out but what I — you know, you would just be in there surrendering, it could be, you know, ten minutes, it could be an hour, it could be days, like you didn’t know how long it would be and that was the whole point of surrender but what I imagined was like being in there and having to go to the bathroom or something and then having to go through like that type of a humiliation which I think was the point of surrender, being willing to go through things that were vulnerable or humiliating or being willing to go through whatever as an experience of complete surrender and so that’s what I imagined and, you know, obviously not the kind of thing you’re hoping to experience. I wasn’t. I wasn’t hoping to experience that. It wasn’t something I wanted to do. And the fact that it was being linked with growth, like the most committed people to growth, so it became like if I didn’t want to do it, then I was one of those people that wasn’t committed to growth and that was a very hard thing to get my mind around and I didn’t believe that you couldn’t be most committed to growth unless you were willing to do BDSM things.

For more of her testimony and an article about it see: Relentless Collateral, Staging Fake Crimes, Standing Barefoot in Snow, Locked in Dungeons, Being Kicked on Ground, Paddled — Welcome to the Insane World of Lauren Salzman.

 

Master Huiyuan

Huiyuan (Chinese: 慧遠; Wade–Giles: Hui-yüan; 334–416 AD) was a Chinese Buddhist teacher who founded Donglin Temple on Mount Lushan in Jiangxi province and wrote the text On Why Monks Do Not Bow Down Before Kings in 404 AD. He was born in Shanxi province but after a long life of Buddhist teaching he wound up in Jiangxi province, where he died in 416. Although he was born in the north, he moved south to live within the bounds of the Eastern Jin Dynasty.

Huiyuan was posthumously named First Patriarch of the Pure Land School of Buddhism. His disciples included Huiguan (慧觀), Sengji (僧濟), and Faan (法安). (link)

Imaginary communication

Normal socially-defined communication—business, school, professional, etc.—operates within known limits and terminologies. Skill is largely defined as understanding how to use the system without exceeding its limits, how to play the game.

Many other forms of communication do not work within known limits or clear contexts and thus must be largely imagined. That is, I have to imagine what you mean and you have to imagine what I mean.

In many cases of this type I will imagine that you are normal to the extent that I am able to imagine what normal is. And I will imagine that you imagine me to be normal. As I imagine you I will probably assume that your sense of what is normal is more or less the same as mine. This is probably what the central part of the bell curve of imagined communication looks like. People in this group are capable of imagining and cleaving to normal communication standards. If you reciprocate, we will probably get along fine.

If my imagination is better than normal, I will be able to imagine more than the normal person or given to imagining more. If this is the case, I will tend to want to find a way to communicate more than the norm to you. If you reciprocate, we might do well communicating. If you don’t, I might appear eccentric to you or distracted.

If my imagination is worse than normal, I will have trouble imagining or understanding normal communication. I won’t have a good sense of the cartoons we are required to make of each other and will probably appear awkward or scatterbrained to most people. If you reciprocate, we might do well communicating and find comfort in each other.

Normal communication, even when imagined, is based on something like cartoons. I see myself as a cartoon acting in relation to the cartoon I imagine for you. If my cartoon fits you well enough that you like it and if your cartoon of me fits well enough that I like it, we have a good chance of becoming friends.

A great deal of normal imagined communication is cartoon-like, and being normal, will take the bulk of its cartoons from mass media—movies, TV, radio, and, to a lesser extent today, books and other art forms.

People still read and learn from books and art, but normal communication has come to rely heavily on the powerful cartoons of mass media.

The big problem with our systems of imagined communication is they are highly idiosyncratic, messy, and ambiguous. We have to spend a lot of time fixing problems and explaining what we really mean.

It’s good to have idiosyncratic communication, but we have to find ways to understand each other on those terms.

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first posted May 25, 2014

Complex trauma as distinct from anxiety & depression

If you think about it, there are a great many people worldwide who have lived through years, even decades, of horrible treatment.

And often that horrible treatment led to maladaptive skills that led to more horrible treatment from people who know how to exploit weaknesses like that.

The following quote puts it very well. Be sure to read the whole piece linked below. Emphasis mine.

For those who have experienced trauma, anxiety comes from an automatic physiological response to what has actually, already happened. The brain and body have already lived through “worst case scenario” situations, know what it feels like and are hell-bent on never going back there again. The fight/flight/ freeze response goes into overdrive. It’s like living with a fire alarm that goes off at random intervals 24 hours a day. It is extremely difficult for the rational brain to be convinced “that won’t happen,” because it already knows that it has happened, and it was horrific.

Link: We Can’t Keep Treating Anxiety From Complex Trauma the Same Way We Treat Generalized Anxiety

People who have experienced complex trauma can be difficult to deal with because they very legitimately do not fucking trust anyone.

The linked article laments that few therapists are trained in complex trauma, which is true.

I would add that very few people know that many societies in the world, including the USA, contain malicious groups that work complex trauma to super exploit and/or destroy people.

These groups either start with a person who has been abused or start the abuse themselves. It is a form of persecution.

It can be done by states to repress whole subgroups (“counter-revolutionaries,” for example). Or by clandestine groups to gain power.