Julisa Adams, MA, Holistic Psychotherapy, Brainspotting & Hypnotherapy

What’s going on with my overeating?

Eating issues No Comments »

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The big challenge with food is how easy it is to misuse without pausing to think about. Food is so available and enticing and such a big part of life, it’s really easy to use it unconsciously for emotional reasons. One of the key issues is understanding the difference between wants and needs. From the time we are little kids, we learn to use food for a long list of reasons without stopping and asking ourselves, “is this really what I need?” We live in a society in which the focus is typically on the outside world, not the inside world. Most emotional eaters aren’t really even aware of exactly what they are feeling and what else besides food might be what they are craving. One of the great things about working on your eating issues in therapy is not just eating more responsibly, but also learning what you really need to feel satisfied and fulfilled. When you dig into what is behind the eating, you can discover and clear the blocks and barriers to having a richer, sweeter, more satisfying and fulfilling life. When you are getting what you really need, you don’t need to mask the emptiness or emotional hunger with the powerful chemistry of “comfort foods.”  This means a more satisfying life

One of the big drivers of emotional eating is the chemical high we can get from our comfort foods. Sweet, starchy foods give us a dose of serotonin. This neurotransmitter is meant to signal us that we are happy and satisfied. We can enjoy it’s benefits from loving touch with friends, partners, animals or massage. We get a dose of serotonin from giving to others and from the satisfaction of accomplishing something meaningful. It can also come from being physically active or making love. When we get caught in using surrogates to feel the way we want to feel, we can get stuck with all the negatives of dependency or addiction, or a life of fighting our impulses simultaneously with not putting our energy where it really needs to go. It can suck up a lot of life energy to battle with food and not leave enough left over to focus on what really matters to us. Finding out what our passions are and clearing barriers to self actualization is a really rewarding exploration in therapy.

Along with the psychology of emotional eating, many of us have the issue of having chemical imbalances which cause us to be constantly chasing the comfortable feeling we really need. These imbalances can come from eating a diet of foods that inflame and distress our bodies such as gluten. It has a molecule called gluteal-morphine which is quite addictive while simultaneously being very hard on the gut, causing a cascade of reactions. Also some of us are genetically pre-disposed to be low serotonin to begin with. Symptoms of this include a family history of alcoholism, depression, anxiety, irritability or sugar addiction. Often when folks talk to their doctor about this, they are prescribed an anti-depressant. However, in Europe, doctors who are less driven by big pharma suggest a supplement with is a natural precursor to serotonin, 5htp, and exercise. 5htp is short for five hydroxy-tryptophan which is the amino acid (protein) your body uses to produce serotonin. This supplement comes from a bean and can be easily purchased in natural food stores.

What I really enjoy about helping people with food issues is that my clients experience freedom from the relentless battles in their heads and have more and more energy to focus on real satisfaction. Ask yourself, how much time do you spend talking to yourself about food and weight? Some people spend 75, 80 or even 90% of their mental energy caught up in this painful struggle. Next, ask yourself, if all that energy was freed up to focus on creating my best possible life, what can I imagine creating for myself? These are just a few of the issues that can drive an out of balance relationship with food. What’s most important is to find out what it is for you, clear it,  move forward into getting what you really need in life, and stop fighting with yourself. This is completely possible and realistic, even if you’ve struggled with this your whole life or feel very out of control with food. Don’t spend your life in an endless battle!

Help for panic and anxiety

Stress management No Comments »

Here are a variety of ways to help yourself under stress.

It may feel like your body is not your friend if you are anxious or panicky, but the trick is to work with it, not to fight it. Grounding in the body, particularly the lower body is a natural way to settle the mind. Focus on connecting with the earth through your legs and feet. Think of a martial artist with his or her knees slightly bent, sinking the center of gravity down into the lower belly. Placing your hands there can help. Actually taking your shoes off can help you to connect to the magnetic field of the earth, as can holding trees or focusing on living plants or animals. Taking long, slow deep breaths tells the nervous system that it is safe to relax. It can be helpful to hold the breath a little bit before you exhale or inhale, just for a couple of seconds.

Usually when we are stressed we are very focused on the stressor. It’s helpful to focus on things that feel calming and relaxing, while not pushing away the thoughts or feelings that are stressful. This is called “dual attention.” So you can gently focus on a tree or some music, or your breath and also make space to softly feel your heart or whatever other elements of stress are going on. Don’t resist your stress, just dilute it by putting your attention on non-stressful things as well.

