Thursday, November 17, 2011

Unresolved Trauma Looks Like......

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress.
Image via Wikipedia
As I work with individuals who have experienced different forms of abuse and trauma in their lives, it is clear that unless they have really worked at it, the trauma is still affecting them in ways they don't recognize or connect with it.  Many people enter the counseling process without even realizing they have been traumatized.  They just think whatever has happened to them is part of life and they have moved on.  However, sometimes the negative patterns they find themselves in, can often be residual effects of abuse, neglect or traumatic experiences.

      It is important to understand that trauma is different for everyone.  It differs from abuse in that trauma is described as the long term effect of abuse.  One of the main principles to understand when dealing with a traumatized person is that it is the person's experience of the event, not the event itself, that is traumatizing.  It is our perception of what has happened or is happening, as well as our interpretation of what that means for the future which determines our experience.  That perception creates a lens that we see life through from that point on.  If the traumatic perception is strong enough, we begin to develop coping mechanisms to help avoid running into that experience in the future.  Traumatic experiences that have gone unresolved can affect our response patterns and can initiate spontaneous triggers that put us into fight or flight responses if the experience is strong enough.  Often I have clients report that they can't think, remember or recall information when they are under certain stressors or anxiety.  Some individuals think they have ADD but after going through EMDR therapy and resolving the traumatic emotional chemistry, their confusion, distraction and/or lack of focus goes away.  

      There are some obvious indications that a person is dealing with unresolved trauma; such as self harm, suicidal thoughts and feelings or addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex etc.  However there are some things that may not seem as defined as these behaviors.  For example, not being able to tolerate intense emotion may be a sign that a person has unresolved trauma in their lives.  The original traumatic event as perceived by the person initially may have brought on an intense emotional response.  Therefore it would be reasonable to conclude that anything that feels like that again would be significantly difficult to bear.  Often when children go through something that is traumatic to them, they dissociate from the memory and/or the feelings because it is simply too intense for them to process.  However, whether we are aware of memory or not, the experience is recorded and when we experience something that feels similar to the event, we may have a reaction.  

      Being unable to commit in relationships, fear of commitment, being unable to bond....these are symptoms of unresolved trauma.  Additionally, fear of conflict can be the result of never seeing conflict resolved.  This can be very traumatic for a child, which can lead to becoming an adult without the conflict resolution skills needed to deal with the many situations we face in life which involve conflict.  Without those skills, conflict can be a very scary situation and cause the adult to again experience those childhood anxieties that came when they were involved in or heard conflict that went unresolved.  

Cover of
Cover of Molecules of Emotion
       Emotions and memory are chemistry within the body.  According to Candace Pert, in Molecules of Emotion, our emotions are biochemical and effect our bodies down to the cellular level.  When this chemistry goes unresolved through our natural processing mechanisms, it has the capacity to be triggered again and again by whatever feels similar to the original event.  That trigger can be sight, sound, smell or touch.  When triggered, the original chemical formulation is again dumped into the body and we experience the event again.  The good news is, this chemistry can be resolved; thus resolving the reaction and allowing the brain-body connection to return to normal.  

      Other reactions that may be attributed to unresolved trauma have to do with chronic belief systems about self worth.  The person may believe they are bad, have no value or are unimportant to others.  They don't see themselves as worthy of being loved.  They may also take on excess responsibility, believe that everything is their fault or apologize for their behavior more than is appropriate.  Depending on what age the child experienced the trauma, these behaviors may have caused the person to become stuck in a stage of development known as ego-centrism.  Simply put, during this stage of a child's development they believe that whatever happens around them happens because of them.  This is why we have learned to tell young children that their parent's failed relationship is not their fault.  During this stage, children can believe that if bad things happen to others around them, it is their fault somehow.  Carried into adulthood, this manifests in control, being overly responsible, perfectionistic behavior and even what we know to be Type A behavior.  Of course, not all Type A behavior is the result of trauma, but when trauma exists in the background of a Type A personality, it is worth looking at.

      In my next post, I'll explore some of the other symptoms of unresolved trauma.  If you recognize any of these symptoms and they are causing problems in your life, you may want to seek the help of a professional counselor who is skilled in trauma therapy.  Having a support network around you is very helpful as you take on these issues.  Just remember, there is hope and there is help to move beyond these things.  Explore the possibilities today.  


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Depression Looks Different in Men and Women

Human Experiences, depression/loss of loved oneImage via WikipediaIn working with depression, counselors and clients alike have seen the symptoms of depression to be the same across the board.

Depression has several different criterion - at least the depression that we are familiar with.  Major Depressive Disorder is characterized by one or more Major Depressive Episodes that are not consistent, but a person can be diagnosed with Depression if they have had one or more episodes.  An episode consists of:
  • at least 2 weeks of depressed mood or loss of interest
  • accompanied by at least four additional symptoms of depression as follows:
    • markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day
    • significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day
    • insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day
    • psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day
    • fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
    • feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day
    • diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day
    • recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide
Other forms of depression are Dysthymic Disorder which is characterized by at least 2 years of depressed mood for more days than not and then the Bipolar 1 and 2 Disorders which cycle between Depressive Episodes and Manic Episodes.  With regard to Bipolar, these diagnosis are more complicated than what I have described, but this post is not about Bipolar, it is about depression so I am  not going to go into these in detail.

Depression is not about just having a down day.  I often describe it as having a dark veil over your life that you can see through, but it colors everything.  It is a state of mind rather than a passing mood and it is not something that should be ignored.  Often depression is characterized as a condition that you can just buck up and get over without any help or support.  That is not true.  Having a down day or a blue mood can be overcome by changing your thoughts, getting more sleep or engaging in social activities.  True depression is more complicated and difficult.  Depression is a condition of the brain, whether it is a shrunken hypothalamus or an imbalance in brain chemistry.  Since we can't live outside our brains, when our chemistry is out of balance it is extremely difficult to overcome this without help.  Telling someone with this condition to just pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get on with life is the worst thing to do.  I would encourage anyone with depression to seek out a doctor or a naturopath for assistance with this condition.  

