Science now shows that the cause of addiction is not the addictiveness of the drugs themselves, but the underlying reasons for taking the drugs – the emotional pain, trauma, and disconnection/loneliness that users feel. The drugs are simply an escape mechanism to avoid feeling the pain and to feel connected to something. If as a society we help people to heal the pain, to feel connected to others and enjoy life, then the use of drugs will decrease. Love and connection is the answer.
Yet another article with the science showing what survivors of child abuse have always known. Abuse in childhood leads to significant physical, emotional and mental difficulties in adulthood. The good news is that more and more people are recognising this and that we can’t simply “get over it”. Abuse changes the way a child reacts to stress and constant exposure leads to changes in the child’s DNA resulting in the ‘fight or flight’ system being always turned on. The ongoing, chronic stress unfortunately leads to inflammatory and immune responses that damage health as adults.
Joan Kaufman, director of the Child and Adolescent Research and Education (CARE) programme at the Yale School of Medicine, recently analysed DNA in the saliva of happy, healthy children, and of children who had been taken from abusive or neglectful parents. The children who’d experienced chronic childhood stress showed epigenetic changes in almost 3,000 sites on their DNA, and on all 23 chromosomes – altering how appropriately they would be able to respond to and rebound from future stressors.
Likewise, Seth Pollak, professor of psychology and director of the Child Emotion Research Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, uncovered startling genetic changes in children with a history of adversity and trauma. Pollak identified damage to a gene responsible for calming the stress response. This particular gene wasn’t working properly; the kids’ bodies weren’t able to reign in their heightened stress response. ‘A crucial set of brakes are off,’ says Pollak.
It is great that science is catching up. They are also recognising that there are many ways to heal which can help survivor’s bodies relax and not be in ‘fight or flight’ all the time.
Science tells us that biology does not have to be destiny. ACEs can last a lifetime, but they don’t have to. Just as physical wounds and bruises heal, just as we can regain our muscle tone, we can recover function in underconnected areas of the brain. If anything, that’s the most important take-away from ACE research: the brain and body are never static; they are always in the process of becoming and changing.
Even if we have been set on high-reactive mode for decades or a lifetime, we can still dial it down. We can respond to life’s inevitable stressors more appropriately and shift away from an overactive inflammatory response. We can become neurobiologically resilient. We can turn bad epigenetics into good epigenetics and rescue ourselves. We have the capacity, within ourselves, to create better health. We might call this brave undertaking ‘the neurobiology of awakening’.
Today, scientists recognise a range of promising approaches to help create new neurons (known as neurogenesis), make new synaptic connections between those neurons (known as synaptogenesis), promote new patterns of thoughts and reactions, bring underconnected areas of the brain back online – and reset our stress response so that we decrease the inflammation that makes us ill.
In the article they specifically mention ‘Meditation, mindfulness, neurofeedback, cognitive therapy, EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing) therapy’ as some of the tools that can help survivor’s to calm their bodies and reprogram their minds.
I have found a wide range of techniques helpful including:
- Energy and body work, such as crystal bed sessions or reiki, to help the body unlock and relax;
- Psych-K or Lifeline Technique to release trauma and reprogram the subconscious mind so you can change negative beliefs about life and the world into positive ones e.g. so you are not always expecting the worst and you can start to feel safe, so you believe that you do deserve good things and that people can treat you well;
- Mindfulness and meditation techniques to still the mind and create space to witness what is occurring instead of reacting automatically;
- Skill development including thought stopping, boundary setting, inner child, and self love skills, so that you no longer allow yourself to be abused by others or by yourself;
- Family Constellations to heal the trauma in the family system and reconnect with love, thereby allowing greater lifeforce and harmony within.
There is lots that can be done. While adverse childhood trauma does have a massive impact on your life, it can be healed.
In this short video Nadine Burke Harris explains how adverse childhood experiences impacts the health of the child and continues to do so over the lifetime of the person. She explains in scientific terms why this occurs and ways the impacts can be reduced. She believes that this is a public health issue and should be addressed as such with multidisciplinary teams available to help affected individuals to heal the trauma and reduce the impacts.
When somene has been raised in a violent, rage filled home it is understandable that they automatically expect the worst to occur, because in their childhood home it did occur. Any small provocation could turn into World War 3, and as a result the child learns to brace itself ready for what is to occur. The body goes into fight, flight or freeze ready to protect itself from the danger that was always present.
Even if the rage and terror only occurred occasionally, it is likely the child would be on high alert, as you never know what wil trigger a rage and horrible experience for them and the family. This fear of what may occur and usually does occur, leads the child to not be able to relax and enjoy life.
Good events often turn bad or nasty once the drunk parent loses their temper, so having fun feels unsafe, dangerous to the child or doomed to end badly. This is why many children raised in alcoholic or drug addicted homes don’t know how to have fun. They tend to isolate preferring to stay home or alone as this feels safer than risking interaction with others or having fun.
The reactions of childnre are not exaggerated. They respond to what occurs in their environment. If danger, violence, hurtful events occur often enough an association is built up in the brain that pain is what life is about. It becomes the dominant neural pathway and belief of the child, so naturally they expect the worst and they do so because it often happened.