We often unconsciously know little things to help, for example holding our head  or our heart or belly in our hands. Often people naturally tap or massage parts of themselves. This is naturally self-soothing. We also often simply focus our eyes on something interesting, like art or a  beautiful plant. You can make this even more powerful by doing it deliberately and tuning in to exactly what you like about what you are looking at and taking it into yourself. Feel the color or the image and let it help you remember the bigger picture in life beyond what is disturbing you.

A powerful hypnotherapy technique for stopping panic is to look at three things at once, preferably extending into three dimensional space. This induces a light trance and breaks the feedback loop of over focus which is typical of anxiety and panic. Another way to achieve the same effect is to take a deep breath and hold it while rolling your eyes up to the sky with your eyelids closed. Hold this until you are uncomfortable, then notice the wave of relaxation when you let go and breathe naturally.

Parents learn to rock and sing to babies to soothe their nervous systems. This works for adults too! It’s really helpful to sing or hum a song that as positive associations for you. Smell is very connected to the primitive brain, so happy smells such as essential oils or favorite flowers or spices is a direct way to give your brain a calming message.

As a last resort, splashing cold water on your face, like in the movies, does actually work! If you prefer to stay dry, ice cubes in a plastic bag will work. It helps to briefly hold your breath.

I also highly recommend using the Emotional Freedom Technique, also known as tapping. In this technique you state out loud what is disturbing you while rubbing various acupressure points. EFT is very easy to find on U-tube.

Obviously hugs and reaching out to friends is also very helpful. If you are a client, you can also call me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mindfulness and psychotherapy

Psychotherapy No Comments »

Mindfulness has become a real buzzword in the field of psychotherapy these days. The reason why is that it allows therapists to help clients access the deeper layers of their psyche without having to be trained as a hypnotherapist. Hypnotherapy was developed at about the same time that Freud developed his “talking cure,” actually before. Freud would meet with his clients usually four days a week and just let them talk freely and then analyze what they said, which is why he called his approach “psychoanalysis.” If you’ve ever watched a Woody Allen movie, you know that being analyzed doesn’t necessarily make you healthy. As time has gone on, therapy has endeavored to evolve into a method of healing that is available to people who aren’t members of the upper class and become affordable. Hypnotherapy became popular because it allows the therapist and client to go into the issue much more quickly, and get to the unconscious roots, which is usually where change is most powerful and effective. People experienced change with sometimes only one session, and this was a very exciting development in the field of psychology. However, hypnotherapy mostly stayed an alternative to traditional types of therapy.

Mindfulness, on the other hand is being integrated by a broad spectrum of psychologists, counselors and therapists. It allows practitioners to keep using their tools and training while also creating the space for the client to drop in deeper into themselves and access things which would normally be outside of awareness. This opens the door to work with what is called “implicit memory.” Implicit memory is stored in the body not as narrative, but more like gut reactions. Implicit memory includes what is absorbed from the child’s environment in a way which is familiar or normal, such as gender roles, patterns of attention, what parents don’t want to discuss, etc. It’s also a big component of trauma because of the mechanics of memory, especially when a person is in overwhelm and can’t assimilate what is happening. Then the experience stays more as body-memory, which is best accessed through mindfulness of the body, which is the essence of somatic psychotherapy.

Mindfulness is similar to mediation in that it is an internally focused state of consciousness in which the client is more sensitive to what is happening inside than outside his or her mind. It allows clients to pick up on subtle things, which may not immediately make sense to that person. It is a process oriented approach, as opposed to a content oriented approach. This means that that client is allowing internal awareness to flow in a process of discovery of the underpinnings of an issue. This is a stark contrast to the most common type of therapy, which is CBT, or Cognitive-Behavioral therapy in which the therapist helps the client solve issues by employing deliberate strategies for changing behavior. Mindfulness is a way to organically drop into a process of deepening awareness which allows change to occur naturally in the depths of the psyche which is then gently integrated into a person’s natural way of being.

I find that integrating mindfulness, body awareness and breathwork with traditional tools such as the CBT approach give clients the most profound shifts with the issues they want to resolve. I integrate mindfulness and body-awareness into every session that I do. Since I’ve practiced hypnotherapy since the early nineties, I include that rich tradition of working with imagery, metaphor, and hypnotic language along with mindfulness and somatic work. My intention is to work with the psyche in the most natural and organic way possible, creating the most effective shifts the person is able to integrate.

