"How to Escape Insanity" Chapter 3 Healing: Leaving Misery Behind By Processing Trauma

How Healing Works
Healing Triggers and Building Emotional Capacity
Healing Trauma

“They say time heals all wounds, but that presumes the source of the grief is finite”
― Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Prince

“What happens when people open their hearts?"
"They get better.”
― Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

Chapter 3 of “How to Escape Insanity” by Chris Macnab

How can I escape sadness?
Here I describe how to do healing work through one-on-one conversations filled with emotions and self-reflection.  If you have some insanity, avoid seeking out supernatural healing - this will tempt you to imagine your escape plan in spiritual terms, which as I have emphasized won't get other people in contemporary society to go along with you and won't work on your own modern-trained brain either. 

Most (or all?) people experience insanity because of traumatic events or traumatic times in their lives, which were not properly processed.  Although some people literally have mentally illness in the sense that they have a brain malfunction, most people have a brain functioning as intended with the insanity 'program' now running to deal with unresolved trauma.  In this case, the healing techniques described in this chapter provide the key components for leaving insanity.  Even if you are convinced that you are one of the people with an actual physical brain problem, healing will still help you a lot; it will decrease your misery, increase your happiness, and open up the possibility of becoming one of those people who are a 'functional crazy';  you should be able to lead a fulfilling life in spite of having a brain disability.  After my own healing work I was a 'functional crazy' for two years and actually enjoyed my life quite a bit during that time; I was very good at my job, had lots of friends, got along well with my family, and enjoyed all my recreational activities - even as I experienced life existing as a walking community of personalities in my head.   Even if you have no worries about insanity at all, healing will increase your happiness and emotional capacity.

How does healing from trauma work?  Basically we create different memories in the brain that are very similar, but not as traumatic, as the original memories.  Right now, your brain accesses a traumatic memory over and over again.  When we create similar memories, over time the brain will choose to start accessing these similar, but less traumatic, memories instead.  It chooses accessing the new ones over the original ones for a simple reason; they are nicer so it is just easier.  Eventually your brain will ignore the original traumatic ones, and exclusively access the new ones.  How do I know this?  This is exactly what I experience - when I remember things I remember the nicer memories now.  I cannot bring up the originals even if I try anymore.  With your memory centre providing these more gentle recollections to your gatekeeper on a regular basis, the gatekeeper loses their incentive for keeping you prisoner.  Basically, we will put the gatekeeper to sleep.  Be warned that this process takes time.  You will not receive a healing from trauma one day and proclaim yourself healed the next day.  The brain takes its own sweet time learning to access the new memories instead of the old.  In the meantime, you will just have to seek emotional support from family and friends to make it through until you start feeling better. 

Healing triggers and building emotional capacity

Let's start to learn healing techniques by dealing with the daily little traumas (dramas) that cause us little insanities (triggers).  We also are going to learn to heal from the large daily dramas that cause us huge triggers - like fighting with our spouse, paying off debt, getting physically ill, dealing with (fear of) losing our job, getting tired-out caring for loved ones, etc.  Once we get practicing these techniques and appreciate how well they work for triggers, then we will move on to dealing with your deeper, underlying life traumas.  Creativity is key - it actually builds new neural connections in the brain [1].  Let's first introduce some creative work into your conversations with friends and family, the ones whom you are talking to on a daily basis.  Make sure your friends know what you are up to, why you are doing it, and explain that it will not just provide healing for you both but also make you better friends with a better connection.  Let's just assume, for now, that the creative process will be drawing with pencil crayons.  In reality it can be anything creative like poetry, dance, writing, visualization, music, sculpture etc.  But we can easily draw together in a coffee shop or over video-chat.  So 15 minutes before the end of your conversation, pull out your paper and your pencil crayons (which you will want to carry with you everywhere).   Ask your friend what emotion has come up in the conversation.  You name which emotion has come up for you in the conversation.  Then you might both work on their emotion, or both work on yours, or each do their own.  Play it by ear, whatever feels right that day.  Use your intuition.  Discuss with them what behaviors someone with that emotion displays.  What would someone on the street look like that would give away that they were feeling that way? How do you act when you feel that way? What are the stereotypes for someone feeling that way?  What would someone do about that emotion?  What actions would they go out and take?  For instance, an angry person might be seek conflict.  A grieving person would mourn.  A shamed person might seek accountability.  A fearful person thinks they are vulnerable.  After you have discussed this, start to draw. It doesn't matter what you draw.  You can just doodle and that will be fine.  If you are drawing actual things, it makes the most sense to draw the behavior, or something that symbolizes the behavior - sitting in that emotion for a bit will normally maximum the healing process, even if it is a 'negative' emotion for you [2-4].  However, sometimes it will feel right to you to actually draw the opposite, like safety in a fearful situation;  there are no actual rules here other than it has to use your creativity when you are feeling emotions and remembering a situation.  You will almost certainly gain better insight into this process than I have, and your intuition will guide you on the details of how it goes with each particular friend.  This will build your emotional capacity [5, 6]

