My Approach To Trauma

Serious emotional trauma results in post-traumatic stress, perhaps even PTSD. You experience “flashbacks” where you are hijacked by the past. A scent, a sound, or a vivid reminder of your trauma triggers an instantaneous feeling that you are back there–even if you know rationally you are not. How do you deal with this?

The first step is “grounding” to help you stay in the present. When you are triggered, can you name five things you can see and five things you can hear? Can you feel anything, perhaps the chair you are sitting on or the temperature of the room? Can you smell anything? Really concentrate on your surroundings. If you have difficulty with this, try something more drastic such as sucking on a lemon or listening to loud music. Or you might carry a stone in your pocket, something hard and firm that can help pull you back to the present.

Another helpful practice is mindfulness meditation. Contrary to popular belief, it is not about relaxation, but rather its opposite: heightened awareness of the present. You learn to sit with with difficult feelings and thoughts as they arise and then dissipate by focusing intently on your breath or some outside stimulus such as a clock ticking.

In therapy, we deal with the toxic self-messages linking past trauma to present triggers. They probably happen so fast, you don’t notice them, but they are there. The scent of cologne might trigger a powerful memory of sexual abuse, for example. Immediately you replay the thoughts from your trauma, thoughts like: “I led him on. It was my fault.” And the thoughts lead to intense feelings of powerlessness, violation, and self-blame.

What are the thoughts you tell yourself when you are triggered? “I’m powerless”? “I’m to blame”? “I deserve this”? Thoughts like these may not only trigger you, they may also cause you to stay in an abusive relationship or be taken advantage of. How do you challenge them?

I might invite you to reflect on situations where those messages do not apply. I might suggest you come up with positive messages you know are true. I might question whether you would tell a friend in a similar situation that he or she deserves it. Are you horrified at the thought? – Then stop doing it to yourself. Find positive, healing messages to tell yourself instead.

Reminders of past trauma may always bring up painful memories. But if you can challenge the toxic messages associated with those memories, you can remember what happened without reliving it.

You can’t undo the past and “heal” the trauma you suffered. You cannot get back the life you once had. But out of its shattered remnants you can build something healthy, something wonderful, something beautiful.

 

Russell Stagg

Where do we fit in?

Mass violence. Hurricanes. Shootings. Rape. Abuse. Assault. Earthquakes.

Where do we fit in?

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (2017) violent crimes increased nationwide in 2016 by 4.1 percent and homicides rose by 8.6 percent. During 2015 – 2016 violent crimes have experienced an uptick by twenty – percent, which is puzzling, yet terrifying at the same time. Children, adolescents, and young adults have more access to hear the exact details and updates on carnage and crime due to technological advances. According to the Veteran’s Administration (2017), within a week of September 11th, 2001, individuals reported watching around eight hours of media regarding the attacks, mostly focused on digital media, which includes images and videos.

According to Forbes (2017), there has been an increase in the intensity of category four and five hurricanes, but not the amount of hurricanes. Therefore, even though there are “less” hurricanes, the ones that make landfall are causing prolonged trauma, distress, and disruption of our lives. The never-ending warnings, updates, and sensationalism of news coverage of hurricanes can greatly impact survivors’ mental health, as it keeps individuals in a constant state of fight, flight, or freeze. Individuals who consume more social media focused on disasters experience higher stress responses, increased hopelessness, a fixation on death and injury, and higher rates of PTSD symptomology (Rogers, 2016).

With the recent and more historical episodes of mass violence, including the Dayton shooting and the El Paso massacre, there is a question on all of our minds: when will we stop beating our own record of “deadliest mass shooting?” The inflation of violence and natural disasters in recent years has many effects, but one thing we have not been discussing is our stunted processing. With so many acts of brutality occurring at a faster pace than ever expected, we are not given the time to properly grieve, mourn, process, and understand these tragedies. Our attention is constantly torn to another tearful catastrophe. Our emotions, memories, and images become unprocessed, leading to the foundations of mental disorders and distress (Shapiro, 2014).

Every day it becomes increasingly challenging to turn away from the carnage. If the television won’t interrupt us while we watch our Monday sitcoms, our phones will inadvertently alert us. If we disconnect from technology in an effort to remain peaceful and sensitized, we can expect a friend or coworker to fill us in on the gruesome details, phone waving in their hand, depicting heart-wrenching images. We are stricken with a sense of vulnerability, and some would even say powerlessness. We are a society that is holding onto our last thread. We are powerful and spirited, yet ground down to our last shred of hope.
We must navigate our social media with grace amidst expedient broadcasts, tweets, and texts about violence in an effort to avoid desensitization, which often leads to hopelessness and symptoms of depression (Rogers, 2016).

