PRISONERS OF CHILDHOOD TRAUMA

“I’ve always had a gift for seeing inside…I work with people to bring out the truth of their experience so that they’re no longer prisoners of their childhood, and they can make a conscious choice about how to live in the present moment, not based on how they were programmed in childhood.” ~ Dr. Gabor Maté

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This school year, I have presented to staff on the importance of trauma-informed care along with the impacts of adverse childhood experiences.  Many of our students today are not only bringing their backpacks to school, but bringing all of their trauma along as well.

In 1995, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience) Studies in California which looked at the relationship between childhood adversity and adult outcomes. The studies looked at different types of abuse, divorce, incarceration, domestic violence, substance abuse, mental illness, death of a family member, and others.  The more adverse experiences a child experienced growing up, the more likely the risk of drug use, suicide, obesity, auto-immune disease, addiction, heart disease, and other mental/physical health problems. These studies have been repeated multiple times in different countries with the same results.

As adults, many of us may feel outwardly successful but inwardly tortured.  Many of us are deeply troubled inside, experiencing anxiety, depression, discouragement, maybe becoming driven workaholics or busying ourselves.

We become experts at distracting and hiding our own suffering —  even from ourselves.  The link may be due to childhood trauma.  

“Trauma isn’t what happens to you, it’s what happens inside of you.” ~ Dr. Gabor Matè

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Why do we suffer?  Why are we the way that we are?  Dr. Gabor Matè’s life’s work has been motivated by these questions to help people become liberated from their prison of childhood.  Matè made a recent appearance on an episode of The Tim Ferriss Show.  Matè is a speaker, best-selling author, and focuses on topics such as addiction, childhood development, and stress.

Matè states that things happen to us as children, and they may be negative things. We then adapt to those things by taking on certain defensive ways of being.  As a result, we live the rest of our lives in those defensive modes, not really experiencing the present.

We are constantly reliving the past from a perspective that we acquired when we were helpless, vulnerable children.  

In schools, many of our students are either diagnosed or labeled as ADHD.  With being trauma-informed, it is crucial to know that trauma and ADHD can look a lot alike.  The symptoms are very similar, and there is some overlap.  This is important to note because a child may be treated for ADHD when it is actually trauma, and the treatment plans are very different.

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Matè, who also expresses his own struggle with ADHD, believes that “tuning out” begins as a coping mechanism rooted in early childhood trauma.  In early childhood, there may be circumstances where we can’t escape, fight back, or seek help.  What then do we do?

We tune out.

Tuning out is a defensive part of the brain as a way of dealing with stress as the brain is developing.  Young children, even toddlers, can sense and feel the pain and suffering of their parents.  Tuning out helps serve them as a young child, but causes problems later on.  Matè believes that the most important part of brain development is the parent-child relationship.

Matè states that what we need to do is learn how to reconnect with our bodies, which is where healing happens.  Children have basic survival needs for attachment and authenticity.  Children who experience trauma learn early on how to disconnect from their gut feelings, where their authenticity comes from.  At times, a child’s authenticity may threaten their attachment to their parents.  For example, when a child receives a message that “angry little kids” don’t get loved, they will disconnect from their authenticity to remain attached to their parents every time.

It is very hard to reconnect and do this alone.  There are many forms of therapy that can help people understand what happened to them.  Traditional talk therapy, Somatic Experiencing, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization  & Reprocessing), (EFT) Emotional Freedom Tapping, Yoga, etc.

This month, Oprah Winfrey gave a story on 60 Minutes discussing the impacts of childhood trauma and the need for trauma-informed care. With all of this said, healing is possible.  We need more understanding of childhood trauma in medical, legal, and educational settings — especially as social and economic stressors increase.

“We may not be responsible for the world that created our minds, but we can take responsibility for the mind with which we created our world.” ~ Dr. Gabor Matè

FREEDOM FROM THE GLORIFICATION OF BUSYNESS

“Of all ridiculous things the most ridiculous seems to me, to be busy — to be a man who is brisk about his work — what, I wonder, do these busy folks get done?”  ~ Soren Kierkegaard

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How many times can you remember asking someone how they’re doing…and they usually respond with a smile and say… “busy!”  That’s the new go-to response.

How are you?

Busy!

Everyone’s just trying to get from here to there.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be busy living my life.  I would like to live my life fully…or how about…mindfully. Personally, I am still learning how to make this adjustment myself.

Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard noticed this 150 years ago.  That busyness was a sign of unhappiness — a means of distraction.

We are human beings, not human doings. We live in a society that glorifies busyness.

