I am proud to be a presenter at the Trauma-Infored Care: An Integrative Approach, this coming March 20, 2020 at Cuesta College. This is a systems-wide collaboration between Cuesta College, SLO County Behavioral Health, Transitions-Mental Health Association, Center for Family Strengthening, and SLO Trauma Informed Champions of Change.
The keynote will be delivered by Dr. Gregory Williams, author of “Shattered by the Darkness”. You can check out his website shatteredbythedarkness.com. He is a medical doctor and doctor of counseling who shares his intensely traumatic childhood of ongoing sexual abuse.
My topic will be on creating trauma-informed families…If you live in the San Luis Obispo or Santa Barbara Counties, I encourage you to attend. See you there!
You can find your balance of Love and Limits in your family…not matter what type of family you are.
Balancing love and limits in discipline is one of the most challenging aspects of parenting. Love and limits refer to different styles of parenting with love representative of a “permissive” or child-centered style of parenting and limits representative of “authoritative” or parent-centered style. Each style is based on a set of beliefs, in the parent, about what it means to be a good parent. No one wants to be a bad parent. They adopt a style that they feel best meets the goal of parenting to raise children that are able to manage themselves and function productively in the world.
Finding this balance can be challenging for nontraditional family. This is particularly true when parenting partners’ do not agree on how to discipline. One parent may advocate a stricter approach in contrast to the other partners more permissive approach. Children will use this split to divide and conquer the family. Given that many nontraditional families are already dealing with losses, confusing parenting roles will only add to the grief. Learning to co-parent will help heal the heart and the home.
In this healing video, Ron Huxley, explains what forgiveness is and isn’t. Learn the benefits of forgiveness to release angry toxins from your life even if you can’t reconcile or ever be with another person ever again.
During this season we hear a lot about comfort and joy but many people feel only pain and loss. Comfort and joy are the perfect antidotes to this suffering. It is what a broken world needs most. It may be that we can’t find comfort and joy because we believe that when we do we will stop feeling hurt. This is not always true. Our heart is to create more space not to eliminate hurt. That would be a nice result but isn’t reality. We strive to allow comfort and joy to coexist with our pain and loss. This inner act expands our heart of compassion. We now have a greater capacity for feeling both comfort and pain, joy and loss. It is a spiritual paradox but it is a direction for our own healing.
Science confirms this idea. Our hearts literally do expand when we entertain compassion and allow more space for comfort and joy. Choosing compassion releases neurotransmitters in the brain and hormones in the body and calm down the hyperaroused nervous system, reducing fear, anger, anxiety, and depression.
Studies on the practice of compassion reveal improved autoimmune functioning, decreased inflammation, improved digestion, increase mental focus, motivation, and even sleep. Dr. Caroline Leaf, a noted cognitive neuroscientist, and researcher on the mind-body connection report that compassion increases the grey matter in the brain, allowing improved thinking and sensory processing.
So how does compassion start? How do we allow comfort and joy into our lives when we feel stuck emotionally? The answer is where we put our focus.
Right now, at this moment, you have a choice. Whoops, there it went but don’t worry, here comes another. Missed that one. Just wait…
We have thousands of opportunities to choose comfort and joy. Every moment is a chance to change the directions of our lives. It will not remove pain and suffering but it will allow us to build a mindset that allows comfort and joy too. Take a deep breath and make one statement of comfort and joy. Maybe it is gratitude for that cup of coffee or tea in front of you. Is it warm and comforting however brief? Maybe you heard someone laugh and it made you smile? Perhaps, someone opened the door for you when your hands were full? Life is constantly presenting micro-moments of comfort and joy. You just have to notice them.
The problem is that we allow suffering to be our filter for living. We get angry expecting things to be different than they are. We resent people for not treating us the way we deserve. Just allow those challenges to exist alongside the next moment of gratitude and pleasure. Build those moments up, one after the other, and live a day full of tiny, joyful experiences. Tip the emotional scale in your direction.
The brain likes to automate our life. It will take any repeated experience, good or bad, and make it a habit. This is how we can do so many tasks and face so many diverse problems. It makes us efficient and skilled. It can also make us miserable if we stop being aware of what is going on around us. A lack of moment to moment awareness makes us a machine, driven to self-protect and insulate from anything that smells dangerous or out of the norm. We don’t want the norm. The norm is hurt. We want the new which is comfort and joy. This will cost you some mental energy until the new norm becomes a happy habit.
