I once read a funny quote that said, "I'd like a blessing that's not in disguise."
It'd be extremely insensitive just to reframe someone's trauma history by saying that "it's a blessing in disguise." But the reality is that those who go through trauma, are forged through a fire that creates such a high level of resilience that it is unmatched to those who have not gone trauma.
While those deep wounds and scars reveal the deep hurts they've endured, it also points to the evidence that they are still alive. It reveals that they made it through. It reveals that they kept fighting. It reveals that they are resilient.
Working through past and current traumas is a hard work. And that is an understatement because you know how painful the sting of abandonment is, or how debilitating abuse and broken relationships can be. But it is a work that is not only necessary to move towards healing, but also a work that will create such a formation of character, that you can be used to help those who went through what you went through.
The most purpose driven people I know, are typically the ones who have been through the most. What a story then, of those who have gone through hell and back, only to come through to the other side to be a light of transformation to those around them.
Kids don't learn from what you say but from what you do. So if you want to teach your kids, show your kids.
Lazy counselors will tell a client what to do, while effective counselors will ask questions to allow the client to come to their own realizations.
This past year, I worked exclusively with Veterans and their family members, joining with Recovery Resource Council and their Veterans department. We all spend at least 1 day out of the year recognizing the sacrifice and commitment of our veterans but we should give honor to their service year round. So many veterans come back from service with a host of injuries: physical, mental and emotional. The physical injuries sustained are a constant reminder to them that they'll never be able to do the things they once did in their youth. The mental and emotional injuries they carry with them everyday. While outwardly they may seem strong and unified, internally that may not always be the case. This doesn't speak to any insufficiency or weakness but rather to the high intense traumas they've faced. Yes they are heroes, but at the end of the day, they are still human.
Veterans even more so have to fight against the stigma of receiving mental health care. But I have seen that once they are able to come into the counseling room, the amount of change, growth and healing are tremendous. Using interventions like EMDR to combat PTSD, I have personally seen the positive impact counseling has made to veterans and their family members.
This memorial day, would you recognize and honor veterans and their family members. Know that when you see a veteran, their challenges run deep into the veins of their every day life. Our freedom came at a price and our veterans are an embodiment of that cost. Thank you for your service.
Salvador Minuchin, founder of Structural Family Therapy comments that "the actions and transactions of each one of the family members are not independent entities but part of a necessary movement in the choreography of a ballet.". All families are choreographed a certain way and how the family is structured will have a tremendous impact on the interpersonal relationships within the family. Structural family therapy, developed by Salvador Minuchin, coined various concepts to describe how a family is organized. The three main concepts are: boundaries, hierarchies and subsystems.
Boundaries: Boundaries, as defined by Minuchin (1974), are the rules for negotiating interpersonal closeness and distance. Boundaries exist both internally within the family, as well as externally with those outside of the family. These rules, as discussed by Minuchin, are generally unspoken of and develop over time as two people interact. It is within this relationship, where boundaries are formed in which individuals define when, where and how he prefers to relate to one another. There are three possible boundaries that can exist. They can be either clear, diffused or rigid. Clear boundaries exist when individuals can negotiate between one another, a healthy balance between closeness and separation. Over time, as individuals needs evolve and change, so does their personal relationships. If both individuals within the relationship are able to be flexible and negotiate their rules to one another, they’ve established clear boundaries which are accepted by both parties. In boundaries which are diffused, individuals overvalue closeness at the expense of one’s individuality. As a result, boundaries become diffused and individuals within the relationship may feel a lack of freedom and a loss of autonomy. In boundaries which are rigid, individuality is overvalued at the expense of closeness. As a result, there is disengagement and a loss of emotional connection within the relationship.
Hierarchies, as described by Minuchin (1974), are of importance when working with reported issues in child behavior. He describes 3 basic forms of parental hierarchy which exist in the family: 1) Effective parental hierarchy in which the hierarchy is healthy and appropriate. Parents are able to set both boundaries and limits, while also maintaining a healthy emotional connection with their children. 2) Insufficient parental hierarchy in which the parents are unable to set appropriate boundaries and limits in managing their child’s behavior. This translates to a very permissive form of parenting in which typically, the boundaries between the parents and children are highly diffused. 3) Excessive parental hierarchy in which the parents are too strict in their rules and consequences. This translates to a boundary between the parent and child which is too rigid. As a result, there is often a loss of emotional connection between the parent and child.
