Call it suppression or repression or whatever... the point is that we have a tendency to avoid pain. Not because we are wimpy - quite the opposite actually - much of the time we avoid pain as a way to "stay strong". We avoid pain because it feels overwhelmingly huge and there just doesn't seem to be enough "space" to deal with it. We think that we have to stay strong, for our partner, our kids, our job, or our quivering sanity. After all, life just keeps moving, and for most of us, at a pretty quick pace. So, what do we do? We stuff it down... we tuck it and run. We sequester the shadow parts of our self and we keep moving. We survive.
Once the unwanted parts get tucked or stuffed, we don't really want to dredge them up. We convince ourselves that the unpleasantries of our past are better left in the dark recesses of our minds; "I mean, what good would it do to bring it all up now", we might say to ourselves. In fact, over time we may not consciously remember what we pushed into to the shadowy corners of our psyche. We may develop nifty habits to keep the threatening information from bubbling to the surface, like addictive behaviors, unhealthy ways of thinking, or maladaptive emotional patterns. These aversive measures do keep the blackness at bay, at least for awhile, but they don't hold.
Life has a way of reminding us of those things we don't want to think about: The weight of an old betrayal that we relegated to the attic of our mind threatens to break through the sagging ceiling and drop into the living room of life each time someone threatens to leave us; a shot of fear rips through our body when we pass by the craggy door of our psyche's cellar where long-ago we banished our unwanted shame related to hurting a friend or family member; we pull the emotional curtains tight to shield us from seeing the characterological garbage we threw over the back fence of feeling. It's all tucked and stuffed... but not necessarily gone.
Beating back the darkness of our secret inner life isn't a one-time act... the self-directed violence must be repeated and maintained. It takes energy to keep the pain away and this saps us of our creativity, spontaneity, and vital life-force. It's like going to a cocktail party, knowing that a difficult person will be there, but foolishly thinking that the person can "just be avoided". Instead, you end up spending the whole night looking over your shoulder and trying to time your approach to the punchbowl so that you don't run into the person. As a result, the party passes you by while a critical part of your existence is consumed by avoiding what is feared and unwanted.
Paradoxically, the very act of avoidance can actually precipitate the thing we fear most. For example, a man may fear that his partner will discover that he is "boring" - a deeply embedded negative belief that he has carried for many years. He buries this terrifying thought under a cement slab of pleasantness and acquiescent behavior in an attempt to please his partner and stave off the prospect of being labeled "a wet-blanket". Yet, his very attempts to always present the most pleasing parts of himself (an impossible bit of chocolaty self-protection thinly coated in a shell of selflessness), leave his partner feeling disconnected and unexcited about the relationship. Unwittingly, his avoidance helped create the very thing he feared most. It has been said, "What we run from, we run into" and "What we resist, persists."
Also, we would like to think that the process of cutting out the unwanted parts of our self and our life is crisp and clean. Like a Beverly Hill's surgeon excising a darkened mole from our backside with deft precision, under anesthesia, and in sterile conditions. I'm afraid to say that it isn't so neat. It's more like taking a dull hacksaw to our own leg that is stuck in a rusty trap, while running from a bear, for which the trap was intended. Severing parts of the self is usually done under extreme duress for the purpose of mental, emotional, and physical survival. It is messy, imprecise, and it comes with a cost. In the cutting and compartmentalizing process, we often lose parts of ourselves that, under more favorable circumstances, we would rather keep; parts of ourselves that are necessary to live a fully-functional life.
For example, imagine you receive sudden warning that there is a fire in the office building where you work and you are told that you must exit immediately. In a panic, you swipe the contents from your desk into a black plastic sack and run out the door. You survive, but much was lost in the fire and it was a harrowing experience - one that you would like to forget. You put the bag of personal effects in a dimly lit closet in your home and shut the door. But whenever you pass by the closet, you're reminded of the tragic fire, the loss of loved-ones, and the contents of the black bag inside. You try to avoid walking by the closet. You try to forget what's in the bag. You buy a new coat so that you won't have to retrieve the old one that's in the closet. You develop a series of daily routines that support your semi-conscious avoidant intentions. Over time, it may feel like all is forgotten, but in reality the pain still there...; calling out from the darkness.