Test these ideas out today. Stop three times today to recognize a moment of comfort or joy. Write them down on a post-it note. Remember, in as much detail as you can muster, throughout the day, what it felt like. Do this for a week and see if your pain, your suffering, starts to lessen and a life of greater compassion takes over.
When you spend your days encountering pain and suffering, you look for ways to find comfort. It isn’t easy to find if you are looking in the wrong places. True comfort that is…Addictive activities bring some relief from the overwhelming feelings of pain but then you have to engage in the addiction again, to find that comfort once more. It’s an endless, downward spiral.
As a therapist who works with traumatized children and adults, I have found that the most lasting comfort comes from within, not without. It isn’t in things or activities, although they can provide some distraction. It comes from our hearts and minds as we battle the negative interpretations of our lives and relationships in the aftermath of trauma.
True comfort begins by clearing out our own judgements. Hurts result in resentments which turns into isolation and insulation from others. We want to protect ourselves. They is a normal, innate response to pain particularly when it comes from those closest to us. The pain programs behaviors that protect but this also cuts us off from sources of healing. How do you find real comfort in this season of “joy and hope?” Let’s start with forgiveness.
Most people are fearful of forgiveness. Is it because there are common myths about what forgiveness is and why we should do it.
Forgiveness is not staying a victim or allowing further pain to come into our lives from toxic people. Forgiveness is not forgetting what has been done. We need to remember so we have the wisdom to make healthier choices and set boundaries.
Forgiveness releases the angry toxins from our thoughts and emotions. It doesn’t have to benefit others, although it may. It won’t always result in a reconciliation with others but it could. It doesn’t happen in an instant and might even take a lifetime to completely forgive. That’s ok!
Forgiveness sets us on a course of self-directed healing of the hurt. It must become a lifestyle and not a one time answer to all our pain.
Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger, in her book Bearing the Unbearable: Trauma, Gospel, and Pastoral Care states: “The God who alone sees the human heart is the God who alone who may judge.”
Let us let God be God to judge others. That is too big a burden for us to drag around. Let us be free of the weight of past pain and hurt. Let’s allow more love and comfort to enter into our lives. Let us us find comfort this Christmas by giving ourselves an lasting gift.
You can learn more ways to walk in healing with the courses at familyhealer.TV
Trauma is an overwhelming event that surpasses our nervous systems’ capacity to manage or understand. Because of this, we can’t expect that we will go through it normally or rationally. Why would we think that we can? But we do!
It may have to do with an underlying belief that it is not OK to have weaknesses. Everyone has them, even without the toxic effects of trauma. Trauma only accentuates those areas of weaknesses. We constantly compare ourselves to others and use examples of others’ success as a measuring stick of our own level of goodness. We gravitate to negative media and negative people who reinforce our own negative thoughts and feelings.
The consequence is usually anger or shame. That’s when the vicious cycle of self-deprecating comments and further comparisons start and then more anger and shame. We have to get out of this negative cycle of abuse. The trauma that was done to us or the hurt that others did to us has shifted now to the torture we put ourselves through…as if we deserve to stay stuck in this suffering. We don’t!
Write Brain Reflections: Your weaknesses are opportunities for wisdom to shine through. Pain is not something we have to live with. It is something to learn from. What is it teaching you today? Where do you need to set stronger boundaries? How do you need to pause and rest, every day! Yes, every day. What new, more healthy rules for life have you discovered? What are the five things you are grateful for? Repeat them every day. What and whom do you need to forgive?
The aftermath of trauma and the weaknesses it exposes can reveal the wisdom that allows us to reach deeper levels of living. Let yourself benefit from this today.
READ MORE trauma-informed contemplations at TraumaToolbox.com, our free online resources for trauma-informed care in the home, school, and community.
Anxiety affects 40 million adults in the United States today!
That’s 18.1% of the population and the problem appears to be growing.
Over 6 million people have General Anxiety Disorder. That’s 3% of the population with women experiencing this disorder 2x more often then men. Sadly, only 42% of people with this disorder actually seek help.
Every day, another 6 million good people experience Panic Attacks resulting in visits to emergency rooms, missed school, and work, and avoidance of social situations.
