My favorite codependency treatment self help tools involve biofeedback, brain fitness, sound and light, education, and reading.
Codependency is based on memories. No child is born codependent, so we learn it.
Memories are powerful, especially if you experienced or saw violence as a kid.
Attachment must be completed effectively for adult relationships to be effective, and work with a therapist is appropriate for psychological issues.
However memories, no matter how powerful, can be worked with. I know it is possible because I have participated in therapies like psychodrama and holotropic breathwork which can expand your work with your counselor or therapist using cognitive behavioral therapy or existential therapy or psychodynamic therapy, ect.
I also know that great American tradition of self help works, because I am a veteran of almost 30 years of AA experience, one day at a time, through the grace of the higher power.
So when I first heard about codependence, I took up the ACOA, or adult child of alcoholic process, which is based on the 12 step model.
In the Big Book of AA, there are a few brief paragraphs talking about the Promises of AA, what will result if you are diligent in doing the steps, and those brief paragraphs state that if you pay attention to the solution, you get more solution, and if you pay attention to the problem, you get more problem, which is the essence of what I think is the core of therapy and self help.
Change the thought and change the feeling. If I feel good, then I act positively.
What the codependency treatment and therapy folks do not mention is that we have this brain that is set up to re-orient itself very frequently, and when I re-orient, I may not come back to the effective thought I was just practicing, I may come back to a problem thought, so I need to pay attention to my thinking and keep it more often than not on the solution thoughts.
Sound like meditation to you? Or mindfulness? Or Flow? Yes it does, and attention can be trained cognitively or physiologically, using biofeedback or meditation.
The first self-help tool that I am recommending, one I have used since 2000, and taught to hundreds of clients is HeartMath.
I practice on a computer 5 to 10 times, and then I can cue the physiology without the computer, because I have taught the brain in my heart to respond to a breathing pattern and a cue thought.
Can you imagine cuing a coherent heart rate heart beat by heart beat? Sure takes the emotional volatility out of codependence doesn't it.
Yes, it also very healthy for every cell in my body. I like to call it a walking meditation and the best part is my body gets to like it, and reminds me to practice, so it can stay calm.
When the codependency treatment discovery process began in the early 1980's, no one knew that the heart had a brain of its own, no one knew that heart intelligence sent more data up than the brain sent down, and no one knew that the brain grew new brain cells (neurogenesis) or was so plastic (neuroplasticity), and no one knew that those particular brain capacities could be trained.
So as part of my 12 step work, I work to keep my brain healthy, using physical exercise, good nutrition including omega 3 fatty acid supplementation (crucial to attention on the solution), good sleep, stress management, and novel learning experiences, including computerized brain fitness programs, which have been shown to actually change the structure of my brain with enough practice.
Why would an old wino with neuropathy in his left hand want a healthy brain as a parent of youngsters, and heading into his Senior years? You know the answer to that.
I want to challenge my brain.
If you want to read a bit about brain fitness, which is the core of self-help, recovery, any change in life, then read Brainfit for Life by Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D. who are neuroscientists at the University of Michigan.
They go into a great amount of detail about what research reveals in regards to enhancing neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, which is again the crux of any self-help process.
Now here is the kicker, written by Sharon Begley in the Wall Street Journal about what meditation does to and for the brains of Buddhist meditators.
From Sharon Begley
"Since the 1990s, the Dalai Lama had been lending monks and lamas to neuroscientists for studies of how meditation alters activity in the brain. The idea was not to document brain changes during meditation but to see whether such mental training produces enduring changes in the brain."
"All the Buddhist "adepts" -- experienced meditators -- who lent their brains to science had practiced meditation for at least 10,000 hours. One by one, they made their way to the basement lab of Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He and his colleagues wired them up like latter-day Medusas, a tangle of wires snaking from their scalps to the electroencephalograph that would record their brain waves."
"Eight Buddhist adepts and 10 volunteers who had had a crash course in meditation engaged in the form of meditation called nonreferential compassion. In this state, the meditator focuses on unlimited compassion and loving kindness toward all living beings."
"As the volunteers began meditating, one kind of brain wave grew exceptionally strong: gamma waves. These, scientists believe, are a signature of neuronal activity that knits together far-flung circuits -- consciousness, in a sense. Gamma waves appear when the brain brings together different features of an object, such as look, feel, sound and other attributes that lead the brain to its aha moment of, yup, that's an armadillo."
"Some of the novices "showed a slight but significant increase in the gamma signal," Prof. Davidson explained to the Dalai Lama. But at the moment the monks switched on compassion meditation, the gamma signal began rising and kept rising. On its own, that is hardly astounding: Everything the mind does has a physical correlate, so the gamma waves (much more intense than in the novice meditators) might just have been the mark of compassion meditation."
"Except for one thing. In between meditations, the gamma signal in the monks never died down. Even when they were not meditating, their brains were different from the novices' brains, marked by waves associated with perception, problem solving and consciousness. Moreover, the more hours of meditation training a monk had had, the stronger and more enduring the gamma signal."
"It was something Prof. Davidson had been seeking since he trekked into the hills above Dharamsala to study lamas and monks: evidence that mental training can create an enduring brain trait."
"Prof. Davidson then used fMRI imaging to detect which regions of the monks' and novices' brains became active during compassion meditation. The brains of all the subjects showed activity in regions that monitor one's emotions, plan movements, and generate positive feelings such as happiness. Regions that keep track of what is self and what is other became quieter, as if during compassion meditation the subjects opened their minds and hearts to others."
"More interesting were the differences between the monks and the novices. The monks had much greater activation in brain regions called the right insula and caudate, a network that underlies empathy and maternal love. They also had stronger connections from the frontal regions to the emotion regions, which is the pathway by which higher thought can control emotions."
"In each case, monks with the most hours of meditation showed the most dramatic brain changes. That was a strong hint that mental training makes it easier for the brain to turn on circuits that underlie compassion and empathy."
"This positive state is a skill that can be trained," Prof. Davidson says. "Our findings clearly indicate that meditation can change the function of the brain in an enduring way." http://online.wsj.com/article/SB116915058061980596.html
Copyright 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved
When I was beginning my personal growth journey, a wise person told me that when I was feeling resentful or afraid or sad, that I should remember the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was ready to feel better. That phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.
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