Ask your therapist, if you have one, to do a little creative exercise like this at the end of you session. However, many therapists will refuse to do the art themselves, so you will have to decide whether you would be comfortable with that (or challenge them that it might provide emotional processing for them so they will feel better at the end of the day - after all your emotions affect them too).

So what do you achieve by doing this every day with your friends?  First of all, you will immediately feel less triggered or not triggered (or at least you will by the next day).  Since these kind of triggering events in your life have just happened, it is easy to process them as they are not yet a deep-seated memory.  You have just modified the memory so that it will (from now on) also access the situation you were just in - creating art with a friend while  expressing your emotions and having them validated.  You will also build tremendous emotional capacity for dealing with life's little dramatic and triggering events by doing this.  I could write this book the way I did because I really don't get triggered by criticism anymore (or rarely anyway); I was able to just throw up drafts of this book on the internet and just address people's concerns as best I could without feeling bad (feeling enthusiasm even) even when the comments were very negative or critical.  The stress in your brain will decrease as you make your emotions more impervious to criticism and misunderstandings.   You will be able to take more practical actions in stressful situations.  Life will be much easier for you.  Once you experience the power of this technique, you will gain confidence that creativity will actually be a possible healing mechanism for your much greater traumas.  And perhaps most importantly, you will be creating very deep and true friendships doing this.  When you are working on art together, you will also be communicating and connecting with your friend on a whole other level: the unconscious level.  You are building great trust with the person before (possibly) involving them in your deeper traumas.  This will also allow you to identify which friend or family member you want to help you as a healing partner in seeking the deep healing of your great life traumas (or if you are lucky there might be more than one.).  This person will already be trained to help you too.  Way to go!  You are nearly there!

Healing trauma

Now when you feel the time is right, plan to do some healing around a significant trauma with your healing partner or partners. You don't need to pick the worst one yet if you are not ready.  You might want to start with some trauma that is easier to talk about.  Whenever you feel ready, ask the person if they will be a healing partner.  You will probably have to meet somewhere private for this, unless you have a coffee shop in mind with a really private corner.  Invite them over to your home when no one else is there, or Skype with them, or something like that.  The first time you talk about a trauma with your healing partner, you could just do the same creative drawing or art you normally do together.  But you will have to revisit it again another time.  The next time you talk about this trauma, I want you to do a visualization.  Have your partner guide you through it.  You will remember the event, but in a safer way.  Maybe you will imagine you are sitting on a train and viewing the event out the train window as you go by.  Maybe you will imagine someone who makes you feel safe being there with you, making the situation feel safe.  Maybe you will imagine the same start to the traumatic event, but a different outcome.  Be creative. Do what feels right to you. Let your healing partner use their intuition for what is right for you. It just has to be close enough to the original memory that your brain can access it instead.  Myself, I felt such a profound feeling of safety when I was with my escape-partner Kit, I just stuck Kit in every memory.  Kit is always taking care of me and keeping me safe when I remember these things now.  I love it.  For the most traumatic of my memories I also did other techniques as well, with other people.  My most traumatic memories have lots of safer alternatives.  I suggest creating a bunch of entirely different ones if you have time. The more alternate memories for this event you create in your brain, the more likely your brain will start accessing a new one instead of the original.    Now volunteer to be the healer for your friend.  Maybe they have a traumatic event they would like healing around.  You will gain insights into this process and understand what is going on much better than I do, and your intuition will guide you on what the right thing to do for a particular trauma will be.  You are also creating and experiencing a wonderful and fulfilling deep friendship.  I know some of you might feel like you are using them and not being genuine.  But in reality, at the unconscious level, you are creating a meaningful connection with someone that will be very important to both you and them for the rest of your lives.  So don't sweat it.