Often individuals who have gone through abuse in their lives are susceptible to depression in their lives.  Chronic inner conflict can be a major contributor to the body's ability to remain in a balanced state.  Can a person be depressed without going through abuse?  Yes, absolutely.  However there can be others sources of inner conflict such as being in a relationship where you aren't able to be yourself, working and/or living in a very controlled environment, alcohol or drug use, disease and medications to name a few.  Living in our area, we are now going into the winter months and many people are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder which is a Disorder that comes on when sunlight is limited.  

However, the symptoms of Depression are now being categorized differently for men and women.  Here is the list for you to look at:

                       Female Depression                                                    Male Depression

  1. Blame themselves                                                          Feel others are to blame
  2. Feel sad, apathetic, worthless                                        Feel angry, irritable and ego inflated
  3. Feel anxious and scared                                                 Feel suspicious and guarded
  4. Avoids conflicts at all costs                                            Creates Conflicts
  5. Always tries to be nice                                                   Overtly or covertly hostile
  6. Withdraws when feeling hurt                                          Attacks when feeling hurt
  7. Has trouble with self respect                                          Demands respect from others
  8. Feels they were born to fail                                           Feels the world set them up to fail
  9. Slowed down and nervous                                            Restless and agitated
  10. Chronic procrastinator                                                  Compulsive time keeper
  11. Sleeps too much                                                           Sleeps too little
  12. Trouble setting boundaries                                            Needs control at all costs
  13. Feels guilty for what they do                                         Feels ashamed for who they are
  14. Uncomfortable receiving praise                                     Frustrated if not praised enough
  15. Finds it easy to talk about weaknesses and doubts         Terrified to talk about weaknesses and doubt
  16. Strong fear of success                                                   Strong fear of failure
  17. Needs to "blend in" to feel safe                                      Needs to be "top dog" to feel safe
  18. uses food, friends, and love to self medicate                   Uses alcohol, TV, sports and sex to self-med
  19. Believe their problems could be solved only                    Believe their problems could be solved only
          if they could be a better (spouse, co-worker                  if their (spouse, co-worker, parent, 
          parent, friend)                                                               friend) would treat them better.
   20.  Constantly wonder, "Am I loveable enough?"                 Constantly wonder "Am I being loved 

Comparing this list, the two sides look very different.  Additionally, the symptoms Mr Diamond lists for male depression are symptoms that are often attributed to other disorders, anger problems, personality disorders and trauma disorders.  I believe that there needs to be continued research into this so that depression in both sexes can be diagnosed accurately and treated appropriately.  In domestic violence situations and abusive relationships, men tend to display many of these symptoms as do women.  

If both parties in a relationship are depressed, it stands to reason that the relationship would suffer.  There would be little energy coming from either side as well as few internal resources available to work at the problems that would inevitably appear.      

How should a person deal with someone who is depressed?  First of all, don't tell them to get over it, cheer up or just snap out of it.  They can't and that creates more hopelessness.  Patience is a good start.  Often being bright and cheery around a depressed person can be hurtful to them because they can't reciprocate.  Listening to them, supporting them, helping them with daily activities is a good start.  If the person needs supplementation or medication, a trip to the doctor is in order.  Some individuals are leery of antidepressents, however these medications have their purpose.  If an antidepressant is prescribed, it is always wise to stay in touch with your doctor and never just stop taking them.  Anti-depressants require 6 weeks to reach appropriate levels in the bloodstream and they are started in stages and stopped in stages.  Keep in touch with your doctor about how you feel because they will help you decide whether you are being given the right medicine at the right dose.  

Natural remedies for depression can include exercise.  30 minutes of exercise 3 times a week has shown to be very therapeutic for people who suffer from depression.  Other remedies are St. John's Wort, SAM-e, 5-HTP which is a serotonin enhancer, L-Tyrosine, improving diet by looking for food allergies to wheat or gluten, corn or soy.  Improved sleep habits are important for improving mood as well.  It is always recommended to consult with a professional before taking any supplement.

I encourage all my readers to participate in good self care.  Toxic relationships have a dramatic effect on the psyche as well as health problems.  Don't suffer through another day of depression without taking some steps to move forward.  Life without joy or happiness is a hard place to be and no one should be in that place very long.  


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Looking Beyond Abuse

The social self.Image via WikipediaWhen I started this blog, I thought that it would be enough to discuss all the different ways that domestic violence could be seen and understood.  Although I'm sure I haven't provided an exhaustive source of information, I think I did a good job of getting some relevant information out there for people to use.  One thing that I haven't done is to look into some of the mental health issues that might be sources for abuse and how they can look with regard to relationships and parenting abilities.  With this post, I am going to start doing that.

There are many mental illnesses that have their roots in childhood abuse and neglect....just take a look at the nine personality disorders if you need convincing.  When children are abused, be it sexually, emotionally or tends to change them and often not for the better.  The ACE Study for example, is a study completed by Kaiser Permanente, a large HMO in the US.  It shows a direct correlation between Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and physical illness in adults who scored above 4 on the test.  In other words, the more abuse, the greater the possibility of illness and physical problems as an adult.

In other studies done by Bessel van der Kolk, he has shown numerous times that there is a direct correlation between abuse/trauma and changes in the brain.  Children who grow up with an angry parent tend to develop anger problems themselves.  As an added benefit, these children often have deficits in self esteem, are depressed or formulate highly developed control issues.  Abuse and neglect produce more abuse and neglect, even if we look at it from the perspective of simple modeling.  If a husband treats his wife without honor, where is his son going to get the understanding that men and women need to treat each other honorably?

When speaking of mental illness, it can be separated into organic and non organic causes.  Beyond that there is a category of illnesses that no one is sure what the cause is.  Personality disorders can fall into that category.  They just know that with each one, there is a common denominator of abuse, neglect and/or trauma.  Modeling and conditioning would then be another common denominator with children coming from families that consistently model inappropriate behavior towards each other and/or conditioning which changes the normal way human beings relate to each other.

