Our capacity for empathy and closeness is formed and strengthened through the quality of our childhood relationships. From conception onwards, we resonate in tune or out of tune with those who bring us into this world. Our nervous systems are fashioned by nature to resonate with the nervous systems of others to achieve a sense of balance and connection (Schore, 1999) and these early interactions become the neurological templates upon which later interactions are built. Did we feel safe and held in our parents arms? How did we experience their touch? Were they interested and able to read our little signals and our attempts to communicate with them and did they respond in an attuned and caring manner? Or did we feel dismissed or even as if we were a burden or somehow a disappointment? A combination of both? Could we put a smile on their faces just by being part of their lives? These early expereinces knit themselves into the very fabric of our mind/body system and pattern our capacity for intimacy.
Addiction encourages trauma and trauma can encourage addiction. This process becomes a vicious circle or negative feedback loop, with trauma contributing to addiction, which in turn fuels more trauma, which encourages still more addiction, and so on and so on. The Claudia Black Young Adult Center treats substance and process addictions, recognizing them to be primary disorders which reinforce each other and are often fueled by traumatic experiences. Here are some examples of how this process plays out:
My therapist prescribed me to drink more alcohol. I had described symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), yet once again, the diagnosis was completely missed. Even worse, this uniformed therapist suggested that I drink wine “medicinally,” beginning in the morning, to help cope with what he said was high anxiety. What makes this horrible advice even more dangerous is the fact that upward of fifty percent of those with PTSD also battle substance use disorder.
When you think of management of your mental health, what comes to mind? Maybe you meditate or take yoga, perhaps you participate in group activities to stay connected to others, or maybe you focus on getting enough sleep. Do you ever think of the role food plays in all of this? You should. That’s because studies show that the foods you choose to consume play a big role in your mental health status. Here’s what to choose, and what to lose.
If you haven’t already noticed, you will likely start to see some significant changes to how your food is packaged and sold.
I was diagnosed with osteoporosis in my early twenties. Why were my young bones already losing tissue? Women who struggle with anorexia nervosa, like me at the time, are at a higher risk of developing the disease.
I also believe that my eating disorder may have contributed to my sluggish thyroid. Many people don’t realize that the malnutrition in patients with eating disorders can lead to abnormal thyroid function.
Resilient qualities are not only what we’re born with but also the strengths that we build through encountering life’s challenges and developing the personal and interpersonal skills to meet them. It is one of life’s paradoxes that the worst circumstances can bring the best out of us. According to the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) studies performed by Robert Anda (2006) and his team at Kaiser Permanente’s Health Appraisal Clinic in San Diego, we will all experience four or more serious life stressors that may be traumatizing, and according to positive psychology research, most of us will grow from them.
Stefanie Carnes, Ph. D., CSAT-S, Senior Fellow of The Meadows, presented at the Littler’s Executive Employer Conference held in Phoenix, Arizona, May 2- 4, 2018.
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