Redirect: The surprising new science of psychological change

Laura

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I've been reading a new book about dealing with trauma that's a little bit different from some of the things we've discussed thus far. It's called "Redirect: The surprising new science of psychological change" and it's by Timothy D. Wilson.

He starts out telling about a seriously traumatic incident that happened to some police officers who were then scheduled to receive CISD, or Critical Incident Stress Debriefing.

The premise of CISD is that people who have been traumatized should air their feelings as soon as possible so that they don't develop PTSD. In a typical CISD session, the participant is asked to describe the traumatic event, express their thoughs and feelings, and talk about physical of psychological symptoms they are experiencing. The facilitator will tell them that it is normal, give stress management advice, answer questions, and decide if the person needs further help that can include medication, etc.

Apparently, numerous police and fire departments have implemented this sort of thing and it sounds helpful. Problem is, it was never really tested. It was just an idea that sounded good and right. The problem is, as Wilson points out, it is not only ineffective, it may actually cause psychological problems. He and his team were testing stuff with well planned double blind studies and found that thirteen months later, a group that had received the CISD intervention had significantly higher incidences of PTSD, were more anxious and depressed, and less content with their lives.

That is: making people undergo CISD right after a trauma impedes the natural healing process and might even freeze memories of the event in the person's mind.

So, what DID work, based on tested evidence???

Instead of asking the person to relive the trauma, they let a few weeks go by... and then, they asked him/her to complete on four consecutive nights, a simple exercise in which s/he writes down a description of the event, his deepest thoughts and emotions about the experience and how it relates to the rest of his/her life.

That's it. No meetings, no group sessions, no stress management advice, just a series of writing exercises that the person does on their own for four nights in a row.

The important part of writing down the deepest thoughts and emotions about the experience is finding the MEANING in it.

It's not the objective world that influences us, but how we represent and interpret the world. When something happens to us, we try to make sense of it.

Trying to make sense of what happens in your life and the answer you come up with, will be a crucial determinant of what happens next in your life.

For example, a young person takes their first test in college. He's a little nervous because the test WAS hard, but he was sure he did okay because he did well on math in high school. But when he gets his paper back, he is shocked to see the low grade.

The personal interpretation will kick in immediately: you will either take responsibility, or blame circumstances. In the first case, you will decide that you didn't study hard enough and this is a wake-up call to work harder. In the second case, you will blame it on some other circumstance, and possibly end up deciding that you just aren't college material after all.

Most people have an optimistic outlook on life, believing that they have good prospects in the future and that they are masters of their fate, even if that is a pack of lies. In some situations, this attitude can be a blessing IF the system that the person utilizes to back it up is on that promotes work and growth. That is, a truly positive "spin" would be to view one bad grade as an indication that one needs to work harder rather than as a sign that one should give up.

Our interpretations are rooted in personal narratives about ourselves, the narratives we construct about ourselves and the social world, i.e. the "false personality". This false personality can be very maladaptive and bring lots of pain and suffering into a person's life. Negative thought patterns, misreading cues from others, having "programs" that were created and set during traumatic childhood events, etc.

The best way to treat these problems is for the person to become aware of them and LEARN HOW TO CHANGE THEM.

The student who immediately assumes the worst about a bad grade - that is, he received a shock and his emotions began to flood his intellect and he started creating negative theories about things - is at risk of becoming depressed and needs to learn to change his negative assumptions about himself.

Psychotherapy is, in general, useless - as empirical evidence shows. But Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has a higher rate of success than other modalities (assuming the person isn't certifiable!) What is needed is for the person to "edit" their story about themselves. Sometimes this can be problematical. Narratives about ourselves are like an oil painting to which we add a little dab of paint every day. Revising that narrative means scraping away layers and layers of paint and starting over again. But in the case of a traumatic event, a shock, it can be easier because that "shock" can act as a solvent to the paint that has already been applied to the image, or can shake off all the old, flaking, paint.

Kurt Lewin, one of the founders of social psychology, said that in order to understand why people do what they do, we have to view the world through their eyes, and understand how they make sense of things. That is, External Considering.

He also had a radical idea that we could use relatively simple interventions to help people change the way they view themselves through, more or less, a social network - social proof.

During WW II, Lewin demonstrated this be getting people to change what seemed to be intractable food preferences, namely, an aversion to organ meats which were in greater supply because the traditional cuts were being sent to the army. He knew that simply lecturing people about the importance of the nutrition in organ meats didn't work. We all know that sort of thing doesn't work. So, what he did was create meetings of homemakers to discuss the issue. Trained facilitators would steer the conversation to how obstacles to serving organ meats could be overcome. That is, how could the housewives deal with the complaints from their families. The women who took part in helping to SOLVE these problems were more likely to serve organ meats than those who simply listened to a lecture on how good for you organ meats are.