Lithography. Drunk father.Image via WikipediaWhen we look at abuse, it is common to see some mental health issues involved.  Besides the personality disorders there are Bi-Polar Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Depression as well as co-existing addiction issues.  Any kind of drug, alcohol, gambling, or sexual addiction can lend a contributing factor to abusive or neglectful behavior in a family, marriage or parenting relationship.  Abuse, in the majority of cases, does not come out of a vacuum.

The good news is that in the disorders which are organic, meaning they have physical causes, medication has shown to be a very good option in returning the person to an emotional balance. Some common organic disorders are BiPolar, Depression, Anxiety and Schizophrenia.  Others who would rather not use medication have found appropriate supplementation to work effectively in some cases.  When someone has BiPolar Disorder, in most cases when they have found the right supplement or medication in the right dose, they can lead a very normal and balanced life.  It then becomes their responsibility to take the medication as prescribed and stay in good contact with their physician to monitor their progress.  Developing a relationship with a good counselor is always advisable as it has been proven that medication alone or counseling alone in cases of BiPolar, Anxiety and Depression are not as effective as medication/supplementation and counseling together.

With non-organic disorders such as Personality Disorders, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other disorders that are based out of trauma, counseling can have a positive effect.  EMDR therapy is a proven and effective therapy which deals with trauma and has shown to be most helpful in cases of PTSD.  Behavioral therapies such as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) work well in most situations of Borderline Personality Disorder if the person will commit to the process.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and different forms of spiritual counseling have shown to be effective in general when individuals have been traumatized.

Vector image of two human figures with hands i...Image via WikipediaIn these rather chaotic and trying times, it seems that the days of the lone ranger are coming to a close.  As human beings, we tend to function better in relationship with others than as separate and isolated people.  When we face challenges, working with another person or a team of people who have the ability to get you from where you are to where you would like to be is an option we all must consider.  If you are struggling with some issues, please seek out the help of someone you trust.  That may be a friend, a pastor, a counselor, your doctor or your naturopath.  Just make sure the person you seek help from has the skill set to be able to truly help you.  Friends and family can provide support, love and kindness when you truly need it but when that is not enough, please seek further assistance from a professional.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Cost of Stress in the Workplace

Simulation - 3Image by onestudentry via Flickr
Often, as employers, we don’t think about the personal stress in employees lives as being detrimental to our businesses, but as stress levels increase, employees may begin to have problems at work that go unnoticed until its too late.  If any of your employees are experiencing symptoms that look like these, they may be dealing with stress that is building to an unhealthy point.

Frequent Grievances:  Stressed employees have less ability to cope with irritations and problems.  Grievances may be legitimate signs of organizational problems, however stressed employees may feel more powerless to evoke change and resort to complaining.

Absenteeism:  Avoiding problems at work by not being there is one way of dealing with stress.  When stress goes unresolved it leads to illness and physical problems.  Absent employees cost the company in productivity as well as increasing costs of health care.

Accidents:  Stress causes a narrow focus, inability to concentrate and forgetfulness.  Employees trying to maintain or increase their productivity may take short cuts which can lead to accidents.  Accidents lead to an increase in worker compensation claims.

Judgment Errors:  People find it difficult to concentrate under stress and may be preoccupied by their stressors.  Not being fully engaged, they can make errors in judgment that can be detrimental to their jobs and their safety.  Stress also has a dulling effect on the thinking process which causes the person to miss environmental cues.

Conflict:  Stressed employees have few reserves to cope with interpersonal problems with co-workers or supervisors.  Conflicted relationships at work can add to their own stress as well as the stress level of other employees.  When people are concerned with their safety and well being, their higher brain functions are impaired and they revert to more self protective measures. 

Customer Service:  Stressed and depleted employees virtually guarantee unhappy customers which affect the bottom line of any business. 

As employers, what can you do to help improve stress levels at work? 

EAP Programs:  EAP programs that provide counseling are an effective tool to move the employee into the healing process. 

Conflict Resolution:  Training in conflict resolution skills provides leadership with tools to mediate conflicts successfully. 

Positive Reinforcement:  Management styles can contribute to employee stress.  Positive reinforcement has been shown to be the most effective way to correct behavior while punishment is by far the least effective.

Organizational Problems:  Employees who feel empowered and have some control over their lives and their jobs will feel less stressed.  Address any legitimate problems in the organization and give employees a voice in those changes. This makes them a part of the solution.  

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Stand and Never Yield

RickRescola.jpgImage via WikipediaI ask that you indulge me today.  A day that is sad for everyone but a day that I am learning is quickly being forgotten by individuals who are younger than myself.  I have had conversations with these people who ask, why do we have to keep going through this, why do we need to keep looking at these pictures and hearing about this?  I guess I would have to say that if you need to ask, that is reason enough.

The following is a story from a book entitled "Warriors" edited by Loren Christensen.  It is a compilation of stories about heroes and bravery.  Even though today is a day that we hear many heroic encounters of events, I believe this is one of the ones that has touched me and I would like to share it with you.

How Rick Rescorla Saved 2,700 Lives on 9-11
(as told to Fred McBee)

Rick Rescorla predicted 9-11.  He also predicted the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.  It is a matter of record.  Rescorla was the vice president for security for Dean Witter Corporation when he foresaw the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993.  Two years before this first attack, he predicted it would be a truck bomb exploding in the unsecured basement parking area.  He went to the New York/New Jersey Port Authority with his warnings and was told to "be concerned with the security of the 40 floors that Dean Witter leases from us and leave the rest to us".  Dean Witter/Morgan Stanley received about one-quarter billion dollars in settlement fees for the Port Authority's negligence in failing to heed the informed warnings of the coming 1993 attack.  

Still ignorant, arrogant, and flat-out stupid, the Port Authority and Dean Witter/Morgan Stanley refused to heed Rescorla's second warning - a very specific warning - that another attack was coming - this time from the air - in the form of commercial aircraft.  Rescorla was a hair off.  He thought it would be cargo aircraft out of Europe or the Middle East loaded with explosives.

Asked by his superiors what could be done to prevent such an attack, Rescorla replied, "Nothing.  Get out of this building.  It's nothing but a big, soft target.  And they intend to hit us again.  Move across the river to New Jersey.  Build, buy, or rent a group of low-rise buildings.  Spread out into smaller targets.  In this computer age we could do our business from the middle of North Dakota.  We don't need Wall Street anymore."