It is very hard to change this deep patterning of expecting the worst. It is not as simple as changing a thought. Every fibre of your being is used to violence, danger and preparing to protect itself. The terror, the helplessness and powerlessness of childhood abuse is catastrophic. A child in an abusive home will literally shut down, numb out, and fantasise leaving and having a better life.
The fantasy leads to resentment, shame, guilt and blame. It leads to more longing and feeling not good enough. Your family, yourself, your life are all judged as not good enough and as needing to change. This frustration at what is can become explosive rage at the unfairness of life, of your experiences. You can then become violent, filled with hate and the cycle repeats. The child then grows into an adult with volatile tendencies and may become abusive to their families, existing and new. This is the repetitive nature of abuse in families.
The abuse comes from emotional pain that has not been dealt with. The sadness, the rage, the helplessness is all bottled up inside. If allowed out explosively it is destructive. If kept inside it is deadening, life becomes a numb, painful place where you just go through the motions, doing what you have to do, but not really feeling or enjoying anything very much.
Deep depression and sadness can occur as you realise how much you are missing out on, as you can’t shake off the doom and gloom and it feels like life never changes or improves. It can feel hopeless and people often wonder what is the point of going on. Here is the risk of suicide. Children who were abused can grow up feeling unloved, unwanted, unnecessary and feel like there is no point living, [that] noone would really miss them, etc. STOP! Stop this thinking. You are deeply loved, deeply, deeply loved, by God and many of the people around you, they just may not show it to you in the ways that you would like. Most parents do love their children, just their own emotional pain and addictions stop them being there for the child, stop them being tender and caring.
To stop expecting the worst to occur we have to learn to be kind and loving to ourself. We have to make the effort to do fun things and to enjoy life. Try out a hobby, a sport, an activity of some sort and find what makes your heart smile.
All the negative emotions and painful experiences will need to be released, so you can return back to a state of peace and calm. This will happen slowly and naturally. Don’t push it, force it, try to make it happen sooner. Remember to be kind to yourself in all you do.
When an emotion comes up, feel it, then let it go. Don’t hold onto it. Don’t go into judgement about it or the people involved in the remembered situation. Judgement just keeps you stuck, feeling justified in your pain and dysfunction. Judgement and blame are just ways to stay stuck in your head, ruminating over what occurred, instead of being in the present moment and listening to your heart.
When you have experienced deep pain and trauma your heart is often filled with such sadness that it is hard to feel it and sit with it. If you need help processing your emotions get it. You need a safe space in which to rest, to feel what needs to be felt and to release it safely – a counsellor, a friend, a family member, a space in nature that you connect with.
There are lots of ways to release the emotion – drawing it out, singing, running, crying, whatever works for you to shift it from locked inside your body, to being released outside of you. The concept of emotional transformation is to lovingly release what no longer serves you. You just feel it and breathe through it, until your body calms back down. You do this every time you are triggered and notice your body going into restriction, bracing itself for the worst to occur. You do this every time you feel the emotion from the past bubbling up to be released.
The more you clear out the old buried emotion and trauma, with love and kindness, you create a space for new energies to enter, for joy and peace to take hold, for love and kindness to become your dominant experience. As you do this you start to expect love and kindness, it becomes your new norm. First it comes from how you treat yourself, then it will come from those around you – as like attracts like. Vibrationally those around you will mirror what is locked inside you.
You don’t ever need to accept poor treatment, just walk away, send love and know that it is not personal. Anyone who hurts another is in inner turmoil and is just as mean and cruel to themselves. Such people need love and acceptance, not judgement and rejection. It is okay if you can’t do this yet. If you feel you still need to defend or protect yourself from others and the outside world. Your defensive patterns and automatic reactions will soften as you heal, as you start to experience kindness and peace inside. It does require a lot of self love and self kindness, which you may not be used to doing. You have to cultivate this habit, you do so by tuning into your body and what it is feeling and what it needs. If it needs to rest then rest. Don’t push through till you are absolutely exhausted. Rest. Be kind and tender to yourself. Become the loving parent you didn’t have – be that for yourself.
Learn to have fun, try things out. Don’t be surprised if you don’t feel much fun at first – you are used to social situations being challenging or threatening, so it is going to take some time for it to stop being the automatic reaction and for fun to take its place. Keep doing things and you will notice in time that you are relaxing, you are having fun, and all is well.
You don’t have to stay stuck in pain or isolation. This does not help you. It just avoids the work needing to be done to find freedom and peace. There is much you can do to change negative beliefs and programming, so that you do expect good things from life and you do enjoy whatever you experience. These belief changes will help, but the trauma and pain needs to be released too. You can try to think positively as much as you like, but if you haven’t done the deep healing work, you are just playing around the edges, like the tip of an iceberg. You can make the tip look nice, but there is still much more to be done underneath the surface.