Subsystems as defined by Minuchin (1974), are the dividends or “smaller units” of the family system. The broad subsystems that exist within the family are the parental subsystem, the spousal subsystem and the child subsystem. Understanding how subsystems are formed, is often the most important aspect to assessing how a family is organized. As Gerhart (2014) refers to Minuchin, important questions to consider are 1) “whether there is a clear boundary between the parental and couple subsystems and 2) whether there is a clear boundary between the parental and child subsystems” (p. 131).
Suffering has a way to reveal our true self. Whether we're aware of it or not, we all place our hope and trust in certain things: health, faith, family, relationships, or ourselves. And sometimes it takes the loss of those things to fully grasp how closely we depended or clung to those things.
What did the pandemic reveal about you and the things you put your hope in? Covid19 brought with it grief and trauma, it brought loss of life and the loss of the things we grasped onto so tightly. As we look forward to life past this unprecedented time, I wonder what revelations you may have realized. Did you realize how fragile life is and how you ought to invest in things more important than just yourself? Maybe you'll appreciate the relationships in your life a bit more than before? Or perhaps you'll live to find a purpose and calling in helping those in need? With a half glass full, the pandemic has shaken humanity to its core and revealed our true self. How will you move forward with the realizations and revelations experienced during this pandemic?
Counseling is a collaborative process. Although the counselor has been through significant training and has a certain expertise, clients should be ready to work. That involves coming into sessions with their set of agendas. The client is in the driver's seat of counseling in a sense. Yes, the counselor may have the road map of where sessions must go (while sometimes that roadmap is figured out during the journey counseling collaboratively). It may seem contradictory at first but I believe evidence points to the highest level of effectiveness taking place when individuals learn how to navigate and find out their own roadmap. The role of counselors then is to ask the right questions through reflection that lead the client, it is sometimes to give tools, or other times to validate the challenging path towards healing, or to respectfully challenge clients to reassess how they may process something so that they can reprocess unhealthy narratives, or other times to mirror the client through questioning to raise self-awareness.
"Time heals all wounds."
It's true that time can take away the initial sting of a wound, but it doesn't equate to healing. In fact, the opposite is true. If a wound is never addressed and worked through properly, it can fester and worsen over time. The wound can develop such an exterior of scar tissue that the tenderness of the wound is no longer detectible. This leads to detachment, disconnection and numbness. Not to mention that the effects of unprocessed pain can be catastrophic because of the effect it can have in multiple areas of one's life.
Time does not heal all wounds. Time does not substitute the need to work through pain and walk towards healing. It is a hard work because of how overwhelmingly difficult feelings of anger, frustration, grief and sadness can be. But if we want to have a healthy self and healthy relationships, we must do that difficult work.
Emmet Lyons from CNN recently released an article, "The Covid pandemic is highlighting men's mental health and how they can seek help." It's surprising that so many deem counseling as something only for those "mentally ill," or "with major issues." This is one of the stigmas that unfortunately keep individuals at bay from seeking counseling. Alongside that stigma is the masculine culture that so many have grown up in--the culture that says that men should "be strong" and "never show weakness." It's become a toxic culture that has only damaged men's ability to effectively deal with the stressors that life presents. And the statistics are clear, men are far more unlikely to ask for help than women.
If the pandemic revealed anything that we can take forward in the years ahead, it is just how fragile life is and just how important our health is (physical, emotional and social). It revealed that we should be proactive in dealing with the challenges of life.
Although a cliche and true, it is never too late to learn to confront our struggles. This next generation of men that are being raised have to be told that it is masculine to talk about your problems and learn ways to deal with them. Men should be leaders in teaching/modeling healthy ways to deal with stress. We need to do better. We need to raise our awareness of our insecurities, we need to confront and deal with those deep seeded attachment wounds from childhood and we need to learn healthy ways to cope with our problems. We need to get comfortable with vulnerability because it is within vulnerability where real strength lies because it communicates that we are willing to deal head on with the issues at hand.
Infant Developmental Stage