I don’t think busy is necessarily a good thing.  Busy doing what?  Busy thinking? Busy worrying?  Busy is not synonymous with productive.  Busy doesn’t mean working really hard…or caring a lot, or successful. Just think about what busy means.

Busy – lively, but meaningless activity. Having a great deal to do.  Occupied – being used by someone. Unavailable. Preoccupied – dominate or engross the mind to the exclusion of other thoughts.

None of that sounds like a good thing. There is no real connection being made while we are in a busy state. A busy person is not available to you.  They may be physically there…but perhaps not really.  Remember the busy phone signal?

“When you begin to relinquish your ego, you will no longer feel compelled to prove to people how busy you are in an attempt to validate your sense of worth.”  ~ Miya Yamanouchi

We are not robots who were designed and meant to just get things done.  At what cost? The cost of losing everything that makes us human?

I think glorified busyness distracts us from what’s really going on — what’s really there in our lives. If we just keep moving, perhaps it won’t catch up to us.  

Ok.  So, what’s the opposite of busy? Lazy? I’m definitely not advocating for laziness.  I think it’s this:

Free.

Not just in the sense that your schedule is free, but you are free.

We can have the experience of being free while still accomplishing everything we want to accomplish.  You just don’t feel…busy…while you’re getting things done.

“A leisurely pace accomplishes more than hurried striving.” ~ Sarah Young 

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I love being with people who can be still. People who can just sit there and be. They don’t need to say anything to fill up the silence.  They’re not thinking about the next thing they have to do or the next place they have to be, because they’re right here.

There is quite a noticeable difference between the busy person and the mindful person. The one who is present.

The interesting thing about this is you don’t really have to change a thing. While going about your day today, try not to feel so busy.

See what happens.  

“Your soul doesn’t care what you do for a living – and when your life is over, neither will you. Your soul cares only about what you are being while you are doing whatever you are doing.”  ~ Neale Donald Walsch

FUNNY THINGS KIDS SAY IN COUNSELING

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I’m sure we can all relate to wanting to burst into laughter while trying to hold it in.

As a school counselor, I get a glimpse into how kids see the world through their eyes. I wanted to take a moment to look at the lighter side of school counseling, and some of the funny things that have been said over the years.

I have to admit, with some of these, you just had to be there.


(During an elementary classroom introduction at the beginning of the school year.)

Counselor – “Does anyone know what a school counselor does?”

Student – “They cancel school!”

I thought about this for a moment and where he could have come up with this.

Counselor – “Oh!  You must of heard school canceler,  It’s school counselor!

As the class bursts into laughter, I thought about what it would be like to be a School Canceler…like I go around canceling school. “Alright everybody, schools canceled! Whoo-hoo!”


6th grader – “My dad doesn’t work.”

Counselor – “Ah, so your dad’s not working right now.”

The student responds with the most sincerity.

6th grader – “No, my dads a Stay-at-Home Mom.”

Laughing on the inside while moving on.


2nd grader – “People don’t really know what I am.”

I noticed he had said this like a wise old man, beyond his years.  Meanwhile, I’m wondering why he didn’t say who I am.  He said what I am.

Counselor –  “Oh, well…what are you?”

Student saying this again slowly, wise beyond his years. 

2nd grader – “I’m just a guy in a blue jacket.”

Laughing on the inside.  I’m not sure if he meant to be that profound in his statement. And yes, he was wearing a blue jacket.  Continue reading FUNNY THINGS KIDS SAY IN COUNSELING

COMMITTING TO THE PRESENT MOMENT

“Mindfulness practice means that we commit fully in each moment to be present; inviting ourselves to interface with this moment in full awareness, with the intention to embody as best we can an orientation of calmness, mindfulness, and equanimity right here and right now.” ~ John Kabat-Zinn

BP; Desert Plain

I love the above quote from John Kabat-Zinn, especially because he uses the word, commit, very intentionally.  Commit has a Latin origin, meaning to join, combine; to bring together. The more modern definition of commit is to carry out, pledge, bind, or devote.  It also refers to the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, or undertaking.

Reflecting on how commitment applies to the present moment really shifted the way I thought about being present.  Think about joining and binding, bringing you together with the here & now — combining into one totality of experience — that this is all there is and this is where it’s at…where life happens.

I often think how esoteric this may seem due to the mundane and everydayness of life.  We tend to not connect with the present moment and miracles happening day-to-day.  It’s really not something we think about as days of our lives go by. I believe that many of us live the majority of our lives lost in our thoughts without even realizing it.  I go more into depth about this in a previous article, “Why You Should Think About Your Death.”