How does a man come to posses this ability to so accurately predict future events?  He had no crystal ball.  He was not clairvoyant.  He was a professional in the arts of intelligence, security, and counterguerrilla warfare.  He had spent his entire life centered on these things.  Over a lifetime, Rescorla accumulated knowledge and experience that allowed him to know how, when, why, and where his enemy would strike.

Rescorla was born in May 1939 in Hayle, Cornwall, England.  His childhood memories were of commando raids by British forces, OSS (Office of Strategic Services) operations, and the French Resistance.  As a youth he read about these events, studied them, analyzed them, criticized them - like a Monday morning quarterback.  He was virtually nurtured at the tit of war and special operations.

In his teens he joined the British army, became a paratrooper, and then went into intelligence and led a unit fighting guerillas and insurgents in Cyprus.  Then he went to Africa  Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), where he fought more guerrillas and insurgents.  After that, he joined the London police force as a member of the Scotland Yard Flying Squad, where he was much involved in anti-IRA operations.  In 1963, he came to the United States and enlisted in the U.S. Army as a private.  In April 1965 he was commissioned as a U.S. officer of infantry out of the OCS course at Fort Benning, Georgia.  Five months later he was commanding a platoon of 44 men in Vietnam with the 2/7th Cavalry Battalion of the 1st Air Cavalry Division.  Two months after that he was one of the most distinguised heroes of the battle of Ia Drang Valley (see the Joe Galloway/Lt Gen. Hal Moore book We Were Soldiers Once...And Young).

After the war, Rescorla left active army service (although he stayed in the National Guard until he retired as a colonel).  In 1967 he became an American citizen.  He had paid his dues.  He went to college at the University of Oklahoma, where he studied literature and writing.  Then he went to law school and became a lawyer.  He taught criminal justice at the University of South Carolina in Columbia for a while, but the academic life was too tame for him.  He went into the banking/financial security business and quickly advanced to the top ranks of his profession.

Over the course of his life, Rescorla developed a corps of men he could rely upon: thinkers, soldiers, politicians, writers, law enforcement officials - second class, politically incorrect, belligerent men who saw things as they actually were and not what they seem to be.  From these he developed his own brain trust - his own intelligence unity, his own staff and group of counselors.  He kept in contact with them by telephone.  He posed questions - hypothetical situations concerning international developments and problems.  He collected, consolidated, and analyzed the input from this net of agents and thus came to logical conclusions.  Some he hired for short periods as consultants.  One, a natural insurgent/guerrilla/warrior, he brought to New York to make an estimate of the situation and the likely plan of attack upon the World Trade Center.  In 1990-91, all this produced the prediction of the 1993 bombing. In 1995-96, it predicted the 2001 air attack.

See?  No horoscope, no crystal ball, no tarot cards, just plain and simple intelligence and professional expertise and logical projection, i.e., "If you want to know what a terrorist is likely to do, just ask a terrorist - or one whose mind works like that of a terrorist."

Now, why was Rick Rescorla a hero on 9-11?  Because after being told by Dean Witter/Morgan Stanley that they could not relocate - that their lease ran to 2005 and maybe after that the move would be possible - Rescorla planned and drilled the Dean Witter/Morgan Stanley staff and employees in the evacuation of the World Trade Center offices that they occupied.  

Despite criticism and intimidation, despite ridicule and denigration, Rescorla forced his people to drill.  Without warning, he'd sound an alarm and then lead the entire company through a mandatory, rapid, efficient, and safe evacuation practice.  They grumbled and they griped, but they did it.

Rescorla installed generators and stair lighting in case of power failure (which came to be).  He assigned office and floor wardens to ensure control and accountability of personnel in evacuating.  Rescorla insisted on buddy teams - people were to go two-y-two down the stairs in an orderly and rapid manner.  Rescorla made sure that elderly and handicapped persons had three or four others to assist them.  And he drilled them - over and over, again and again - until it became a conditioned response, like that of "a soldier going into an antiambush drill." as Rescorla put it.

On the day of the crisis, when the first tower was hit, the Port Authority ordered everyone in the second tower to stay at their desks.  Rescorla made a command decision to countermand that order.  "Bugger that!" he said.  And then he initiated his conditioned response plan.  Evacuation began immediately.

Trained, conditioned, the Dean Witter/Morgan Stanley employees responded.  They implemented Rescorla's plan; 2,700 people followed his drill.  Rescorla was everywhere - the halls, the stairwells - from the 10th to the 70th floor.  His voice could be heard about the near mayhem, keeping everyone calm, responsive, moving in a controlled and orderly manner.  At times he sang to them over his megaphone.  He sang "God Bless America" in that booming deep baritone of his.  And he sag the defiant "Men of Harlech," just as he'd done when the 7th Cavalry was surrounded in the Ia Drang Valley, just as the British army had done when surrounded by the Zulus at Rourke's Drift.

                             Men of Cornwall stop your dreaming;
                             Can't you see their spearpoints gleaming?
                            See their warriors'  pennants streaming
                            To this battlefield.
                            Men of Cornwall stand ye steady;
                            It cannot be ever said ye
                            for the battle were not ready;
                            Stand and never yield!

All but six of Dean Witter/Morgan Stanley's employees survived.  They got out - alive.  They live today.  They live because Rescorla was watching out for them.

Dean Witter/Morgan Stanley was not comprised of its equipment, computers, files, fixtures, furnishings, or potted plants.  It was comprised of its people - those 2,700 individuals, their minds and talents and experience.  When Rescorla saved their lives through his foresight and actions, he also saved the largest financial institution in the nation, in the world, on this earth.

But Rescorla did not survive.  After shepherding the 2,700 out of the building, Rescorla knew there were still a few above - the confused, the disoriented, the inured.  And as everyone who knew Rescorla knows, he would leave no man behind.

An so he went up into that tower of death in an attempt to save them.  He knew it was a forlorn hope.  He knew that he would probably die in his attempt.  But Rescorla was a man who could never live with himself in the future if he did not try to save those few who were left.  So he went up.  And the tower came down.  And Rescorla is no more.

