Author: Justin Mckibben
As tragically contrite as it may seem to say, racism is still a thing. Many would argue that as long as there are different races, it will exist because people will always find a reason to hate or resent those who are different from them. In 2016 we should hope we have come a long way from the days of belligerent racism. Still the media is filled with claims of racism running rampant. Some still dispute that this is all contrived by the propaganda machine turning people against one another. Others actively protest it in the streets and on every public forum, calling it a hidden truth that governs our world.
It is true that we have left behind the era that gave us slavery, the Civil War and the Holocaust. However, pretending this infirmity has vanished completely is irresponsible. Of course we all have the nature to be judgmental or intolerant, but how far does it take us?
Some of us may only ever experience racism first-hand a few times in our lives. Several studies have already shown that racial discrimination can be linked to poor mental and physical health. Now new data suggests that not only is racism still real, but that repeated racism over time has an increased impact on mental health.
Accumulation of Racist Experiences
The recent data comes from a study by Dr. Laia Becares, Research Fellow in the University’s School of Social Sciences and in the Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity, and her colleagues looking into the accumulation of experiences involving racially motivated attacks over time. This included instances of:
- Being shouted at with prejudice
- Being physically assaulted
- Avoiding a place because or ones race
- Feeling unsafe because of one’s ethnicity
Dr. Becares’s study was published in the American Journal of Public Health. The ethnicity sample of Understanding Society is the primary source of a lot of information for this study. This is actually a dataset used to examine research questions with participants over time. It allowed the researchers to add up all experiences of racial discrimination that people have had over a five year span to find out whether these were associated with changes in mental health.
Dealing with the Data
Dr. Becares’s research shows that increased mental health problems for racial minorities who’ve experienced repeated incidents of discrimination are shown to be significantly higher than those who do not report any experience of racism.
The study found that the biggest cumulative impact on mental health was attributed to the intense fear of avoiding places and feeling unsafe due to discrimination. In Dr. Becares own words,
“This finding would suggest that previous exposure to racial discrimination over the life course, or awareness of racial discrimination experienced by others, can continue to affect the mental health of ethnic minority people, even after the initial exposure to racial discrimination.”
Which sounds like it actually sends shock-waves of impact, especially today! Every time you log online there are videos of shootings or attacks involving police and other incidences which are labeled as racially motivated, fueling division in communities. Then the floodgates of online harassment and rants echoing intolerance open up and spill out. The internet being over-saturated with “hate speech” has become the norm. Extremes vary from insisting racism doesn’t exist, to people encouraging racial tensions. At a time where this issue is increasingly publicized and political, it is important to be compassionate and self-aware.
It’s not just one sided either. People from all races have proven to be guilty of discrimination. Some will even criticize another for being a racist, and follow it with racist remarks! It is maddening sometimes to think of how simple minded statements are so openly thrown around, and how we don’t even realize the impact this kind of behavior has on our mental health.
Shades of Grey
Personally, as a biracial man, I can say that my entire life I’ve experienced the most subtle shades of racism. I’ve been told more times than I could ever possibly recount how I am “not really black” or I “act too white” because people on both sides of the discussion, including my own family don’t realize the true weight in those words or the mental conditioning it creates.
I’ve experienced the outright indecency of aggressive racism. For a time I lived in a farm town with hardly any other minorities in the area and felt first-hand what it’s like to be given a vulgar name that I should never feel obligated to wear.
In my days of active addiction, even in my days of recovery, I’ve experienced racism. Sometimes the worst part is people think they are being racist with good intentions. If I were to be transparently introspective I can honestly say that discrimination long enough based on something that was never up to you to being with can have long term effects on the way you cope with your world.
I may not be black. I may not be white. But every day I’m grateful to find the shades of grey where I fit. This is the truth we should all face.
No matter where your ancestors came from or how much pigment you have in the skin wrapped around your bones, you are a person. We all have to take responsibility for the contributions we make to this conversation. No one is to blame. Therefore, we all have to be accountable to change. Mentally, emotionally, physically we suffer from our inaction, and our inaction makes us complicit in the culture of racial and religious division that is devastating mental health for us all.
