Archive for April 2018

Change Through Suffering ll Rich Brodt

Change through Suffering
By Rich Brodt

Change. It’s something that we all seek in therapy, whether we are the client or the counselor. The goal is movement – to gain awareness such that we can step out of our negative patterns of thinking and behaving. However, it is important to remember that human beings tend to avoid pain at all costs. Looking at statistics for substance abuse trends in the United States makes this clear. We avoid pain of even the most temporary kind whenever we can.

Carl Jung once said that “[p]eople will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” This is how the avoidance of pain relates to therapy. Jung also said that “[t]here is no coming to consciousness without pain.”

Pain is an inevitable part of life.

Unfortunately, in our never-ending attempts to avoid pain, we also avoid the growth that can arise from facing that pain head on. In a session, this may be as simple as a client avoiding certain topics because they are uncomfortable. In those cases, it is the counselor’s responsibility to educate their client on the benefits of their suffering as well as the benefits of facing their own demons.

In the past, I have written about the importance of facing one’s own darkness in order to grow through therapy. A nonjudgmental acceptance of those thoughts, I argued, would lead to a better understanding of the self, as well as increased self-acceptance. Here, however, I want to emphasize a different point: that horrific, traumatic experiences can lead us to levels of self-discovery that may have taken us years to otherwise arrive at.

Why would this be the case? Because something outside of our control happening to us forces us to face what we have been avoiding. After a traumatic event, an individual may experience extreme anxiety, dissociation, recurring thoughts, hyper vigilance and several other symptoms. These symptoms create pain that is impossible to avoid. After trauma, these symptoms can feel so huge that they are difficult to calm with coping mechanisms that may have worked for an individual in the past. They will feel overwhelmed. But, most importantly, they can make the decision to ask for help. This act alone is a huge part of the process. It acts as an acknowledgement that, yes, I am in pain, and, no, I can’t face this all on my own. The next step is to take a closer look at that pain and where it comes from.

To understand what causes us pain is to take a step closer to seeing how we can alleviate it. An unfortunate event such as a traumatic incident, while terrible at the time, often leads to deeper insight about who we can be if we are willing to do the work to get there. Anyone who has experienced PTSD will tell you that some days the world feels overwhelming, responsibilities creep up, and the world itself feels like a dangerous place to exist. The energy of the individual with PTSD is directed outward, vigilantly scanning the world for threats, becoming agitated in crowds, becoming so overwhelmed with outside stimulation that they dissociate.

In this suffering, there is an opportunity to look inward.

The individual can ask questions like: What will make me feel safe? What do I need to do to calm my nerves? The answers will often force the individual to take action. An individual with PTSD will usually benefit from physical exercise. However, not all individuals have the discipline to work out on a regular basis. The desire to rid one’s self of suffering is often enough of a motivator that someone with PTSD becomes willing to be transformed by a commitment to a physical activity.

Physical activity pulls us out of our cerebral machinations and forces us to be present in our bodies. Our bodies are far better at understanding whether or not we are in danger than our minds are. The mind may be focused on this one traumatic event, and as a result, it is constantly looking for threats in any setting. When we constantly scan for threats, we inevitably find them, regardless of whether or not we are in actual danger. Moving into the body helps to change our awareness and bring us to a more mindful consciousness. This allows us to recognize the difference between real danger and that which is merely perceived. Coupled with the increased discipline that comes with regular physical activity, an individual may come out of their traumatic event with deeper insights about themselves and their ability to change. While we can grow without trauma, I like to emphasize that trauma doesn’t have to negatively effect an individual forever.

Instead, it can be a stepping-stone to a new outlook.


Rich Brodt is a former intern at People House, and is currently a co-owner and private practitioner at Elevated Counseling, PLLC in the Highlands area of Denver. Prior to training to become a therapist, Rich practiced as a mental health litigation attorney in New York City, where he first became passionate about the field. Rich draws on knowledge of law, philosophy and poetry, bringing a unique perspective to his sessions.

Rich’s current practice utilizes a client-centered approach, integrating Gestalt, existential and depth approaches. He focuses his practice trauma and anxiety-related issues, including PTSD, high-stress careers, life transitions and other major stressors. Rich’s first priority in counseling is to create a safe, non-judgmental space, where clients can feel comfortable sharing and processing their most difficult thoughts.

 

Elevated Counseling, PLLC
2727 Bryant Street Suite 550
Denver, CO 80211
ElevatedCounseling.org
Ph: (720) 295-1352

Who’s Driving Your Life? ll Lora Cheadle

Who’s Driving Your Life?
True Power and the Fallacy of Force

     We like to think of ourselves as being strong and capable, and for the most part, we are! But because we live in a world that makes us believe we can make, or force, things to happen, we lose touch with the fact that the only thing we can control is ourselves. No matter how much the world tells us otherwise, we cannot make anyone else do what we want. And paradoxically, our true power lies in the absence of force; in the realization that although we cannot control anything, but that we still need to stay at the wheel. We still need to steer our own course for our own benefit.

