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Stress Positions are Torture

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Reblogged from Ashana M. Thank you for sharing.

Stress Positions are Torture

Strappado at BuchenwaldSome days, my whole body hurts. Sometimes it’s just my legs that hurt. They hurt at the thighs most intensely, but also along the arches of my feet. I’ve described the sensation to my doctors as a burning sensation, the kind of pain you feel from muscular exhaustion.

There is no medical explanation for my pain. And yet there is.

Growing up, I was placed in what are euphemistically referred to as “stress positions”–positions in which a disproportionate amount of stress is place on a small number of muscles, at first causing discomfort and eventually leading to intense pain.

At Guantanamo, detainees are frequently subjected to stress positions during interrogation–“short-chaining” so that they are restrained in uncomfortable positions throughout the course of the interrogation. Seated detainees cannot sit up straight. Standing detainees cannot stand up. Enough of this, and you start finding yourself wanting to tell the interrogator whatever he wants to hear, just to get out of the short-chaining.

It is referred to as an “enhanced interrogation technique,” and justified as necessary for reasons of safety and security. But stress positions are a form of torture. And it is well-documented that torture is neither humane nor effective: the desire to end the torture motivates the victim to please the perpetrator, rather than to tell the truth.

Detainees are also placed in other stress positions as well, including what is sometimes referred to as strappado which places terrible stress on the shoulders, causing unbearable pain, dislocation, and sometimes nerve and ligament damage.

The most effective stress positions in torture are those that provide the prisoner with a choice of death or pain, or a choice of two kinds of pain. This causes the prisoner to falsely feel he is in control of the pain, and he will often unwittingly blame himself.

In my case, my father suspended me by the neck from the ceiling of the garage with my feet barely touching the ground, so that as long as I stood on tip-toes I could continue to breathe. If I relaxed my legs, I would asphyxiate.

This is why my legs continue to hurt. My automatic response to stress is to create tension in my legs, as I unconsciously associate danger with a need to stand on tip-toe and to maintain tension in my legs.

There are two take-aways from this in my mind. One, the use of stress positions in American detention facilities needs to end completely. And, two, rehabilitation of torture victims must include the collaboration of medical professionals on mental health and physical issues, as they are inter-related. The torture survivor who feels physical pain is not merely reliving the pain in his own mind. He is sometimes feeling the affects of ongoing damage to nerves, joints, and tissues. At other times, he is unwittingly recreating it, by returning to positions that kept him alive.

Further reading:

Amnesty International. Torture and Accountability.

The Green Light. (2008, May) Vanity Fair.

Reydt, P. (2004, 25 August). Former Detainees Detail Abuses at Guantanamo Bay. World Socialist Website.

The sound of coming back

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It’s so good to be back.

After several weeks with stress, sore throat, antibiotics on trains & planes, work and family gatherings, my enthusiasm and initiative to fight for others and to create something new, has returned. Not that I haven’t done any creating, I have! But it’s been more in the ‘I know I normally like this’ mode of everyday life, where tasks must be done and accomplished. I’ve had some setbacks that literally has zapped away my energy, like a cancelled meeting because I hadn’t talked it through enough with some people, and having to leave early from the last dissociation course with Nijenhuis to not make more people sick with my mysterious virus that just don’t want to raise the flag. People have already gotten a throat infection like me, so I try not to breathe into everyone’s faces, or at least warn them if they say ‘Ah, no problem! My immune system handles anything! So thought I, but I must admit this infection has been an impressive challenge. I have four days left of my antibiotic-trip, and this time I won’t quit; No matter if I actually GET more sick from them (probably autoimmune reactions or something, but it has been milder then the last time). I have managed to go to the gym and been at work every day, the only thing affected is others ears when I sneeze or cough, and my enthusiasm for doing something important. To have it back is like seeing a long lost friend, so I welcome it cheerily and hope it will follow me into the dream world and the weekend.

How have my readers been the last weeks? Crossing my fingers and hope it’s been mostly good! If not, maybe you’ve learnt something new and are ready for new challenges?

Good night from wonderful Norway


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Stressful content in a relaxed environment

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 Dear Nico

For me, the meaning of life is meeting people. When I discovered your blog, something pulled me towards it again and again, and I was so happy when we started to talk to communicate. I found Nico an incredible woman, whom I immediately liked and honored. To my delight, she also got something back from our conversations, and she eventually started to write for “free psychology”. Since then, she has published a lot of interesting posts about psychology. She has written her personal story, but also manage to integrate it with theory and own thoughts, and I admire that. For me, she`s an example of how it`s possible to truly follow your dreams, no matter where you come from.

