Category Archives: Mental Health

A Mother’s Reckoning. Living in the aftermath of the Columbine tragedy – Sue Klebold.

To all who feel alone, hopeless, and desperate, even in the arms of those who love them.

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On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Over the course of minutes, they would kill twelve students and a teacher and wound twenty-four others before taking their own lives.

Since then, Sue Klebold, Dylan’s mother, has lived with the indescribable grief and shame of that day. How could her child, the promising young man she had loved and raised, be responsible for such horror? And how, as his mother, had she not known something was wrong? Were there subtle signs she had missed? What, if anything, could she have done differently?

These are questions that Klebold has grappled with every day since the Columbine tragedy. In A Mother’s Reckoning, she chronicles with unflinching honesty her journey as a mother trying to come to terms with the incomprehensible. In the hope that the insights and understanding she has gained may help other families recognize when a child is in distress, she tells her story in full, drawing upon her personal journals, the videos and writings that Dylan left behind, and on countless interviews with mental health experts.

Filled with hard-won wisdom and compassion, A Mother’s Reckoning is a powerful and haunting book that sheds light on one of the most pressing issues of our time. And with fresh wounds from the recent Newtown and Charleston shootings, never has the need for understanding been more urgent.

All author profits from the book will be donated to research and to charitable organizations focusing on mental health issues.

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About the author

Sue Klebold is the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the two shooters at Columbine High School in 1999 who killed 13 people before ending their own lives, a tragedy that saddened and galvanized the nation. She has spent the last 15 years excavating every detail of her family life, and trying to understand the crucial intersection between mental health problems and violence. Instead of becoming paralyzed by her grief and remorse, she has become a passionate and effective agent working tirelessly to advance mental health awareness and intervention.

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Klebold family photo, Christmas 1991. From I to r: me, Byron, Dylan, and Tom.

Introduction

And must I, indeed, Pain, live with you
All through my life? – sharing my fire, my bed,
Sharing-oh, worst of all things! – the same head?
And, when I feed myself, feeding you, too?
Edna St. Vincent Millay

We have consistently blamed parents for the apparent defects of their children. The eighteenth-century theory of imaginationism held that children had deformities because of their mothers’ unexpressed lascivious longings. In the twentieth century, homosexuality was said to be caused by overbearing mothers and passive fathers; schizophrenia reflected the parents’ unconscious wish that their child did not exist; and autism was the result of “refrigerator mothers,” whose coldness doomed their children to a fortress of silence.

We’ve now realized that such complex and overdetermined conditions are not the result of parental attitude or behavior. We nonetheless continue to assume that if you could only get inside the households in which killers were raised, you’d see the parents’ errors writ large.

The perception of children as tractable has been a hallmark of social justice; it has led us to seek rehabilitation for juveniles rather than simply punishment. According to this logic, a bad adult may be irrecoverably bad, but a bad kid is only a reflection of negative influences, the product of pliable nurture rather than immutable nature. There can be truth in that pleasant optimism, but to go from there to presuming parental culpability is a gross injustice.

We cling to the notion that crime is the parents’ fault for two primary reasons. First, it is clear that severe abuse and neglect can trigger aberrant behavior in vulnerable people. Poor parenting can push such children toward substance abuse, gang membership, domestic violence, and thievery. Attachment disorders are frequent in victims of childhood cruelty; so is a repetition compulsion that drives them to recapitulate the aggression they have known. Some parents damage their children, but that does not mean that all troubled children have incompetent parents. In particular, extreme, irrational crimes are not usually triggered by anything the parents have done; they come out of an illogic too profound to be instigated by trauma.

Second, and far more powerfully, we want to believe that parents create criminals because in supposing that, we reassure ourselves that in our own house, where we are not doing such wrong things, we do not risk this calamity. I am aware of this delusion because it was mine.

When I met Tom and Sue Klebold for the first time on February 19, 2005, I imagined that I would soon identify their flaws. I was working on a book, Far from the Tree, about parents and their challenging offspring, and I thought these parents would be emblematic of erroneous parenting. l never imagined they had egged their child on to heinous acts, but I did think that their story would illuminate innumerable, clear mistakes. I didn’t want to like the Klebolds, because the cost of liking them would be an acknowledgment that what happened wasn’t their fault, and if it wasn’t their fault, none of us is safe. Alas, I liked them very much indeed. So I came away thinking that the psychopathy behind the Columbine massacre could emerge in anyone’s household. It would be impossible to predict or recognize; like a tsunami, it would make a mockery of all our preparations.

In Sue Klebold’s telling, she was an ordinary suburban mother before Columbine. I didn’t know her then, but in the wake of that tragedy, she found the strength to extract wisdom from her devastation. To sustain your love in these circumstances is an act of courage. Her generosity in friendship, her lively gift for affection, and her capacity for attention, all of which I’ve been privileged to know, render the tragedy more bewildering.

I started off thinking that the Klebolds should have disavowed their child, but I ended up understanding that it took far more steel to deplore what he had done yet be unflagging in their love. Sue’s passion for her son is evident in every one of these griefstricken pages, and her book is a testament to complexity.

She argues that good people do bad things, that all of us are morally confused, and that doing something terrible does not erase other acts and motives.

The ultimate message of this book is terrifying: you may not know your own children, and, worse yet, your children may be unknowable to you. The stranger you fear may be your own son or daughter.

“We read our children fairy tales and teach them that there are good guys and bad guys,” Sue said to me when l was writing Far from the Tree. “I would never do that now. I would say that every one of us has the capacity to be good and the capacity to make poor choices. If you love someone, you have to love both the good and the bad in them.”

At the time of Columbine, Sue worked in the same building as a parole office and had felt alienated and frightened getting on the elevator with ex-convicts. After the tragedy, she saw them differently. “I felt that they were just like my son. That they were just people who, for some reason, had made an awful choice and were thrown into a terrible, despairing situation. When I hear about terrorists in the news, I think, ‘That’s somebody’s kid.’ Columbine made me feel more connected to mankind than anything else possibly could have.” Bereavement can give its dupes great compassion.

Two kinds of crime upset us more than any others: crimes in which children are the victims, and crimes in which children are the perpetrators. In the first case, we mourn the innocent; in the second, our misapprehension that children are innocent. School shootings are the most appalling crimes of all, because they involve both problems, and among school shootings Columbine remains something of a gold standard, the ultimate exemplar to which all others are indebted.

The extreme selfimportance tinged with sadism, the randomness of the attack, and the scale of the advance planning have made Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold heroes to a large community of causeless young rebels, while they are hailed by most people as psychologically damaged and by some religious communities as icons of Satanism. The boys’ motives and purposes have been analyzed time and again by people who want to protect their children from such assaults. The most dauntless parents also wonder how to be certain that their children are incapable of committing such crimes. Better the enemy you know than the enemy you don’t know, says the adage, and Columbine was above all an ambush of unknowability, of horror hidden in plain sight.

It has been impossible to see the killers clearly. We live in a society of blame, and some of the victims’ families were relentless in their demand for impossible “answers” that were being kept “hidden.” The best evidence that the parents didn’t know is the surety that if they had, they’d have done something.

Jefferson County magistrate John DeVita said of the two boys, “What’s mind-boggling is the amount of deception. The ease of their deception. The coolness of their deception.”

Most parents think they know their children better than they do; children who don’t want to be known can keep their inner lives very private. The victims’ families’ lawsuits were predicated on the dubious principles that human nature is knowable, that interior logic can be monitored, and that tragedies follow predictable patterns. They have sought some missing information that would change what happened. Jean-Paul Sartre once wrote, “Evil is not an appearance,” adding that “knowing its causes does not dispel it.” Sartre seems not to have been read very much in the Denver suburbs.

Eric Harris appears to have been a homicidal psychopath, and Dylan Klebold, a suicidal depressive, and their disparate madnesses were each other’s necessary condition. Dylan’s depressiveness would not have turned into murderousness without Harris’s leadership, but something in Eric might have lost motivation without the thrill of dragging Dylan down with him. Eric’s malice is shocking, Dylan’s acquiescence, equally so.

Dylan wrote, “Thinking of suicide gives me hope that i’ll be in my place wherever I go after this life, that I’ll finally not be at war with myself, the world, the universe, my mind, body, everywhere, everything is at PEACE, me, my soul (existence).” He described his own, “eternal suffering in infinite directions through infinite realities.” The most common word in his journals is love.

Eric wrote, “how dare you think that l and you are part of the same species when we are sooooooooo different. you aren’t human, you are a robot and if you pissed me off in the past, you will die if I see you.” His journal describes how in some imagined collegiate future he would have tricked girls to come to his room and raped them. Then, “I want to tear a throat out with my own teeth like a pop can. I want to grab some weak little freshman and just tear them apart like a fucking wolf, strangle them, squish their head, rip off their jaw, break their arms in half, show them who is god.” Eric was a failed Hitler; Dylan was a failed Holden Caulfield.

Sue Klebold emphasizes the suicidal element in her son’s death. Karl Menninger, who has written extensively on suicide, said that it requires the coincidence of “the wish to kill, the wish to be killed, and the wish to die.” The wish to kill is not always directed outward, but it is an essential piece of the puzzle. Eric Harris wanted to kill and Dylan Klebold wanted to die, and both thought their experience contained seeds of the divine; both wrote of how the massacre would make them into gods. Their combination of grandiosity and ineptitude contains echoes of ordinary adolescence.

In the commons at Columbine High School, toward the end of the spree, a witness hiding in the cafeteria heard one of the killers say, “Today the world’s going to come to an end. Today’s the day we die.” This is an infantile conflation of the self with the other.

G. K. Chesterton wrote, “The man who kills a man kills a man. The man who kills himself kills all men. As far as he is concerned, he wipes out the world.”

Advocates for the mentally ill point out that most crime is not committed by people with mental illnesses, and that most people with mental illnesses do not commit crimes. What does it mean to consider Columbine as the product of minds that were not mentally ill? There are many crimes that people resist either because they know they’d get in trouble or because they have learned moral standards. Most people have seen things they’d like to steal. Most people have felt an occasional flash of murderous rage toward someone with whom they are intimate. But the reasons for not killing kids you barely know at school and holding the place hostage is not that you fear punishment or grapple with received morality; it’s that the whole idea never crosses healthy minds.

Though he was depressed, Dylan did not have schizophrenia, PTSD, bipolar illness, or any other condition that fits the neat parameters of psychiatric diagnosis.

The existence of disordered thinking does not mitigate the malevolence of Dylan’s acts. Part of the nobility of this book is that it doesn’t try to render what he did into sense. Sue Klebold’s refusal to blame the bullies, the school, or her son’s biochemistry reflects her ultimate determination that one must simply accept what can never be explained away. She does not try to elucidate the permanently confused borderline between evil and disease.

Immediately after the massacre, a carpenter from Chicago came to Littleton and erected fifteen crosses-one for each victim, including Dylan and Eric. Many people piled flowers at Eric’s and Dylan’s crosses just as they did at the others. Brian Rohrbough, father of one of the victims, removed Harris’s and Klebold’s markers.

“You don’t cheapen what Christ did for us by honoring murderers with crosses,” he said. “There’s nowhere in the Bible that says to forgive an unrepentant murderer. You don’t repent, you don’t forgive them that’s what the Bible says.”

There is obviously scope for revising this interpretation of Christian doctrine, but Rohrbough’s assertion hinges on the mistaken notion that mourning the deaths of the killers is tantamount to forgiveness, and that forgiveness conceals the horror of what was done. Sue Klebold does not seek or even imagine forgiveness for her son. She explains that she didn’t know what was happening, but she doesn’t exonerate herself; she presents her not knowing as a betrayal of her son and the world. The death of someone who has committed a great crime may be for the best, but any dead child is some parent’s vanquished hope. This mournful book is Sue’s act of vicarious repentance. Hatred does not obliterate love. Indeed, the two are in constant fellowship.

Sue told me at our first meeting about the moment on April 20, 1999, when she learned what was happening at Columbine High School. “While every other mother in Littleton was praying that her child was safe, I had to pray that mine would die before he hurt anyone else,” she said. “I thought if this was really happening and he survived, he would go into the criminal justice system and be executed, and I couldn’t bear to lose him twice. I gave the hardest prayer I ever made, that he would kill himself, because then at least I would know that he wanted to die, and I wouldn’t be left with all the questions I’d have if he got caught by a police bullet. Maybe I was right, but I’ve spent so many hours regretting that prayer: I wished for my son to kill himself, and he did.”

At the end of that weekend, I asked Tom and Sue what they would want to ask Dylan if he were in the room with us, Tom said, “I’d ask him what the hell he was thinking and what the hell he thought he was doing!” Sue looked down at the floor for a minute before saying quietly, “I would ask him to forgive me, for being his mother and never knowing what was going on inside his head, for not being able to help him, for not being the person that he could confide in.”

When I reminded her of this conversation five years later, she said, “When it first happened, I used to wish that I had never had children, that I had never married. lf Tom and I hadn’t crossed paths at Ohio State, Dylan wouldn’t have existed and this terrible thing wouldn’t have happened. But over time, I’ve come to feel that, for myself, I am glad I had kids and glad I had the kids I did, because the love for them, even at the price of this pain, has been the single greatest joy of my life. When I say that, I am speaking of my own pain, and not of the pain of other people. But I accept my own pain; life is full of suffering, and this is mine. I know it would have been better for the world if Dylan had never been born. But I believe it would not have been better for me.”

We tend to lose someone all at once, but Sue’s loss came in repeated waves: the loss of the boy himself; the loss of her image of him; the loss of her defenses against recognizing his darkest self; the loss of her identity as something other than the mother of a killer; and the loss of the fundamental belief that life is subject to logic, that if you do things right you can forestall certain grim outcomes. Comparative grief is not a fruitful measurement, and it would be wrong to say that Sue Klebold’s was the most shattering of all the losses in Littleton. But she is stuck with the impossibility of disentangling the pain of finding she had never known her son from the pain of knowing what devastation he caused others. She fights the sadness of a dead child, the sadness of the other dead children, and the sadness of having failed to bring up a happy child who makes the world better.

It’s a heady experience to have young children and be able to fix the little problems they bring to you; it’s a terrible loss when they start to have problems beyond your ability to resolve. That universal disappointment is presented here on a vastly inflated scale. Sue Klebold describes her natural impulse to please people, and makes it clear that writing has required a disavowal of that predilection. Her book is a tribute to Dylan without being an excuse, and a moving call to action for mental health advocacy and research. Moral, determined, and dignified, Sue Klebold has arrived at an impenetrable aloneness. No one else has had this experience. To some degree, it has made Sue unknowable, just as Dylan was. In writing of her experience, she has chosen a kind of public unknowability.

Ovid delivered a famous injunction to “welcome this pain, for you will learn from it.” But there is little choice about such pain; you do not have the option of not welcoming it. You can express displeasure at its arrival, but you cannot ask it to leave the house. Sue Klebold has never complained of being a victim, but her narrative echoes that of Job, who says, “Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive evil?” And then, “For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me. I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was i quiet; yet trouble came.” And finally, “Though I speak, my grief is not assuaged.”

Sue Klebold’s book narrates her Job-like descent into an incomprehensible hell, her divorce from safety. Perhaps most impressively, her book acknowledges that speech cannot assuage such grief. She doesn’t even try. This book is not a cathartic document intended to make her feel better. It is only a narrative of acceptance and of fight, of harnessing her torment in hopes of sparing others pain like hers, like her son’s, and like his victims’.

Andrew Solomon

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Preface

ON APRIL 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold armed themselves with guns and explosives and walked into Columbine High School. They killed twelve students and a teacher, and wounded twenty-four others, before taking their own lives. It was the worst school shooting in history.

Dylan Klebold was my son.

I would give my life to reverse what happened that day. In fact, I would gladly give my own in exchange for just one of the lives that was lost. Yet I know that such a trade is impossible. Nothing I will ever be able to do or say can possibly atone for the massacre.

Sixteen years have passed since that terrible day, and l have dedicated them to understanding what is still incomprehensible to me, how a promising boy’s life could have escalated into such a disaster, and on my watch. I have interrogated experts as well as our family, Dylan’s friends, and, most of all, myself. What did I miss, and how could I have missed it? I have scoured my daily journals. l have analyzed our family life with the ferocity of a forensic scientist, turning over mundane events and exchanges in search of the clues I missed.

What should I have seen? What could I have done differently?

My quest for answers began as a purely personal mission, a primal need to know as strong as the shame and horror and grief that overwhelmed me. But I have come to see that the fragments I hold offer clues to a puzzle many are desperate to solve. The hope that what I have learned may help has led me to the difficult but necessary step of going public with my story.

There is a world between where I stand now and the view I had before Columbine, when our family life looked like that of a typical suburban American family. In more than a decade of searching through the wreckage, my eyes have opened, not only to those things once hidden to me about Dylan and the events leading up to that day, but also to the realization that these insights have implications that extend far beyond Columbine.

I’ll never know whether I could have prevented my son’s terrible role in the carnage that unfolded that day, but I have come to see things I wish I had done differently. These are small things, threads in the larger tapestry of a normal family’s life. Because if anyone had peeked inside our lives before Columbine, I believe that what they would have seen, even with the tightest zoom lens, was thoroughly ordinary, no different from the lives unfolding in countless homes across the country.

Tom and I were loving, attentive, and engaged parents, and Dylan was an enthusiastic, affectionate child. This wasn’t a kid we worried and prayed over, hoping he would eventually find his way and lead a productive life. We called him “The Sunshine Boy”, not just because of his halo of blond hair, but because everything seemed to come easily to him. I was grateful to be Dylan’s mother, and loved him with my whole heart and soul.

The ordinariness of our lives before Columbine will perhaps be the hardest thing for people to understand about my story. For me, it is also the most important. Our home life was not difficult or fraught. Our youngest child was not a handful, let alone someone we (or others who knew him) would have imagined to be a risk to himself or to anyone else. I wish many things had been different, but, most of all, I wish I had known it was possible for everything to seem fine with my son when it was not.

When it comes to brain health issues, many of our children are as vulnerable today as children a hundred years ago were to infectious diseases. Far too often, as in our case, their susceptibility goes undetected. Whether a child flames out in a horrifying scenario, or whether their potential for happiness and productivity merely fizzles, this situation can be as confounding as it is heartbreaking. If we do not wake up to these vulnerabilities, the terrible toll will continue to rise. And that toll will be counted not just in tragedies such as Columbine or Virginia Tech or Newtown or Charleston, but in countless quieter, slow-burning tragedies playing out every day in the family lives of our coworkers, friends, and loved ones.

