The Meadows Blog

Life seems to offer plenty of opportunities to practice boundaries! Whether it is in our relationships with family and friends or at the grocery store check-out line, we have many chances to decide if, when and in what ways information and people can be part of our lives. Maintaining healthy boundaries is widely considered a fundamental aspect of the recovery process and an important practice for general well-being. However, without a measure of thoughtful awareness, boundaries can inadvertently create walls around our heart, keeping us from connecting wholeheartedly with ourselves and others.

At The Meadows we often talk about two kinds of personal boundaries: external and internal. An external boundary has to do with monitoring and regulating the quantity and quality of other people's interactions with us. An external boundary is sometimes considered a physical boundary because it deals with how much closeness we allow between ourselves and others. This degree of space between us and others can be related to actual physical proximity and contact or it can be related to emotional closeness and intimacy.

An example of an external boundary might be that an individual decides to engage in a face-to-face visit with his or her family once a month and will otherwise make contact by phone. Depending on the situation, this individual may or may not choose to share the boundary and/or the reason for the boundary with his or her family. Another example of an external boundary might be that an individual sets limits with his or her new dating partner regarding physical contact and intimacy. Discussing this sort of boundary openly with a dating partner can help establish healthy interpersonal patterns early in the relationship. External boundaries like these lay the foundation for other types of personal and interpersonal boundaries.

The other type of personal boundary involves learning to establish an internal boundary that can act as a filter for incoming information. Practicing an internal boundary helps us to recognize that incoming information is not necessarily truth with a capitol "T" but is the subjective perspective of another person or group of people (i.e., religious group, political party, society, culture, etc.). Establishing an internal boundary, while also regulating our own reactivity, allows us to respond more wisely by checking the incoming information against what we know about our own truth. If the incoming information has merit, we can choose to let some or all of it in, otherwise we can exercise an internal boundary and let it slip off our backs. (Easier said than done, right?)

An example of an internal boundary might involve a situation where an individual is being blamed for a poor work outcome by a colleague. (The individual may first choose to exercise an external boundary by deciding whether or not to stay and hear what the colleague has to say.)  If the individual decides to listen, then he or she can exercise an internal boundary by choosing to see the incoming data as the colleague's subjective opinion and can then decide what to do with the presented information. After a personal reality-check, the individual may be able to see how well the colleague's point of view fits with his or her own personal truth. Alternatively, the individual may find it useful to acknowledge that the colleague's information was heard, but that more time will be needed to process what it means for him or her. (Again, easier said than done.)

You may notice that I have repeatedly used the words "practice" and "exercise" when referring to boundaries. This is not easy work and it doesn't always come naturally! This may be especially true for people who grew up in family systems where boundaries were unhealthy or non-existent. (Anyone who was exposed to a family environment containing elements of addiction or maltreatment probably experienced serious boundary violations.) However, there is hope! Over the years, I have worked with many people with very challenging backgrounds who have learned how to incorporate healthy boundaries in their everyday lives. Like training our bodies to perform a new physical skill, boundaries are strengthened by regular practice and exercise.

Once we learn about boundaries and recognize their utility in our lives, what keeps us from practicing them more consistently? There are probably many reasons, but I will mention two: 1) fear of disconnection from others and 2) disconnection from our true self.

First, I think we fear that setting external boundaries will lead to disconnection from other people. For example, we might be afraid that our efforts to explicitly identify the quantity and quality of contact we desire to have with other people will result in hurt feelings and emotional distance. We may worry that by exercising boundaries and making our needs known to others we will be seen as demanding, selfish, unreasonable and difficult. At a deeper level, we might be afraid to clearly make our needs known because the pain will be that much greater if the other person then chooses to disregard them. That is, to have our innermost wishes fall on deaf ears may be an especially undesirable outcome.

It is certainly true that practicing boundaries does involve some risk. But it is important to recognize that without clear external boundaries we can miss out on critical opportunities to let other people know what is important to us and how we want to be treated. People in our lives who are dominated by fear and are prone to using control or aggression in relationships may not appreciate our efforts to practice boundaries, at least initially. The relationship may even get worse before it gets better... if it does get better. However, by courageously implementing external boundaries, we honor our fundamental human right to be treated with respect and we have a greater chance of cultivating loving relationships.

