On Breathing

The Haven’s main claim to being scientific is the research on breathing. This is correct–to a point. Some breathing techniques are helpful. Some are not. Some are even harmful.

Our bodies are intelligent, we regulate our breathing without conscious awareness in ways that best suit the situation. Indeed I have heard counsellors at rehab suggest not breathing in certain situations. This is the body’s natural response to trauma–and it is a wise one. Breathing rapidly or deeply to elicit extreme emotional reactions–that is something that the science does not support.

This is similar to the critique on catharsis and explains the hyper–almost adolescent–energy that often exists at Haven. There is no evidence that hyperarousel does anyone any good, though I am willing to hear any scientific claims to the contrary. I have not found them. Balance is key, and our bodies naturally have evolved to do this for us, just as language has naturally evolved over centuries. To tamper with either is unwise. A Wittgenstein film clip on language does a good job of explaining the language portion. I am sure that I will be told to read Gabor Mate as an argument for breathing. I am unconvinced.

The point, I believe, is to maintain a state of being present that is neither dissociated nor hyperaroused. There is no scientific evidence that feelings are buried within us and must be cast out like an exorcism. I knew the science when I was at Haven but tried to ignore it. Being critical was not met with good reception.

My personal experience also doesn’t support the notion of bringing excessive emotional reactions to the surface. There are other things going on in counselling that are supportive to expression of emotion, but it is not exorcism or catharsis. It is personhood and mainly works when we abandon scripts and analysis.

When we aren’t triggered, we may focus on our breath in meditation–not to change our bodies but to be with them. Breathing a bit deeper just to gain a sense of calm can be useful. That is as far as the science goes on breathing techniques. When we are triggered, we may respect the wisdom of our bodies to shut down a little. Our bodies are smarter than we are.

That is what the science says.

Update

Every utopia – let’s just stick with the literary ones – faces the same problem: What do you do with the people who don’t fit in?
Margaret Atwood

Just a brief update…

They will not give me a 2nd meeting

They will not acknowledge harm done or any of my experiences

I’m still banned from the diversity discussion

Man I thought the ethics course was ironic!

I cannot explain to outsiders what it is to have so much empathy without any morality. Beliefs cause this. One would easily contradict it by pointing out cases where morality is important. If only beliefs were rational!

It is basically chess. All of their moves are to protect those with power or the beliefs themselves. Suggesting huge doubt. Beliefs held with confidence need not be protected.

And I’m struggling like hell to get my life back. No one even hands me a life jacket. One day I know I’ll say I’m a better writer or person for it. That day is forever away. Forever and a day.

Empowerment

I thought it was time for a reminder that there is another way. Here are the 16 Steps of Empowerment. Designed for addiction but can apply more generally. Empowerment rather than followership. Because I accomplished safety and health in rehab, I know it’s possible. However many years ago… I have gone through my rehab binder. A breath of fresh air! Self-affirming language, language of resiliency… Grounding over catharsis, self-acceptance over insults, creativity over scripts, personal power over followers/leaders, coping strategies over saviours… Resiliency and boundaries over roles. 

Perhaps the purposes of shadows and fantasies are that we need to have some unknown. Zizek states that the worst thing that can happen is for fantasies to come true. Their power and meaning lies in being unreachable. In focussing so much on the darkness and the void, we miss what’s right in front of us and the pleasure of just being grounded in the moment. Of just being alive. Simple words like resiliency and empowerment are a different sort of water. I forgot how thirsty I was. 

The 16-Steps

We affirm we have the power to take charge of our lives and stop being dependent on substances or other people for our self-esteem and security.

Alternative: We admit/acknowledge we are out of control with/powerless over ________ yet have the power to take charge of our lives and stop being dependent on substances or other people for our self-esteem and security.

We come to believe that God/Goddess/Universe/Great Spirit/Higher Power awakens the healing wisdom within us when we open ourselves to the power.

We make a decision to become our authentic selves and trust in the healing power of the truth.

We examine our beliefs, addictions and dependent behavior in the context of living in a hierarchical, patriarchal culture.

We share with another person and the Universe all those things inside of us for which we feel shame and guilt.