There is perhaps no harder truth for a parent to bear, but it is one that no parent on earth knows better than I do, and it is this: love is not enough.

My love for Dylan, though infinite, did not keep Dylan safe, nor did it save the thirteen people killed at Columbine High School, or the many others injured and traumatized. I missed subtle signs of psychological deterioration that, had I noticed, might have made a difference for Dylan and his victims, all the difference in the world.

By telling my story as faithfully as possible, even when it is unflattering to me, I hope to shine a light that will help other parents see past the faces their children present, so that they can get them help if it is needed.

Many of my own friends and colleagues have changed their parenting styles as a result of knowing our story. In some instances, their interventions have had dramatic results, as when a former colleague noticed that her thirteen-year-old daughter seemed slightly withdrawn. With Dylan in mind, she pressed (and pressed, and pressed). Eventually, her daughter broke down and confessed that a stranger had raped her while she was sneaking out to see a friend. The girl was deeply depressed and ashamed and afraid, and she was seriously considering taking her own life.

My colleague was able to help her child because she noticed subtle changes, and kept asking. I take heart in knowing that my colleague effected a happier ending for her daughter’s story because she knew ours, and I believe only good can come from widening the circle of people who know it.

It is not easy for me to come forward, but if the understanding and insights l have gained in the terrible crucible of Columbine can help, then I have a moral imperative to share them. Speaking out is frightening, but it is also the right thing to do. The list of things I would have done differently if I had known more is long. Those are my failures. But what I have learned implies the need for a broader call to action, a comprehensive overview of what should be in place to stop not only tragedies like the one committed by my son but the hidden suffering of any child.

I began writing about the experience of Columbine almost from the moment it happened, because writing about my son’s cruel behavior and his suicide was one of the ways I coped with the tragedy. I never made a conscious decision to write. I kept writing just as I kept breathing.

Deciding what to do with the words I had put down on paper came much later. Initially, I didn’t think I had the inner strength to publish my thoughts about Dylan and our family. I was terrified that sharing my personal account would cause members of the community as well as my own loved ones to relive the shattering experience of the Columbine shootings. I didn’t want the hate mail and the media circus to begin all over again, because I didn’t think that any of us could withstand it a second time.

It wasn’t until years after the incident that I secured a publisher, and the manuscript was completed. As I inched toward the inevitable day when A Mother’s Reckoning would be released to the public and I would have to make media appearances to support the book, I felt like a rabbit ready to bolt across an open field.

In the end, I was able to take that step because the messages I hoped to convey were a matter of life and death. I felt a responsibility to educate parents and families about what happened, and why. I believed that hearing what Dylan had gone through might be beneficial to others, especially those who are struggling with lethal thoughts, or who find themselves or their loved ones trapped in a cycle of hopelessness.

If anyone close to Dylan had been able to grasp that he was experiencing a health crisis that impaired his judgement, compelled him to fixate on violence, misled him to dehumanize others, and enabled him to kill his schoolmates and a teacher before killing himself, we could have intervened, and gotten him the help he needed to move beyond the period of crisis.

In the years since the Columbine tragedy, the world has changed and people are more willing to consider that behavioral health is part of health. Since the tragedy l have witnessed significant changes in mental health care, school policy, active shooter responses, and suicide prevention. More and more people recognize that we don’t lose our bearings because we’re bad people. Persistent thoughts of death and suicide are symptoms of pathology, not of flawed character.

When A Mother’s Reckoning came out, l was surprised and grateful for the heartfelt, positive response from readers and from the media. My deepest fear that the book would regenerate a firestorm of anger and pain and reopen the wounds of April 1999 did not materialize. The message I most often hear from readers is, “Thank you for sharing your story.” A number of parents have told me that they see their own children in a new light, and are listening to them more carefully. Some have gone on to say they think every parent should read the book. Others shared with me their own struggles with suicidal thinking. The book, they said, made them see for the first time how devastating their deaths would be to those who loved them. The voices I hear are part of the growing demand for improved care and treatment for those who experience disordered thinking, addictions, behavioral disabilities, and other brain health concerns.

And there was another, unexpected blessing from the book’s publication: it led several more survivors of the Columbine tragedy to contact me. I feel privileged to have had a chance to meet them, and humbled by their grace and generosity. In the immediate wake of Columbine, I could only dream that one day it would be possible for me to encounter one of Dylan’s victims or one of their family members and exchange a heartfelt hug. This has finally come to pass and I am overcome with gratitude.

Since the book’s release, I have cut back on most of my local volunteer commitments and focused more on participation at the national level. I have spoken at events designed to educate school personnel, medical practitioners, and journalists. One thing that surprised me about the book’s release was the interest in it shown by readers all over the world. At the time of publication, I had no idea that the difficult subject matter would be of interest outside the United States. But to date, the book has been translated into almost a dozen languages, including Hungarian, Italian, Dutch, German, French, Korean, Chinese, Portuguese, and Russian. The global level of interest is a testament to the pervasive concerns people are having about mental wellness.

Another privilege for which I am grateful is the opportunity to donate my share of book profits to organizations dedicated to suicide prevention, evidence-based programs, and brain health research. I never would have been able to make these gifts to deserving organizations had I not published the book.

One thing that has not changed during years of continual soul-searching about Columbine is the way I feel about Dylan. My abiding love for him was the force that kept me writing and alive. It is what keeps me focused on the causes that I support. I carry him in my heart every waking moment and in dreams when I sleep. I like to imagine that he has walked with me through the long, heart-rending process of telling our story together. I will never stop wishing that I knew then what I know now, so I would have been better equipped to help him when he needed me. So many would have been spared if I had.

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CHAPTER 1

“There’s Been a Shooting at Columbine High School”

APRIL 20, 1999, 12:05 P.M.

I was in my office in downtown Denver, getting ready to leave for a meeting about college scholarships for students with disabilities, when I noticed the red message light on my desk phone flashing.

I checked, on the off chance my meeting had been canceled, but the message was from my husband, Tom, his voice tight, ragged, urgent.

“Susan-this is an emergency! Call me back immediately!”

He didn’t say anything more. He didn’t have to: I knew just from the sound of his voice that something had happened to one of our boys.

It felt as if it took hours for my shaking fingers to dial our home phone number. Panic crashed over me like a wave; my heart pounded in my ears. Our youngest son, Dylan, was at school; his older brother, Byron, was at work. Had there been an accident?

Tom picked up and immediately yelled: “Listen to the television!” But I couldn’t make out any distinct words. It terrified me that whatever had happened was big enough to be on TV. My fear, seconds earlier, of a car wreck suddenly seemed tame. Were we at war? Was the country under attack?

“What’s happening?” I screamed into the receiver. There was only static and indecipherable television noise on the other end. Tom came back on the line, finally, but my ordinarily steadfast husband sounded like a madman. The scrambled words pouring out of him in staccato bursts made no sense: “gunman shooter school.”

I struggled to understand what Tom was telling me: Nate, Dylan’s best friend, had called Tom’s home office minutes before to ask, “Is Dylan home?” A call like that in the middle of the school day would have been alarming enough, but the reason for Nate’s call was every parent’s worst nightmare come to life: gunmen were shooting at people at Columbine High School, where Dylan was a senior.

There was more: Nate had said the shooters had been wearing black trench coats, like the one we’d bought for Dylan.

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from

A Mother’s Reckoning. Living in the aftermath of the Columbine tragedy

by Sue Klebold

get it at Amazon.com

CFT: Focusing on Compassion In Next Generation CBT Dennis Tirch Ph.D * Compassion Focused Therapy For Dummies – Mary Welford * Compassion Focused Therapy – Paul Gilbert.

Compassion Focused Therapy offers therapists new options.

Dennis Tirch Ph.D

Compassion is currently being studied and used as an evidence based ingredient in effective psychotherapy more than ever before. This might not seem surprising, given that practicing compassion has been at the center of emotional healing in global wisdom traditions for at least 2,600 years. Empathy and emotional validation have been identified as some of the most important components of psychotherapy effectiveness for decades. However, compassion, as a process in itself, has only recently come to be seen as a core focus of psychotherapeutic work. A growing body of research continues to demonstrate how cultivating our compassionate minds can help us to alleviate and prevent a range of psychological problems, including anxiety and shame (Tirch and Gilbert, 2014). Rather than being a soft option, the deliberate activation of our compassion system can generate the courage and psychological flexibility we need to face life’s challenges, and step forward into lives of meaning, purpose and vitality.

Paul Gilbert (2009) has drawn upon developmental psychology, affective neuroscience, Buddhist practical philosophy, and evolutionary theory to develop a comprehensive form of experiential behavior therapy known as Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT). Gilbert describes compassion as a multifaceted process that has evolved from the caregiver mentality found in human parental care and child rearing. As such, compassion includes a number of emotional, cognitive, and motivational elements involved in the ability to create opportunities for growth and change with warmth and care. CFT involves training and enhancing this evolved capacity for compassion.

Gilbert defines the essence of compassion as “a basic kindness, with deep awareness of the suffering of oneself and of other living things, coupled with the wish and effort to relieve it” (2009, p. xiii). This definition involves two central dimensions of compassion. The first is known as the psychology of engagement and involves sensitivity to and awareness of the presence of suffering and its causes. The second dimension is known as the psychology of alleviation and constitutes both the motivation and the commitment to take actual steps to alleviate the suffering we encounter (Gilbert and Choden, 2013).

Over the last few years, the research base for compassion psychology generally and CFT specifically has been growing at a remarkable rate, with a rapid increase in the number of research and clinical publications addressing compassion. For example, the last ten years have seen a major upsurge in exploration into the benefits of cultivating compassion, especially through imagery practice (Fehr, Sprecher, and Underwood, 2008). Neuroscience and imaging research has demonstrated that practices of imagining compassion for others produce changes in the frontal cortex, the immune system, and overall well-being (Lutz et al., 2008). Notably, one study (Hutcherson, Seppala, and Gross, 2008) found that even just a brief loving-kindness meditation increased feelings of social connectedness and affiliation toward strangers.

Several compassion-focused intervention components have been found to enhance psychotherapy outcomes, and to serve as mediator variables in outcomes. For example, one study (Schanche, Stiles, McCullough, Svartberg, and Nielsen, 2011) found that self-compassion was an important mediator of reduction in negative emotions associated with personality disorders. In a study of the effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression (Kuyken et al., 2010), researchers found that self-compassion was a significant mediator between mindfulness and recovery. In fact, in a meta-analysis of research concerning both clinical and nonclinical settings, compassion-focused interventions were found to be significantly effective (Hofmann et al., 2011).

CFT is also seeing increasing empirical supported through outcome research. An early clinical trial involving a group of people with chronic mental health problems who were attending a day hospital (Gilbert and Procter, 2006) found that CFT significantly reduced self-criticism, shame, sense of inferiority, depression, and anxiety. In other outcome research, CFT has been found to be significantly effective for the treatment of personality disorders (Lucre and Corten, 2012), eating disorders (Gale, Gilbert, Read, and Goss, 2012), psychosis (Braehler, Harper, and Gilbert, 2012) and in people presenting to community mental health teams (Judge, Cleghorn, McEwan, and Gilbert, 2012). As CFT continues to become more widely disseminated and growing numbers of clinicians and researchers acquire understanding and skill in its methods and philosophy, increasing outcome research will further test the model, leading to innovation and improvement.

The following brief tips can help psychotherapists begin to appreciate how useful a compassion focus can be in practicing ACT, CBT or, in fact, any form of psychotherapy. Furthermore, we can see how remembering to practice compassion for ourselves might help to restore the energy and attention we bring to our work, of sharing compassion with our clients. Feel free to experiement with the following:

1. “It is not your fault…”

From a perspective of compassion, we remember how much of the pain and suffering in life is not of our choosing, and couldn’t really be our fault. In CFT we practice the “wisdom of no-blame” which means that taking responsibility for the direction you choose in life is essential, while languishing in shame, social fears and self-blame seldom leads to effective action. We know we didn’t choose our place in the genetic lottery. We didn’t choose to have a tricky human brain that is set up with a hair-trigger threat detection system and confusing loops of thoughts and actions. We didn’t choose our parents, our childhood or the myriad of social circumstances of life. By realizing that much of what we suffer with is simply not our fault, we can begin to activate compassion for ourselves and others, as we contact and engage with the tragedies of life.

2. Holding ourselves and others in warmth and kindness

When humans are in the presence of warmth, acceptance and affiliative emotions, we are likely to be at our most flexible, empathic, responsive and healthiest mode of operation. From the day we are born and throughout our lives the presence of kindess, support and emotional strength will have powerful impacts on every aspect of our health and behavior. In CFT, we use methods drawn from ancient visualization practices, and also modern techniques drawn from method acting to create the conditions and context that can allow for the experience of compassion. So, when we practice compassion for ourselves and others, we remember to slow down, to have a warm and caring expression on our face, and to use open and centered body language. Adopting a slow pace of our breathing and a warm tone of voice, we do all that we can to invite an experience of compassion. Images that evoke compassion are also used to bring us into contact with our compassionate mind. Can you imagine the most elegant cognitive reframe shouted at you with a cruel voice, such as a depressed client telling themselves, “The evidence doesn’t add up that you are a loser, so stop being so stupid about everything and suck it up and deal with life!” Perhaps even worse, can you imagine the condeming inner monologue of a mindfulness practitioner saying something like, “You’re not supposed to be judgemental about judging your thoughts! My God, you are terrible at this!” No matter how clever the content of our minds may seem to be, an emotional tone of acceptance, kindess and compasion is an essential ingredient to our experience of well-being.

3. Practicing compassion as a flow

We all can feel distressed in our work as psychotherapists, when we repeatedly encounter the suffering of others, which activates sympathetic emotional pain that we experience within our own minds, hearts and brains. Practicing deliberate, consistent compassion for ourselves and for others can help us to prevent empathic distress fatigue, and can build our inner architecture of compassionate strength. When you find yourself feeling that your reservoir of empathy, wisdom and warmth is slightly drained, deliberately breathe in compassionate intentions for yourself. As you exhale, direct compassionate intentions towards your client. This can be done silently, secretly, and consistently. As we breathe in, we wish for our suffering to cease and for ourselves to find peace and happiness. As we breathe out, we wish for our clients suffering to cease also, and we wish them happiness, wellness and an end to needless struggles. When this simple gesture becomes a therapist’s habit, they can quickly activate affiliative emotions to help them work towards their own compassionate mission of alleviating and preventing the suffering that they find in themselves and in others.

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Dennis Tirch, Ph.D., is a compassion-focused psychologist, the author of The Compassionate Mind Guide to Overcoming Anxiety, and a faculty member at Weill Cornell Medical College.

Paul Gilbert, Ph.D., is currently a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Derby in the United Kingdom, and director of the Mental Health Research Unit at Derbyshire Mental Health Trust.

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Compassion Focused Therapy For Dummies
Mary Welford.

Introduction

You can work through a never-ending list of things you could do to improve your wellbeing. Getting more sleep, taking regular exercise, eating a healthier diet, developing a positive mental attitude and drinking less alcohol are just some of the things you may benefit from. Advice comes from the TV, newspapers, self-help books, friends, relatives, colleagues, healthcare professionals and even the chats we have with ourselves! But it’s hard to motivate ourselves to make helpful changes. It’s even harder to maintain them.

Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) is here to help. This approach offers life-changing insights into our amazing capacities and also the challenges we face in our everyday lives. By understanding ourselves, we become motivated to act out of true care for our wellbeing. This changes the relationship we have with ourselves and others. Practicing CFT won’t mean you suddenly turn into a ‘perfect’version of yourself. It does however mean that you become more aware of the choices you have and you’re motivated to make ones that are more helpful to you. And yes, you find plenty of advice in here to guide you on your way too!

About This Book

Compassion Focused Therapy For Dummies contains a wealth of important information that can help you to understand yourself, and others, better. It also introduces you to practices that you can integrate into your everyday life, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day…. I’ve used as little jargon and off-putting technical terms as possible, and so you don’t need to approach this book with a background knowledge of psychology. Simply put, if you’re in possession of a human brain and you’d like to discover more about CFT, this book is written for you.

That said, two factors may motivate you to continue developing your understanding of CFT once you finish this book: CFT is rooted in a scientific understanding of what it is to be human. As such, the approach constantly evolves to reflect the science. In the same way as it’s helpful to keep up with advancing technology, it’s also good to keep up with advancing our understanding of ourselves. We humans are highly complex.

This book simply doesn’t have the room to do CFT complete justice –not if you want to be able to lift it up! When you finish reading, you may want to move on to explore the comprehensive work of Paul Gilbert (the originator of the CFT approach), his colleagues and collaborators.

Foolish Assumptions In writing this book

I’ve had to make a few assumptions about you. I’ve assumed that: You’re interested in improving your wellbeing. You appreciate that CFT is based on an incredible amount of research –but you don’t necessarily want to plough through it all! You realise that I’ve had to make some tough decisions about what to include and what to leave out. Hopefully most of the choices I’ve made are right (but thankfully I won’t criticise myself if I’ve made a mistake; I hope you don’t either!). You recognise that I’m not trying to pass CFT off as my own creation. Instead, I set out to describe the work of Paul Gilbert and colleagues (of whom I am privileged to be one).

You may be selective about which parts of the book you read. As such, I’ve written this book in a way that allows each chapter to ‘stand alone’ so that you can pick and choose the content you want to read, and when you want to read it. You’re prepared to give new things a go! If you’re a therapist or studying CFT, I also assume that you recognise the importance of learning the approach ‘from the inside out’, and as such that you’ll work through the book with this in mind.

Beyond the Book

In addition to the material in this book, I also provide a free access-anywhere Cheat Sheet that offers some helpful reminders about the many benefits of CFT. To get this Cheat Sheet, simply go to http://www.dummies.com and search for ‘Compassion Focused Therapy For Dummies Cheat Sheet’ in the Search box.

Where to Go from Here

If you’re new to CFT, you may find it helpful to start with Chapter 1 before you decide how to tackle the rest of the chapters (you may even decide that you want to read the book from start to finish –but you don’t have to take that approach, as you find plenty of helpful cross-references to other useful chapters as you work through each chapter).

However you decide to begin, do this at a pace to suit both your understanding and emotional experience. If you have some experience of CFT, you may choose to skip to a particular topic due to a need or question you may have. If this is the case, use the table of contents and the index to help you find your way to the required information. Regardless of how you find your way around this book, I hope you appreciate the journey.