Mental health, substance abuse and addiction are all commonly connected. People with substance abuse and addiction issues more often than not struggle with some degree of trauma or mental health disorder. The more we pay attention to mental health, the more likely we will be able to fight back against addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Some say that adversity for adolescence can be a trauma that catalyzes their future potential for sustainable mental health. Others would say that we cannot let our traumas define us, and that we have a conscious decision to make our own definitions out of our experiences. The stories we tell ourselves have the meaning we give them, and we can make the same stories into epitaphs of empowerment in a hero’s journey, or we can make them tales of turmoil that set us on a path to destruction.
But what if those experiences actually do a little more than alter our mood, what if they actually alter our brains?
In 1995, physicians Vincent Felitti and Robert Anda launched a large-scale epidemiological study probing the child and adolescent histories of 17,000 subjects with shocking results.
The ACE Study
In this study they compared childhood experiences to later adult health records, and in the process they discovered nearly 2/3 of individuals had encountered one or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).
Felitti and Anda coined the term for ACEs to encompass the chronic, unpredictable, and stress-inducing events some children face, including:
- Growing up with a depressed parent
- Growing up with an alcoholic parent
- Losing a parent to divorce or other causes
- Enduring chronichumiliation
- Emotional neglect
- Sexual or physical abuse
The conclusion they came to was that the number of ACEs an individual experienced predicted the amount of medical care they would require as an adult with astounding accuracy, and some of these revelations were quite troubling:
- Individuals who had faced 4 or more categories of ACEs were 2 times likely to be diagnosed with cancer
- For each ACE Score a woman had, her risk of being hospitalized with an autoimmune disease rose by 20%
- Someone with an ACE Score of 4 was 460% more likely to suffer from depressionthan someone with an ACE Score of 0.
- An ACE Score greater than or equal to 6 shortened an individual’s lifespan by almost 20 years
The ACE Study tells us these traumatic childhood events predispose individuals to a variety of chronic conditions in adulthood.
Today, in labs across the country, neuroscientists are peering into the once inscrutable brain-body connection, and breaking down, on a biochemical level, exactly how the stress we face when we’re young catches up with us when we’re adults, altering our bodies, our cells, and even our DNA, with startling results.
The more bewildering conclusions oblige us to take a second glance at how emotional and physical pain is interwoven in who we are.
Early Epigenetic Shifts
When thrust repeatedly into stress-inducing situations during childhood our physiological stress reaction shifts into overdrive, and we lose the ability to respond appropriately and effectively to future stressors. Not just over days or months, but decades later.
This is due to gene methylation, in which small chemical markers, or methyl groups, adhere to the genes involved in regulating the stress response. This reaction prevents these genes from doing their jobs. As the function of these genes is altered, the stress response becomes re-set on “high” for life.
With stress-response on “high alert” our bodies promote inflammation and disease. It can also cause us to be more prone to over-react to the everyday stressors of life, creating even more inflammation. In this process we are predisposed to a mass of chronic conditions, including:
- Autoimmune disease
- Heart disease
This has all been determined through further research.
Destruction of Default Mode Network
Inside each of our brains, a network of neurocircuitry, commonly called the “default mode network,” stays actively uniting parts of the brain associated with memory and thought integration. This network is always on stand-by, ready to help us to figure out what to do next.
Ruth Lanius is a neuroscientist, professor of psychiatry, and director of the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Research Unit at the University of Ontario who stated:
“The dense connectivity in these areas of the brain help us to determine what’s relevant or not relevant, so that we can be ready for whatever our environment is going to ask of us,”
When facing childhood adversity and being habitually pushed into a state of fight-or-flight the default mode network starts to go offline so that it no longer helps to decipher what’s relevant, or what to do next.
According to Lanius, kids who’ve faced early trauma have less connectivity in the default mode network. Their brains don’t seem to enter that healthy stand-by state, and even decades after the initial traumatic patterns they may still have trouble reacting appropriately to the world around them and knowing what is important.
These are just two examples of how the concept of trauma literally rewiring the brain to react differently comes into play, which may seem like a huge let down, but the thing is these changes are not insurmountable obstacles.
Recovery in part means learning to get re-acclimated to the world and learning new coping mechanisms to help us combat the insufficient patterns we develop in our early lives. While ACEs may retrain the brain in unhealthy ways that are detrimental to the body, recovery doesn’t take brain surgery. At the end of the day we all have the capacity to retrain our brains and escape the stories we tell ourselves of our traumas, and build new paths to reconnect our minds with our life’s mission.