Years later, you decide to move from the home - the one with the "forgotten" closet. With a packing box in hand, you open the closet door and stumble upon the black bag with its seemingly terrible remains. You consider burying it in the packing box under a heap of old coats and sweaters, but something tells you that there is no more running, no more hiding, no more pretending. With trepidation, you open the sack, still hinting of smoke, and you begin to acknowledge the fear, guilt, and grief that you have long avoided. It is in that very process of opening to the pain that something quite unexpected happens: Mingled with the vilified vestiges of the severed self are poignant reminders of strength, joy, love, and connection: a picture of your colleagues at the holiday party, an engraved pen from your boss, a thank you card from a friend received in a time of need.
When the unwanted parts of our self are banished to the black bags of our being, they aren't carefully sorted and neatly tucked away for easy retrieval. Instead, various parts of the self are indiscriminately sacked and shut into a closet that, despite our best efforts to "be strong and carry on", won't be dismissed or forgotten. Most importantly, buried with the shadow parts of our self are the flickering lights of strength and resilience - the joy, the love, and the connection - that are instrumental in the process of learning to embrace our vulnerabilities. We need all parts of our self to become more awake, spontaneous, creative and alive - we are most alive when we bring wholehearted presence to all parts of our self. Life isn't about merely surviving, it's about thriving! We thrive by opening to the shadow parts of our self, and in so doing we discover the natural source of our brilliant luminosity.
Jon G. Caldwell, D.O., is a board certified psychiatrist who specializes in the treatment of adults with relational trauma histories and addictive behaviors. Dr. Caldwell currently works full-time as a psychiatrist at The Meadows treatment center in Wickenburg, Arizona. For many years he has been teaching students, interns, residents, and professionals in medicine and mental health about how childhood adversity influences health and wellbeing. His theoretical perspective is heavily influenced by his PhD graduate work at the University of California at Davis where he has been researching how early childhood maltreatment and insecure attachment relationships affect cognitive, emotional, and social functioning later in life. Dr. Caldwell's clinical approach has become increasingly flavored by the timeless teachings of the contemplative traditions and the practice of mindfulness meditation.
A question posed by a group member during an Equine Therapy session.
By: Ann M. Taylor, Equine Specialist at The Meadows
We hear all sorts of questions at Equine; some of them make you stop and think. Either you simply don’t know the answer or because you want to be sure that you’re giving the most accurate information. This question however never required a second thought.
"Of course they can!"
The first time we had the privilege of working with RC was eye opening. As I led him out of the stall I was told by a fellow Equine staff that "RC really loves deeply". Looking at him I tried to see what she saw. In the breeze way stood this older, rough looking horse that seemed to me to have seen his best days and none of them were this year, or the year before. Branded on his left rear quarter a large letter R and on the right a large letter C. Hence the name "RC".
RC has a disease called Cushing's that affects his pituitary gland. A symptom of Cushing's is that he can't shed his winter coat. So, being summer, he was sporting a body clip. It was similar to something you may see after your youngest gets hold of dads beard trimmer. His eyes looked dead tired and I was not even sure he would make it down the hill to the round pen.
He sighed heavy as we walked down the hill and he managed three breaks before we were at the round pen gate. He eased his way through the gate and closing it behind him I was genuinely concerned that RC may not be the horse for the job. Although the activity was pretty easy for a horse I doubted that he had enough life in him to really be effective during a session.
The group arrived and checked in. The whole time RC stood with his nose against the fence dozing in the shade occasionally his tail would toss to one side or the other. He reminded me of an old weathered frame of a house gently blowing back and forth in the soft breeze, and I wondered if he may decide to just collapse under his own weight right there.
When the group was ready we opened the round pen gate and they went inside. Lazy eyes opened and considered the group from across the pen. Idle brown ears now perked up and watched the group with intent. He turned to face them completely and there was LIFE! What was a geriatric case of a horse shifted into a curiously intent and animated creature. He rubbed up against the members of the group and took time to explore each person.
The entire session his eyes only asked one question "What do you need?". He stood closely behind a group member in strong silent support as they shared around a difficult topic. He pressed his head gently into another Participant who struggled with intimacy. I watched this horse decide what each person needed and then be that for them. There was no doubt that RC LOVED the people in that group, and every group for the rest of the week. Over and over we were amazed at how he could identify just exactly what someone needed in the moment.
