Emotions are the driving force behind human thoughts, actions and behaviors. In my experience with treating trauma in the addiction field, I’ve found a clear misperception of current emotions as a result of past traumatic experiences with my clients. It has become clear that these clients have been unable to resolve and find balance with their emotions, developing learned behavior patterns such as addiction, cutting, and acting out as a means to cope with their emotions. This insight into the nature of addiction for trauma is yet to be incorporated into the thinking of many current substance abuse counselors.
As pointed out by Philip Diaz MSW, in his latest book, Healing Trauma through Self-Parenting, HCI 2012, addiction and trauma requires a different sense of direction when treating traumatized addicts.
Trauma or the Traumatic Experience:
In order to comprehend the full scope of trauma as practitioners; we need to redefine our definition of trauma. Living a substance abuse lifestyle is a traumatic experience because the addict experiences situations, events, and circumstances that conflict with societal, personal moral or ethical values. This is not considered in traditional drug treatment as an issue to be addressed in the addicts plan for recovery.
The majority of clients being treated for addiction have experienced one or more traumatic experiences such as rape, violence, emotional abuse, etc. The manifested coping mechanism is their use of drugs and/or alcohol. Remember, addiction is not the problem; it’s a solution to a problem. So, what’s the actual problem? Typically it is some form of traumatic experience as defined above.
The Process of Addiction: A New Perspective
When we are born there are two primary emotions: Fear and Love. As we grow, our experiences develop alternative derivatives of these two emotions. We witness an event or situation that creates a deep emotional impact, sometimes so strong that the event cannot be processed.
The hypothalamus pumps a billion chemicals each minute, these chemicals attach to electrical impulses in the brain while events are happening. They are then processed in the brain until the event and emotion are completely processed. However, a traumatic event differs in that the emotion clings to an impulse that gets trapped in the brain, never fully being processed.
This emotion elicits a thought (protect yourself), which then turns into action (drink a beer, use drugs). I always ask clients: “What is the emotion behind why you use?” Repeatedly, I’ve found the answer is: Fear. Learned behavior (addiction) teaches the mind how to protect itself. The law of attraction; if fear is the primary emotion and that fear is associated in the brain with traumatic episodes, then further traumatic episodes will come into that person’s life, in a continuous loop.
So what do we do? Filter out the bad energy through meditation!
String Theory in essence is used to teach the client how emotions turn into behaviors, behaviors that the client has power over.
Clients are presented with six lines, or strings. The universe is made up of atoms, protons neutrons and electrons which exist on and within strings, like strings on a guitar, which make up the entire universe. The strings are in constant vibration and elicit emotional responses. String one carries a vibration of pure love or heaven. String six is a vibration of hate or hell, an experience equal to the nightmare of addiction, with each string in between carrying a derivative in different intensity of the string it is closest to. Between strings three and four, all physical objects exist because of the emotional balance of the primary emotions.
Clients are instructed to relate addiction to a vibration equal to string four or above. Utilizing Newton’s law, “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction,” clients are instructed of the power of choice, they can choose an alternate reality, based on a primary emotion through alchemy.
Simplified, alchemy is the ability to change one’s emotional state simply by choosing to do so.
Alchemy is a vision statement, the ability to create a future out of thought and believing in the vision, making it reality.
Artistic expression is the fastest moving and direct flow of energy capable of changing our emotions, thoughts and actions. The vibrational pattern of artistic expression changes the biochemical flow of brain waves, eliciting a change in the system; our system, the brain.
Clients are instructed on their ability to make behavior changes instantaneously, with choosing to feel the sensations of the third and second strings. In the age old tradition of true alchemy, a symbol must be selected.
Hypnosis: the art of using symbols to elicit a hypnotic suggestion: or retraining neural pathways:
My certification in hypnotherapy comes from Dr. Jon Conelly’s Rapid Resolution Therapy with Clinical Hypnosis training. However, over time my clinical skills with this certification has evolved to include a derivative of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Nuero Linguistic Programming (NLP), and Eriksonian Hypnosis. This dynamic combination assists the client in achieving two objectives. The first is a change of perception; gaining an understanding of a different way of looking into their current pathology; the main objective is to empower the client. The second objective is to assist the client in putting the self-defeating behavior pattern and underlying emotion attached to it in the past and relieving the client of current emotions that manifest into negative behaviors.
The addictions field caters to clients that are resistant. Utilizing this simple skill allows the practitioner to reach the client with a desired effect without having to perform a common induction through hypnosis.
Clients who suffer from PTSD or any related traumatic experience feel the problem as though it is currently happening. The emotional content associated with the event is to abuse drugs/alcohol. To explain, I share a personal story.
Being a NY Giants fan, when they won the super bowl last year, I was jumping up and down like a maniac-beyond happy. I remember how happy I was on that day, but I’m not feeling the same way right now because the event happened in the past. People who suffer from PTSD feel the same way in the present moment. The mind has not processed the information enough to convince the mind that the event is in the past and can no longer affect them. In order to achieve this putting it in the past event a simple induction (guided meditation) is performed.
This is the time where string theory and alchemy filters into the process. The client had been instructed that the event and emotion is vibrating on string four or five, however, through alchemy, the client is able to transform their vibration over to string three or two.
The practitioner assists the client in identifying the emotion they are struggling with. They are asked to express and feel this emotion in current time and then to attach a symbol to it. Using NLP the problem is referred to in past tense and the solution referred to in future tense and brought into the present by asking the client to believe they are experiencing this event in current time. Once achieved, the solution is symbolized by the client using a natural environment and a wild animal to symbolize the empowering feeling. After, the client’s chosen symbol is induced during a theta wave induction. Clients have described the induction process as though they were floating or even flying. The result is one of satisfaction and liberation.
Recovering from addiction and trauma requires a spiritual and empowering experience. A full spiritual program is a part of the journey of recovery. A journey of enlightenment and relief that the past is over and they can choose to make their lives extraordinary.
P.D. Alleva, MSW is the founding owner of Lifescape Solutions and Evolve Mental Health which he opened in December of 2011, based on a new model of healing and psychotherapy called Spiritual Growth Therapy. His newest book Let Your Soul Evolve: Spiritual Growth for the New Millennium 2nd edition describes the model. www.lifescapesolutions.com