Mental illness, trauma and addiction quite often go hand in hand. The trauma we experience can contribute to the worst of our habits, but recovery is possible through effective trauma resolutions. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Having a life filled with uncertainty is probably the only real certainty we all will experience… yet uncertainty is defined as the lack of certainty…. seems legit.
It is also defined as a situation or theory of unknown future. Uncertainty exists in a world where predictions are made up and the evidence doesn’t matter because at the end of the day there is still the ever-present unknown.
They say expect the unexpected, and it would seem everything else can be summed up to the product of guess work or dumb luck, but there are no exact laws that oversee the dominion of destiny… at least not that we know of. Sure the laws of physics are pretty solid, every form of science is based off what can be rationally explained and reliably applied through organized knowledge, but even in science there is uncertainty.
So what is so beautiful about uncertainty? What could be good about knowing that you do not know something… and may never know it?
The Science of Uncertainty
Uncertainty in scientific study can consist purely of a lack of obtainable facts. There may be uncertainty about whether a new invention will work as a prototype, but this uncertainty can be removed with further analysis and experimentation.
But if we are talking essence, at a subatomic level uncertainty has often been envisioned as a fundamental and inescapable property of the infinitely incredible universe we all make up, and that we are all made up of.
Just to point out some interesting aspects of uncertainty in the scientific world (so you know I’m not just making it up) in quantum mechanics the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle sets limits on how much an observer can ever actually know about the position and velocity of a particle. This is not about ignorance of potentially obtainable facts, but this uncertainty is based off the idea there simply may be no fact to be found.
Controversy in physics exists as to whether such uncertainty is an irreducible property of nature or if there are “hidden variables” that would describe the state of a particle even more exactly than Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. Those “hidden variables” mean different things to different people, while some just chalk it up to not yet having the means to measure it, others suspect it is actual evidence of a spiritual plane and the fingerprint of the divine. Either way, at this point it is simply… uncertain.
How We See Uncertainty
The term uncertainty is utilized subtly in so many different facets of life, such as:
There are extensive areas of life where you will see uncertainty commonly applied, but to limit uncertainty at all is kind of obscure in itself considering the whole concept of ‘nothing is for certain’ we find in our everyday lives.
How do you put a limit on ‘what if?’
You can probably think of a million different things you are uncertain about right now (using the word by its strictest definition), like:
Are we alone in the universe?
Is there a higher power out there?
Will I ever have enough money?
What do people think of me?
Will I ever get the girl/guy?
Some of these questions get a bad rap because they induce stress and anxiety, but if we already knew every conclusion why would the experience matter at all?
The Beauty in Uncertainty
The beauty of uncertainty can actually be very simple or subjective… because the beauty of uncertainty is the gift of this exact moment.
What is more meaningful than this moment?
If you believe it is a moment that has already past, you are missing out.
If you believe it is a moment yet to come you are missing the point.
Uncertainty in essence is what makes life more meaningful. It is the vivid contrast and emotional sparks that drive us apart as they weave us together. It is the ambiguity that shatters the barriers between the boring and the beautiful, giving us both a natural fear and a fulfillment in every instant. The point isn’t to have the answer; the point is seeking your truth.
Uncertainty is so stunning because it is exciting and empowering. It keeps us enthralled and engaged in our own existence instead of dragging our feet through a predetermined wasteland of the painfully obvious.
Sure… we want to know things, want to be informed on where we are heading, want to know what we need in order to get the most of what we want. A lot of us wish so desperately to have control of it all, but then what would be the point?
At the core of it is the heart, where we find peace in the unknown. One great gift of uncertainty is growth, because as we grow we learn how to live in harmony with the outcomes outside our influence.
My father once told me to stop worrying about the things that aren’t up to me, and find peace in the fact that it never was up to me. In my life today I find the vital and vibrant elements of my world have nothing to do with me and even less to do with my ability to be certain of them. Joy fills up my life in places I never could have anticipated, sorrow seeps in where I once thought for sure I was most secure, and love beyond words has encompassed my life far surpassing even my daydreams in uncertainty’s bitter-sweet way. Uncertainty creates the space for our freedom, gives us a reason to hope, and lays out a path to find love in all forms.
At the end of it all just try to be at peace with the idea that you don’t need to be certain of the next moment, because this one is already perfect whether you know it or not.
