Problem Solving: Roots or Environment?

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Problem Solving: Roots or Environment?

Samantha Faulhaber


It seems to me that there are at least two most effective, general routes towards healing people in productive ways.

The first, or the first I’ll speak to, not necessarily the first in some sort of heirarchy, is digging for root causes. The idea that rather than treating symptoms you’re better off taking a look at what the foundational pieces of a problem are. So rather than continuously trimming the growth you’re able to treat the root so it stops growing back again.

As Gabor Mate says, addictions are just attempts at solving a problem, not the problem themselves. The root problem isn’t the food that someone keeps eating that’s bad for them, or the drugs, it’s the problem they have with the feeling they’re trying escape from with the food or drugs, which is rooted in a memory or many memories that are stored within the system.

Figure out the reason why someone is doing something and you may be able to stop the process. Inside out.

The other direction I’m aware of is the process of changing the environment to solve the problem. Outside in. Remove the need for protective habits and the habits may change.

So many chronic issues and addictive behaviors are efforts to compensate for a lack of meaningful relationships or social gathering or nurturing food environments, etc.

In 1977 experiments were done by Bruce Alexander to study how environment affected addictive behaviors in rats, who, like humans, are social and intelligent. Rats had previously been studied by being offered heroin-laced water bottles and plain water bottles in isolated cage environments, in which the rats would often drug themselves to stupor and death. Alexander realized that these rats existed in completely shitty environments that were unnatural to their species and conducted new experiments with enriched environments where the rats could play and run around and fuck and enjoy life with other rats, still with the options of heroin- or plain- water supplies. Rats in the Rat Park environment never chose heroin to diminishing states.

There have also been epigenetic studies done in rats regarding generational trauma. You starve Grandma Rat for a while and her genes are passed down with a state of famine warning that effect the DNA of her offspring. The same thing happens with humans, by the way. One generation deals with famine and their children (depending on when conception and famine coincide and for how long) have their DNA switched into positions that cause the kids to be smaller and hold onto fat stores longer as a way to better ensure survival in times of food shortages for several generations. The rat studies, however, showed that the food trauma could be switched back by providing nurturing environments similar to rat park, with play and sex and plentiful food and social norms. Yet another example of how everything makes sense.

Did the rats dig down to find the roots of their trauma with their rat board-certified psychotherarats? Unlikely.

Yet epigenetic switches can be turned off and on by all sorts of things, and studies are showing how our destiny is transformed in observable ways by all sorts of things.

I think we know this. I think we experience energizing, welcoming environments and we change.

One of my favorites is hearing that Elizabeth Blackburn discovered that humans who do group dancing and singing have longer lifespans. I don’t really care if people reading this go look that up or not.

So if I see a guy in Jiu-Jitsu class who is unstable and exhibiting little control in himself, I could:

  • Help him to identify and heal the inner workings of his multiple psyche selves, uncover his internal dissonances, and rectify the situation by healing the triggered pieces of himself, therefore changing how he relates to his environment. Treating the psyche(s). I sort of think of this targeted effort as trauma triage. Going to urgent care and investigating what’s really bothering a person, stitching them up in needed ways. It’s fast as fuck via the IFS system which I speak more on below or via spiritual exorcism, depending on what’s needed and what’s present.
  • Internal physiological states, part II: Or the internal environment could shift as a result of changing food, mineral, and nutrient intake. Adding or subtracting – more of some inputs, less of some inputs. More magnesium or less aspirin. More grassfed beef liver or less alcohol.
    • Internal chemical states are changed in so many ways. More exercise. More natural light, less artificial light. More trees, less recycled air. Create an environment with more naturally-selected qualities.
  • The environment could change.
    • On a minor scale in the immediate term, he could experience real genuine laughter in an already-existing group setting and shift his state of being through resonance with other people.
    • On a grander scale, he could take a look at the people and communities he hangs out with, the quality of conversations, the meaning in his life and the pursuits he pursues. What is his Rat Park.

All of this is seeking to change the balance or quality of stressors on the human to allow the human to do their own healing internally. The psychic work allows you to confront, heal, and therefore remove blocks to the other healing options as they come up.

Change yourself or change the environment. Kind of like Jiu-Jitsu “move your opponent or move yourself.”

Changing yourself changes your resonance which changes what you’re aware of which changes the environment/energetic attractors and repellers.

I’m also experimenting with energy-based meditations with visualization components. That maybe changing inner experience could change by changing the inner environment, leading from the front and perhaps not needing to dig into the dark places with a flashlight, but instead helping light to shine more brightly and completely inside and allowing more bits and pieces to feel safe there. Opening up the system broadly. Opening the doors and showing that the environment is safe to all the hidden pieces vs taking a scalpel inward and inviting them one by one to heal.

All of these have value.

Perhaps true health is all of them.

In Internal Family Systems therapy you go in with a scalpel, inviting protective elements to speak, inviting injured and scared elements to speak, not bypassing anybody and completely abolishing the word coercion from the process at allllll. It’s lovely, magical, unexpected, and wonderful. You introduce the injured parts of self to the Self with a capital-S that represents the core Human, and that contact heals the parts that are injured simply by sharing dialogue and energy and getting to know one another.

Then there is another part, which is Self-leadership. Making decisions from curious, compassionate, calm, creative, and courageous places, informing the system that there is a leader worth following and feeding the psychic version of natural spring water to the system to allow things to blossom.

Which means doing things that are playful, creative, energetic, and courageous. Acting on child-like impulse. Gathering evidence that good things happen as a result. These are all things that can happen for anyone regardless of status. They feed the system. They lead the system from the place of Self that is all of these things.

When blocks come up that get in the way of creating nurturing internal or external environments it’s an invitation to examine via triage again, learning what the blocking has to teach you before it allows you to move forward. Because every. single. thing. makes sense if it is listened to. Nothing you do is stupid, and though many things can be healed via environment persistent blockages may need greater care and concern/IFS.

A daily or weekly practice of attending to cautious or injured parts, and of growing and spreading energy into the system by leading from the Self. I imagine those things lead to the creation of a healing environment.

The therapist also creates a healing environment. Diving into internal psyches with people that judge you doesn’t help much. Probably hurts things. Whatever. “Therapist.” Friends. Lovers. Strangers that care about you. Just getting around people that know how to hold the energy in the room that lets you be yourself and them to be themselves.

More about the relationship between corniness and the sacred in news to follow.

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