We affirm and enjoy our intelligence, strengths and creativity, remembering not to hide these qualities from ourselves and others.

We become willing to let go of shame, guilt, and any behavior that keeps us from loving ourselves and others.

We make a list of people we have harmed and people who have harmed us, and take steps to clear out negative energy by making amends and sharing our grievances in a respectful way.

We express love and gratitude to others and increasingly appreciate the wonder of life and the blessings we do have.

We learn to trust our reality and daily affirm that we see what we see, we know what we know and we feel what we feel.

We promptly admit to mistakes and make amends when appropriate, but we do not say we are sorry for things we have not done and we do not cover up, analyze, or take responsibility for the shortcomings of others.

We seek out situations, jobs, and people who affirm our intelligence, perceptions and self-worth and avoid situations or people who are hurtful, harmful, or demeaning to us.

We take steps to heal our physical bodies, organize our lives, reduce stress, and have fun.

We seek to find our inward calling, and develop the will and wisdom to follow it.

We accept the ups and downs of life as natural events that can be used as lessons for our growth.

We grow in awareness that we are sacred beings, interrelated with all living things, and we contribute to restoring peace and balance on the planet.

What I’ve Learned

I thought instead of another critical post I should write one about what I’ve learned. Believe you me, I’ve learned a lot. Dear reader, I know little of this must make sense. How a blog can change so much, especially a blog that not many people care about. I still sometimes wish I hadn’t. Not because my life is worse–it’s not–but because it’s that much harder. I faced 30 years of trauma completely alone. For it I’ve received rejection, criticism. Sometimes–I dare say–hatred.

So what I’ve learned:

People who reject you as soon as you become fully yourself, fully alive, fully human… were never there to begin with.

If not following your gut got you into this mess, keep following it! 

Knowing things and facing them are different. Of course you already knew all this. Don’t hide behind that.

Quick fixes to healing don’t exist. Healing doesn’t happen in five days.

Use your critical thinking! Those who fear you for it have baggage that shouldn’t be your problem.

Being alone momentarily won’t kill you. Accept support, but never give up integrity in order to get it.

Surround yourself with new people and new ideas. You cannot see dogma or water for what it is if it surrounds you.

Have some self-compassion. Given how hard this has been, how could you have years ago?

Don’t apologize for being you. Don’t let people think that being near you is them doing you a favour. If they can’t see you have value, that’s their loss.

The hardest day will not be the day of complete despair. Fireworks–coming “alive” in five days–being dopesick–are easy. The day you realize that’s all behind you will be tough.

Never let someone take your language or voice from you.

Don’t expect others to be as strong, to care, or to not run from you. If one person is still there, that’s something.

Systems do not change overnight. Change is still possible. If you care as much as you do, you’ll get angry. That’s okay. But just distract yourself, don’t fall back into Haven ideology of destroying furniture.

You wanted your original thesis to be wrong. You were more than right–you were more right than you let yourself be. That’s somewhat impressive.

Every day is moving forward, even/especially when it doesn’t feel like it.

Regardless of what anyone says–the 12 steps, the Haven, the preachers–you are you and that’s something.

Don’t resent people who say you have “a gift.” Don’t resent that gifts are seldom what they seem.

Smoke as many cigarettes as you need. What do Ben and Jock know about survival?

Keep surviving. It’s all you can do. No hero is coming. Come on, do you even remember how this started?

Always remember how it started but never lose track of where you’re headed.

Wear those pajamas with pride.

Flashbacks

As usual, when I brought something up, I had no idea of the significance. Now the significance is all too clear. Catharsis.

I know people think I should just move on. When I started this, I had no idea what was to come… I too wanted to think it would be easier. It would be more simple. I didn’t know the significance…

Of course I criticized catharsis–to a point–from the start. I didn’t have the awareness until now to face it. I have more flashbacks from Haven than from anywhere else combined. Why? Haven relies on bringing trauma to the surface, and the bigger the outburst, the greater the reward of acceptance. I often have flashbacks just from the very savior dynamic. Being used. Someone coming in for a hug, to grab a hold of me. I shout, go away! when no one is even there.

I am not your kid, not your pet, not your puppet.