I know this is true.  I was Rescorla's best friend, confidant, and comrade-in-arms throughout our entire adult lives.  I fought with him in Africa, went through OCS at the same time he did, fought in Vietnam with him.  I am the guerrilla/insurgent/terrorist-at-heart he hired as a consultant.  My children called him "Uncle Rick."  My wife thought of him as the brother and sibling she'd never really had.  I was best man at both of his weddings.  From 1970 until his death, we spoke on the telephone three or four times a week.  His children called me "Uncle Dan."  Not by blood or birth but by choice we were brothers.  (For a full account of Rescorla and Hill's legendary exploits and amazing friendship, read Heart of a Soldier by James B. Stewart.)

On 9-11, as he went through that trial, we spoke over the cell phone as things progressed from the initial aircraft hit until he went up looking for the few survivors who may have been left behind.  After he started up, he called his wife, Susan.  His last words to her were, "You made my life."  Susan and I were both watching our TV when Rick's tower went down, taking him and his life with it.

I have wept only one time over the loss of my one true friend, brother, and companion - and that, unfortunately, was on national television while being interviewed by Jane Pauley.  She asked me then if that was the first time I had cried over Rick.  I replied, "Yeah.  I've been too busy being proud of him.  I've been too busy cheering."

I have vowed to never again cry over Rick Rescorla and his death.  It was not an event to weep over.  It was a noble ending for a noble man.  I choose to rejoice in that.  I will continue to cheer.

Such magnificent men are rare.  They appear every few eons or so, and they are a gift to mankind.  Rescorla died the death for which he was destined - standing for the principles of honor, integrity, and valor.  He was a man who considered every man to be as important as himself.  From bush natives in Africa to the barons of Wall Street, he considered every life as valuable as his own.  In the end, he died as he lived - in service to his fellow man.  Like the Good Book says, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends"  (John 15:13).

There was no better man in history.  There probably never will be better.  I give you 2,700 survivors of the 9-11 World Trade Center disaster as witnesses.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Personality Traits Are Important When Looking At A Potential Mate

A collection of mugshots showing multiple races.Image via WikipediaPersonality traits are intrinsic differences that remain stable throughout most of our life. They are the constant aspects of our individuality.  A person's individuality is comprised of their temperament traits, personality traits and habit patterns.  These ingredients can manifest themselves in different ways as they are influenced by environment and relationships during childhood.   In light of this definition, it is important to understand what can and cannot be changed about an individual.  Many times, men and women are attracted by certain characteristics about the opposite sex and develop a bond with that person based on perceptions that they have about relationships and people.  Additionally, when that happens, a hormone called PEA is released and the individuals lose their sense of objectivity.  Under the influence of PEA, traits that may be difficult to deal with, embarrassing or even obnoxious are often overlooked or considered "cute".  Once the PEA wears off, these traits become much less "cute" and in some cases can turn into different forms of abuse over time.

Going into a relationship with the idea that you can change a person or just love them enough to change particular behavioral characteristics is often a recipe for disaster.  Habits are things we learn and with enough motivation can be changed.  Personality and temperament are what make us individuals and are part of our unique identity.  Personality and temperament can be influenced by abuse and the effects of that abuse can be healed, which may be interpreted as behavioral changes, but healing simply restores the person to their original "programming" does not change them.  

The New York Longitudinal Studies found that "Children are born with their natural style of interacting with or reacting to people, places, and things".  This means that if you interact with a person who has specific traits that you don't like, you either need to learn to work with that person or would not be wise to engage in long term relationships believing that you can change them.  Studies also have shown that individuals who have been victims of certain levels of abuse during their childhood don't individuate.  They grow up to be individuals who view relationships as a part of themselves and see the other person as a completion of themselves.  When individuals with this type of wounding establish a bond with individuals who have personality traits which fall into the DIFFICULT, ACTIVE OR FEISTY personality type, there may be some issues which result.  Therefore, it is always a good idea to take inventory of who we are as opposed to who someone else is when establishing relationships.  Feelings alone will not be an accurate determination of whether a relationship will work or not.  

The Longitudinal Study found that there were nine distinct temperament traits that human beings are born with:

  • Activity: Is the child always moving and doing something OR does he or she have a more relaxed style?
  • Rhythmicity: Is the child regular in his or her eating and sleeping habits OR somewhat haphazard?
  • Approach/withdrawal: Does he or she "never meet a stranger" OR tend to shy away from new people or things?
  • Adaptability: Can the child adjust to changes in routines or plans easily or does he or she resist transitions?
  • Intensity: Does he or she react strongly to situations, either positive or negative, OR does he or she react calmly and quietly?
  • Mood: Does the child often express a negative outlook OR is he or she generally a positive person? Does his or her mood shift frequently OR is he or she usually even-tempered?s
  • Persistence and attention span: Does the child give up as soon as a problem arises with a task OR does he or she keep on trying? Can he or she stick with an activity a long time OR does his or her mind tend to wander?
  • Distractibility: Is the child easily distracted from what he or she is doing OR can he or she shut out external distractions and stay with the current activity?
  • Sensory threshold: Is he or she bothered by external stimuli such as loud noises, bright lights, or food textures OR does he or she tend to ignore them?
In addition to this, the study pointed out three distinct temperament types:
  • Easy or flexible children are generally calm, happy, regular in sleeping and eating habits, adaptable, and not easily upset. Because of their easy style, parents need to set aside special times to talk about the child's frustrations and hurts because he or she won't demand or ask for it. This intentional communication will be necessary to strengthen your relationship and find out what your child is thinking and feeling.
  • Difficult, active, or feisty children are often fussy, irregular in feeding and sleeping habits, fearful of new people and situations, easily upset by noise and commotion, high strung, and intense in their reactions. Providing areas for vigorous play to work off stored up energy and frustrations with some freedom of choice allow these children to be successful. Preparing these children for activity changes and using redirection will help these children transition (move or change) from one place to another.
  • Slow to warm up or cautious children are relatively inactive and fussy, tend to withdraw or to react negatively to new situations, but their reactions gradually become more positive with continuous exposure. Sticking to a routine and your word, along with allowing ample time to establish relationships in new situations, are necessary to allow independence to unfold.
Although human beings are usually highly adaptive to the situations they find themselves, those ways of adapting are more than likely based on their temperament traits and styles.  For example, if we just look at how a person is influenced by their brain wave patterns...individuals who are able to spend more time in Delta sleep than others have a tendency to be more compassionate and less anxious than others.  Individuals who spend more of their time in Beta or Gamma wave patterns are the Type A individuals or the highly intellectual individuals.  Our physical composition has everything to do with our personalities, our temperaments and the way we respond to difficult situations.  So, as you consider these things, what DO YOU think would be the answer to the question....can he change?

