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Video: Language is the Digestive Juice of the Mind

“Language is the digestive juice of the mind”
A short snippet of our TAPIG (Trauma and Psychology Interest Group) Workshop with Rob Gordon in 2011.
For more snippets of our TAPIG events, please subscribe to our quarterly “Inside Trauma” newsletter or subscribe to us on YouTube or Facebook.
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Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence is more prevalent than one would imagine. According to recent statistics, one in three individuals experience domestic violence, the most common form being sexual and or physical assault. Contrary to popular belief, domestic and family violence covers a range of abusive behaviours which can include sexual abuse, emotional and other psychological abuse. The term ‘domestic’ is applied as it typically occurs in households, families or spousal relationships. Another common misconception is that males are the sole perpetrators.

Evan, a male prisoner who experienced inmate sexual assault contacted the domestic violence helpline only to be told that if he wasn’t a female victim or identified as being a ‘male perpetrator’ there would be no support available for him. Another example is in the case of Ron, whose wife has a gambling problem and often leaves their young kids at home to go down to the pokies. When he goes to see her, she is often drunk and throws glasses at him or kicks and punches him. According to Cook (2009), domestic violence against women is such a documented and widely known issue that we often find it hard to believe that women can be the abuser. Statistics such as -‘a women is beaten every 15 seconds by her intimate partner’ (p.g 1) are well versed. Supporting someone or working with domestic violence can be confronting as it can often challenge our own value and belief system.

For health or psychological professionals, there are a number of referral services that can assist such as the National Sexual Assault, Family and Domestic Violence Line, a 24 hour counselling service (1800 737 732) and also Relationships Australia ( 1300 364 277). In the case of assisting someone you know, basic support such as helping them to consider their safety options and ensuring that they feel they are not alone can assist them toward change.

Claudia Stans

Undergraduate Counsellor

The Silent Treatment

Silence is a rare commodity in today’s busy world. We are bombarded with sounds and noise from the moment the alarm wakes us up in the morning until we turn the light out at night and sometimes not even then. Not only can noise increase our blood pressure and heart rate, disturb our sleep and challenge our endocrine system it can also lead to stress response, mood disturbances and anxiety. These symptoms mirror those that can be experienced following a traumatic event.

Noise is processed subconsciously triggering the flight or fight response. This occurs even if the noise is tuned out. It is this involuntary response that leads to stress and anxiet y. The degree to which a person is affected is dependent upon the individuals’ social aspects and psychological stressors. This response arises from the instinctual need for silence to survive. Silence allows prey animals to hear predators and predators to hear their prey. It is a needed backdrop for the songs and calls of animals seeking a mate. Obviously people no longer have this visceral need for silence to survive but as an antidote for the ills created by the noise of the world silence is indeed golden.

Whole industries have developed around helping people to achieve silence and quieten their minds, the main tool being meditation. Other simpler ways such as camping and no technology weekends where cell phones, computers, TVs and gaming consoles are turned off are also popular. Finding a secret, quiet place that can be retreated to in times of excessive noise is also of benefit. Utilizing the silence is important too or the moment is wasted. It is important to be fully present in the moment, mindful of what is going on in and around you, without judgement. Practise meditation or visualisation, use affirmations or mantras, write in a journal, hold a pet or just let your breathing calm and relax your mind and body. The benefits of silence can include; decreases in psychological stress, anxiety, sleep disturbances and overall improvement in brain functioning, memory and perception.

For survivors of Trauma however, silence is not without its dangers. Unguarded moments of stillness can bring memories to the fore, creating panic and flashbacks. Under the guidance of a skilled practitioner, ideally with training in the field of Trauma, silence in the form of meditation and yoga can be utilised as part of the healing process. The primary benefits of both disciplines are the teaching of self regulation of emotional and physiological states. Yoga has the added bonus of allowing people to move from one posture to another while maintaining their control. This means that if a particular pose triggers any uncomfortable responses the participant knows that it will end and they can move on, reinforcing their control and their ability to manage themselves (Schmidt & Miller, 2004; van der Kolk, 2009).

Silence it would seem is not just a luxury we all yearn for, but a necessity in today’s noisy world. By seeking out a quiet space or experience we are actively healing the damage done simply by living in today’s noisy environment.

Debbie Packer

Trainee Counsellor

The Impact of Social Media & Cyber Bullying

Social media sites, such as Facebook and twitter, are an exciting and innovative way for people to communicate. However, with this new avenue for communication come new options to harass and bully one another, all from the privacy and safety of behind a screen.

Cyber bullying is defined as any kind of bullying or harassment which occurs deliberately and repeatedly through technology. Cyber bullying can have major negative impacts on people, particularly teens, as many people can view, share and contribute to this. It is difficult to remove the harassing information as this can be recorded and saved in different places with quick searches for easy access.

