Reflections on loving God, being Catholic, being a woman, being ill, loving life and anything else that comes to mind.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cranial Sacral Therapy & The Dignity of the Human Person (Pt. 2)

(Warning: Necessary Technical Information Ahead)

Yes - your friend should have forewarned you about the emotions that may come up for you in these sessions...but, have you considered that your body needed to get this memory surfaced and dealt with? Did you consider that your other health ailments were unresolved energies that you had not processed (possibly from your trauma)? I am sorry for your ordeal as a child, it's heartbreaking...hopefully, you will see in time that your friend is not to blame and, maybe, you are projecting your anger/grief/sorrow on to them. Peace & Blessings. (emphasis added) Cranial Sacral Therapy & The Dignity of the Human Person (Pt. 1)
I'm glad she commented exactly as she did because Penelope raises most of the issues I want to cover in this post & the next.

In my previous post, “Cranial Sacral Therapy & The Dignity of the Human Person (Pt. 1),” I wrote: "[h]ow do I respond to someone who knew my story, knew the horrors I faced in my childhood, had also experienced similar horrors..." without specifying that my friend knew that I remembered being raped when I was four. My friend knew. I had shared with my friend all the trauma in my past that I know of, including being raped at four, before we had that last CST session. There was no memory that needed to come to the surface. It was already there.

Practitioners of Cranial Sacral Therapy refer to emotions as if emotions & memories are interchangeable. In fact, emotions are not memories & memories are not emotions. More importantly, a flashback is not a memory. Also, a flashback is not an emotion. Emotions usually arise in response to a flashback & memories are part of a flashback, but each is its own unique reality. They are not as some, including my friend & Penelope, seem to believe, one thing but three distinct things.

The definition of emotion includes other components than those listed here but this is a good medical/psychological definition: Emotion is a conscious mental reaction (as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body.

Memory is the ability to recover information about past events or knowledge; the process of recovering information about past events or knowledge; cognitive reconstruction. 

A simple definition of a flashback is “a recurring, intensely vivid mental image of a past traumatic experience.” When defining a flashback, simple is inadequate, so additional,  even technical, information is required:
"During a flashback, the trauma survivor is usually still relatively aware of his or her current surroundings and situation. There is a kind of doubling of consciousness, i.e., of reliving the past (to which the person also begins to respond) while at the same time partially staying in the present. The dissonance occurring between these parallel experiences can induce survivors to feel 'crazy.'

"…During a conscious flashback, there is usually a strong visual component of the traumatic memory, implying that there is a cognitive dimension to the re-experienced trauma. Trauma survivors are also partially aware of their present circumstances, and usually remember the contents of the flashback afterwards. This combined awareness of both the trauma and the present situation can give rise to a confused sense of time. Although both the trauma and the present situation are experienced in the present, the current circumstances may be experienced in a more depersonalized manner."
Memory & emotion are normal human experiences. Flashbacks are a symptom of PTSD & other severe psychological illnesses. Memory doesn't take over. It doesn't cause one to live parallel experiences. In the midst of a flashback, I have little idea of what I'm saying or doing - I just try to get away without hurting anyone. Recently, flashbacks sent me running out of church because the homilist in retelling the history of Los Christeros spoke of the way the bishops were placed under house arrest. Suddenly I was four & being raped while at the same time I was being struck by the words of the homily. Panic surged up in me. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t speak what I wanted to say. I ran & found myself trapped in a corner trying not to hear (our sound system is inescapable). And I tried not to see, feel, smell, relive. People wanted to help me. I wanted to hurt them, to get away from them, to end their assault. That’s not memory. Memory is not an assault by the past & the present with no ability to protect oneself. Memory doesn't take over & cause me to be, whether I will or nil, reliving an experience that happened over 30 years ago. Penelope, I'm suddenly 4 years old, being raped & there's nothing I can do, not even distract myself. And whatever I’m experiencing in the moment becomes part of the attack. Can you see the difference? A flashback is not the same as recalling tea w/ Aunt Jane when one was a little girl.

I was told Cranial Sacral Therapy was gentle massage therapy "that helps engage the parasympathetic nervous system" & would help me relax on a very deep level which in turn would help my body heal. The description is woefully misleading. As I mentioned in Part 1, my friend gave me Dr. John Upledger's, Your Inner Physician to read. The book raised vague concerns that I thought had been addressed when my friend respected my discomfort if certain areas of my body were touched. I also thought, because this person was my friend & we were very close, if there were any problems, my friend would tell me. I was very wrong.