When the group would end RC would watch them leave through the gate. That big brown head would drop back down and there was that old house frame blowing in the wind again. At the end of the first day there were smiles, laughter, Ah Ha moments and some tears. It was a good day. When everyone was gone I slipped the halter over his graying muzzle and scratched his neck. Once again I was worried that the walk up the hill to the barn might be too much for him. Opening the gate I could hear his old hips pop as he moved that heavy frame out of the round pen.
Suddenly there was an unexpected tension on the rope. Spinning around, I found myself staring at RC's rump as HE led ME up the hill! I could have skied behind him! That was the best laugh of the week.
So can a horse love? I don't think there is anyone better who can teach us about love than an old brown horse.
Special thanks to Philly and Cindy at Remuda Equine for your willingness to share the gifts that you call horses.
By: Joyce Willis, MC, LPC
Have you ever driven someplace in your car and then couldn't remember the entire drive or what you passed along the way? That's an example of not being mindful that many people can experience daily. It's the same routine and you place yourself on auto-pilot, not noticing what you are doing or what is going on around you. In this article, we will explore the art of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the art of paying attention to what you are doing and what is going on around you. Mindfulness is about living with openness and experiencing possibilities by paying attention to the present moment. When we practice mindfulness, we can reduce stress and function in a more balanced way. Practicing mindfulness helps us to gain insight into ourselves and the environment around us. Practicing mindfulness helps us treat our relationships with patience, respect, and kindness.
How do we start to develop mindfulness? There are many qualities to incorporate in our lives to live in mindfulness. We will consider 4 of the most important qualities of mindfulness. These are
There are many benefits of Mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness has been found to decrease medical conditions and psychological issues. Much research has been done to show that being mindful and using mindfulness decreases psoriasis, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, headaches, insomnia, high blood pressure and asthma. Psychological benefits of practicing mindfulness include:
One of the most important benefits of practicing mindfulness is decreasing stress. When we decrease stress, we can decrease medical and psychological issues and increase our general well-being. There are five steps to a mindful approach to life which can be applied to every aspect of life. These steps are:
One way to practice mindfulness is through mindfulness meditation. A quote from Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk and a renowned Zen master, sums up how meditation and mindfulness go hand in hand: "Meditation is not to escape from society, but to come back to ourselves and see what is going on. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. With mindfulness, we know what to do and what not to do."
John Kabat-Zinn states that mindfulness is about attention and awareness in anything we are doing. The practice of mindfulness includes not only mindfulness meditation, yet the actions we take in every day life. Kabat Zinn warns us that mindfulness is not a cure-all or magical solution to life's problems. It is up to us to choose our path and chart our course. Mindfulness provides a simple, yet powerful path for getting us in touch with our wisdom and vitality. When we follow this path, we can improve our lives and our relationships.
Like the title of this article states, mindfulness can be a part of everyday life; eating, talking, driving, spending and living. Let's consider each of these areas of everyday life.
Let's explore how mindfulness relates to recovery. Mindfulness is an integral part of recovery. Addiction, depression, and anxiety can all be looked at as dis-eases; they all are a suffering. Incorporating the Four Insights, by Terese Jacobs-Stewart into our recovery process can be a source of comfort and relief.
The First Insight - Suffering: Suffering is an intrinsic part of life. Life serves up one form or another. It is not anyone's fault; it just is. We face the truth of the First Step of the Twelve Steps by admitting we are powerless and that by continuing to deny and try to manage our addictions, depression, anxiety... makes our lives unmanageable. For addicts, addiction and codependency are the First Insight. For others, the First Insight may have to do with change, depression, anxiety, illness, loss or death.
The Second Insight - Our response to suffering: The second reality that we have in internal response to the suffering we encounter. For every external event, we have an internal reaction. Our responses may compound the suffering that already exists when we numb with drugs or alcohol, when we blame, when we try to manage and control our addiction or depression. We may choose to become rigorously honest and use mindfulness to develop greater self-awareness and self-control.
The Third Insight - Transforming our response: We are not doomed to be stuck! We do not have to keep suffering. We can change our internal responses to the things we cannot control. An ongoing practice of mindfulness and meditation can change our brain chemistry. We must be willing to deeply engage in mindfulness, spirituality and to welcome change.