I just want to thank you, Nico, for all the wonderful posts you`ve produced so far, and look forward to a conversation on skype. I`m glad I met you, and hope we can keep in touch for a long time.

Warm hugs from the other side of the world  

Stress and Memory From a Neuroscience Perspective


Stress and Memory From a Neuroscience Perspective

 “From a neuroscience perspective, amnesia in the absence of brain damage can be partially explained in biochemical terms. Stress causes a chemical reaction that affects regions of the brain responsible for memory. With repeated overwhelming stress, neurotransmitters and stress hormones are released in the brain in such excess quantity that they can adversely affect portions of the brain responsible for emotional memories as well as other kinds of memory.”i'm not out to convince you or draw upon your mind*Image Credits (all work used with permission through CC license)–
“i’m not out to convince you or draw upon your mind” by Andrea Joseph
“Standing at the Gates of Hell” by Shane Gorski  

Source:  p. 33, The Wandering Mind: Understanding Dissociation from Daydreaming to Disorders by John A Biever, M.D. and Maryann Karinch.

Related :

The Amazing Ways Your Thoughts Create Your Brain (

Welcome, Mr Anxiety. Feel completely relaxed

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Have you ever been afraid of the dark?

You’re Not The Only One

Anxiety disorders refer to a high prevalence group of problems, which include excessive levels of fear and anxiety. Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress, threat, or danger and often serves us well. It enables us to deal with threatening situations by triggering the fight/flight response so that we can take evasive action. However, it is when this response is persistent, excessive and interferes with our functioning in daily life that it is referred to as an anxiety disorder; at this point a psychologist or counselling service may be required.

  • Excessive Worry/Generalised Anxiety: This is characterized by excessive anxiety and worry lasting 6 months or more. It is accompanied by central nervous problems including bodily tension, restlessness, irritability, fatigue, poor concentration and sleep disturbance. Worries usually relate to education, work, finances, safety, social issues and often minor issues such as being on time.
  • Social Phobia/Social Anxiety: Persistent fear of situations in which we are exposed to possible scrutiny of others, such as public speaking engagements, social gatherings or communication with the opposite sex. This form of anxiety elicits fear of intenseElettroshockfinalsolution_by_LucaRossato_flickr panic in such situations and avoidance of or escape from social environments
  • Panic Attacks: This form of anxiety can manifest in sudden, intense and unprovoked feelings of terror and dread often culminating in heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath and an out of control or very frightening feeling. When we suffer this disorder we generally discover strong fears about when we might experience the next panic attack and often avoid places we feel we might have a panic attack or where escape may be difficult such as movie theatres, shopping malls or social gatherings.
  • Obsessions and compulsions which are characterized by persistent, uncontrollable and unwanted feeling, thoughts or images (obsessions) and/or routines or repeated behaviors(compulsions) in which individuals engage to try and prevent or rid themselves of anxiety provoked by the obsessions. Common themes through compulsions may include repeated actions such as; washing hands or cleaning the house excessively for fear of germs or checking something over repeatedly for

    errors. When we are caught in the cycle if obsession and ritual our lives are constrained and our time otherwise used for living is consumed.

  • Post Traumatic Stress: Witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event including severe physical or emotional trauma such as a natural disaster, serious accident or crime may expose us to the risk of post traumatic stress. Post Traumatic Stress can be characterized by thoughts, feelings and behaviour patterns that can become seriously affected by reminders of events, recurring nightmares and/or flashbacks, avoidance of trauma related stimuli and chronically elevated bodily arousal. These reactions mat arise weeks even years after the event.

Anxiety treatment at Sydney Emotional Fitness also covers specific phobias, a related disorder to Panic. Specific Phobias involve marked, persistent and intense fears about certain objects or situations. Specific phobias may include things such as enclosed spaces, encountering certain animals or flying in airplanes. Exposure to the feared situation or object usually elicits a panic attack leading to a tendency to avoid the feared object.

For all information about Anxiety TreatmentPsychologist CounsellingAnger CounsellingGrief CounsellingAnger ManagementRelationship CounsellingStress Management and Depression Treatment in Sydney, or any of our services that may assist you in leading a more rewarding life please call us on 1300 790 550.