The Birth Place of Disconnection
A Disconnected self is at the core of what causes anxiety, depression, and compulsivity. What is it that causes a disconnection from an authentic/integrated
self? The disconnected self happens in a village. The village is that multi-layered eco-system of which we are all a part. The village contains many parts that are influencing a person for better and for worse. The village consists of Family of Origin (Grand Parents, Siblings, Parents and Step Parents, Live in Partners, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins) Extra Curricular Activities, Social Media and pop-cultrue local hangouts, the neighborhood, religion, educational institutions, Health and human services, medical legal and financial institutions. There are many parts to this village that can make an impact on us. But of all the parts of this village, the family of origin is by far that part that makes the most profound impact upon us-for better and for worse. Why? It has to do with time. It is estimated that the amount of fact to face time we share with our family of origin will be somewhere between 15,000 to 35,000 hours from birth to age 18. That's quantity and not necessarily representative of quality.
Characteristics of the Disconnected Self
The Disconnected Self convinces self and others that they are needless and wantless.
The Disconnected Self tunes into others but fears looking within.
The Disconnected Self is terrified of rejection and will often do anythin required in order to prevent rejection.
The Disconnected Self isolates.
The Disconnected Self worries without ceasing.
The Disconnected Self is spiritually and emotionally bankrupt.
The Disconnected Self wears a number of masks to be in the good graces of others and to cover up the pain not being true to one's self.
In regard to the kinds of families that incubate disconnection from the self more readily than others, they are polar opposites. And yet, they seem to make family members vulnerable to disconnection. I will refer to these families as the "Smith and Wesson Families."
The Smith family is often equated with the Alcoholic family. It is a family that has been referred to as a dictatorship run by its sickest member. The Smith Family tends to be chaotic and unsettled. Smith families are often in crisis. The crisis could be in relationships, finances, poor decisions made and losses including loss of jobs, reputation and dignity. The children in these families are not monitored and are often given no direction. In some cases the children in these families assume adult roles in order to keep things balanced in the family. Smith families are functionally dysfunctional and often do the same things over and over seeking different results.
The Wesson family is often equated with the Workaholic family. It is a family that tends to be driven by a vision of success. Success has various way in which it could be defined. However, the vision of success in Wesson type families tends to aim toward one of the following:
Professional vision of success-Professionals live the country club life. They keep up appearances and make sure that they are seen by other professionals who are living the country club life.
Perfectionist vision of success-Perfections live out the Protestant Work Ethic to the max. This vision of success requires hard work with little rest or leisure. There is no room for recreational endeavors except obligatory exercise routines that help one maintain their energy levels.
Plus vision of success-Pious Wesson's are working very hard to live from a prescribed set of religious rules and regulations. The pious Wesson's see success as doing what thier brand of organized religiion prescribes. This prescription is highly important to the Pious Wesson and the end game is salvation or treasures in heaven.
Wesson famlies are highly structured and micro-monitored. Wesson families tend to tbe rigid and demanding, critical and controlling, image conscious and performance driven. Wesson families care very little about personal preferences. Instead, they make demands on the family members to conform to whatever the vision of success is no matter what it may cost.
Which family did you come from?
Most People can identify wither one or the other or some combination (hybrid) of the two. Either situation (Smith/Wesson) is like living in a pressure cooker. You are constantly faced with internal/external pressures with very few resources on board to know how to cope. Thus, in an effort to somehow survive such situations, there is a tendency to disconnect. Another way to talk about the disconnection is by referring to it as Self Abandonment. Self Abandonment is what happens when the true self goes into hiding and the adapted self (or False Self or Mask-Wearing Self) emerges.
Stressed Out Sound Bytes of Smith & Wesson Kids:
Who will love me? Who will be there for me when I'm scared? Who will make sure I am fed? How can I keep from being taken away from my family? How do I make sure nobody knows what is happening at home? It is not ok to have needs. I must learn to take care of myself all by myslef. No one is going to make this any better. How do I protect my siblings? How do I get attention? No one is listening to me. No one seems to care about me. I must be bad. There must be something wrong with me. I have to be the strong one. I have to keep things calm. I have to take the hits from the dictator.