The Fourth Insight - A Path to Transformation: The fourth insight is that there truly is a path out of suffering. This path is about continuing practices of mindfulness, meditation and ethical living. The Twelve Steps give us steps to follow that are similar to mindfulness practice.
So, honor yourself by practicing mindfulness. This will help you open a new foundation for building the life you want. With mindfulness, you can face day to day situations with a new vision of who you are. Be gentle with yourself. Cultivating mindfulness takes time and patience. Mindfulness can lead to a realization of your basic nature, your true greatness and your potential.
For further information about Mindfulness, you might consider these books:
Wherever You Go, There You Are -; John Kabat-Zinn
Full Catastrophe Living -; John Kabat Zinn
Cultivating Lasting Happiness: A 7 Step Guide to Mindfulness - Terry Fralich
Peace in Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life; - Thich Nhat Hanh
The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Mindfulness -; Thich Nhat Hanh
Mindfulness and the Twelve Steps - Terese Jacobs-Stewart
Joyce Willis is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is currently a therapist at The Meadows. She earned her Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Akron. After teaching for several years, Joyce earned a Master's degree in counseling from the University of Phoenix. She has been in the counseling profession since 1996 and in that time has worked extensively in the addictions field. Her specialties include treatment for addictions, bereavement, trauma, depression and anxiety. Joyce has a special interest in mindfulness and helping people connect their emotional, spiritual, mindful and physiological selves with compassion and respect.
By: Dr. Jan Anderson, Psy.D., LPCC
Studies show that the regular practice of gratitude can increase not just your well-being and happiness, but also improve your physical health and your relationships.
I was in the audience as Business First publisher Tom Monahan went one-on-one with Yum! Brands Inc. President and CEO David Novak to learn how a boy who lived in 32 trailer parks in 23 states by the time he reached seventh grade became the head of the world's largest restaurant company at age 47. As they discussed Novak's unique leadership style, his commitment to fighting hunger and his new book, "Taking People With You: The Only Way to Make BIG Things Happen," I noted in particular two things that Mr. Novak said.
"It's the soft stuff that drives the hard results."
In a similar vein, he offered two observations about why people leave a job: 1) They don't get along with their boss 2) They don't feel appreciated
Marriage researcher and relationship expert John Gottman says that what makes many marriages unhappy or end in divorce is not fighting or infidelity, but simply not feeling appreciated - being taken for granted. Gottman says that what really keeps real-life romance alive is each time you let your spouse know he or she is valued during the grind of everyday life.
HOW GRATITUDE CAN IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH, HAPPINESS AND RELATIONSHIPS
Gratitude – expressing thankfulness, gratefulness or appreciation - has become a mainstream focus of psychological research. Not surprisingly, studies show that the regular practice of gratitude can increase not just your well-being and happiness, but also improve your physical health and your relationships.
My favorite gratitude study involved three groups, each with a very different assignment. One group was instructed to focus each week on things they perceived as irritating, annoying or frustrating. The second group focused each week on things for which they were grateful. The control group focused on ordinary life events during the week.
The results found that the people who focused on gratitude were unmistakably happier - in just about all aspects of their lives. They reported fewer negative physical symptoms such as headaches or colds, and they spent almost an hour and a half more per week exercising than those who focused on negatives. Simply put, those who were grateful had a higher quality of life.
Most interesting is that others noticed that these people had more joy and more energy. As the study progressed, participants in the other two experimental groups could see that the grateful group was becoming more optimistic.
In a follow-up study, those who found something to appreciate every day were observed to be less materialistic, less depressive, envious and anxious, and much more likely to help others, a fact not lost on those around them. When others were asked their impressions of the daily-gratitude group, they generally judged them as empathic and helpful to others. This effect was not observed in either of the other two groups.
As research author Robert Emmons put it, "This is not just something that makes people happy, like a positive-thinking/optimism kind of thing. A feeling of gratitude really gets people to do something, to become more pro-social, more compassionate."
The bottom line: The study found that the participants who were consciously grateful felt better about their lives, were more optimistic, more enthusiastic, more determined, more interested, more joyful and more likely to have helped someone else. Other studies show that these psycho-emotional benefits are accompanied by health benefits as well: more energy, more restful sleep, clearer thinking, better resilience during tough times, fewer illnesses and fewer stress-related conditions. Those that are grateful exercise more and live longer - and evidently happier - lives.