The second reason why a regular practice of boundaries, in this case internal boundaries, can be challenging has to do with our tendency to experience disconnection from our true self. Establishing an internal boundary in the face of incoming information, some of which can be extremely uncomfortable, requires that we have some sense of ourselves as a unique person with inherent worth. If our sense of self is mostly derived from external sources, like what other people think of us, then we might find it very difficult to exercise an internal boundary. If our sense of worth is primarily dependent on whether or not we are pleasing to other people (codependence), then any semblance of an internal boundary will easily be whipped about like a flag in the wind. In order to filter incoming data according to how well it resonates with a deeper sense of ourselves, we must first have some notion of our deeper self - we must have an inkling of our own truth!

Paradoxically, exercising boundaries helps us to better understand the nature of our true self - we become more intimate with ourselves through the self-loving act of setting boundaries. So, it's a catch-22, isn't it? Finding our center allows us to establish healthy boundaries and by exercising healthy boundaries we cultivate greater awareness and acceptance of our true self. What are we to do with this chicken-or-the-egg paradox? Well, we can start where we are at...with the awareness of true self that we do have. Right now, in this moment, we can begin to truly care for ourselves by letting go of any information that is incongruent with what we know of our inherent value and worth. Gradually, we can develop a regular practice of internal boundary work by meeting incoming information with greater awareness of, and care for, our maturing true self.

As our practice of healthy boundaries continues to develop and grow, it is very useful to pay attention to our tendency to inadvertently make boundaries into walls. For example, we can easily trick ourselves into thinking that an external boundary is necessary with a particular person, in order to feel safe and secure. However, when we get real honest with ourselves, we might find that our external boundary was more about a subconscious wish to avoid an undesirable aspect of ourselves that comes up with this particular person. In this scenario, the external boundary isn't necessarily based on an intention to honor our fundamental human right to respect and security, but is actually driven by a fear of facing our vulnerabilities.

Another example of replacing boundaries with walls is when we react to incoming information by putting walls up between us and the person offering the information. For example, when outside information is offered, instead of saying to ourselves, "How well does this incoming information match or enhance what I know of my true self?" we can find ourselves in a state of reactivity saying something like, "I could care less what you say, I don't need you in my life anyway!" In this case, the boundary turns into a wall when we outright discard the information and the person or people offering the information. In other words, we sometimes close our hearts and minds to others in the name of creating an internal boundary. The driving motivation behind creating a wall of this kind isn't necessarily rooted in a desire to honor our inner truth, but may actually be another form of avoiding uncomfortable bits of truth about ourselves by vilifying and shutting out other people and outside information.

You might be thinking, "Wall versus boundary, what's the big difference...if I need to protect myself from unhealthy information and people, either one will do the job, right?" While it is true that both a wall and a boundary can establish a safe distance from others and temporarily protect us from potentially harmful information, the wall does so at considerable cost to ourselves. Walls are forged in the fire of reactivity and are tempered under a dangerous duality of mind that argues, "It's me against you; I'm right and you're wrong." In this sort of battle for safe ground, walls can be fashioned into a formidable fortress that restricts other people's access to vulnerable areas of the self. These fortress walls may keep stuff out, but they also keep parts of us walled in; we can end up feeling cut off from ourselves and others.

So, how do we practice boundaries without armoring our hearts?

Listed below are several suggestions on how to exercise external and internal boundaries with an open mind and heart.

1)Pay attention to our intention: Our efforts will be greatly enhanced if we can identify and repeatedly revisit our deepest intentions underlying our commitment to practice boundaries.  Again, boundary work is tough and others may not always appreciate our efforts to speak and live our truth. Reminding ourselves of our innermost intentions will cut through the confusion and help sustain us during difficult times.

2)Boundaries are a form of self-care: It is tempting to make our boundary work about other people (e.g., "I must practice boundaries to keep others from hurting me"). Yet, at its core, boundary work is about self-care. Plain and simple. Practicing boundaries is a powerful way to cultivate self-compassion. When we keep the focus of our boundary work on self-care, we are less likely to armor our hearts; and that means we get the opportunity to live more wholeheartedly.