Wesson Family Stress Leads to a number of perplexing question's and thought:
I must produce and perform in order to be loved. I have to succeed. There is no room for me to what I want to be when I grow up. How an I ever tell them who I really am? How do I keep the peace? What will get them off my back? I am not allowed to make mistakes. I have to make them look good. I will never be good enough. I have to be the best. I must be perect. I can;t stand all the pressure. This is too much. Never let them know how you feel. Never show signs of weakness. Keep it all together all the time. It is better to look good than it is to feel good. God will never love a wretched soul like me.
Low on Nurture
Along with mismanaged stress, Smith & Wesson families are also low on nurturing. Nurturing is what helps a person to form a sense of security and contentment. Healthy nurturing helps people to grow up as connected selves.
The Four A's of healthy Nurturing
There are 4 A;s that seem to capture the essence of healthy nurturing. Each of the A;s has a saying that captures the essence of what someone receives when they get the nurture they need.
- Affirmation-Affirmation has to do with emotional support and encouragement. When a child is affirmed, they learn that they are valued. The saying that expresses the essence of affirmation is "I celebrate you."
- Attention-Attention is what is given when the parent attunes to the child and listens to his/her ideas, hopes, dreams, struggles and fears. Attention is also aware of a child's coming and going; a child's whereabouts; a child's behaviors. The saying that expresses the essence of attention is "I hear you and I see you."
- Affection-Affection is the physical side of nurture. Examples include holding hands, love pats. hugs, wrestling, back rubs, stroking of hair, tickling, piggy back rides, being thrown in the pool, butterfly kisses, handshakes, high fives and kisses on the forehead and cheeks. The saying that expresses the essence of affection is "I am bonded to you physically and emotionally."
- Approval-This is what happens when parents receive their children with unconditional positive regard. The saying that expresses the essence of approval is "I accept you as you are-no strings attached."
When a child grows up with that kind of nurture, it helps the child remain secure and ture to him or herself.
"Out of Suffering Have Emerged the Strongest Souls, The Most Massive Characters are Seared with Scars." by Kahil Gibran
Trauma is one of the root "core" causes of addiction. The suffering that occurs as a result of trauma leaves an individual in a place to seek out the one thing all human beings embark upon, which is to sooth oneself. Trauma leaves such a psychological impact that the ability to self sooth can be impossible. This result often times leaves the victim of trauma desperately seeking relief from the emotional turmoil that haunts within. Too cope with this turmoil victims of trauma often turn to alcohol and drugs to seek relief.
To interrupt addictive disorders takes breaking through the thick shield of denial that protects the addictions survival. The goal of addiction is self annihilation, too eliminate ones emotional experience essentially slow suicide. Once an individual seeks recovery and obtains abstinence from major mood and mind altering drugs, it is then that the real work from within can begin. According to Gabor Mate the most important question to ask regarding the healing process of addictive disorders is "understanding what are the source of the emotions from which we are acting?" We really must take time to understand our emotions and what emotions are underneath the actions that are driving behavior. If we do not take time to understand the emotions driving behavior, we will never discover the deep pain that people are trying to escape from. Getting to the deep core pain is what will enable long term recovery for the addictive persons. If the intrapersonal relationship is not explored that leaves room to repeat unhealthy behavior and relationship patterns that could potentially lead to more pain, suffering and trauma.
My own journey of recovery has been much of the above. My ability to look within has saved me from unnecessary pain and suffering. However, my unwillingness and inability to see things for what they were has also caused more pain, suffering, loss and trauma. What my own journey of recovery has taught me, is that the work within, is NEVER done. If I ever think I am done or during times I have backed off of recovery and became complacent just put me one more step closer to being in active psychological addiction without ever putting the substance of choice into my body. These are times that put us all at risk of relapse if we are not careful and stay connected to support systems. I myself got into a habit of "doing" to try and make myself feel better. Everything from exercise, bodybuilding, caffeine, money, shopping, talking with others, and food as way to "heal/self sooth." Not to say these things are bad, however the motivations behind doing them is what makes them unhealthy. The one thing that has assisted me the most in understanding my intrapersonal relationship within, is prayer and meditation. My own formulation of spirituality and philosophy of life. It has taken years of my own therapy to get comfortable enough with my own thoughts and feelings to just sit and be with them in meditation. Being, learning how to be with oneself is the road to healing and learning to self sooth and uncover the pain that lies beneath.