BLOCKS TO GRATITUDE AND HOW TO OVERCOME THEM
It sounds so simple and easy, but don't be surprised if you encounter some common blocks to cultivating gratitude. Paraphrased here are some of author Kathy Freston's insights for how to fix faulty thinking about gratitude.
MYTH #1: If I am grateful for my present situation, it means I'm satisfied with what I have and cannot hope for something more. REALITY: When we are grateful for what we have now, we are actually programming ourselves for more; it becomes natural to gravitate toward more satisfying situations.
MYTH #2: Gratitude makes me a sucker. It makes me happy to have the booby prize. REALITY: Being thankful doesn't force us to be happy with what we're stuck with, but simply indicates that we are appreciative of all the good we already have. It's entirely possible to be both grateful for some (now), as well as grateful for more (to come).
MYTH #3: If I am grateful, I'll feel small and diminished by a "meek" stance in a tough world. REALITY: It takes confidence and strength to express gratitude. Being appreciative tends to makes people want to do more for us, not less.
MYTH #4: If I get too grateful, I won't be motivated or ambitious to move forward. REALITY: Gratitude doesn't make us lazy - it inspires and energizes us to get more of that feeling of well-being.
A DAILY PRACTICE TO CULTIVATE GRATITUDE
To begin cultivating gratitude, be open and receptive (and if necessary, look diligently) for something to be thankful for in each of the following areas of your life on a daily basis. Good times to do this are as you are waking up in the morning or going to sleep at night.
It is particularly helpful to do this practice when things are going well - when you've had a good day or something good happened. In other words, "dig the well before the house is on fire." Do this practice often enough and regularly enough to let it take root in your psyche and become part of your lifestyle, a part of the way you think and live. When you notice you've lost touch with this practice or forgotten about it, just begin again.
Don't be surprised to find that you begin to structure your whole day around the practice of gratitude. Whenever you have a few moments to yourself, this is where you can let your mind center - looking for something to be grateful about.
Dr. Jan Anderson, Psy.D., LPCC, has a unique ability to focus on the well-being of the whole person. In addition to a doctorate in clinical psychology and a private counseling practice, she also has real-world corporate business experience and expertise in the mind-body connection. Dr. Jan enjoys speaking and writing about a range of topics she is passionate about - relationships, wellness, work and spirituality. You can read her blogs at www.DrJanAnderson.com or contact her at LifeWise@DrJanAnderson.com.
The Meadows Alumni Association is pleased to host an alumni workshop in Dallas, Texas, for alumni on July 9, 2013, from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. by Cole Adams, LCSW, CSAT, will lead the discussion on "Perfectly Imperfect." It will be held at Preston Place at 12700 Preston Road, #140.
Adams is a psychotherapist, licensed clinical social worker and a certified sexual addiction therapist. He received training from Patrick Carnes, considered the foremost leader in sexual addiction, and Pia Mellody, one of the preeminent authorities in the fields of addiction and relationships, and a Senior Fellow and senior clinical adviser for The Meadows Wickenburg. Currently, he is the owner of Bluffview Counseling in Dallas, Texas.
To register and learn more, visit http://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1102470. For more information, contact Morgan Day at 800.240.5522 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Meadows Alumni Association is pleased to host monthly alumni meetings in Texas and Arizona. Meadows' trained professionals lead these inspirational meetings and focus on topics including renewing the language of The Meadows Model and reclaiming commitment to its principles. The Meadows Model is a therapeutic model that comprehensively addresses trauma resolution.
The Meadows is an industry leader in treating trauma and addiction through its inpatient and workshop programs. To learn more about The Meadows' work with trauma and addiction contact an intake coordinator at (866) 856-1279 or visit www.themeadows.com.
For over 35 years, The Meadows has been a leading trauma and addiction treatment center. In that time, they have helped more than 20,000 patients in one of their three inpatient centers and 25,000 attendees in national workshops. The Meadows world-class team of Senior Fellows, Psychiatrists, Therapists and Counselors treat the symptoms of addiction and the underlying issues that cause lifelong patterns of self-destructive behavior. The Meadows, with 24 hour nursing and on-site physicians and psychiatrists, is a Level 1 Sub-Acute Agency that is accredited by the Joint Commission.