Saturday, March 25th 2017
Dec
2007
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Addiction: 9 Causes and Cures

TRAUMA, the FIGHT/FLIGHT RESPONSE and ALCOHOL

Aviator posterA couple of things occur when people get hit by a trauma like a car accident, natural disaster, major surgery, job loss, bankruptcy, divorce, the death of a parent, rape or other violent crime. The object constancy that D. W. Winnicott suggests is installed in our psyches around the age of three can be wiped out like a deleted computer file. The other thing that happens is that our nervous systems, spiked with adrenaline and other stress hormones, go into hyper-drive. “It is as if the nervous system is wired for 110 volts and is hit with 220,” write psychologists Diane and Larry Heller.

We climb a roller-coaster to a state of high activiation, the term of art popularized by the pioneering biophysicist, Peter A. Levine. Most mammals instinctually come down the roller coaster by discharging the intense energy of activation, also known as the fight or flight state, by literally shaking it off and sounding off — kind of like the way King Kong goes bat-shit after beating off attackers by roaring and chest-thumping.

But evolution gave humans a manual over-ride in the brain’s center of thought and language. Instead of spontaneously discharging our nervous systems, many of us unwittingly turn to alcohol or drugs to cycle out of high activation after a trauma. Legendary billionaire Howard Hughes is a case study.

After Hughes crashed a plane in L.A. during a 1946 test flight, his body was disfigured by third-degree burns, 24 broken ribs and a crushed collarbone. Hughes used opiates to treat pain and unconcsiously bring his nervous system down below trauma’s bandwidth of activation. He became addicted to a panopoly of drugs for 30 years.

Next: A New Treatment Called Somatic Experiencing


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