Finally, CFT aims to assist you to develop a compassionate understanding and relationship with yourself and others. If you find the approach helpful, it’s likely to become a way of life. To support your journey, you can access a number of courses to assist you. These course can also connect you with a wider group of people. You can find suitable courses advertised on a range of websites, including http://www.compassionatemind.co.uk, http://www.compassioninmind.co.uk and http://www.compassionatewellbeing.co.uk.

Part 1

Getting Started with Compassion Focused Therapy

IN THIS PART Discover what CFT is all about and how it can be helpful. Explore what compassion is, including the skills and attributes of compassion. Find out about the challenges we face and how our minds are organised.

Chapter 1
Introducing Compassion Focused Therapy

IN THIS CHAPTER
– Understanding how Compassion Focused Therapy works
– Discovering the benefits of compassion
– Exploring the effects of shame and self-criticism
– Beginning your journey
– Reaching out to others with compassion

People are more similar than different. We’re all born into a set of circumstances that we don’t choose, and in possession of a phenomenal yet very tricky brain. We’re all trying to get by, doing the best we can. The sooner we wake up to this reality the better.

Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) is here to help. This approach aims to liberate you from shame and self-criticism, replacing these feelings with more helpful ways of relating to yourself. It helps you to choose the type of person you want to be and to develop ways to make this choice a reality. In this chapter, I introduce you to CFT, offering you an understanding of how it works and helping you to understand the benefits. I also point out the steps you may take along the way as you work with the information in this book. Finally, I take a moment to help you connect to the wider community around you as you begin this journey.

CFT advocates that you don’t rush to ‘learn’ about the approach but instead allow space to experience and ‘feel’ it. So take your time with this book as you apply it to your life, and really discover the benefits.

Getting to Grips with Compassion Focused Therapy

CFT was founded by UK clinical psychologist Paul Gilbert, OBE.

The name of the approach was chosen to represent three important aspects:

Compassion, in its simplest yet potentially most powerful definition, involves a sensitivity to our own, and other people’s, distress, plus a motivation to prevent or alleviate this distress. As such, it has two vital components. One involves engaging with suffering while the other involves doing something about it. Chapter 2 delves into the ins and outs of compassion in more detail.

Focused means that we actively develop and apply compassion to ourselves. It also involves accepting and experiencing compassion from and for others.

Therapy is a term to describe the processes and techniques used to address an issue or difficulty.

CFT looks to social, developmental and evolutionary psychology and neuroscience to help us understand how our minds develop and work, and the problems we encounter. This scientific understanding (of ourselves and others) calls into question our experiences of shame and self-criticism and helps us to develop the motivation to make helpful changes in our lives.

CFT utilises a range of Eastern and Western methods to enhance our wellbeing. Attention training, mindfulness and imagery combine with techniques used in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and Person Centred, Gestalt and Narrative therapies (to name but a few), resulting in a powerful mix of strategies that can help you become the version of yourself you wish to be.

CFT is often referred to as part of a ‘third-wave’ of cognitive behavioural therapy because it incorporates a number of CBT techniques. However, CFT derives from an evolutionary model (which you find out more about in Chapters 3, 4 and 5) and it uses techniques from many other therapies that have been found to be of benefit. As such, CFT builds upon and integrates with other therapies. As therapies become more rooted in science, we may see increasing overlap rather than diversification.

Compassion can involve kindness and warmth, but it also takes strength and courage to engage with suffering and to do something about it. CFT is by no means the easy or ‘fluffy’ option. Head to Chapter 6 to address some of the myths associated with compassion.

You may be reading this book because you want to find out more about this form of therapy. Alternatively, you may want to develop your compassionate mind and compassionate self out of care for your own wellbeing. The why or your motivation for reading this book has a big effect on the experience and, potentially, the outcome. Personally, I hope that whatever your motivation, you consider applying the approach to yourself in order that you can learn it ‘from the inside out’.

Defining common terms

You may find that some of the terms used in CFT are new to you. Here are a few common terms that I use throughout this book, along with an explanation of what they mean:

Common humanity: This refers to the fact that, as human beings, we all face difficulties and struggles. We’re more alike than different, and this realisation brings with it a sense of belonging to the human family.

Tricky brain: Our highly complex brains can cause us problems. For example, our capacity to think about the future and the past makes us prone to worry and rumination, while our inbuilt tendency to work out our place in a hierarchy can have a huge impact on our mood and self-esteem. In CFT, we use the term tricky brain to recognise our brain’s complexity and the problems this complexity can lead to. We consider our tricky brain in more detail in Chapter 3.

Compassionate mind: This is simply an aspect of our mind. It comes with a set of attributes and skills that are useful for us to cultivate (I introduce these attributes and skills in Chapter 2). This frame of mind is highly important for our wellbeing, relationships and communities. But just as we have a compassionate mind, we also have a competitive and threat-focused mind –which is highly useful, if not a necessity, at certain times (Chapter 4 takes a look at our threat-focused mind).

Compassionate mind training: This describes specific activities designed to develop compassionate attributes and skills, particularly those that influence and help us to regulate emotions. Attention training and mindfulness are used as a means to prepare us for this work, and we look at these practices in Part 3.

Compassionate self: This is the embodiment of your compassionate mind. It’s a whole mind and body experience. Your compassionate self incorporates your compassionate mind but also moves and interacts with the world.

Compassionate self cultivation: Your compassionate self is an identity that you can embody, cultivate and enhance. Compassionate self cultivation describes the range of activities that help you develop your compassionate self. Head to Chapter 10 for more on the cultivation of your compassionate self.

Engagement in the compassionate mind training and compassionate self cultivation activities provided in this book is often referred to as ‘physiotherapy for the brain’, as their use has been found to literally change the brain! Compassionate mind training and compassionate self cultivation are integral to CFT, but there’s so much more to CFT.

For many, getting to a point at which you can see the relevance and benefits of compassionate mind training and compassionate self cultivation, and overcome blocks and barriers to compassion, is the most significant aspect of your compassionate journey.

Exercises: These are activities for you to try. Sometimes they help to illustrate a point or provide a useful insight. Other exercises can give you an idea of what helps you to develop and maintain your compassionate mind.

Practice: Once you’re aware of which exercises are helpful to you, you can then incorporate these into your everyday life. Regular use of these exercises becomes your practice.

Observing the origins of CFT

CFT is closely tied to advances in our understanding of the mind and, because scientific advances never stop, the therapy continues to adapt and change based upon it. Much of this book focuses on sharing the science to help develop a compassionate understanding of yourself and a sense of connection with fellow travellers on this mortal coil.

CFT is also born out of a number of clinical observations:

– People demonstrating high levels of shame and self-criticism often struggle with standard psychological therapies. For example, using CBT, many find that they’re not reassured by the generation or discovery of alternative beliefs and views and that this doesn’t result in changes to the way they feel. Individuals may say ‘Logically, I know I’m not bad/not to blame, but I still feel it’ and ‘I know it’s unlikely that things will go wrong, but I still feel terrible’.

– What we say to ourselves is important, but how we say it is even more important.

Ever called yourself ‘idiot’ in a light-hearted and jovial manner? You probably did so without feeling any negative effects. But, have you ever called yourself an idiot in a harsh and judgemental manner? You probably felt much worse on that occasion, perhaps resulting in an urge to withdraw or isolate yourself.

Consider phrases such as, ‘look on the bright side’ or ‘count your blessings’.

Sometimes these phrases can be said in a life-affirming way, but using a condescending, frustrated or angry tone represents a whole different ball game. This helps illustrate that your emotional tone is important. Therapy can result in improvement in mood, self-esteem, sense of control and achievement, alongside a reduction in difficulties.

However, life events can trigger relapse. How we relate to ourselves, especially when life doesn’t go the way we hope, is pivotal to our ongoing wellbeing. Post therapy, many people report that they never disclosed to their therapist the things that caused them the most distress. This resulted from their sense of shame and the way they believed others (the therapist) would feel about them.

In addition to this, consider how many people simply don’t seek help at all because they fear what others think. People struggle to feel loved, valued, safe or content if they’ve never experienced these feelings. For some people, these feelings are alien concepts and, most of all, alien experiences, difficult to generate by discussion alone. As such, it’s important to develop the emotional resources and skills to deal with difficult emotions without turning to alcohol, food, drugs, work, excessive exercise or particular fixations.

– Most of us struggle with emotions such as anger, anxiety and vulnerability, but many also find positive emotions extremely difficult, even frightening. For some people, care, kindness, love and intimacy are terrifying, and to be avoided.

– People experiencing depression often worry that something bad will happen when their mood lifts.

– Likewise, feelings of connection and trust often stir up feelings of isolation and rejection, and a fear of loss.

These difficulties can interfere with the goals we set ourselves unless we address them.

CFT is an accumulation of years of research, clinical insights and teachings drawn from a broad range of areas. Much of this research and study is summarised and published in scientific papers, textbooks and self-help books by Paul Gilbert and colleagues. A number of websites also provide additional resources. You can find details of these in the Appendix. This book provides you with a starting point for your CFT journey and offers a framework upon which you can hang your future CFT practice –use these resources to develop your practice further.

TAKING A COMPASSIONATELY THERAPEUTIC APPROACH

It has long been established that compassionate, respectful and supportive relationships are key to our wellbeing and integral to effective psychotherapies. A key goal of many therapies is the development of a better relationship with yourself. However, different therapies place emphasis on different methods to account for and produce change, for example: CBT focuses primarily (but not exclusively) on the link between thoughts, feelings and behaviours and helps you generate new thoughts and behaviours in order to change your feelings. Interpersonal therapy focuses on your relationships and how they affect you. Psychodynamic therapy aims to bring the unconscious mind into consciousness, helping you to experience and understand your true feelings in order to resolve them.

In contrast, CFT begins with your experience of compassion from your therapist (in person or through books like this one). This relationship with your therapist is pivotal. It then focuses on the personal development and cultivation of compassion to help you to make beneficial choices for yourself and for others.

With this in mind, this book contains quite a bit of me –as an author, as a psychologist and, most of all, as a human being who struggles too. I hope that the bits of me enhance your experience of reading the words I have chosen to write for you.

Making the Case for Compassion

If we view compassion as ‘a sensitivity to our own and other people’s distress plus a motivation to prevent or alleviate it’, we can easily appreciate the many individual, group and societal benefits to developing and maintaining compassion in our lives. It makes intuitive sense and it’s the reason why compassion has been a central component of many religious and spiritual traditions across the centuries.

Research studies support the benefits of bringing compassion into your life. Higher levels of compassion are associated with fewer psychological difficulties. Compassion enhances our social relationships and emotional wellbeing: it alters our neurophysiology in a positive way and can even strengthen our immune systems. Research also suggests that CFT can be successfully used to address difficulties associated with eating, trauma, mood and psychosis.

However, for me, you can observe the power of the CFT approach in training clinicians. As they discover this approach to help their clients, they often report that the application of CFT in their personal lives can be transformative, leading many clinicians to develop and maintain their own personal practice. I believe that personal practice is vital for any clinician. I attribute much of my wellbeing and my ability to engage with other people’s suffering to the application of this approach in my life.

SO I’LL NEVER FEEL BAD AGAIN?

CFT won’t rid you of life’s difficulties. You won’t find yourself day after day serenely swanning around, impervious to life’s difficulties. We practise compassion because life is hard. Compassion can assist us to make helpful choices and, when ready, create a space in which we can work through strong emotions, and grieve for things we’ve lost and wish had been different. With compassion, we relate to our anger, anxiety and sadness with kindness, warmth and non-judgement. This allows us to consider the reasons such emotions are there, work through them and face the issues they are alerting us to. The development and cultivation of compassion isn’t a quick fix. It’s a way of living our lives.

Understanding the Effects of Shame and Self-Criticism

Shame and self-criticism are common blocks to wellbeing, and CFT is designed to overcome them. The following sections help you consider how shame and self-criticism can affect you and what you can do to address and overcome these issues.

The isolating nature of shame

Shame is an excruciatingly difficult psychological state. The term comes from the Indo-European word ‘sham’meaning ‘to hide’, and, as such, the experience of shame is isolating. When we feel shame, we feel bad about ourselves. We believe others judge us as inadequate, inferior or incompetent.

*

The next exercise helps you to explore the nature of shame and how it may affect you.

Begin by finding a place you can sit for a short time that is free of distractions. Allow yourself to settle for a few moments. It may help to lower your gaze or close your eyes during the exercise. Bring to mind a time when you felt ashamed (nothing too distressing, but something you feel okay to revisit briefly). Allow the experience to occupy your mind for a few moments.
Slowly ask yourself the following questions, allowing time after each question to properly explore your experience:
– How (and where) does shame feel as a sensation in your body?
– What thoughts go through your mind about yourself?
– What do you think other people thought/would think or make of you if they knew this about you?
– What emotions do you feel? What does it make you want to do?

Allow the experience to fade from your mind’s eye. Recall a time you’ve felt content or happy, perhaps on your own or with someone else, and let this memory fill your mind and body.

Depending upon the situation you brought to mind, a sense of anxiety, disgust or anger may have come to the fore. You may feel exposed, flawed, inadequate, disconnected or bad. Maybe you experience the urge to curl up, hide or run away, or perhaps feelings of anger and injustice leave you with the urge to defend yourself or confront someone.

*

Often, shame results in a feeling of disconnection. We don’t like ourselves (or a part of ourselves) and we don’t want to experience closeness to others because this may result in rejection. Our head goes down and we want to creep away. In addition, shame can affect our bodily sensations, maybe leading to tension, nausea or hotness. When you combine these negative views of yourself with predicted negative views from others, you create a very difficult concoction of experiences.

Shame brings with it a range of difficult experiences. Strong physical sensations, thoughts and images are just some of them. Emotions such as anxiety, sadness and anger can race through you as you feel the urge to withdraw, isolate or defend yourself.

Some of the things we feel shame about include:
– Our body (for example, its shape, or our facial features, hair or skin)
– Our body in action (for example, when sweating, urinating, defecating, burping, shaking, walking or running)
– Our health (for example, illnesses, infections, diseases or genetic conditions)
– Our mind (for example, our thoughts, including any intrusive images in our heads, our impulses, forgetfulness and our psychological health)
– Our emotions (for example, anxiety, anger, disgust, sadness, jealousy or envy)
– Our behaviour (for example, things we’ve said and the way we’ve said them, our use of alcohol and drugs, our compulsions, our eating patterns, or our tendency to avoid other people)
– Our environment (for example, our house, neighbourhood, car or bedroom)
– Other people (for example, our friends, family, cultural or religious group, or community)

Exploring why we feel shame

Human beings are social animals and need the protection, kindness and caring of others. Our brains are social organs. We like to feel valued, accepted and wanted by those around us in order to feel safe. There’s no shame in this. These needs represent a deep-rooted part of us that’s been highly significant in our evolution and survival. Shame begins in how you feel you live in the mind of another –and it is a social regulator. In other words, we’re programmed to try to work out, ‘What are they thinking about or feeling toward me?’, ‘Do they like me?’ and ‘Who can I trust?’

Just to add a further layer of complexity, we also try to work out, ‘Do I like myself or this aspect of me?’ and ‘Can I trust myself?’ If we perceive rejection from our social group or reject an aspect of ourselves, shame can be the result.

Although difficult to experience, shame can trigger us to make helpful changes and others to come to our aid in order to soothe the difficulties we experience. But what happens if we feel shame about things we are unable to change (such as our appearance, an aspect of our personality or our culture)? What happens if shame is attached to historical events that we blame ourselves for and can do nothing about? What happens when nobody comes to our assistance or we’re unable to accept the help offered to us?

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Dr. Mary Welford, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, lives and works in the South West of England. She is a founding member of the Compassionate Mind Foundation, Chair to the charity from 2009-2015 and authored the Compassionate Mind Guide to Building Self Confidence.

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from

Compassion Focused Therapy For Dummies

by Mary Welford

get it at Amazon.com

***

COMPASSION FOCUSED THERAPY

Paul Gilbert

Research into the beneficial effect of developing compassion has advanced enormously in the last ten years, with the development of inner compassion being an important therapeutic focus and goal.

This book explains how Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT)—a process of developing compassion for the self and others to increase well-being and aid recovery—varies from other forms of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.

Comprising 30 key points this book explores the founding principles of CFT and outlines the detailed aspects of compassion in the CFT approach. Divided into two parts—Theory and Compassion Practice—this concise book provides a clear guide to the distinctive characteristics of CFT. Compassion Focused Therapy will be a valuable source for students and professionals in training as well as practising therapists who want to learn more about the distinctive features of CFT.

Paul Gilbert is Professor of Clinical Psychology, University of Derby and has been actively involved in research and treating people with shame-based and mood disorders for over 30 years. He is a past President of the British Association for Cognitive and Behavioural Psychotherapy and a fellow of the British Psychological Society and has been developing CFT for twenty years.

Part 1

THEORY: UNDERSTANDING THE MODEL

1 Some basics

All psychotherapies believe that therapy should be conducted in a compassionate way that is respectful, supportive and generally kind to people (Gilbert, 2007a; Glasser, 2005). Rogers (1957) articulated core aspects of the therapeutic relationship involving positive regard, genuineness and empathy—which can be seen as “compassionate”. More recently, helping people develop self-compassion has received research attention (Gilbert & Procter, 2006; Leary, Tate, Adams, Allen, & Hancock, 2007; Neff, 2003a, 2003b) and become a focus for self-help (Germer, 2009; Gilbert, 2009a, 2009b; Rubin, 1975/ 1998; Salzberg, 1995).

Developing compassion for self and others, as a way to enhance well-being, has also been central to Buddhist practice for the enhancement of well-being for thousands of years (Dalai Lama, 1995; Leighton, 2003; Vessantara, 1993).

After exploring the background principles for developing Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT), Point 16 outlines the detailed aspects of compassion in the CFT approach. We can make a preliminary note, however, that different models of compassion are emerging based on different theories, traditions and research (Fehr, Sprecher, & Underwood, 2009).

The word “compassion” comes from the Latin word compati, which means “to suffer with”. Probably the best-known definition is that of the Dalai Lama who defined compassion as “a sensitivity to the suffering of self and others, with a deep commitment to try to relieve it”, i.e., sensitive attention-awareness plus motivation. In the Buddhist model true compassion arises from insight into the illusory nature of a separate self and the grasping to maintain its boundaries—from what is called an enlightened or awake mind.

Kristin Neff (2003a, 2003b; see http://www.self-compassion.org), a pioneer in the research on self-compassion, derived her model and self-report measures from Theravada Buddhism. Her approach to self-compassion involves three main components:
– 1 being mindful and open to one’s own suffering;
– 2 being kind, and non self-condemning; and
– 3 an awareness of sharing experiences of suffering with others rather than feeling ashamed and alone—an openness to our common humanity.

