Archive for November 2016

PTSD and the Election || Lora Cheadle

PTSD and the Election by Lora Cheadle

trauma

Since the election cycle began, I’ve been overwhelmed with clients urgently needing appointments – not because of their weak constitution or their inability to see both sides of an argument, but because their Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD has flared up.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Definition and Symptoms

PTSD is defined by the Mayo Clinic as a condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event – either one we experience ourselves or one that we witness, resulting in:

1) Uncontrollable Memories: Reoccurring, unwanted, highly distressing memories of the traumatic event, flashbacks, nightmares, intense dreams or severe emotional or physical reactions to stimuli.

2) Negative Thinking and Moods: Feeling negatively about self and others, the inability to experience positive emotions, feeling numb, hopeless or worthless or having little interest in activities or friends. Experiencing memory and relationship problems.

3) Changes in Emotional Reactions: Experiencing irritability, angry or aggressive outbursts or behavior, experiencing overwhelming guilt or shame, feeling on guard at all times, having trouble concentrating, relaxing or sleeping and being easily startled or frightened.

How Common is Trauma or PTSD?

Experiencing severe trauma is not unusual. According to the National Center for PTSD, 6 in 10 men and 5 in 10 women experience severe trauma in their lifetime. Seven or 8 out of every 100 people experience PTSD at some point in their lives, meaning that 8 million adults are impacted by PTSD.

How the Election Causes Anxiety

Several common trauma-inducing topics have been prevalent in this election. Bullying, sexual assault, body shaming, ageism, sexism, racism and nationalism.

Statistically speaking, most Americans have been impacted by one or more of these topics and many Americans experience some level of anxiety or stress, if not full-blown PTSD as a result of these behaviors. Repeatedly having statements broadcast on TV, spoken about by friends or posted on social media that remind us of our traumatic experience means that we are being repeatedly assaulted by that which causes us pain, anxiety and PTSD symptoms and that we are increasingly becoming more and more anxious, stressed and dysfunctional.

Hateful Post-Election Rhetoric

When others say hateful things to us, they are really expressing their feelings of grief and betrayal at their hearts, traumas and experiences not being heard, acknowledged or held with dignity and respect. They are not necessarily attacking us, they are merely begging for compassion and love. And when we say hateful things, we are asking for the same thing from them.

When we share our hearts and our traumas with the world, we expect the world to listen and to validate our story. When others fail to validate us and our pain and instead support that which has caused us pain, we become threatened. We no longer feel safe, we feel that our pain doesn’t matter, that we have not been heard and that we are worthless. We feel betrayed and our PTSD-like symptoms skyrocket. Once again we are placed in the position of having to fight for our dignity and self-worth, and because we are survivors, we fight hard.

Hearing political comments that remind us of our trauma, that show to us that we have not been heard and that others do not care about us forces us to relive the worst moment of our worst day over and over again. It forces us right back int o fight-or-flight mode, and we attack viciously, which does not allow us to heal. All we need in to heal is to be heard. All we need is a little compassion.

The Anxiety Induced by the Election

This election reminded me of one of my worst fears; that being good and kind and truthful and honest doesn’t pay off and that fear, threats and coercion do, and that no matter how hard I tried to do good, I’d still lose because I am unworthy.

Watching and listening to this election, I was reminded of the big, strong, popular high school bullies who assaulted me and threatened to kill me if I didn’t give him what he wanted. I am reminded of my classmates who didn’t believe me and of the principal who told my parents that we better not get a restraining order against him because he would lose his scholarship and I wouldn’t want to be responsible for ruining his life.

When I hear people say that they support Trump, it provokes my anxiety. I am reminded of all of the fears and feelings I experienced in my traumatic situation. I feel worthless and my pain is invalidated. I hear that bullies who use fear and threats matter more than someone who tries to do good and I get afraid that I will be hurt. It doesn’t matter if it’s rational or not, it’s simply what comes out of the subconscious mind when I am provoked.