An amazing 15 million people claim to have Social Anxiety Disorder. This is a growing problem in children and continues into adulthood. Most people wait 10 years before seeking help with this management issue.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder affects 2.2 million or 1% of the population in the US today. One-third of all adults state that OCD started in childhood.
The good news is that anxiety is highly treatable but very few people actually take advantage of these simple treatments.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, people with anxiety 3 to 5x more likely to visit the doctor and 6x more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders.
Because anxiety affects every area of a person’s life, the Freedom From Anxiety program offers interventions that treat the body, mind, and spirit. You work on finding an immediate breakthrough with simple tools every week for 15 weeks. You can go as slow or as fast as you want. You set the pace of your freedom. Each tool builds on the other!
Childhood trauma is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as an “emotionally painful or distressful” event that “often results in lasting mental and physical effects.”
Burke Harris’ plan is already more than a dream: In June, Gov. Gavin Newsom approved a budget that provides roughly $45 million for trauma screenings and another $50 million to cover training for those who will administer the screenings. Burke Harris’ vision of universal screening for trauma in children may be a massive undertaking, but it’s also already under way.
Well-intentioned critics might question the cost of Burke Harris’ project or schools’ capacity to handle it. As a social work professor whose research has long focused on childhood traumatic experiences and addiction, I believe such a program is needed nationwide.
If all the country’s children could undergo developmentally appropriate screenings for what we in the medical and social work communities call adverse childhood experiences, I suggest, based on my research, millions of tax dollars could be saved every year, premature deaths and diseases could be prevented and schools would be healthier, happier places for students and teachers. A quiet but urgent public health crisis could finally be seriously addressed. Here’s why:
1. Untreated childhood trauma can cause permanent biological damage
Recent biological evidence confirms what many child development experts have long suspected: When kids experience certain types of childhood trauma, the impacts are not necessarily temporary. It can fundamentally change their brain development and other aspects of physical development.
2. Early detection can largely resolve the impacts of trauma
A traumatic experience itself cannot be undone. However, adults often underestimate just how resilient children can be in the face of even the most serious adverse childhood experiences. And when adverse experiences are detected early, trained professionals can help sufferers resolve lingering effects of trauma through therapy before they turn into much bigger behavioral problems.
Efforts, then, should focus on ensuring early detection of traumatic experiences. They should also focus on fostering habits that strengthen children’s resilience. That includes getting enough sleep and exercise, opportunities for mindfulness practice, and the support of a nurturing community.
3. Screenings can help educators better understand their students
When teachers better understand what might lie behind violent, stubborn or erratic behavior, it can help them be less punitive and respond in ways that get closer to the root cause. In other words, teachers can spend more time proactively addressing the bigger potential issues rather than simply reacting to what has already happened. For example, if a teacher knows a child has been exposed to domestic violence, the teacher may have the school nurse check regularly whether the child is having any biological reactions. And school social workers and psychologists can talk to the child about whenever the student reacts negatively to something that took place in class.
4. Universal screenings remove the stigma of “at-risk” kids
The school system is the right place for universal screening for trauma, because every child is required to go to school. That means it’s not just kids coming from certain ZIP codes who are labeled as more “at risk” and more likely to undergo the screenings. Unfortunately, our society has a history of using these types of screenings for discriminatory purposes. For an example, look no further than this country’s history with mandatory genetic screening programs.
What’s next after universal trauma screenings?
Once we’re screening for trauma across the board, educators and school systems will have no choice but to develop a language and practice around trauma-sensitive and trauma-informed education. This can only be a good thing for our schools, our children, and our society.
I think of trauma screenings as being similar in some ways to an X-ray: Even the most advanced machines cannot heal the bone. In order to heal the fracture, what you need is treatment that often involves resetting the bones and immobilizing it with a cast or splint. We will have to stress: What will we do with these results? How can we help our systems get to the point where they’re more than ready to handle the next step?
Implementing universal trauma screenings in the nation’s schools is an understandably daunting proposition. It would be highly costly and require intense logistical planning. School systems will also need to anticipate what they’ll do with the results if universal trauma screenings become a reality. The benefits of such screenings, however, far outweigh the logistical and financial costs. In my view, not implementing schoolwide screenings for childhood trauma should be more worrisome than the challenges associated with the implementation. Too many modern societal problems, such as chronic disease and addictive behaviors, originate from ignorance around childhood trauma. But with a trauma screening plan like the one in California, schools could better work toward massively beneficial solutions.