In short, a network discussing facts, working on ways to deal with implementing a better way of doing or being, works much better than people going around giving lectures. The network itself edits its own story, its view of itself, and establishes the meaning of the problem at hand.

So, a bit of social psychology work has been done on this process of "story editing". According to Wilson, it is possible to use these techniques to targe long-standing personal narratives that people have constructed about themselves and the social world around them.

The point is, for people to come up with a coherent interpretation of an important event in their lives that actually serves them well for their future. Something has happened that doesn't make sense and is unpleasant or unhappy to think about. They try to put it out of their minds, which only makes it less likely that they will succeed in explaining it.

And so, the writing exercises become an effective way for people to interpret and reinterpret such events.

The traumas that cause prolonged stress are usually the ones that we can't make sense of because they seem like meaningless, random acts that don't fit into our view of the world as a predictable, safe place. Then we spend an enormous amount of energy trying to banish the events from our minds rather than taking the time to dissect the events and FIND MEANING IN THEM.

The people who benefit the most from the writing exercises are those who begin by writing a jumbled, incoherent account of the traumatic event, and in the end, write a coherent story that explains the event and gives it meaning.

One of the reasons that CISD doesn't accomplish this is the TIMING. The worst moment to try to work through something is right after the event. At that point, you need to just FEEL it, cry, throw pillows break flower pots, whatever. Once that emotional energy has been SPENT, you then take a step back and INTERPRET the event for yourself or with others. Forcing people to talk about a traumatic event right after it has happened can even solidify memories of it and makes it harder to reinterpret it later.

The person who succeeds after a crushing failure is the one who interprets the event as "I guess I need to get in gear and work harder"...

So, there is the writing exercise in which people reinterpret a problem by writing about it, and the social method where others help to prompt them to re-write their view of themselves, and then, there is the "do good, be good" approach.

This idea goes back to Aristotle who suggested that people acquire virtues "by first having put them into action. We become just by the practice of just actions, self-controlled by exercising self-control, and courageous by performing acts of courage." In other words, what you DO can edit your story. If you act kindly towards others (even if you are gritting your teeth inside), you begin to see yourself as having a kind disposition, and the more you view yourself as kind, the more kind you become, actually, inside! This strengthens your new narrative about yourself.

What this means is that very small edits/acts can lead to lasting changes that permeate your entire being. The way this works, taking the student who failed and then decided to work harder as an example: working harder paid off on the next test. This strengthens the self-image of not being a failure, of being college-worthy, and this inspired even harder work which resulted in more successes, higher grades, and finally a degree with honors. The very small edit of the story at the beginning triggered a positive cycle of self-reinforcing thinking.
 

Buddy

The Living Force
I agree with everything here and would like to offer another possible factor, based on the following observations and noticing what feels like another part the puzzle:


The problem is, as Wilson points out, it [CISD intervention] is not only ineffective, it may actually cause psychological problems.

[...]

...people undergo CISD right after a trauma impedes the natural healing process and might even freeze memories of the event in the person's mind.

[...]

So, what DID work, based on tested evidence???

Instead of asking the person to relive the trauma, they let a few weeks go by...

[...]

One of the reasons that CISD doesn't accomplish this is the TIMING. The worst moment to try to work through something is right after the event. At that point, you need to just FEEL it, cry, throw pillows break flower pots, whatever. Once that emotional energy has been SPENT, you then take a step back and INTERPRET the event for yourself or with others. Forcing people to talk about a traumatic event right after it has happened can even solidify memories of it and makes it harder to reinterpret it later.
If we assume that the victim has an emotional mind, then right after the event has happened, could the "Timing" also include the possibility that the entire environment, which includes a facilitator's attention, so early in the trauma experience creates an "anchoring" effect or block? This "anchoring" might be more or less a solid sense, in the emotional self, that comes from how very much seriousness or significance is being assigned by other people (authorities) ATM, OSIT.

If this anchoring effect is real and serves as an emotional "marker" of some kind, then it might also act as a barrier by making the healing process more difficult. More difficult because therapeutic changes and reordering apparently need to flow backward and forward through the traumatic event memory (once a few weeks have gone by) for emotion to be released and for everything to smooth out.

I believe I'm assuming that the idea of anchors or markers is valid and that many of us know about anchors, markers, or whatever it is that we use to distinguish between one "event" and another in our lives, but I could be way off on any or all of this.
 