I believe today that my own trauma and suffering has ultimately made me a stronger person, has aided in shaping my tenacity and equipped me with an ability to empathize with others. What I love most about my journey through life is that I have been able to use the bad for the better and the good for greater and pass it on to others whom seek out health and well-being. To give back what was given to me is priceless.
Sarasota Addiction Specialists have held strong through COVID-19 and have worked together with our community to provide a safe enriching environment for treatment. We have been able to provide a blended format of virtual and in person groups allowing the required social distancing while still providing quality treatment. Addiction and trauma never end....therefore treatment MUST find a way to go on. We are proud to say we have been able to keep our doors open which has enabled individuals seeking recovery from addiction to address their intrapersonal issues from within.
With our coming independence day I would like to encourage everyone to take pride and ownership of your individuality. To own your own mind and your own uniqueness that you bring to the world. It is our independence that brings richness to our relationships.
"There is no ache more Deadly than the striving to be oneself."
- Yevgenily Vinokurov
Who am I? What is the purpose of life? Why am I here? What is it that makes me who I am? How do I just be my real self? Do these questions sound familiar to you? As clinicians these are the questions we hear from our clients throughout their recovery journey. These are even questions that we have pondered ourselves throughout our lifetime. As we know, these are not easy questions to answer and supporting our clients towards answering these questions for themselves is a large part of attaining what we call "emotional recovery." Without emotional recovery our clients become complacent, stagnant in there recovery and are at risk for relapse.
That deadly ache that Yevgenily Vinkurov refers to is the ache that can kill the spiritual center of our human existence if we do not delve inside of it to find our "real self." According to Masterson (1988), "the real self, from the perspective of object relations theory, is made up of the sum of the intrapsychic images of the self and of significant others, as well as the feelings associated with those images, along with capacities for action in the environment guided by those images. The images of the real self are derived mostly from reality and to a lesser extent from fantasy-what one wishes as well as what one is-and its motives are directed toward master of reality tasks as a way of maintaining psychic equilibrium." The challenge with operating from the real self is due to the development of the false self. The false self is created mostly from infantile fantasies. Rather than operating from a reality perspective the false self operates based on internalized ideas and emotional states that were experienced during our formative years of development. The false self's motives have nothing to do with dealing with reality tasks but to implement defensive fantasies by avoiding self activation to promote maladaptive ways of being taken care of. "The purpose of the false self is not adaptive but defensive; it protects against painful feelings. In other words, the false self does not set out to master reality but to avoid painful feelings, a goal it achieves at the cost of mastering reality (Masterson, 1988)."
Interesting how James Masterson's description of the false self is also the motives of addiction "to avoid painful feelings at the cost of mastering reality." To move out of the false self and operate from the real-self requires a journey of grief and loss. Coming to the painful reality that we have been grieving from the moment we were born is no easy task. Inside the grief of the false self lies a loss that is filled with anxiety. This anxiety is what propels depression, despair, abandonment depression, loneliness, sadness, false sense of responsibility, helplessness, feeling unlovable, misfit, and hopeless. These feelings are the fuel that gives fire to the development of addiction.
