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.
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.
The Meadows specializes in treating trauma. Abuse is one form of trauma. Often times, childhood trauma that occurred because of child abuse is overlooked as a core issue when people enter treatment for addictions or other mental health disorders. Sometimes people minimize what they experienced as children, deny that they were abused, or believe that it happened so long ago that they are (or that they should be) “over it” or it is no longer relevant.
Love Addiction • Innovative Experiential Therapy • 12-Step Program