Adding a bit of the opposite emotion can help reduce the intensity of PTSD. If you feel like you are unable to deal with your past just yet, it is okay to push it away. Throw the problem out of your mind for a short duration. Presuming that perhaps I’m not being clear, I briefly sketch the neural underpinnings of expectations: the biochemistry of placebos and the effect of belief on the brain. Hammerstrom purses her lips and has to admit that the physical brain itself, with its electrical impulses and chemicals, simply doesn’t have a place in the religion, although, she offers, she would be pleased for anyone who gained relief from pain and suffering. I know it’s a real stretch to apply the concept of science to something that to most people is faith-based, she says. You say that the test of science is that you have a hypothesis you put to the test, and then you draw conclusions for whether or not your hypothesis is correct. My sense is that God’s law isn’t a hypothesis; I am not applying this science to test whether it’s true. I am applying this science to prove that it is true. This is exactly the same logic that all other alternative medicines, shamans, and faith healers across history have used. It’s almost the same way Zhang described traditional Chinese medicine. The thing that separates science from faith is that sometimes science is wrong. But how is this possible? By distracting yourself with other thoughts, activities, or mindfulness. You can set a time to come back and address your problems. Assure yourself that it will be addressed and stay calm in the interim. Replace your anxious, negative thoughts with activities that occupy most of your mind, for example, reciting the alphabet backward or enjoying a Sudoku puzzle. These distractions will help prevent self-destructive behaviors and reliving the traumatic events until you achieve emotional stability. Make use of your five senses to soothe yourself during times of stress.
A self-soothing activity can be anything such as taking a warm bath with relaxing music and a lavender bath bomb, eating your favorite food, or tuning in to a good TV show. Anything appealing to your senses can help you cope with PTSD for the time being. These Dialectical Behavior Therapy skills can help you tolerate PTSD until you are able to resolve the problem once and for all. It’s entirely possible that, either through some unknown brain pathway or by the power of God’s law, Hammerstrom healed her vision as a small child. It’s also possible that her recovery was just the result of normal eye growth. In some children, the lenses inside their eyes focus the incoming light on the wrong spot, like a movie projector focusing on a wall behind the screen, causing the image to get blurry, or what eye doctors call hyperopia. And it’s possible that one day the muscles in her eyes–exhausted from trying to compensate–just ran out of steam and sort of gave up, making her vision go blurry all at once. If that’s what happened, the glasses simply allowed her to focus without effort. Meanwhile, her eyes continued to grow until they were big enough that the light was focused on the correct spot. And voila, her vision was healed. That same logic could apply to my own childhood miracle. It’s true that there was a Legionnaire’s outbreak that infected 49 people and killed 15 in 1978. But all the cases traced their infection back to a single Los Angeles hospital. They can control the symptoms of PTSD and allow you to focus more on the present with no fragments of your traumatic past. While the ACCEPTS skills will enable you to focus on your current life, other modules of DBT, such as group therapy and interpersonal effectiveness, will motivate you to enjoy life at a basic level. Emotional Control Using Mastery Using the mastery skills in this section will help you achieve Wise Mind. If you practice Wise Mind when the seas of life are calm, it will be easier to bring to mind those skills during times of turbulence. Doing something that makes you feel a little better every day helps relieve stress and inspire confidence.
Attaining confidence helps reduce stress in stressful situations as well as in everyday situations. Taking care of yourself helps you stay grounded so that when difficulties arise, and they will, you can keep your cool and maintain a consistent level of emotions. Build Positive Experiences There is an irony buried somewhere in there. Not going to the doctor ensured that I would not receive a diagnosis of Legionnaire’s disease. But this same distrust of doctors meant that my parents would have no way of knowing either way. In science we say that the simplest answer tends to be correct. But in faith, whether in TCM or Christian Science, there can only ever be one answer: the one you believed at the start. Talking to Hammerstrom, I feel a little sad there’s no room in my childhood religion for David Patterson or Luana Colloca. I see so much that modern medicine could learn from this practitioner. Her bedside manner, confidence, empathy, and communication skills are markedly better than any conventional clinician I’ve ever visited. But in the end, there’s simply no way to bring together faith and science over the course of an afternoon. So I ask Hammerstrom if there’s any chance that a Christian Scientist, like other scientists, could ever refine their beliefs to include neuroscience or modern psychology. Building positive experiences is necessary for emotion regulation in that we need a well of positives to draw from when we’re running on empty. Many experiences are wonderful at the time, and then we later may not be friends with the people we had the experience with. Do not let that mar the memory. Remember who they were when you had the experience together. There are two important categories in which to build positive experiences: the short term and the long term. Short-term memories include talking to a good friend, taking a walk, noticing a beautiful area, going to the dog park, reading a good article, watching a show or movie you love, dining out, having a picnic, and laughing on a break with a coworker. Most of us already do something to create short-term positive experiences daily without thinking about it.
This exercise asks you to create more short-term positive experiences and do it deliberately. Call up an old friend. Stay off social media after work for a few days. I want to love God with all my heart–and part of that is not to have any other gods. And I think medicine is a god. I think matter is a god. And I realize that’s radical and that you might really be offended by that. She says this so warmly and gently that I don’t even realize she’s just called everything I believe in a false idol. I eventually say goodbye and walk around the church grounds contemplating belief, faith, and healing. I walk into the church, sit down in one of the pews, and listen to a tour guide tell the story of how Mary Baker Eddy slipped on a patch of ice and healed herself with just her mind and a copy of the Bible. Above the tour guide, carved into the arching stone walls that rise to form a spacious and stunning nave, is a quote that reads, If a sense of disease produces suffering and a sense of ease antidotes it, disease is mental. Hence the fact in Christian Science that the human mind alone suffers. There is no mention of Phineas Quimby or Franz Mesmer or Benjamin Franklin. Make a concerted effort to tell ridiculous, silly stories with your kids. Send your nieces and nephews presents from the clearance aisle. Do something that will create positive experiences deliberately. When you deliberately practice making and noticing positive experiences, you’ll begin to make and notice more as part of your daily life. When positivity is a part of your daily life, you feel better emotionally and physically. Do at least one of these things, or choose something else that makes you happy, every day for a week. Go out of your way to do it for a week.
After that, try to make it IN your way. Do something you’ve never tried before. There are probably a few things you’ve never thought of trying: But as the guide speaks, I can’t help thinking of them. And of Henry Beecher, Fabrizio Benedetti, Baron Albert von Schrenck-Notzing, Avicenna, and Morton Jellinek and the questions they and many others spent their lives trying to answer. Christian Scientists, as well as proponents of traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy, smoke therapy, Reiki massage, and vitamin E supplements, already think they have the answer. Their adherents have felt the truth–the power–of their healing practices themselves. And for that matter, so have all of us in our own way, whether it’s faith in God, supplements, or conventional medicine. We are not credulous weaklings, subject to passing fancies. We are tough-minded, skeptical people. We can’t be tricked and we can’t be conned. The power of energy fields, superdiluted water, stainless steel needles, and the doctor in the white lab coat is real. We’ve seen it heal. Drive around the areas where there are homeless people and give these out. Google the DJ while you’re talking and tell them all about themselves so they’ll believe you. Long-term positive experiences are more goal-oriented, creating a life worth living. What are some goals that you would like to achieve? Write down a few specific goals. Break them down into subcategories. Many people have goals that are money-oriented.