Rage is Neutralized by Compassion

This is why there’s so much rage this election. It’s not about economic plans or the military or the economy. It’s about the majority of us who have experienced trauma and who are being repeatedly traumatized by what’s being said and done around us that reminds us of our worst day.

It’s about our hearts and our stories and our belief that others may not think we deserve to exist.

For the next four years, when we see hate, let’s stop and remember our worst day. Let’s remember how it felt when somebody we trusted poured salt in our wound and let us recognize when we inadvertently pour salt in somebody else’s wound too. It’s not about right or wrong, it’s about listening and allowing each other to heal.

Let’s not question the validity of the wound or explain why we didn’t mean for the salt to hurt the wound or why salt doesn’t hurt our own wounds. Let’s just listen, acknowledge the pain and hold some space so healing can occur.

Let’s be kind. Let’s have compassion and let’s choose to hold every hurting heart that we come across. Holding hearts and having compassion don’t mean we have to agree with anyone. It only means that we gently say, “Yes, I understand, I’m wounded too and I understand that you are experiencing pain.” That’s it. That’s all it takes in order for us to all heal each other together.


To read more of Lora’s writing, visit her website.

About the Author: Not sure what lights your fire, or do you know exactly what lights your fire, but you keep spinning your wheels? Either way, Lora’s got you covered! Whether it’s through an Angel Reading or through hypnotherapy, where the subconscious mind is brought on board with the conscious mind, working with Lora reveals your divine path and gets you chugging down the road in no time. As a former lawyer, (She knows firsthand the courage it takes to following a new path!) Lora is very straight forward and process- oriented, using modalities that that yield results. No crystal balls or goddess robes here!

Loving Kindness || Mary Coday Edwards

Lovingkindness: It doesn’t mean approval of someone’s actions!

By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards, MA.

November 22, 2016

oving-kindness

November 9 to the 13 found me attending the 2016 International Symposium for Contemplative Studies (ISCS; Note 1), hosted by the Mind & Life Institute in San Diego – especially a gift coming on the heels of our pre- and post-election events.

And the holidays are upon us. And there’s Uncle Joe sitting across the table from you, epitomizing everything you disagree with. And you’re committed to bringing about more good in the world vs. more suffering.

Perhaps these conference ruminations will help you stay centered on your core values, as they helped me.

Richard J. Davidson, University of Wisconsin, & Matthieu Ricard, Shechen Monastery, ISCS 2016 Opening Keynote Speakers. Used by permission from Mind & Life Institute

Richard J. Davidson, University of Wisconsin, & Matthieu Ricard, Shechen Monastery, ISCS 2016
Opening Keynote Speakers. Used by permission from Mind & Life Institute

YES – WE CAN TRAIN IN COMPASSION

In his session Sunday morning titled, “Sustainable Compassion Training – Extending-care Mode of Practice,” Boston College Associate Professor John Makransky guided us in a contemplative session designed to enable us to extend loving care to others as an extension of the loving care in which we are held. This process teaches us how to “drop the level of reactivity” into a habit of compassion by finding a field of love and compassion from and in which we are all held (see Note 2 for additional resources).

 

Dr. Makransky led us through the following steps:

1.) Begin with a simple two-to-three minute breathing exercise, paying attention to your breath as you inhale and exhale.

2.) Next, try to recall one simple, loving caring moment: someone laughing with you, rooting for you – in your childhood or a very recent encounter – a memory that makes you happy when you recall it.

3.) Settle on that one such moment – recall the place, how it felt.

4.) Imagine that person is coming to you right now – not a distant memory, but be in that moment now, letting that person commune with you in your deep worth, taking joy in you, wishing you well – relaxing into that felt sense of that moment – beyond superficialities, letting those loving qualities seep into your whole being.

5.) Receive that loving energy into your whole body, into every cell, into your whole heart and mind, every layer of feeling and emotion, every part of you loved; beyond all superficial thoughts and impressions of yourself.