In contrast, CFT was developed with and for people who have chronic and complex mental-health problems linked to shame and self-criticism, and who often come from difficult (e.g., neglectful or abusive) backgrounds.

The CFT approach to compassion borrows from many Buddhist teachings (especially the roles of sensitivity to and motivation to relieve suffering) but its roots are derived from an evolutionary, neuroscience and social psychology approach, linked to the psychology and neurophysiology of caring—both giving and receiving (Gilbert, 1989, 2000a, 2005a, 2009a). Feeling cared for, accepted and having a sense of belonging and affiliation with others is fundamental to our physiological maturation and well-being (Cozolino, 2007; Siegel, 2001, 2007). These are linked to particular types of positive affect that are associated with well-being (Depue & Morrone-Strupinsky, 2005; Mikulincer & Shaver, 2007; Panksepp, 1998), and a neuro-hormonal profile of increased endorphins and oxytocin (Carter, 1998; Panksepp, 1998).

These calm, peaceful types of positive feelings can be distinguished from those psychomotor activating emotions associated with achievement, excitement and resource seeking (Depue & Morrone-Strupinsky, 2005). Feeling a positive sense of well-being, contentment and safeness, in contrast to feeling excited or achievement focused, can now be distinguished on self-report (Gilbert et al., 2008). In that study, we found that emotions of contentment and safeness were more strongly associated with lower depression, anxiety and stress, than were positive emotions of excitement or feeling energized. So, if there are different types of positive emotions—and there are different brain systems underpinning these positive emotions—then it makes sense that psychotherapists could focus on how to stimulate capacities for the positive emotions associated with calming and well-being.

As we will see, this involves helping clients (become motivated to) develop compassion for themselves, compassion for others and the ability to be sensitive to the compassion from others. There are compassionate (and non-compassionate) ways to engage with painful experiences, frightening feelings or traumatic memories.

CFT is not about avoidance of the painful, or trying to “soothe it away”, but rather is a way of engaging with the painful. In Point 29 we’ll note that many clients are fearful of compassionate feelings from others, and for the self, and it is working with that fear that can constitute the major focus of the work.

A second aspect of the CFT evolutionary approach suggests that self-evaluative systems operate through the same processing systems that we use when evaluating social and interpersonal processes (Gilbert, 1989, 2000a).

So, for example, as behaviourists have long noted, whether we see something sexual or fantasise about something sexual, the sexual arousal system is the same—there aren’t different systems for internal and external stimuli. Similarly, self-criticism and self-compassion can operate through similar brain processes that are stimulated when other people are critical of or compassionate to us. Increasing evidence for this view has come from the study of empathy and mirror neurons (Decety & Jackson, 2004) and our own recent fMRI study on self-criticism and self-compassion (Longe et al., 2010).

Interventions

CFT is a multimodal therapy that builds on a range of cognitive-behavioural (CBT) and other therapies and interventions.

Hence, it focuses on attention, reasoning and rumination, behaviour, emotions, motives and imagery.

It utilizes: the therapeutic relationship (see below); Socratic dialogues, guided discovery, psycho-education (of the CFT model); structured formulations; thought, emotion, behaviour and “body” monitoring; inference chaining; functional analysis; behavioural experiments; exposure, graded tasks; compassion focused imagery; chair work; enactment of different selves; mindfulness; learning emotional tolerance, learning to understand and cope with emotional complexities and conflicts, making commitments for effort and practice, illuminating safety strategies; mentalizing; expressive (letter) writing, forgiveness, distinguishing shame-criticizing from compassionate self-correction and out-of-session work and guided practice—to name a few! Feeling the change CFT adds distinctive features in its compassion focus and use of compassion imagery to traditional CBT-type approaches.

As with many of the recent developments in therapy, special attention is given to mindfulness in both client and therapist (Siegel, 2010). In the formulation CFT is focused on the affect-regulation model outlined in Point 6, and interventions are used to develop specific patterns of affect regulation, brain states and self-experiences that underpin change processes.

This is particularly important when it comes to working with self-criticism and shame in people from harsh backgrounds. Such individuals may not have experienced much in the way of caring or affiliative behaviour from others and therefore the (soothing) emotion-regulation system is less accessible to them. These are individuals who are likely to say, “I understand the logic of [say] CBT, but I can’t feel any different”. To feel different requires the ability to access affect systems (a specific neurophysiology) that give rise to our feelings of reassurance and safeness. This is a well-known issue in CBT (Leahy, 2001; Stott, 2007; Wills, 2009, p. 57).

Over twenty years ago I explored why “alternative thoughts” were not “experienced” as helpful. This revealed that the emotional tone, and the way that such clients “heard” alternative thoughts in their head, was often analytical, cold, detached or even aggressive. Alternative thoughts to feeling a failure, like: “Come on, the evidence does not support this negative view; remember how much you achieved last week!” will have a very different impact if said to oneself (experienced) aggressively and with irritation than if said slowly and with kindness and warmth. It was the same with exposures or home-works—the way they are done (bullying and forcing oneself verses encouraging and being kind to oneself) can be as important as what is done.

So, it seemed clear that we needed to focus far more on the feelings of alternatives not just the content—indeed, an over focus on content often was not helpful.

So, my first steps into CFT simply tried to encourage clients to imagine a warm, kind voice offering them the alternatives; or working with them in their behavioural tasks. By the time of the second edition of Counselling for Depression (Gilbert, 2000b) a whole focus had become concentrated on “developing inner warmth”(see also Gilbert, 2000a).

So, CFT progressed from doing CBT and emotion work with a compassion (kindness) focus and, then, as the evidence for the model developed and more specific exercises proved helpful, on to CFT.

The therapeutic relationship

The therapeutic relationship plays a key role in CFT (Gilbert, 2007c; Gilbert & Leahy, 2007), paying particular attention to the micro-skills of therapeutic engagement (Ivey & Ivey, 2003), issues of transference/countertransference (Miranda & Andersen, 2007), expression, amplification, inhibition and/or fear of emotion (Elliott, Watson, Goldman, & Greenberg, 2003; Leahy, 2001), shame (Gilbert, 2007c), validation (Leahy, 2005), and mindfulness of the therapist (Siegel, 2010).

When training people from other approaches, particularly CBT, we find that we have to slow them down; to allow spaces, and silences for reflection, and experiencing within the therapy rather than a series of Socratic questions or “target setting”. We teach how to use one’s voice speed and tone, nonverbal communication, the pacing of the therapy, being mindful (Katzow & Safran, 2007; Siegel, 2010) and the reflective process in the service of creating “safeness” to explore, discover, experiment and develop.

Key is to provide emotional contexts where the client can experience (and internalize) therapists as “compassionately alongside them”—no easy task because as we will discuss below (see Point 10) shame often involves clients having emotional experiences (transference) of being misunderstood, getting things wrong, trying to work out what the other person wants them to do and intense aloneness.

The emotional tone in the therapy is created partly by the whole manner and pacing of the therapist and is important in this process of experiencing “togetherness”. CF therapists are sensitive to how clients can actually find it hard to experience “togetherness” or “being cared about”, and wrap themselves in safety strategies of sealing the self off from “the feelings of togetherness and connectedness” (see Point 29; Gilbert, 1997, 2007a, especially Chapters 5 and 6, 2007c). CBT focuses on collaboration, where the therapist and client focus on the problem together—as a team.

CFT also focuses on (mind) “sharing”.

The evolution of sharing (and motives to share), e.g., not only objects but also our thoughts, ideas and feelings, is one of humans’ most important adaptations and we excel at wanting to share. As an especially social species, humans have an innate desire to share—not only material things but also their knowledge, values and the content of their minds—to be known, understood and validated. Thus, issues of motivation to share versus fear of sharing (shame), empathy and theory of mind are important evolved motives and competencies. It is the felt barriers to this “flow of minds” that can be problematic for some people and the way that the therapist “unblocks” this flow that can be therapeutic.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT; Linehan, 1993) addresses the key issue of therapy-interfering behaviours. CFT, like any other therapy, needs to be able to set clear boundaries, and use authority as a containing process. Some clients can be “emotional bullies”, threatening the therapist (e.g., with litigation or suicide) and are demanding. Frightened therapists may submit or back off. The client, at some level, is frightened of their own capacity to force others away from them.

For other clients, during painful moments, therapists might try to rescue rather than be silent. So, clarification of the therapeutic relationship is very important. This is why DBT wisely recommends a support group for therapists working with these kinds of clients. Research has shown that compassion can become a genuine part of self-identity but it can also be linked to self-image goals where people are compassionate in order to be liked (Crocker & Canevello, 2008). Compassion focused self-image goals are problematic in many ways.

Researchers are also beginning to explore attachment style and therapeutic relationships with evidence that securely attached therapists develop therapeutic alliances easier and with less problems than therapists with an insecure attachment style (Black, Hardy, Turpin, & Parry, 2005; see also Liotti, 2007). Leahy (2007) has also outlined how the personality and schema organization of the therapist can play a huge role in the therapeutic relationship—for example, autocratic therapists with dependent patients, or dependent therapists with autocratic patients. So, compassion is not about submissive “niceness”—it can be tough, setting boundaries, being honest and not giving clients what they want but what they need. An alcoholic wants another drink—that is not what they need; many people want to avoid pain and may try to do so in a variety of ways—but (kind) clarity, exposure and acceptance may be what actually facilitates change and growth (Siegel, 2010).

Evidence for the benefits of compassion

Although CFT is rooted in an evolutionary, neuro- and psychological science model, it is important to recognize its heavy borrowing from Buddhist influences. For over 2500 years Buddhism has focused on compassion and mindfulness as central to enlightenment and “healing our mind”. While Theravada Buddhism focuses on mindfulness and loving-( friendly)-kindness, Mahayana practices are specifically compassion focused (Leighton, 2003; Vessantara, 1993).

At the end of his life the Buddha said that his main teachings were mindfulness and compassion—to do no harm to self or others. The Buddha outlined an eight-fold path for practice and training one’s mind to avoid harming and promote compassion. This includes: compassionate meditations and imagery, compassionate behaviour, compassionate thinking, compassionate attention, compassionate feeling, compassion speech and compassionate livelihood.

It is these multimodal components that lead to a compassionate mind. We now know that the practice of various aspects of compassion increases well-being and affects brain functioning, especially in areas of emotional regulation (Begley, 2007; Davidson et al., 2003).

The last 10 years have seen a major upsurge in exploring the benefits of cultivating compassion (Fehr et al., 2009). In an early study Rein, Atkinson and McCraty (1995) found that directing people in compassion imagery had positive effects on an indictor of immune functioning (S-IgA) while anger imagery had negative effects. Practices of imagining compassion for others, produce changes in the frontal cortex, immune system and wellbeing (Lutz, Brefczynski-Lewis, Johnstone, & Davidson, 2008). Hutcherson, Seppala and Gross (2008) found that a brief loving-kindness meditation increased feelings of social connectedness and affiliation towards strangers. Fredrickson, Cohn, Coffey, Pek and Finkel (2008) allocated 67 Compuware employees to a loving-kindness meditation group and 72 to waiting-list control.

They found that six 60-minute weekly group sessions with home practice based on a CD of loving kindness meditations (compassion directed to self, then others, then strangers) increased positive emotions, mindfulness, feelings of purpose in life and social support, and decreased illness symptoms. Pace, Negi and Adame (2008) found that compassion meditation (for six weeks) improved immune function and neuroendocrine and behavioural responses to stress. Rockliff, Gilbert, McEwan, Lightman and Glover (2008) found that compassionate imagery increased heart rate variability and reduced cortisol in low self-critics, but not in high self-critics.

In our recent fMRI study we found that self-criticism and self-reassurance to imagined threatening events (e.g., a job rejection) stimulated different brain areas, with self-compassion but not self-criticism stimulating the insula—a brain area associated with empathy (Longe et al., 2010). Viewing sad faces, neutrally or with a compassionate attitude, influences neurophysiological responses to faces (Ji-Woong et al., 2009). In a small uncontrolled study of people with chronic mentalhealth problems, compassion training significantly reduced shame, self-criticism, depression and anxiety (Gilbert & Procter, 2006). Compassion training has also been found to be helpful for psychotic voice hearers (Mayhew & Gilbert, 2008). In a study of group-based CFT for 19 clients in a high-security psychiatric setting, Laithwaite et al. (2009) found “…a large magnitude of change for levels of depression and self-esteem…. A moderate magnitude of change was found for the social comparison scale and general psychopathology, with a small magnitude of change for shame,…. These changes were maintained at 6-week follow-up”(p. 521).

In the field of relationships and well-being, there is now good evidence that caring for others, showing appreciation and gratitude, having empathic and mentalizing skills, does much to build positive relationships, which significantly influence well-being and mental and physical health (Cacioppo, Berston, Sheridan, & McClintock, 2000; Cozolino, 2007, 2008).

There is increasing evidence that the kind of “self” we try to become will influence our well-being and social relationships, and compassionate rather than self-focused self-identities are associated with the better outcomes (Crocker & Canevello, 2008).

Taken together there are good grounds for the further development of and research into CFT.

Neff (2003a, 2003b) has been a pioneer in studies of self-compassion (see pages 3–4). She has shown that self-compassion can be distinguished from self-esteem and predicts some aspects of well-being better than self-esteem (Neff & Vonk, 2009), and that self-compassion aids in coping with academic failure (Neff, Hsieh, & Dejitterat, 2005; Neely, Schallert, Mohammed, Roberts, & Chen, 2009). Compassionate letter writing to oneself, improves coping with life events and reduces depression (Leary et al., 2007).

As noted, however, Neff’s concepts of compassion are different from the evolutionary and attachment-rooted model outlined here and, as yet, there is no agreed definition of compassion—indeed, the word compassion can have slightly (but important) different meanings in different languages. So, here compassion will be defined as a “mind set”, a basic mentality, and explored in detail in Point 16.

2 A personal journey

My interest in developing people’s capacities for compassion and self-compassion was fuelled by a number of issues:
• First, was a long interest in evolutionary approaches to human behaviour, suffering and growth (Gilbert, 1984, 1989, 1995, 2001a, 2001b, 2005a, 2005b, 2007a, 2007b, 2009a). The idea that cognitive systems tap underlying evolved motivation and emotional mechanisms has also been central to Beck’s cognitive approach (Beck, 1987, 1996; Beck, Emery, & Greenberg, 1985), with a special edition dedicated to exploring the evolutionary-cognitive interface (Gilbert, 2002, 2004).
• Second, evolutionary psychology has focused significantly on the issue of altruism and caring (Gilbert, 2005a) with increasing recognition of just how important these have been in our evolution (Bowlby, 1969; Hrdy, 2009) and now are to our physical and psychological development (Cozolino, 2007) and well-being (Cozolino, 2008; Gilbert, 2009a; Siegel, 2007).
• Third, people with chronic mental-health problems often come from backgrounds of high stress and/ or low altruism and caring (Bifulco & Moran, 1998), backgrounds that significantly affect physical and psychological development (Cozolino, 2007; Gerhardt, 2004; Teicher, 2002).
• Fourth, partly as a consequence of these life experiences, people with chronic and complex problems can be especially, deeply troubled by shame and self-criticism and/ or self-hatred and find it enormously difficult to be open to the kindness of others or to be kind to themselves (Gilbert, 1992, 2000a, 2007a, 2007c; Gilbert & Procter, 2006).
• Fifth, as noted on page 6, when using CBT they would typically say, “I can see the logic of alternative thoughts but I still feel X, or Y. I can understand why I wasn’t to blame for my abuse but I still feel I’m to blame”, or, “I still feel there is something bad about me”.
• Sixth, there is increasing awareness that the way clients are able to think about and reflect on the contents of their own minds (e.g., competencies to mentalize in contrast to being alexithymic) has major implications for the process and focus of therapy (Bateman & Fonagy, 2006; Choi-Kain & Gunderson, 2008; Liotti & Gilbert, in press; Liotti & Prunetti, 2010).
• Last, but not least, is a long personal interest in the philosophies and practices of Buddhism—although I do not regard myself as a Buddhist as such. Compassion practices, such as becoming the compassionate self (see Part 2), may create a sense of safeness that aides the development of mindfulness and mentalizing.

In Buddhist psychology compassion “transforms” the mind.

Logic and emotion

It has been known for a long time that logic and emotion can be in conflict. Indeed, since the 1980s research has shown that we have quite different processing systems in our minds.

One is linked to what is called implicit (automatic) processing, which is non-conscious, fast, emotional, requires little effort, is subject to classical conditioning and self-identify functions, and may generate feelings and fantasies even against conscious desires. This is the system which gives that “felt sense of something”.

This can be contrasted with an explicit (controlled) processing system, which is slower, consciously focused, reflective, verbal and effortful (Haidt, 2001; Hassin, Uleman, & Bargh, 2005).

These findings have been usefully formulated for clinical work (e.g., Power & Dalgleish, 1997) with more complex models being offered by Teasdale and Barnard (1993).

But the basic point is that there is no simple connection of cognition to emotion, and there are different neurophysiological systems underpinning them (Panksepp, 1998).

So, one of the problems linking thinking and feeling (“I know it but I don’t feel it”) can be attributed to (different) implicit and explicit systems coming up with different processing strategies and conclusions.

Cognitive, and many other, therapists and psychologists have not helped matters by using the concept of cognition and information processing interchangeably as if they are the same thing. They are not.

Your computer and DNA—indeed every cell in your body—are information processing mechanisms but I don’t think that they have “cognitions”.

This failure to define what is and is not “a cognition” or “cognitive” in contrast to a motive or an emotion has caused difficulties in this area of research.

Various solutions have been offered to work with the problems of feelings not following cognitions or logical reasoning, such as: needing more time to practise; most change is slow and hard work; more exposure to problematic emotions; identifying “roadblocks” and their functions (Leahy, 2001); a need for a particular therapeutic relationship (Wallin, 2007); or developing mindfulness and acceptance (Hayes, Follette, & Linehan, 2004; Liotti & Prunetti, 2010).

CFT offers an additional position

CFT suggests that there can be a fundamental problem in an implicit emotional system that evolved with mammalian and human caring systems and which gives rise to feelings of reassurance, safeness and connectedness (see Point 6).

The inability to access that affect system is what underpins this problem. Indeed, as noted (page 6), some people can cognitively (logically) generate “alternative thoughts” but hear them in their head as cold, detached or aggressive. There is no warmth or encouragement in their alternative thoughts—the emotional tone is more like cold instruction.