I believe that we all have different degrees of FoMO (Fear of Missing Out) when it comes to staying in the present moment. FoMO is usually associated with social media, but I think it really maps onto the present moment as well.  We all tend to get pulled into the past or future, perhaps being afraid we might forget something we’ll have to do later.  This constant thinking about what we will do later disconnects us with right now.  Sometimes the present moment is unpleasant or uncomfortable, and it becomes even more difficult to stay there. The end result is not being fully present in the here and now.

That should be the real FoMO. Continue reading COMMITTING TO THE PRESENT MOMENT

WE ALL SUFFER

“It is because mankind are disposed to sympathize more entirely with our joy than with our sorrow, that we make parade of our riches, and conceal our poverty.  Nothing is so mortifying as to be obliged to expose our distress to the view of the public, and to feel, that though our situation is open to the eyes of all mankind, no mortal conceives for us the half of what we suffer.” ~ Adam Smith

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We don’t necessarily like to advertise our suffering.  We mainly see the best moments and highlight reels of people’s lives, while many of the deeper and lonelier moments are kept concealed.

The truth is, we all suffer, at the deepest levels.  Every single one of us. No one is immune to bad days.  We all have them.  

We go about our lives, pretending to have it all together — and on some days, it may even feel like we actually do.

We don’t.

We may at times fall under an illusion that we are in control.

We aren’t.

We know this deep down, as we become reminded of this hard truth at times in our lives — the times when reality comes crashing down upon you — feeling alone, and we cry…if we allow ourselves to.  We want to be strong for our loved ones, our spouses, our kids, driven by the fear of appearing weak when in fact, showing our humanity is not weakness.

I’ve spoken to many people whose pain and suffering happens to rise to the surface…unexpected, and in that moment, their loneliness revealed, despondency expressed — weeping about how alone and scared they really feel…at the deepest levels — the depths in which we rarely ever let anyone in far enough to see.  

We are like onions, having many layers that can be peeled back.  Many of us only ever get to see the top layer in most of our relationships.  There are many more layers to a person. We all have them.

We often do not have a safe space where we can reveal them. Continue reading WE ALL SUFFER

SOME OF MY FAVORITE QUOTES ON LEADERSHIP

In light of the 58th Presidential Inauguration, we have the transfer of power — and with that comes new leadership for our country.  I thought I’d share some of my favorite quotes on leadership.
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“The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example.” ~ John Wooden

“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others.  He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.” ~ Douglas MacArthur

“The supreme quality of leadership is integrity.” ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

“I never thought in terms of being a leader, I thought in terms of helping people.” ~ John Hume

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” ~ Lao Tzu

“Real leadership is leaders recognizing that they serve the people they lead.” ~ Pete Hoekstra

“Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.” ~ John C. Maxwell

“A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, and a little less than his share of the credit.” ~ Arnold H. Glasow

“When people talk, listen completely.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

“The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.” ~ Harvey S. Firestone

“Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” ~ Publilius Syrus

“A leader is not an administrator who loves to run others, but someone who carries water for his people so that they can get on with their jobs.” ~ Robert Townsend

“Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts.  It is about one life influencing another.” ~ John C. Maxwell

“Leadership is an action, not a position.” ~ Donald McGannon

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” ~ John Quincy Adams

“Leadership is a choice, not a position.” ~ Stephen Covey

“What you do has far greater impact than what you say” ~ Stephen Covey

“Leadership is communicating others’ worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.” ~ Stephen Covey

“The challenge of leadership is to:
be strong, but not rude;
be kind, but not weak;
be bold, but not bully;
be thoughtful, but not lazy;
be humble, but not timid;
be proud, but not arrogant;
have humor, but without folly.” ~ Jim Rohn

COUNSELING, RELATIONSHIPS, & WELLNESS THROUGHOUT THE LIFESPAN

“Sometimes I think we feign surrender in order to avoid the hard stuff that’s really there.” ~ Dr. L. Marinn Pierce

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In this episode of the Mindful Owl podcast, Dr. L. Marinn Pierce and I discuss counseling and relationships between wellness, spirituality, and personal dispositions of practicing professional counselors.

