The Meadows Blog

Wednesday, 07 August 2013 20:00

Opening to the Shadow Self

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.

Published in Blog

The Meadows Alumni Association is pleased to host an alumni workshop in Dallas, Texas, for alumni on Aug. 13, 2013, from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. Dina Hijazi, PhD, will lead the discussion on "Resentment." It will be held at Preston Place at 12700 Preston Road, #140.

Dr. Hijazi graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from Purdue University. She then earned her Master's Degree in Psychology from Notre Dame University and her Doctoral Degree in Psychology from The University of Texas - Austin. Beginning with her work at Notre Dame, Dr. Hijazi focused on Family and Child Psychology and continued this focus throughout her graduate work. After completing a Post-Doc at the Southwest Family Institute in Dallas, Dr. Hijazi started a private practice with an emphasis on child/adolescent and family psychology.

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 alumni@themeadows.com.

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.

Published in Blog
Wednesday, 24 July 2013 20:00

The Internet and Our Children’s Safety

By: Cole Adams, LCSW, CSAT

I can remember back to the first time I saw pornography. I was walking home from school in the first grade and found a single page from Playboy. I took the page home and hid it in the bathroom. I felt so much shame about having it, but at the same time was compelled to keep it so that I could look at it again.

This week my children graduated from kindergarten and the term first grade was mentioned. I was immediately reminded of my experience that day walking home from school and a huge knot formed in my stomach. My children are entering the age when I was first exposed to pornography.

No parent that I know wants to think that their child might view porn. Current research shows us that the average age of exposure to porn is now eight years old. Prior to the Internet, the average age of exposure to porn was age 11-13. The ease and access of the Internet and digital media has created a tremendous problem for our society and our children.

Recently a dad, whom I respect very much, came to me because he was very concerned on what to do with his five-year-old son. That morning, he walked into his living room and found his son watching hardcore pornography. Apparently, his son had learned to use the remote and was trying to watch Scooby Doo. At that time on his cable company's pay-per-view was a hardcore porn film titled "Scooby Doo: A XXX Parody (Video 2011)". His son had clicked this title looking to watch "Scooby Doo and the Gang" and was traumatized for life. That child will never forget the images he saw that day. I still remember the images that I saw at age six. This father called the cable company and they walked him through setting up parental controls on his cable box. They would not discuss the absurdity of the porn that they had on their network. This type of event is just the tip of the iceberg as far as what our children are possibly exposed to on a daily basis.

Children today are being exposed to porn that is much more graphic and damaging to their mental health than in previous generations. The problem that we are facing has been labeled as a tsunami by Patrick Carnes, a leader in the field of sexual addiction research. Children have access to smart phones, satellite, cable, iPads, computers, and many other forms of instant free access to pornography. Many times these forms of media and communication are totally unfiltered and unmonitored. Not only is viewing pornography a possible option for our children, but interactivity and exhibitionism are common. It is now possible to download apps that will allow you to find and interact with someone who wants to act out sexually near you. This app will tell you what type of sexual experience this person wants to experience and how many feet/miles they are away from you. Kids are currently sexting nude pictures of themselves and others via their smart phones. Kids are under the false impression that there is anonymity and safety on the Internet. It could not be further from the truth. Once pictures and information are out on the web, it is virtually impossible to have it completely removed.

What can we do to help our kids? We cannot protect our kids from the world. I believe that our kids are going to see pornography. I also believe that we can do our best as parents to protect our kids as much as possible in our own home. For instance, I believe that every device at home should be filtered and monitored. Cable/Satellite should be password protected and set at an appropriate age limit for your kids. For all forms of Internet access, there should be software that is placed on all computers, laptops, iPhones, iPads, etc.  This software should serve two purposes. First, it should serve as a blocker. A blocker will do its best to block all sites that are adult related. Software companies have improved dramatically over the years, but they are not fool proof, porn sites are introduced daily and it is difficult for the blockers to keep up. Second, the software should monitor all activity that is done on each device including all sites that are visited and all searches made and provide a report to us, the parents. On iPads and smart phones, this same software should be installed and the ability to download apps should be controlled by a password that only the parent can administer. There are multiple software companies that have such products. The one that I would suggest is www.covenanteyes.com.  Covenant Eyes is compatible with PC, Macs, iPhones, and iPads. If you have children or young adults, I would highly recommend taking time to research the software that suits your family best. I would also suggest that all forms of Internet access be kept in common areas of the house, not in the child's room. If you determine to allow Internet access in their room, I would also suggest that all electronics are left in the main area of the house at bed time and that it is understood that either parent has complete access to their phones, computers, and other devices.

To some this may seem like an invasion of privacy, but anything that is put out on the Internet is no longer private. As a practitioner working in the field of sex addiction, I see daily the catastrophic impact that pornography and sexual acting out have on individuals and families. I am happy for my children to have a hand written journal of their own, that I promise to never read, but if they feel the need to put something out into the world via the Internet, I have access too.

Cole Adams is the Owner of Bluffview Counseling www.bluffviewcounseling.com. Cole is psychotherapist, a licensed social worker (LCSW), and a certified sexual addiction therapist (CSAT). Bluffview Counseling specializes in working with individuals who struggle with sex addiction and pornography addiction, the partners who have been affected, and the couples that want to heal. We also specialize in working with individuals who struggle with chemical dependency, love addiction, sex and love addiction, and codependency.

Published in Blog
Tuesday, 23 July 2013 20:00

“Can a horse feel love?”

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.

Published in Blog

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

  • Non-conceptual - Mindfulness is awareness without being tied into the thought process - just being aware and noticing. You might be aware of your own body and how you are feeling.  You might be aware of the environment around you. Is the sun shining? Is there a breeze in the air? What noises do you hear in the present moment?
  • Present-Centered - Mindfulness is always about being in the present moment. Ask yourself: Am I in the present right this moment? Am I present when I am eating, talking, listening, driving...?
  • Non-judgmental - Mindfulness means being aware and observing without judging. Can I accept things as they are in the present moment?
  • Intentional - Intention is one of the most important elements of mindfulness. Mindfulness always includes an intention. What is my intention in the present moment?

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:

  • Decreased depression and anxiety
  • Decreased panic
  • Increased self-awareness and acceptance

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:

  1. STOP - Take a step back.

  2. BREATHE - Take a deep breath in and out and reconnect with the present moment.

  3. PAY ATTENTION - Be aware of what is going on with you and your environment, so you can see clearly.

  4. Consciously RESPOND - Use an intention for how you want to respond in a way that shows respect for yourself and for others.

  5. OBSERVE consequences - The consequences may be positive or negative. The consequences will be a benefit in choosing how you want to approach similar situations as they arise.

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.

  • Eating - How many times have you eaten your lunch quickly to get back to work? Have you ever just eaten and then minutes later not even realized what you ate? Mindfulness reminds you to pay attention to what you put in our mouth - the texture, the smell, the taste of the tiny morsels as they hit your tongue. Ask yourself: "Am I eating nutritious food?"
  • Talking - Can you think of a time that you said something and then regretted it seconds later? Have you ever spoken to someone and seen a look of confusion on the listener's face? When you are talking, are you paying attention to the words you are using and to who your audience is? What does your tone of voice and body language say? Mindfulness reminds us to speak in a respectful way, sharing to be known in a way that the listener can respond in a respectful way.
  • Driving - The example at the beginning of this article speaks to mindful driving. I know that I have often driven on auto-pilot and been surprised when I arrived at my destination, wondering how I got there! When you are driving have you removed distractions in order to be present-centered and enjoy the drive? These distractions can be the cell phone, the radio, conversations with other people in the car... For different people, different radio stations will lead to distractions. For me, it is a sports radio station. If the sportscasters are speaking about something I strongly disagree with or strongly agree with, I can get excited and forget to pay attention to my driving. What radio station is it for you?

  • Shopping - Think about a shopping trip you have gone on; a time you decided to treat yourself to a shopping spree. After the shopping spree, did you have buyer's guilt? This happens when we are not mindful in our spending. When you go on shopping trip, are you mindful of your budget? An idea is to leave your credit cards at home and just take the cash you are allowing yourself to spend. This is tough for most people, yet the benefits are that you will be able to treat yourself and not have "buyer's guilt" later!

  • Living mindfully - All this leads to mindful living. When we pay attention patiently and with the concept of acceptance, we can lead a more peaceful, stress-free life. Mindfulness helps us to live our lives more fully, moment by moment. How will you be mindful today?

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.

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