     We all have dreams, goals and desires, and it’s perfectly acceptable to go after our dreams, to fight for our goals, and to pursue our desires. Often times, our hard work and dedication pays off, and we achieve exactly what it is we desires. Psychologically it’s good for us to plan, prepare and have projects that we are working on.

     The problem lies in the fact that we have been conditioned to think that we have control. That we will be rewarded, in kind, for our hard work and dedication. That if we pay our dues, we will be allowed in the club. That life is fair, and that we deserve things. Our thinking becomes black-and-white. Most of us believe that either;

  • We have complete control over our lives, and if things aren’t turning out the way we want, we simply have to buckle down, work hard, and force it to happen; or
  • That we have no control over our lives, we are at the mercy of God/family/friends/our job/our health/or financial situation/our living situation/the world, and that no matter how much we try, our ship will never come in.

     While neither of these extremes are accurate, most of us lock into one extreme or the other. Then, over time, we look for evidence that supports this belief. And as we find this evidence, it supports our belief as to how the world works, and our belief gets stronger. Eventually, the belief is so strong, that it becomes our world view, and it shapes the course of our life.

Bully Syndrome– My Way or the Highway!

     If we believe that we have the ability to force our will, or desires, or dreams onto others, then we turn our attention, our true power, away from ourselves. When we shift our focus or our power away from our self, and focus it on others, we engage in a type of coercion. Even when the relationship is mutual, whenever we are trying to get someone else to do something for us, we turn over our power to that other person. We become imbalanced, because all of our energy goes towards how we can make others fill us up. Instead of filling ourselves up, instead of creating for ourselves, we seek to have others do the work for us, on our behalf.

     While it may sound appealing to have others do the work for us, in reality, it weakens us. It moves our power outside of ourselves and places our responsibility for our self on others. We become reliant on them, and without realizing it, we have turned the wheel over to them. We can holler out directions, but they are the ones who are truly in charge. We are no longer driving our own lives, and we are relegated to being a back-seat driver in our own existence.

It’s not My Fault! Excuses, Victimhood and Taking Your Hands OFF The Wheel

     Similarly, when we believe that we have no control over anyone or anything, we hand our will away just as much as when we try to control others. The perpetual victim correctly sees that they have no control over others. However, instead of doing what they can to influence or change themselves, instead of at least trying to drive, they simply take their hands off the wheel. They don’t drive, nor do they seek out other competent drives to assist them. They careen along, being knocked about by every bump, twist or turn.

     And life does get bumpy for the perpetual victim! Moreover, the perpetual victim seems not to notice when good things happen, but only notices the bad. They create a self-fulfilling, poor me, belief system, and subconsciously they use the power that they do have, to perpetuate their dejected reality. They literally steer themselves into the ditch! So, although the victim may actually be more powerful than the bully, in that they understand that they cannot control others, they use the power that they do have, to create more victimhood!

Defensive Driving, and Balancing Our Power In Life

     The key to creating a healthy, successful life, lies in bridging the gap between these two extremes. In understanding that we are in charge of driving our own lives, and that although we may use others to assist us, that we are the only ones who can steer our own course. We have to take responsibility for the fact that sometimes we crash, and as crazy as it sounds, sometimes we crash intentionally. Whether it’s fear of failure, fear of success or some other deep, subconscious reason, sometimes we intentionally crash our own lives. And that’s okay. As long as we have awareness about what it is we have done, and we take responsibility for our choices and our actions, we will learn from our mistakes. We can correct our course.

     We are all the bully and we are all the victim. We are in charge of our own life. Take your own wheel, and be mindful about who you allow to drive for you. The road may be bumpy or smooth, but it’s not the road’s fault. Take the wheel when the going gets rough, and be mindful of where you are steering.

Everyone crashes. It’s what you learn from those crashes that counts.

Feminism:  A Tapestry of Colors and Weaves ll Rev. Mary Coday Edwards

Feminism:  A Tapestry of Colors and Weaves
By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards, MA.
April 10, 2018

“I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat, or a prostitute.”  —  Rebecca West, 1913

     What follows is a non-exhaustive list of feminism’s branches; some authors lump categories together, some exclude (1, 2). My point of this exercise is to recognize that we differ in how we direct our energy for a just society. During the 2016 election, intersectional feminists criticized Hilary Clinton for her liberal feminism. They saw her as compromising feminist values—sleeping with the enemy. They ignored how she struggled for decades to enable intersectional feminists to even exist.

     And so we end up where we are now, with millions marching in pink pussy hats. And where a year ago, under this current political administration, we were treated to the photo op of 13 men and no women deciding the fate of women’s healthcare (3).

     I suggest you read the following mindfully, paying attention to any emotional pings. From there, see if you can trace those responses to where you’ve created values, beliefs, attitudes, and laws that other people must follow in order to meet your standards in the fight for social justice. We journey through different life stages, with various limitations imposed on us—sometimes by life choices and sometimes due to what life has given us. Walk with gentleness and compassion toward the other.