3)Watch for judgment and blame: In boundary work, judgment and blame are telltale signs that boundaries are about to become walls. Judgment and blame indicate that our focus has shifted from self-care to a duality of mind that, if left unchecked, will result in separation by making us right and others wrong. Bring the focus back to our deepest intentions and let judgment and blame fall away as we offer gentle loving-kindness to ourselves by making and keeping boundaries.

4)Boundaries show compassion to others: As mentioned above, we often fear that practicing boundaries will disconnect us from others. Yet, in healthy and loving relationships, boundaries are a compassionate means of clearly identifying our needs so that others have the opportunity to meet those needs, if they so choose. Boundaries show compassion to others by offering clear guidelines on how we want to be treated.

5)Let go of the outcome: Practicing external and internal boundaries doesn't guarantee any particular response or behavior from other people. We might exercise boundaries with a subconscious hope that people will recognize our worth and offer greater respect. This would be a nice outcome, but it isn't the reason for our practice of boundaries. Boundaries are a way for us to recognize our own worth and to show ourselves greater respect and compassion. When we do that; others will naturally follow our lead.

It is our inalienable right and our responsibility to practice healthy boundaries. No one else can do it for us; not because other people don't care enough about us, but because we must care enough about ourselves for boundaries to have any meaning. When boundaries are used to avoid and protect against vulnerability and intimacy, they become walls. These walls may provide temporary protection from fear, pain and shame, but they can also become a fortress around our hearts - creating separation within us and between us and others.  On the other hand, the practice of exercising external and internal boundaries is a profound act of self-care and compassion; compassion for ourselves and for others.

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.

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The Meadows will offer Healing Intimate Treason: For Partners of Sex Addiction workshop the week of June 17 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at The Meadows' campus.

This workshop was developed in collaboration with Meadows' Senior Fellow, Dr. Claudia Black, with a core foundation from her latest book Intimate Treason: Healing the Trauma for Partners Confronting Sex Addiction. Working from a clinical model based on addiction and trauma, participants will learn about the biology and the behavior of sex and love addiction and will explore their own relational templates.

The Partners of Sex Addiction workshop is an experientially-based workshop that will assist partners to move through their grief and loss, break free from the attachment to fantasy, and enhance emotional self-regulation. Developing both internal and external and sexual boundaries, participants will learn how to move from a position of victimization to personal empowerment.

"I am so pleased to collaborate with Dr. Claudia Black on this intensive new workshop," said Jean Collins, Director of Workshops at The Meadows. "It is very exciting that workshop participants are now getting the benefits of Dr. Black's return to The Meadows, as well as inpatients and their families."

To learn more about the Healing Intimate Treason: For Partners of Sex Addiction workshop, visit http://www.themeadows.com/workshops/healing-intimate-treason-workshop-for-partners-of-sex-addiction/.

Attending a Meadows' workshop offers an individual many benefits. A workshop can be a cost-effective alternative when long-term treatment is not an option. Individuals who cannot be away from their work or families for an extended period of time can attend a workshop and work on sensitive issues in a five-day concentrated format. This allows individuals to jump start their personal recovery by gaining insight into patterns and practicing new relational skills within a safe environment.

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.

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The Meadows will offer a Grief Workshop the week of May 27 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at The Meadows' campus. This five-day workshop teaches participants how to deal with the pain they feel after a loss.

The Meadows' Grief Workshop is designed to assist participants in addressing and resolving the issues surrounding loss, whether from death of a loved one, end of a relationship, or a major change in social or economic status. Participants in the Grief Workshop learn how to face life's hurdles and triumph over pain by using the grieving process to take control of feelings about their losses.

Throughout the week, patients explore thinking processes and the patterns of destructive behavior that follow trauma and other loss. Issues pertaining to relational problems are also addressed, with emphasis on recognizing emotional reactions to loss, trauma and broken dreams.

Participants leave the Grief Workshop able to realize the negative, self-destructive behaviors that have impacted those around them, and able to enjoy the freedom of self-expression that comes with learning to evaluate and properly address feelings.