I found peace with uncertainty and grew so much in sobriety because of the guidance I was gifted with in early recovery. Trusting in others and living in the moment was never my idea, but it is a big part of what saved my life, and Palm Partners set me on the path. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Holistic addiction treatment programs are all about the innovative and comprehensive holistic healing techniques that are implemented in treatment centers as part of a program outline that was introduced to treatment providers at the 2011 Evolution of Treatment Conference, and there are a variety of new and exciting methods these centers are implementing in an attempt to give those suffering with substance abuse or addiction an opportunity to experience all kinds of amazing ways to improve mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health.
The Native American Sweat Lodge
When people hear the phrase ‘sweat lodge’ they typically image a sauna of some sort. They think of people just sitting in a room with steam sweating and killing time, maybe they had a steam room in their gym and that’s what they expect to see. But the real Native American sweat lodge that is part of the Palm Partners holistic healing program is nothing like this.
The sweat lodge at Palm Partners is modeled after an ancient ceremony that has been practiced for thousands of years, and has been used to help people get over their addictions, compulsions and other afflictions. The ceremony is a sacred and beautiful event that is not only effective in helping individuals physically release toxins through the pores by sweating, but it is also a very personal and spiritual healing experience.
This method of healing is very unique, because the sweat lodge structure itself was built by the members of the lodge who help to lead the ceremonies, and it was done so with great love and compassion.
The heat comes from hot stones, which are taken from a fire and placed into a pit within the lodge. Once water is poured over these stones, it creates a steam that fills the structure, and helps create that healing atmosphere. There are 4 rounds of heat, each one adding stones to the lodge and making it more hot inside, and each round represented by an animal totem, which would then be used as a metaphor for the significance of that round in the lodge.
The greatest power of the Native American sweat lodge comes in the connection that is present in that sacred space between the individuals who share the lodge, mother earth and nature itself, along with whatever higher power people chose to connect with. It allows people to reflect back on the issues they face in active addiction from a unique perspective, and create new emotional attachments to replace the old destructive ones.
My Experience with the Sweat Lodge
I was very excited to share my experience with the sweat lodge, because I was fortunate enough to get very involved in the sweat lodge at Palm Partners, and I actively participated several times in the lodge. I can do not justice to the feeling first hand, but I can say a few things that became important for me that I could share with someone considering it. Lodge is a place of gratitude, of facing fears and letting go of ego and grief to move forward in the rest of recovery.
- Trust the process
When I went to the sweat lodge for the first time, I was worried that the feeling of claustrophobia would ruin it for me and I would have to give up. One assurance was that if anyone needed to quit for any reason at any time, there was no shame or hesitation to let them out of the lodge.
What happened ultimately was I learned a lot about letting go and trusting the process, which carried over into other aspects of my life. It was not easy to do, but I came to trust that I was in a safe in that sacred space and that helped me become even further connected to those participating in the lodge with me.
- It’s not about sweating, but bring water
The purpose of lodge is not strictly to sweat. Yes there is a level of detoxification, and it is important that you stay hydrated for this experience, because you will sweat… a lot! I made sure to bring as much ice water as possible each time, and to drink plenty before we even got started. Helping the body heal is a huge part of recovery, and maintaining the body during an intense and exciting activity like this is essential.
- Speaking with the spirit
To me the sweat lodge gave me many gifts, and the biggest part of that was its influence from a spiritual perspective. In lodge you don’t have to just sit in silence. The majority of the time is actually open for prayer, for speaking about your spiritual intentions or you can chose to meditate quietly, but it is often used as an opportunity to share thoughts or express any repressed feelings.
I felt in sweat lodge I was given a stage to openly seek a spiritual connection, and that energy provided in that circle of connection was an opportunity to learn from and share with others. The heat forces you to focus, and the ceremony itself creates the perfect setting to be in the moment, to share and be receptive. I have shared sweat lodge with many people, and I acknowledge them as brothers in spirit on a journey like mine.
This is an amazing ritual that heals on many levels. And each individual is meant to receive their own experience, with no expectations or required results. It is purely an opportunity to be present, and to seek some truth through whatever connection you find.
The Native American sweat lodge is an awesome and inspiring experience, and for those who value the importance of healing in a complete sense of mind, body and spirit it is an awesome method to utilize in seeking spiritual gorwth. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
By Cheryl Steinberg
With the holiday season upon us, culminating in the start of a new year, it’s a tradition to make New Year’s resolutions. Here are 13 things you should give up if you want to be happy.