6.) Receive that loving energy so deeply that it can feel natural to let it come through you to those nearby and around you, like a natural impulse. It’s as if your caring figure has been communing with you, not on a superficial level, but deeply, validating your worth and dignity.

7.) Always still receiving, but now let it extend as if through a window pane, from your depths to others, to their dignity, beyond all limiting thoughts and impressions, deeply wishing them well.

8.) In this way, begin to rely on this loving energy which senses more than just limiting impressions, and wishing them DEEPLY well. Learn to trust that power or love more than limiting impressions, to rely on that.

9.) By communing and wishing well in this way, we learn to see others as we are seen, to love others as we are loved, to know others as we are known.

10.) Let this loving energy infuse your whole being – let it relax your heart and mind, let heart and mind fall open, by letting everything be in its natural openness.

I discovered that staying with the memory I evoked in Step 2 and continuing with that imagery did enable me to get beyond superficialities.

Of course, my Uncle Joe wasn’t sitting across from me.

LOVING KINDNESS DOES NOT MEAN APPROVAL

Lovingkindness, compassion, and empathy: words bandied about such that we lose their meanings. I will return to these words in next month’s blog, but some clarity is needed now.

Conference speaker and meditation author and teacher Sharon Salzberg said that lovingkindness derived from the ancient word “metta” and denoted “a heart space of inclusion.”

While it includes “a deep acknowledgement of connection [with someone], it doesn’t mean you like them or approve of them; it doesn’t demand action; it doesn’t mean being sweet, with only a sugary ‘yes’” to that which contradicts who we are.

“Compassion,” she continued, “rests on the shared understanding that we are all quite vulnerable. In life there is nothing we can hold on to” as permanent, all is always changing.

The idea behind these exercises is that I can learn to live with that paradox, of simultaneously being with someone whose actions I don’t approve of but yet extending compassion.  I can gaze upon my Uncle Joe and look deeper into his being, where I find that vulnerability of shared humanity. I may have to leave the table or gently challenge his ideas. All of this creates stress within me, and that’s when I pause, breathe, and ask my higher self what to do next so I don’t contradict who I am.

Much easier said than done, but it is a skill I can practice – for the good of myself and for the good of this cosmic space we dwell in.

Mindfulness is paying attention to your present moment nonjudgmentally, so if you felt an energy shift within you while reading Dr. Makransky’s contemplation exercise, I suggest you print it out and make it part of your daily routine.

_______

Notes:

1.) ISCS “brings together scientists, scholars, artists and contemplatives to explore distinct though overlapping fields of research and scholarship, using a multidisciplinary, integrative approach to advance our understanding of the human mind.” This San Diego symposium hosted about 1,200 attendees.

2.) Additional resources: Foundation for Active Compassion, Transformational Practices for a Better World; http://foundationforactivecompassion.org/; and Courage of Care Coalition; http://courageofcare.org/.

________

About the Author: Rev. Mary Coday Edwards is a Spiritual Growth Facilitator and People House Minister. A life-long student of spirituality, Mary spent almost 20 years living, working and sojourning abroad in Asia, Southeast Asia, East Africa, and Latin America before finding her People House “tribe” and completing its Ministerial Program. Past studies include postgraduate studies from the University of South Africa in Theological Ethics/Ecological Justice, focusing on the spiritual and physical interconnectedness of all things. With her MA in Environmental Studies from Boston University, abroad she worked and wrote on environmental sustainability issues at both global and local levels, in addition to working in refugee repatriation

Here is a list of the other blog Mary has written for People House:

Why Kindness Matters || Dorothy Wallis

Whatever happened to Kindness, Caring and Respect?  Why Kindness Matters

By Dorothy Wallis

kindness

Have you noticed a change in mainstream cultural values regarding the way people treat others?  You may wonder what happened to kindness, caring and respect?  The election campaign has highlighted a growing acceptance of rudeness and disrespectful behavior toward others as being okay.  People are experiencing increasing stress and anxiety as a result.  Have we have forgotten the value of being nice?