The bully’s attack is often anonymous and depersonalised through the screen and this enables them to hurt someone without the repercussions of immediate challenging retaliation or of getting caught. The victim takes the words they read on board just as much as if they were spoken. The victim also reads the words in their mind which adds an element of personalising the information.

The media is incredibly influential and victims of cyber bullying can experience feelings of guilt, hopelessness, anger, isolation etc. They can also feel threatened and unsafe, depressed and there are rising cases of suicide stemming from cyber bullying. It is important to remember that words are powerful and to think of the impact what you write may be having on others.

When venting frustration on media sites be mindful to use assertive tactics such as ‘I’ statements, as opposed to attacking others. Lastly, misuse of the social media is inevitable and so it is important to develop psychological resilience and to have a repertoire of support and help available to turn to when needed such as and kids helpline: 1800 55 1800.

Melissa Van Asten

Undergraduate Counsellor

What is White Noise?

White noise is a signal, process or sound that has a flat power spectral density. There may be a vast range of frequencies however each range has a uniformed frequency spectrum. You may be more familiar with white noise as an inconspicuous background noise such as a running shower, fish tank or fan. Pure digitally generated white noise is used to warrant a soothing, calming sound and has an adequate spectrum to partially disguise ear noise. Pure white noise does not stimulate strong emotional responses.

The use of white noise is often created and mimicked in work place organisations to minimise obtrusive sounds. Deviations of white noise are commonly used by parents to comfort crying babies prior to sleep. Many individuals also find white noise beneficial listening either with or without accompanying soft music via their listening preference of stereo, Ipod or clock radio. Classic habituation therapy suggests avoidance of accompanying low music due to possible associations generating emotional reactions.

Sleep dysfunction is a common symptom amongst individuals with acute stress disorder and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The application of prescriptive white noise for sleep-aid presents advantages over other medications due to the safety and cost factors of white noise. Individuals suffering from PTSD and acute stress disorder can potentially benefit from white noise as a startle-prevention technique. White noise has the ability to effectively mask obtrusive noises such as barking dogs, car alarms and strong winds.

Does white noise contain hypnotic properties which effective induce sleep? A controlled experiment conducted for a research paper, found evidence of 80% of the sample size expose to white noise fell within a 5 minute period. It could be suggested that white noise can increase sleep quality and duration, decrease number of awakenings, ease one back to sleep and deepen sleep depth. It is recommended that further conclusive research is conducted in relation to white noise and sleep.

Another interesting paper highlighted evidence that there is a decrease in norepinephrine concentration in the auditory pathways of rats after white noise exposure. The application of white noise could act as a hyper-arousal reduction approach for those with PTSD and stress-mediated disorders.

A common behavioural disturbance experienced by nursing home residents is verbal agitation. An interesting study was completed on environmental white noise as an individualised intervention with results indicating a 23% reduction in verbal agitation.

The increase and severity of noise pollution in today’s society poses as a threat to health and well-being. Obtrusive noise is imposed through widespread growth of mass commercial production and transportation traffic. These adverse effects impact our social, working and residential environment. Although more conclusive studies need to be carried out on the effectiveness of white noise, research has shown that there are benefits to white noise exposure in relation to sleep dysfunctions, PTSD and agitation.

Josephine Peachey

Trainee Counsellor

What is Child Abuse?

Child abuse is an act by parents or caregivers which endangers a child or young person’s physical or emotional health or development. Child abuse can be a single incident, but usually takes place over time. In Victoria, a child or young person is defined as a person under 18 years of age (Children Youth and Families Act 2005).
Physical abuse

Injuries may be inflicted intentionally or may be the inadvertent consequence of physical punishment or physically aggressive treatment of a child. The injury may take the form of bruises, cuts, burns or fractures. Generally abusers are 50/50 male and female.
Sexual abuse

Child sexual abuse involves a wide range of sexual activity. It includes fondling of the child’s genitals, masturbation, oral sex, vaginal or anal penetration by a penis, finger or other object or exposure of the child to pornography. Sexual abuse rarely occurs as a single event and often starts with a caring relationship. 90% of sexual abusers are male.
Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse occurs when a child’s parent or caregiver repeatedly rejects the child or uses threats to frighten the child. This may involve name calling, put downs or continual coldness from the parent or caregiver, to the extent that it significantly damages the child’s physical, social, intellectual or emotional development.

Neglect is the failure to provide the child with the basic necessities of life such as food, clothing, shelter, medical attention or supervision, to the extent that the child’s health and development is, or is likely to be, significantly harmed.
Effects of child abuse

Children may experience a range of emotional, psychological and physical problems and trauma as a result of being abused or neglected.