Make sure you continue to do this for all memories that you are uncomfortable with.   Don't pre-decide which memories are officially 'traumatic' and which are just bad.  Do not decide a memory 'shouldn't' affect you.  If a memory is particularly vivid but you don't know why, you probably have a strong emotion about it that is just buried somewhere - so address it. 

If your healing partner is your spouse or romantic partner, that is very sweet.  Otherwise, don't have an affair with your healing partner.  Don't leave your romantic partner for your healing partner.  You will destroy yourself.  You will destroy them.  They will destroy you.  They will destroy themselves.  Sure you love your healing partner deeply, that is natural, but it is very different from romantic love and a relationship won't work.  You are forewarned.  Don't do it.  If the urge is overwhelming, cut off all connection and then do significant healing work with a professional therapist before you try having a healing partner again.  

You can do this type of healing with a therapist too.  There is a particular form of therapy called EMDR [7] where they get you to move your eyes back and forth while you create the new memory, which is particularly effective (I have tried it myself).  However, the therapist cannot be part of your escape plan.

If you have some insanity it is very important that you do not go out and seek other kinds of supernatural healing, as this can be very risky in our society.  Avoid healing work from energy healers and psychics  (unless you have an existing non-intense person you go to already.). Do not get spiritual help or guidance (reading the Bible and going to church is fine).  Do not let anyone pray over you about your specific problems.  Do not sign up for workshops where groups of people will be doing healing work.  All these activities are fine for sane people, even helpful.  The risk is that insanity can cause you to have a very profound experience at one of these events.  When you have profound magical or spiritual experience, your true self thinks "Finally, something that can help me escape" and goes into overdrive in its escape from insanity.  But spiritual language and spiritual escape plans are not only ignored in our society,  many people will actually get very triggered by you.  You can actually drive the people away you need to help you.  Then your feeling of being 'trapped' will actually increase, and your behaviour can become more erratic.  So to be safe, stick exclusively to one-on-one conversations with friends, family, and therapists.  You may find you like to use spiritual language, in addition to emotional and psychological language, to describe your experiences of life and that is fine;  just don't do spiritual 'actions' of the type that might get you excited about the power of spirituality.  On the other hand, if you have a profound emotional experience in one of your conversations that energizes you, then great!  If you have a profound insight into your psychology that energizes you, then great!  People in our society will be quite open to hearing those.  A working escape plan for our society will be all about emotions, psychology, and actions.  If you do end up developing spiritual or magical (or space-alien) ideas that are completely your own ideas, just view them as very important messages from your unconscious that you should puzzle out and investigate for meaning.  View them as giving you very good clues about yourself and a possible escape plan.  Do not take them literally and try to implement them as an escape plan in our society though.

During this phase of your journey you become the Artist.  Your artistic endeavour is creating healing for you and your healing-partner(s). The physical art can be done with traditional mediums, but the real artistic creations lie inside the mind and they will be your sense of beauty for the rest of your life [8].

from “How to Escape Insanity” by Chris Macnab, copyright 2018

On to Chapter 4

Art literally grows brain cells

[1] "The art students specifically increased 'their ability to think divergently, model systems and processes, and use imagery,' the researchers write. The results suggests that, in a matter of a few months, 'prefrontal white matter reorganizes as (art students) become more able to think creatively. So here is still more evidence of the plasticity of the brain, and its ability to adapt to new habits, new skills, and new information. Start doing the work, and the brain responds, allowing one to build and retain not just technical knowledge, but also the imaginative capacity needed to utilize it fully.' psmag.com/social-justice/how-learning-artistic-skills-alters-the-brain