Some topics discussed are:

  • What is Counseling?
  • Integral Breath Therapy (IBT) – Integration Concepts
  • Wellness, Spirituality, and Personal Dispositions of Professional Counselors
  • Counselor Impairment
  • Empathy vs Compassion
  • Client-Centered vs Present-Centered
  • Religion and Spiritualty
  • Yoga, Meditation, and Present Moment Awareness
  • Trauma Bonds and Relationships
  • Disembodiment
  • Bypass

and much more…

Dr. L. Marinn Pierce is an Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of Counselor Education at California State University, Fresno.  She received her B.M. in Music Education from Brenau University, M.S. in Community counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Ed.S. in Community Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and Ph.D. in Counselor Education from the University of Tennessee.  Dr. Pierce’s clinical experience includes work with a variety of populations across multiple settings. While her primary area of emphasis is children and youth and their families, she has worked with adolescents in residential treatment, individuals with diverse counseling needs in community outpatient settings, children and adolescents in intensive outpatient and partial-hospitalization, and child and adolescent victims of sexual trauma.  Her research interests include counselor professional identity development, wellness, and the integration of spirituality into the counseling process. – American Counseling Association (ACA)

Hope you enjoy!

Mindful Owl Podcast – Ep.3 – Counseling, Relationships, & Wellness Through the Lifespan

You can reach Dr. Pierce @MarinnPierce on Twitter or lpierce@csufresno.edu

Further resources shared by Dr. Pierce:

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Continue reading COUNSELING, RELATIONSHIPS, & WELLNESS THROUGHOUT THE LIFESPAN

WHO ARE YOU?

“If we are honest with ourselves, the most fascinating problem in the world is…who am I? What do you mean…what do you feel when you say the word, I.”  ~ Alan Watts


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I’m writing this article, not because I’ve attained the answer, but because I’d like to pass this information along, as I would have wanted to read something like this earlier. If I had to choose only one thing to watch out for — to beware of in life — it is this:

You.  Yourself.  Ego.

The infamous ego.  From Freud’s Id, Ego, Superego, to “He’s gotta big ego,” we’ve all heard about it one way or another. Ego, in my opinion, is probably the biggest thing that gets into anyone’s way. All too often, we are the ones getting in our own ways.  We have the ability to deceive ourselves like no one else can.

Your worst enemy lives inside of you, and it’s called ego.

Eckhart Tolle often says, “I can’t live with myself. Well…who is ‘I’… and who is the ‘self’ that ‘I’ cannot live with?”

So what exactly is ego?  Well, I would describe it as everything you think you are, in a nutshell.  The feeling of “I,” or what we mean when we say “I,” as Sam Harris, Alan Watts, and many others put it. When you are talking to yourself, who are you talking to?  The feeling of being a self.  We tend to identify with our story, our thoughts, and our emotions. Ego is the reason we may feel the need to defend “ourselves.”  We are defending an idea of our self that we feel is threatened.  When we are not identifying with this, the need to defend ourselves also goes away.

Continue reading WHO ARE YOU?

SCHOOL COUNSELING AND DUAL RELATIONSHIPS AMONG STAFF

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Our Ethical Standards for School Counselors have been updated for 2016, becoming much more specific in certain areas.  One area I’d like to point out is regarding dual relationships and managing boundaries — not just with students, but with school staff.

According to the American School Counseling Association Code of Ethics (2016), school counselors are to avoid dual relationships beyond the professional level with school personnel, parents/guardians and students’ other family members when these relationships might infringe on the integrity of the school counselor/student relationship (A.5.c).

You don’t find ethical tenets like this for teachers and other educators, but for counselors, it is more specific on the importance of keeping our relationships with staff professional.  This can present some challenges as you might have guessed, especially with building positive relationships with staff and feeling connected to the school.  Boundaries have to be continuously monitored as we manage multiple relationships among staff, students, and parents.  I’ve come across some great writing on this titled, Dual Relationships in Counseling by Gerald Corey, EdD, and Barbara Herlihy, PhD, which was written in the early 90’s, and I find it to be very relevant today. Continue reading SCHOOL COUNSELING AND DUAL RELATIONSHIPS AMONG STAFF

WE NEED TO LOOK AT OURSELVES FIRST

“It is not fair to ask of others what you are unwilling to do yourself.”  ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

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I once had a teacher express their frustration to me regarding their 1st-grade student not taking responsibility for himself and his actions.  I responded with, “You know what?  I know a lot of adults who are still struggling with that.”

Hearing expressions such as these are common, as school counselors also provide consultation services for teachers and administrators.  We hear many challenges and frustrations while helping to provide meaningful insight to better understand the children in their classrooms.  Do we want our children to learn how to take responsibility?   Of course.  However, knowing that this is a struggle for everyone can help us be more patient, kind, and understanding with our students.

We as educators have to meet kids where they’re at.  We can’t put expectations on kids that we as adults are not meeting.  We have to model the desired behaviors we want our children and future generations to grow up learning.  We can’t expect anything upon them we ourselves are not doing.

We need to live the values we teach.   Continue reading WE NEED TO LOOK AT OURSELVES FIRST