The Meadows Blog

Claudia Black, Ph.D., one of the world-renown Senior Fellows at The Meadows, spent this spring traveling and speaking across the country, frequently discussing what it is The Meadows and their sister programs treat, and that is trauma and addictions.

Here is a snippet of Dr. Black’s message:

Christopher says he remembers his first drink so well. He got sick as a dog; his head was spinning, and it was oblivion. He was 12, and he loved it. He was in his own bubble, and no one was ever going to hurt him again. No one was ever going to have the power to make him feel bad about himself. No one could ever get close enough to him for them to make a difference in his life. Alcohol and other drugs became his protector.

Deanna says she had loving parents, but at school, the kids began to pick on her, and she was bullied throughout the following years. She didn’t tell anyone, and in high school she began cutting on herself and then found her parents’ pills. She didn’t know why they had meds, but that didn’t matter to her − they just helped to dull her pain.

Jason was a first responder, an EMT and a firefighter. He had spent ten years, responding to people in crisis, and he was in his fourth year of work when he was the only one of his team of six to make it out of a burning building alive after being trapped for several hours. Until that time, he would have considered himself a normal drinker, in fact, a light drinker. Today, he can’t seem to get enough.

Chris, Deanna, and Jason are addicted, and each is a trauma survivor.

Two facts:

  1. Addiction increases the likelihood of trauma. While under the influence, you are more apt to experience humanly caused tragedies such as car accidents, burning home, or be subject to violence, physical and sexual.
  2. Trauma increases the likelihood of addiction.

Definition of trauma: the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security and result in your feeling helpless, alone and vulnerable.

Not that long ago when we thought of trauma we thought of natural disasters—fires that rampage acres, hurricanes and tornadoes, or shootings on our college campuses, movie theatres, elementary schools, or acts of terrorism. It may come with the experience of war, rape, a car accident or the burning of the family home.

These are thought of as Big T traumas. They are very horrific situations that frequently lead to trauma responses, some as severe as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). But of all the people who experience trauma only 30% have PTSD, but nonetheless they may still suffer other trauma responses.

Little t traumas can be just as damaging as a Big T trauma, especially because they tend to occur over time and build upon each other. Examples would be ongoing emotional abuse or neglect, experiences of shame, humiliation, being left out, bullied or ridiculed and feeling not cared for.

The trauma that occurs in the family system can be both blatant and subtle. What is most significant is that it is chronic. It can include both Big T, and little T traumas Psychological effects are most likely to be most severe if the trauma is:

  • Human caused
  • Repeated
  • Unpredictable
  • Undergone in childhood
  • Perpetrated by a caregiver. Sadly this often means growing up in an addicted home, a rageful home, or simply a chronically impaired family system.

We know the impact can be ameliorated by existence of a support system at the time of the trauma. This is why we see some children show greater resilience than others. Even within the same family system, some children more than others are able to garner support and experience greater protection.

It’s common for someone to minimize their experience because someone else has a greater horror story. It’s not the objective facts that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your own emotional experience of the event and the subsequent beliefs you internalize about yourself and the world. Your experience is not negated by someone else’s experience. They have theirs, and you have yours. Whether or not the trauma is acute or chronic, Big T or Little t, within the family system or not, the defenses developed are often what we are addressing when confronted with addictions, codependency, repetitive hurtful relationships, anxiety and depression.

The Meadows Can Help

For over 35 years, The Meadows trauma treatment program has been helping trauma victims heal and learn the skills necessary to cope with the devastating, and often hidden, effects of trauma. The trauma treatment program at The Meadows was specifically designed for trauma survivors by Pia Mellody and a team of world renowned experts including Dr. Peter Levine, John Bradshaw, Dr. Shelley Uram, Dr. Jerry Boriskin, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk and Dr. Claudia Black.

The trauma treatment program at The Meadows can help you create a life of recovery, peace and healing. We have helped over 45,000 clients to date, through workshops and inpatient treatment programs. To learn more about the trauma workshops and treatment programs at The Meadows, call us at 800-244-4949 or visit this page for more information.

Published in Trauma
Wednesday, 06 November 2013 14:20

The Therapy Horse

When working with a horse in a therapy session push and pull equate to assertive and passive. When horses communicate, it is through pushing. Boundaries are demonstrated through pushes in body language. A horse can push another away with an assertive look or swing a rear end around in a gesture to kick. Getting needs met is demonstrated by moving near and leaning toward or pushing into.

Horses don’t pull at each other. The closest thing to a pull to a horse is one calling out to another vocally. So what is the push about and what does that have to do with a therapeutic encounter?

During a therapeutic equine session a Participant often needs to move the horse in order to accomplish the task. Given that there is no halter or rope available this can present a challenge. More than 90% of the time the Participant tries “pulling” the horse by:

  • Calling to it. “Come on Henry! Come here!”
  • Trying to verbally convince it. “You’re a good boy. You know you want to come!”
  • Turn their back in hopes the horse will respond to the “hard to get” approach
  • Walk away in hopes he will follow.

This type of “pulling” is coercive, indirect and passive.

All of these things are done in front of the horse. There is no pressure/push for the horse to respond to. It’s a passive way, a least invasive attempt to convince or appeal enough to the animal that it may want to move toward them.

How often to do we pull when direct communication would be so much more effective?

Other than literally pulling with a rope, a horse does not register a pull as pressure. It is just something occurring in the space at the moment that has no direct affect on its current state of being. Looking at how they communicate gives us a clue to healthy communication. The push is a natural pressure toward. It communicates intent in an assertive clear way. Participants push a horse by:

  • Walking up with energy and intention
  • Using their voice and body to create pressure
  • Holding a confident assertive mind set
  • Making contact with the horses boundaries

A push does not occur directly in front of the horse. It happens from the shoulders back. The most obvious difference is the feeling associated with a push. Although initially uncertainty is common, practicing it causes an internal shift. Moving with strength and intention creates energy. This is energy and pressure that the horse can clearly feel and will respond to. The horse now understands what you are saying and can move accordingly.

Learning how to push a horse changes the way Participants ask for needs and wants. It is a tangible way to experience healthy communication in a safe place.

Published in Blog
Monday, 04 November 2013 07:49

Bradshaw on Bradshaw InnerVIEWS PBS Special

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.

Published in Blog News
Thursday, 10 October 2013 00:00

Being Authentic and the Therapy Horse

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.

Published in Blog
Wednesday, 09 October 2013 00:00

Is There Happiness in Recovery

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

·        Gratitude

·        Reframing

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.

Published in Blog

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