How to Stop Recurring Nightmares

First let’s look at some data on sleep. We spend one third of life sleeping! This is an important portion of our life. The studies so far have determined that our body and brain need this rest to recuperate physically and mentally.

Today’s scientists can now use sophisticated research instruments to understand the mysteries of mental functioning. Nevertheless, the functioning of the human brain is immensely complex and we still know very little.

In terms of mental recuperation, sleeping is a cleansing process, just like washing your dirty clothes. Sleeping flushes out the waste products just like a laundry machine.

Moreover, dreams helps the brain to sort out all the information that your were exposed to during the day. Therefore, the brain region responsible for memory decides what to keep and what to discard.

Now let’s look at the nightmares. Anxiety seems to be the main cause of these nasty dreams. Anything that worries you could become the trigger for nightmares.

Most people have nightmares once in a while whether because of an extremely emotional event in the past or a future event they dread to experience. For example, someone told me that he had nightmares for several nights after he watched how they washed the body of his father and prepare it for burial. A future event such as an exam or appearance at a court trial can also cause nightmares.

Therefore, at a both biological and psychological level, we need to experience nightmares. A bad dream is a necessary phenomenon. It prepares us to better face daily fears as well as acting as a discharge!

However, recurrent nightmares become a nuisance. They can even cause anxiety during the day since some people have flash backs of the dream during the day.

Here are two ways to stop regular nightmares:

1) Every night, siting or lying in bed, at your sleep time, imagine your recurrent nightmares. Start from the beginning of the nightmare but change the ending to a pleasant or funny one.

Act as if you were the director of a stage play. You are the director as well as the protagonist. Tell yourself how to act differently in order to have a happy ending.

Repeat this for seven nights. Each night change the setting the content of the nightmare. One night you can set the story in the ancient civilization (Greek, Egyptians, Aztecs, Romans, etc.). Another night see your nightmare as a comedy show.

2) You can also dedicate a time and space for writing out your nightmare. Set aside a time in the morning or in the afternoon. Sit at a desk in a room on your own. Make sure there are no distractions such as music, telephones, etc. Set an alarm clock for 30 minutes. Get few white papers and a pen. Begin to write out your nightmare in detail. Make sure you visualize as you write all the details of your dream. Feel free to get scared or cry as much as you want. Write and let the emotions flow.

Stay in the room and keep writing and feeling scared until the alarm goes off. Shut the alarm and stop writing. Tear the papers into small pieces and throw them away. Get out of the room and wash your face with cool water.

Practice this assignment for 7 days and let me know how it went.

To book an online session drop me a line here.

Kelly Hrudey’s Daughter Struggles with OCD

kaitlin hrudey OCD

Former NHL player and Hockey Night in Canada commentator, Kelly Hrudey is a wonderful father. His 20-year-old daughter, Kaitilin, has suffered from obsessive fears of diseases. At the age of 10 she started having obsessive thoughts about going blind and in order to calm herself, Kaitilin started blinking her eyes compulsively.

At first, her parents thought it was a temporary tic that would go away by itself. However, Kaitlin started having many psychosomatic problems such as migraines. She also avoided socializing opportunities and stayed home instead of participating in school activities. Kelly and his wife Donna, realized that they must take action and seek professional help for their daughter.

They contacted Calgary psychologist Kelly Moroz to treat Kaitlin’s problem. They were told that they were in a long haul and must be patient because their daughter had a mental illness which required many sessions of psychotherapy. They were told that their young daughter had to battle anxiety her whole life.

After 4 years of work with the psychologist Kaitlin learned how to cope with her obsessive thoughts. She learned breathing and relaxation techniques, and also techniques to distract herself from obsessive thoughts.

In an interview, Kaitilin explained that, after 4 years of therapy the psychologist didn’t help overcome her problem:

“He helped me a lot and he still helps me a lot with my thoughts and trying to get through them — but he can’t take the thoughts away.”

“It’s something that I just have and it’s something that he’s taught me tools so that I can live a good life with these thoughts and get through them. But I wouldn’t say they’ve disappeared over the years. I just know how to cope with them now.”

The task of a competent psychologist is help a person overcome her problem — not just cope with it. I’m sure that Dr. Moroz is well intentioned professional that did everything he could to help. However, when a psychologist cannot help overcome a problem, he should not make people believe that they have to live with their anxiety.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a problem that can be overcome. I have helped many people overcome this anxiety-related problem once and for all. My goal is not to teach people how to cope with their symptoms. I do my best to banish their obsessive thoughts or rituals. There is hope for all people with OCD. And, yes, including Kaitilin Hrudey can overcome her OCD for good.

Online Self-Help Programs for Anxiety Disorders

If you suffer from anxiety issues, you know that the internet is filled with sites that offer CDs, DVDs, eBooks and other programs for treating anxiety and phobias. Their promise of quick cures for anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, and a host of other anxiety related conditions is very appealing to someone that has suffered for years and is willing to try anything. But you should watch out for claims such as ‘instant cure’, ‘guaranteed results’, a ‘revolutionary technique’, ‘natural’, ‘exclusive’, etc.

First, consider that all the CDs, DVDs and self-help manuals are based on obsolete theories. They will give you advice that you already know. Second, even if the recommendation are sound, the nature of anxiety and phobia dictates a very strong resistance to change. This is very important to consider. Your resistance does not mean that there is something wrong with you or that there is no hope for you to free yourself from this problem.

On the contrary, if there is no resistance to change, then you do not have any anxiety or phobia. Therefore, just listening to a CD or reading a manual that tells you what to do, cannot neutralize this resistance. You have to realize that not even experienced therapists know how to handle and overcome such resistance. Some even dismiss you saying, “You are too resistant. I can’t work with you. You don’t want to change”. They don’t know that you do want to change. It’s just that you don’t know how. It is their task to help you with this resistance. However, most of them don’t even know that the resistance, as I said, is an unavoidable factor in anxiety and phobia related problems.

Put plainly, these programs do not work and they are a waste of your money. However, more important than your time and your money there is a more serious consequence. The most dangerous outcome of these programs is that, they create in you a feeling of frustration. Not only they are useless, they make you think that you are a difficult case.
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Why the Traditional Model of Psychotherapy is Ineffective

traditional psychotherapy

One of the problems with almost all psychotherapists is that they try to help you based on the theories of their respective school of therapy. Constrained by their invisible framework, such psychotherapists explain and interpret your fear and anxiety from their theories of reference.

This means that your problem (and all its accompanying symptoms) have to match their model of a disorder; leading to two subtle but important realities with dramatic consequences. First, if you, with the help of the therapist search for the ‘why’ of the problem, the finding would always be ‘presumed causes’. This means that the so called causes were in actuality constructed by their adopted theories and their respective school of therapy. Another problem appears when they interpret your fears and anxiety in the light of their theories; the building blocks of your problem are distorted. Again you and your fears and anxiety must match their theories.

People who always keep asking ‘why’ are like tourists who read the guide book while they are standing in front of a monument; they are so busy reading about the building’s history, origins and so on that they don’t look at it.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

When discussing fears, phobias and anxiety, it seems logical to ask what is at their root. But at the heart of such inquiry lies the assumption of a linear relationship between cause and effect. From this lineal way of thinking, in order to solve a problem it seems necessary to go back in time in search of the cause. And since the cause must come before the effect, one must investigate the past.

However, this traditional model has become obsolete. More than a century ago the fields of physics and natural sciences have undergone a major change replacing lineal cause and effect with a circular one. Scientists like Einstein, Heisenberg, Bateson, Maturana, Prigogine and Watzlawick (among many others) have contributed to dismissing the old and obsolete linear causality and adopted the circular one which is more in harmony with contemporary understanding of reality. However, most schools of psychotherapy have attached themselves stubbornly to traditional models of mind and behavior.
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