So many things in psychology and mental health can look unimpressive and even trivial or pointless. Clients say things like, "If ANOTHER person tells me to BREATHE... I'm going rip my hair out!" And I get that. It almost sounds condescending. We think, "I know how to freaking breathe!"
But of course, there's more to it. For example, when we do slow, deep breathing, we can learn to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (brake pedal to fight or flight response). Through repetition, we can help retrain the brain to calm its hyperarousal and, by extension, rumination, OCD, and fear responses (Benzo symptoms).
Studies on the effects of deep breathing have shown significant activation of healthy brain chemistry and even neuroplasticity building, especially in the limbic system.
Okay, having said that, raise your hand if suddenly deep breathing sounds a little less useless.
I think we go wrong in not fully communicating and understanding the science of these psychological techniques used to treat anxiety and depression. Therefore, I've always tried to incorporate that science in my work with clients so they have a sense of the bigger picture.
Now, let's talk about HOPE.
Hope is another thing that seems trivial or even impossible during Benzo withdrawal.
But what exactly is hope? How does it differ from false hope or wishful thinking?
Think about it for a moment.
You may already have the answer if you've been working with me. And that is... real hope has a path forward!
Without a path forward, a way out, or a potential solution to the problem, we don't have hope... we have wishful thinking.
Let me give you an example of the power of hope that's based on science. A doctor named Richter did an old famous study using rats. He'd put athletic, healthy rats in a buck of water and see how long they could swim before they would get tired, give up, and drown. I know, not a PETA-friendly study.
On average, the rats would frantically swim for about 1 5 minutes, at which case the rats would give up and drown.
The researcher then adjusted for the dependent variable and removed the rats before they gave up and drowned. He'd dry them off briefly before placing them back into the water. Having a sense of hope that someone may come and save them from drowning again, the rats could swim even longer.
How much longer do you think the rats were able to swim? Remember, the average was 15 minutes before getting pulled out of the water.
It may sound shocking, but on average, the rats could swim 240x longer, averaging 60 hours before finally giving up! That's rather incredible. Some of the rats could swim up to 80 hours before drowning.
Needless to say, hope is a damn powerful fueling force of survival!
Now, the findings are even more impressive in the research with humans. Not only can it greatly enhance our survival instincts, but it can release good neurochemistry and lower cortisol and adrenaline.
Okay. SO, how do we foster hope? We need a plan. We need a path forward.
Enter Coach Powers and The Powers Manual.