Our false self must be understood, unraveled and healed by coming to acceptance, feeling what happened in our past and breaking up the distortions that were internalized upon the "self." Lastly we must take action to change the reflection within ourselves as well as our environment and interpersonal relationships to access and live from within our "real-self." One of the things I admired and respected the most about my graduate program was their encouragement to be involved in my own therapeutic process. Essentially their message was "you are a fraud and a hypocrite if you think your going to help someone when you don't know what its like to sit in the chair and be the client and really know how uncomfortable it is to reveal yourself, to process your grief and to really look within yourself and your mind." The investment in my own therapy has been the best education I have ever received when it comes to being a clinician. It is our responsibility to have an understanding of our minds so that we can help our clients navigate their false selves and obtain the reward of being in the "real-self." Let us not forget that the journey of emotional recovery for addicts in recovery is imperative. Without it, we know, the ends are always the same "Jails, institutions, and death." Lets make a commitment to be the best we can be for our clients, which requires us to do the very work we ask our clients to do!!! Sarasota Addiction Specialists thanks all of you for your continued support and your commitment to help others achieve freedom, hope and life from active addiction!!! Thank you, Dr. Kimberly S. Benson LMHC, CAP, CCTP
COVID-19 & It's Impact on the Recovery Community
As treatment providers for substance abuse we all know that social distancing goes against everything we have been trained with regard to treatment of addiction. We tell our clients from the beginning of their treatment to reach out to others, be honest, share your feelings, DO NOT BE ALONE TO LONG, DO NOT ISOLATE. Why do we tell them this? Because addiction is a disease of isolation and isolation will kill you. COVID-19 has taken away our relational freedoms to be around others, hold hands, shake hands, sit next to someone without fear you may get sick. Being seen by others weather it be at a meeting or in our therapist office offers us connection, intimacy, and the opportunity to be vulnerable with others. These in person human interactions is what breaks the isolation of addiction to its core. However the phone and the power of the internet too have virtual meetings is a great substitute it is NOT a long term solution for the treatment against addiction and warding off isolation. COVID19's impact has resulted in the mild, moderate and severe isolation which has resulted in relapse in some cases or emotional dysregulation due to fear that kicks up individuals historical trauma and unresolved psychodynamics that have not yet made it to awareness and or had enough healing to result in strong enough coping mechanisms to prevent a relapse. A large majority of individuals in recovery were victims of some level of abuse or experienced a moderate to severe disruption in their psychosocial development resulting in issues within their core basic needs. Those biologically based needs are connection, attunement, trust, autonomy and love-sexuality. When these needs are impacted on certain levels dependent on each individualized experience, it will result in physiological and psychological symptoms by affecting self-esteem, self-confidence, sense of self, self worth, and self regulation. A recovering persons face to face in person contact through meetings, fellowship, service, sponsorship, therapy etc. helps them in the pursuit to attain and maintain attunement to the 5 basic needs that allows them to be connected to their deepest resources and vitality. As we move forward as healthcare professionals it MUST be our priority to help our recovery community re-connect safely and work with them with the awareness of the depths of impact this world health crisis has done to their internal state of being. It MUST be our goal to assist them in regaining self-regulation, self-confidence, self-worth, self regulation, internal regulation, sense of self, connection, and ALIVENESS. These are all things that make up our physiological and psychological well-being. Thank you all for your hard work and dedication to helping others! Dr. Benson looks forward to continuing to work together to offer hope and freedom from active addiction!
RESILIENCE COVID 19 2020 for the HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONAL
I hope that this communication finds you and your family safe and well during these extraordinary times. Sarasota Addiction Specialists & Dr. Kimberly Benson have spent time thinking about the current world health crisis and the toll it is taking on our communities, families and individuals. We feel that at a time like this it is important to focus on being resilient together. But the question is.....what does it mean to embody resilience during a time like this? How do we continue to face the unknowns, conflict and adversity with the same hope and confidence as we once did? I will tell you how......WE embrace the very core of why we turned to the field of substance abuse and mental health. Those very things are the desire to Serve, to Strive and Not to Yield but to PERSEVERE and embody RESILIENCE. Our 12 step programs have been a great teacher during times like this as well as participation in team sports. They have taught us that now is the time that we no longer stand singularly and rather stand together as WE. This is a reminder that there is so much within us that is unknown and that working and standing together we can overcome these current challenges and come out stronger and healthier. Today we must draw upon the work we have done within ourselves and the work we have done together as substance abuse and mental health providers to make an impact on how we face today and the future trusting and knowing that we are resilient together and WILL PERSEVERE. By digging deeper into ourselves, into teamwork, service to others, connection, hope, trust, faith, compassion and empathy we will face adversity and triumph with unforgettable lessons that will shape the fabric of who we are and making us stronger together. Sarasota Addiction Specialists & Dr. Kimberly Benson would like to ask you to join us on the journey of embodying RESILIENCE TOGETHER! Sarasota Addiction Specialists & Dr. Kimberly Benson has been able to practice resilience as a team. We have brain stormed and created innovative ways to continue to serve our clients and provide the treatment and care they need without interruption during these stressful times. We thank you all for your continued support and we look forward to working together with YOU!
Transference is perceiving and reacting to another person as if they are the mother or father of our childhood. Usually we are not aware that we are doing it. We believe we are seeing the other person in the present moment. When we are in transference with another person, we often feel certain that we know what they are feeling and thinking, what their intentions are, and what we can and can't expect from them. As a result, transference distorts relationships.
