HoustonPBS', Ernie Manouse, sits down with Meadows' Senior Fellow, renowned author and counselor John Bradshaw, to discuss his life and work - from the dysfunctional family, to the wounded inner-child. The abbreviated version of the interview can be viewed at http://youtu.be/floo-GIhVEE.
Blue Roan Appaloosa
When looking out on our herd here you will notice many different horses. Some are flashy and really eye catching; others are striking in conformation or personality. It is a nice remuda of horses and full of some of the most talented therapy horses ever. We however, are going to take a closer look. Past that flash and personality is a dark colored old man standing back outside the herd. He would be easy to miss if you did not take the time to really notice.
Dude does not have all the flash. Despite being an appaloosa Dude’s color makes him look more dirty than anything else. He is not the class clown or even a very affectionate horse. He can be agreeable or not depending on the day. He stands in the warm fall breeze and looks like he is asleep. The winds play with his wispy main and tail. His head is down, eyes heavy. From where we stand it seems like he is disinterested in the daily goings on of the rest of the horses. He comes in to eat but won’t share a feeder. When he is done he goes back to his little hill and there he is…”being” in the sunshine.
He is a horse that would not get your attention right away. He is not physically as appealing as the other horses and makes himself unavailable. So what makes him such a wonderful therapy horse? It’s in the way that we had to slow down and look past the exterior “noise” to notice Dude. His personality challenges us to look past our initial assumptions and distractions and search for something deeper. He is confident and intentional. He is the head of the herd for certain. Dude has an internal strength and is completely comfortable in his own skin. He spends his day on the hill because he can see what’s going on. When there is a disagreement in his herd he meanders down…deals with it and heads back up again. He can see who leaves to work and makes sure everyone is back at the end of the day. He lives every day in simple confidence. Standing with him is like breathing for the first time. It’s a calming weight of internal strength that not many have felt.
He will show you how to slow down and be mindful. He teaches us how to recognize problems before they reach crisis as well as how to be comfortable with yourself. There is a wonderful calm knowing in Dude. His personality is not one that will just give it away, but the simple act of asking to share space with him will open a door to an old horse that can change your perspective from that moment forward.
A horse does not care what you’re feeling as long as you’re honestly feeling it. There are no “bad” feelings where horses are concerned. There are just safe and unsafe situations.
~~ A. Taylor
The longer you’re around a horse program of any kind you are bound to hear the phrase “A horse does not lie”. A horse’s natural behavior is to always express in its body language what is going on in its brain. There is no deceit in horses. It simply does not exist in them. Being completely authentic is what helps them to survive.
Although we have domesticated the horse they still carry those basic needs for safety and survival. Once a horse notices danger, it responds quickly and purposefully to communicate to the herd. At that point they can flee to safety. The herd relies on its many members for safety and a level of obscurity in a large group. There is no place in the herd for deceit, manipulation or selfishness. Those things would equate to a breakdown in the safety system, ultimately resulting in less horses and eventually no horses.
In Equine Therapy we bring people face to face with authenticity. A horse may not be able to read your mind, but your body shares all the information a horse needs. Hiding a feeling or pretending you’re not having a feeling is not authentic. In the horse’s world that is not honest. The horse will put that in the “unsafe” category. Not honest\unsafe to a horse is the same as a predator pretending to be something it’s not. A lion will hide behind bushes or try to blend into tall grass. A bear will stay down wind and try to blend into the landscape until it can make a run at the herd.
If our insides do not match our outsides we are not authentic. Trying to hide feelings is like trying to put one over on the horse. The amazing thing about that is your horse probably knew you were having a bad day the moment you stepped out of the car. In working with a horse we are able to see exactly how not being authentic affects our relationship with ourselves and the relationships in our lives. They will simply reflect back to us what our body says to them, honest\safe OR not honest\ unsafe.
Their forgiving nature and eagerness for relationship make them a perfect fit for us to practice being more authentic. It does not always come easily, yet they are eager every day to be that mirror of truth. The more aware of what you feel and how you feel it, the closer your relationship with the horse will be.
They say that sexual addiction is baffling and may be perhaps the toughest addiction to recover from because of all the triggers in society that may set up a person to succumb to urges and cravings. What I know for sure is sexual addiction recovery starts with total honesty and it is that rigorous honesty that keeps a person living one day at a time and being filled with gratitude. These two elements are essential in breaking the denial and maintaining the foundation for good recovery.
