Dr. Shelley Uram on Finding Your Essential Self


Dr. Shelley Uram, a Senior Fellows at The Meadows, recently sat down with Kristin Sunanta Walker on Mental Health News Radio to talk about her new book Essential Living: A Guide to Having Happiness and Peace by Reclaiming Your Essential Self.

Dr. Uram says that she’s noticed over the many years she’s been in practice as a psychiatrist how common it is for human beings to suffer. Even when they are well-off socially and economically, many people still suffer. The reason is that while people are born one and the same with their essence—also known as the “soul,” or “core self,”— they lose touch with it as they grow to adulthood.

“When babies are born parts of their brains are mature already, like the brain stem and limbic brain that controls automatic survival functions like breathing, swallowing, and fight, flight, or freeze. Whereas other parts of the brain, like the thinking and rationalizing pre-frontal cortex, are barely even online yet.

At about three months old, babies get their first sense of ‘me’ from their developing pre-frontal cortex. And every day beyond that, their sense of ‘me-ness’ evolves to become more and more complex and sophisticated. As the baby’s sense of self evolves, the “survival wiring” in the brain stem and the limbic brain becomes more complex.

Those survival brain areas believe that ‘Oh my God, we’ve got somebody here that we need to protect,’ and they start firing like crazy. When the baby gets fight, flight, or freeze reactions from the survival brain—which happens a lot—it’s extremely uncomfortable physically and emotionally. What that does is draw the child’s attention away from the essential self or soul quality, and to the survival responses,” she says.

The essential self is quiet—it’s almost like a whisper. It’s not an emotional or bodily sensation. It’s a state of being. The voice of the survival brain, however, screams its warnings through strong emotions and quickly overshadows any of the quieter, more subtle qualities of the essential self. By the time we are teenagers, we’ve almost completely lost contact with our essence.

We often think that our personalities reflect our essential selves, but Dr. Uram says that that isn’t quite true:

“The personality is rooted in survival-based stuff—fear-based stuff… Much of the personality is a system that our survival brain puts together in conjunction with the thinking brain and other brain areas to weave together an integrated sense of self.”

In other words, whether you identify as someone with a quiet, reserved personality or as someone with a loud, aggressive personality, those qualities could merely be mechanisms you developed as a child to cope with your caregiver’s environment.

For example, if you learned as a child that the only way to avoid having your parents yell at you or hit you was to be seen and not heard, you may have developed a quiet personality in order to survive in that environment. If you learned that the only way to get your needs met was to be loud and boisterous and make demands that overwhelmed your caregivers, you may have developed a more aggressive personality.

The only way to find out who you really are is to spend some time peeling back the layers of personality and fear-based reactivity and getting to know the essential self underneath. Listen to the Mental Health News Radio podcast to hear more from Dr. Uram on the topic of the essential self, or order a copy of her book from your favorite bookseller.

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Couples Recovering from Sex Addiction Can Reconnect



By Dr. Georgia Fourlas, LCSW, LISAC, CSAT, Rio Retreat Center Lead Therapist

There is an indescribable beauty in watching participants move into a deeper level of intimacy after struggling through the destruction of sexual addiction.

We recently held our first session of Discovery to Recovery Part 3: From Grief to Hope, a unique workshop for couples who have already begun a journey of recovery from sex addiction. The workshop focuses on helping the couple make a transition from despair to renewal.

The rebuilding process set in motion during the workshop helps couples move their focus from the individual’s addiction to the couple and their attachment. Many couples come to this session feeling that they are stuck in grief, which can leave them feeling hopeless and helpless. The grieving process that couples embark on together throughout the week allows them to honor the pain caused by other forces in their lives while examining how that pain has kept them emotionally separated.

Through honoring that pain and re-connecting with one another, couples begin to experience the hope that not only can attachment be repaired, but also that they can experience emotional intimacy that can surpass what they ever believed possible in their lives. I like to think of this as intimacy beyond their wildest dreams, which can be experienced regardless of whether or not the couple is staying together.

Some couples decide it is best for them to move forward apart while building on the hope that they can continue to honor one another as healthy co-parents or in another capacity that respects both partners while they go their separate ways. Others decide to make staying together in a mutually fulfilling and loving relationship their goal.

Experiencing Recovery Together

Dr. Ken Adams, the architect of the Discovery to Recovery workshops, has a deep passion for healing couples. He recognized that there was a gap in services for those who were looking for ways to re-attach, seek the next level of change, and achieve deeper levels of recovery together.

Dr. Adams describes how couples survive the chaos of addiction, but do not always have the opportunity to experience full emotional recovery together. They often become stuck in the negative patterns of interaction that are driven by ineffective attempts to feel understood and to have their emotional needs met by their partners. They move from the addiction to a place where they either continue to spin in pain, shame, anger, and resentment, or they disconnect emotionally and feel stuck in a relationship that they feel is emotionally unsafe.

Dr. Adams says that he views the Discovery to Recovery workshop series as “an invitation to integrate recovery concepts as a couple.” This requires a paradigm shift—the perception must move away from the problem of the individual toward the solution that can be provided as a couple. The solution involves healing through emotional reconnection and attachment repair.

One participant who recently completed the workshop said, “This workshop facilitated an 180-degree shift in how we have been relating to each other. We were very much stuck in conflict and separate corners, wanting to come together, but lost as to how to do that. This workshop showed us how to soften toward each other to allow the connection we both wanted to find, a starting place.”

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Practicing the Pause


By Aleah Johnson, The Meadows Alumni Coordinator

Have you ever jumped to conclusions, made brash decisions, dove into problem-mode solving mode instead of actively listening, or spoken too soon? I am guilty of all!

The holidays can be a time of cheer, celebration, and love, but they can also bring difficult family dynamics front and center in some households. Through family of origin work, The Meadows helps us understand the different roles family members play, which allows us to learn the skills we need to be successful in our relationships—and in everyday life. Strong relationships are one of the keys to tackling recovery.

More often than not, no matter what our addiction of choice was, you probably had a tendency to use words and actions as weapons, when you should have been using to them to heal and connect. Taking the time to “practice the pause” between your emotional reactions and your actions, helps you to make better choices. Instead of saying something which you will later need to make amends for, you get a chance to reconnect with the present moment, and choose a response that will strengthen your relationships, instead of weaken them.

Relationships aren’t the only place to practice the pause. Life, in general, is in session! We oftentimes forget to intentionally rest, be still, and pause. We take advantage of our go-go momentum and get lost in our own chaos of busyness.

Thoughts, fears, and worries are in full force, which cause us to be on high alert and neglect self-care. Even though it sounds simple, injecting the pause can make a huge difference in your quality of life. After all, isn’t it the little things that make the biggest difference?

How will you practice the pause?

Join Us for the 2017 Meadows Alumni Retreat

The Meadows Alumni Retreat is your opportunity to reconnect, reunite, recharge, and reignite. This retreat is only for those who have participated in one of our 5-day intensive workshops, an intensive outpatient program at The Meadows Outpatient Center, or family week or inpatient treatment at The Meadows, Claudia Black Young Adult Center, Gentle Path at The Meadows, Dawn at The Meadows, Dakota House, or Mellody House. We look forward to creating an unforgettable weekend and reuniting you with your peers!

And, as an added bonus, everyone who attends the retreat will receive a gift certificate to attend the workshop of their choice at The Rio Retreat Center!

The retreat takes place from Fri., Jan 27, 2017 to Sun, Jan 29, 2017 in Carefree Arizona. Please register through EventBrite.

If you have questions or need more information, contact Aleah Johnson, Alumni Coordinator, at 800-240-5522 or alumni@themeadows.org