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

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

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:

Twitter
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

Ethics

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

NEW PODCAST! MINDFULNESS IN SCHOOLS

“Were so busy following a script and putting academics in front of kids, that we forget that they’re people–learning truly only happens through relationship.” ~ Shannon Hess

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How can we really make a difference in the world through education?  In this episode, Shannon Hess and I discuss some of the problems in education today, and how implementing mindfulness and teaching empathy can be a solution.

Shannon has a wide breadth and background in education. She is currently an induction coordinator for new teachers, mindfulness educator, and social justice advocate in California.  Shannon has a passion for making a difference in the lives of others through connecting to what we all share in common within our humanity. Shannon advocates for the importance of the relationship and discusses ways on how we can revolutionize education, ultimately changing the world.

Keep an eye out for The Five Ms Project, which focuses on self-care and mental well-being.

Mental Health, Mindset, Mindfulness, Mindsight, Movement

Hope you enjoy!

Mindful Owl Podcast – Ep.1 – Mindfulness in Schools

Resources and links discussed in this episode:

https://www.spiritrock.org

http://thehawnfoundation.org

http://www.stillquietplace.com

You can reach and connect with Shannon at sh41ster@gmail.com

For more on relationships and breaking the generational cycle as discussed in this episode, check out What Matters Most and Breaking the Vicious Cycle.

WHAT MATTERS MOST

“In the end, these things matter most:  How well did you love?  How fully did you live?  How deeply did you let go?” ~ Buddha

Moments to RememberPhoto:  Moments to Remember, by Mark Keathley

I think a lot about what matters most in any given set of circumstances.  I’ve found that there’s always a deeper connection and core foundation to every interaction, whether the relationship is interpersonal or symbiotic.

Often times, I believe we lose sight of this deep foundational connection throughout our day to day interactions; specifically with people.

Everyday, like clockwork, we wake up, get out of bed, get ready, go to work or school, get off of work, maybe go to the store, pick up some groceries, put some gas in the car, go home, eat some dinner, go to bed, etc….then do it all over again the next day. It’s often easy to get caught up in the routines of daily living.  For most, throughout our routines of daily living, it is very likely that we will have to deal with people.

Let’s take a look at Christmas.  Just this year, I observed family and friends rushing to decorate, scrambling to finish up last minute shopping, impatiently standing in long lines at the store, frantically wrapping gifts, toiling over dinner and dishes, all adding to their stress level and in the end, negatively impacting their interactions with their loved ones.  This is an example of purpose defeating behavior. We should never defeat our entire purpose for doing anything.  We need to remember the core reasons why we’re doing what it is we’re doing; and this is the deep foundational connection I am referring to.

We all tend to get caught up in the minutiae of life, we get lost in all of the small trivial details, forgetting about the person or people right in front of us.  Often times, we even tend to not see people as people.  We tend to see and treat people as a thing or obstacle to overcome.  We view other human beings as customers, clients, numbers, credit scores, dollar signs, students, panhandlers, grades….etc.

We forget to be kind. Continue reading WHAT MATTERS MOST

REFLECTIONS ON LOVE

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Love.  Where language begins to break down. What many have tried to put into words, and according to Krista Tippet, it is the most watered down word in the English language.  I believe love is the most important experience in our existence. Everything we do should be rooted in love.  We try our best to describe love by making sounds with our throat and manipulating air through our mouth. That seems like a crude way to convey something so deeply profound.  Our words are merely signposts that point to something else.  That something else is what I’m more interested in connecting with than any definition of love.  At best, a definition is important for giving us a starting point.   

There’s a lot of material out there on love — 1 Corinthians, The Five Love Languages, The Love Dare, All About Love, Love and Respect, The Road Less Traveled — to recommend a few books.  I won’t get into different types of love — agápeérosphilía, and storgē, but rather offer a starting point as the aim of this article.  If I were to offer anyone a solid, concrete definition of love, I’d point them to M. Scott Peck’s, The Road Less Traveled.

“Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth… Love is as love does. Love is an act of will — namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.”  ~ M. Scott Peck

The above definition says quite a lot if one spends enough time contemplating it. That definition is also not the most popular one. It’s important to note that according to Peck, most people confuse love with something called, cathexis. Cathexis is the process of investing emotional or mental energy into a person, object, idea, etc. Cathexis sometimes presents as the “falling in love” experience people have. Only once that experience is over, can real love begin. Continue reading REFLECTIONS ON LOVE