 

Self-absorbed 
People seem to be more impatient.  Rushing ahead whether at work, in traffic, or at the grocery store is often the main goal with disregard for one’s fellow companions.  Waiting in line or for any service is seen as an annoyance.  On the highway, people drive as if there is always an emergency.  Cutting in line, swerving between cars, not paying attention when someone is talking, and walking down the street talking loudly on a cell phone glued to one’s ear is actually rude.

Self-Serving
I am all for the freedom of self-expression and following your inner guidance, yet it seems we have misconstrued the authentic expression of our True Self with the high jacked notion that self expression means anything goes and that it is not only acceptable but admirable.  Somehow, we have come to believe that doing whatever serves us in the moment no matter what affect it has on others is a right with an attitude of “I can say anything I want, behave anyway I want, and do whatever I want and you need to accept me this way.”  This is often accompanied by, “If you don’t like it…it’s not that I need to change…you need to work on your issues.”  Yikes…doesn’t that feel yucky?

This entitled self-serving attitude is dismissive and wreaks havoc on relationships and is certainly not a way to win friends or influence people.  It is easy to see that projecting blame, anger and rage onto others does not create friendship nor does it create harmony.  It is also easy to fall into a lack of awareness of others and how your behavior or inattention affects them.  You may brush off being impolite, not saying please or thank-you as inconsequential.  Yet actions such as inconsiderateness, lack of empathy, disrespect, rudeness, insulting and offensive remarks, belittling, gossiping, patronizing, taking advantage of or intimidating people are behaviors that often inflict irreparable harm to others and poison relationships.

Why are we Mean? 
Fear 
In an attempt to protect yourself, your beliefs or to feel safe you may disregard or mistreat others in order to distance yourself from those different than you.  You may retreat into withdrawing your attention or go along with the ego’s belief that the best defense is to be offensive.  Intolerance of other’s views, opinions, religion, way of life, and taking advantage of their vulnerabilities are indicators that you are reacting from a place of fear.

Low Self-Esteem 
A misguided perception is the idea that being rude, demeaning others, retaliating or bullying means you are stronger or better than another.  It is actually a sign of weakness and low regard for oneself.  The level of disrespect you have for others reflects the level of disrespect you have for yourself.  When you diminish others, you diminish yourself.  The way to bolster your self-esteem is through appreciation and consideration of others and taking the moral high ground, which fills you with joyful inner regard and respect.

Going along with the Crowd
The need to belong is strong.  Everyone needs connection and relationships.  Human interaction is required to ensure survival and is necessary to activate brain development.  Socialization is how you learn.  So why would you engage in behaviors that push people away?  Your very need to belong is one reason you may adopt crude behavior and go against what you feel is morally right in order to be accepted in a group.

The influence of the community you live in, the people you work with, your family of origin and your social groups are all powerful forces.  Your actions mirror what you see others do.  As a social creature you tend to adjust your values to the “norm.”  So, what is the current “norm?” Have you noticed more tolerance for bad manners and impolite behavior?  Is it really okay to text at the dinner table, to not listen when someone is talking to you, to gossip, interrupt, disrespect or embarrass someone?  These actions may not seem to have much consequence in the moment yet they create distance and resentment in those at the receiving end of your behavior.  Dis-respecting, dis-approving, dis-empowering, dis-missing, dis-daining, dis-regarding, dis-engaging, dis-couraging, dis-paraging, dis-tancing, dis-crediting, and dis-heartening actions dis-solve connection.

 

When you “Dis” someone, you Breed Contempt and you Lose Relationship

 

You not only lose relationship with others, you separate yourself from your true essence.  Following what the crowd does can be a dangerous mindset.  What seems like harmless misconduct is the seed, which grows into abuse, aggression, hatred, cruelty and violence.  Not only do these behaviors undermine others, they are toxic to the person dispensing them.  Self-loathing, loss of respect, loss of identity, loneliness, lack of love and separation from oneself is often the result.

