Bet On Your Strengths

pushupcs700_0I suck at math. I always have. It got so bad that I almost didn’t graduate from high school because I just couldn’t get through algebra.
In college, I had to take every math class twice before I could pass it. I became so comfortable with it that I knew the first time I took College Algebra or Statistics, I knew it was just for practice.
It was frustrating and it made me even doubt what the hell I was doing in college in the first place.
Eventually I got through all my college math courses. I even got decent enough that I passed Research Methods and Advanced Research Methods on my first try.  By then I had learned I needed to read my math books just like they were any other text book and teach the material to myself. Still, I was never good at advanced math, I just learned how to get through it.
I was unhappy for a lot of my high school and early college years because I struggled and focused so much on my weakness with math. It wasn’t until later when I started focusing on my strengths like art, writing and behavioral sciences that I became happy. Only then did I really start to feel smart and like I belonged on a college campus.
I literally felt free when I didn’t have to take another damn math class and was able to actually focus on what I was good at.
A Deficit Mindset
Many of us spend much of our lives unhappy and unsatisfied because we are constantly focusing on our weaknesses. We focus on the things we aren’t good at and neglect the things we are good at.
People who suffer from depression, low self esteem and anxiety are especially notorious at this.
Many of their personal stories paint them as victims and not victors. They feel weak and only focus on their weaknesses, not the strength it took for them to even survive the sometimes traumatic experiences they went through.
When people have this deficit type of mindset, they tend to not only focus on their faults, but also the faults in others instead of focusing on their positive qualities and seeing other people for who they are.
This type of mindset can affect any of us.  If we focus on or weaknesses and try to become better, of course we can improve, but we will probably never become great at it and we will expend a lot of time and energy for minimal gains.
What if we used that same amount of time and energy to focus on something we are good at?
Sticking with the math analogy, I know someone who has a great business mind, but she isn’t particularity good with numbers so she hired someone who is and that has allowed her to take a lot of her energy off of the finance part and focus more on creating the business of her dreams.
Had she allowed the fact that she wasn’t good with numbers scare her from starting a business or bog her down with late nights balancing books and getting frustrated, her business may not have been as successful as it is. She may have never been free to do the things she was good at doing such as marketing and networking.
FOCUSING ON YOUR STRENGTHS WILL MAKE YOU HAPPIER
By putting all of your energy into your strengths and not so much on your weaknesses, you’ll not only be happier,  but you will start taking your life to a new level and start living more authentically.
I have a client who was recently very depressed and suicidal. On paper she is very successful. She’s smart, married, has one child, makes six figures, has a beautiful home and a luxury car. She has accomplished everything she has ever dreamed of, but she is unhappy because she’s always afraid of losing it all.
She worries about losing her husband, losing her job and losing everything that comes with that. Although she is brilliant, she is constantly telling me about all of her faults. It’s like she doesn’t even see her strengths. She’s focusing so much on her weaknesses and worried that other people will see them, that she is filled with anxiety and depression.
Her “weaknesses” are keeping her unhappy, distracting her from the wonderful life she has right in front of her, and serving absolutely no purpose at all other than driving her crazy.
We don’t have to pretend we don’t have weaknesses. We have to embrace them, except them and then focus on our strengths. Our strengths are our keys to living more authentic lives.
Focusing on your strengths can boost your confidence and overshadow your weaknesses. 
One last example from a couple I counseled.
The wife was so focused on her husband not being a “manly man”. In her eyes, a manly man fixed cars and was a great handy man. That simply was not her husband. He was mechanically challenged. She focuses so much on that area of “weakness” that she was very unhappy in the marriage.
Through strength based counseling she learned to see her husbands strengths. First of all, he was a good man, a good husband and a terrific father. He adored her and the kids, took care of business and yes, maybe when the sink got clogged he was clueless to fix it, but that’s what handymen and plumbers are for. She actually fell in love with him all over again when she learned to focus on his strengths. She had almost stopped seeing him for the things she had falling in love with him for.
Unfortunately, many people never learn that and she could have ruined their marriage simply because of her world view of what made a man a real man and focusing on what she perceived as her husbands faults.
Many people do this to themselves. They are living day to day unhappy because they are constantly focusing on their deficits instead of embracing their strengths. They drive themselves to unhappiness, misery and even suicide.
“You need to bet on your strengths and don’t give a f*ck about what you suck at,” is one of my favorite quotes by entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk.
I’m not saying not to challenge yourself. I believe we need to challenge ourselves and put ourselves in uncomfortable situations in order to grow. What I am saying is, if you suck at something, don’t let it tear you down. Find something you are good at and become even better at it. That’s what’s going to take you to the next level.

Living Autopsy: Examining Yourself

Living Autopsy: Examining Yourself

One of my favorite people when it comes to motivation and realizing true human potential is David Goggins. The other day he made a short video about doing a living autopsy on yourself. By doing a living autopsy, what Goggins means is examining your life, thoughts, feelings and actions.

Negative thoughts. Fears. Anxiety. So many of us have these unconscious things that get in our way and sabotage us, keeping us from living our lives to the fullest. For the most part, either we aren’t aware of them or we accept them without challenging their source or validity.

Many of us say, “That’s just who I am”, but is it really? Is that really who you are, or who you’ve accepted yourself to be because it’s what’s been told to you by someone or perhaps, it’s what’s easier.

In psychology, we call this introspection.  It’s when you stop being controlled automatically by what you think and feel. Instead, you examine yourself to find out why you think and feel that way and how can you change it, if necessary.

The first time I ever truly experienced introspection was when I found myself attracted to a certain type of woman and I had to ask myself, why am I attracted to this type of woman? Am I really attracted to them or am I only attracted to them because this is what I have been told by society I should be attracted to?

After some deep introspection, I realized I had practically been brainwashed to be attracted to a certain type of woman when in reality, that wasn’t really my type at all. Now that’s fairly simple, but here’s another example.

Take a man who is madly in love with his girlfriend and he wants to marry her. However, he finds himself doing what he’s always done in his relationships when they got too serious… pushing her away.

He loves this woman, wants to spend the rest of his life with her, but deep down inside he knows he’s doing things to sabotage the relationship. He may eventually succeed in sabotaging the relationship and tell himself “I’m not the commitment t type, that’s just who I am”. Because of this, he may never experience that deeper connection he longs for. He can do a “living autopsy”, if you will and dig deep into his subconsciousness and go where he probably has been avoiding.

What he may find is that yes, he is afraid of commitment, but why? With introspection, he may think about the pain he felt when his parents split up and how hurt his father was that the family fell apart and how his father longed after his mother so much that he never remarried and only went through a string of meaningless relationships that always ended before he ever really got close to them, so much so that whenever his dad would bring a new girlfriend around he stopped attempting to remember their names.

During this introspection, he may realize that he is sabotaging his current relationship because he’s afraid he’ll end up heart broken like his father and that he was taught unknowingly that having short term, rather meaningless relationships was the best way to keep from getting hurt.

However, as an adult, he longs for a deeper connection, but keeps getting in his own way.

Being armed with this new knowledge that he is sabotaging a relationship with someone he loves based on what he experienced as a child may give him the insight to challenge those thoughts and fears and create a life for himself that’s more authentic and based on love and not fear.

This can go for almost any character flaw an individual may have. Let’s say that you have someone who is meek and soft spoken and this is keeping them from moving up the cooperate ladder because in their company they need to be able to stand up for and speak for themselves.

This person can hold their head down and say, “I’m shy, that’s just who I am”, or they can do a living autopsy and maybe realize that the reason they are shy is because it’s a defense mechanism that may have served them well in the past, now is standing in their way.

Maybe they grew up in a family where there was a lot of violence so they had to be small and unheard if they didn’t want to draw attention, and perhaps abuse to themselves. Now was an adult, this defense mechanism no longer works for them, but it has become so much of their character that they think it’s who they are and it will keep them from achieving and reaching their full potential if they don’t learn to challenge and overcome them, especially in situations where it’s stopping them from growing.

Why don’t people do living autopsies/introspection more often? Because it can be painful. You can lie and fool everyone else, but when you stop lying to yourself you may be afraid of what you have to face in order to stop living un-authentically.

We have to stop automatically believing the negative thoughts and emotions that fill our head and challenge what we believe about ourselves because in many cases it’s all just a lie. We have all been brainwash in someway to some extent, but the great part is that we hold the key to freeing ourselves!

This verse is from a song called, “What’s Inside Is Just A Lie” from a play called Passing Strange and it’s one of my favorite music verses of all time.”

“See I know this is going to sound a little bit crazy, but according to the Bauhaus Manifesto and I quote, What’s inside each and everyone one of us here in this room, what we mistakenly call our thoughts, our feelings, and our dreams, have actually been put there by a system. Therefore, What’s inside is just a lie! Our minds have been invaded, conquered, and occupied, hence, What’s inside is just a lie! And like a catch or a phrase, it gets locked in your head. What’s inside is just a lie! Somebody else’s desires get lodged in your brain! What’s inside is just a lie! So the only way to become your true self Whats inside (Starting to feel real) Is to create your true self. You turn your life into a work of art.”

 

Embracing These 5 Harsh Realties About Life Will Make You Stronger

Embracing These 5 Harsh Realties About Life Will Make You Stronger

Life is beautiful. There is no doubt about that, but life can also be hard. Sometimes we make it even harder by refusing to accept its harsh realities. We can even create our own little fantasy worlds to try to protect ourselves, but embracing these five harsh realities about life can make us stronger and help us live more authentically.

1. Everyone Is Going To Die

I know this isn’t a pleasant subject, but it’s a fact. Everyone, including you and everyone you love are going to die. When my uncle passed away at age 65, I thought for sure my dad would at least live to be 65. That gave me many more years to improve our relationship and get closer. A couple of weeks later he got hit by a truck and was left in a coma for 1 month before he died. People are here today and gone today. Instead of this being something to get depressed about, it should motivate us to live our lives, find purpose and cherish the people we have in our lives while we still can.

 2.  Motivation Is Bullshit

Many of us are not living the lives we’re supposed to live because we’re waiting until we feel motivated to do something. We’re waiting until we feel like doing it or until it’s the right time. It may never be the right time and we probably never will feel like doing the things we need to do so JUST DO IT! If you want to write a book, don’t wait until you feel like doing it or the book may never get written. If you have an ideal for a business, don’t wait until you have everything figured out to start working on it because you may never have everything figured out.  Most of us don’t feel like going to work in the morning, but we do because we have to. Treat your goals and dreams the same way.

3. The Perfect Partner Doesn’t Exist

Most of us have an image in our head of what the perfect partner will be like. I have been guilty of creating this fantasy partner in my head where we have this perfect relationship and that isn’t realistic. Holding on to that image too much will make anyone we are in a relationship with pale in comparison and perhaps make us appreciate them less by expecting too much. That isn’t fair. There is no perfect partner. That doesn’t mean we settle for just anything, but it means that we should expect to have to put in some work and if we are with a partner who is also willing to work with us then the relationship will become something beautiful and fulfilling even if it isn’t perfect.

4. Life Hurts

Living your life, going after your dreams and goals is amazing and exciting, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. Life is going to knock you down, but you have to get back up. Don’t give up on something you want just because it doesn’t work out the first, second or fifth time! You grow from your experiences. You learn from the pain. Instead of going through something, learn to grow through it. If you’re hurting, use that pain to motivate you to get through it and come out stronger.  Living your best life isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. The alternative is not living up to your full potential and dying with so many goals, dreams and talents wasted all because you were afraid to grow through the pains of life.

5. Nothing Lasts Forever

This is one of those hurts of life; nothing lasts forever. We fall in love, out of love, or lose the ones we love. We’re young and then we’re old. We’re all going to die. This is life. Whenever you’re growing through something, rather it’s a break up or grieving the death of a loved one, remember that this is part of the human experience. You’re not alone. Again, use this to motivate you to live life, cherish it and appreciate it while you can. If we all lived forever, if everything lasted forever, when would we appreciate or do anything? Many people who have a terminal illness spend the last few months of their lives trying to finally live. The good thing is, we don’t have to wait until we’re dying to start living fully.

“Embrace reality, even if it burns you.” -Pierre Berge

8 Bad Habits To Break Right Now

8 Bad Habits To Break Right Now

We all have habits that at one time may have served a purpose, but now are likely getting in our way and stopping us from experiencing the life we deserve to live. Here is a list of my top 8 habits to break right now.

