Theory & Practice

Choice Point Psychological’s Theoretical Stance

Psychological Suffering is Rooted In…

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Our Hardwiring for Negative for Thinking, Social Comparisons, & Anticipating Risks

All humans are hardwired for survival, which means we are unconsciously driven towards opportunities for connection, resource accumulation, and striving to be the fittest of the pack. We are all prone to screen our environment and relationships for threats to our survival, resources, relationships, and self-esteem. We are motivated to find our purpose in life and reach our highest potential (aka self-actualization), but this motivation can be stunted by events such as criticism or doubt from others both early and later on in life. When this occurs, our system interprets this as threat to our survival, which leads to a mobilization or immobilization response based on the degree of criticism. We are left feeling an even greater drive towards accumulating, working harder, or proving ourself. This hardwiring makes us prone to negative thinking, social comparisons, and anticipating risks.
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OUR PAINFUL PAST LEARNING THAT MAY IMPACT BEHAVIOR AND COPING WHILE UNDER STRESS

We retain memories for threatening experiences to inform our future actions. When threat is detected, we feel stress, which can mobilize or immobilize us (fight, flight, freeze) for action depending on what might be the most adaptive in the moment. Moderate amounts of stress motivates us towards getting our needs met. Modern life, however, is characterized by chronic stress and has interfered with our ability to recover post-stressful experiences. Additionally, our highly sophisticated brains allow us to retain memories for past pain and suffering. This has advantaged us as survival creatures, but it contributes to psychological suffering when we spend time reviewing painful past experiences over and over again. When threat is detected we draw upon coping strategies that worked in the past or that we observed our families using as we grew up. We are also drawn to coping strategies that provide the quickest relief, especially if we are facing significant stress. Our conscious effort will be required to interrupt undesirable habitual coping behaviours and replace them with more adaptive strategies.
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TRAUMATIC STRESS CAUSING FURTHER DISRUPTIONS TO OUR BEHAVIOUR, COPING, AND PERCEPTION

All of us have endured traumatic stress at some point in our lives ranging from mild to severe. Keep in mind that our threshold for what would have been deemed as traumatic stress has shifted throughout our life course based on our developmental age and needs. Traumatic stress is retained in the body. Traumatic memories are locked in time and fragmented into sensory parts (visual, auditory, olfactory, and tactile) that are not properly stored in our long-term memory in the form of a complete picture or story that we can retrieve voluntarily. What can happen is that one of these sensory parts gets re-experienced in the body when something in our environment mimics the initial trauma. When this happens, we are often unaware of it, but may be left with an intense sensory experience that can confuse or frighten us and may cause the reactivation of the stress cycle.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” -Viktor Frankl

Our first goal is to assist you in understanding your undesirable symptoms and behaviours from a new perspective. Mental health has been historically stigmatized and unfortunately the stigma persists to this day. We want to help you move past shame or self-defeating attitudes you may have about what you are going through. We believe every behaviour is a form of coping and it has roots in bodily responses to the environment, as well as past learning. There may have been experiences in your life that you could not control that contributed to the challenges you face today, but there are ways to persevere despite what you have been through. We will help you discover “the space between stimulus and response” by working together to identify elements in the environment activating you and contributing to your presenting concerns. Together we will explore your history to determine why certain things in your environment influence your behaviour, as well as why you gravitate towards certain coping habits. From there, we will embark on developing mindfulness-based strategies that you can utilize to widen “the space between stimulus and response” and to interrupt the self-defeating cycles you may currently be facing. We will practice these skills routinely to help them become more comfortable and natural. We will also generate new ways to cope that are more conducive with your values and the person you want to be. As needed, we will augment this with exposure therapy treatments (e.g. EMDR or Prolonged Exposure Therapy). This process is all about empowering you and helping you regain control over your life.

AT CHOICE POINT, WE WANT TO LOOK AT WHAT IS AND IS NOT WORKING.

 
1. Are you over stressed, finding yourself short of time, energy, motivation?
2. Are you over relying on either threat systems or drive systems to guide your daily actions?
3. What are you doing to cope? Is it aligned with the person you want to be?
4. What is happening internally while faced with stress and is your stress cycle reaching completion?
5. In what ways is your painful past learning keeping you stuck? (maladaptive coping, shutdown, self critical, fearful/anxious, etc.)

SIGNALS OF SUFFERING

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Detached from values, meaning, purpose

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Avoidance of internal or external experiences

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Chronic hyper/hypo arousal symptoms

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Rigid or non life-enhancing coping behaviours

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Lack of balance in lifestyle

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Disconnection from self and others

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Lack of vitality

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Cognitive distortions or rigid thinking

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Extreme or uncontrolled emotion reactivity

PILLARS OF WELLNESS

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Daily values-guided action

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Open to array of life experiences

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Completed stress cycles with adequate resting periods

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Flexible and dynamic self-care practices

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Striving towards holistic living

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Meaningful and supportive social network

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Daily micro reminders of aliveness and gratitude

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Noticing parallels between thought content & feelings

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Able to be with our emotions & respond deliberately

ARE YOU STRESSED AND SURVIVING? WE WANT TO HELP YOU FEEL ALIVE AND ALIGNED WITH YOUR VALUES! HOW?

 
1. Identify the blocks and barriers keeping you stuck.
2. Skill building, skills practice, life improvement.
3. Working through past pain to make you less vulnerable to old habits while under stress.

References

 
Gilbert, P. (2009). The Compassionate Mind: A New Approach To Life’s Challenges. London: Constable and Robinson.

Hayes, S., Strosahl, K., & Wilson, K. (2012). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: The Process and Practice Of Mindful Change. New York: The Guilford Press.

Porges, S. (2011). The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, Self-Regulation. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

Van Der Kolk, B. (2014). The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body In the Healing Of Trauma. New York: Penguin Random House LLC.