There is a cost if we don’t.

Epigenetics is the study of the alteration of genes and their processes (Weinhold, 2006). So what does this have to do with the anxiety and fear we are experiencing or anticipating? Genetic changes caused by individual or community trauma may occur within the family line for more than four generations (Winhold, 2006). Although the studies surrounding transgenerational transmission of trauma have mostly been exploratory, difficult to generalize, and specific, there are still aspects which could affect our future generations.

Although it has been challenging to find out if trauma is truly passed down through the genetic line, there is still an opportunity to negatively influence our future generations. Trauma can be passed down through: family or friends reporting their experience with heavy emotions attached; utilizing negative and catastrophic terminology; a hyper-focus on discussing only the traumatic incidents during the period of tragedy; unresolved feelings of guilt and shame; ongoing anticipation of further disasters; parents living in fear based on identifying characteristics (LGBTQ, black, refugee); and providing technical levels of detail to children before it is developmentally appropriate (Braga, Mello, and Fiks, 2012).

Our unresolved issues can directly affect our children and our children’s children. As we grow, we learn from watching our parents with utmost precision; we speak about and conceptualize our reality in a similar way to how our parents do.
Some parents interact with their children through a preoccupied attachment style, which signifies parent’s engrossment in their own intrusive and damaging life experiences, like mass violence (Shapiro, 2012). This attachment style teaches the child to adopt an aggressive way of being in order to get attention, often resulting in insecurity and dependency later in life.
Other parents may interact in a disorganized attachment style, in which the parent has no boundaries about their psychological trauma. What you may see from this type of parent is anxious behaviors, fearful facial expressions, unexpected emotional outbursts, and haphazard ways of communicating, leaving the child confused (Shapiro, 2012). The child may be unsure and nervous themselves about initiating contact with their parent, as their parent is dually their source of care, yet the cause of their unconscious anxiety (Shapiro, 2012).

We are all at risk, now that we have unexpectedly been cast into the role of captive audience to unforeseen tragedy. However, despite our current feelings, we do have potential. We do have control. We do have hope.

1. Always remember your breath. It sounds arbitrary. It sounds like a platitude. Hearing someone say “take a breath!” can feel obnoxious or demeaning. However, it is one of the smallest, yet most impactful ways we can exert power in our lives. Our breath is one of the few things we can control and access at any time, privately. When overwhelmed, square breathing can help us take a break from racing thoughts. Breathe in for four counts. Hold for four counts. Breathe out for four counts. Hold for four counts. If it helps, imagine a stream of light in your favorite color pulsing through the square as you move through it.

2. Make an impact. In moments of vulnerability and suffering, we forget our abilities. Locate a nonprofit agency of your choice and donate your time, talent, or treasures. Set up a monthly donation of a few bucks. Dedicate an hour a week to volunteering. We may feel like our influence is a “drop in the bucket,” but all we can do is transform people or animals one at a time, setting off a butterfly effect of compassion.

3. Hold onto your routine for dear life. Symptoms of trauma can distort what we hold most dearly, disrupting our ability to focus. Establishing a daily routine can help normalize one’s day-to-day experience, stabilize us, and bring comfort. At the end of a productive day, we end up feeling accomplished and in control, despite the world’s happenings.

4. Create an internal safe place. Allow whatever image that comforts you to come to you. Choosing a place in nature can be a grounding experience. Ensure no people or pets are there as to avoid any upset feelings. Notice the colors, scent, sounds, and imagery. If you looked to the left and right, what would you see? Allow the feelings of security to set in and know you can access this private paradise at any time.

5. Make space for relationships. When we are overwhelmed by the “yuck” of our daily lives, we forget that people care about us. We forget the world cares. How can anyone care if the world is so dangerous? We must avoid buying into the thoughts that drag us further down. Reach out to friends, even if you simply say “Hey, I’m not doing so well, but I wanted to check in with you.” Or “Would you like to watch this movie with me? I need a little distraction and joy today.” Be honest with others and they may be moved to be honest with you.