The most important thing to realise is that your reaction of expecting the worst to occur is a normal, understandable reaction for someone who experienced constant or ongoing terror as a child. You couldn’t relax or enjoy life because of the abuse occurring, the rage filled or drama filled atmosphere of your childhood home. So your reaction is normal and it can be healed – it just takes time. So be kind to yourself as you go along the healing journey and don’t give up. With every step you take, every emotion you release, your life is getting better and better. Your vibration is rising as you have less emotional density locked inside and therefore you will attract differently.
It is a long journey and sometimes it feels ridiculously long and tedious, but it is a path you have to walk if your life started harshly. You can find your way to peace and happiness, it just takes time, self love and peaceful thoughts. Do the work required and you will be rewarded with a much more peaceful experience of life. You can have a life filled with positive events and experiences, and as that becomes your normal day to day occurrence, you will learn to expect the best to occur each day and you manifest heaven on Earth. Remember it is possible. It just takes time and effort. You can do it. You deserve it and you can achieve it. Blessed BE. Amen.
By Jodi-Anne (12 Jan 2016).
Further free guidance on healing techniques and self love are available on the Life Insights and Healing from child abuse pages of this website.
The below is a wonderful post by Ally Hamilton explaining how to cope with a loved one who has addiction or mental illness. It is wise advice about not sacrificing your own life trying to rescue someone who does not want to help themselves. Thank you Ally x
People can only drive us crazy if we let them. A person can spin his or her web, but we don’t have to fly into the center of it to be stunned, stung, paralyzed and eaten. Remember that your time and your energy are the most precious gifts you have to offer anyone, and that includes those closest to you, and also total strangers. Your energy and your time are also finite, so it’s really important to be mindful about where you’re placing those gifts.
It’s hard not to get caught up when someone we love is suffering, or thrashing around, or in so much pain they don’t know what else to do but lash out. It’s hard not to take that to heart, or to defend yourself, or to try to make things better for them, but you’re not going to walk into a ring and calm a raging bull with your well-thought out dialogue. You’re just going to get kicked in the face, at best, and I use that analogy intentionally. People in pain–whether we’re talking about people with personality disorders or clinical depression, people suffering with addiction, or people who are going through mind-boggling loss–are dealing with deep and serious wounds. They didn’t wake up this way one morning. Whether it’s a chronic issue, or an acute and immediate situation, when you’re dealing with heightened emotions including rage, jealousy, or debilitating fear, you’re not going to help when a person is in the eye of the storm. If someone is irrational, trying to reason with them makes you as irrational as they are; you can’t negotiate with crazy. I’m not using the word as a dagger, I’m saying we’re all crazy sometimes, we’re all beyond reason sometimes. We all have days when we feel everyone is against us, whether that’s based in any kind of reality or not.
You can offer your love, your patience, your kindness and your compassion if someone you care for is suffering. You can try to get them the support they need. You can make them a meal, or show up and just be there to hold their hand, or take them to the window to let in a little light, but if someone is attacking you verbally or otherwise, we’re in a different territory. You are not here to be abused, mistreated, or disrespected. You are not here to defend yourself against someone’s need to make you the villain. You don’t have to give that stuff your energy, and I’d suggest that you don’t. It’s better spent in other places.
We can lose hours and days and weeks getting caught up in drama or someone else’s manipulation. That’s time we’ll never have back. Of course things happen in life; people do and say and want things that can be crushing sometimes, but the real story to examine is always the story of our participation. If someone needs you to be the bad guy, why do you keep trying to prove you’re actually wonderful? Are you wonderful? Brilliant, get back to it. If someone has a mental illness and they are incapable of controlling themselves, keeping their word, or treating you with respect, why do you keep accepting their invitation to rumble? You already know what’s going to happen. Don’t you have a better way to spend your afternoon? My point is, life is too short.
When a person is in the kind of pain that causes them to create pain around them, your job is to create boundaries if it’s someone you want to have in your life. You figure out how to live your life and honor your own well-being, and deal with the other party in a way that creates the least disharmony for you. That means you don’t get in the ring when they put their dukes up. You don’t allow yourself to get sucked in. Do you really think this is the time you’ll finally be heard or seen or understood? People who need to be angry cannot hear you. It doesn’t matter what you do or say, they have a construct they’ve built to support a story about their life that they can live with; it doesn’t have to be based in reality. Not everyone is searching for their own truth or their own peace; some people are clinging to their rage, because that feels easier or more comfortable, or because they really, truly aren’t ready to do anything else yet. You’re not going to solve that, but you can squander your time and energy trying. You can make yourself sick that way. I just don’t recommend it.
You really don’t have to allow other people to steal your peace, whether we’re talking about those closest to you, or people you don’t even know, like the guy who cuts you off on the freeway, or the woman talking loudly on her cellphone at the bank. You don’t have to let this stuff get under your skin and agitate you. You don’t have to let someone’s thoughtless comment or action rob you of a beautiful afternoon. Of course we give our time to people who need us. I’m just saying, don’t get caught up in the drama. Sending you love, Ally Hamilton
I love this video by Johann Harri. In it he explains that the opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety, it is connection. We all need to feel connected to others, to belong, to be loved and accepted as we are. Without that we look for that connection in things or substances.
This is a great article posted on ‘Side Effects Public Media’ website explaining the impact of childhood trauma on a child’s developing brain.