RAIN

Psychotherapy No Comments »

Namaste.

buddha

I was inspired by the work of Buddhist psychologist Tara Brock to teach the tool, RAIN, which is an acronym meaning: Recognize, Allow, Investigate and Non-dual or No-self. Using this mindfulness tool which breaks you out of habitual defensive patterns, had given me a big break-through in my life. Guided by a powerful feeling of love in a dream, I started using RAIN in my personal life and teaching it to my clients. It helped me to shift a very challenging relationship by pausing and seeing that what someone was doing that was causing me pain was not really personal, just how she operates. It was in this context of being inspired to teach people this very useful tool, that I planned to teach a workshop at Dharma Ocean when the Boulder meditation hall first opened in December 2012.

I’d be presenting this to a group of meditators, and I started thinking about more ways to help these folks with the struggles they described in the discussion segment of the meditation group. I thought to myself, “Mabye these folks could learn to Brainspot themselves, since they are experienced in observing their inner, embodied experience in meditation.” I had had good results with teaching clients to use Brainspotting outside of sessions (called “self-spotting”) and I wondered if people who weren’t familiar with Brainspotting through therapy could also learn it. I could see that a lot of group members could use some tools for working with the pain and difficult patterns that they were sitting with in meditation. Listening to people talk, I observed how much of their suffering came from their own self criticism and judgment. In fact one woman at a weekend workshop my husband and I attended, explained that she had left her meditation practice because it activated her inner critic so much. This made me sad as I thought about what a big trap perfectionism and self-criticism is on the spiritual path. I thought I might help people by teaching them to use Brainspotting, RAIN and Non-Violent Communication (NVC) to shift the nasty voice of the inner critic, since I do this routinely with my therapy clients.

I decided to experiment on myself and find an eye position that felt resonant with my own experience of that judging inner voice. True to the power and magic of Brainspotting, within approximately 15 minutes of gazing into that eye position while meditating, I traced back to the experience to my mother’s pet phrase, “Shame on you Julisa Danae Adams!” From there it went on to the feeling of being in utero while she jumped quickly into a premature marriage under the critical scrutiny of both families. My father was 20 and my mother was 21 and they now had to struggle with getting through college and having a baby simultaneously. I could feel inside myself a deep sense of, “I should not be here. I’m just messing everything up. I’m a mistake. I don’t belong.” Sitting in the meditation hall, I could simply observe this very painful contraction deep inside my own core, and the fundamental sense of wrongness that seemed to be the seed of my being. I watched this experience internally with equanimity, knowing that it was simply a strong impression from the circumstances at that time, but not actually my deepest truth. In that state, even core impressions like this melt in the sunlight of pure witnessing consciousness. I moved my eyes back and forth between this shame/criticism spot and my Divine Mother/unconditional love spot. I knew it was clearing as I felt lightness, love and ease open up in that same core space (and eye position) which had been so painfully contracted.

diver-hover

Soon enough, I found myself with an opportunity to test how the shift I felt in the meditation hall translated into my daily life. Christmas vacation was shortly afterwards, and my husband and I went to Cozumel to go diving. The airlines lost our luggage for a few days, and since we went to Cozumel to SCUBA dive, I found myself diving with rental gear for the first time. I had never dived with lead weights strapped around my hips, and had no experience positioning them correctly or having all the weight so far down my body. My body fat is distributed much more toward my upper body, not below the waist, so while diving, my legs were constantly sinking. I didn’t realize that this what was happening for some time, though. What I noticed was that I was using my arms to try to stabilize myself and kicking incorrectly. But more importantly, what I noticed was that the big Mexican dive master, aptly named “Monster,” was coming over to me and doing the SCUBA version of scolding me for diving badly and grabbing my body and my gear, gesturing angrily about my bad form. When a diver swims like this, they use up their air and shorten the dive for everyone, which can spoil a dive master’s opportunity to get good tips. It took me some analysis as the dive progressed, and I was repeatedly corrected for diving inefficiently, to finally understand that the rental weight belt had completely messed up my “trim.” I stopped swimming and observed as my legs sank, my body went fairly vertical and I listed to the left. I was swimming like a idiot because my weight was off balance. What impressed me as this dive unfolded, with all the other divers watching this distracting scene, was that I didn’t criticize myself or Monster. I was just observing what was happening with a relaxed and curious mind. I decided I was pretty excited to share Brainspotting with my fellow meditators in the new year.

Six months later:
Last week I got a lot of negative feedback about my original DanceSpotting website which my husband and I spent many hours creating. I was told, in a nutshell, to start over. I thought, “That’s too bad, that will be a lot of work, but everything he said made perfect sense. Well, I know a lot about spirituality and psychology, but I don’t know much at all about advertising. I’ve never studied it.” I didn’t feel defensive or self-critical, just grateful that someone had finally explained why it wasn’t generating much interest. Once he told me, I simply had to agree and build a new website.

Julisa