I have found that the idea of feeling (inner) kindness and supportiveness as part of generating alternative “thoughts” is an anathema to them. So, they just cannot “feel” their alternative thoughts and images.

*

Paul Gilbert, Ph.D., is currently a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Derby in the United Kingdom, and director of the Mental Health Research Unit at Derbyshire Mental Health Trust.

*

from

Compassion Focused Therapy

by Paul Gilbert

get it at Amazon.com

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Authoritative Websites on CFT

Centre for Mindful Self Compassion

Mindful Self Compassion for Teens

Chris Germer

Mindful.org

The Mindfulness

The Compassion

Center For Healthy Minds

Mindfulness Research

Mindfulness Exercises

Compassionate Living

Foundation For Active Compassion

Mindsight Institute

Center For Nonviolent Communication

Awareness In Action

Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education

Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life

Charter For Compassion

Compassionate Mind Foundation

Christopher Germer, PhD, Author of The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion

Mindful Awareness Research Center at University of California Los Angeles

University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness

Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy

University of California at San Diego Center for Mindfulness

Mind And Life Institute

Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice

Mindfulness page maintained by David Fresco

Mindfulness page maintained by Christopher Walsh

Center for Contemplative Mind in Society

Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom

Centre for Mindfulness Studies

Recommended Reading:

  • Highly Recommended: Germer, C. K. (2009). The mindful path to self-compassion: Freeing yourself from destructive thoughts and emotions.New York: Guilford Press.
  • Bennett-Goleman, T. (2001). Emotional alchemy: How the mind can heal the heart.New York: Three Rivers Press.
  • Brach, T. (2003) Radical Acceptance: Embracing your life with the heart of a Buddha. New York: Bantam.
  • Brown, B. (1999). Soul without shame: A guide to liberating yourself from the judge within. Boston: Shambala.
  • Brown, B. (2010). The Gifts of Imperfection. Center City, MN: Hazelden.
  • Feldman, C. (2005). Compassion: Listening to the cries of the world.Berkeley: Rodmell Press.
  • Gilbert, P. (2009). The compassionate mind. London: Constable.
  • Goldstein, E. (2015). Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  • Goldstein, J., & Kornfield, J. (1987). Seeking the heart of wisdom: The path of insight meditation. Boston: Shambhala.
  • Hanh, T. N. (1997). Teachings on love.Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.
  • Kornfield, J. (1993). A path with heart.New York: Bantam Books.
  • Marlowe, S. (2016). My new best friend. Summerville, MA: Wisdom Publications.
  • Rosenberg, M. (2003). Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life.Encinitas, CA: Puddledancer Press.
  • Salzberg, S. (1997). Lovingkindness: The revolutionary art of happiness.Boston: Shambala.
  • Salzberg, S. (2005). The force of kindness: change your life with love and compassion. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.

‘Damn … I missed’: the incredible story of the day the Queen was nearly shot – Eleanor Ainge Roy. 

In 1981 a New Zealand teenager fired at the British monarch – and a new investigation claims the assassination attempt was brushed aside by officials

It may be the closest anyone has ever come to assassinating Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1981, Christopher John Lewis, a disturbed New Zealand teenager aimed his .22 rifle at the British monarch during her tour of the country, lining up her jade outfit in his scope.

The bullet missed, but according to an investigation by reporter Hamish McNeilly for the website Stuff, the 17-year-old became obsessed with wiping out the royal family, as the government scrambled to conceal how close the self-styled terrorist had come to killing the head of state.

Two years after shooting at the Queen, the teenager, planning to murder Prince Charles, attempted to escape from a psychiatric ward. In 1995, New Zealand police sent him on a taxpayer-funded holiday during the Queen’s November tour – believing him to be safer snoozing on a beach than anywhere within firing distance of the monarch. He killed himself in prison in 1997.

By the age of 17, Lewis had a history of armed robbery, arson and animal torture. He idolised the Australian bandit Ned Kelly and American serial killer Charles Manson.

On Wednesday 14 October 1981, Lewis pulled on gloves and loaded his rifle inside a deserted toilet cubicle in New Zealand’s oldest city, Dunedin, aiming his scope at the Queen’s motorcade five storeys below.

Later, police found clippings on the royal family in Lewis’s squalid flat as well as a detailed map of the Queen’s route that day, with the words “Operation = Ass QUEB” written on the paper.

The Queen had just stepped out of a Rolls-Royce to greet 3,500 wellwishers when a distinctive crack rang out across the grassy reserve.

According to former Dunedin police det sgt Tom Lewis (no relation to the shooter), police immediately attempted to disguise the seriousness of the threat, telling the British press the noise was a council sign falling over. Later, under further questioning from reporters, they said someone had been letting off firecrackers nearby.

According to Tom Lewis, the then prime minister Robert Muldoon feared if word got out about how close the teenager had come to killing the Queen, the royals would never again visit New Zealand.

The 1981 annual police report reads: “The discharge of a firearm during the visit of Her Majesty the Queen serves to remind us all of the potential risks to royalty, particularly during public walks.”

Police interviewed the teenager eight times, during which he claimed he had been instructed to kill the Queen by an Englishman known to him as “the Snowman”, of whom Lewis was frightened.

The Snowman allegedly told Lewis about the pro-Nazi, rightwing National Front in England, and said Lewis could be part of similar groups that were popping up in New Zealand.

Lewis later claimed to have been visited by high-ranking officials from the government in Wellington during his 13-day interrogation, and was told never to discuss the incident.

“If I was ever to mention the events surrounding my interviews or the organisation, or that I was in the building, or that I was shooting from it – that they would make sure I ‘suffered a fate worse than death’,” Lewis wrote in a draft autobiography found beside his body after he killed himself. It was published posthumously.

Further evidence of Lewis’s obsession with the royal family had emerged in 1983 when he attempted to overpower a guard at a psychiatric hospital where he was being detained in order to assassinate Prince Charles, who visited the country in April with the Princess of Wales and their young son, William.

Fourteen years after Lewis’s attempt on the Queen’s life, the monarch returned to tour New Zealand in November 1995.

Lewis, then 31, was deemed a serious threat to her safety, so New Zealand police dispatched him to Great Barrier Island in the north of the country, with free accommodation, daily spending money and the use of a vehicle. He was not, however, under 24-hour surveillance.

“I started to feel like royalty,” Lewis wrote of his 10-day exile.

Tom Lewis, who worked on the 1981 case, said police were eager to keep the troubled man out of the spotlight during the second tour and downplay how close he had come to the Queen on her earlier visit.

“You will never get a true file on that: it was reactivated, regurgitated, bits pulled off it, other false bits put on it,” Lewis told Stuff, adding that Christopher Lewis’s original statement to police was destroyed. “They were in damage control so many times.”

Murray Hanan, Lewis’s former lawyer, said police did not want to press ahead with a charge of treason – which in 1981 still carried the death penalty – and he believed they had received an order from “up-top, politically” to hush up the attempted murder.

“The fact an attempted assassination of the Queen had taken place in New Zealand … it was just too politically hot to handle,” said Hanan. “I think the government took the view that he is a bit nutty and has had a hard upbringing, so it won’t be too harsh.”

When Lewis faced court, his potshot at the Queen was downgraded to possession of a firearm in a public place and discharging it. The attempted assassination – an embarrassment to the police protection squad, and to the government – was being quietly and conveniently forgotten.

Lewis killed himself in prison at the age of 33, while awaiting trial for the murder of a young mother and the kidnapping of her child. Shortly before his death Lewis told his partner about his infamous attempt to assassinate the Queen of England.

“Damn,” he told her, “damn … I missed.”

The Guardian 

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The Snowman and the Queen: Christopher John Lewis’ young life of crime.

The Snowman and the Queen is a five-part series looking at the life and crimes of Christopher John Lewis, a self-styled teen terrorist and trained ‘ninja’ whose bizarre criminal antics kept police busy from his school days until his strange suicide in prison at age 33.
*

Timeline 

Christopher John Lewis was born in Dunedin on September 7, 1964. His life of crime started young, when he was expelled from kindergarten for pushing another child off a slide, and continued until his suicide in prison at age 33.

This crimeline covers major criminal incidents involving Lewis, starting from when he was just 16.

1980

January 20: Sent to Cherry Farm psychiatric hospital in Dunedin for a risk assessment after a minor criminal matter. Later escaped.

December 13: Lewis burgled his former school, Otago Boys’ High School, stealing five .22 rifles.

1981

January 20: Lewis is committed under the Mental Health Act to Cherry Farm, after taking a vehicle at gunpoint. Released in May.

August 5-October 9: Dunedin crimespree of arsons, burglaries, vandalism and an armed robbery, with his guerilla group N.I.G.A claiming responsibility for most.

October 14: The Queen and Prince Philip walk around Dunedin’s Octagon as part of their royal tour of New Zealand. After lunch their motorcade heads to the Otago Museum Reserve, arriving just before 3pm. As they exit the car, a shot is heard.

October 22: Lewis is brought in for questioning.

October 23: Lewis takes police to Dunedin’s Adams Building and they recover a missing .22 rifle. Under questioning, Lewis confirms he took a shot at the Queen.

November 2: Lewis is charged in connection with firing a weapon on the day of the Royal visit.

November 17: Lewis pleads guilty in court to 17 charges including aggravated robbery and unlawfully discharging a firearm.

December 10: Lewis is sentenced to three years imprisonment.1982-1985

Lewis serves time at an Invercargill youth institution and at the maximum security Lake Alice Hospital in Whanganui, where it is revealed he was behind a detailed plot to kill visiting Prince Charles. He serves the last part of his sentence at Dunedin’s Cherry Farm psychiatric hospital.

He is jailed for further burglary and theft offending.

1987

April: Lewis, after four robberies, sparks a major West Coast manhunt and flees via the underside of a bus.

June: Lewis is captured in Auckland trying to buy a car. He appears in court on aggravated robbery, attempted aggravated robbery and burglary. He is sentenced to eight years’ jail.

1992

Days after his release he is sentenced to four years for the hold-up of a bank at Waikanae.

1995

Lewis parolled.

November: Lewis and his then partner sent to Great Barrier Island by authorities worried he may threaten the Queen once more.

1996

July 26: Tania Furlan found bashed to death in her Auckland home.

November: Lewis sent to jail for six months over making a false statement for the purpose of procuring a New Zealand passport. He is later charged with Furlan’s murder.

1997

September 23: Yet to face trial, Lewis, 33, electrocutes himself in his prison cell at Mt Eden.

*

Chapter one

The schoolboy with the strawberry blonde hair goes unnoticed as he walks up the stairs carrying a gun wrapped in a pair of old jeans.

The wannabe assassin leaves his 10-speed bike outside the seven-storey Adams Building; chosen at the last minute.

He enters a deserted toilet cubicle on the fifth floor, removes the stolen .22, puts on gloves, opens the window, and waits.

After a nerve-racking five minutes, the teenager spots a Rolls Royce driving down the closed road.

A few hundred metres away a large crowd of people erupts in cheers as the motorcade stops outside the Otago Museum Reserve.

This is the moment. After this, he’d be New Zealand’s greatest criminal.

He puts the rifle against his shoulder, and aims at the Queen of England.

THE BOY CRIMINAL

This is the story of how a 17-year-old from Dunedin made the world’s closest attempt to kill Queen Elizabeth II, our longest-living reigning monarch, and how police allegedly covered it up to save face.

As far as assassins go, Christopher John Lewis hardly looked the part. The short, bespectacled teen with a slight frame was described by police as “something out of the Boy Scout manual” and having a “Joe 90” appearance – after the 1960s spy character.

But a note on his file read: “Not to be trusted.”

Born in Dunedin on September 7, 1964, Lewis’ life of offending began with his expulsion from kindergarten. According to his memoirs, Last Words, published after his death, he was kicked out for pushing a child off a slide.

His father left after a few years and his mother remarried. According to Lewis, his stepfather was a harsh disciplinarian who frequently beat him with a strap.

“This taste of violence made me resentful and turn inwards,” Lewis said.

A self-described loner, he struggled at school and was unable to read or write until he was 8.

Expulsions became a way of life. At Anderson Bay Primary it was for “stirring up teachers”; at Tahuna Intermediate for taking a porn magazine to school; at Otago Boys’ High he was “always having fights and getting in the s…”.

“I had the most detentions and the most canings of anyone in the high school,” he would tell police.

As his criminal ambitions escalated, Lewis, who idolised cult outlaws such as Ned Kelly and Charles Manson, styled himself as the leader of his own guerilla army: the National Imperial Guerilla Army (N.I.G.A.). He enlisted former primary school buddy Geoffrey Rothwell and friend Paul Taane to join.

Taane, who now lives in Christchurch, said Lewis often appeared “angry at the world, people were afraid of him”.

Lewis, simply, had no regard for human life, he said.

Taane remembers Lewis sticking pins into a kitten for fun. Once, Lewis pointed a loaded shotgun in his face.

In late 1980, the three-man army launched a crimewave in Dunedin, beginning with the theft of five .22s from Lewis’ former high school, a church burglary and the arson of a video store. The boys claimed responsibility for four-break ins and a safe cracking. A letter to police during the 1981 Springbok rugby tour claimed that N.I.G.A. would “continue to steal, rob or even kill … unless if the Springbok team leaves New Zealand”. [sic]

Rothwell, now a lawyer, declined to be interviewed for this story.

The burglary of a secondhand sporting store and then a gun store gave the fledgling army an arsenal of weapons, some of which were later found buried at Lewis’ Albany St flat in the heart of Dunedin’s student quarter.

As Taane recalls, the trio would bike on their 10-speeds to a park for target practice with a sawn-off shotgun.

With an eye on sourcing cash to expand their criminal activities, the burgeoning teen terrorists embarked on their most daring plan yet: the armed robbery of the Anderson’s Bay Post Office.

THE UNLIKELY ROBBERS

On the day of the robbery, Taane and Rothwell left nearby Bayfield High School at morning tea break, so they wouldn’t be missed.

They joined Lewis and pulled on camouflage coats to hide their school uniforms, before cycling to the target.

The trio donned balaclavas and Lewis – wielding a sawn-off shotgun and with an ammunition belt slung across his skinny frame – burst into the post office.

“This is a f….. hold-up,” he yelled at the startled postmistress and female clerk.

Lewis leapt over the counter and ordered his large backpack filled with cash.

Two terrified teenage girls waiting outside were forced into the building and ordered to sit on the floor by the shotgun-wielding Taane, who was acting as a lookout.

When Lewis jumped back over the counter his shotgun went off, missing a post office worker by centimetres.

With $5244.31 in cash, the boy robbers then made their getaway on their bikes.

Bizarrely, as he rode back to his flat with his stolen loot, Lewis stopped to help a police car that had crashed on the way to the scene. The cop suspected nothing.

Back at school Taane and Rothwell sat an exam, alongside their unwitting classmates.

Former constable Frank Van Der Eik was one of the officers called to set up a cordon around the post office.

He and other officers were amazed to discover it was schoolboys who carried out the brazen daylight armed robbery.

“You would never think to look for a high school kid in school clothes,” Van Der Eik said.

Ten days after the robbery a letter posted at Otago University said “N.I.G.A. claimed responsibility for the Post Office robbery and the Centrefire Sports shop”.

Taane recalled telling Rothwell in the days after the robbery, “normal life will be boring after this”.

Lewis had never been one for boring. In later years, he boasted to his lawyer, Murray Hanan, that he would be “New Zealand’s greatest criminal”. What he planned next was his ticket to notoriety.

THE MOMENT

Christopher John Lewis is only 17 when he finds himself perched inside the Adams Building, with a rifle cocked and aimed at Queen Elizabeth II, on Wednesday October 14, 1981.

The eight-day royal visit, her sixth to New Zealand, is a short one, just a month after the divisive Springbok rugby tour.

Hundreds of police, fresh from clashing with anti-apartheid protesters, are tasked with protecting the Queen.

Security is tight, or so they believe.

Wearing a jade-coloured wool dress, coat and hat, the Queen steps out of a Rolls Royce and onto the sunny Otago Museum Reserve, while the Duke observes police shielding about 15 demonstrators.

Then a loud crack echoes around.

How close did this sandy-haired boy burglar come in his attempt on Queen Elizabeth’s life?

What made New Zealand police so afraid of Lewis that they sent him on a taxpayer-funded holiday 14 years after the assassination attempt during another of the Queen’s visits?

And who was the mysterious ‘Snowman’ whom Lewis claimed gave him the order to shoot?

*

Chapter two

At just 17, Christopher John Lewis fears nothing. Nothing except one person. 
“I have no unnatural phobias at all. I am scared of the Snowman,” he tells police.

The Snowman is English, about 22 years old, 172 centimetres tall, of average build, with short black hair and a “rough temper”, teen criminal Lewis says.

He first meets the Snowman by chance at Dunedin’s Manor House Coffee Lounge.
Snowman tells Lewis about the pro-Nazi, right-wing National Front in England and says similar groups are “sprouting up” across New Zealand.
Lewis is keen to get involved, and has visions of leading his own local terrorist cell.

When the Snowman asks Lewis whether the Queen should be “knocked off”, the young bandit knows this is his chance for a promotion.

He starts planning to kill Queen Elizabeth II.

THE ORDER

One might have expected panic among the 3500-strong crowd when the crack of gunfire rang out across the Otago Museum Reserve on the afternoon of Wednesday, October 14, 1981.

Engraver Garth Simpson and two workmates had just downed tools to watch the Rolls Royce cruise along Malcolm St.
Garth Simpson was in Dunedin when the Queen visited the city. As she was driven past, he remembers hearing a gun-shot nearby.

They waved, but Queen Elizabeth II did not return their greeting.
Annoyed, Simpson turned his back. That’s when he heard it.
“It was clearly a gunshot.”
A former territorial soldier for more than a decade, Simpson was adamant the shot came from a .22 calibre rifle.

“I assumed it was a shot at the Queen.”
Sue Cutfield, who was near the reserve, heard the shot as the Queen, wearing her trademark matching hat, coat and dress, emerged from the car.

Former Constable Frank Van Der Eik, one of hundreds of officers at the scene, described it as a “crack”.

“You hear that noise and all the cops are looking around: scanning, scanning, scanning,” Van Der Eik said.

But nothing happened. “The Queen just carried on.”

Media reports later quoted police saying the noise was merely a council sign falling over, but an inquiry was launched.