In my opinion, the answer to that question would be no....a person cannot change...however they can be healed and they can be restored to their original blueprint.  That in itself is a worthy goal, but to that end, the person still may not be a good fit for the relationship. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Spiritual Abuse

According to the Spiritual Research Network, spiritual abuse is defined as occurring when a leader, church or a belief system, whether well intentioned or not, dominates, manipulates or castigates individuals through fear tactics, mind control, or some other psychological or emotional abuse.  Unfortunately, spiritual abuse can take many forms.  It can look really, really good as in the form of church members being held to a certain standard of performance in order to advance in ministry or it can be as blatant as what we all know as cult behavior.  

In cult behavior, there is usually a very strong leader who has been given a "vision" or has a particular truth that few other people have understanding of.  Individuals who follow this person are required to dedicate their lives to whatever the "truth" is and often are manipulated into giving their money, time and even in extreme cases, they live together in communities.  Often they are not allowed to leave without experiencing the humiliation of  "shunning" and are considered rebels for turning away from the particular belief system.  This is the obvious spiritual abuse, the Jim Jones and the David Karesh types.

However, in our society there are less obvious types of spiritual abuse ranging from the type where families are subject to a dictatorial husband assuming the role of "spiritual leader" of the home to churches that exercise excess control over their congregations.  This type of abuse is somewhat less obvious because at the bottom of it is a very strong desire to do the Lord's will.  The motivation is to be what God wants us to be, but the methods are in opposition to the teachings and heart of the Lord and the fruit of those methods is found wanting.  Talking with people who have been raised in strict and abusive Christian homes, they all have similar feelings.  They either hate the church, are very bitter towards God or they desire a relationship with God but hold Him at a distance because they are afraid of Him.  In some cases these people have been put in their rooms and forced to memorize large sections of the bible as a form of discipline or they have had to go to school in clothing that is so odd or different from what their peers are wearing that they are mocked and ostracized by the other students.  Others have experienced parents who take the verse "spare the rod and spoil the child" to mean that they have free license to beat their children into submission to their will.  Other less obvious forms can manifest in just the simple misinterpretation of what "honor your parents" means.  Many of these children have learned that honoring means never to disagree and that is a mindset that produces large control issues as well as producing adults who are never confident in their own decisions about life.  In regard to husbands and wives, a spiritually abusive husband will quote scripture to keep his wife from doing things he doesn't want her to or to demand sexual favors from her.  The two portions of scripture most used are "wives submit to your own husbands" and "the wife's body belongs to her husband and the husband's body belongs to the wife".  When interpreted simply as behaviors rather than heart attitude, these verses turn into demands that produce bitterness and resentment.  However pure behavior is not the character of Christ.  If we truly love and trust one another in a marriage relationship, we will free give our submission to another and come together in the sexual relationship as an outgrowth of the abundance of love that exists within the relationship.  This, however, requires more of us than simply demanding what we want, but it also is more in line with the character of God and therefore is more true than the idea that husbands/wives have the right to demand certain behaviors from one another.

In churches, ministries and other spiritual organizations what this can look like is baffling.  From the outside it may look very good.  Lots of people involved, lots of resources, and perhaps even the pursuit of excellence for God.  What could possibly be wrong with that?  There is nothing wrong with it if the motivation is right.  If these organizations are filled with people who are serving the Lord out of free will, who believe that their giving and their service to the organization is where they are supposed to be and it is coming from an abundance in their own personal lives...then that is appropriate motivation.  However, many times these organizations are filled with people who are performance based, who have little identity beyond what they do and how well they do it.  If the organization has a person like this in authority, then the organization will be motivated by what it does, how good it looks, how well its membership or staff produces and in terms of churches or ministries it people may be motivated by receiving the approval of those in authority.  If that is the case, you will see many individuals serving, doing a good job, taking great responsibility in their service but there is an underlying sense of competition that no one talks about.  That competition has little to do with the Lord and everything about becoming a leader in the organization or someone the leadership depends on or calls on regularly.  These individuals illustrate success in ministry and the example for which everyone else should strive.   In these types of environments, service is then tied to being a good Christian, doing the Lord's will and if you don't serve you aren't as good and there must be something in your life that you need to look at.  

This doesn't mean that people shouldn't be in ministry or serve in their local churches.  Not at all! If there weren't people to do that, churches and ministries wouldn't survive very long.  No, it isn't about what we do, it is about why we do it.  When church leadership motivates from a sense of approval for good behavior rather than motivating individuals to become closer to the Lord and out of that relationship comes are looking at a form of spiritual abuse.  Should we encourage one another, yes!  Should that encouragement and approval be the reason we seek to serve the Lord, no.  

Things to look for when considering spiritual abuse may be found both internally and externally.  Internal red flags can come in the form of losing joy.  If what you are doing brings you joy and is fulfilling, that is awesome, but if you find that along the way you have lost your joy and you are doing what you are doing out of a sense of duty or because you believe you will be labeled or viewed negatively if you should stop, pay attention.  Again, do we always have to be ecstatic about what we do....not really, but it shouldn't be drudgery and if that lack of motivation extends over a long period of time, we may need to think about changing what we are doing.  Another thing to look for would be absolute authority of the leadership or no real accountability of the leadership to the corporate body.  Some church governments are set up with a board who has accountability and others are set up where the Pastor has ultimate authority, but in every case there is accountability to the church body and to the Lord.  A third sign to watch for is hand-picked sub-leaders based on their demonstration of loyalty to the ultimate leader rather than on the basis of their leadership skills, spiritual acumen, and anointing and appointment by God.  Yes, church leadership teams do need to have individuals on them who can work together effectively, but these people should not be chosen on the basis of relationship with the Pastor or someone on the senior staff.  It is the business of elders to see God's chosen, who He has anointed and then place them in the appropriate level of service.  Usually when God anoints someone for service, they function in whatever area they have been called to long before leadership may be aware of them.  