Emotional and Psychological symptoms of trauma:

Shock denial or disbelief
Anger, irritability, mood swings
Guilt, shame, self-blame
Feeling sad or hopeless
Confusion, difficulty concentrating
Anxiety and fear
Withdrawing from others
Feeling disconnected or numb
Physical symptoms of trauma:
Insomnia or nightmares
Being easily startled
Racing heartbeat
Aches and pains
Difficulty concentrating
Edginess and agitation
Muscle tension

Protecting your Children Against a Cruel Virtual World

Inside Trauma Newsletter – Autumn 2014

Technology has brought on the onset of information, and with that there have been both positive and negative consequences. In the case of Social Media, online forums, chat rooms and other instant messenger programs there are countless stories which involve cyber bullying and these have affected, and continue to affect, many individuals. In some cases this even reaches devastating extremes such as suicide, and or permanent mental illness. You can safeguard your children from being at risk by taking the following precautions.

Install Monitoring Software & Parental Control Tools
There are a range of available programs on the market which enable parents to filter inappropriate words and images. There are options on most computers which can activate features such as time limiting and setting the time kids can access the internet along with restriction of outgoing content. Programmes such as TrendMicro and Kaspersky are available at retailers such as JB Hi-Fi for as little as fifty dollars.

Educate and Talk to your children
Sit down with your kids whilst they are at the computer and take an interest in how they spend their time on the internet. Ask them if they know what cyber bullies are and perhaps watch an online video, or do a Google search on the topic. Let them know that if they experience bullying, it is never ok to remain silent. Make them feel comfortable to approach you in the future should they experience it. Parenting styles almost always vary to a degree; however in this instance, those who have a naturally authoritarian approach or who favour a permissive style may send the wrong message.

Last year the Coalition, on behalf of the Howard Government released an eleven page document outlining how the state aims to target this issue. For more information please view - Children and family laws aim to protect on a State-wide level. This is important information for a parent should they wish to report cyber bullies or familiarise themselves and children on their rights.

Claudia Stans
Undergraduate Counsellor

Trauma of Personal Space Invasion (PSI)

Take a moment to consider and reflect on your own physical and mental space. Yes we can empirically observe and measure physical space intrusion. It is a mental concept where by an individual perceives a space invasion. This can affect the psychological balance of human beings. Imagine for a moment sitting alone at a cafe while enjoying a Sunday calm solitude that sends your mind to a comfort zone of happiness and contentment. At that moment another patron enters and sits at your table coughing profusely and un-announced slaps his/her paper down and eye balls you while accidently bumping you. Within seconds your blood races and a pending explosion is forthcoming. The tension and stress level near uncontrollable rage proportions.

This example depicts a social altercation known as (PSIS) Personal Space Invasion

This example depicts a social altercation known as (PSIS) Personal

Space Invasion Syndrome. There is little doubt that a violation of one’s personal space will send us toward hyper stress, leading to stress levels that affect our functioning. The eminent conclusion is ‘Anger’; and this does eat away at our good health. Trauma psychologists acknowledge that physiological and biological changes occur when anger levels continually increase. Heart rate, blood pressure, hormones and adrenaline alter.

Recent studies of space were first investigated in the 1960’s by E T Hall who was an American anthropologist and cross- cultural researcher. E T Hall observed mans behavioural use of space and is remembered for developing the concept of Proxemics, which describes how people react or behave in various types of culturally defined personal space.

A study by Middlenurst, Knowles and Matter (1976) sought to understand the relationship between the speed of men’s urination in a public toilet and personal space. While I hasten to report there were many methodological questions, specifically whether the observer contributed to the results. However the findings support the notion that an invasion of personal space affected arousal this causing a slower flow.

Personal space varies from culture and nation however for westerners E T Hall viewed personal space as an extension of the human body defining four zones, they are as follows.

1. Intimate Zone- Whispering and embracing (within 18 inches of your body).

1. Personal Zone- Conversing with close friends (18 inches – 4 feet).

2. Social Zone- Conversing with acquaintances (4 feet- 10 feet).

3. Public Zone- interacting with strangers (10 feet – 25 feet).

We all acknowledge that we have a personal space and many have quantified this by distance, but there is also psychological space, the violation and intrusion of a burglar after a home robbery. Reported emotional symptoms include anger, fear, resentment, grief which is a similar response to rape, assault and other violent crimes.

The fallout from both personal and psychological invasion appears because many victims are left with long term trauma scars. Robbery and perceived personal space intrusion can leave people experiencing recurrent and intrusive thoughts, dreams and cause hyper – alertness with changes in sleeping and eating habits and palpitations.