Eight days later, police stumbled across 17-year-old Christopher Lewis by chance.
Officers were going door-to-door to find possible witnesses to an unrelated armed robbery, when they discovered nervous schoolboy Geoffrey Rothwell, wearing a camouflage jacket matching the description of the robbers.

Rothwell, Lewis, and another mate, Paul Taane, were taken in for questioning.
Soon the boys were talking – none more so than Lewis.

Described by police as looking like “something out of a boy scout manual”, he admitted to a string of burglaries, and to being the supposed head of the National Imperial Guerilla Army (N.I.G.A), which only months earlier had sent letters to police threatening violence over the Springbok tour.

Officers seized a cache of weapons from the teen’s flat, but something was missing: a BSA .22 bolt action.

Later, Lewis led police to the non-descript Adams Building, to a toilet overlooking the Queen’s route through Dunedin. There police found the weapon, along with a spent .22 cartridge.

At Lewis’ flat, officers found newspaper clippings on the royal family and a hand-drawn map of the Octagon with the words: Operation = Ass QUEB.

They realised this sandy-haired schoolboy was not just a robber, but a would-be assassin.

Lewis was officially interviewed eight times over a 13-day period, on suspicion of attempting to kill the Queen, the police file shows.

The teen potentially faced a charge of treason. The penalty? Death.
Lewis claimed the order for the assassination came from the Snowman.
Transcripts of those interviews, obtained for the first time under the Official Information Act, said Lewis portrayed “a real fear” of the Snowman.

“He … considers him to be very powerful, with access to firearms,” a detective noted.
According to Lewis, school mates Taane, 17, and Rothwell, 16, were directly under his command in N.I.G.A, with another person, the Polar Bear, higher ranked in the group.

The Snowman was the leader, and under his orders the fledgling army aimed “to terrorise Dunedin” and police with “fear tactics, terrorism, firearms and explosives”.

He told police he thought killing the Queen would get him promoted within N.I.G.A.
Detectives had “grave doubts” about the existence of the Snowman and the Polar Bear.

One interviewing detective put it to Lewis that, if the Snowman wanted a person of such international prestige as the Queen assassinated, he wouldn’t get a boy to do the job for him.

“I … suggested that he was the Snowman,” the officer said.

But Lewis put on a convincing show.
In one interview, he asked to sit away from the window over fears he would be shot by a sniper. If the Snowman found out Lewis had exposed him, he would be killed, he said.

Lewis said his last meeting with the Snowman was on Monday October 12, 1981, two days before the royal visit.
“It was his idea that I shoot the Queen.”

THE PLOT

In several statements to police between October 22 to November 3, 1981, Lewis gave varying versions of how he carried out his plot to assassinate the Queen.

He first said he originally planned to shoot the monarch in the Octagon, but aborted the location because there wasn’t an escape route.

“I wanted to find a good place to get her from. I wanted to find a place where I wouldn’t get caught.”

When he realised the Octagon wouldn’t work, he biked to the Adams Building, his Plan B.

With no-one around he walked up to the fifth floor and then into a toilet block.
There he found a window facing towards the museum.

“The window was open just a fraction, I didn’t open it any further, just a fraction was enough for what I wanted it for.”
Lewis told detectives he waited a few minutes for the Queen to arrive before letting a shot off.

“I don’t know if I hit anything or not.”
Lewis left the rifle in a locker just outside the toilet, and took the lift to the ground floor, before cycling back to his flat.

Two days later he gave another version of events. This time he told detectives that on the day of the attempt he went to scope out the museum before playing Space Invaders in the foyer of the nearby University Union.

Walking back to his flat he changed into his dark blue suit trousers, jersey and gym shoes.

He then went to his garden, dug up a stolen .22 rifle, and gave it a clean.
Wrapping the rifle up in a pair of old jeans he placed it on the handlebars of his green 10 speed Healing and headed to the Adams Building.

“Right up until this stage it was my intention to kill the Queen by shooting her with the loaded .22 calibre I was carrying.”
“At about the fifth floor I changed my mind.”

Lewis told police that he could no longer see the museum reserve, and developed second thoughts.

“My mind was in turmoil. I was tearing my insides out. I didn’t know what to do.'”
Regardless, he unwrapped the gun, putting gloves on to avoid fingerprints.
Opening the window a fraction, he waited in the locked toilet area with his gun aimed at the street below.

“I was going to make a spur of the moment decision if I saw her.”

Five minutes later that opportunity came.
A car travelled down Malcolm St.
“I had no idea who was in this car,” Lewis said.

“I never thought it was the Queen.”
He put the rifle against his shoulder, sighted the road and fired a shot.
Lewis maintained he had no idea where the Queen was when he fired the shot and he “definitely could not see her”.

Later, when shown three photos in order to pinpoint the location of the bullet, Lewis could not orientate himself and asked to be taken to the Adams Building.

In the toilet cubicle, he demonstrated how he latched the window, before simulating firing a gun.

Lewis told police he was confused and uncertain as to where he had fired the shot.

Eventually, Lewis gave the police the true identity of the Snowman: his imagination.
“I have been telling a number of untruths… I now wish to correct a few things.

“The major issue concerns two persons I have code-named the Snowman and Polar Bear.

“These persons do not exist. They are a figment of my imagination.”

On November 2, Lewis was charged with the possession of a .22 rifle in a public place, and another charge of discharging it.
He seemed disappointed.

“Only two charges, what?” “S…,” Lewis said, before letting out a long whistle.

“Had the bullet hit her, would it be treason?” he asked.

“I ignored the question,” the officer wrote.

THE SHED

The bedroom is bare apart from a bed, and bullet holes from a .22 rifle peppering the walls.

It is the day after Lewis is charged and he guides police working on the case outside to a small shed at the rear of his ramshackle villa in the heart of Dunedin’s student quarter.

It’s in this shed, where the budding scientist carries out experiments, the 17-year-old tells the officers.

Among the books and chemicals he uses for his correspondence schooling are his mice which he uses for testing.

Lewis, concerned that no-one will be able to look after the two mice while he is in prison, says he will have to kill them.

Without hesitation he picks up a live mouse and pulls its head clean off in front of his guarding officers, before doing the same to the other.

Police have the boy who took a shot at Queen Elizabeth II, but they’re discovering this young, bookish criminal is more fearsome than he looks, and they don’t want the world to know about him.

***

Lewis, his lawyer, and a senior officer-turned-whistleblower, claim the truth never came out. Why was Lewis allegedly told by police officers he would suffer a “fate worse than death” if he talked?

If they didn’t believe he had really tried to assassinate the Queen that day, what were police trying to protect by sending Lewis on a publicaly-funded island holiday during a future royal visit?

And what other criminal exploits meant Lewis spent most of his 20s in and out of jail?

***

Chapter three

It has been 14 years since Christopher John Lewis took a shot at the Queen in Dunedin, when the teen terrorist-turned-Buddhist finds himself on a taxpayer-funded holiday.

He and his partner are fishing and kayaking on Great Barrier Island, with free accommodation, daily spending money and a 4WD – courtesy of the New Zealand police.

“I started to feel like royalty,” Lewis writes in his memoir of the 10-day trip in November 1995.

So great are police fears that the now 31-year-old will again try to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II, their solution is to exile him while the monarch and a swag of heads of states are in Auckland for the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) talks.

“My name came up on a list which the police drew up, of suspected radicals with political ideals that had seen them (at some point or another) clash with the law,” Lewis writes.

While police later confirm Lewis was sent to the island for security reasons, he is not under 24-hour surveillance.

Lewis writes: “All in all I had a great holiday and wasn’t at all fazed to spend 10 days away from Auckland.

“Of course had I wanted to shoot someone from CHOGM it would have been a simple task to just fly back to Auckland and do so.”

THE TRUTH?

Given how paranoid police were about Lewis’ threat to the Queen’s life in the 1990s, their subdued response to his 1981 assassination attempt in Dunedin was surprising.

Former Dunedin Detective Sergeant Tom Lewis, who is no relation of Christopher Lewis, has no doubt there was a police cover-up.

“You will never get a true file on that, it was reactivated, regurgitated, bits pulled off it, other false bits put on it . . . they were in damage control so many times.”

According to Tom Lewis, who was initially the officer assigned to the case, orders to cover up the assassination attempt came from the top – then Prime Minister Robert Muldoon.

It was feared New Zealand would never get another royal tour and that police would be the laughing stock of the British press.

Paul Taane, a childhood mate of Lewis who carried out several burglaries and arsons with him, said Lewis confided in him about the plot.

When asked if the assassination attempt was covered-up by authorities, Taane replied “guaranteed”.

“You don’t hear about it. And they don’t want to talk about it.”

On October 14, 1981, the day a shot was heard across Otago Museum Reserve as the Queen greeted thousands of Kiwi fans, police downplayed the incident, telling reporters the sound was merely a council sign falling over.

However, rumours persisted, fuelled by a tip to the British press from within the royal entourage.

Police later said it may have been a person letting off firecrackers near the Medical School Library.

Despite these public denials, Christopher Lewis was in police custody just over a week later.

Tom Lewis alleges the 17-year-old’s first statement to police was destroyed.
Under questioning, Christopher Lewis claimed he had the Queen lined up for a shot as the royal couple met fans, the former detective said.

“He was just about to pull the trigger. He was just tightening the trigger, he could just see her hat and was lining up the hat.”
Now based on the Gold Coast, Tom Lewis claimed a “very accurate” hand-drawn map recovered from the teenager’s bedroom showed how he planned to shoot from the Octagon.

But that plan was thwarted when two policemen walked in front of the teen’s view.

The Adams Building, where Christopher Lewis let off a shot from his perch in a toilet cubicle on the fifth floor, was his “Plan B”.

Tom Lewis said he was with the suspect when police re-enacted his assassination plans in the Octagon, and later from the Adams Building.

And the teen got close. Very close.
“If he had waited until she walked a wee bit closer . . . it could have been less than 50 metres.”

Tom Lewis wrote extensively about the cover-up in his book, Coverups and Copouts, published in 1998.

Some years earlier the former cop had gone public, prompting top brass to deny allegations of a cover-up while claiming all details of the incident were made public.
The 1995 police statement said the case was widely reported at the time, with the incident referenced in the 1981 police annual report.

That report, obtained by Stuff, reads: “The discharge of a firearm during the visit of Her Majesty the Queen serves to remind us all of the potential risks to royalty, particularly during public walks.”
Christopher Lewis, in his memoir Last Words, claimed that, while in custody, he was visited by “high-ranking police officers” from Wellington.

“The Dunedin police were rocking from the pressure the ‘top-brass’ were putting on them from Wellington.

“Many heads rolled because of this.”

“And the cover-up did not stop there,” Lewis wrote.

Interviewed by senior NZSIS officers, Lewis claimed he was offered a “new deal”.

“That if I was ever to mention the events surrounding my interviews or the organisation, or that I was in the building, or that I was shooting from it – that they would make sure I ‘suffered a fate worse than death’.”

THE CHARGE

Police job sheets released to Stuff reveal that Christopher John Lewis initially faced a charge of treason, or attempted treason.
Tom Lewis, who was later taken off the case, said he was dumbfounded to learn the charge was downgraded.

Lewis’ former lawyer, Murray Hanan, said police did not want to hear any talk of his client shooting at the Queen.

“They kept on saying ‘oh no, oh no’.”
Hanan believed a message had come from “up-top, politically” to downplay the incident.

“The fact an attempted assassination of the Queen had taken place in New Zealand with a nutcase who later said he was trying to establish a new IRA movement . . . it was just too politically hot to handle.”

Hanan was puzzled as to why Lewis was never charged with treason, with capital punishment remaining on the government books until 1989.

“I think the Government took the view that he is a bit nutty and has had a hard upbringing, so it won’t be too harsh.”

Hanan did not believe anyone else was involved in the assassination attempt, with Lewis ultimately claiming full responsibility.

“That was typical Christopher.”

On December 10, 1981 in the Dunedin High Court, Christopher Lewis was sentenced to three years jail, after pleading guilty to 17 charges from his exploits in the months leading up to the royal visit. They included aggravated robbery, arson and burglary.

He was never charged with attempting to kill the Queen. Instead, it was possession of a firearm in a public place and discharging a firearm.

“From their investigation the police were satisfied that at no time could the accused have been close enough to the Royal party to have been within effective range of any member of that party and, in fact, when he discharged that rifle, the Royal party would not have been visible to him,” the official police summary said.

“Subsequently, the accused admitted that he had in fact discharged the firearms directly into the ground.”

Five days after his arrest a confidential letter, obtained by Stuff under OIA, was sent to the then Commissioner of Police about the incident.

“Because of the lack of the physical evidence and Lewis’ psychiatric history, we may never know exactly what happened.”

THE RELEASE

‘FREED – The BOY GUERILLA’ screams the 

headline on The Truth in June 1984.
Christopher Lewis’ release from custody does not go unnoticed.

Having tried to escape youth prison and then finishing his sentence in a psychiatric hospital, his freedom sparks a flurry of official correspondence between government departments.

One letter, seen by Stuff, cites a visiting psychiatrist warning that the former teen terrorist has the “potential to plan and carry out criminal activities on a very large scale”.

They are right to be worried.

“I don’t think that anything before or after, has ever made me feel so happy as when I finally drove out the gate of the hospital and headed south to Dunedin,” Lewis writes in his memoir.
He is finally free, but far from reformed.

***

A trained ninja, Christopher Lewis is still to rob a handful of banks, spark a major West Coast manhunt, fake a passport and allegedly, to murder.

He will spend most of his 20s inside some of New Zealand’s harshest prisons.
Does his ‘enlightenment’ through Buddhism and yoga change his criminal course?

***

Chapter four

Christopher John Lewis steps into the hot bath, takes a sip of brandy and lights a cigar.

On the television in his motel room is a news report of a large police manhunt for the fugitive.

The problem for police is they are searching on the West Coast, but Lewis is in Wellington, watching the drama unfold.

A week earlier, the 23-year-old had grabbed his pet kitten and the $20,000 in cash he robbed from a Christchurch bank and gone on the run.

Armed police and an Iroquois helicopter comb rugged Buller Gorge bush looking for Lewis, but he escapes by using his ninja skills to wedge himself into the underside of a bus for 200km to flee the area.

Now, as he savours his drink and his criminal success in equal parts, he has another destination in mind: Australia.

THE PRINCE

By the time Lewis finds himself holed up in a Wellington motel in May 1987, the young man has already been jailed three times.
His longest stint was more than three years in custody for a crime spree in 1981, which ended with the then-17-year-old firing a shot at Queen Elizabeth II during her Dunedin visit that year.

Lewis narrowly escaped a treason charge for the assassination plot – instead police charged him with possession of a firearm in a public place and discharging a firearm, adding to the other 15 charges he admitted to, including aggravated robbery, arson and burglary.

Lewis served the first year of his sentence in an Invercargill youth detention centre.
He was later given an extra three months inside, after an hour-long prison break (he made a run for it while bringing in milk containers from outside the wire) which landed him in solitary confinement for weeks.

In 1983 he was transferred to Lake Alice psychiatric hospital, near Whanganui, where he planned another attack on the Royal family.

After he tried to overpower a guard with a knife, staff found in Lewis’ room detailed plans to murder Prince Charles, who was at the time touring New Zealand with his then-wife Princess Diana and their young son, William.

That prompted justice officials to try to have Lewis committed under the Mental Health Act. One letter between government departments, seen by Stuff, noted Lewis could “be a real danger to others”.

Regardless, the bid failed and Lewis spent the latter part of his sentence in Otago psychiatric hospital Cherry Farm, before returning to Dunedin to live with his parents.

Lewis remained on the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) watch list.

After serving more time for burglary (including that of his former primary school) in 1985, Lewis was in his 20s and ready to make headlines again: It was time to put his ninjutsu training into practise.

THE RUN

The former boy burglar appeared to be going straight.

Now living in Christchurch, the 23-year-old had a partner, regularly attended church, and had set-up his own ninja dojo.

But his new civilian life did not last.

“Robbery was the only area of crime that I felt fitted my disposition,” he wrote in his memoir.

First, he hit a Christchurch BNZ bank and three post offices – two in Dunedin – netting about $20,000.

Armed with a fake pistol and a ninja sword, he eluded police and headed for the West Coast.

Posing as a writer, he rented a small flat in Westport, where he hunkered down for the next six weeks with his adopted kitten, Tiger.

Running out of cash, he returned to Christchurch to rob another bank.

In a stolen Ford Telstar, Lewis fled back to the Westport flat. But three days in and with police hot on his trail, Lewis packed his belongings and put Tiger in the front seat of the Ford, planning to drive to Dunedin and then fly to Auckland.

He was soon being followed by police, and after a high-speed pursuit in torrential rain through the Buller Gorge, Lewis deliberately drove off the road, plunging 10 metres into dense bush and coming to a stop metres from the flooded Buller River.
Grabbing a radio, provisions and $20,000 cash, he abandoned Tiger and went bush.
Ninja skills may benefit fugitive’, The Dominion reported on May 5, 1987.

Dozens of police, including the Armed Offender Squad and an Iroquois helicopter scoured the gorge.

Police told media the chance of Lewis surviving was “very slim” given the cold and wet conditions, but noted a diary found in his crashed car showed he previously survived in the bush for days on end.

That was thanks to his ninja skills, Lewis wrote in his memoir.

He’d first learnt the martial art Tae Kwon Do as a 14-year-old, but was drawn to the art of the ninja under the tutelage of the so-called Master Leong.

His martial arts training showed him “how to injure, or even kill someone with my bare hands”.

He eventually ran his own “terrorism” courses in Christchurch under the guise of a Ninjutsu class, telling students he was a black belt, first dan.

According to reports in the Christchurch Press from his time on the run, lessons included using darts, knives and spikes, poisons, world politics and bush survival.
He expected students to run hundreds of kilometres cross-country, tread water for three hours, swim 5km by breast-stroke and swim under 30 logs.

“He professes to be a ninja, but it is highly doubtful,” a martial arts expert told the newspaper.

“There is no governing body. If you wanted to start a ninjutsu school you could call yourself a ninja.”

Trained ninja or not, Lewis remained at large following his daring plunge in the Buller Gorge.

After a week evading police in the bush, he came to a road where he spied an empty bus he hoped would take him south to Greymouth.

Placing his cash-filled backpack under the bus, he nestled on some pipes to make his escape. Unfortunately for Lewis, the bus travelled 100km to Karamea, and he was forced to return to Westport the same way.
Lewis then walked along railway tracks and at the Inangahua Junction he hitched a ride to Blenheim and flew to Wellington the next day.

After securing passage to Melbourne by boat in a month’s time, Lewis flew to Auckland and stayed in a bedsit to await departure.