Although the list of spiritual abuses is quite long, the last one I would like to point out is theological incompetency by the leadership, especially with respect to the rules of hermeneutics and Bible exegesis employed in the formulation of doctrine, giving license to twisting and adulteration of Scripture in order to provide proof texts for unorthodox and invented doctrines.  This is probably the most serious and may be the reason that scripture points out that teachers are held to a higher standard.  When spiritual leaders start teaching scripture in ways that support their own positions, projects or desires...that is wrong.  If someone believes that they are in a church or a ministry that is doing that, the first thing to do is pray, do your own homework as to the doctrine or teaching and then confront the leadership with your findings.  If there can be no reconciliation regarding the matter, you need to make a decision whether the place you are working or attending is where you need to be.  Everyone can disagree about theology, but fundamental errors that do not agree with the context of scripture or the character of God need to be examined.

I have listed several books here that deal with the subject of spiritual abuse, however there is also an article entitled "Signs of Authoritarian Abuse"  written by Steve Lambert, ThD that you can find online.  He outlines quite a few of the signs of spiritual abuse.  I need to say that I don't quite agree with all his conclusions, but for the most part, the article is valid and I believe you, as a discerning reader can judge for yourself.  If you find yourself in a spiritually abusive situation, whether it be in a relationship or an organization, you may need to make some hard decisions about what to do about that.  The first step is recognizing it and then you can decide what to do.

Kriss Mitchell is a Christian counselor in Post Falls, Idaho and owns Living Well Counseling and Consulting, LLC.  For more information, please visit or


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Signs of Being in an Abusive Relationship

In all the articles that I have read on this subject, I think the one written by the Mayo Clinic is one of the best.  I don't think that I could say it any better so I will put the entire article here for your reference:

Domestic violence toward women: Recognize the patterns and seek help

Your partner apologizes and says the hurtful behavior won't happen again. But you fear it will. At times you may start to doubt your own judgment, or wonder whether you're going crazy. You may even feel like you've imagined the whole thing. But the emotional or physical pain you feel is real. If this sounds familiar, you may be the victim of domestic violence.
Also called domestic abuse, intimate partner violence or battering, domestic violence occurs between people in intimate relationships. It can take many forms, including emotional, sexual and physical abuse. Men are sometimes abused by female or male partners, but domestic violence is most often directed toward women. It can happen in heterosexual or lesbian relationships.
Unfortunately, domestic violence against women is common. It happens to teenage girls and women of all backgrounds. As many as 4 million women suffer abuse from their husbands, ex-husbands, boyfriends or intimate partners in the United States each year.

Recognizing abuse: Know the signs

It may not be easy to identify abuse, especially at first. While some relationships are clearly abusive from the outset, abuse often starts subtly and gets worse over time. For example, abuse may begin with occasional hurtful comments, jealousy or controlling behavior. As it gets worse, the abuse may become more frequent, severe or violent. As the cycle of abuse worsens, your safety or the safety of your children may be in danger.
You may be a victim of abuse if you're in a relationship with someone who:
§                                 Controls finances, so you have to ask for money
§                                 Looks at you or acts in ways that scare you
§                                 Acts jealous or possessive, or accuses you of being unfaithful
§                                 Tries to control how you spend your time, who you see or talk to, where you go or what
                  you wear
§                                 Wants you to get permission to make everyday decisions
§                                 Gets angry when drinking alcohol or using drugs
§                                 Scares you by driving recklessly
§                                 Threatens to kill him or herself
You are very likely in an abusive relationship if you have a relationship with someone who does even one of the following:
§                                 Hits, kicks, shoves, slaps, or chokes you or threatens you with violence or a weapon
§                                 Forces you to have sexual intercourse or engage in sexual acts against your will
§                                 Calls you names, insults you or puts you down
§                                 Prevents you from going to work or school
§                                 Stops you from seeing family members and friends
§                                 Hurts, or threatens to hurt you, your children or pets
§                                 Destroys your property
§                                 Controls your access to medicines
§                                 Blames you for his or her violent behavior or tells you that you deserve it
§                                 Says that his or her abusive behavior is no big deal or even denies doing it
§                                 Tries to force you to drop charges
§                                 Tries to prevent you from calling the police or seeking medical care

Pregnancy, children and abuse

Pregnancy is a particularly perilous time for an abused woman. Not only is your health at risk, but also the health of your unborn child. Abuse can begin or may increase during pregnancy.
Abusive relationships can also be particularly damaging to children, even if they're just witnesses. But for women in an abusive relationship, chances are much higher that their children also will be direct victims of abuse. Over half of men who abuse their female partners also abuse their children.
You may worry that seeking help may further endanger you or your children, or that it may break up your family. But in the long run, seeking help when you safely can is the best way to protect your children — and yourself.