Liberal Feminism

This variety of feminism works within the structure of mainstream society to integrate women into that status quo structure.

     As opposed to other forms of feminism, Liberal Feminism is individualistic rather than group-based. Men and women deserve equal rights because both are individuals; rights are granted to the individual—not gender or groups. In the late 1700s, its ardent champions Abigail Adams and Mary Wollstonecraft worked within patriarchal power structures to gain women the right to vote. But that was for white women—not black.

     Focusing on individuals, it sidesteps the social nature of women’s oppression. Compromise is the name of the game, toiling along inside the system. The male-dominated social status quo defines the range in which women are allowed to roam and what that roaming looks like. It’s demanding equal participation in a male tradition. Traditional religions opening up to female leadership initially look like this.

Radical Feminism

     Radical Feminism has its roots in the civil rights and peace movement of 1967-1968 and was the leading edge of feminist theory until about 1975. From the Latin word, root or source, Radical Feminism believes that the male-dominated hierarchy is the source of the oppression of women.

     While Liberal Feminism focused on the rights of the individual, Radical Feminism was dedicated to eliminating and re-ordering the social/group structures that perpetuated that oppression. Its goal was to jettison male supremacy in all institutions.

     This included the idea that since men had oppressed women for hundreds of years, it may be necessary to discriminate against men while society undergoes this change, such as by excluding men from positions of power for a time.

     This laser-directed attention changed laws, giving women access to credit, equal pay, equal employment opportunities, as well as raising public awareness to issues of rape and violence against women. This branch of feminism has given birth to several sub-categories which focus on particular issues.

Marxist and Socialist Feminism

     Instead of the patriarchy as the root of all female oppression, Marxist Feminists see capitalism as the cause of gender equality. This economic system presses women into assuming responsibility for unpaid domestic tasks, such as child-rearing, homemaking, and caring for elderly family members or those with disabilities, while men are free to create monetary wealth in the public sphere. It is sometimes seen as a sub-category of Radical Feminism.

Cultural Feminism

     Social change demanded by Radical Feminism (or any group working for social justice) is just plain hard. Pessimism always waits around the corner ready to defeat you. So in the case of Radical Feminism, many moved over to Cultural Feminism—the difference between the two is that while the former sought to transform society, the latter moved to create a woman’s culture. If you can’t change the male-dominated society, avoid it as much as possible. Health centers created by women with a specific focus on the needs of women, children, and those in poverty are an example. 

     Cultural Feminism holds that women and men are essentially different and that women are generally more nurturing, more empathic, and less violent than men. Cultural Feminists seek to celebrate these qualities, which they believe have been oppressed by men.

     Cultural Feminists believe that both men and women are hurt by contemporary male-dominated society, which they see as encouraging male behavior such as competition and conflict.

     The goal of Cultural Feminism is not to bring about some pre-scripted political revolution, but to improve tolerance and diversity by celebrating women’s special qualities and unique experiences. Like Marxist Feminism, Cultural Feminism has in recent years expanded its focus from championing not just the perspectives of women, but also those of sexual and racial minorities as well.

Ecofeminism

     Always a favorite of mine, it holds that a patriarchal, resource extraction and polluting society degrades and/or extinguishes our natural resources with no attention to the consequences of these policies to the rights of nature or to sustainability. “Mankind” in all its wisdom (and hubris) denies interconnectedness and will develop technology to reverse the impact of pollution’s poisons in our air, water, and earth. Since dominance rules, survival of the fittest in its most harmful form is law. Creatures who can’t defend themselves against man’s greed and violence are destined to be eliminated from our planet.

     This theory says that as men control and destroy our environment for their own benefit and pleasure, so they also control and oppress women for the same reasons. Ecofeminism advocates for a reduction in environmental destruction, as well as creating a healthy society to repair social and environmental injustices.

Intersectional Feminism

This section deserves its own page, which I will address in my next blog.

     A primary criticism of early feminism is that it was defined around the needs of white, middle-class women, ignoring the fact that women of color, those with disabilities, or any transgender will face alternative forms of oppression. Intersectional feminism seeks to address these blinders.

Other

     Other categories include Black, Separatist, or I-Feminism. I will discuss some of their concepts in my next blog.

     In the meantime, practice awareness, inclusion, and compassion in order to create a just and equal society.

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Notes & Sources:

1.) Many resources exist on the Web. An excellent sources for additional reading options: https://www.uah.edu/woolf/feminism_kinds.htm

2.) https://opinionfront.com/types-of-feminism-you-should-know-about

3.) https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/room-men-maternity-coverage_us_58d416e6e4b02d33b749b713

4.) Kabat-Zinn, Jon, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, on mindfulness practices.

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About the Author: Rev. Mary Coday Edwards is  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

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth