Male Rape – A Problem That Persists

 

This post is inspired by the very emotional programme about male rape shown on the BBC in December 2017.  It covers the stories of a number of victims of male rape and how it affected them and continues to do so.  The programme included the estimates that one in six men will be the victims of rape or sexual abuse, and that approximately eight men are sexually abused every hour.

eight men are sexually abused every hour.

It’s difficult not to be shocked by those figures but, as a therapist, I found myself angry and frustrated at the fact that so few of them had been able to connect to services that would allow them to recover.  The programme ended with the statistic that ‘On average, it takes a man 26 years to speak out.’  That means there’s lots of people that take substantially longer than 26 years, to finally open up.  How are we failing these people so badly that they either don’t know where to get help or feel too ashamed to ask?  This seems to be much worse for men, the macho attitude of ‘just getting on with it’ and not wanting to be seen as a victim.  The fact is that for far too long, many of the services offered have not met the grade, whether NHS, charitable or private, and I hate to say it but the support groups on in the programme left me with the same depressing feeling, let me explain why.

Here, it’s important to make the clear distinction between ‘care and support’ (typically counselling) and ‘treatment’.  In the case of an assault, the proper approach is care and support where the person is able to be open emotionally in a safe environment that supports their return to normal emotional balance.  But all of the ‘victims’ and I’m trying so hard not to use that term in this article, showed all the signs of still be traumatised by the event many years later.  It is normal to be impacted by these events, you are supposed to lose sleep, your mood be effected, the constant re-living of events, to be hyper-vigilant following an event …. and then you are supposed to return to normal.  That’s the healing process.  The diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is not that they have these symptoms but that they are not getting better after three to six months – that is the ‘disorder’.  And in each case on the BBC programme, I saw people that remained traumatised years after the event.  Each re-telling came with stuttering, tears and a wealth of other tells that showed they hadn’t escaped from the pain yet.

It’s difficult to know why some people spontaneiously recover from trauma and some don’t (about a third don’t).  Often there’s an unconscious strategy to try and go back and change what they did “If only I’d taken a taxi” or they feel they need to explain what happened, or to find some reason that will satisfy them as to why they didn’t report it or why they didn’t scream for help….   None of these approaches work in healing the trauma.

When the problem has persisted over years, a proper treatment is required, not care and support.

More often with men, they are so devastated by the attack that they can’t tell anybody at the time, they feel ashamed they couldn’t/didn’t fight off the abuser, the trauma leaves them unable to deal with life’s struggles, they are emotionally erratic, they drink, take drugs, relationships fail, life seems on hold.   A little care and support (counselling) might have prevented them from becoming traumatised (PTSD) at the beginning.  The problem is that ‘care and support’ is not treatment for PTSD.  Care and support, which often involves the re-telling and re-experiencing of the event, over and over, often in a support group, only keeps the trauma alive.  When the problem has persisted over years, a proper treatment is required, not care and support.  Thankfully there are many treatments available which effectively go in and recode the memory so that it’s no longer frightening and over-whelming.  As a therapist, in most instances, I don’t want the story, I don’t encourage the re-telling of the circumstances, it’s not needed for therapy; if it is needed we can retrieve the information in a way that is safe for the client.

I wish I could give my full support to ‘Stay Brave UK‘ and similar services because I know they are well meaning, their heart is certainly in the right place and I know they do good work.  But people that need to go to such support groups over and over and feel the need to tell their story, are still crying, are showing all the signs that they are still traumatised.  Their lives are still highjacked by it, even if the support helps them to cope better.  I’d love to see them continue to educate the community that help is available and to offer timely care and support for those able to seek it.  But they also need to understand when care and support must give way to proper treatment so they can regain control of their lives and refocus on their own values and goals make that the most important thing in their lives.

 

Eye Movement Treatments For Depression Are Here To Stay

There are a number of effective treatments for depression. As a Cognitive Hypnotherapist I know that there is no single treatment that works for everybody which is why I have many treatment options for my clients with depression (and anxiety). I trained in IEMT over five years ago and nothing in my arsenal has been more useful in helping clients quickly and easily recover from this debilitating condition.

By treatment, I do mean treatment. I don’t consider anti-depressants to be a treatment. When they work, all they they tend to do is allow a little comfort within the shrunken world of the depressive. Anti-depressants temporarily cover the symptoms, they don’t address the causes of the depression, they don’t teach the client to make the necessary adjustments to their lives to make a full recovery.

How Does Depression Start?

Before discussing the Eye Movement treatments, it’s worth asking the question, “How does depression start?” We aren’t born depressed, we’re born inquisitive, excited and energetic. Life and parenting teaches us where to set boundaries on our behaviour by teaching us what behaviour is likely to be painful, unproductive or outside of our skill set. Sometimes the boundaries are appropriate (not touching a hot stove) sometimes they are over-cautious, such as “dogs are dangerous!”  One of the problems is that, for many people, they often fail to update as our age and competences increase.  Martin Seligman coined the phrase ‘learned helplessness’ to individual tasks, that after a period of no improvement easily becomes a chronic ‘hopelessness’ that is central to depression.

As an example, the guilt that we felt about the way we broke-up with out first love, can generalise to the idea of relationships generally, making them something to avoid.  After that turbulent flight, the panic that we feel about flying makes the idea of a foreign holiday too painful to consider. Being bullied at school filled us with rage when we couldn’t prevent the unfairness, the same uncontrollable rage that now emerges at the bullying behaviour when somebody cuts us off whilst driving. At each stage some behaviour which could add to the quality of our life becomes a cause of pain.  It also affects our self-esteem through our assessment of our own competence (I failed at this before) and worth (I’m ashamed at how I behaved before).  Self-esteem is an unconscious assessment of our ability to thrive as well as an assessment of whether we deserve to thrive.  When our self-esteem is challenged we no longer feel capable of meeting the regular challenges of life.  The usual motivation we feel from the anticipation of engaging with life’s activities are replaced by hopelessness and fear.

Eye Movement Therapy (IEMT/EMI/EMDR)

Eye Movement Therapy works by removing the support structures of depression, by undoing the hold of these poorly learnt life lessons. There are several similar ‘Eye Movement’ therapies, such as IEMT, EMI and EMDR which are becoming common in therapeutic circles. Each therapy fits well within the Cognitive Hypnotherapy treatment methodology and IEMT, in particular, which was developed by Andrew Austin, incorporates the ‘Three Pillars of Depression’.

In terms of treatment, each method essentially acts in the same way.  The therapist elicits the problem state and associated memories and then gets the client to deliberately move their eyes in a pattern, whilst they try to maintain the memory.  It doesn’t sound much but the results are often astounding.  The memory of the break-up, the plane journey, or barking dog doesn’t go away, but the emotion does!  In most cases. In five years, I’ve never had the same painful experience come back once successfully treated.

How Does Eye Movement Therapy Work?

With my background in Cognitive Science I’d like to say that I have the answer to this question.  I don’t, but what’s been clear for several decades is that when the eyes move to the periphery, the brain tends to switch to a different conscious experience.  When you ask a person ‘what colour is your front door’ – typically their eyes go up and to your right.  Now, that’s not where the door is but it does allow the client’s eyes to stop looking and go and grab an image of the door from memory, put that into consciousness, so the question can be answered.  When a therapist moves the client’s eyes through a sequence, the client will struggle to maintain his problematic memory, as the brain is taken through a number of shifts in consciousness (auditory, visual and kinaesthetic).  This has the effect of desensitising the memory.  Cognitive Hypnotherapists often deliberately interrupt problem patterns but this intervention seems much more useful, often leaving the client with a very different and relaxed attitude to the event that a minute ago was problematic.

I don’t typically say much about this intervention to a client.  When they call, I don’t tell them, ‘well for £90 I can move your eyes around a bit.’ because I’d certainly have no clients.  When I do explain it to clients, it’s usually afterwards, it bypasses any natural scepticism because they’ve just had a very clear experience of a painful difficult memory one moment, followed a few minutes later by a client who’s only frustration is to not be able to get that feeling back.  It’s usually at that point that the client completely relaxes, a new trust is established and they feel able to take on other areas that need a quick detox.

 

The Three Pillar Model of Depression

The Three Pillar Model (specific to IEMT) separates emotions into PAST, PRESENT and FUTURE. Painful memories from the past (Guilt, Shame, Regret, etc) makes us worry about how we will respond to events in the future (Panic, Anxiety, Worry, etc.) which tends to create distress in the moment which can lead to loss of control in the present moment (Rage, Anger, etc), which leads to incidents that make us feel Guilt, Shame, Remorse – and so the vicious cycle continues. Depression and anxiety are often diagnosed separately by doctors and, on the face of it, they seem at opposite ends of the diagnostic spectrum but in my experience, they nearly always appear together in my clients. They are two sides of the same coin.

The good news is that by treating the Guilt, Shame, Regret, etc. or the Rage, Anger, etc. we remove that pillar from the cycle and start to restore freedom of movement for the client.  They are no longer crippled by their past, or scared of their future.  This new freedom restores behaviours they can enjoy and builds their self-esteem. In most cases the client won’t know about the old emotional conditioning until it is brought out in the therapy session. Whilst some memories are fresh, clients are often surprised about how some earlier and often long-forgotten memories have created a wave of havoc throughout their lives.

IEMT is a great way of treating these learnt emotional responses. We look for an emotional memory associated with one of the stand out emotions (e.g. Guilt) and by holding that memory in mind whilst the eyes are moved in certain precise ways, it quickly disrupts the memory. Within a few minutes a very painful memory can be reduced to something my client is totally indifferent about. It doesn’t always work but nearly always!

This might not be the only treatment offered but as each painful emotional experience is treated, the freedom is restored, the anticipation of the future becomes brighter and more engaging. The depression and the anxiety just don’t work the way they used to.

Objectively Measured Improvement

I use IAPT questionnaires which are widely used to assess levels of depression and anxiety. By talking with the client and using these measures in every session it becomes clear how effective the treatment has been and typically a three-four week treatment is enough to restore the client to where they are no longer clinically depressed or anxious. After each treatment, the client will know that something is different, they don’t need to worry that ‘something will shift after eight weeks’ their internal experience is different from the start. Some clients need more help or a different treatment and that’s easily established from early on.

Many people that struggle with depression and anxiety for years or decades feel their condition is hopeless. Unfortunately NHS mental health treatment are very hit and miss and the standard treatment of using medication won’t change the behaviours or emotional conditioning that lies at the heart of these conditions.

If you have any questions about eye movement treatments, please get in touch at simon@freedomhypnosis.co.uk.

Simon Bates.
MNCH(Acc)  BSc Cog. Sci.  MNLP

Abuse Stays Fresh Until It’s Treated – PTSD, Football, Rape

Nobody could have been left unmoved by the revelations of retired football players this month.  First a lone footballer speaks out about the sexual abuse he suffered as a child from a coach, then the floodgates opened up as we realise the extent of the abuse for the first time.

BBC Victoria Derbyshire – Footballers Speak Out

The numbers don’t surprise me, that culture was toxic in many ways, it still is.  What surprises me is that so many adults including those in the know actually think those men should just get over it, put it in the past, bury it, ignore it, take one for the team (again). It was clear that hadn’t, they couldn’t, they didn’t know how. The memories were as vivid, painful and frightening today as they were 30 years earlier. Several of the victims said that not a day had gone past when it hadn’t affected them. Many suffered from anxiety, many would drink too much, undoubtedly there was shame, anger, guilt, difficulty in moving on to the next phase of their lives.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is characterised by intrusive stressful thoughts, hyper-vigilance, anxiety, anger, loss of sleep, irritation, shame, depression, suicidal. This mental health condition is notorious for it longevity. Even depression, left untreated, has a tendency to go away on its own for many suffers. Not so much for PTSD.

It’s worth remembering that it’s not a disorder to be upset, to ruminate over the incident, to lose sleep, to be on alert when we go through something over-whelmingly negative, such as loss, injury, abuse, tragedy. The disorder is to not to return to normal emotional comfort within a month or two. I’m not sure why but about 70% of the population that goes through trauma spontaneoiusly get better. The remaining 30% struggle to recover and can stay in that emotionally wounded state for decades. Typically they resort to coping strategies, repression, anger, drink, drugs, sex, becoming an abuser, isolation, just surviving.

Thankfully, over the last few decades psychological research has identified methods to quickly and painlessly deal with memories that are too painful to process normally. Now, treatments for PTSD are typically just a handful of sessions from a qualified therapist – sometimes just one! (It’s important to make the point that counselling does not qualify as a ‘treatment’. Counselling is care and support which is quite different and may be appropriate immediately after the trauma but it is not a treatment for PTSD and can, in fact, make things worse.)

There are many reasons why people don’t seek treatment:

  • fear of the pain of reliving it
  • failure of previous treatments or distrust of therapists
  • loss of faith in NHS/state provision of care
  • concern over lengthy or costly treatment
  • shame/guit (ironically)

Thankfully modern therapy such as Cognitive Hypnotherapy is able to work without you needing to discuss any details of the trauma and a good therapist will ensure the session is an entirely positive experience. Private treatments can be arranged at short notice with a therapist of your choice and therapy should give you improvements from the first session and rarely last more than four or five sessions. Ask a friend for a recommendation or look for a Cognitive Hypnotherapist near you for a fast and effective treatment so that you can take control back of your life.

End the suffering.

Simon.