Laura

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Buddy said:
If we assume that the victim has an emotional mind, then right after the event has happened, could the "Timing" also include the possibility that the entire environment, which includes a facilitator's attention, so early in the trauma experience creates an "anchoring" effect or block? This "anchoring" might be more or less a solid sense, in the emotional self, that comes from how very much seriousness or significance is being assigned by other people (authorities) ATM, OSIT.

If this anchoring effect is real and serves as an emotional "marker" of some kind, then it might also act as a barrier by making the healing process more difficult. More difficult because therapeutic changes and reordering apparently need to flow backward and forward through the traumatic event memory (once a few weeks have gone by) for emotion to be released and for everything to smooth out.
Yes. But, even so, if you have a powerful and robust explanatory system, you can deal with about anything with a bit of help from a network. Wilson says, further on:

But suppose you adopt another approach. Instead of immersing yourself in the original experience, you take a step back and watch it unfold from the perspective of a neutral observer. Then you focus on why you feel the way you do rather than on the feelings themselves.
Right here, we see a bit of Gurdjieff's ideas of self-remembering. That is, remembering the true self as the observer of the physiological/emotional self, and having a bit of distance. That is:

Go back to the time and place of the experience you just recalled and see the scene in your mind's eye. Now take a few steps back. Move away from the situation to a point where you can now watch the event unfold from a distance and see yourself in the event... As you continue to watch the situation unfold to your distant self, try to understand his/her feelings. Why did s/he have those feelings.
In one study participants were asked to think of a time they felt "overwhelming anger and hostility" toward someone... They were then randomly assigned to either immerse themselves in the experience or to adopt the distancing approach. Half of the participants in each of these groups were asked to focus on the feelings they experienced at the time, and half were asked to think about the reasons behind their feelings. That is, there were four groups: 1) those who immersed and focused on feelings, 2) those who immersed and thought about reasons, 3) those who distanced themselves and focused on feelings, and 4) those who distanced themselves and thought about reasons.

Only ONE of these groups benefitted from the writing exercise (how this was being done): those who distanced themselves and thought about reasons.

The key was to be able to adopt a dispassionate approach whereby they reframed the event and found new meaning in it (like "I see that my boss's anger at me was due more to his impending divorce than to me, particularly BUT, I admit, I could have been more aware of his state and done a better job so as to ease the burden on him.)

In short, it's practicing self-observation AND external considering and internal non-considering.

Wilson said:
By reconstructing the events {in this way}, participants in this group experienced fewer negative emotions, engage in less repetitive rumination, and maintained steady blood pressure. As simple as this sounds, it is an easy lesson to forget because for most of us, our natural inclination is to immerse ourselves in past grievances and upsetting events, engaging in a "he said, she said" internal dialogue that makes us feel bad all over again. The next time you think about an upsetting event from your past, take a step back and analyze it from a distance and think dispassionately about why it occurred. In short, don't recount the event, take a step back and RECONSTRUCT it and EXPLAIN it.
I think that, in this sense, the Cs experiment has produced a valuable explanatory system that is powerful, robust and comprehensive and that is why so many people who have suffered truly debilitating trauma find it the best way to re-frame things. What's more, it is satisfying to the intellect because there is so much validation in scientific venues. Some people can be satisfied with "god works in mysterious ways and we'll understand it all by-and-by" but many more, cannot.
 

Mountain Crown

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Only ONE of these groups benefitted from the writing exercise (how this was being done): those who distanced themselves and thought about reasons.
Trying to understand the third force.
 

SeekinTruth

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Jerry said:
Only ONE of these groups benefitted from the writing exercise (how this was being done): those who distanced themselves and thought about reasons.
Trying to understand the third force.
This is so interesting. Getting that distance and not identifying is so powerful.
 

Laura

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SeekinTruth said:
Jerry said:
Only ONE of these groups benefitted from the writing exercise (how this was being done): those who distanced themselves and thought about reasons.
Trying to understand the third force.
This is so interesting. Getting that distance and not identifying is so powerful.
Yes. And it kinda puts a period to the idea that you should just re-experience stuff or "feed the inner child."
 

Jeremy F Kreuz

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thanks for this very much. I will order the book and read it. In my line of work as humanitarian worker quiet some people I know have gone through traumatic experiences and the standard line is indeed that counseling as soon as possible after the event is the best way to avoid PTSD. In fact many organisations apply it to whole populations that have gone through shocking events, war, natural disasters. So this brings a whole new lights to this approach.
 