6. Keep a “thought log.” Thought logs are ways of getting us in touch with our themes, patterns, and triggers in life. When the news keeps rolling in, we have our thought logs to ground us. It may help to jot down the trigger, what thought immediately came up, what you felt when that thought sank in, and balancing it out with an evenhanded perspective. What would your mentor say? What would your higher power say? Connect with that perspective.

Although trauma can be a powerful force, remember: we will be more exhausted by running from trauma than by shocking it and facing it with our strength and willingness. Do it afraid.

written by Rachael Wells

Five ways to work with a social comedown

If you haven’t read the last post, you might want to start there, since it has a much longer definition of what a social comedown is. In brief, social comedowns consist of difficult thoughts, sensations, feelings and urges arising after socialising that often include ruminating over past distress and judging yourself for having a hard time. They can include deep-seated feelings of shame, inadequacy, sadness, guilt, dread and embarrassment.

There are a huge range of ways to work with social comedowns; if they are having a big impact on your life, I’d recommend talking to a coach or therapist about how to find the best way for you. People are really individual, and because we each have our own histories and preferences no single option is going to work for everyone. Nevertheless, here are 5 ways that you could try to see if they fit for you:

  1. Focus on the sensations

Many people experience emotions in their bodies. If you are a person that can feel emotions in this way it can be a wonderful way of just being with one aspect of your emotional experience. Rather than doing things to avoid the sensations in your body, approach them with a sense of curiosity. Find a comfortable position to sit or lie in for 5 minutes, and just scan your body for sensations. When you find a sensation in your body that is related to your emotions be curious about it. Notice whether it is hot or cold, its density, whether it is staying still or moving. Notice its size and shape, and whether there is a colour or texture to it. Is there any tension to it? Just allow it to be exactly what it is in your body without trying to change it or move it. Notice what it is like to accept that you are experiencing this sensation. When your thoughts drift as they inevitably will, just bring yourself back and allow yourself to notice whether anything is different about the sensation.

This practice can help you to be with emotional experiences without ruminating or avoiding – which both usually make emotional experiences more intense and difficult to manage. It can help you to accept your emotions and allow you to move on from them. This is an exercise that you can practice in advance so that it is easier to remember when you are experiencing distress – and don’t be afraid to use it when you’re having nice sensations in your body as well as more difficult ones.

2) Mindfulness of thoughts

Creating space between you and your thoughts can be a hugely helpful alternative to ruminating. My favourite way of doing this is to imagine tiny boats going down a river, and then as I notice thoughts come up, I put them onto one of the boats and letting them go as they float off. Sometimes I can’t help jumping on the boat with the thought, and I have to ‘unhook’ myself by jumping off the boat back to the shore. That’s OK too. People often get caught by a thought and feel really compelled to follow it to its conclusion. Noticing that happen is a really important part of this technique, because it allows you to find the moment to decide not to follow the thought further, ideally without having further judgemental thoughts about yourself! Different people have different preferred ways to visualise their thoughts. While I prefer boats, others like leaves on a stream; trains on a track or balloons floating their thoughts away. Whatever your preference, noticing the thought is happening, and letting it come and go through your mind is a hugely powerful way to remind yourself that no matter how much a thought feels like your whole world, you can let it go.

Some examples of audio files to help you with mindfulness of thoughts are here:

3) Urge surfing

We all have urges to do and not to do things all the time. The urge may be to hide in bed all day or to lash out at someone or get really drunk. Sometimes it is helpful to notice what we really want to do, and just sit with that desire. You may notice the desire is located in a part of your body – and this process may be very similar to the first suggestion of sensation watching. Alternatively, urges may be a really different kind of experience for you than other sensations. Here are a couple of audio files to use for sitting with your urges:

4) Do intense exercise

People that know me will know that intense exercises isn’t something I’m usually keen on. Nevertheless, increasing your heart rate and keeping it above 120 beats per minute for 10-15 minutes helps a lot of people to manage distress. Some people think that it is because you get to complete the stress response cycle by using up some of the energy boost that you get when you’re facing a stressful or distressing situation. Some think it is an intense form of distraction that is helpful because it allows you to shift your attention to something else happening in your body. I think it is a mix of these things, and that it works really well for some people. If you want to try it, jumping, skipping or running can be a good way of getting your heart rate into that zone and holding it there.