Dr. Upledger recounts pushing his hand into a woman's spine for an extended period of time until she remembered the occasion her brother punched her in the back. He calls such recollections the "Somatoemotional Release" (SER). SER is a goal for practitioners of Cranial Sacral Therapy though they have no idea what is being triggered. It may be memory, it may be nothing, it may be a flashback. I (& valid massage therapists as well as psychotherapists & psychiatrists) describe such actions when performed on persons with a history of trauma, as attempts to deliberately trigger flashbacks. The reason this is done is because practitioners believe what Penelope suggested, that my "body needed to get this memory surfaced and dealt with[.] ...that [my] other health ailments were unresolved energies that [I]  had not processed (possibly from [my] trauma)."

Practitioners of Cranial Sacral Therapy rarely have access to a patient’s medical history, have no training in psychology, no training in the mechanism of memory &, particularly, no training in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But, in that one statement, Penelope summarizes their belief system: when they encounter what “resistance” they know what patients need without knowing them at all & without any training in medicine or psychology. Even my friend, who knows me quite well, cannot determine what is best for me. My medical doctors who treat me regularly do not decide what is best for me. They tell me their findings & make recommendations then I must decide for myself what course to follow. In medicine, including massage therapy, this is known as “informed consent.” It is the belief that a patient who is compos mentis (of sound mind) must receive full information from a practitioner & make his own informed decision.

Medical practitioners have been sued often enough to know that failure to provide full disclosure is illegal. Christians ought to understand such statements as Penelope’s as moral errors. Catholics have explicit teaching that give them even less excuse to countenance beliefs about acting because the “body needed to get this memory surfaced.” But Catholics, as well as other Christians, practice Cranial Sacral Therapy working to trigger SERs without providing full consent &, in fact, unable to provide it because first, they must accept that they don’t know what the results of an SER might be. The practitioner in this excerpt from the the Ethics of Touch, Part 3 might be my friend:
A practitioner was approached by a client who wasn't in psychotherapy and wanted to address her abuse issues through bodywork. The practitioner had very limited training in working with survivors but wanted to assist the client in her healing process. In the course of their work together, the client began to have flashbacks during the treatments. The practitioner felt she should let the client fully experience these memories and would process what happened afterward. After several weeks of treatment, the client began to experience more uncontrollable, intense and disabling flashbacks on buses, in the supermarket and frequently upon entering the practitioner's office. The practitioner's lack of training in this area resulted in a damaging situation for the client and a lawsuit against the practitioner. In this case, the practitioner did not understand the significance of the flashbacks and how to deal with them. She did not realize the client needed psychotherapy and other support systems in place. She lacked outside supervision to guide her work when questions or difficulties arose.
This practitioner has a cavalier attitude regarding the possibility of potential harm. She does not admit her own ignorance but acts anyway because she wants to help heal others. A cavalier attitude, ignorance & good intentions with a patient who has a history of trauma causes more damage & brings no healing. My friend once suggested I have my friend's mentor & my friend work on me at the same time so I'd get a "double whammy." At first I thought this might be a good idea, might help me get well faster. After reflection, I declined. Instinctively, I was concerned about SER though I didn’t understand why. Now I do. SER in persons with a history of trauma can easily be flashbacks. I feared my friend working with another, more advanced practitioner, might trigger an SER.

Because my friend had never triggered an SER & because I wouldn’t let my friend touch certain areas of my body, I thought I was safe. As I told my friend afterwards, I thought it was like hypnosis: a person cannot be hypnotized against his will. I was wrong. And my friend failed to tell me one very important piece of information that she knows which would have kept me off the massage table: people who have experiences of trauma in their past should be working with a therapist to deal with any memories that arise. As far as I'm concerned (& I'm not the only one), any person with a history of past trauma must be very careful when engaging in activities that are known to trigger flashbacks.