Recovery from PSI and psychological pain will follow a validation and emotional journey of accepting these reactions and talking about the experience to a trauma counsellor. Time and talking about the feelings is the step that will help to put the event into perspective, seeking help is what will enable one to address the issues from these kinds of experiences.

Peter Horton

Psychologist—C.E.O of Trauma Centre Australia

A Robbery Case

Lorena and her daughters, aged 8 and 6 were at home, asleep. Her husband, Edgar, was doing a night shift and would be back in the morning. It was once everyone was sound asleep, that a burglar entered their home.

Lorena had her wedding and engagement rings taken from her night table. Her jewellery box disappeared, as well as her daughters’ gold medals. All three of them were asleep while the robbery was taking place; while the burglar was strolling around the house where three unaware people were confidently resting.

When Edgar came home, he noticed his front door unlocked. His laptop was missing, as well as their MP3 player and TV. But before he could register all the things that went amiss, he ran upstairs to his girls’ bedroom, yelling and panting. Lorena was awaken by his yelling and panicked without understanding what was happening. And then they all realised they had been robbed during the night.

The impact on the girls was worse than their parents would have expected. For a month, they jumped into their parents’ bed late every night. They were always concerned of being alone, anxious and hyper-vigilant about all the different noises in the house, of things which they had never been aware of before the incident.

As for the parents, Lorena and Edgar struggled to accept that there had been someone alien watching their every move prior to the incident and later on inside their home, invading their privacy, walking their rooms

As for the parents, Lorena and Edgar struggled to accept that there had been someone alien to their household, a stranger, watching their every move prior to the incident and later on inside their home, invading their privacy, walking their rooms completely unnoticed! Feelings of anger and helplessness often got hold of Lorena, who would now struggle to sleep on her own. Edgar, on the other hand, requested to not get anymore night shifts, even if that meant lowering his wages. Both their anxiety levels increased and Lorena even went through a period of very high stress. Nightmares made their way through to their sleep, and a general sense of paranoia took hold of their otherwise peaceful lives. Leaving aside the material costs of what was taken from the family home, the emotional impact was highly damaging for all four members, whose trust and security was seriously impacted. Robbery victims usually find it difficult to come to terms with what has happened to them, and in some cases, they never feel as safe as they used to. In an article for the Security Newsletter, author Annie Blanco (2010) suggests three important actions should be taken into consideration right after a burglary or theft:

1. When a burglary has been committed, do not touch anything. Inform the police immediately and wait for their assessment, which could lead to getting hold of the criminal(s).

2. Call the insurance loss assessor.

3. It is also worth to get some counselling organised for all the members of the household.

Counselling helps victims to understand their sometimes overwhelming feelings. By having a therapist listen to them, normalising what they are going through and getting some strategies for coping in moments of high stress, they will gradually feel better. Nobody should have to go through one such experience, but knowing there are useful mechanisms for getting back to normality is comforting.

Claudia Devora

Undergraduate Counsellor

Social Media and Bullying

Inside Trauma Newsletter – Autumn 2014

What does it mean? Is there much to report about the age old effects of bullying? Both effects of traditional bullying and cyber bullies appear to cause significant emotional and psychological distress. Both types of bullying experience anxiety and depression and low self-esteem.

Growth in communication connections has created instant visual and response capabilities to the masses. The term ‘Cyber bullying’ uses technology e.g. internet and mobile phones to hurt, harass and bully other people. Social media bullying occurs using electronic technology, devices such as mobile phones, computers, tablets, social media sites, text messages, chat, websites and emails. Girls are twice more likely as boys to be victims or perpetrators of bullying. Australians are social we on average have 217 friend/followers on social media.

Prior to the modern mass media and social media exposure, human beings had the potential to develop strategies to combat the emotional hurt that was being flung. Instantaneous conversations, rumours, inferences, messages, unflattering pictures can all create potential fallout.

Anxiety, depression and suicide are common consequences of social media bullying and the continual growth is alarming. Statistics in 2013 report that more than half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online; more than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyber threats. 1 in 10 have had embarrassing or damaging pictures taken without their permission. 1 in 5 have had posted sexually suggestive or nude pictures of themselves. Over 80 percent of teens use mobile phones making mobile phones the common form of bullying.

Not just young people are being targeted; organisations are acknowledging emerging workplace cyber bullying
The Australian Public Service (APS) Oct 2013 have produced guidelines to manage staff from agency hurt and members of the general public. Cyber-bullying has become a work health and safety and security issue more over the psychological health under the work health and safety act 2011 requires organisations to be pro-active in their management of risk to staff.
If left the potential psychological trauma will not only cost considerable money but may lead to loss of life, various mental health issues and long term debilitation.

Peter Horton