More Than Crumbs

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Who stole the cookie from the jar?
Well…
You did.
Now let’s talk about honesty.  Honesty, and not in the religious moral sense (going to a bad place of lying), but in the sense of integrity. The sense that if you can be honest with yourself and with the values you’ve learned along the way then you can start to grow.

Therapy can be tough, while it implies that a client will be honest, so does the therapist. And while I believe everyone lies at some point in some form, it’s difficult when you are in the therapy room.

On one side, you don’t want to express your darkest secrets and on the other hand you don’t want to tell the client you are thinking about lunch.

There are different schools of thought on change and behaviors. But I think the common idea starts with admitting to yourself (being honest) that there is something you can change or alter. Then you can begin the process of moving forward.

Integrity is not easy.  It’s not easy in therapy or off the couch. But like anything, as you practice you can find yourself satisfying your own path in life instead of walking another person’s path.

Honesty isn’t always the best policy, but if you want to stop stealing cookies, be honest with yourself. If not, steal as many cookies as you want, but don’t tell the therapist you want to change or it’s someone else’s fault you’re getting fat.

Quote from Bill Ward, drummer of Black Sababth:

During the question-and-answer portion of the evening, an audience member asked Ward what advice he’d give someone who was going through a rough time. He responded: “If you believe in a higher power or if you believe in God, then I would suggest that you go to God and see if you can find some solutions. If you don’t believe in God, then try to be as honest with yourself as you possibly can…When I’ve chosen the light of God or self-honesty, my own misery has brought me to a solution. My own pain, my own sadness has brought me to a place of surrender, so I’ll surrender to the truth anyway and go, ‘You know what? I need to talk to somebody about this.’ Try not to be alone with your own pain. Try to find someone you can trust your pain with. It’s really important that we communally share what’s going on with each other… Otherwise, we’re going to be walking around in a very sorrowful place.”

Noah Goldberg, MSW, RCSWI

Dying To Feel: Healing Addiction and Trauma

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Trauma drastically alters the senses.  And then it dulls them.  With the passage of time, trauma can hinder victims from both fully experiencing emotions and tactile sensations, depriving them of establishing healthy relationships and a sense of belonging.  This is often brought on by dissociation- a survival mechanism used by victims who psychologically “check out” to avoid any continued danger.  This strategy is subconscious, meaning it’s automatic and mostly done without the awareness of the survivor.  The default mode of behavior and presentation is often detached, melancholic, guarded, and listless.  The person is chronically withdrawn from life, people, and events while being unable to fully feel sensations.  The ability to taste, listen, touch, smell, see and feel feelings is significantly impaired, leaving the victim disconnected from the world and him or herself.  Often, a victim is unable to identify what they are feeling or how they should feel during a situation and will develop a set of stereotypical behaviors that they think are appropriate.  They will smile but there is no joy;  they will cry, and no tears;  they will even play the role of the energetic socialite but lack enough life to convince anyone.  

So, how is all of this relevant to addiction?  Well, those who have experienced trauma want to connect as any healthy person would, they want to feel, and they eagerly want to love and be loved.  However, they are cut off from doing so by the same mechanism that protected them from experiencing painful memories and/or ongoing trauma.  In their yearning to feel, the victim will often seek out substances and behaviors (objects that do not represent an immediate threat of danger nor remind them of the assailant) that will enable them to sense something no matter how destructive the act or substance is.  This desperate attempt is the strategy by which the victim uses to jolt himself back into life.  So, through our eyes the victims are killing themselves, but through theirs, they are actually surviving the best way that they can.  Survivors who are struggling with an addiction are dying to live, they are dying to feel through engaging in a fabricated relationship which satiates the starved soul.  The addiction becomes the only way, although erroneous, to feel anything.  

With roughly 50 to 66 percent of people with Post Traumatic Disorder (mental health disorder some people develop after experiencing a traumatic event) simultaneously struggling with addiction, it is vital to treat survivors with an actively involved compassionate approach that focuses on safely reaching into the withdrawn parts of the self through a genuinely loving relationship that gradually introduces them to re-experiencing the world.  Effective therapy in this area is one that works with the goal of giving the survivor the opportunity to fully experience- to completely feel- their own lives.  

 

Irving Cabarcas, LMHC, MCAP, ICADC

If you or anyone you know is dealing with trauma and/or addiction, we can help.  Contact us here.  

Vermin. Rats. Mice. Connections. Humans. Love.

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Rat park was an experiment performed to show that with the proper connections (love, affection, and attachment) an individual with issues of substance abuse could remain sober. Basically, the idea is that in the proper environment, and with enough positive reinforcement and stimulus, an individual wouldn’t have the need to use substances.

I used to work with addicts.  However, I am not here to write about addiction, getting off or on the wagon, nor rehab. I am here to talk about…

Connections

If you have a baby and He or she  is deprived of connection, affection, security or love, there is a chance that the baby will have difficulty learning and integrating these emotions in their lives. If we think of nature vs. nurture and focus on the environment (nurture) than we see the pivotal role that the environment plays in an individuals life. 

Put a rat in cage, they’ll get bored. Put a human in a cage and confine them with little or no social interaction, they’ll get bored. Try sitting in a room without your phone and only the four walls, while you still have freedom, there’s a chance you’ll get bored. (Question: why do you need the phrase four walls?)

Put other rats in the cage, other humans in the cage and other humans in that small room, you won’t get bored, at least not right away. We need others in our lives to feel connected. To identify ourselves, sure it can come from introspection, but even then, to what do we measure ourselves to. 

Granted, some people live off the grid, away from society and electronics in the hopes of finding some emotional stability in isolation. And I guess that works for them but here is an example of where connections at an early age are crucial:

I once saw a client who early on was in and out of foster care. His parents abandoned him.  His biological siblings were taken away and his few foster families were ridden with horror stories. He never had the sense of belonging, attachment, or security. So, he grows up and finally as he begins to settle into his adult life he finds great difficulty with other humans. It causes him anxiety; he is always in survival mode and has trouble getting close to anyone

The concept of connections is a theory as is its importance. But, the next time you are out,  count how many people are on their phones. Originally, I wrote this article to discuss rat park but I believe it is more about the importance of finding connections away from social media. Sit with your feelings. Step away from a play form filled with a la carte emotions to choose from of what mask you want to wear. Or don’t. Either way, understand this:

If the opposite of addiction is connection,if the opposite of anxiety is confidence, if the opposite of depression is contentment, then perhaps we can benefit from looking at our own rat park for a second. Set boundaries in your life. Understand who and what you want in life. Find a real connection with another human. Living off the grid seems romantic at times, especially with what we see on t.v. but at least for me- I’d rather have a conversation with someone in person to share my ideas with, to be vulnerable, and to be loved.  

 

By Noah Goldberg, RSWI, MSW

 

 

 

The Law of Ego and Self-Esteem

D1DDD265-E12A-4881-8E74-0F97ECC1F0B1Ego and self-esteem both have an opposite effect on one another.  Where one is fed, the other diminishes.  We must exercise caution in differentating the two. Ego temporarily provides a sense of gratification and fulfillment but gradually creates separation, loneliness, and conflict.  Self-esteem, initially, may seem contradictory where one shifts focus away from self and directs it towards others, but in time creates a sense of fulfillment, purpose, and connection.  In short, the more I am ‘all about me’ the more disharmony I create;  and the more I am about others, the tighter the bonds and greater the balance I bring into life.  Mastering this art is the simplest way to happiness.  

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