One of my favorite messages from the 12 Step programs is “Feelings are not Facts”. We know that addictive behaviors are driven by powerful “Feeling States” which involve not only our emotions, but most importantly our minds and physiological responses that are guided by our internal alarm system. For many of us, this alarm system has kept us on moderate to high alert status for much of our lives and we have experienced unpleasant consequences resulting from this anxiety provoking state.
We know that a hyperactive internal alarm system is the byproduct of developmental/childhood trauma and that strong feelings of anxiety or depression lead to behaviors that give the perception of safety, attachment, belonging, and control. The use of alcohol or another drug, gambling, shopping, cutting, binging and purging, is driven by emotions, and certainly NOT a product of logical thinking.
The 12 Step programs get it: That when we are governed by our feelings, we set ourselves up for relapse or we slip ourselves into another relief providing behavior.
I like this video and will be posting more of the same. She talks about our Internal Guidance System and how emotions are distinctly separate from our thoughts and how emotions drive powerful fight/flight/freeze bodily responses.
In the treatment of trauma, we first teach mindfulness skills so as to override the power of emotions that influence not only our behavior but our health as well.
May is Mental Health Awareness month, though, I’d like to think that through a steady drip of conversations about mental health, and that includes compulsive use of substances and other behaviors, that we will become as alert to symptoms of inner unrest as we are of the common cold. Few things stick in my craw more than careless tossing around of mental health conditions for the purpose of fending off personal responsibility in relationships.
If you are saying that your partner, parent, boss, whomever, is:
Always the Victim
Ask yourself if, in fact, by labeling the other in these ways you, yourself, are deflecting responsibility for your own actions, what you say, and how you react to others?
Are these labels simply a defense against being somehow in the wrong? And, if so, what is so wrong about being in the wrong?
My mother always used to remind us as we were growing up to “taste your words before you spit them out”. While it is unrealistic to believe we are always going to be perfectly circumspect in our words, it is always good practice to continue to be open to new levels of awareness of what we are actually doing and saying.
As many readers are aware, I have been in the process of creating a workbook to be entitled, “Trauma Informed Self-Care: A Handy Guide for the Every-Day Warrior”. In my outline, I have created a chapter that focuses on Mental Health Professionals. This chapter draws upon Greek Mythology and the stories of Gods whose archetypes were the progenitors of what we refer to as “Wounded Healers” and, taking a few steps further, how, as wounded healers we remain vulnerable to the effects of working with those who are deeply wounded through their own traumas and whose stories arouse our own histories. If we are to be effective as Mental Health Professionals, we must engage in being aware of and then tending to our own histories and how, if ignored, minimized, or otherwise sloughed off, can block our own growth, not to mention, obstruct healing pathways in those whom we serve.
There is considerable research out there that, utilizing the Adverse Childhood Experiences Scale focuses upon those particular childhood experiences and how significant the numbers are of mental health professionals who present a history of childhood trauma.
I am conducting my own Adverse Childhood Experiences survey specifically for this chapter and am asking your help in providing a broadened perspective of mental health providers with histories of Complex Trauma, or Developmental Trauma, or Interpersonal Trauma. Whichever you wish to call it.
Here is the link to the survey. It takes less than 5 minutes to complete. If you are a licensed Mental Health Professional, Intern, or licensed/certified in the Substance Abuse Field, I invite you to follow this link and answer 10 questions 8 of which are based upon the Adverse Childhood Experiences Scale.
I invite you to share this with other Mental Health Professionals as well.
I look forward to the results of this survey!
Along with the term “Addiction” comes “Mentally Ill”, which, in my not so humble opinion cannot disappear too quickly. This article says it a whole lot better than I can.
Returned day before yesterday from a fabulous 2 day conference of the Florida Mental Health Counselors Association held in Orlando, FL. It was such an honor to wander among so many diverse, brilliant, and innovative professionals and I was reminded repeatedly of the power that comes with interacting with others and absorbing what each brings to the arena of promoting wellness of mind, body, and spirit. I acquired wonderful new tools to enhance my practice. I was inspired to hear and be somewhat changed by one man’s journey from hatred and rage to hope and advocacy.
I was honored to have presented Trauma Informed Self-Care: A Handy Guide for the Every-Day Warrior, a project that has been in the works for the past two years. This was well received and I am extremely grateful for loving feedback not only from my husband but from wise and available mentors.
This presentation is now approved for 3 hours of Continuing Education by the Board of Examiners here in Florida.
I have posted the slides to this presentation here today. Feel free to use, just be certain to cite as appropriate.
A man walking through the forest came across a fox that had lost its legs. “How can a fox with no legs possibly survive with no means to hunt for food?” So, keeping his distance, he waited and he watched so he might discover the miracle of the Fox’s ability to survive.
And then, something amazing. At first he could hear the brush rustling in the distance, and as the sound drew closer he beheld a tiger approaching the fox. At first, he thought that the fox was a sure gonner but then, he noticed that the tiger held game in its mouth. The man watched as the tiger ate, and when satisfied the tiger nudged what remained toward the fox. And the fox ate and was satisfied.
Over the next 3 days, the man watched as God, through the Tiger, fed the fox and saved him from hunger. The man was so much in awe of God’s greatness that he decided that he, too, would just rest in a corner with full trust that the Lord would provide for his every need.
He did this for many days. Nothing happened. Being almost at death’s door with starvation, he heard the voice of God. “O you who are in the path of error, open your eyes to the truth! Stop imitating the disabled fox and follow the example of the Tiger.
With whom do you identify?
The Season of Light
What a wonderful time of year we have before us. As we welcomed family and friends to share a Thanksgiving feast we have before us the days of preparation, anticipation, and expectation. Nostalgia for past warm and lovely holiday experiences raise within us a sense of comfort and connectedness as ancient traditions are upheld and new practices are adopted to enhance our fulfillment of joy and light
A Sweet and Tart Holiday
How often have you promised yourself that “this year will be different”? With all that Joy and Expectation, the downside is that in spite of our best of intentions, strong emotions and desire to please with perfection often get the better of us. We spend too much, consume too much, and get sucked into friction and tension when expectations go unmet. By January 5th we are exhausted, broke, a few pounds heavier, and kicking ourselves for falling victim to unrealistic expectations.
This year, be daring. Think outside the giftwrapping. Be saucy, as in the Cranberry sort. Be Tart, as in setting limits and holding to them. Be Sweet, as in how you are among family and friends, just so to balance your newly found saucy side. Be a bit Nutty. I add walnuts to my Cranberry Sauce, just because I like them. I make the pieces large enough so that if you don’t like them you can just eat around them. Add your apples, limes, lemons, and oranges. Bring out the bitter-sweetness of Holidays Past. Be spicy. Cloves, Cinnamon, and Nutmeg contain properties that can relieve stress, support digestive functioning, and may improve ability to focus and enhance creativity. Take a mindful moment to absorb, reflect, and relax in the presence of these olfactory delights. And finally, when you go shopping for the ingredients for your saucy feast, go ahead an park your car farther away than normally from the entrance to the market. Get a hitch in your step as you walk into the store and parade up and down the aisles. Active muscles and exercise help to keep the holiday boogey man away.
It’s the Season of Light: Lighten Up!
- Play the music that arouses your spirits.
- Dance in the Kitchen.
- Decorate at will…or Not!
- Allow for dust.
- So your best serving dish is chipped. Big deal.
- Wear jeans to dinner.
- Invite positive elements into your gatherings!
Enjoy the Days Ahead
May Peace be a Welcome Guest in Your Home.
The humble Cranberry is one of the most powerfully beneficial enhancement to our diet, provided you aren’t allergic. Good for the digestive tract, urinary tract, and contain copious amounts of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Inflammation contributes to crankiness, and who needs more crankiness this time of year?
All you have to do is follow the directions on the fresh Cranberry package. Then add the following:
Whole Small Lemon
Half Granny Smith Apple
Chop the fruit, skin and all.
Half cup chopped nuts
Simmer a couple of minutes.
Chill. No, really, Chill!
It’s a good idea to make this the night before.
I love the days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Oh the scents, the sounds, the tastes, textures, and scenes, and how these bring back dear times shared with family and friends. At the onset of Thanksgiving, images of holidays past place themselves right in the middle of our present and we set our course to do those things that upheld the comfort of ancient traditions:
Recipes. Servings. Placements. Schedules. Who does what. Who brings what. And so on. The mind does a very good job in pulling us into holidays past. We anticipate, we expect, and we believe. There is hope.
Where the Mind Falls Short
Nostalgia for Holidays past is an abundant presence as Thanksgiving nears. Why, this very weekend many of us are fast at work making advance preparations for the kickoff event that ushers in the “Holiday Season”.
Not quite so present, if at all present, are the darker memories of unmet expectations in holidays past.
- The guilt, anger, and disappointment around not pulling off the greatest feast ever.
- The let-down that you failed to live up to everyone else’s expectations.
- That, once again, no matter how hard you tried, how much you (over) spent for what you thought were the perfect gifts, it wasn’t good enough. Nothing you did was, for that matter.
Maybe you or someone else drank too much and unfiltered words were broadcast with unbridled toxicity at dinner. Your or your spouse’s broken promise to behave was par for the course.
You missed the mark, again, and again, and again.
And what is the reward for all your best of intentions?
Reality hits with a big thud. The credit card bills, the New Year’s resolution that went up in smoke. The relentless inner scolding that, once again, you got sucked into the belief that maybe, just maybe, it will be different this year. But it wasn’t different. Same old crap, just a year later.
This, too, is a holiday tradition, a tradition that is ever present, yet stealth and patient. Absent are all hope and faith in the idea of a perfect holiday. Let’s call it the Annual Holiday Emotional Hangover. A.H.E.H. January lingers like an unwelcome intruder. February offers a bit of a reprieve that perhaps winter will be over before 6 weeks. Groundhog’s Day.
If all this sounds way familiar, it could strike you that in the big picture, you are not alone in what happens during the Holidays. How emotions and irrational thinking sucks us into doing things that in the end, are self-defeating.
A Few Handy Tips to Lessen A.H.E.H.
Be sure to review The Every-Day Warrior page on this blog.
Be mindful of Principle # 1 in the Handy Guide for the Every Day Warrior.
The Past is Always Present
Think Ahead. Plan for stress the same way you would plan your Thanksgiving or other Holiday Feast. Know and acknowledge the emotional ingredients that go into the recipe for the delusion, disappointment, and disparity of the Mid January AHEH.
- When you are beginning to feel overwhelmed with anxiety, worry, or fear of making the wrong choice, stop.
- Take a mindful moment.
- Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat times 10 times 3 times.
- Sit with the emotions and feel them.
- What in your past is being represented here?
- Notice your immediate surroundings.
- The feel of your feet on the floor.
- The scents.
- The tastes.
- What you see.
- Continue breathing. 1o times 3 times.
- The emotions will ease up after about 3 minutes or so.
If you are craving alcohol or another drug:
- Your cravings are nothing more than memories of past pleasures. These are quite powerful and hard to resist.
- Having Fun.
- Being yourself.
- Saying what you really feel.
- Feeling loved and accepted by others.
- Your cravings fail to take you to the consequences of your drinking or using.
- Fights or confrontations.
- Passing out before dinner.
- Puking at dinner.
- Puking after dinner.
- The world being pissed off at you.
- Feelings of guilt and shame that once again, you messed up.
- Know what your cravings are about.
- Sit with them.
- Observe them.
- Maybe have a conversation with them.
- Breathe in breathe out.
- Notice the details of the present.
- After about 3 minutes or so, the craving generally will pass.
- If you are tempted to overspend. The same tips apply.
- Take a mindful moment.
This is how we apply Principle # 2 and 3 in our Handy Guide.
The Past is subject to change.
We see things not as they are, but as WE are.
- In doing these things, we can actually change the past, or, to put it better, to change the way we see the past.
- Rethink whom you are trying to please.
- Does it HAVE to be a certain way?
- Do you REALLY need to spend beyond your means so that at least for one moment you can feel appreciated?
- Can you rethink and rework expectations for the holidays?
- By taking a mindful moment, you can begin to see the holidays for what they are, not as what YOU think they should be.
Lighten up. Take measures to resist guilt or anger-driven choices.
Be sure to get some exercise. A 20 minute walk each day can work wonders and clear your head. Active muscles do much to ward off negative thoughts.
Have a little something handy to help distract you. Put a favorite scent such as lavender, vanilla, mint, or rose, on a cotton ball. This can coax you back to the present and calm your mind. Keep it in your pocket or at least within close reach.
Listen to music you can sing and or move to. Rhythmic movement is quite soothing, not to mention effective in uplifting the spirits.
Doing these things will not guarantee a happy, stress free Holiday, but doing things that will ensure your sense of centeredness will not hurt.