An abusive relationship: It's about power and control

Though there are no typical victims of domestic violence, abusive relationships do share similar characteristics. In all cases, the abuser aims to exert power and control over his partner.
Although a lot of people think domestic violence is about anger, it really isn't. Batterers do tend to take their anger out on their intimate partner. But it's not really about anger. It's about trying to instill fear and wanting to have power and control in the relationship. In an abusive relationship, the abuser may use varying tactics to gain power and control, including:
§                                 Emotional abuse. Uses put-downs, insults, criticism or name-calling to make you feel bad about yourself.
§                                 Denial and blame. Denies that the abuse occurs and shifts responsibility for the abusive behavior onto you. This may leave you confused and unsure of yourself.
§                                 Intimidation. Uses certain looks, actions or gestures to instill fear. The abuser may break things, destroy property, abuse pets or display weapons.
§                                 Coercion and threats. Threatens to hurt other family members, pets, children or self.
§                                 Power. Makes all major decisions, defines the roles in your relationship, is in charge of the home and social life, and treats you like a servant or possession.
§                                 Isolation. Limits your contact with family and friends, requires you to get permission to leave the house, doesn't allow you to work or attend school, and controls your activities and social events. The abuser may ask where you've been, track your time and whereabouts, or check the odometer on your car.
§                                 Children as pawns. Accuses you of bad parenting, threatens to take the children away, uses the children to relay messages, or threatens to report you to children's protective services.
§                                 Economic abuse. Controls finances, refuses to share money, makes you account for money spent and doesn't want you to work outside the home. The abuser may also try to sabotage your work performance by forcing you to miss work or by calling you frequently at work.

Breaking the cycle: Difficult, but possible with help

Domestic violence is part of a continuing cycle that's difficult to break. If you're in an abusive situation, you may recognize this pattern:
§                                 Your abuser strikes using words or actions.
§                                 Your abuser may beg for forgiveness, offer gifts or promise to change.
§                                 Your abuser becomes tense, angry or depressed.
§                                 Your abuser repeats the abusive behavior.
Typically each time the abuse occurs, it worsens, and the cycle shortens. As it gets worse, you may have a hard time doing anything about the abuse or even acknowledging it. Over time, an abusive relationship can break you down and unravel your sense of reality and self-esteem. You may begin to doubt your ability to take care of yourself. You may start to feel like the abuse is your fault, or you may even feel you deserve it.
This can be paralyzing, and you may feel helpless or as though your only option is to stay in the abusive situation. It's important to recognize that you may not be in a position to resolve the situation on your own.
But you can do something — and the sooner you take action the better. You may need outside help, and that's OK. Without help, the abuse will likely continue. Leaving the abusive relationship may be the only way to break the cycle.
A number of government and private agencies provide resources and support to women who are abused and their children. These resources include 24-hour telephone hot lines, shelters, counseling and legal services. Many of these services are free and can provide immediate assistance.

Create a safety plan

Leaving an abuser can be dangerous. You're the only one who knows the safest time to leave. You may know you are in an abusive relationship and realize you need to leave as soon as you safely can. Or, you may be concerned about your partner's behavior and think you may need to get out at some point in the future. Either way, being prepared can help you leave quickly if you need to. Consider taking these precautions:
§                                 Arrange a safety signal with a neighbor as an alert to call the police if necessary.
§                                 Prepare an emergency bag that includes items you'll need when you leave, such as extra clothes, important papers, money, extra keys and prescription medications.
§                                 Know exactly where you'll go and how you'll get there, even if you have to leave in the middle of the night.
§                                 Call a local women's shelter or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233 to find out about legal options and resources available to you, before you need them.
§                                 If you have school-age children, notify the school authorities or school counselor about custody arrangements and warn them about possible threats.

Keep your communication private

It isn't uncommon for an abuser to monitor mail, telephone and Internet communication. Take precautions to help maintain your privacy and safety by following these steps.
Telephone conversations
§                                 Avoid making long-distance phone calls from home. Your abuser could trace the calls to find out where you're going.
§                                 Be cautious when using a cell phone. Your abuser may be able to intercept conversations using a scanner. Switch to a corded phone if you're relaying sensitive information.
§                                 Be aware of controlling use of your cell phone. Your abuser may use frequent cell phone conversations or text messages as a way to monitor and control your activities. An abuser may also check your cell phone to see who has called, or attempt to check your messages.

Computer use

If you think your abuser is monitoring your computer use, the safest bet is to access a computer at a friend's house or at the library. If you do use a shared home computer, there are several steps you can take to help maintain your privacy:
§                                 Use a Web-based program for e-mail. Programs such as Outlook Express, Netscape Mail and Eudora store sent and received e-mails on your computer. A Web-based e-mail service is safer. Most of these services — such Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo mail — offer free e-mail accounts.
§                                 Store files on the Internet. You can store files online and access them from any computer. A few companies that offer this service are IBackup and HyperOffice. You can also store documents as attachments in e-mail programs.
§                                 Change your password often. Choose passwords that would be impossible to guess. The safest passwords contain at least six characters, both numbers and letters. Avoid easily guessed numbers and sequences.
§                                 Clear your Web-browser history. Browsers such as Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator keep a record of the Web pages and documents you have accessed. They also store graphics of images you look at. You can also use a program such as AbsoluteShield Internet Eraser or Speed Tracks Eraser to clear your Internet records.
§                                 Clear your document history. Applications such as Word or Excel keep a record of edited documents. Don't store or edit any documents you don't want your abuser to see on a shared computer.

Where to find help

No one deserves to be abused. If you think you may be in an abusive situation, seek help or advice as soon as you safely can. There are many resources available to help you. The first step to getting out of an abusive situation may be as easy as making one phone call. In an emergency situation, call 911, your local emergency number or your local law enforcement agency. If you aren't in immediate danger, the following resources can help:
§                                 National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 799-SAFE, or (800) 799-7233. Provides crisis intervention and referrals to in-state or out-of-state resources, such as women's shelters or crisis centers.
§                                 Your doctor or hospital emergency room. Treats any injuries and refers you to safe housing and other local resources.
§                                 Local women's shelter or crisis center. Typically provides 24-hour, emergency shelter for you and your children, advice on legal matters, advocacy and support services, and evaluation and monitoring of abusers. Some shelters have staff members who speak multiple languages.
§                                 Counseling or mental health center. Most communities have agencies that provide individual counseling and support groups to women in abusive relationships. Be wary of advice to seek couples or marriage counseling. This isn't appropriate for resolving problems of violence in intimate relationships.
§                                 Local court. Your district court can help you obtain a court order, which legally mandates the abuser stay away from you or face arrest. These are typically called orders for protection or restraining orders. Advocates are available in many communities to help you complete the paperwork and guide you through the court process.
§                                 Books and online resources. Learning more about how to cope with your situation and communicating with others who understand what you're going through can help you make strong choices.
May 23, 2007
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