 

“A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners, lack of consideration for others in minor matters, a loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.”
~ Robert A. Heinlein

 

Do you want to experience happiness and make a difference in the world?  Be Kind
Everyone wants to find meaning, to make his or her life matter.  Harmony and peace propagate from everyday actions of caring.  If you genuinely want self-respect, love and connection in your life, kindness is the cure.  Kindness is consideration and concern for others.  It is the act of spontaneous generous goodwill toward your fellow humans and brethren, and toward all of nature’s creatures, including you.  Benevolence comes from the heart.
Remember the popularity of Random Acts of Kindness?  Doing small deeds and acts of kindness is powerful; they promote a sense of deep well-being inside of you as well as others.  The way to inner peace and happiness is through compassionate action.  Generously give praise, use kind words, and acknowledge people.  Be considerate of others beliefs, viewpoints, and differences.  Be present, be patient and listen with curiosity.  Drop the “Dis” and engage, approve, regard, empower and give credit to others.  Cast off your pride and learn about good manners and what behaviors promote great relationships.  You will experience more joy.  Kindness Matters!

Cultivating Gratitude || Bridget Blasius

Cultivating Gratitude

By Bridget Blasius

Retrieved from People House Newsletter

gratitude

As we enter the harvest season, we find ourselves surrounded by reminders to be grateful for the blessings we have in life.  While many of us hold gratitude as an ideal, the pressure of Holiday preparations can leave us feeling overwhelmed.  This can make it difficult to actually enjoy our celebrations.  Sometimes, it seems like the autumn holidays can speed by before we know it.  When we don’t take time to pause, reflect and breathe, we can easily forget what it is that we are supposed to be celebrating!

Some may be wondering how they can pause when there is so much to do.   This is totally understandable.   We are often taught that taking time for self-care is selfish or irresponsible.  This is far from being the case.  When we take care of ourselves, we develop more resiliency to be present for those we love.

Autumn is a season full of rich, sensual pleasures.  How much do we take them in?  To cultivate grateful presence, start by taking a contemplative walk.  Do it slowly.  Notice the blessings offered by nature in the moment.  Feel the crisp winds, and notice the brilliant colors.  Smell the rich earth, as the leaves decay and provide compost for next year’s growth.  Nature is in a constant process of renewal, and so are we.  Every breath is an opportunity to notice the beauty around us.

When was the last time you took home a brilliantly colored leaf, and pressed it in a book?  Small natural objects can provide reminders to stop and reflect.  Consider incorporating leaves into a collage or other form of artwork.  Try doing this with children.  Enjoy their laughter and innocence.  Teach them to never lose sight of this.

Offer service to those around you, but do it joyfully.  If you notice yourself feeling fatigued or anxious, give yourself a break.  Be sure to offer appreciation to yourself for the good work you may be  doing.  It is easier to appreciate others when you realize that you, too, are worthy of love.

Tell yourself this:  It is OK just to be.  Sometimes, we need to do absolutely nothing.  Try sitting on the porch with a warm blanket and a cup of hot tea.  Take a nice, long bath.  As you feel the warm water, take the opportunity to be grateful for your indoor plumbing.  There are so many things that we take for granted.  We may worry that things will not turn out the way we want, in life, yet there are so many things about our lives that are right.  Let us not lose sight of this.

At the same time, let us not dismiss any sufferings we have endured.  Let us offer gratitude to ourselves for our own strength, in getting through them, and gratitude for our loved ones who have supported us along the way.   Send out the intention that all who are suffering may have the same support.  As you do this, you may notice a greater openness, warmth and generosity within yourself.

This is the very soul of autumn, the spirit that inspires our holiday celebrations, which create the memories that keep us warm through the months ahead.  Let us light candles and welcome that spirit into our homes, as we welcome our relatives and friends.  When we truly cultivate this awareness, it ceases to matter whether our pumpkin pies are perfect.  We stop caring whether our houses are totally clean.  Perfection is not what people will remember, about our holiday gatherings.  They will remember love and laughter, which we can only cultivate through presence.  So, let’s take time to be present with ourselves, so that we can be present for those who matter most.

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth