Category: General

How To Be a Stable Helper after Hurricane Harvey in 5 Steps #Texasstrong


Our role as helpers is very important while we provide support to others who are going through grief and trauma as a result of Hurricane Harvey. It is crucial to recognize that during this vulnerable time, self-care is more important than ever. It is a good thing we are all having different experiences which help us to be better able to support each other.

I have been experiencing survivor’s guilt, which is a thought process or condition regarding feelings of guilt or shame about surviving a traumatic event. I am not experiencing a tenth of what others are experiencing, my family and I got lucky!

As I went to volunteer at the shelter with my kiddos, I caught myself feeling shame.  After a couple of hours, I got hungry (which everyone human being feels) and my feet started to hurt. I caught myself having shaming thoughts about my healthy human condition of wanting to meet my hunger needs and take a break from walking. I recognized that those thoughts were not healthy.

The truth is, that “self-care” can help us become better helpers and caregivers. Are you aware that you can experience something called “secondary trauma?”  this is indirectly experiencing trauma from just hearing someone’s story! Secondary trauma is also known as “compassion fatigue,” so this is important to pay attention to.  It would be very hard for you to support others if you are suffering from secondary trauma. The more your central nervous system is stable, the better you can be ready to help stabilize others and they can be in a better position to fully heal.

Here are five things you can do: Self-care for helpers.

1) Nurture your social connections/attachments:

I am sure you have heard the huge buzz about “attachment” and you are aware of the abundance of research on what secure attachment can provide for us. Keeping some of the research in mind, you recall the focus on how it can help with our healing, both emotionally and physically. We are wired as human beings to be have secure relationships/attachments.  This alone will teach our nervous systems to self-regulate, or go into a healing mode.  This means that our bodies won’t reach a point outside our tolerance of pain. If, however, it does, we can bring it back to that healing mode because we have a reference point.

We are then able to cope within our tolerance of pain. However, when we go too far beyond our tolerance, then healing and working through painful situations cannot happen. Healthy relationships are crucial to our healing and stress.

There are a few things we can do to be consistent with nurturing our secure attachments. First, remind yourself you are worthy of love and belonging (you are lovable.) Second, figure out your  love language and your loved ones’ love language(s.) Be vulnerable to ask “to get your love language needs met” and be wise enough to meet your spouse’s love language needs in the way they prefer. Third, make your relationship safe for you  and the other person to be open about vulnerable feelings while not being judgmental, and while offering forgiveness, compassion and ownership of your part in the pain as well.  Fourth, be sure to validate your spouse’s emotions. You don’t need to fix it. Just be supportive.

2) Be aware of your own needs:

When it comes to self-care, it is extremely important to be aware of and listen to your body and take ownership of it. God gave us our beautiful bodies with many different functions. It is our job to show respect to our bodies, because no one else can do it for us.  Have a drink of water when you’re thirsty, rest if you are tired, eat when you’re hungryplay, laugh, cry, do some physical activity, and express yourself. Also, give yourself permission to take a break from the news and social media. Too much of anything isn’t healthy. In addition, part of finding your balance consists of reducing stress by paying attention to your body.

Mindfulness and relaxation have never failed me. There are many grounding and mindfulness practices that can help with reducing stress such as deep breathing, yoga, positive self-talk, creating a safe place, and progressive relaxation. You can practice any of these techniques, anywhere. For example, if you are on your way home from volunteering at the shelter or helping with a cleanup, you can focus on your breathing , or the scenery or even just count (I know it sounds weird, but it is calming!) .

I know with Hurricane Harvey, there were countless situations where crisis workers (police, doctors, nurses, therapists, and rescues) were working hours on end and they didn’t have the luxury of opting out of helping, because of the pressure of life or death was in their hands, and every second of the day was so valuable.  It was important for people in that situation to listen to their body, seek support, and debrief after every situation.

3. Be realistic about how you can help:

There are many ways you can offer your service and help. For example, you may be a stay-home parent, taking care of your young children while your spouse is working or helping others with the cleanup. You can do laundry for others, make baked goods, write notes to the victims of the Hurricane, and be a listening ear for a friend who experienced trauma that left a lot of victims. It’s really import to understand your limitations and you are not selfish for doing so. Another example would be someone who suffers from the chronic back pain,  it wouldn’t be wise to help with cleanup and tearing down dry wall.

4. Be aware of your shame thoughts and combat them with a healthy story:

Every human has over 50,000 thoughts a day and some of those thoughts and stories we tell ourselves are distorted. For example, ”I am not worthy, I am selfish, I am dumb,” and the list goes on. Such thoughts can provoke the defeated feelings of being a failure or unworthiness. For example, if I am telling myself that I am selfish because I need to rest or go to the gym then my feelings are going to result in me feeling bad about myself. It’s important to pay attention to our stories and reframe the story to a healthier story. Healthier Story: “I can better help others if go to the gym and eat. And, I will have some energy to give to my spouse and children to meet their needs.”

5) Finding balance:

My balance is going to look very different from yours because our situations are not identical. I have a husband who needs me to be supportive of him, and I have three kids ranging from 1-11 years old to nurture. In addition, I am a licensed marriage and family therapist and own a full practice in Houston and in The Woodlands.  More so, I feel it is an honor and also my duty to support my clients during this catastrophic event known as Hurricane Harvey.

Time management is going to be important in this process to get our priorities together, and one way you can do this is use Sunday (the beginning of the week) to do good family planning.  This may include family time (ask for feedback from your children and your spouse and find out if you are meeting their emotional needs.) It may also include work, food preparation, kids’ sports, service to others, self-care, and other obligations. For example, if you have a full week, and you would like to offer your help, figure out on your schedule where you can do that: “On Tuesday I have a gap in my schedule for a few hours to do someone else’s laundry, or babysit or help with Harvey clean-up.”

Once you have worked your way through these five steps, you will feel more balanced, less stressed, and feeling less shame. You will become far more effective as a helper and accomplish so much more than you would have otherwise done. 

Dear Harvey,

We won’t let you break us down.. #Texasstrong

Working through Perfectionism

According to the Happiness Project research, happiness is derived from these skills: mindfulness, gratitude, self-compassion, compassion for others, authenticity, vulnerability, letting go (forgiveness), connection, empathy, and having a purpose.
We have been taught that each of us are created in such a way that we each have a unique purpose on earth. It is fundamental idea the we are  children of God. This means that we are worthy and no one can take that away​. The world of today tells us what it thinks is worth loving or not. Some of us use such perfectionistic thinking as our defense mechanism.
 Perfectionism is rooted in shame. This negative defense mechanism is externally driven, with a huge emphasis on “what people think of you”, versus “staying true to yourself”, ignoring the opinions of others. Shame (I am a mistake and).
Research shows that shame is highly associated with perfectionism, depression, anxiety, addiction, aggression and much more. Shame is defined by James Harper, author of “Uncovering Shame” in the following way: “Shame is an emotion in response to a negative evaluation of oneself, whereas guilt is an evaluation of behavior. When people recognize that their behavior has violated some standard that has meaning to them, they feel guilty for having done it. Guilt is emotionally healthy and a necessary process of living with others.”​ 
Shame, on the other hand, means that your worthiness is on the line. In an article he wrote, “Cyber Secrets,” Harper also states: “It’s of interest to me that after Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden partook of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the first thing that Lucifer told them them was to hide. I think Lucifer is probably still trying to sell that message to men and women, children of God, ever since that time: to hide yourselves from God, as if we really could do that.”
According to Brene Brown shame grows through silence, isolation and judgement​. Because it involves these three “separating factors,” shame prevents us from healing. Guilt, on the other hand, is motivating because it only focuses a mistake we made. It is an adaptive emotion in which we compare something we did, or we failed to do, against an ideal that we would like to achieve. Healthy experiences of guilt act as a spiritual check and balance system. When our behavior is incompatible with how we want to act, we experience guilt as an opportunity for spiritual growth and change. (Brene Brown)
Guilt comes down to this: “I made a mistake and I am still worthy of love and belonging!” It is not so with shame and perfectionism. Perfectionism is never self-improvement. Perfectionism is, at its core, a game of competing to win approval. Most perfectionists grew up being praised for achievement and performance (grades, manners, rule-following, people-pleasing, and outward appearance.” (Brene Brown)
   In the process of healing from shame and perfectionism, there are many approaches, but ultimately, God is the best healer. One essential process is that a person must talk about the shame to someone they can trust, so that they can experience safe vulnerability.  The three essential steps in healing are understanding the exact nature of such shame by taking ownership of the problem behavior, learning shame-resilience, and self-compassion. If these steps are skipped, the person will remain ensnared in the trap of shame.
Research shows that, for women in general, there are “shame triggers” that involve the woman’s appearance, body image, motherhood, family, parenting, mental and physical health, aging, sex, religion, surviving trauma, speaking out, and being labeled. In addition, your husband addicted to pornography, experiencing any anger at all (specifically anger after a miscarriage), not being a good enough wife and parent, and not living up to an unrealistic image they may have seen on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest​.
In the process of becoming shame resilient, the individuals who successfully work through their shame share common traits. They identify their shame triggers, they do a reality inventory, and they speak to a trusted person. Effective ways to talk about shame are to talk to yourself like you would talk to someone you love, minus harsh words or derogatory thinking.  Also, it is essential to talk to someone you trust by opening yourself up to their empathy.  You can then tell your story to others which helps them and you as well.
Self-compassion is essential in the healing process of working through shame.  It is important to find people who are great models of compassion, yet who are not enablers (who only want to control us with an appearance of sympathy.) Such people would be able to acknowledge that you are suffering without “pitying” you.  They are kind and understanding, yet do not try to take over your life.  They do not shame or act judgmental of you, making you feel like an inferior being.  They recognize that suffering is part of the human experience. (Dr. Kristen Neff)The full circle is ​being that safe person means that you are trustworthy and that you can offer empathy, without trying to run people’s lives. You use perspective take when expressing empathy. You withhold judgement on the one speaking. You recognize what their emotions are and help them to do so. You communicate those emotions to them. You also are a sounding board for their solutions to their problems.  By doing this, you have come full circle in your role as the model of compassion and genuine assistance to the one who is opening up to you.

 

Why is sleep important?

  • Studies show that 80% of individuals with a mental health diagnosis also have underlying sleep disturbance.1 Adequate sleep is essential to mental and emotional regulation. During sleep, the brain creates new pathways, processes information, and regenerates the brain and body. Research has linked inadequate sleep to a myriad of issues, including: depression, anxiety, PTSD symptoms, post-partum depression, ADHD, learning disabilities, obesity, emotional dysregulation, health complications and more.

    Surveys conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that at least 40 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders and 60 percent of adults report having sleep problems a few nights a week or more. According to the APA, “In clinical settings, cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) has a 70-80 percent success rate for helping those who suffer from chronic insomnia. Almost one third of people with insomnia achieve normal sleep and most reduce their symptoms by 50 percent and sleep an extra 45-60 minutes a night.”2

    As you can see, emphasizing sleep goes hand in hand with the aims of therapy. By adding a separate sleep consultation, clients will maximize the benefit of therapy and, if compliant, will see great strides in emotional regulation, overall health and well-being. Having a session with a separate sleep consultant adds emphasis to the importance of sleep and increases the likelihood of compliance, since it’s not just one of many interventions suggested by the primary therapist. Additionally, the primary therapist can maintain focus on the emotional issues for which the client originally sought therapy without being sidetracked or juggling multiple goals.

Lessons from Addiction/Addicts

Recently my church has posted on LDS.org some unedited, authentic videos on The Twelve Steps. Those who suffer from addictions tell the story in a humble, honest way: see (http://www.mormonchannel.org/12steps). Even I, a person familiar with this topic, cried during every video.  Please offer this to your members if they are suffering from addiction, or if someone they know or love suffers from it. In addition, I will list other information on addiction:
Addiction is a disease of the brain. This can cause significant effects on the brain that make it operate differently from a normal brain. Sadly, this disease also involves shame, which silences those who suffer from it. Society tells us that addicts lack will power or are weak, bad people, but that is not true at all.  They are actually suffering from an illness, a disease, of the mind. I consider it a blessing to be a therapist who has been close to individuals who have suffered from addiction. Addicts are, instead, strong spirits who have chosen or were given this trial. In all my years of working with addiction I have found one thing to be consistent: people who suffer from this disease have a deep pain threshold. This means that they can experience joy on a profound level as well as feel pain on a deep level. I have also found these individuals to be particularly sensitive in the manner of a gift, because they have the ability to feel on a deeper level than other people. Not only do they feel their own hurts and pains, but they feel the pain of others. I always hear from parents, “I don’t understand why he is addicted. He/She used to be the happiest child.”
The scary part is that most parents don’t do a very good job of teaching our children to set healthy emotional boundaries. Why is it not acceptable for children to say “no” to others?   Why can’t they communicate to us that they are not getting their emotional needs met?  As a therapist, I have discovered that it is not my job to feel the pain of my clients. It doesn’t mean I don’t, but that Christ’s Atonement is for the feelings of pain. He already felt their pain and sorrow, and continues to do so.
I also have come to find out that most addicts use poor ways of coping with their feelings.  Research shows that the majority of them (over half) deal with a multiple diagnosis. They often have depression, anxiety, PTSD, and more. These individuals are self-medicating so that they can at least feel “normal”. Perhaps they were victims of child abuse, and they were typically taught to NOT FEEL their emotions. They simply shut down and perhaps their parents taught them to not honor their five senses. They didn’t have permission too feel. Well.. If they didn’t have that permission then they had to find ways to numb their emotions. Addictions is not about the drugs, or the sex, or food. Those are all symptoms of ways to numb the tremendous emotions that are going on inside of the addicted person.
Mental illness:
https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/like-a-broken-vessel?lang=eng
Healing emotional pain through the Atonement:

Learning the Healer’s Art


http://www.byutv.org/watch/eb8617c5-e806-4e4d-abff-e8099956d0d8/byu-devotional-address-jonathan-sandberg-012114

Pornography Addiction and talks about great detail about SHAME:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzNKTOPVKZM
Shame:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psN1DORYYV0
Vulnerability (which is important skill for healing and using the atonement):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psN1DORYYV0

Grief

A loss is considered when we look back at an experience or a person and it brings up negative emotions; we avoid talking about it, or we have a lopsided view of the relationship (all good or all bad). There are different losses that are not just physical death. For example, there are losses as a child because one didn’t have a emotionally safe environment or an engaged parent; another example, is the loss with a miscarriage. Other examples would be the end of a marriage/ friendship, a job loss, loss of a dream, and a financial loss.

More so, there is right way to grieve and a wrong way to grieve, and unfortunately culture hurts the way we grieve.  For example, culture tells us not to feel bad, to just replace our loss (get a new dog), to grieve alone, just give it time and although these statements may not be explicitly said, they are definitely implicit.

 

Despite what we know about the universal model about loss, which is experienced through stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. According to the founders of The Grief Recovery Institute ( John James and Russell Friedman) they were explicit about how the loss model of stages actually was not quite correct. In fact, believing in these stages as a griever hurts the grief process- the process of moving on from the pain. The founders/researchers have insinuated that when we are grieving and we label our natural emotions in such stages, that we will never work through it because we are always in a stage of grief. They believe that we can fully work through grief, but of course it is a process like anything in life, we can still enjoy life and the pain doesn’t always have to be there.

 

As a therapist, one thing that I am really sure about  with grief work is this: if we don’t work through our emotional pain including grief, this will affect us and others  around us quite negatively. For example, we won’t be able to give ourselves fully to another person because maybe we fear that they will leave us and we can’t deal with another loss. And if we don’t give ourselves fully to those who are significant in our lives, (and this includes God), then we won’t have the meaningful and profound emotional relationships that we deserve. In fact it is for learning to build and cultivate these precious relationships that is really one of the main reasons that Heavenly Father has provided a body here on earth for us!

 

Therefore, it is clear that it is important to grieve correctly. There are many things that can and do hurt our grieving process. The first great error is we when we use quick fixes to deal with the pain such as drugs, food, work, keeping busy and etc. The second, is when we believe that we can’t get over the pain and can never feel joy again.  Such a belief is false, because if we believe in the atonement then we can be emotionally set free. Now, this doesn’t mean that our life won’t be different after such a loss. The reality is that it will.

 

If you are at all like me, you will want to make people feel good and support them.  People in general don’t know how to respond to someone who has lost someone close to them, perhaps because their feelings scare us. The reality is this: there is nothing that we can say to truly ease their pain because the pain is real, but there is a lot that we can say or do to hurt them. Some examples of hurtful things would be as follows: 1. We must definitely avoid telling them we know how they feel (every relationship is unique) 2. We need to avoid saying the comments noted above, such as not to feel bad, just give it some time. 3. We try to change the subject.  4. We intellectualize their pain by saying something like he’s in a better place.  5. We don’t want to talk about death (imagine how hurtful and confusing it is to talk like that to children who already can’t process the pain). 5. We inconsiderately tell them they should keep their faith.

 

  • Here are some examples of harmful quotes:
  • Get a hold of yourself.
  • You can’t fall apart.
  • Keep a stiff upper life.
  • Pull yourself up by your boot straps.
  • We know how you feel.
  • Be thankful you have other children.
  • Life must go on.
  • He is in better place.
  • All things must pass.
  • She led a full life.
  • God will never give you something you can’t handle.
  • Be strong for the others.
  • Keep busy.

One thing that I know from personal experience is that Grief is painful.  Grief consists an entire spectrum of different emotions. None of those emotions are “wrong”.  Grief is a process and this process consists of that individual’s unique feelings as they work through their personal pain experience.

Grief is a gift from Heavenly Father so we can walk through it and come out of it as whole as we possibly can be on earth. Grief is one way to use the atonement and build or sustain an intimate relationship with the Lord. As you know there is much pain in this world, and because we do have the atonement we can heal and obtain emotional freedom. There are many types of losses.

One of the hardest things for grievers to understand is that they are responsible for their own emotions, which means that if they want to heal then they have to do their own work.  No one can feel their feelings for them.  They must feel their feelings…all of them.

 

What is the best process for someone who is doing the grieving?

  1. Be aware of the incomplete emotional relationship at the beginning of grief.
  2. Accept responsibility of one’s own pain.
  3. Identify recovery communications that you have not, but need to deliver.
  4. Take actions to communicate them.
  5. Move beyond loss and say good-bye as you deliver those final communications to the pain.

 

Last what is the correct way to be there for someone:

  1. Ask what happened and LISTEN without interrupting, sympathizing, or giving advice, etc. as they are in the process of answering.
  2. After you are sure they are done, you can say “I can’t imagine how heartbreaking that must have been for you.”
  3. Be empathetic and listen with your heart and feelings, not with your intellect.
  4. Stay in their moment, without thinking your own thoughts or ideas about what to say.  Focus on their feelings, not yours.

Author:

Chance Scott, Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor

Victoria Scott, Marriage and Family Therapist

Shame vs Guilt

Shame vs. Guilt

 Shame is highly correlated with depression, low self-worth, addictions ( substance abuse and sexual addiction), and eating disorders The difference between guilt and toxic shame can be described this way: Guilt is a healthy emotion that lets us know that our behavior did not match our values, so our BEHAVIOR needs to improve. Shame is when the mistake we make is because of WHO WE ARE; there is something wrong with OURSELVES. So, guilt is “I MADE a mistake” and shame is “I AM the mistake”. When we feel a lot of toxic shame about our “self”, we put on a false self. We become “symptomatic” because we are not okay with our authentic self. We may pick up symptoms such as protectionism, isolation from others, eating disorders, sex and drug addictions or even codependency (we overly serve) as well as depression. With these symptoms we are able to hide our “true” self with it’s shame. We truly believe that if someone knew who we truly are they would hate us like we hate ourselves. One unique characteristic about toxic shame is that it is transferred from generation to generation, in church, at school, and in our public life.

 

Individuals who struggle with a lot of toxic shame share some common characteristics such as having a hard time feeling all of their feelings (sad, bored, scared, and ashamed), having low self worth, not being okay with who they are, having a lack of intimacy in most of their relationships, and being egocentric. What I mean by egocentric is they take personally what other individuals do or say to them. Their hearts become hard and their emotions are not correctly expressed, which has a negative influence on their spirituality.

Family System: Shame affects the family system in many different ways as follows: the children aren’t allowed to express who they really are, there are unhealthy boundaries (rigid or distant), plus there is a “don’t talk” rule (especially about feelings and hard things). As a result the children are taught to deny their feelings and they may pick up “roles” that deny their true self in the family dynamics.  They literally disconnect from their authentic self. The children will also be symptomatic: addicted to perfectionism  and lacking emotional intimacy in their relationships.

There are many things that will promote healing for these clients. The starting point is for them to discover their true feelings and their true self. I believe if they can give themselves permission to feel and ACCEPT their feelings (the most intimate part about a human being) this alone will help the individual gradually work through the other things as long as healthy coping skills are in place. These skills include physical activity, meditation, spirituality, art work, and that which helps the individuals feel good about themselves. Healing length also depends on how serious the symptoms are, and what type of symptoms have been adopted.

 

 

Resources

Meetings:

12 Step Meetings (Adult child, Alanon, and AA)

LDS 12 Step Meetings: http://addictionrecovery.lds.org/?lang=eng

LDS Family Services

LDS Community Provider list:

 

Recommended Books:

Feelings Buried Alive Never Die by Karol K. Truman

Healing the Shame that Binds You, by John Bradshaw

The Shame-Based Family System, by John Bradshaw

Adult Child of Alcoholics, ACA

Boundaries & Boundaries in a Marriage, by Henry Cloud & John Townsend

He Did Deliver Me from Bondage, by Colleen Harrison

Any books authored by Brene Brown

Short Videos:

Shame, Brene Brown: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psN1DORYYV0

Five Components of the Healing Process

Five Components of the Healing Process

As noted in the article, Learning the Healer’s Art, by ELAINE S. MARSHALL there are five components of the healing process.

1. First, we all know healing hurts so much, whether it is physical or emotional. In order to heal emotionally we have to be able to experience how we FEEL. I mean let’s be honest, sometimes we feel like it’s not needed, but it is.

2. Secondly, healing is very active. No one can do this work for us, even though we would love them to, but we won’t learn and grow from the experience.

3. Healing is private, and there is no greater pain than when we feel that we are all alone. It is a process and it is something that is so sacred. For example, there are times when I have I had my best crying sessions all alone, and no one else can affect that very special moment. It is not something that can be accomplished in one event, but it takes numerous events. I am not saying that you should always do this alone, absolutely not! What I am saying is that no one is there to affect this beautiful process you experience by yourself. Listen to your mind and your body and know when it is the time to grieve alone or to grieve with support.

4. Healing teaches us, and this is one life’s greatest lessons. It teaches us so many things such as happiness, faith, and humility. Healing is what gets us through life. For me, there is no better feeling than feeling invigorated, because it is hopeful and I feel like I can accomplish anything.

5. We must help others heal, so that no pain will be wasted. It inspires me when I see individuals who have gone through such great pain, and then they start a cause to help others with same particular problem. I remember at one point when I was going through a really hard time and during that time I was also seeing clients. I felt raw and my feelings were so real; therefore, my clients felt safer and were able to get the work done that they needed, because there was nothing but realness in my therapy room. As you figure out events, traumas, and attachment wounds in y our life, you know that they can use healing. Remember, with any great pain, great happiness can come from it, if you can experience healing.