After a tip-off, he was finally captured at gunpoint by police while buying a Mini.
He pleaded guilty to eight robberies and burglaries and was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years’ jail.

Considered a security risk, Lewis was sent to the toughest prison in the country – Paremoremo – where he found enlightenment.

THE BUDDHIST

Monks visit the young criminal who once tried to kill the Queen, and he writes to The Truth newspaper in 1989 about his “newfound enlightenment” in prison.
The self-styled terrorist has converted to Buddhism and is working on his rehabilitation. He writes that he regrets his offending and asks that prisoners who “show initiative to clean up their life” are let go.

Five years into his sentence, he is released on parole.

It takes just four weeks before he is back inside following another bank robbery.
Freed again in 1995, Lewis and his then-partner move to Karekare, a small coastal settlement west of Auckland, to practise yoga and start a business selling herbal medicine for dogs.

He finds a studio in an old warehouse on Auckland’s North Shore and starts teaching the Korean martial art Hapkido, and later Ninjutsu.

But in a year, he will be awaiting trial again. This time the stakes are higher than ever: he is accused of murdering an Auckland housewife.

***

Lewis maintained he was framed for murder by a former cellmate dubbed ‘Jimmy the Weasel’, who was paid $30,000 by police for his information.

Did Lewis really bludgeon 27-year-old Tania Furlan to death in her own home? How did his shoe print end up at the murder scene?

And how did the young criminal manage to take his own life while under prison watch?

***

The final chapter

It’s 1pm at Mt Eden Prison when guards unlock the room of murder-accused Christopher John Lewis and his cellmate.
It is a chance for them to stretch their legs in the small exercise yard, after lunch.

But Lewis wishes to stay in his room with a newspaper and biscuits for “some time” to himself.

Earlier that day, his girlfriend visited. The woman, who calls him “Chris”, is deeply in love with him, and doesn’t notice signs of anything out of the ordinary, despite her lover turning down an offer to put money in his account.

Lewis’ shared cell in the maximum security wing has artist’s paints set up, a TV and a typewriter in the corner, where Lewis has been working on his memoir.

About 3.15pm, when a Corrections Officer checks the cell, Lewis is slumped in a metal chair “in a lifeless state”.

The guard initially thinks Lewis is asleep. Then he notices his colour.

At 33, the man infamous for attempting to assassinate the Queen in Dunedin, is dead.

THE MURDER

It came down to a pair of shoes: Reebok sneakers that would connect Lewis to the murder of 27-year-old Auckland mother-of-three Tania Furlan, though he always denied killing her.

Furlan was bashed to death with a hammer in her Howick home in July 1996.
Her then 6-week-old daughter, Tiffany, was later found at a church, some 18 kilometres from her home.

Police were puzzled over the brutal death, but their investigation soon zeroed in on Lewis, after they talked to one of his former Paremoremo cellmates.

Lewis had served five years in Paremoremo – the country’s toughest prison – from 1987, for a string of robberies and burglaries.

Although Lewis, a bookish, sandy-haired man who wore glasses, had a police record spanning two decades back to his early teens, extreme violence was not his usual MO. He was most well-known for plots to kill the Queen and Prince Charles, as well as numerous bank robberies, arsons and elaborate escapes from authorities.

During pre-trial depositions hearings, his former jail mate, who had name suppression at the time, claimed Lewis confessed to murdering Furlan.

He alleged Lewis posed as a delivery man, with a hammer in a cardboard box. When Furlan answered the door, Lewis asked for a pen and then hit her on the head, intending just to knock her out.

“He said he must have hit her too hard because the blood was p…ing out,” NZPA reported the witness saying.

“He hit her another five times, because he knew he had f….. up.”

The informant alleged Lewis, who was a self-proclaimed ninja and survival expert, needed money for a martial arts centre. As part of the plot Lewis wanted to take Furlan hostage to extort money from her husband, Victor, who managed his local Big Fresh supermarket in Glenfield.

After taking baby Tiffany instead, and leaving a ransom note, he changed his mind, dropped the girl at the Royal Oak Baptist Church and returned to the house to retrieve the note.

The police case centred around a shoe print forensic scientists found at the crime scene, which matched a pair of Reebok Aztrek Plus sneakers Lewis owned. Police also recovered a notepad from Lewis’ home with indentation, indicating a ransom note had been written.

Lewis and his partner were staying with his mother in Christchurch when police came for him.

The couple were planning a sailing holiday to South America, but were struggling to get a passport for Lewis due to his criminal convictions. They offered money to a mate to get one under his name, but the friend got cold feet.

When the cops came knocking, Lewis was wearing his Reeboks. Both Lewis and his partner were initially arrested on passport charges, but police soon began asking about Lewis’ whereabouts on the night Furlan was bludgeoned to death.

On Friday November 1, 1996, Lewis was sent to jail for six weeks after admitting making a false statement for procuring a New Zealand passport.

His partner, a first offender, was fined $350 plus court costs.

Later that day, after he was taken to Addington Prison, a police officer with results from testing his pair of Reeboks visited.

“You killed Tania Furlan,” the officer said.
Lewis, who avoided a charge of treason as a teen, was charged with murder.

The next day he was transferred to Mt Eden Prison, Auckland.

In his memoir Last Words, Lewis maintained his former Paremoremo cellmate, who he dubbed “Jimmy the Weasel”, framed him.

“Words alone cannot express the feelings of fear and anxiety that weigh upon me as I write this book,” Lewis’ opening sentence read.

“I have tossed and turned, sleeping briefly then staring blankly into the cell ceiling wondering how I can possibly cope with this accusation levelled against me by an ex-inmate and former rapist and violent thug.”

That “thug” informant was later revealed to have been paid $30,000 by police for accusing Lewis of Furlan’s murder.

THE ‘WEASEL’

The man who pointed the finger at Lewis to police was later revealed to be Travis Burns, a former Paremoremo prison mate who shared Lewis’ interest in martial arts and cannabis.

Lewis, who claimed he could smash bricks and punch concrete blocks without flinching, argued his ninja training meant he would not have killed Furlan by battering her with a hammer.

“If I had wanted to kill her, I could have done so in a hundred more able, efficient and cleaner ways,” he wrote in his book.
Lewis’ mother, who declined to be named, said her son was no killer and “got hung out to dry”.

“He told me he didn’t do it.”

The now Christchurch-based woman said her son was diagnosed with a mental disorder as a pre-teen, and was involved with criminal activity, but “never hurt anyone ever”.

Lewis maintained his innocence. He believed Burns, who had the same shoe size as him, wore his sneakers during the murder and secretly returned them to Lewis’ flat.

Lewis claimed he and his former cellmate “often borrowed each other’s shoes and prison clothing anyway, so it wasn’t such a big thing to do”. Lewis alleged Burns wrote notes on a pad at his home, but took the piece of paper with him.

Those impressions on the note pad included the references “come alone”, “when you get money you will get child 36 hours later” and “no ringing pigs”.

Lewis’ ex-partner believes in his innocence. She told Stuff she would have taken the stand in his defence.

The woman, who Stuff is not naming, said Lewis was driving her to a yoga class at the time police say Furlan was murdered.
“Potentially he orchestrated it, but did he do it? I still don’t believe that.

“I think that would have been beneath him to do something so stupid.”

Two years after Furlan’s murder, Whangaparaoa mother Joanna McCarthy was battered to death in front of her two children in a flurry of hammer blows, kicks and punches in November 1998.

DNA later identified Travis Burns as her killer.

In August 1997, Lewis wrote in his memoir a message to Furlan’s husband and family: “May your hearts be softened by my sincere words, and I hope to one day look you in the eye and say with infinite truth that I did not commit this crime, not ever would I do such a thing.”

A month later Lewis would take his own life.

THE DEATH OF CHRISTOPHER JOHN LEWIS

A Mt Eden prison guard finds Lewis in a “lifeless state in his cell” about 3.15pm on Tuesday September 23, 1997.

The inmate, who has a Japanese Kanji tattoo on the right side of his chest and a wizard on his thigh, is sitting on a metal chair, slumped forward towards his bed.
“My first impression was that Lewis was asleep,” the guard said, according to the coroner’s report.

But noticing the murder-accused prisoner looks off-white, he calls for help.
Attempts to resuscitate Lewis fail and he is declared dead at 4.10pm.

With permission from the coroner, Stuff can report that Lewis committed suicide in his prison cell by tampering with a junction box and electrocuting himself.
Other details of his death remain suppressed.

After his suicide at Mt Eden the coroner made three recommendations to reduce the chances of further deaths occurring in similar circumstances, which led to a nationwide change to ensure prisoners were unable to access the junction boxes.

A suicide note was recovered from the cellroom toilet, next to Lewis’ body.
Lewis’ ex-partner, who visited him that morning, saw a copy of the note and said it “stated that he had nothing to do with the [Furlan] crime”.

She described Lewis as a highly intelligent but manipulative person who was damaged mentally and emotionally by a violent upbringing.

“He could have done really good things, but he chose to do really bad things.”

She said with Lewis, it was always “hard to tell what is true and what isn’t true”.

That included his notorious attempt to shoot the Queen in Dunedin, back in 1981.
Lewis confessed to her he did not shoot at the road, or at some seagulls, but at the Queen herself.

“Damn,” he told her “damn . . . I missed.”

Stuff.co.nz

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Mirror Neuron Activity May Predict How We Respond to Moral Dilemmas – Traci Pedersen. 

In a new study published in Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, researchers found that they were able to predict a person’s ethical actions based on their mirror neuron activity.

Mirror neurons are brain cells that fire equally whether a person is performing an action or watching another person perform the same action. These neurons play a vital role in how people feel empathy for others or learn through mimicry. For example, if you wince while seeing another person in pain — a phenomenon called “neural resonance” — mirror neurons are responsible.

For the study, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, (UCLA) wanted to know whether neural resonance might play a role in how people make complicated choices that require both conscious deliberation and consideration of another’s feelings.

The findings suggest that by studying how a person’s mirror neurons respond while watching someone else experience pain, scientists can predict whether that person will be more likely to avoid causing harm to others when faced with a moral dilemma.

“The findings give us a glimpse into what is the nature of morality,” said Dr. Marco Iacoboni, director of the Neuromodulation Lab at UCLA’s Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center and the study’s senior author. “This is a foundational question to understand ourselves, and to understand how the brain shapes our own nature.”

The researchers showed 19 volunteers two videos: one of a hypodermic needle piercing a hand, and another of a hand being gently touched by a cotton swab. During both videos, the scientists used a functional MRI machine to measure activity in the participants’ brains.

The participants were later asked how they would behave in a variety of moral dilemmas: Would they smother and silence a baby to keep enemy forces from finding and killing everyone in their group? Would they torture another person to prevent a bomb from killing several other people? Would they harm research animals to cure AIDS?

Participants also responded to scenarios in which causing harm would make the world worse — for example, causing harm to another person in order to avoid two weeks of hard labor — to gauge their willingness to inflict harm for moral reasons as well as less-noble motives.

As expected, the findings reveal that people who showed greater neural resonance while watching the hand-piercing video were less likely to choose direct harm, such as smothering the baby in the hypothetical dilemma.

No link was found between brain activity and participants’ willingness to hypothetically harm one person in the interest of the greater good, such as silencing the baby to save more lives. Those decisions are thought to stem from more cognitive, deliberative processes.

The findings confirm that genuine concern for others’ pain plays a causal role in moral dilemma judgments, Iacoboni said. In other words, a person’s refusal to silence the baby is due to concern for the baby, not just the person’s own discomfort in taking that action.

Iacoboni’s next study will investigate whether a person’s decision-making in moral dilemmas can be influenced by decreasing or enhancing activity in the areas of the brain that were targeted in the current study.

“It would be fascinating to see if we can use brain stimulation to change complex moral decisions through impacting the amount of concern people experience for others’ pain,” Iacoboni said. “It could provide a new method for increasing concern for others’ well-being.”

The research could point to a way to help people with mental disorders such as schizophrenia that make interpersonal communication difficult, Iacoboni said.

Source: University of California. Los Angeles

Psych Central 

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Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand 

Schizophrenia

When a person has schizophrenia they go through patches where it is hard to think clearly, manage their emotions, distinguish what is real and what is not, and relate to others.

They may have times when they lose contact with reality. This can all be very frightening.

Schizophrenia most often begins between the ages of 15 and 30 years, occurring for the first time slightly earlier in men than in women. Schizophrenia happens in approximately the same numbers across all ethnic groups.

The onset of schizophrenia can be quite quick. Someone who has previously been healthy and coped well with their usual activities and relationships can develop psychosis (loss of contact with reality) over a number of weeks. That said, symptoms may also develop slowly, with the ability to function in everyday life declining over a number of years.

The course of schizophrenia is very variable

Everyone experiences it differently and most will make a reasonable recovery, going on to lead a fulfilling life. About one third of people experiencing schizophrenia will have ongoing problems, perhaps with continuing symptoms such as hearing voices.

The effects of the illness do reduce with time. With early, effective, recovery-oriented treatment and care (including knowing how to look after yourself well), schizophrenia can be successfully managed. There is also some suggestion that as people progress into their later years, that the signs and symptoms of schizophenia may lessen.

It’s very important to get a diagnosis and treatment as early as possible. Schizophrenia can be effectively treated and you can recover. It is now an accepted fact that the earlier effective treatment is started, the better your chances of recovery.

Recovery is not defined as the complete absence of symptoms, but living well with or without symptoms – and will have a different meaning for each person.

If you think you have schizophrenia, or you are worried about a loved one, it’s important to talk to your doctor or counsellor, or someone else you can trust as a first step to getting the important help you or they need.

Myths about schizophrenia

Schizophrenia means the person has a split personality.

NOT TRUE Split or multiple personality is an extremely rare condition that does not cause psychosis. So this statement is untrue. On the other hand, the behaviour of people with acute psychosis does change, but this is due to the illness not to any personality change. When the illness resolves the behaviour returns to normal.

People with schizophrenia are aggressive violent people.

NOT TRUE It is clear that outside times of acute illness, people with schizophrenia are no more violent than any other member of the community. With good care and treatment, risk during times of acute illness can be minimised. However, people with schizophrenia, especially if it’s not treated well, can be violent or victims of violence.

What causes schizophrenia?

The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown. Different causes may operate in different people. This may be why there is wide variation in the way the condition develops, in its symptoms and in the way it develops.

It is known that there is genetic (inherited) component to schizophrenia. If someone in your family/whānau has schizophrenia, you and your relatives have an increased chance of developing it – about a one in 10 chance. Childhood stresses and trauma, such as abuse, are also being shown to be linked to increased chance of developing mental illnesses in adults.

Signs to look for (symptoms)

The symptoms of schizophrenia can vary between individuals and, over time, within an individual. They are often divided into two categories – psychotic symptoms and mood symptoms.

Psychotic symptoms

These symptoms are not there all the time and occur when you are having a severe, or acute episode. They include the following:

– Delusions – an unusual belief that seems quite real to you, but not to those around you. A delusional person is convinced their belief is true. An example might be they strongly believe the FBI are trying to hunt them down.

– Thought disturbances – how you process thoughts or your ability to concentrate and maintain a train of thought may be affected. For example, you may feel like your thoughts are racing and friends may notice you constantly changing the topic of conversation or that you are easily distracted, or may laugh at irrational times. Your speech may become quite disorganised, and you may use made up words that only you understand.

– Hallucinations – this is when someone hears, sees, feels or smells something that is not there. Hearing voices that others cannot hear or when there is no-one else in the room is very typical of psychosis. Sometimes these voices will talk about or to you. They will sometimes command you to do things. For some, these voices can be inside their head; occasionally they may seem to come from within their body.

Mood symptoms

These could include:

– Loss of motivation, interest or pleasure in things. Everyday tasks such as washing up become difficult.

– Mood changes –You’ll tell friends you’re feeling great or never better. However, your ‘happy’ behaviour will be recognised as excessive by friends or family. You may also be quite unresponsive and be unable to express joy or sadness.

– Social withdrawal –people may notice that you become very careless in your dress and self-care, or have periods of seeming to do little and periods of being extremely active.

Other symptoms include subtle difficulties with tasks like problem solving or you may show signs of depression – commonly experienced by people with schizophrenia.

The strongest feature of schizophrenia is loss of insight – the loss of awareness that the experiences and difficulties you have are the result of your illness. It is a particular feature of psychotic illnesses, and is the reason why the Mental Health Act (1992) has been developed to ensure people with these conditions can get the assessment and treatment they need.

How the doctor tests for schizophrenia (diagnosis)

Once you have spent some time talking to your doctor, they will refer you to a psychiatrist qualified to diagnose and treat people with this condition. Psychiatrists diagnose schizophrenia when a person has some or all of the typical symptoms described above. For this reason it is important the psychiatrist gets a full picture of the difficulties you have had, both from you and your family/whānau or others who know you well.

Before schizophrenia can be diagnosed, the symptoms or signs must have been present for at least six months, with symptoms of psychosis for at least one month.

Treatment options

The best treatment for schizophrenia involves a number of important components, each of which can be tailored to your needs and the stage of the condition. The main components are psychosocial (talking) therapies, medication, with complementary therapies potentially valuable as well.

Talking therapies and counselling (psychosocial treatments)

Talking therapies are effective in the treatment of schizophrenia, especially for the treatment of depressive symptoms. Sessions may be held on a one to one basis, sometimes include partners or family, or be held in a group.

The focus of psychological therapy or counselling is on education and support for you to understand what is happening to you, to learn coping strategies and to pursue a path of recovery. Sessions help you regain the confidence and belief in yourself that is critical to recovery.

All types of therapy/counselling should be provided in a manner which is respectful to you and with which you feel comfortable and free to ask questions. It should be consistent with and incorporate your cultural beliefs and practices.

Medication

In treating schizophrenia, medicines are most often used for making your mood more stable and for helping with depression (anti-depressants). If you are prescribed medication, you are entitled to:

– know the names of the medicines

– what symptoms they are supposed to treat

– how long it will be before they take effect

– how long you will have to take them for

– and understand the side effects.

Finding the right medication can be a matter of trial and error. There is no way to predict exactly how medicines will affect you but it is worth persevering to find what medication works best for you.

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding no medication is entirely safe. Before making any decisions about taking medication in pregnancy you should talk with your doctor.

Complementary therapies

The term complementary therapy is generally used to indicate therapies and treatments that differ from conventional western medicine and that may be used to complement and support it.