When we are in positive transference with another person, we often idealize their positive qualities and we might even believe that they are capable of giving us all the attention and love we always wanted. We experience this when we fall in love, and often we can cite the moment it happens. That other person seems to have and be everything we want tand need. We feel certain tat we know or understand that we see the real person, who they are, what they are feeling and thinking, what their intentions are, and what we can and can't expect from them.
Often, we experience feeling seen and known by them, and we are honored and delighted to be in their presence. We cannot listen to comments of others about this person unless they echo our own perspective. We may event distance ourselves from friends who mention any flaws. In positive transference, we experience the other person as powerful, not as good or important.
When we are in negative transference (a very common occurrence), we feel certain about the other person's "wrongness." At times, the transference is triggered in us by an actual behavior of the other person. They don't look us in the eye, or they do-they criticize our work, they try to help us-they are sarcastic or late or forget to do something. Many times the transference is triggered in us only by the perception that they did or said something, and our interpretation of what that means. We feel the other person has done a wrong to us. The initial trigger sets our patterns in motion. We think we know all about them, what they did, what they will do, think and feel. We experience them as powerful-we have given them the power to affect our lives-and we feel powerless. In negative transference, we often feel small, like a child in the face of a negative parent. That's where we went internally, even if we do not recognize if consciously.
We have all experienced going into transference with lovers, spouses, friends, family members, therapists or bosses. It happens all the time. We even transfer the parents of our childhood onto the parents of our adulthood, and we think we know what's going on. As quickly as we pop into transference, we can also pop right out of transference. We fall in love, the other person is perfect and up on a pedestal and we are so lucky; times goes on, and suddenly they are completely off the pedestal and lying beneath it. We ask how we could have been so deceived. Or we go into negative transference with our lover or spouse and travel the vicious cycle until an exit point-they bring us flowers cook our favorite meal, apologize and ask for forgiveness-and things are all right again. we can easily forget about it.
Transference can be a profound learning opportunity in relationship. In transference, we are triggered into our own patterns. The other person may or may not have done something. Our perceptions and reactions-our patterns-are what draw us into a vicious cycle and keep us there. Actually, we do have the power-if we choose to use it-to disconnect from the patterns and change the dynamic. The actions of others trigger us because we have the patterns in us. Identifying our patterns and disconnecting from them enables us to take back our power regardless of what they other person is or isn't doing. By doing this we can transform relationships. (Hoffman Institute 2019)
Trauma, which includes neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse, happens at extremely high rates. Trauma is categorized as a major health problem across the world. Exposure to trauma at a young age increases an individual’s risk in adulthood to develop a psychiatric disorder. Research has shown that adolescents who have been victims of trauma are three times more likely to have had past or current issues with alcoholism and or addiction. This occurs due to the desire to self medicate over dysregulated emotional and biological distress. An individual living with trauma often has an internal emotional experience of fear and dread that is met with lack of control and an extreme sense of isolation. This is the result of chronic neglect, molestation, incest, abuse, abandonment, and violence. An individual internal distress becomes so much to bear that relief is sought through a substance. Substances can range from food, to alcohol and drugs as well as self mutilation. Self destructiveness is an act of self preservation. Without the destructive coping skill the mind is terrified that it will not survive the emotional torture it has been over taken by.
The treatment of addiction in correlation with trauma has high success rates when the individual seeking treatment is able to break through denial of the internal war that is standing in the way of a healthier life. Awareness, Acceptance and Action are the key ingredients to successful healing of internal struggles. Sarasota Addiction Specialists have staff who have been trained and specialize in the treatment of trauma and addiction.
By Dr. Kimberly Benson
Sarasota Addiction Specialists specialize in the treatment and recovery of Alcoholism. Alcoholism is still the leading cause of most substance use disorders today. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 19.7 million American Adults were suffering from a substance use disorder. Of that 19.7 million over 74 percent of adults were suffering from alcoholism.