No such thing as bad emotions

[2] " Hurt, frustration, pain, sadness, and anger are all natural and healthy parts of the human experience. When we try to suppress these emotions, we are unable to thrive. Part of having a full life is feeling all of your emotions ... Experiencing your emotions and being vulnerable with the people that you trust is a sign of true strength, not a weakness. Ultimately, the way to heal and move through painful experiences is to let yourself feel. You can do this by writing in a journal, through artwork..."  www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mindful-musings/201611/3-reasons-let-yourself-feel-your-emotions
[3] "If you care deeply about other people (those close to you or strangers)—feeling their pain sometimes might be painful, but right for you. If you care about social justice feeling anger about injustice might be painful, but right for you,' she adds. 'To be happy, we should strive to feel emotions that we believe are meaningful and desirable, given our own unique cultural, social, and personal characteristics—those that feel right to us." www.thriveglobal.com/stories/11790-a-huge-new-study-says-happiness-is-about-the-emotions-that-are-right-for-you
[4] "The only way to experience pure moments of joy, connection, gratitude and love is when we allow ourselves to experience loneliness, sadness, fear and hurt. Mark Williams from Oxford University recommends learning to observe painful emotions with 'friendly curiosity.' This requires allowing ourselves to sit with the less pleasant emotions without numbing, downplaying or over-identifying with them. In other words, "the only way out is through.' "   www.forbes.com/sites/margiewarrell/2018/09/15/still-not-happy-why-embracing-your-painful-emotions-makes-people-happier/#4feb283627e6

Building emotional capacity

[5] The original concept of creative ritual and the transformation into emotional capacity came from Aftab Omer at Meridian University.  I learned it at workshop given by Mark Nicholson t12n.com, who uses the ideas to accomplish transformative experiences.
[6] "In his recent book, Flourish, Martin Seligman — often regarded as the father of positive psychology — maintains that there are five critical elements of psychological well-being, 'positive emotion,' 'engagement,' 'accomplishment,' 'positive relationships,' and 'meaning' ... It is clear, I think, that art can provide each of these elements of well-being.... Art also helps people to connect with and deal with their emotions. Art can help a person reach into largely unconscious parts of the mind and experience dimensions of self otherwise buried and voiceless. " www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-friedman-lmsw/art-mental-health_b_1562010.html

Therapists help build alternate memories too, sometimes

[7] Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing " following a successful EMDR session, a person no longer relives the images, sounds, and feelings when the event is brought to mind. You still remember what happened, but it is less upsetting ... helps a person see disturbing material in a new and less distressing way." www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/

The wisdom of the Artist

[8] "Creativity is an alchemy that takes all of the energetic resources, physical, emotional, conceptual, spiritual, and blends them into something unique and new. We use our earthly vehicles, these bodies, to create an expression that is uniquely ours, but that also undoubtedly comes from beyond and will continue in different forms once we let it go. Art allows us to access a deep wisdom that is often hidden in traditional studies. It speaks in another language and it is worthwhile to develop a sort of comfort and fluency with these other tongues. The body speaks as it takes the crayon and wildly makes lines across a blank piece of paper. The heart responds as it knows just where to end, to step back and take in what was created, feeling the resonance that is left there. And then the piece itself communicates on its own as different eyes take it in and feel what they feel. Creating art is a deeply healing experience. Different parts of us communicate in words, while others prefer images and still others enjoy movement to express whatever is being felt. It is all valuable and it all should have space to be expressed and witnessed." - Catherine Lewis, "Understanding and Freeing the Self," Masters Thesis, Naropa University
Agree or disagree?
Agree or disagree?
Chapter Three

At this time you might like to do a little doodle while thinking about the action you would like to carry out with your current emotion:

Choose Colour

No artistic skills required. Doodles work great! Stick-men too! Stick-women too!


from “How to Escape Insanity” by Chris Macnab, copyright 2018

Chapter 4