Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Time for PEER Support to be taken Seriously?

We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For
Connecting & emPowering restores a person’s vitality.
"I had a dream several years ago: I was sitting in a circle with others with lived experience of extreme mental states. (a term we prefer to mental illness). We might have been in a self-help center. We were intensely sharing, listening, commenting, supporting and being with each other as we have been learning is so vital.
Gradually I started to notice that all around us the “normals” were running about helter skelter, looking wilder and wilder and more and more distracted. From time to time they would stop and stare. Then they started to ask us what we were doing to stay so centered and calm when they were feeling so distracted by fear, doubt and insecurity. We said we were having our weekly self-help group." _Daniel Fisher, M.D., Ph.D.

The Peer Support, of Real-Life Experience?

It seems we may be entering a real transition phase in mental health, with an increasing recognition that we need to pay more than just lip-service to the notion of real-recovery from the experience of mental illness? For many years now, people in the survivor community of recovered persons, have been frustrated by the mental health system's condescending "lip-service" to recovery, as little more than "medication compliance?"

The complaint being, that "peers" are allowed within "the system," as long as we tow the party line and help "the professionals" ensure adherence to the medication treatment model of recovery. Many long-term survivors of a "system" which can be rightfully accused of doing as much harm as good, feel resentful of a "professional-attitude," which lacks the real-life insights of lived experience, with recovered survivor status dismissed and disregarded, in favor of a "learned" understanding of terminology and treatment. People like myself resent the all-too-quick, intellectual assumption that we can't gain "real-insight," from our lived experience.

Dr Daniel Fisher's essay on Mad in is timely, in calling attention to a growing movement and real-need for an increased recognition of the value of peer-support and new programs, based new knowledge and a new approach to understanding mental illness. Programs like;

"EmotionalCPR or eCPR: this is training program to teach all members of society how to help each other through emotional distress. It has been developed by 20 persons with lived experience and is primarily based on what we most wanted when we were in crisis. It is also based on a number of other programs, such as crisis counseling and psychological first aid to assist the public after disasters, recovery components which as the basis of mutual assistance, trauma-informed care, and suicide prevention. eCPR is a form of heart-to-heart dialogue, which through Connecting and emPowering restores a person’s vitality. We have trained hundreds of persons representing all stakeholders, in this country, Singapore and Australia."
Please read: We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For

The Face--Heart Connection?
Dr Fisher's essay and programs like emotionalCPR, with its power of "Connecting and Em-Powering, is a reflection of a paradigm shift in mental health, now taking place beyond a strict "disease model" of the mental illness experience. Heart to heart dialogues, can be viewed as a reflection of a new science discovery about the hidden nature of our emotional engagement with each other, and the secret of our unique "humanness?" A discovery Stephen Porges calls "The Polyvagal Theory," which is making a huge impact on the recognition and resolution of "traumatic experience" and its role in mental illness.

The Polyvagal Theory, sheds light on the hidden wiring (so to speak), of our unique source of creativity and intelligence, in the neural connections between the brain-nervous systems and the human heart, so universally recognized in art and literature down through the ages. The Polyvagal Theory, also brings compelling evidence of the long suspected link between early emotional development and later forming mental-anguish problems. Using knowledge gained from reading Stephen Porges and Peter Levine, I have discovered my own "face--heart connection" and continue to practice a new self-awareness and self-understanding:

"As my own breakthrough self-realization began to dawn in 2011, as I read and re-read Stephen Porges groundbreaking polyvagal discovery, my self-understanding underwent a dramatic shift in perception. Polyvagal theory, becoming a more grounded reality as I learned to use Peter Levine’s unique understanding of trauma release to allow Stephen Porges vital breakthrough, to enable a deeper personal-revelation. I’m an overwhelming, chemically constructed being? Literally made of Star Dust and all those chemical elements, yet previously lost in the subjective desert, of OBJECT like, self-perception. I slowly learned to FEEL the chemical frizz of my nervous system's orienting responses, which are my heart-toned sense of being alive? I began the slow process of re-wiring “unconscious” neural networks, which stimulate a negative expectation about life, my “neuroception” of an UNSAFE world, as Stephen Porges explains.

NEUROCEPTION: CONTEXTUAL CUEING OF ADAPTIVE, MALADAPTIVE PHYSIOLOGICAL STATES: To effectively switch from defensive to social engagement strategies, the mammalian nervous system needs to perform two important adaptive tasks: (1) assess risk, and (2) if the environment is perceived as safe, inhibit the more primitive limbic structures that control fight, flight, or freeze behaviors. Any stimulus that has the potential for increasing an organism’s experience of safety has the potential of recruiting the evolutionarily more advanced neural circuits that support the prosocial behaviors of the social engagement system. The nervous system, through the processing of sensory information from the environment and from the viscera, continuously evaluates risk. Since the neural evaluation of risk does not require conscious awareness and may involve subcortical limbic structures, the term neuroception was introduced to emphasize a neural process, distinct from perception, that is capable of distinguishing environmental (and visceral) features that are safe, dangerous, or life-threatening. In safe environments, autonomic state is adaptively regulated to dampen sympathetic activation and to protect the oxygen-dependent central nervous system, especially the cortex, from the metabolically conservative reactions of the dorsal vagal complex. However, how does the nervous system know when the environment is safe, dangerous, or life-threatening, and which neural mechanisms evaluate this risk?” The polyvagal theory: New insights into adaptive reactions of the autonomic nervous system. STEPHEN W. PORGES, PhD." From, Born to Psychosis - Chapter 7

Polyvagal Theory: Why This Changes Everything

How to use heart rate variability as a portal to self-regulation
The key missing ingredient in the fight/flight theory
How polyvagal theory clarifies the role of fear in unresolved trauma
Why vagal regulation affects our interactions with others
How music cues vagal regulation and why this could help your trauma patients
Polyvagal theory and working with children
How to increase psychological safety in hospital settings
Stephen Porges, PhD Author of The Polyvagal Theory, Professor at University of Illinois at Chicago

From: National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine.

For perhaps the best presentation of the polyvagal theory and its revelence to emotional development and our unique face-heart connection, see Professor Porges Grand Rounds presentaion at Columbia University: here>>

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