The real strange part is that in expressing anger using words, I was always criticized. My words were picked apart. I was told that I didn’t understand the dynamic, I was merely lashing out at a shadow, I didn’t understand the other perspective… They always understood my life better than me, even after sometimes not having known me for more than days.

I am not your broken toy.

It is much healthier–according to all research on the matter–to calmly use words to express truth than to have emotional outbursts. That is what the research says. That is what my flashbacks also say. I have flashbacks because I already had trauma, something I could have healed from, but instead it was repeated and I became dependent on its continuing existence.

If you think I am just being overly critical, I did heal from trauma in rehab. Rehab was the best thing that ever happened to me. Haven was the worst.

So I thought this blog wouldn’t continue on forever because I thought this feeling wouldn’t go on forever, nor my flashbacks to actually get worse.

Strangely, The Haven claims they are doing science but cannot define science itself. I have come across much more research on the destructive power of:

labels, criticism, analysis, power, emotional over-involvement, roles of superiority–ignoring own truth and inner voice (internal locus of control)… And more…

I am just spending a rainy day hoping that it washes away the flashbacks, while knowing that it is unlikely.

Of course I didn’t know what I was going to be up against. How could I have kept going otherwise?

Did my personal history make me more susceptible to this type of dynamic? Of course!

Does that make it okay?

I think there should be a warning label on the website. I am not kidding. It would be more honest. We don’t follow ethics or research of other professional institutions. We don’t have training. We have no system for those who wish to complain. Scientists say this may do more harm than good. Use with caution.

People thought the first critics of cigarettes were mad too.

I don’t even have the energy to put a category or tag to this. Tag it as you wish. Categorize. Flush from memory.

Trust me, I am trying to do the same.

Like Mad

…we have to cease to worry about other people’s worries, and pass into the role of the passive observer of the system’s circular self-destructive movement.

Zizek

I’m currently waiting to hear about a meeting with Haven. This is something I’ve avoided writing about in order to give them a chance to get things in order. This is absurd, of course. They’ve had at the least months and at at most years to set up space for people to be heard.

I am not alone in my beliefs. I am alone in being stubborn enough to insist on being heard. Something that has come at a fairly high personal cost.

Those who agree with me tend to fall into two categories–those who believe in the core philosophies but believe there’s huge hypocrisy in the running of the institution, and those who believe the core philosophies themselves are toxic.

I started off in the middle and have slowly moved to the latter. More accurately I suppose, I started off in the latter and tried to turn myself into something else. But if niether position can be given voice…

I would argue that core philosophies themselves create this hypocritical system. Thus it’s perhaps not hypocrisy at all. 

Very few people are able to critically assess on a systems level. Look at the American political discourse which has almost nothing to do with policy and everything to do with personal slander. We recognize that as toxic but in the context of Haven it is virtue. 

So they are currently having meetings on whether or not I’m able to have a voice. Investigating my “intentions.” If you hear the words “intention” or “curious” at Haven it is almost always a sign to run like mad. I seldom run like mad for I am mad. Or I run in the wrong direction…

Of course if I lived in a world where having a voice was met with automatic acceptance and no cost, I would’ve hardly found the same freedom. But even I have my limits.

In the future I will edit everything to give a proper explanation on what I mean by the core beliefs themselves being toxic.

For now the fact that no one critical of Haven has been given voice during a time when they’re asking for feedback for the leadership summit is sign enough.

That ain’t leadership. That almost everyone can agree with.

Blog 101

I actually don’t feel like writing but I don’t feel like doing much else so here are some blog basics for any newbies:

The categories and tags make very little sense. My phone has a life of its own and my laptop has busted keys but I’m working on it. 

If you come here expecting to have a complete version of events that makes sense, you won’t find it. It took me a lifetime… If you read the whole thing you might have 10% but I seriously hope you don’t have that much time.

The Haven doesn’t endorse any messages or views here and isn’t responsible for any negative consequences of viewing. 

My cat is Zachary. Sometimes Nietzsche. Always Super. Well, generally.

PS can anyone tell me what happened to the diversity discussion? I added more questions to “question time” post. Executive Director says I “offer no benefit to Haven (diversity discussion).” Please pass on questions and explain to me what questions are more “beneficial”?