What is equally interesting is that these two life skills are also in the formula for happiness. Marci Shimoff in her book Happy For No Reason found that there were three traits in happy people that were a part of daily functioning.
· Staying in the moment
These three qualities were essential in a person's ability to be happy and make life better. I find these same traits are critical in an addicts recovery. The slogan "One day at a time" keeps sex addicts focused on living in the moment and not ruminating in the past and not fearing about the future. When a sex addict focuses on today they are less likely to become overwhelmed with their sadness about their past or their anxieties about what lies before them. The process of living in the future assists an addict with looking at the present moment which is much more manageable and attainable. It keeps the fear factor down and assists them in realizing that they can only control what happens in the present day.
Having gratitude is a life skill that keeps addicts focused on what is working in one's life. Think about it. Are you more likely to feel better about what is working in your life or what might be your current struggle? Did you know that what you appreciates ....appreciates? In other words, when you focus on what is working in your life you are less likely to get bogged down with what seems to be the insurmountable barriers that will keep you having a negative attitude. Recovering addicts manifest the attitude of gratitude because they know that when they are working on recovery; their life is authentic and transparent. Choosing to live in honesty and gratitude brings about freedom that builds self esteem and confidence. Most addicts remember what it was like to hate their impulses, their behaviors and their addiction so recovery means liberation which increases gratitude. No matter where you are in your recovery right now...are you able to list 50 things that you are grateful for? My speculation would be that you are more likely to list gratitude moments as your recovery grows stronger because you appreciate life more because you can appreciate your own personality strengths and accomplishments.
The third factor in happiness and in recovery is being able to reframe your journey.
Reframing is the life skill that allows you to look at your life and ask yourself how did you become stronger and what did you have to learn from it. It takes you out of the victim role and allows you to feel empowered by the lessons that you have learned. This is imperative for the addict who feels much shame about their sexual behaviors and falls into the "I hate myself” and “I can find nothing redeeming from this horrid, despicable behavior.” Well the truth of the matter is that your addiction has taught you how to change your life and live it more authentically! Recovery is a lifelong process of living and when you use your reframing skill you are able to recognize what life has taught you and how far you have come in becoming a genuine person.
You are only as sick as your secrets and you are choosing to no longer live in the chronic lies, deceit and secrecy of addiction. It frees you up to be the person you were meant to be and when this occurs ... you are much more likely to live up to your potential.
So stand up for yourself and live these three life skills and thank your addiction for teaching you about true recovery. You are going to live an awesome life in recovery because the real you is going to show up!
Carol Juergensen Sheets, LCSW, PCC, CSAT, is currently in private practice in Indianapolis, IN. She speaks nationally on mental health issues and is featured in several local magazines. She currently has an internet radio show on www.blogtalkradio.com/sexhelpwithcarolthecoach and does regular television segments focusing on life skills to improve one’s potential. You can read her blogs at www.carolthecoach.com. To contact Carol about sexual addiction: www.sexhelpwithcarolthecoach.
The Meadows is pleased to announce two new videos featuring Meadows’ Senior Fellow, Claudia Black. Dr. Black is a renowned author and trainer internationally recognized for her pioneering and contemporary work with family systems and addictive disorders. The content of the videos focuses on The Meadows’ signature Survivors Workshop and the additional workshops offered at The Meadows.
The Meadows offers a variety of unique, five day workshops available to all interested individuals. Participants work on sensitive issues in a concentrated format allowing them to practice new relational skills within a safe environment. The Meadows’ workshops are a cost-effective alternative, when long-term treatment is not an option and cater to those who have already undergone treatment, as well as those who cannot be away from their work or families for an extended period of time.
“We are thrilled to have Claudia Black as the spokesperson for The Meadows’ workshops,” said Jean Collins, MSW, LISAC, CSAT, Director of Workshops at The Meadows. “The new videos give an in-depth explanation of how a Meadows’ Intensive Workshop is an effective method of accelerating a client’s progress. It is a great opportunity for clients who could benefit from a strong jump-start; it provides a container, allowing a client to go deeper, and an impetus to strengthen their resolve and propel them forward.”
The videos can be accessed on The Meadows website by visiting http://www.themeadows.com/workshops/ and http://www.themeadows.com/workshops/healing-intimate-treason-workshop-for-partners-of-sex-addiction.
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.