Attending a Meadows' workshop offers an individual many benefits. A workshop can be a cost-effective alternative when long-term treatment is not an option. Individuals who cannot be away from their work or families for an extended period of time can attend a workshop and work on sensitive issues in a five-day concentrated format. This allows individuals to jump start their personal recovery by gaining insight into patterns and practicing new relational skills within a safe environment.

For more information about The Meadows' Grief Workshop and other workshops offered by The Meadows, please 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.

Published in Blog

By: Joyce Willis, MC, LPC

In Part III, we discussed The Secondary symptoms that are caused by immaturity in The Core Issues. Trauma in Column I, (The Nature of the Child), leads to immaturity in The Core Issues. Trauma and immaturity leads to The Secondary Symptoms, as discussed in Part III. All three; trauma issues, immaturity and secondary symptoms lead to Relational Problems.

Model of Immaturity

In this last installment of Breaking Down The Model, we will explore Relational problems that have been caused by trauma, immaturity and secondary symptoms. Relational problems can stem from any extreme in any of The Core Issues, as well as from the secondary symptoms. In other words, due to trauma, immaturity and the secondary symptoms, we can develop relational problems. Let's explore each of the relational problems.

Relational Esteem

Relational esteem can be a problem in one of two ways. We may overvalue our partner or the relationship when we believe we are less than. We may overvalue ourselves and undervalue our partner when we believe we are better than.

Enmeshment and Avoidance Issues

Enmeshment and avoidance have to do with boundary issues. When a person has no boundaries, he may try to enmesh or use the partner in some way. When a person puts up walls, he will avoid intimacy. This can lead to relationships that are either stuck in love addiction or stuck in love avoidance.

Dishonesty

The simple truth of relational problems when it comes to dishonesty is that we are living in a lie when we believe we are better than or less than someone else. In other words, when a person cannot be real because he believes he is worthless, he will not be truthful with his partner. When a person believes he is one up or better than, he may believe he is a god and, therefore, distorts the truth of who he is.

Problems with Interdependence

Interdependence has to do with allowing yourself to self-care first before taking care of someone else. When you cannot care for yourself in a proper and functional manner, you cannot be functionally interdependent, Self-care creates the necessary energy to ask for help and give help appropriately.

Intensity Issues

When a person has no boundaries or is walled off, he is draining the relationship. This can create either chaos or a sense of deadness in the relationship. Chaos in a relationship is created when the person is out of control or not containing his spontaneity as a functional adult. Deadness in a relationship is created when the person is controlling.

Now that you have learned about The Model of Developmental Immaturity, let's consider what recovery looks like. As Pia Mellody says, "There is no recovery without Core Recovery." Characteristics of a healthy person begin to emerge as a person gets into recovery.   These characteristics are:

  • Having a sense of self-worth based on the concept of inherent worth.  This means believing you are of equal value to others in your strengths and in your weaknesses. Being in recovery means esteeming yourself from within and realizing your humanity.

  • Setting and maintaining functional boundaries.  This means allowing yourself to be vulnerable, yet not too vulnerable. Being in recovery allows you to be intimate and vulnerable, with protection.

  • Trusting yourself by owning your own reality and being true to yourself. This incorporates expressing yourself in a diplomatic manner. Being in recovery means being able to be real and accountable for your imperfections and being willing to look for a higher power for help with imperfections.

  • Taking care of yourself and attending to your needs and wants, while being able to ask for help when needed. This involves being able to hear "no" to a request for help without taking it personally. This, also, involves being able to say "no" to a request for help when this request will enable the other person or when you think complying to the request will lead to resentment. Being in recovery means being responsible for your own self-care and being interdependent.

  • Having the ability to contain yourself, with functional spontaneity and having an attitude of moderation in all areas of life. Being in recovery means being able to experience your life moderately and maintaining a sense of functional spontaneity.

Finally, let's take a look at things you can do to support your recovery. These are suggestions for you to consider:

  • Attend Twelve Step Meetings - This allows you the opportunity to be with people who are talking about their illness and how it operates in their own lives. Twelve Step meetings are an opportunity to talk about all experiences; negative and positive that you are having throughout recovery. Twelve Step meetings can help you focus on your own progress and improvement and allow you to give hope to others.