Certain complementary therapies may enhance your life and help you to maintain wellbeing. In general, mindfulness, hypnotherapy, yoga, exercise, relaxation, massage, mirimiri and aromatherapy have all been shown to have some effect in alleviating mental distress.

When considering taking any supplement, herbal or medicinal preparation you should consult your doctor to make sure it is safe and will not harm your health, for example, by interacting with any other medications you are taking.

Physical health

It’s also really important to look after your physical wellbeing. Make sure you get an annual check up with your doctor. Being in good physical health will also help your mental health.

Thanks to Janet Peters, Registered Psychologist, for reviewing this content. Date last reviewed: September, 2014.

Trump is now Dangerous That makes his mental health a matter of public interest – Bandy Lee. 

A world authority in psychiatry, consulted by US politicians, argues that the president’s mental fitness deserves scrutiny. 

Bandy Lee is on the faculty of Yale School of Medicine and is an internationally recognised expert on violence. She is editor of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.

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Eight months ago, a group of us put our concerns into a book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President. It became an instant bestseller, depleting bookstores within days. We thus discovered that our endeavours resonated with the public.

While we keep within the letter of the Goldwater rule – which prohibits psychiatrists from diagnosing public figures without a personal examination and without consent – there is still a lot that mental health professionals can tell before the public reaches awareness. These come from observations of a person’s patterns of responses, of media appearances over time, and from reports of those close to him. Indeed, we know far more about Trump in this regard than many, if not most, of our patients. Nevertheless, the personal health of a public figure is her private affair – until, that is, it becomes a threat to public health.

To make a diagnosis one needs all the relevant information – including, I believe, a personal interview. But to assess dangerousness, one only needs enough information to raise alarms. It is about the situation rather than the person. The same person may not be a danger in a different situation, while a diagnosis stays with the person.

It is Trump in the office of the presidency that poses a danger. Why? 

Past violence is the best predictor of future violence, and he has shown: verbal aggressiveness, boasting about sexual assaults, inciting violence in others, an attraction to violence and powerful weapons and the continual taunting of a hostile nation with nuclear power. 

Specific traits that are highly associated with violence include: impulsivity, recklessness, paranoia, a loose grip on reality with a poor understanding of consequences, rage reactions, a lack of empathy, belligerence towards others and a constant need to demonstrate power.

There is another pattern by which he is dangerous. His cognitive function, or his ability to process knowledge and thoughts, has begun to be widely questioned. Many have noted a distinct decline in his outward ability to form complete sentences, to stay with a thought, to use complex words and not to make loose associations. This is dangerous because of the critical importance of decision-making capacity in the office that he holds. 

Cognitive decline can result from any number of causes – psychiatric, neurological, medical, or medication-induced – and therefore needs to be investigated. Likewise, we do not know whether psychiatric symptoms are due to a mental disorder, medication, or a physical condition, which only a thorough examination can reveal.

A diagnosis in itself, as much as it helps define the course, prognosis, and treatment, is Trump’s private business, but what is our affair is whether the president and commander-in-chief has the capacity to function in his office. Mental illness, or even physical disability, does not necessarily impair a president from performing his function. Rather, questions about this capacity mobilised us to speak out about our concerns, with the intent to warn and to educate the public, so that we can help protect its own safety and wellbeing.

Indeed, at no other time in US history has a group of mental health professionals been so collectively concerned about a sitting president’s dangerousness. This is not because he is an unusual person – many of his symptoms are very common – but it is highly unusual to find a person with such signs of danger in the office of presidency. For the US, it may be unprecedented; for parts of the world where this has happened before, the outcome has been uniformly devastating.

Pathology does not feel right to the healthy. It repels, but it also exhausts and confuses. There is a reason why staying in close quarters with a person suffering from mental illness usually induces what is called a “shared psychosis”. Vulnerable or weakened individuals are more likely to succumb, and when their own mental health is compromised, they may develop an irresistible attraction to pathology. No matter the attraction, unlike healthy decisions that are life-affirming, choices that arise out of pathology lead to damage, destruction, and death. This is the definition of disease, and how we tell it apart from health.

Politics require that we allow everyone an equal chance; medicine requires that we treat everyone equally in protecting them from disease. That is why a liberal health professional would not ignore signs of appendicitis in a patient just because he is a Republican. Similarly, health professionals would not call pancreatic cancer something else because it is afflicting the president. When signs of illness become apparent, it is natural for the physician to recommend an examination. But when the disorder goes so far as to affect an individual’s ability to perform her function, and in some cases risks harm to the public as a result, then the health professional has a duty to sound the alarm.

The progress of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigations was worrisome to us for the effects it would have on the president’s stability. We predicted that Trump, who has shown marked signs of psychological fragility under ordinary circumstances, barely able to cope with basic criticism or unflattering news, would begin to unravel with the encroaching indictments. And if his mental stability suffered, then so would public safety and international security.

Indeed, that is what began to unfold: Trump became more paranoid, espousing once again conspiracy theories that he had let go of for a while. He seemed further to lose his grip on reality by denying his own voice on the Access Hollywood tapes. Also, the sheer frequency of his tweets seemed to reflect an agitated state of mind, and his retweeting some violent anti-Muslim videos showed his tendency to resort to violence when under pressure.

Trump views violence as a solution when he is stressed and desires to re-establish his power. Paranoia and overwhelming feelings of weakness and inadequacy make violence very attractive, and powerful weapons very tempting to use – all the more so for their power. His contest with the North Korean leader about the size of their nuclear buttons is an example of that and points to the possibility of great danger by virtue of the power of his position.

It does not take a mental health professional to see that a person of Trump’s impairments, in the office of the presidency, is a danger to us all. What mental health experts can offer is affirmation that these signs are real, that they may be worse than the untrained person suspects, and that there are more productive ways of handling them than deflection or denial.

Screening for risk of harm is a routine part of mental health practice, and there are steps that we follow when someone poses a risk of danger: containment, removal from access to weapons and an urgent evaluation. When danger is involved, it is an emergency, where an established patient-provider relationship is not necessary, nor is consent; our ethical code mandates that we treat the person as our patient.

In medicine, mental impairment is considered as serious as physical impairment: it is just as debilitating, just as objectively observable and established just as reliably through standardised assessments. Mental health experts routinely perform capacity or fitness for duty examinations for courts and other legal bodies, and offer their recommendations. This is what we are calling for, urgently, in doing our part as medical professionals. The rest of the decision is up to the courts or, in this case, up to the body politic.

The Guardian 

Anxiety Disorders and Major Depression Are Linked To Narcissistic Abuse – Simon Segal. 

Nowadays considered as a disorder, anxiety has got its evolutionary roots back in the earliest beginnings of human evolution. Humans needed it to survive in the harsh and unpredictable environment they lived in.

Anxiety nowadays is considered to be an inexplicable feeling of unease, nervousness, and worry. It’s true that we have come too far to be affected by the same conditions which gave rise to the protective role of anxiety for our ancestors. So why and how does it occur now?

A lot of literature connects today’s anxiety disorders to some kind of psychological and emotional abuse during the person’s childhood. It has been found that early-life stress has a profound effect on the Central Nervous System (CNS) and that the same effect can occur in adults.

This abuse is now discussed as a major factor contributing to anxiety disorders, major depression, and PTSD. In fact, it has been established that psychological abuse is more detrimental than physical aggression and that it leaves a deep scar in the victim’s mental health.

Children who have been victims of psychological abuse don’t necessarily develop anxiety in their lives, but such traumatic events in times where their brains are still developing contribute to supersensitivity in the neuroendocrine stress response systems.

This means that any additional stress from emotional or psychological abuse later in life bears a high possibility of triggering psychological disorders such as anxiety and major depression.

Narcissistic abuse is one of the most harmful types of psychological abuse. It renders the victim unable to think and reason clearly due to the increased stress and the eventual adrenal fatigue.

This, in turn, triggers a number of possible outcomes, among which the most devastating effect could be an anxiety disorder, major depression, or both. This further increases your susceptibility to the narcissistic abuse and your inability to escape it.

That is why some victims tend to remain in the victim-abuser loop until the rest of their lives and are not even aware that their abuser feeds off them with every passing day.

The most common targets for a narcissist are people who are empathetic, compassionate and choose to see the best in others. This sensitive type of people will choose to trust and understand the narcissist.

And this is what they need to start weaving their web around their good-willing victims. In the process of their flawless manipulation, they will use whatever means necessary to make their victim feel smaller and more dependent on them.

They do it by constantly trying to lower their self-confidence and make their victims believe that they are going crazy. If they see themselves caught in the act, they will skillfully get out of the situation by convincing the other person that they are imagining the situation and are psychologically unstable.

While this is not the truth, you know what they say: a lie told a hundred times becomes truth. The more they make their victim question their morality, sanity, and ability to love unconditionally, the more they nail them to their cross and feed off them.

From the victim perspective, this lowered state and constant stress will eventually lead to adrenal fatigue and a constant fear that they may be doing something wrong. In certain cases, the victims start avoiding people, feel unable to function properly, and are generally in a disabled state.

This process is what will eventually lead the victim to a state of a shattered self-confidence and a completely destroyed mental state, where a lot of mental disorders have a space to start festering.

In this state, the victim is prone to develop extreme social anxiety, illnesses related to pervasive stress, a complete sense of disassociation from the self, and symptoms of major depression.

If you find yourself in such situation, it’s best that you talk to a psychologist and ask for help. While there are people who are able to recognize narcissistic abuse and get out of that relationship before it develops, some people are very much trapped in the cycle and find it impossible to get out.

It’s not that they don’t want to, but the psychological damage they have endured has left them unable to fight off the abuser and has made them shut themselves off from the rest of the world.

Psychological abuse is more dangerous than physical abuse. It leaves terrible consequences on the mental health of the victim and it renders them unable to recognize it.

In the case of narcissistic abuse, the victim will be certain that they are the ones who are in the wrong, and they will blame themselves for the dark reality they are in. This, of course, is far from the truth.

If you are or have been a victim of narcissistic abuse, know that it has never been your fault and that you did your best to pull that disturbed soul out of its own darkness. The truth is, most narcissists prefer their darkness, and they want to pull you in it.

Spread the awareness!

Curious Mind Magazine

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Neurobiological effects of childhood abuse: implications for the pathophysiology of depression and anxiety.

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, U.S.A.

Summary

Mood and anxiety disorders are highly prevalent psychiatric disorders, especially in women, and they are associated with significant morbidity and mortality. A considerable literature indicates that vulnerability to depression and anxiety disorders is markedly increased by childhood abuse, e.g., physical, sexual, and psychological abuse, as well as adulthood stressors, e.g., death of a spouse. Little is known about the developmental neurobiological mechanisms by which childhood abuse increases the susceptibility of women to the development of depression and anxiety disorders in adulthood. Recent research on the effects of adverse early life experiences on central nervous system (CNS) stress systems has provided a greater understanding of the link between childhood abuse and susceptibility to mood and anxiety disorders. Specifically, early life traumatic events, occurring during a period of neuronal plasticity, appear to permanently render neuroendocrine stress response systems supersensitive. These physiological maladaptations likely represent long-term risk factors for the development of psychopathology after exposure to additional stress.

Springer Archive

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New Zealand Mental Health Foundation

Narcissistic personality disorder, or narcissism is a pattern of feeling very self-important, needing admiration from others, and having little feeling for others.

If you experience narcissistic personality disorder, you may come across to others as conceited, boastful or “up-yourself”.

Ten different types of personality disorder have been identified. A diagnosis of personality disorder is only made where the person’s problems result in significant difficulty in their day-to-day activities and relationships, or cause significant distress.

Just as we have physical features that make us who we are, we also have our own distinct personality features. Personality refers to the lifelong patterns in the way we see, think about, and relate to ourselves, other people, and the wider world – whether we see ourselves as good or bad, trust or mistrust others, or see the world as a good or bad place.

The term “personality disorder” implies there is something not-quite-right about someone’s personality, but that is actually not what is meant by the term. The term “personality disorder” just helps doctors group a set of typical features for people with aspects of their personality that they, and others, may find difficult to deal with.

People experiencing a personality disorder are often out of step with others and with their community, so much so that their personal and wider social lives may be considerably disrupted. Narcissism is one type of personality disorder.

Who is likely to have a narcissistic personality disorder?

A personality disorder such as narcissism will show up by late adolescence or early adulthood. It remains relatively stable throughout adult life, and can gradually improve with increasing age. This is in contrast to other mental health conditions, which come and go over time, with periods of illness interspersed with periods of wellness.

People who experience a personality disorder have a tendency to develop other mental health conditions, particularly if stressed. These include psychotic illnesses, depression and drug and alcohol abuse.  It is important for people with personality disorders to learn ways of coping with stress, and to seek help early should any of these other conditions arise.

The risk of suicide in people who experience a personality disorder is significant. It is important that if you are having any suicidal thoughts you seek help immediately.

It is most important to get diagnosis and treatment as early as possible. With the best possible treatment over a period of time there is evidence to show that people with narcissism can enjoy a rewarding and satisfying life.

If you think you have a personality disorder, or you are worried about a loved one, it’s important to talk to your doctor or counsellor, or someone else you can trust, as a first step to getting the important help you or they need.

What causes a personality disorder such as narcissism?

There has been considerable debate in the past regarding whether personality is determined by nature (genes) or nurture (upbringing). There is now good evidence that personality development occurs as a result of both genetic and upbringing influences.

People with a personality disorder often believe they developed it because things have gone wrong in their live − it could be abandonment, sexual or physical abuse, traumatic experiences, being in an unhappy family/whānau, feeling alienated from people and society or not living up to people’s expectations.

Other people with personality disorders cannot so easily find things that have gone wrong in their lives.They may agree with the view that their disorder is genetic in origin. A lot of people with mental health problems believe it is a combination of these things. Sometimes people think their mental health problem is a punishment for their moral,spiritual or cultural failure.

It’s important to remember that it is not your fault you experience a mental health problem.

Signs to look for (symptoms)

People with narcissism exhibit characteristics such as these:

  • they have a huge sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior no matter what they have done)
  • they are arrogant, and dismissive of others
  • they constantly talk about how they will get unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or perfect love.
  • they believes that he or she is “special” and unique and should associate with, other special or high-status people.
  • they need constant and excessive admiration
  • they have a strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favourable treatment
  • they take advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  • they do not care about or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  • they are often envious of others or believes that others are envious of them
  • they do not handle criticism well.

How the doctor determines if you have narcissism (diagnosis)

People experiencing a personality disorder such as narcissism, in general, do not often seek out treatment.

You may however, decide to see your doctor about depression, often due to feeling upset by what you suspect others think of you.

Once you have spent some time talking to your doctor, they will refer you to a mental health professional qualified to diagnose and treat people with this condition. A diagnosis is made after talking with you about what you have been experiencing, especially around your level of personal functioning and personality traits that may suggest a particular personality disorder.

For this reason, it’s important the mental health professional gets a full picture, from you and your family/whānau or others who know you well.

Usually, for a person to be diagnosed with narcissism they must meet five or more of the symptoms listed above.

Treatment options

Treatment can involve a number of aspects, each of which will be tailored to meet your individual needs. Psychological therapies or counselling are generally seen as the treatment of choice for personality disorders, with medication if required for depression. Therapy could include individual, couple, family/whānau and/or group therapy.

Therapy, such as talking therapies

These therapies involve a trained professional who uses clinically researched techniques to assess and help people to make positive changes in their lives. They may involve the use of specific therapies such as Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which largely focuses on overcoming unhelpful beliefs and learning helpful strategies.

Counselling may include some techniques referred to above, but is mainly based on supportive listening, practical problem solving and information giving.

DBT and CBT approaches are the most effective, but must be continued over a significant period of time, often for a year or more.

Problem solving/skill training

This is often part of an overall approach, but can also be learnt in skills training groups. They aim to help you learn more effective ways of dealing with problem situations.

All types of therapy/counselling should be provided to you and your family/whānau in a manner that is respectful of you, and with which you feel comfortable and free to ask questions. It should be consistent with and incorporate your cultural beliefs and practices.

Medication

Medication is generally used for treating any other mental health condition that you may be experiencing, eg, depression. It may also be useful as a short-term strategy to help with coping in times of extreme stress or distress. If you are prescribed medication you are entitled to know:

  • the names of the medicines
  • what symptoms they are supposed to treat
  •  how long it will be before they take effect
  • how long you will have to take them for and what their side effects (short and long-term) are.

If you are breast feeding no medication is entirely safe. Before making any decisions about taking medication at this time you should talk with your doctor about the potential benefits and problems.

Complementary therapies

The term complementary therapy is generally used to indicate therapies and treatments that differ from conventional western medicine and that may be used to complement and support it.

Certain complementary therapies may enhance your life and help you to maintain wellbeing. In general, mindfulness, hypnotherapy, yoga, exercise, relaxation, massage, mirimiri and aromatherapy have all been shown to have some effect in alleviating mental distress.

Physical health

It’s also really important to look after your physical wellbeing. Make sure you get an annual checkup with your doctor. Being in good physical health will also help your mental health.

Important strategies to support someone in their recovery

Family, whānau and friends of someone with a personality disorder have found the following strategies important and useful:

  • Remember that people with these conditions tend to easily take words and actions the wrong way. It’s important to be clear in what you say, and to be willing to clarify your meaning or intention if you get a bad reaction. It’s also important not to take these reactions personally, but see them as a result of the person misinterpreting you.
  • Learn what you can about the condition, its treatment, and what you can do to assist the person.
  • Take the opportunity, if possible, to contact a family or whānau support, advocacy group or culturally appropriate organisation. For many, this is one of the best ways to learn about how to support the person, deal with difficulties, and access services when needed.
  • Encourage the person to continue treatment and to avoid alcohol and drug abuse.
  • Find ways of getting time out for yourself and feeling okay about this. It’s important to maintain your own wellbeing.

NZ Mental Health Foundation

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    A Chance Discovery May Lead to a Vaccine for Depression and PTSD – Robby Berman. 

    “Fortune favors the prepared mind.” Louis Pasteur. 

    “It is possible that 20, 50, 100 years from now, we will look back at depression and PTSD the way we look back at tuberculosis sanatoriums as a thing of the past. This could be the beginning of the end of the mental health epidemic.” Rebecca Brachman.

    Calypsol: it seems it had somehow inoculated the laboratory mice against the effects of stress.

    For the over 16 million people in the U.S. each year with severe depression and the 8 million sufferers yearly of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Brachman’s accidental discovery may result in medicine that can prevent the debilitating responses to trauma or severe stress. It’s at the very least likely to change the way many think of and talk about mental illness.

    BigThink