How do you identify if you or someone you love is suffering from alcoholism? First you must understand what the term alcoholism — clinically known as Alcohol Use Disorder — means. Alcoholism is a chronic disease in which an individual displays the inability to control their drinking. There is a prominent preoccupation, obsession and compulsion around the use of alcohol. Often, an alcoholics reaction to the consumption of alcohol can be seen as predictably unpredictable. Alcoholism exists in the impoverished, middle, and upper classes — it does not discriminate. The number one pitfall in diagnosis is the “idea” of an old stereotype of what an alcoholic is. Today an alcoholic can be anyone from a homeless individual drinking daily on the street, to the wealthiest CEO over-drinking during long lunches, to a someone retired drinking through quality time with grandchildren. Alcoholism is all about what is occurring in the mind and then the impact consumption has on the individual, both mentally and physically.
The biggest barrier in seeking treatment for alcoholism is what is at the root of the disease: denial. Denial must be broken in order for recovery to take hold. Denial does not have to be completely broken in order to begin the treatment process. Fear of how to cope is what can keep someone locked in the vicious cycle of alcoholism.
Some symptoms of Alcoholism include blackouts, cravings, shakiness, sweating, legal problems, aggression, compulsive behavior, obsession, lack of restraint, self-destructive behavior, agitation, depression, anxiety, guilt, shame, loneliness, suicidal ideation, carelessness, drinking and driving, isolation, drinking throughout the day, binge drinking, delirium, fear, psychosis, financial issues, family problems, work related issues and relationship problems.
Sarasota Addiction Specialists offer private care to men, women and families suffering from alcoholism. You can end the battle and find freedom from alcoholism. Sarasota Addiction Specialists offers a highly regarded Intensive Outpatient Program, or we can assist you in putting together a tailored treatment plan that is right for you and allows you to maintain your current lifestyle. Our goal is to help you break the chains of alcoholism and attain psychological freedom and pave a pathway to healthier you.
Dr. Kimberly S. Benson LMHC
Grief and Loss as it relates to Addiction
One of the most difficult, stressful and emotionally painful things that an individual goes through in their lifetime is the loss of a loved one. Loss includes the death of a spouse, close family member, pet and friends. There are many different types of losses which include the loss of a home, job, friendship, relationship, health, trust, safe childhood etc.
Everyone in their lifetime experiences many forms of loss. The grief that comes with any loss is destressing and is experienced differently by everyone. Some people may experience depression, go numb and feel detached unable to access their emotional experience, go to an extreme and make changes to their lives in order to feel alive and living, and some will turn to substance use to cope with the pain which can result in the development of addiction.
Depending on the relationship, circumstances and past life events people get through intense grief quickly and others could take years. Typically grief for everyone comes and goes throughout our lifetime as loss is a natural part of life. Anytime we experience a loss it will triggers the emotional memory of all the other losses we have previously experienced. There are 5 stages to grief. They are Shock and disbelief, Fear, Sadness, Anger, Guilt, & Sickness. These 5 stages happen interchangeably over time.
If grief lasts for an extended period of time due to complicated loss, traumatic history etc it can take a toll on the psyche and leave an individual vulnerable to the development of mental health issues. As a result there is a high risk of individuals using substances to cope with the despair and loss in an attempt to dull out the pain and feel some sense of normalcy and happiness.
"Out of the Darkness, There is Light."
What is Step Zero in the process of recovery from addiction? Step Zero is the realization and insight obtained through the painful process of addiction that the substance of use is causing interference and destruction in someones life. This realization comes with the clarity that another way of life exists. The unfortunate truth about addiction is that it takes a "certain" amount of pain for each individual to break through the ropes of isolation and denial to ignite the spiritual awakening necessary to embark on the journey of recovery.
As a psychotherapist in private practice for over 10 years now I often ask myself what it is that fuels someone into the development of addiction. What I have come to believe for some, is that loss, longing, nostalgia and the yearning for things that never existed are great motivators to seek out numbing agents as a result of pain and suffering from these emotional experiences.
When we numb out hurt and grief we also numb out the ability to experience love, joy, peace and light. We are not designed as human beings to be in a perpetual state of numbness and detachment. These states of mind are like being the walking living dead. The risk to be courageous, feel love and grief is how we know we are truly alive. Brene Brown refers to this as "whole hearted living." To embark on the journey of recovery is living courageously, risking to love and experiencing grief for the sake of healing and evolving. One of the gifts of recovery is the ability to develop compassion for oneself and others. How do we develop compassion? By knowing our own darkness well enough that we can sit with others in their darkness.