When the discomfort of
Outweighs the pain of
Staying the same
The road to
Change becomes an option
“There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.”
― Laurell K. Hamilton,
Trauma but not traumatized.
When our trauma experiences over time cause physiological and psychological distress we become traumatized. Being traumatized derails our quality of life. Trauma is subjective; therefore, the objective facts don’t matter as much as the sense one of feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope with the situation(s). Time and Human bonds are as essential as they are powerful in curtailing trauma from becoming traumatizing. The sooner we experience the human bond of support after the trauma the less likely they will be traumatized.
Life is filled with trauma; they can be little t’s or big T’s. Generally speaking little t’s are more common, everyday such as: a move, starting a new job, having a baby, getting married, losing your keys, traffic on the beltway, rejection, arriving late, or a divorce. Although big T’s can feel more earth shattering, little t’s overtime can become big T’s.
Examples of Big T’s are: rape, war, terrorism, a plane crash, a car accident, perceived threat of harm, a natural disaster, a major illness, death, and chronic child abuse and/or neglect.
As part of the Behavioral Health Response team (BHRT) for District of Columbia, our objective is to be present in times of big T’s in order to offer victims of such tragedies psychological first aid. When we think of traditional first aid, we think of chest compressions and AED machines; psychological first aid however, consists of offering an emotional connection with someone who cares, essentially breeding a human bond.
The human bond is a beginning of a dynamic relationship between individuals, one that is so deep, it gives each individual the ability to influence the other’s psychological and physiological (body’s) state. BHRT offers the emotional support needed to curtail trauma from becoming traumatizing in big T’s. We each have our own BHRT to help us with little t’s. These individuals are those whom we love and trust. Don’t suffer in silence alone, the road to recovery is found in supportive human relationships.
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” Carl R. Rogers
So much of our lives are spent in a state of resistance. We exert an incredible amount of energy resisting facts like: “I’ve gained 10 pounds since the summer,” or “this relationship is not going anywhere,” or “that bad thing did happen to me,” or “I’m getting old,” or that “I’m not OK.” When we stop telling ourselves these lies and admit the truth, then we can start the journey to change and begin to live our emotionally Healthiest lives yet.
“There are two types of pains in this world, pain that hurts and the pain that changes you.” Author Unknown
Healthy lives demand expression of emotions. When feelings are suppressed or denied all we end up doing is pushing the pain into the unconscious. We don’t feel that pain, we can ignore the pain; that is until an opportune moment for the pain to resurface. He said after years with me he had wasted his time. His words hurt so deeply; why? I felt the relationship had run is course. In fact, I was looking for a way out but something kept me in the relationship? His words painfully penetrated into my soul. Mindfully allowing for my pain, I was able to understand that it wasn’t his words that pierced my heart in as much as it was that I had been triggered. I was triggered back to when my father left, what I would consider for years, when my father abandoned his family (me). Pain that hurts. Pain that changes.
Confronted by pain I had one of two choices to make. I choose to face the pain of abandonment. It wasn’t my fault my father left. There was nothing I could have done or not do to make him stay. He made a choice. I saw my father 30 years later on his death bed and forgave him.
Change. I accept that I am divorced, 10 lbs heavier, getting older, and yes bad things did happen in my life. Now what? I am mindful that I cannot change the past , stuff happened and stuff happens. I am also mindful that I will not allow the past to define nor direct my future.
As I finished up with my last client for the day I sat wondering, “Could they have done this without me? ” The answer is a resounding, YES; it’s just that we get stuck (Most likely in the past). Sometimes we don’t know we are stuck, but we feel off or like life is off keel. Other times we aware and just don’t know how to get up from under the heaviness. Other times, someone who cares about us confronts us about our behavior or attitude leaving us with the question, “What can I do about” followed by “What will I do?”
We each are resilient. Think about people you know and how they have bounced back from the harshness of the world, the abusive past that have left scars raw that reopen with unconscious reminders of the past, the organic mental struggles and conditions, the sense of abandonment that causes one to feel unloved or unlovable. We are resilient and do and have done what we must to endure.
The hiccup that taints our resiliency and leaves us stuck, is that we live in the present with the same defense mechanisms that we used to survive the past, but doesn’t effectively serve us in the present. Defense mechanism of denial, repression, displacement, projection, sublimation ,undoing, rationalization, and regression served as a survival tool, and you did survive. Stop, take a deep breathe and look around, are you danger or do you feel like you are in danger? If you are in danger, please stop and call 911. Your safety is of the utmost importance. But, if you are not in danger and are still using the same coping skills of the past you may be keeping yourself from living a happier and more authentic lives.
That’s where I step in, as a psychotherapist. I am privileged to part of the excavation of rediscovering inner strengths that were buried beneath or that had not be previously discovered. Together, my clients and I create a synergy that gives way to empowerment to live out our Healthiest Life yet, Salus VIta.
And this is my job? I am privileged and count my blessing that I am a Psychotherapist!
When training to detect counterfeit money one becomes a master of real money. In spending time handling and examining real money counterfeits money stands out like a rose among thorns, a candle among the darkness, or a treasured story in a book of empty words. I took that analogy and ran with it at my monthly “Charla” (Chat) at Bryia Adult Public School in Washington, D.C. The topic this month is healthy relationships. So to explain healthy relationship I opened the chat to unhealthy relationships; Intimate Partner Violence (IPV).
IPV does not discriminate based on gender, financial standing, education, or ethnicity. IPV is a form of abuse. Abuse is a learned behavior, not something you are born with or a caught pathogen. According to the Center Disease Control and Prevention, IPV can be physical violence, sexual violence, stalking and psychological aggression which I believe also includes financial control.
In Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) the brain get’s hijacked thinking it is in a state of danger; therefore, the automatic nervous system (ANS) is always reved high in a state of fight, flight, or freeze. Cortisol, “the stress hormone,” becomes hyper active. Too much cortisol can cause medical disturbance such as but not limited to: impaired cognitive performance, dampened thyroid function, blood sugar imbalances, sleep disturbance, or elevated blood pressure. IPV victims can suffer from PTSD.
I recalled my IPV days. Why did I stay, maybe it was the Stockholm syndrome that set in or that the chemicals in my brains were going haywire. I didn’t get PTSD, but I was traumatized. I recall the time I finally mustered the nerve to call the police and while the police was present he tried to go after me. The police offer looked at me and said, “If you don’t leave he’s going to kill you.” I left.
The Charla didn’t bring back the horrific days of living in IPV. What the Charla did do was to reinvigorate my passion of empowering others to overcome life’s challenges and obstacle and press on toward their Healthiest Life yet. Si se puede!
Salus Vita, Gloria
The Art of Ending. Even as I type the word, end, there’s a feeling inside of me that cringes. Endings in my life have been painful and eventful. The divorce, the job, the relationship, the move, or the conversation. The pain unbeknownst to the bystander fills my being with an ache that permeates my entire being. Was I right? Was I wrong? Does it really matter for it’s the end. I’m reminded of the Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe song: “Todo Tiene Su Final ,” Everything has an ending.
Just maybe though, faith in God would have me believe, that this supreme being can make beauty out of ashes. The end doesn’t have to be so painstaking. It would be uncomfortable but not overwhelming as the promise of hope would usurp the sense of dismay.
Perhaps not faith; Maybe Existentialism can give a weighted perspective on Ends. We are after all beings with freedom and capacity to make choices. The choice on how view the end. We get to define our own meaning in life. Our meaning need not be dictated by others opinion or labels someone gave us like Bipolar (They actually don’t know what the word really means). Much like Eye movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) we get to rewrite the narrative and give it meaning to our existence.
Sartre’s challenge is to accept responsibility for our choices while embracing the inconceivable unknown. At times our choice is to end and other times ends are thrusted in our face. Regardless, with an end comes an unknown of a new beginning.
“I took a test in Existentialism. I left all the answers blank and got 100.”
"The manner in which we live and what we become are the result of our choices" Gerald Corey
What would life be like if we started that business, that class, or let go of that old, stagnant relationship? One must decide what one's goals are and chase after them without hesitation. One has to make decisions, choosing at times to alter their lives in order to reach their desires which requires creativity. When inquisitiveness and creativity fail us, embracing unfamiliar circumstances and opportunities becomes overwhelming and we often freeze. In this case our decision making becomes like stale bread, worse even; stale bread can be made into bread crumbs; frozen decision making becomes more like stagnant water, breeding mosquitos or parasites! Without imagination as guidance, life becomes an exhausting cycle of "I don't know" or "I don't care." One becomes dull with no new ideas with little to talk about or share. Group thinking sets in, everyone agrees with each other and people lose their individuality, creating a homogeneous society. Curiosity opens our minds to possibilities and the willingness to take a chance(s) on ourselves. With curiosity, one's ideas may prove untrue, though failure should not be feared because it is not fatal, only a growth opportunity. Curiosity is said to activate the dopamine in our brains, which is the happy chemical. Who wouldn't like to be a little happier? In addition to boosting happiness, curiosity helps us learn. Why? Because it adds value to what we are learning and signals our hippocampus, the area in our brain associated with memory. I challenge us all to become curious about one thing today and see if we don't feel just a little more invigorated and sharper then we have in awhile.
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.
—"Old Man's Advice to Youth: 'Never Lose a Holy Curiosity.'" LIFE Magazine (2 May 1955) p. 64”
― Albert Einstein