Procrastinating

Most of us have things we want to do or know that we should do, but we continuously put them off. In order to be more successful, we have to do what successful people do and that is to actually get on with it. Successful people get an ideal and they go into action. They don’t wait. It could be anything from looking for a new job to traveling or starting a business.

Start by putting action towards your goals. Start by doing at least one thing a day that will move you closer to your goals. Don’t feel like you have to wait until you have all the answers or you could wait forever.

Living In The Past

We all have regrets. Things we wish we wouldn’t have done or said. Things we wish we hadn’t been through. The thing is, the past doesn’t define us. It’s behind us and there is nothing we can do to change it. Some of the toughest things you’ve ever been through have made you uniquely prepared to face life’s challenges. Use them for your good. Focus on what you can change which is the present. Focus on your present to build the future you desire.

Being Afraid To Ask For Help

Many of us pride ourselves on being independent, not needing anyone for anything. However, there is nothing wrong with asking and receiving help. Asking others for help can help you achieve more while also learning from and building a network of like-minded people. You can learn from both their successes and mistakes. It doesn’t make you any less independent or weaker.It can be in fact what you need to take you to the next level.

Being Around Toxic People

Unfortunately there are some people in our lives who don’t want the best for us. They may consciously or subconsciously sabotage us by being negative, sucking up our energy or secretly hoping for and cheering on our failures and short comings. For the most part, people can be divided into drains and faucets. Drains take up your time and energy without adding to your happiness, growth and success. Removing or at least minimizing the amount of time you spend with toxic people will revitalize you and help you stay on track with your personal goals and needs.

Maintaining Clutter

I confess that often my work and living areas are cluttered and that clutter has a tendency to make me feel overwhelmed. I’ve been working on (at least at work) de-cluttering and keeping everything as minimalist as possible. I try to only touch a piece of paper one time and file it, sign it, get rid of it or whatever needs to be done to get it out of my face. I also try to keep a good agenda and an organized place to keep important papers. By not maintaining a constant clutter, I tend not to get as anxious, to be more productive and to feel overall more positive regarding the workday.

Not Making Time For Yourself

Most of us feel like there’s not enough time in the day to do what we need to do. However, if you really think about it, we can find the time. How often do we say we don’t have time to exercise, but we’ll spend 2 hours watching a television show or an hour on social media sites?

There are 10,080 minutes in a week. If you take away 8 hours a night for sleep, that’s 3,360 minutes. That leaves 6720 minutes. Even if you work a 50 hour work week you still have 3,720 minutes left. Now you have to divide that up as it fits into your life, such as time for commuting, but you can see that we can find the time to do the things we really want to do.

Not Getting Enough Sleep

Many of us take sleep for granted. Some of us actually pride ourselves on how little sleep we can get and still function. I for one am a night owl so getting a decent nights rest has always been a challenge for me.

Not getting enough sleep can create health problems and actually make us less productive and less sharp. When I don’t get enough sleep I am less emotionally resilient to deal with everything I need to deal with at work and at home. I tend to get more anxious during high stress situations and just am not myself. Making sure we get enough sleep is an easy way to make sure we are more prepared for whatever the next day has in store for us.

Not Challenging Negative Thoughts

We have millions of thoughts a day and unfortunately some of them will be negative. Left unchecked and unchallenged, we can begin to believe those negative thoughts. Those thoughts tell us we’re not good enough or we can’t do something. They can tell us lots of things to make us feel small and unsure of ourselves.

The good thing is they are just thoughts and we can control our thoughts. We need to stop focusing on the negative and focus on the positive. Focus on our strengths and realize that we’re more than our mind. We have a heart, we have a soul. Change your thoughts instead into solution focused, empowering, motivating thoughts that help you crush whatever obstacles are in your way and help you achieve your dreams.

We all have our own personal bad habits and maybe some of these fit you and some don’t. However, the key to personal growth is to be able to self-assess and change whatever needs to be changed in order to keep moving in the direction we desire. So personalize this, make it yours and if you would like to share some bad habits you plan on stopping please leave a comment, I would love to read them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dysfunctional Relationships: Emotionally Withholding

iStock_000020769810Small_0In romantic relationships, we would like to think that it’s always going to be filled with passion and romance, but typically relationships go through phases where the passion and romance seems to die off.

Some of this is natural which is why relationships take work and both individuals have to work on keeping the fire going, but other times this can be deliberate.

Sometimes in relationships, one person will decide to emotionally withhold and this can border on the line of emotional abuse.

I’m not talking about when your partner is upset with you so he or she may not talk to you for a few days, may not want to be touched or gives you the cold shoulder until they get over whatever upset them. I’m talking about something that is much more long term and damaging to a relationship.

Thomas G. Fiffer, in his blog post  described emotional withholding as:

Coldness replaces warmth. Silence replaces conversation. Turning away replaces turning towards. Dismissiveness replaces receptivity. And contempt replaces respect.Emotional withholding is, I believe, the toughest tactic to deal with when trying to create and maintain a healthy relationship, because it plays on our deepest fears—rejection, unworthiness, shame and guilt, the worry that we’ve done something wrong or failed or worse, that there’s something wrong with us.”

How Can You Tell If Your Partner is Emotionally Withholding?

If you are in a relationship where you often feel alone, there is a good chance your partner may be emotionally withholding.

There is a difference between someone who is emotionally withholding (a deliberate behavior used to control a person/relationship) and someone who is out of touch with their own feelings due to stress, trauma or other issues.

People who emotionally withhold are purposely withholding love, affection, support and attention in order to control a relationship.

The other person in the relationship may find themselves always pursuing their partner in search of the love, affection and attention that they want. They may find themselves always trying to prove that they deserve love.

People who stay in these types of relationships often do so because it is familiar.

Maybe they grew up in a family where they never felt like they deserved love, were always rejected or felt abandoned. To them, it may feel natural to pursue love and affection, even if it’s painful, because they are not used to it being freely given and without conditions.

Holly Brown, a licensed marriage and family therapist suggests:

Ask yourself how generous your partner is. How invested does he/she seem to be in your well-being, in making sure that you feel positively about yourself? Or is it the opposite–that he/she is maintaining the upper hand by ensuring that you continue to seek approval?

The person who is emotionally withholding is always trying to keep the balance of the relationship in their favor. They give you just enough to keep you interested. Just enough to keep you searching for the affection that you want and deserve so that you get stuck in this vicious cycle of searching out for their affection.

Most people are not ALWAYS emotionally satisfied in their relationship 100% of the time, but think about how much you feel emotionally satisfied versus how often you feel emotionally starved.

If you feel like you are continuously starving for love, affection, attention and support, then you may have a partner who is emotionally withholding or at the least, emotionally unavailable.

If your partner is emotionally unavailable, consider if this is because he or she is stressed, depressed, going through their own issues that need to be addressed and dealt with, or if it is more malicious and planned out to achieve a power balance in the relationship that benefits them and not you.

Being in this type of relationship can cause the person who is constantly seeking affection to have multiple issues from low self-esteem to anxiety, depression and even sexual dysfunction.

Outside support from friends, family and even a professional may be needed in order for that person to maintain healthy self-love and self-care. It is crucial that you take care of yourself and surround yourself with people who know your worth and value you.

If you are in a relationship where the other person is emotionally withholding then it’s important to remember that you deserve and are worthy of love and it should come freely.

Why I Became A Certified E-Therapist

Young Man Using Laptop At Home
embracingyourinnerpower.org

When I first started this blog, I had no idea the number of people I would be reaching from not only across the country, but across the world! It wasn’t long before I started getting comments and emails asking for help with a multitude of issues.

As I started to answer questions and provide guidance and referrals, I realized that many people wanted more than a onetime interaction.

Many of them had situational problems and wanted help to solve that problem over the course of a few email exchanges. Others had more in-depth concerns and wanted ongoing contact with me to help move them to a better place.

It literally became overwhelming trying to keep up with all of the inquires, but at the same time, it was some of the most rewarding work I had done.

For instance, I found myself helping a man and his wife in England who didn’t live near any licensed psychotherapists. I found myself helping people who were too ashamed to go to face-to-face counseling or who just wanted the convenience of talking to a professional therapist from their living room.

Just the yesterday I helped a mother and grandmother get their daughter/grand daughter involuntarily hospitalized due to frequent suicide attempts when they were frustrated and thought they had ran out of options. It felt good to be able to do the research, make the contacts and guide them to a resolution even though it was all through telephone contact and they didn’t live anywhere near me.

I realized through helping so many people that I needed to do something that gave these readers turned clients more. That’s why I started Embracing Your Inner Power, LLC (www.embracingyourinnerpower.org) and became a Certified E-Therapist.

E-therapy (electronic therapy/online therapy) is a growing form of delivering therapy that is just as effective as traditional in-office therapy in most cases, while being more convenient.

I had heard about e-therapy several years ago and over the years it has become more and more accepted and I can easily see why.

The family I helped just yesterday lived in a rural area, didn’t know where to turn or even really what they were asking for. I was able to not only help them identify what they needed, but I was also able to help walk them through the steps as they were driving to a graduation.

I’ve found and research suggests that online counseling can be even MORE effective than face-to-face counseling because clients are more relaxed and feel less intimidated than they would in traditional settings.

Don’t get me wrong, I still prefer face-to-face counseling when possible, but I have also embraced technology and the way people are interacting more and more today through social media, chat, email and text messages. People are also becoming more comfortable with technology assisted care.

I’ve helped people with anxiety disorders, social phobias, people who were too busy to drive to a counseling session or just not motivated enough to go to face-to-face therapy, but were willing to turn on their computer and communicate with me. Because of this, the missed appointment rates for online counseling is less than that of traditional counseling.

My main goal as a therapist and my main goal with Embracing Your Inner Power, LLC is to reduce a person’s distress, depression, anxiety or concerns by helping them build on the strengths they already possess.

I’ve found that I am just as effective doing that through online therapy as I am face-to-face. I’ve also found that the people I have helped probably wouldn’t have reached out for help otherwise if it meant physically going somewhere or even inviting a therapist into their home.

Simply put, online counseling works, especially when you’re paired with a therapist who, like myself, works with a limited amount of clients and therefore is able to deliver very professional and personal counseling and not canned or rushed responses and sessions.

Some of the benefits of online counseling include:

  • Convenience– you can receive counseling from your living room, while on vacation… virtually anytime that is convenient for you.
  • Affordable– Online therapy is a lot less expensive than face-to-face therapy which averages over $100 per hour easily. Even when paying out of pocket, online therapy is usually cheaper than the deductible would be for traditional counseling.
  • Licensed– As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified E-Therapist, I deliver the same professional and high quality service online as I do face-to-face.
  • Secure– All information is kept secure and confidential.
  • Sigma Free– You can remain as anonymous as you want through message based, email and telephonic counseling.
  • Multi-modal– You can choose from video counseling, chat, email or telephone counseling depending on your needs.
  • Effective– as I stated earlier, online counseling in general is just as effective as face-to-face counseling in most situations.

As a Certified E-Therapist, I am constantly working on making Embracing Your Inner Power, LLC, the best it can be and it is a work in progress. I am dedicated as always to helping individuals discover their true potential and am appreciative that this blog and my readers have allowed me to grow and share so much with them.

I’ve been able to help individuals and families from 6 continents and it’s been an amazing learning experience.

 

Psychological Truama: A Brief Overview

Psychological Truama: A Brief Overview

Psychological trauma is sometimes hard to understand. Because of this, many people who have suffered from it do not realize how it affects their lives. More sadly, many parents who have children that have undergone psychological trauma, do not realize the importance of getting them help because they do not realize the damage that has been caused.

They believe that children are resilient and will get over or forget something traumatic that happened to them when they were one, two, three or four yeas old. Depending on the child, the traumatic event and what protective factors were or weren’t available to the child after the event, that child may suffer psychological damage for life.

Psychological trauma is the unique individual experience of an event in which the individual’s ability to integrate his/her emotional experience is overwhelmed or the individual experiences a threat to their life, body or sanity.

A traumatic event creates an overwhelming feeling within a person where they are not able to cope and are left to feel as if they will be killed, seriously injured or psychologically damaged. The person may feel overwhelmed emotionally, cognitively and/or physically. This type of situation is common with abuse, entrapment, helplessness, betrayal, pain, loss and/or confusion.