Laura

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Jeremy F Kreuz said:
thanks for this very much. I will order the book and read it. In my line of work as humanitarian worker quiet some people I know have gone through traumatic experiences and the standard line is indeed that counseling as soon as possible after the event is the best way to avoid PTSD. In fact many organisations apply it to whole populations that have gone through shocking events, war, natural disasters. So this brings a whole new lights to this approach.
Yup. If that is the kind of work you are involved in, you definitely need to read this book. He backs up what he says with some serious studies.
 

Bo

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Thank you for bringing this up, very interesting, I too will be ordering this book.

What this means is that very small edits/acts can lead to lasting changes that permeate your entire being. The way this works, taking the student who failed and then decided to work harder as an example: working harder paid off on the next test. This strengthens the self-image of not being a failure, of being college-worthy, and this inspired even harder work which resulted in more successes, higher grades, and finally a degree with honors. The very small edit of the story at the beginning triggered a positive cycle of self-reinforcing thinking.
 

Avala

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Very interesting topic.

I'm aware that I will possibly just babble now, but it is almost as traumas (like everything else of course) are very energetic thing. And that some time must pass so that every "sort" of that energy fits where it need to be. To settle down before person can have any benefit of recapitulating the event.

Seems that forcing it can lead in wrong direction and shut down of the system which must "chew" it. In forcing it, there is maybe some sort of superficial ease, but that energy stays is the system unchanged, and no benefit for the person, nothing is learned from the trauma. Trauma is just superficial surpassed.
 

Laura

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Arbitrium Liberum said:
Very interesting topic.

I'm aware that I will possibly just babble now, but it is almost as traumas (like everything else of course) are very energetic thing. And that some time must pass so that every "sort" of that energy fits where it need to be. To settle down before person can have any benefit of recapitulating the event.

Seems that forcing it can lead in wrong direction and shut down of the system which must "chew" it. In forcing it, there is maybe some sort of superficial ease, but that energy stays is the system unchanged, and no benefit for the person, nothing is learned from the trauma. Trauma is just superficial surpassed.
Just sit down and try the writing exercises. If it is all a muddle at first, that's okay.
 

go2

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This is very useful information, Laura. Writing a narrative over four days is just brilliant. The narrative progressively organizes and connects the emotional images with the rational function of the thinking center, so every event becomes an organized whole...full of meaning. I have stumbled onto this method in work within a recovery group. This material validates and refines a method of finding meaning in the events of our lives, so that we may live as Real Men and Real Women.
 

Laura

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go2 said:
This is very useful information, Laura. Writing a narrative over four days is just brilliant. The narrative progressively organizes and connects the emotional images with the rational function of the thinking center, so every event becomes an organized whole...full of meaning. I have stumbled onto this method in work within a recovery group. This material validates and refines a method of finding meaning in the events of our lives, so that we may live as Real Men and Real Women.
Yes. I also think that it is very healing to write your life story, warts and all, but with a view to sussing out the meaning or the usefulness of what you learned by making mistakes. It's even better if you tell it in such a way that it can help others.
 
F

forge

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James Pennebaker, has been tested in dozens of experiments in which people were randomly assigned to write about personal traumas or mundane topics such as what they did that day. In the short run, people typically find it painful to express their feelings about traumatic experiences. But as time goes by, those who do so are better off in a number of respects. They show improvements in immune-system functioning, are less likely to visit physicians, get better grades in college, and miss fewer days of work.
This seems to directly tie into the Elite violin player study on Sott, plus trauma-handling. Also if i remember correctly, Rev. G. Vale Owen also mentions people in 5thD, who were able to remain there and not slip back into a Twilight Zone (basically negative disintegration, going back to old corrupted state). The people who remained in the beginner area, the outskirts of a many-graded Heaven have been given the possibility to accomplish personal development: gradual purification. People there could go to a slightly higher grade/level by
demonstrating capacity to be able to deal with a specific selected self-problem (karmic usually) and successfully dealing with it. This increased their calm, peace and ability to endure more intense light, they were able to go to a slightly higher 'realm' or level and they also naturally became more radiant. Emitted stronger light, because of their purity.

I was taking a walk just this evening and was thinking about almost the exact problem Redirect talks about. So the book i am reading seems a godsend?
 

Buddy

The Living Force
Laura said:
{snip}

The key was to be able to adopt a dispassionate approach whereby they reframed the event and found new meaning in it (like "I see that my boss's anger at me was due more to his impending divorce than to me, particularly BUT, I admit, I could have been more aware of his state and done a better job so as to ease the burden on him.)

In short, it's practicing self-observation AND external considering and internal non-considering.
Also seems like "remote viewing" your own actual experience. Up side: you already have the environmental data present; downside: just needs the time to let all the meaningful mental/emotional/empathic data arise in your awareness and make itself known, so-to-speak. I like it!
 
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