One of our greatest joys at The Natural Lifemanship Institute is hearing how our trainings have opened people’s eyes and transformed their lives. We are occasionally fortunate enough to receive unsolicited blog articles written by folks who have participated in our trainings and who left feeling inspired to reflect and write about their experiences and their realizations. Below is one such article. In it, Fundamentals of NL participant, Debbie Frey, discusses her realizations about trauma, resilience, and the ultimate healing that comes with connection.
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Getting to the “Root” of the Problem
By Debbie Frey
Picture a seed that’s been planted in soil and is ready to sprout. A seed that gets well-cared for with plenty of water, sunlight and protection grows a strong trunk, plentiful branches, and hardy leaves. But that’s not the case for all seeds – some might not get watered enough, some might get stepped on as a sapling, and some might even be attacked by a disease or swarm of insects later in their life.
These type of traumatic events are going to have an impact on the rest of the tree’s life whether the tree knows it or not. But here’s the thing – something that is traumatic to one tree, might not be as traumatic to the other. For example, maybe two trees get hit by the same disease. The first tree is super healthy and is able to fight off the disease quickly. Or maybe this tree is being carefully watched by an arborist who cares about the tree and has the resources to support it and help it get back to good health. Either way – the disease is more or less a bump in the tree’s road and it moves on. Now the second tree gets the same disease. It has a harder time fighting off the disease due to health issues it has had in the past. It’s just simply not as strong as the first tree and doesn’t know how to deal with this new disease. It’s also not under the watchful eye of someone who appreciates it and wants to see it get better. So it takes a deeper toll on the tree’s overall health.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet – we’re the tree.
Trauma happens to all of us. Problem is some people are wired to deal with trauma better than others. If they were raised in a loving and nurturing home, they might be mentally stronger to deal with it because their brain is well-developed and they can effectively deal with and process the pain. Or maybe they have close family members or friends to reach out to for support, or have the means to get help from qualified doctors, therapists, etc. who can help ensure they stay mentally healthy after the traumatic event. But not everyone is so lucky. Maybe they went through something traumatic as a baby or child (or even in utero). At the time, they didn’t have the means to get help (or even know that they needed it), and the wiring in their brain starts to gets all twisted. It has a cascading effect because it’s never addressed and pretty soon the parts of the brain that should be talking to each other aren’t. As a result it’s harder for them to rationalize, reason and deal with their emotions. And now, when this new traumatic event happens, they simply aren’t wired to deal with it. They might shut down, they might develop addictions and obsessions to deal with what they’re feeling, or they might lash out via anger and even try to hurt someone. These people need someone to teach them the right ways to deal with their feelings and the trauma they’ve experienced. The brain can be rewired, it just takes time, effort and a better understanding of what we as human beings need to get better.
And that’s a huge problem to tackle, especially in a society with a “just fix it” mentality. So we make efforts to prevent and protect – we try to ban guns, we make drugs illegal, we medicate with the ones that aren’t, and we try to raise awareness about mental health issues like PTSD, depression and anxiety. These are all valiant and honorable efforts but as the past has proven, mentally ill people will still find guns, they’ll still commit suicide, they’ll still develop eating disorders and they’ll still do drugs.
So what do we do? How do we fix all the trees?
We need to get to the root of the problem that is the mental health crisis in this country or it’s just going to keep happening. My hypothesis? It’s a side effect of the modern, increasingly disconnected world we live in. Families and social groups are getting smaller and more distanced from each other as we all strive for our (or our nuclear family’s) success. We’re becoming less of a “we” society and more of a “me” one. We’re forgetting how to develop the healthy and connected relationships that’s part of our DNA. Yes, technology has made it really easy to stay “connected” to important people in our lives, but not in the way our body craves. So, if it’s not getting that connection through a human relationship, there’s a good chance it’s going to try to find it elsewhere through other addictions – drugs, food, gambling, etc.
Just because we’ve essentially created our own problem doesn’t mean we’re screwed as a society. This isn’t the first time we’ve done this to ourselves. We all just need to think a little differently. We can’t expect the government, school systems, and healthcare to fix all the problems. They can certainly help, but it’s not going to solve anything until we all realize the severity of the threat. At the turn of the century when automobiles were invented we created a more physically dangerous world. Sure, the government stepped in and created roads and rules but WE had to do something too. We had to be more observant everywhere we went, we had to take our cars into the shop when they needed fixed, we needed to educate our children on safety around cars and the dangers of playing in traffic. We had to change. And change is hard. But we did it anyway. We did it because we knew cars were here to stay and we wanted to create a safe world for us and our children.
So now it’s time to do that again. But this time it’s not a physical danger, it’s a mental one. Time to own up. Time to change. Time to CONNECT.
About the Author:
Debbie rediscovered her love for horses, and also her passion for equine-assisted psychotherapy about five years ago. She was beginning her last (and eventually successful) attempt to recover from the eating disorder she had been fighting for almost ten years. While reading a recovery book one day, the author started talking about a certain mental state that could be called the “essence of passion.” According to the book, when you’re in this state, you’re so fully engaged and focused in an activity that you love — one that’s well matched to your personal skills and gives you a sense of control – that you to lose awareness of time and yourself and it feels like a reward, regardless of the end result of your efforts. Debbie knew right away that for her, this was horses. In the few times she rode while she was sick, she recalled how present she was…which is a challenging feat for someone in the midst of an eating disorder whose mind in constantly racing about food, calories and control. So she decided to get back into riding and soon found it wasn’t the actual riding that was the most healing for her, but rather the relationship she was building with one particular horse, Finn. The mutual trust and connection they were developing was like nothing Debbie ever felt. Not only did she end up buying Finn to continue working on her relationship with him, but it also sparked her desire to learn more about the field of equine-assisted therapy and how/why being around horses has such healing power, especially for those recovering from eating disorders. During her research, she stumbled across Natural Lifemanship and knew immediately this was the methodology for her given the focus on trauma and building a connected relationship with a horse, much like she did with Finn. Since then, Debbie has taken both the Fundamentals and Intensive training in her pursuit of certification. She is currently a PR director at a Fortune 50 company and has intentions to complete her certification and slowly but purposely build her own Natural Lifemanship practice outside of Philadelphia once all the pieces fall into place and her life is at the right stage. Much like her recovery and also her relationship with Finn, she knows this pursuit won’t happen overnight, and that there will be setbacks along the way. But with time and patience, Debbie is confident the Lord will answer her prayers and put her in the right place to pursue her new-found passion.