1. Give Up Your Need To Always Be Right
Many of us, myself included, are addicted to being right and can’t stand the idea of being wrong. If you’re like me, you engage in arguments over Facebook – even at the risk of ruining a great friendship simply out of the need to be right.
It’s time to gain some perspective: It’s just not worth it.
“Would I rather be right, or would I rather be kind?” Wayne Dyer
2. Give Up Your Need For Control
Part of the need to always be right is the need to be in control. Giving up your need to always control everything – or at least being willing to – will bring you much more peace and happiness in your daily life. One way to do this is to allow others to just ‘be’ – whether they are loved ones, coworkers, or even strangers you encounter in your daily comings and goings.
“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond winning.” Lao Tzu
3. Give Up On Blaming Others
Be accountable for yourself and give up the need to blame others for what you have/don’t have, for what you feel/don’t feel. Think about it like this: by blaming others, you are playing the victim as well as giving away your power.
4. Give Up Your Negative Self-Talk
Do you have an inner dialogue that criticizes you about everything? Not good enough. Not smart enough. Not talented enough. You’re not alone. It’s time that you realize that YOU control your thoughts and that those things aren’t real. And just as you have created those negative thoughts, you can create positive, supportive thoughts to tell yourself instead.
It’ll take some practice but, you can effectively erase the negative tape and record over it with the good stuff you should be telling yourself. You’ll be amazed at just how much changing your inner dialogue will change your life – for the better.
“The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive.” Eckhart Tolle
“A belief is not an idea held by the mind, it is an idea that holds the mind.” Elly Roselle
5. Give Up Complaining
Give up your constant need to complain about everything – people, situations, events – that make you unhappy, sad or depressed. Take responsibility for how you feel; no person or situation can make you happy or unhappy unless you allow it to. Focus on what you can control: not the situation that triggers those feelings in you, but how you choose to look at it.
Try giving up complaining for 24 hours, starting over each time you find yourself complaining – in your head or out loud. You’ll be surprised at the differences you’ll notice.
6. Give Up The Luxury Of Criticism
Give up your need to criticize people, things, events or people, that you might dislike or find annoying; instead, come from compassion. Everyone wants to be happy, to be understood, to love, and to be loved.
7. Give Up Resisting Change
Pretty much everyone has a fear of change. But change is good. Change is a source of growth; it will help you make improvements in your life and also the lives of those around you.
“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.” Joseph Campbell
8. Give Up Labels
Give up labeling things, people or events as being weird or different because it’s new to you or you don’t understand it. Try opening your mind. Minds only work when open.
“Your mind is like a parachute; it only works when it is open.” Anthony J. D’Angelo
9. Give Up On Your Fears
Just like those negative thoughts, fear is just an illusion that you created. It’s all in your mind. Correct the inside and the outside will fall into place.
“The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” Franklin D. Roosevelt
10. Give Up Making Excuses
A lot of times we limit ourselves because of the many excuses we use. When we use excuses, we get stuck in a pattern of lying to ourselves. This stunts our growth by keeping us from working on improving ourselves and our lives. And just like fear, excuses are not even real.
11. Give Up Holding Onto The Past
The past is just that: past. Look to it only as a source of lessons learned – knowledge and experience. We all have done things in the past that might make us cringe but, rather than regretting them, choose to forgive yourself and promise to learn from them.
Practice being present in the now.
12. Give Up Attachment
There is a distinction between ‘love’ and ‘attachment.’ Real love is pure, kind, and self-less; attachment comes from a place of fear. And the two cannot co-exist.
The moment you detach yourself from all things, which takes time and practice, you will experience peace, tolerance, kindness, and serenity. This is something that many achieve through meditation.
13. Give Up Trying to Live Up to Other People’s Expectations
Way too many people live their lives according to what others think is best for them: what their parents, friends, enemies, teachers, government, the media think and so on. That’s not only exhausting, it’s unfulfilling. Trying to please everybody by living up to their expectations will result in you giving up control over your own life.
Listen to your inner voice, that inner calling – we all have it. Sometimes it needs cultivating. Do what makes you happy; what fulfills your needs and desires. You have one life – this life – it’s yours to live, to own. Don’t let others distract you from your path.
Many people turn to alcohol and other drugs because they don’t know how to be happy. It becomes their only coping mechanism, leading to full-blown addiction. Life has much, much more to offer. For help, call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 day or night and you can speak directly with a live person, one who understands what you are going through and who can help you find your way.This can be the first step on finding your true path in life.