Whilst YouTubing my way during this public holiday Monday I came across this video featuring Pia Mellody on the Meadows Model. I especially like her conceptualization of induction theory. The idea that as children we tend to be ‘inducted’ into our family system and take on certain beliefs, values and or rules as a consequence. This is fine if our families, or caregivers are ‘good enough’ parents, not so much if we grow up with one or more dysfunctional parents, or without adequate guidance.
Pia Mellody is a senior fellow of The Meadows which is an addiction treatment centre based in the United States. The Meadows model sees addiction as a symptom and treats the whole person, rather than the specific substance or behaviour. Other senior fellows of the Meadows include some of the greatest trauma, addiction and mental health experts today such as Patrick Carnes, Bessel Van Der Kolk, Peter Levine, Stephanie Carnes & Richard Schwartz among others. The following video shows Pia outlining the Meadows Model. I’ve summarized the main talking points below if you haven’t got time to watch the whole video (it goes for about 30 minutes) but I recommend you do if you have time.
Post induction therapy involves, according to Pia, addressing the “crap” that’s been introduced into your psyche during childhood. Usually the result of, shall we say, less than ideal parenting. If your parents were immature, addicted, mentally unwell, absent, abusive and/or relentlessly critical – or in some other way dysfunctional to varying degrees, chances are you’ve been left with a psyche that’s been polluted by a set of imposed toxic beliefs about yourself, other people and the world, which have infiltrated your system in much the same way as dirt added to water becomes mud. This can leave you feeling as if you are mud, rather than clear water with this extra stuff added. Mind you, I don’t think there is anyone on earth that manages to get through their childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood without something crappy added. However, some of us unfortunately have a lot more ‘crap’ to deal with than others, and so the sifting process can take a little longer. This means that recovery, in one sense, is a process of removal, of refinement and of letting go. Letting go of that extra baggage that feels like a part of us, simply because it has been with us for such a long time. Unresolved trauma is a bit like that, it feels like something that is a part of you, but it is not. Not really. Recovery often involves putting down, letting go of those beliefs, habits, behaviours that no longer serve you and of becoming the person you really are. As Louise Hay has said, a healthy, productive life is your birthright.
According to Pia Mellody, Post Induction Therapy means addressing the trauma that you encountered in childhood and working towards being comfortable with the idea of intrinsic self-worth. Intrinsic means, already there. You are worthy just as you are, all your faults and fabulousness included. Intrinsic self-worth involves an attitude of “My faults don’t make me any better or worse than you, same with my strengths”. Working on your faults, improving your strengths are part of the work. Getting rid of dysfunctional behaviours and dependencies such as addictions and learning how to be a ‘functional’ adult is also part of it. To do that, we need to be sober and to stop those behaviours which are essentially symptoms of our inner ruptured psyche. Those things you do to self-soothe, to punish yourself and others, to escape the sense of acute loneliness and the relationships we scorch along the way, are not discrete problems but symptoms of the foundational issue, which essentially is a poor foundation. Learning about self-worth, boundaries, respect for self and others and how to generally go about being a functional adult, these are the sorts of things parents or adult caregivers are supposed to be teaching their children. It is not your fault if your parents did not or were not able to do this for whatever reason. Learning to accept that is a big part of the healing process.
Pia also talks about the importance of learning about setting healthy boundaries. According to Pia, a healthy boundary is a “cross between a wall and nothing.” A wall is not healthy. It may keep you ‘safe’ but it also keeps you isolated from others and stops you from fully relating, honestly, authentically. A wall keeps you from experiencing joy and happiness, even if keeping away pain and disappointment. Having no boundaries is not good either, of course. It is not safe to fully trust someone without reservation, to fully expect them to be your everything before getting to know them. A healthy boundary also alerts others to what you will and won’t accept from them and allows them to feel safe with you too. Learning how to enact your boundaries involves experiencing the emotion when a boundary has been transgressed, breathing through your emotions, accepting the emotions as being whatever they are, then using your ‘talking boundaries’ to tell the other person how they made you feel. This teaches self-regulation and healthy expression, rather than hiding, using substances, or blaming to avoid the discomfort that a boundary violation often involves. Learning how to enact your boundaries takes practice. Group therapy is great for this, as is working with a therapist one on one.
It is important to remember that healing involves acknowledging the trauma that has informed your current situation, but it doesn’t have to involve reliving that trauma. For some, it can be enough to know that what happened was not their fault and that their future doesn’t have to be the same as their past.