  • Do a Written Step One – This helps you see the disease in action in your own life. When you can be honest about the unmanageability in your life, you can stop sabotaging your life. Writing helps you to see the patterns of codependency and addiction in your life. Pia Mellody's book, Breaking Free: A Recovery Workbook for Facing Codependence is a great resource in how to write out all the steps.

  • Get a sponsor - Choosing a sponsor who has time in recovery and who demonstrates functional adult behavior will help keep you on the path of recovery. Choose someone who is honest and willing to be confrontational in a nurturing manner.

  • If needed, consider the option of seeking out more intensive therapy, such as an intensive outpatient program or inpatient treatment.

  • Keep confronting the core issues and growing - We cannot be functional in the core issues all the time. This is humanly impossible. We can continue to work on our self-esteem, boundaries, own our reality, meet our needs and wants and operate in moderation.

Life is continuous practice in all core issues. Recovery is about getting to the center in each of the core issues, as much as humanly possible on any given day. We can live our lives with hope and happiness!

Resource: Mellody P. (1989). Facing Codependence.  New York: HaperCollins.

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By: Jon G. Caldwell, D.O.

During my first meeting with Rebecca (as I will call her), I asked about her family history of mental and emotional difficulties, which can tell me something about her genetic susceptibilities, and about her early life experience with caregivers. These two elements of the evaluation often provide critical information about the unique way in which nature and nurture contribute to human development (see my previous article on this topic).

When I asked Rebecca these questions, an unforgettable look flashed across her face that was part shame and part longing as she explained to me that she was adopted and had no “valuable information” to offer on these topics. All she knew was that she had been adopted by an American family from a Romanian orphanage at the age of two. In fact, to her surprise, this little bit of information proved to be extremely valuable as we tried to better understand how her challenges in adulthood were related to her early childhood experiences.

In the last several decades, as geographic and political borders began to break down, the deplorable conditions of many orphanages around the world came to light, including those in Romania. In some cases this exposure led to policy changes, gradual improvements in orphanage conditions and a wave of adoptions by people from other countries. It also offered scientists a rare opportunity to study children who had experienced early deprivation and adversity and to follow these children as their environmental conditions changed after adoption.

Research of this kind has confirmed that early social experience plays a critically important role in human development. Indeed, we come into the world with a brain that has evolved to capitalize on the social environment, which under favorable conditions is full of rich opportunities for learning and completely embedded in a milieu of meaningful social relationships. Unfortunately, this doesn’t describe many orphanages around the world, where children are kept in cribs or cots for long periods with little access to toys or books and caregiver-to-child ratios can be as high as one caregiver for twenty children. This issue is terribly important because, for better or for worse, the early social environment appears to lay the foundation for cognitive, emotional and social development.

In fact, there appears to be sensitive periods early in life, during which time the brain has an overabundance of neurons that are just waiting to capture information from the outside world. During these sensitive periods, certain brain circuits are more easily shaped by environmental input and may also be more susceptible to environmental insult. After the sensitive period has ended, the brain actually “prunes” or cuts back those neural connections that aren’t necessary for success in the environment of upbringing.

However, as you might expect, children raised in deprived circumstances may not receive adequate brain stimulation during sensitive periods of development, and this is bound to negatively affect the neural pruning process as well. Fortunately, the brain’s mechanisms of neural pruning are balanced with its incredible capacity for “neural plasticity” – which is the brain’s ability to continually change in response to environmental demands. Thus, even when environmental conditions are suboptimal during a particular sensitive period, it doesn't mean that development can't or won't take place, but it can mean that development might proceed along a somewhat atypical trajectory, bringing with it some challenges for the child and the child's caregivers.

Early social experiences with caregivers and family members are important for the development of adaptive emotional and behavioral regulation (i.e., self-regulation). Children everywhere encounter stressful situations on a daily basis and typically they must rely on caregivers to help them resolve these situations and to aide them in regulating their nervous system so that the toxic effects of stress are ameliorated in a timely fashion. In typical rearing environments, children experience repeated cycles of nervous system activation and caregiver-facilitated deactivation and these cycles get written into the child’s neurobiology until it becomes a natural, self-regulatory response pattern for the developing child.