Trauma is a very broad definition and includes responses to powerful one time events such as natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and crime, deaths, and even surgeries.  It can also include responses to repetitive events such as combat, urban violence, concentration camps and abusive relationships.

The key component in trauma is feeling helpless and endangered. No two people will experience the same traumatic event the same. As a matter of fact, what may be traumatic for one person may not be at all traumatic to the next.

For instance, earlier this week I did crisis counseling with four female inmate workers who were out clearing road debris when a man came out of the woods with a machete and chased them back to the van. The man was apprehended, but the four women were brought to me to be evaluated.

Out of the four women, three appeared to be handling the situation relatively well, even able to laugh and joke about the incident while also describing it as terrifying.

One woman however, was obviously more shaken up. She sat nearly stone faced with tears in her eyes, not saying a word during the counseling session. I quickly learned that she was the last woman to make it safely to the van and was the one whose life was most in danger. She also has a history of mental health problems which may make her predisposed to developing signs of trauma which include:

  • Shock, denial, or disbelief.
  • Anger, irritability, mood swings.
  • Guilt, shame, self-blame.
  • Feeling sad or hopeless.
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Avoidant behavior

Out of the four women, she is the one I most worry about and the one I will observe closes during the days to come to see how she processes this trauma and to help walk her through it if needed.

That is the interesting part of trauma and why trauma is defined by the experience of the survivor.  We can’t say one event will cause trauma and another will not or that one person will be traumatized by this experience while another will not. Trauma is too broad for such simple explanations.

 

“Big T” versus  “Little T”

It’s hard to go through life without being traumatized in some way. Most of us have experienced some type of event that has affected us either consciously or subconsciously. It could be the divorce of our parents, being bullied in school, seeing a pet die when we were young.

Many of us don’t even know we walk around caring these traumas with us or how they affect our lives.

For instance, a man whose favorite pet died when he was five may never like pets for the rest of his life and grow angry and anxious when his kids ask if they can have a pet.

These types of traumas are called “Little Ts” or “Little Traumas”. They do not have the severe impact that  “Big Ts” or “Big Traumas” usually have such as flashbacks, avoidant behavior, severe anxiety and nightmares that lead to a diagnosis of PTSD. Still, “Little Ts” can unconsciously disrupt our lives.

Most men I’ve worked with in anger management don’t even realize why they are so angry, why they hit their wives or bully their children. It’s only after some intense introspection that most of them can identify traumatic events in their childhood such as being bullied by their own father, watching their father beat their mother or watching their mother go through abusive relationship with one man after another, that they realize the reason they carry around so much anger.It’s once we deal with the root causes of their anger that they began to truly heal.

I myself as a child watched as my father often abused my mother. I never had any nightmares, flashbacks or anything that would make it a “Big T”. I never felt that my own life was in danger, but I did feel like my mothers’ life was.

Still, one of the affects it had on me was that for many years I thought that’s what love was. That if you loved someone you fought, made up and then fought again. It wasn’t until I was in college that I learned I was wrong. For many years, that “Little T” of watching my parents fight had me living in a world where fighting verbally and physically meant love.

A woman I counseled with was claustrophobic and afraid of the dark. She had no ideal why until one session we processed the fact that her older siblings used to play a game where they would lock her in a closet when she was very young. They thought it was funny, but she was tormented. She never viewed that as a traumatic event until years later, sitting across from me crying.

Trauma doesn’t have to be a negative word. Often times the way we respond to trauma, the way it changes us, the way we adapt to a traumatic event, is natural given the coping skills, circumstances and knowledge we have at the time.

The topic of trauma is too broad to cover in one post. I’ve actually been on a radio talk show discussing trauma twice within the last two months and will likely be on a third time because it is such a huge topic.

My bottom line for this post is to help others realize that you don’t have to go off to war or survive some horrific event to suffer from the affects of trauma. Even “Little Ts” can rob us of our full quality of life and “Big Ts” can devastate us.

Once we recognize this, we can change it through self help, the help of loved ones and even professional help if needed and reclaim the joy and full life we deserve.