5) Do a paired muscle relaxation exercise

This exercise can help because you’re both distracting from the distressing thoughts, feelings, sensations and urges that you’re feeling, and you’re doing something to physiologically relax your body and give it the message that you’re safe.  We know that tensing and then relaxing muscles helps them to relax more fully than trying to relax them without tensing first. If you want to do this you can find exercises here:

If you’d like to do more work on how to cope with social come downs and other mental health challenges think about joining one of my DBT groups. We work on psychological skill building to help you to manage interpersonal relationships, distress and emotions. You can find more information here.

3 STEPS FOR LETTING GO OF NEGATIVE THOUGHTS

Feeling depressed or anxious is never pleasant but this unpleasantness is what makes negative emotions useful. Our brains are hardwired to attend to that which may harm us. Similar to how hunger motivates us to seek food, negative emotions motivate us to seek safety and comfort (and to take better care of ourselves).

Bad days and bad moods are a normal and healthy part of the human experience. But prolonged negative thinking can result in negative thinking habits, which alter our neural structure over time. However, we can lessen the impact that negative thoughts, emotions, and experiences have on our brains.

Psychologist Steve Hayes suggests that we allow ourselves to feel bad in order to feel better. This may seem counterintuitive, especially to Western cultures where we try to control and rid ourselves of our anxiety, depression, and frustration. But Tibetan Buddhists believe that this attempted control is the problem and not the solution.

An increasingly popular new treatment called Acceptance Commitment Therapy is based on this assumption. ACT proposes that when we stop fighting our emotional pain and focus on the things that are important to us, we actually suffer less.

Accepting negative emotions can free up mental energy to focus on other more important things in our lives.
ACT’s founder, Steve Hayes, suggests that when we judge a thought or feeling, we give it more power. For example, the more time and energy that we spend trying to control our anxious thoughts, the more anxious we become.

Beating ourselves up about feeling down just adds more negative feelings to the collection we’re already coping with. So we become depressed about being depressed. We may not be able to shift our unwanted mood but we can change how we feel about the mood itself.

The less attention we give to our negative thoughts and feelings, the less impact they have on our neural structure.
We have thousands of thoughts and feelings a day. We can’t possibly attend to all of them. When negative thoughts arise, don’t ignore them, judge them, or try to stop them. Acknowledge them and let them pass. Here is how.

1. Let your negative thoughts and feelings flow. Neurologist Rick Hall suggests that we think of our thoughts as flowing through our mind like a river. If we attach to a thought, then we can ‘let it go and let it flow.’ Here is an example.

Attaching negative thoughts and feelings:

Thought: I feel like such a failure.

Reaction: I am doing it again. I am beating myself up. Every time I try to be positive, I fail. See, I am a failure. Stop it. Stop it. But I can’t even do this right. Ugh.

Accepting negative thoughts and feelings and letting go:

Thought: I feel like such a failure.

Reaction. Hmmm. There is that thought again. What should I have for dinner?

2. Meditate ten minutes a day to get better at it. Apps such as Headspace offer short (some are only 1-2 minutes) exercises that you can do anywhere. The Acceptance exercise teaches how to accept our own thoughts and feelings as well as other people’s difficulties. There are also short exercises on patience, pain management, and happiness.

3. Practice self-compassion. I say ‘practice’ because self-compassion is a skill. We will inevitably get stuck on negative thoughts and feelings and it easy to get disheartened. With Kristen Neff’s collection of self-compassion meditations, you can learn to compassionately let thoughts and feelings flow. The less palatable it sounds to you, the more you may need it.

Accepting our negative thoughts and feelings does not mean that we should not take steps to better our lives. “Letting our thoughts flow” is useful when we have done what we can to remedy our negative mood but it still persists. We don’t have to be carried away by our thoughts and emotions. And letting go frees up the mental space so we can focus more on the positive experiences in our lives.

Warm regards,

Jena

HOW TO CATCH DEPRESSION BEFORE IT CATCHES YOU

When we think of depression, we may imagine being permanently pyjama-clad, lying in bed or on the sofa in a dark room, unable to move. Clinical depression (or major depressive disorder) can look this way and the Internet and media often paint this picture.

If we research depression symptoms online, it usually brings up Clinical depression information, leaving some of us thinking that, it feels bad but it’s not as bad as all that.

But some depressive symptoms are less recognizable. Most of us are busy. We might feel down but we can’t afford to stop. Even when a situation (like a breakup) triggers deep sadness in us, we have to keep going. So the symptoms are subtler, more gradual, and easier to disregard. They sneak up on us and if unaddressed they can become debilitating.