Individuals like Rebecca who were raised in adverse environments often do not receive the short- and long-term benefits that come with this kind of nervous system regulation and organization. Often, these children are forced into a sort of social hibernation where they must shut-down their natural impulses to seek closeness and security from caregivers. Some of these children will learn to sooth themselves, but these make-shift measures are by no means optimal and it is likely that many of these children do not experience the much-needed social-emotional brain development that comes through interacting with sensitive and responsive caregivers.

Despite these concerns, the research on Romanian orphans illustrates the power of neural plasticity and provides some degree of hope because many of these orphans show significant developmental gains in certain areas after they are adopted. The first area of development to show progress after adoption is often physical health; these children can rather quickly experience improvements in weight, height and fine and gross motor skills. In fact, many these children may not be physically different from their peers by the time they start school.

Somewhat surprisingly, these children often make gains in the cognitive domain too – they seem to catch up in terms of reading and writing, and general intelligence is often similar to their school-aged peers. Yet, a proportion of children who were in an orphanage have some lasting problems with attention, concentration, focus, distractibility, impulsivity, and poor organizational skills. It seems as though the neural circuits involved in “executive function” (i.e., attention, cognitive flexibility, planning, goal-directed behavior, etc.) are very sensitive to suboptimal rearing environments.

Of interest, the areas that seem to be most affected by early deprivation are the social and emotional domains. Children raised in orphanages frequently have challenges in terms of regulating their emotions, calming themselves, coping with difficulties, initiating and maintaining friendships, and negotiating close relationships. Because these children often make noticeable physical and cognitive gains after adoption, the lingering social-emotional issues can be confusing to the child and caregivers. Of course, these social-emotional issues can be compounded if the adoptive home environment is less-than-nurturing or if the child encounters any form of trauma later in childhood.

Even after leaving the orphanage, some of these children have difficulty learning to trust caregivers and to make their attachment needs known in adaptive ways. There can be a tendency on the part of these children to avoid showing vulnerable emotions and outward displays of affection and they may seem indifferent to, or afraid of, intimacy and closeness. On the other hand, some of these children may show signs of heightened separation anxiety, clingy and anxious behavior, and they might have strong fears of abandonment. Some children display signs of both of these extremes in their relationships with caregivers – the so-called “push-pull” pattern where they desperately want companionship but at the same time seem to fear closeness or fear that it won’t last. This sort of picture is sometimes referred to as “reactive attachment”.

That being said, it is important to stress that a warm and nurturing home environment will go a long way to buffering many of the social-emotional difficulties associated with early adversity. Over time, sensitive and responsive parenting practices, coupled with consistent and caring limit-setting, can gradually establish a sense of trust and security. Within the safety and security of the caregiver-child attachment relationship, the child’s nervous system can be re-organized in a way that supports greater self-regulation. This socially enriched environment can stimulate new brain pathways in the adopted child that will eventually underpin a greater capacity to regulate emotions and maintain close relationships.

Like Rebecca, some individuals who have experienced early social deprivation require additional support and treatment later in life. This may come as a result of ongoing issues from early childhood that were never quite resolved or previously resolved issues that resurface due to subsequent experiences of loss/death, abandonment, betrayal or traumatic experiences. While the resurfaced issues can usually be handled by traditional treatment methods, it can be very helpful if the treatment providers also have an understanding of how early social deprivation and trauma can influence social-emotional functioning late in life.

The Meadows treatment model is designed to specifically address the core developmental issues related to early childhood neglect and abuse. Treatment at The Meadow also helps individuals to understand how these core developmental issues are related to secondary symptoms, like shame, anger, low self-esteem, co-dependency, love addiction/avoidance, anxiety, depression and addictive behaviors of all kinds. Through various forms of expertly delivered treatment, individuals at The Meadows build on these insights by gaining actual experience in learning to esteem themselves from within and regulate their own nervous systems more effectively. Gradually, as individuals at The Meadows feel more comfortable with themselves, they are aided in forming safe and meaningful relationships with family members and significant others.

For many individuals who come to The Meadows, the experience of early social adversity starts to become a vital part of a broader life story that no longer carries with it the pain of the past, but instead offers the promise of a brighter future.

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.

Published in Blog

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