Practitioners of Cranial Sacral Therapy are taught, & advertise, that Cranial Sacral Therapy is helpful for those with PTSD. But they are not taught the difference between memory & flashbacks. When confronted, my friend has several responses: anything at all might accidentally trigger memory. First, a flashback is not a memory. Second, my friend’s actions were not accidental. My friend intended to trigger an SER even though my friend did not know that an SER might be a flashback. My friend believes that asking me if I was “okay” when encountering “resistance” while first holding my head constitutes sufficient information for me to provide informed consent. It was not because I could not know what my friend meant when asking if I was "okay." (I have told my friend this but my friend still disagrees.) When my rheumatologist last injected my knees, he encountered some difficulty inserting the needle in the left one. He told me of the problem, gave me extra anesthesia & we decided to get x-rays which explained the problem & helped us make decisions for future treatment. When my friend encountered “resistance,” my friend had the moral & legal responsibility to explain what was being encountered & even if all my friend could say was, I don’t know, then that is precisely what my friend ought to have done. My friend’s perspective is that it's acceptable to wait until flashbacks arise to inform a patient with a history of trauma to see a therapist. It is not acceptable to wait. Training in psychology & treating PTSD would teach my friend that those experiencing frequent flashbacks have difficulty showering or getting off the sofa; many patients finally see a therapist because they are unable to function & end up in an emergency room. Finally, Catholic practitioners, such as my friend, decide that a patient’s “body need[s] to get this memory surfaced” even though Catholic Social Teaching (the real CST) tells them:
No one should be the subject of medical or genetic experimentation, even if it is therapeutic, unless the person ...first has given free and informed consent. (emphasis added)
Cranial Sacral Therapy is a "medical" art, as is psychotherapy, physical therapy & any other medically related activity. By asking me to be a "guinea pig," my friend was asking to experiment on me. In fact though, every Cranial Sacral Therapy session is an experiment because practitioners do not know if they may trigger a flashback or, in the case of multiple personality disorder, a shift from one personality to another. My friend practiced Cranial Sacral Therapy on me, experimented on me without providing the information I needed to give free consent. Failure to fully disclose information is one of many sins that medical practitioners commit against the dignity of the human person. Such sins are not acceptable to God & the Church makes that clear: the dignity of the human person is more important than the belief that a treatment will be of benefit to the patient. Catholic Social Teaching is very sensitive to the occasions when medical decisions are made for patients rather than by them: such actions constitute grave evil.
Man can turn to good only in freedom,'s dignity demands that he act according to a knowing and free choice that is personally motivated and prompted from within...
Obedience to the teaching of the Catholic Church (which a non-Catholic can come to through living natural law) trumps my friend's & Penelope’s & every other medical practitioner’s desire to obtain an SER or any other result. In Part 3, I’ll write about belief in the existence of “unresolved energies” & how belief that a practitioner can “heal” encourages them to sin against the dignity of the human person.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Spirttual Ninjas - A Plea to Enter the Battle Against Satan

This a.m. I prayed the Church's Simple Exorcism for the abolition of abortion, for the end of sexual sins, particularly those that offend the consciences of children, as well as for conversions of those who ignore or battle against Our Lord, Jesus Christ. This Simple Exorcism may be prayed by the laity omitting the portion between the blue asterisks (*) to "'curb the power of the devil and prevent him from doing harm.' As St. Peter [has] written in Holy Scripture, 'your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour.' (1 St.Peter 5,8)" (Before praying the Simple Exorcism, obtain some holy water to bless yourself & to sprinkle after saying the prayer.)

"The Holy Father exhorts priests to say this prayer as often as possible, as a simple exorcism to curb the power of the devil and prevent him from doing harm. The FAITHFUL ALSO MAY SAY IT in their own name, for the same purpose, as any approved prayer. Its use is recommended whenever action of the devil is suspected, causing malice in men, violent temptations and even storms and various calamities." (emphasis added)

This is not a Solemn Exorcism which must be prayed in Latin by an exorcist & requires a bishops approval. But recently, a friend brought the following to my attention: "'When I am asked how many demons there are, I answer with the words that the demon himself spoke through a demonic: ‘We are so many that, if we were visible, we would darken the sun.'" (An Exorcist Tells His Story by Father Gabrielle Amorth, Chief Exorcist of the Vatican). (emphasis added)

We're under attack but we must not think we are helpless or that all is hopeless. Jesus Christ won the victory over Satan & over death by dying on the Cross. The question now is how many of us will accept that victory & how many reject it. Those who accept Christ's victory can & MUST FIGHT BACK on their own behalf but also on behalf of others dazzled & trapped in sin & especially on behalf of children & babies. Children are being brought up to believe sin is virtue & the world reinforces what they have learned; babies are being ripped apart in the womb.

If we are faithful Christians, we must engage in the battle. We cannot just stand aside & think it doesn't affect us. Prayer is our #1 weapon; we cannot fight alone; we can only fight nestled in the arms of Christ & the powers of Heaven. Scripture, the saints & every faithful Christian that believes the Bible is actually God's Word, whether Catholic or Protestant, knows that war is God's punishment for sin. About 620,000 Americans were killed in the Civil War - the cost of slavery. What would punishment for abortion & the offenses against the consciences of children result in? Do we really need to know? Perhaps if we, who have done little to actually stop abortion & sins against children, truly repent & enter the battle against "spirits in the high places" using the gifts of fasting & prayer that God has given us, He will forgive & withhold His hand against us. And even if He doesn't, this is a fight we must enter at some point - either now or later. Let's become spiritual ninjas, calmly & quietly Fasting & Praying.