Recognise any of these?

– A sense of heaviness you can’t shake
– Impatience, irritability, quickly losing your temper over little things
– Growing intolerance of others, our surroundings, or ourselves
– Heightened awareness of negative things
– An emboldened inner critic, bullying ourselves or self-loathing
– Incessant worrying (going over the same thing again and again) or catastrophizing (using words like always and never)
– Wanting to hide from the world and avoiding things that make us feel better (friends, exercise, nature)

Our brain activity is habit forming; the more we think and feel certain ways, the more likely we will think and feel that way in the future. A persistent low mood can spiral into depression and the lower we spiral, the harder it is to pick ourselves back up.

We all have low moods but when feelings of depression seem unshakeable, it is time to start paying attention to them. One of the best ways to deal with depression is to catch it early.

Here is how:

– Become mindful of how you talk to yourself. Would you lose friends if you talked to them the way you talk to yourself? Your inner critic may have pushed you to do better but it can push you down that depression spiral too.
Get blood tests from your doctor. Low mood can be a side-effect of any number of physical ailments: nutritional deficiencies, bacterial imbalances in your gut, hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, fibromyalgia, hormonal imbalance, food allergies, infections, and medications.

– Create exercise accountability. Exercise is one of the best ways to improve our mood. We may have the best intentions to exercise regularly, but low mood can sap our motivation. When depressed, we are far more likely to put it off.

So instead of beating yourself up for not exercising, put measures into place that hold you accountable. For example, book a boutique exercise class, schedule workouts with a friend, or join a beginner’s club team (your Fris team depends on you). If you have no problem skipping those type activities, then hire a trainer for 30 minutes twice a week. (Hire a really cute one for added motivation!) Tell her/him to follow up with you if you miss a session.

– Forgive yourself for feeling this way and for setbacks that may have triggered these feelings. Low mood often increases our critical self-talk. We feel down so we beat ourselves up, which makes us feel even lower. Interrupt the self-critical spiral with self-compassion. If this sounds too difficult, read or listen to The Self-Compassion Skills Workbook by Tim Desmond.

– Listen to what thoughts are driving your emotions. There is no such thing as a ‘negative’ emotion. Even depression serves to protect us. Our low mood is a red flag. Sometimes it is telling us to slow down, to reconnect with loved ones, or to disconnect from unhealthy situations. Or to get help.

– The app Thought Record app from Moodnotes helps you uncover the situations and thinking patterns that may trigger your low mood. And to find alternative, more helpful perspectives.

Everyone feels low, drained, or worn-out occasionally. Many of the symptoms of major depressive disorder – irritability, lethargy, and hopelessness – can be normal reactions to stressful life events.

‘Sometimes, depression is a perfectly reasonable response to trouble in your life.’ Karla McLaren

However, if your low mood is cyclical or doesn’t respond to the healing changes you make, talk to your doctor or a professional therapist.

If you think you might be clinically depressed, you can take this test.  Depression Self Assessment

References

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fifth edition.
Tim Desmond. (2017). The Self-Compassion Skills Workbook. A 14-Day Plan to Transform Your Relationship with Yourself
Rick Hanson. (2013). Hardwiring Happiness. The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm and Confidence.
Karla McLaren. (2010). The Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings Are Trying to Tell You.
Robert Plutchik. (1980). Theories of Emotion (Volume 1).
Dan Siegel. (2010). Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation.
Bessel van der Kolk. (2014). The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.

Warm regards,

Jena

Self-Care as simple as A-B-C

Every job takes energy but being an adult entertainer or a support in the industry requires giving a lot of ourselves, sometimes to the point of burnout. During self-care month, we are highlighting ways to spot and change the habits that drain us and ways to re-energize when we feel depleted. Here is a start:

 

Self-care works best when we take an A-B-C approach; Awareness, Balance, and Connection.

 

  • Find your own ‘optimal range’ of productivity. Take stock of your commitments. Write down both the positive and the negative effects (money, strain, stress, fatigue). And then rate the necessity of them. Be honest, are you doing it because you need to or because someone else expects it of you?

 

  • Make a list of self-care strategies. If you find this difficult, ask friends, family, colleagues, which self-care strategies they find most effective.

