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Into the Belly of the Whale January 16th, 2014 posted by: to Latest News
This article is an introduction to “Moments of Awakening.” Moments of Awakening is LCCS’s running series of couples retreats facilitated by John and Elaine Leadem, Senior Supervisors and Co-Founders of Leadem Counseling & Consulting Services, P.C.

The couples that we have had the opportunity to work with over the past 40 years have taught us a great deal about the process of reducing the level of reactivity we experience in our significant relationships. When our reactions to a loved one’s behavior appears irrational to them – as if we are over reacting – their assessment is only partly accurate. We need to take a closer look at where our reaction is coming from.

Some might suggest that our profound sense of rejection or intense desire to retaliate for a perceived wrong is wholly unfounded. However that is not necessarily the case.  We have come to understand that flash points that ignite our reactive impulses to flee from, or fight with, our partner have their antecedents in our powerful past life experiences. We will typically “over-react” when these past life experiences are not adequately addressed or when they have been post traumatically triggered by what our partner has said, done, or failed to do.

The power in those past life experience comes from one of a combination of three sources:

  • First, a significant source of power can come from the cumulative force of a number of independent injuries that have occurred over time.  For example, if you are employed in a hostile work environment and contend with oppression day in and day out because you fear that you cannot make it without your job, you are apt to develop a decrease in tolerance for the annoying behaviors of others. When your emotional wagon is full, you are likely to over react at home because you are under-responding at work.
  • A second source of power will resonate from a single source of traumatic violation such as a rape, physical and sexual abuse, or severe emotional betrayal.
  • The third source of power can be the most challenging to contend with. It is the power that comes from a pattern of traumatic bonding.  Traumatic bonding occurs when we re-create, in our adult lives, the injuries that we experienced as young people.

Our memories of threatening life experiences are always stored on our “hard drives.” Picture proof of these experiences are often difficult to retrieve when we are consciously and purposefully searching for them.  The physical memories of those events, however, appear to lie close to the surface of our awareness and are easily triggered when we feel threatened.  That is why physical memories of painful events will often leak or flood into our awareness without the pictures you would have expected to accompany them.

When physical memories are not accompanied by actual details that surround their origin, confusion develops.  A sense of threat or danger that is not substantiated by the behavior of those around you is likely to leave you feeling physically threatened even though you do not have “picture proof” about where it is coming from. This confusion alerts us to the presence of some threat that does not rationally match the situation that we are experiencing in the present moment. In these moments it seems that the only data we have available to analyze is telling us to fight or to flee the person in front of us.

If we do not take action to stop the build up of pressure, our internal reactor will begin to melt down and cause significant damage to our partnership.

It may appear that this life preserving desire to flee from or fight our partner is automatic and unstoppable— it is not!

LCCS’s couples retreats are designed to heighten your conscious awareness of the physical memories of traumatic experiences in your life.  Those physical memories of the past are the main source of fuel for your “over reactions” to perceived threats you are experiencing in the present moment while interacting with your partner.

Once you are in touch with what your body is telling you, those memories will become your allies. They will alert you to the potential for you to harm your partner, fracture your relationship, and dishonor yourself.

The physical memories that may have once told you that you were in danger and needed to flee from, or fight with, your partner can become the markers that guide your way into the kind of freedom that Jonah finally found in the “belly of the whale.”

In the belly of the whale you can gain the insight, inspiration and motivation to address the concerns that you have. Our Into the Belly of the Whale retreat borrows its name from the story of Jonah and the Whale.  The story suggests that Jonah ran from the task he was asked to do and in his flight was swallowed by a whale.  It was while he was in the belly of the whale that he had an 11th Step experience and found the inspiration, courage and power to face his fears.  He became willing to be of service.  We are suggesting that when you respond to your partner’s challenges or those you are experiencing in the romance by praying for the knowledge of your higher power’s will for you and the power to carry that out, you will avoid doing time in the belly of the whale.


Elaine and John Leadem, are the co-founders of Leadem Counseling & Consulting Services, P.C. (LCCS) and share a combined tenure in the addiction treatment field of over 66 years. They have authored and published a variety of books designed to aid recovering addicts, families, and treatment providers in developing a comprehensive set of therapeutic resources from meditation guides for recovering couples to course material for developing individualized relapse prevention plans.

Their work with couples over the past 40 years has guided them in the development of a series of therapeutic retreats, “Moments of Awakening” for recovering couples that are seeking to build a romantic sober bond.

For more details about current or upcoming LCCS retreats PLEASE CLICK HERE or contact our office directly at 732-797-1444.

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