 

  • Schedule time in your diary each week for guilt-free self-care. This doesn’t have to be big or time consuming. It can be curling up with a favorite movie or having a cappuccino date with a friend.

 

  • Have transition time from work to home. For example, do five ‘sun salutations’ or change into comfy clothes when you get home. Create a habit that signals to your brain that it is time to wind down.

 

  • Set a time each day when you completely disconnect from technology (phone, computer, television, everything). Even an hour break from technology can recharge you before you face the online world again.

 

  • Spend face-to-face time with people who give you support. A hug is worth a thousand encouraging words, especially when you feel drained. But talk is important too! Talk out your stress. Process your thoughts and reactions with someone else (colleague, therapist, friend, family member). Make a plan of how you can strengthen your positive support system and distance yourself from those who fuel your stress.

 

  • Spend time with a pet. Pets accept whatever affection you are able to give them without asking for more and can give endless amount of unconditional support in return. Bonus – our blood pressure and heart rate decreases when interacting with animals.

 

  • Make laughter, joy, and play a priority at home. Creating fun may be a focus at work but it’s equally important at home. Name three things you feel grateful for today. Think of something that brings you a sense of joy (Make a top ten list and keep it handy when you are down). Who do you love that you can reach out to today (Call them!). What made you laugh today? (Share it!)

 

Self-care not only helps us personally, it helps us to be our best work selves as well. Remember, in order to give our best at work, we must have something left to give. If you feel overwhelmed or like you need more support than you have access to at home, contact Pineapple Support.

 

Dr. Jena Field

Pineapple Support Combats CyberBullying with #BullyBusters Campaign

Anti Bullying week 2018 is November 12-16th and Pineapple Support is launching an online campaign to help tackle cyber bullying, combating negativity with positivity.

“Being bullied is oftentimes thought of as simply having to put up with unpleasant behavior. A more realistic perspective is thinking of bullying as a traumatic, torturous, and systematic destruction of a person’s self-worth and self-belief. The damage inflicted can be devastating.”

Social media plays a huge part in the life of every person working in the adult industry; twitter in particular is one of the most popular sites as it is the only mainstream platform without censorship. When a performer opens a Twitter account it allows their fans and any one of Twitter’s millions of users, to interact with them, they become instantly accessible.
Small thoughts are published often without due consideration and once out for the world to see, it is too late to retract a statement possibly said in anger or with a few too many wines in the system. Public reactions to single posts have resulted in textual attacks from strangers, fans and peers. These attacks can get personal and incessant.

In this TED talk Monika Lewinsky speaks of her experience with cyberbullying and how compassion helped to combat shame – The video is 20 minutes but a wonderful watch.

The recent examples of cyber bullying have been in short, disturbing, with young men and women taking their own lives due to the way in which both the public and other industry performers have treated them. We should never underestimate the power of words and the effect they can have, particularly if a person is already feeling vulnerable.

This effect works both ways and Pineapple Support is starting a revolution of kindness and compassion. The #BullyBusters campaign combats the negative remarks of cyberbullies by encouraging others to leave positive comments, to reach out to individuals and show support. This should be done without engaging in any conversation with the bully or with any reference to the bully’s comments.
If you see someone being bullied, simply write something nice about that person and #bullybusters to encourage others to do the same.

 

 

While researching for Bullying Awareness Week we came across some useful blogs about what to do if you or someone else is being bullied on social media, the links are below.

https://help.twitter.com/en/safety-and-security/cyber-bullying-and-online-abuse

https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/twitter-harassment-cyberbullying

 

Road Rage Much

“Did you see how that jerk just cut me off?! This is my lane, why did he have to pull out right in front of me?!”

Do your passengers grind their teeth when you drive? Do you get so angry behind the wheel that you want to do something uncharacteristic to you, such as follow the other driver? Do you or others fear that your behavior behind the wheel may get you hurt?

If so, chances are that you may have road rage. This is not something that’s easy to change. Remember, you can’t change the other driver or what they do, you can only change what you do and your perceptions of the event.

Joe had problems with road rage that had been going on for years. He sometimes followed people who cut him off and once that led to him getting threatened at gun point, but still he found it hard to stop his behavior. He came to me when he realized it was becoming worse and worse of a problem as the days went by.

He had the perception that the other driver purposefully did these things to him and he took their actions personally. He felt disrespected, angry, and wanted the other driver to know how he felt. His actions became so dangerous that his wife refused to drive with him.
Joey and I looked at what his thoughts were that led him to road rage. He didn’t really know why he felt the way he did or why he got so angry. I asked him to tweak his thinking about how other’s behaved on the road and to not take it personally. I explained that the other drivers didn’t know him from Adam and had nothing against him personally. That there was a very good possibility that these other drivers may have been so wrapped up in whatever they were doing or thinking that they may not have even noticed him there. Or perhaps, they were having a bad day and acting out in relation to that and not him. Maybe there was some type of emergency and they were just focused on getting where they needed to go as soon as possible. Or maybe they were just jerks and bad drivers.
Joey was able to see how these scenarios could be possible and doing so helped him to not take others’ actions personally. We worked on this for some months and little by little his road rage began to improve. He had been thinking this way for 50 some years and it was not a thought process that could be undone overnight. He had some slips in the process with his road rage, but he used that to motivate himself to do better and not to give up.

“This isn’t about me,” is a great mantra. So often the things that drive us nuts are not about us at all. They’re about us interpreting things incorrectly. Someone may do something that you take personally, but they weren’t aware of you at all. Again, it’s that monkey mind playing tricks with us and our desire to be in control of things. Remember the Serenity Prayer and the fact that the only thing you can control is yourself.

Wishing you happiness, logical thinking, and serenity,
Mechele

Stop and Smell the Flowers.

In a past struggle with depression a friend who enjoyed gardening told me to, “Stop and smell the flowers.” My first thought was, “I barely have the time to do everything I need to do. Where am I going to find time to stop and smell the flowers? (I want to assure you TWD fans that it was not a, “Lizzie go smell the flowers,” type of thing.)

I didn’t do it.

There were other things that were more important. I would look stupid smelling the flowers on my way out the door. It would make me late for work. What if a bee stung my nose?  I had soo many excuses.

One day I was running late for work. I couldn’t have breakfast and so I was hangry. I tripped on the cat and stubbed my toe. The cat was ok. I ripped my skirt on the door and stumbled down the stairs. I got in the car, started it up and then realized my purse was in the house. I became angry at myself and went back in, saying not so nice things to myself through clenched teeth.

On my way back to the car I noticed a gorgeous butterfly. It was drinking out of a rose. When I went up to it, it flew away. I smelled something delicious and took a deep whiff of the rose. I was transported back in time to a place when life was simple. I was a little girl at Balboa Park smelling the fragrant roses, not a care in the world.  Time stopped for just a little bit as I enjoyed my memory. I thanked the flower and later that day I thanked my gardening friend.

When we are grateful we open the doors up to possibilities.  Possibilities of good memories, of joy, of laughter and silliness. We get out of our negative mindset. We can tie our Monkey Mind to the pole and stop the negative voices in our head.

Gratitude can do so many positive things for us and yet we fight it tooth and nail. Why not stop and smell that flower?

Tolerance and Acceptance

Bob’s son Fred came out to him the other day. Bob did not hug Fred. He did not say anything. He made a distasteful face, turned his back on Fred and walked away. The family still eats meals together at the table, but Bob ignores his son for the most part.

Bob is at the low end of the tolerance scale when it comes to his son. He doesn’t go out of his way to be mean, but they don’t talk anymore unless it’s absolutely necessary. They no longer go out together to fish or to watch baseball.

Fred is crushed. He knows it could be worse though, his friend, Roy,  was outed to his dad and came to school the next day with a black eye saying he needed to find someplace else to live as his dad kicked him out.

Roy’s dad is not tolerant and is a long way from accepting.

Fred’s mom, Flaca, feels angry with her husband for giving their son the cold shoulder. Flaca loves her son unconditionally.  At one time she had dreams of Fred marrying a woman and having a bunch of kids. Flaca realizes that it is Fred’s life to live on his own terms.

“Love is love,” she says to Fred and his boyfriend Rog as she ruffles their hair, “And now I have two sons.”

Flaca accepts her son. She is happy for him because he is happy. She prays that one day her son will get the chance to love whomever he loves without the fears of small minded people.

A few weeks ago a woman called me and we talked about whether or not I could help her, but she sounded tense. At the end of the conversation she said to me, “I’m a lesbian, it that ok? Would I be able to talk about that part of my life with you?”

It kills me that we still live in a world where people have to ask these questions; have to hide chunks of their lives for fear that they will not be accepted or even worse. We should all be free to love who we love.