It’s [ALMOST] official 🙂 !!! On June 3rd, 2017 I finish my last class and my degree is officially conferred on the 30th.
Once the 30th arrives I can now apply for my provisional LMHP license. I’ve been hired at this wonderful agency that pays 45% of what medicaid pays. This means I am able to make money on the basis of how hard I work. Other agencies I’ve looked into pay crappy to be honest. One, in particular pays 30k a year which translates to around 14 dollars an hour. For a masters level degree this seems quite insane. To top it off, it requires quite a bit of travel. About 3 days a week I’m driving to Fremont and 1-2 days a week I’m driving to Blair. That’s about 2 hours in the car daily, on top of a 40 hour week. The other jobs I worked for paid slightly better, however still didn’t quite measure up to Capstone’s offering. For example, one in particular pays 36k yearly, which amounts to about 16-17 an hour. Additionally, the position requires you to be on call 24 hours a day…..
…The most illuminating part of my job search was during an interview that I had just prior to Capstone. During this interview, I was told I could work for six months, “or so” as a case manager for about 16 an hour. Then, “once he thought I was ready” I could then be paid 28-30 an hour. The feeling I had during this interview, was that this employer was focused only on money, and desperate for help. I left that day realizing, that I need to be aware of how the employer treats me and respects me. I didn’t feel respected or valued by any prior employers. I was there to fulfill their needs, accept the terms set forth and be grateful for whatever offer is given…..
….So anyway, on June 3rd I’m officially done in school and no longer allowed to practive therapy in any manner or form until my provisional LMHP license arrives. This means I’m provided an opportunity to “take a quick breather”. It’s been such a long journey. I can’t believe I finally made it and achieved my goal.
I have this “creative project” for my final internship course, that requires me to reflect upon this educational experience. Here are my thoughts in random order…
Okay so I’m in the car right now dictating my post in a random stream-of-thought fashion….
I downloaded a dragon dictation app to my phone. I’m trying to switch things up a bit & work my way out of “academia mode”. I’m bored as FUCK of these research paper styled blogs. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to completely shake my nerd-girl ways. I’ve always interested the study of human nature and my blog will always reflect this. However, I feel like I’m falling into a rut.
I have a desire to show and not tell.
The problem with academic writing, (other than the passive third person style), is the fact that you’re being objective and analytical. It allows you to adopt a mindset that is conducive to seeing things as they are from a scientific lens.
I’m interested in learning the basics of creative writing. To hell with rules. I want to tell a story, express my thoughts, beliefs, or feelings, and describe my own life experiences.
If I’m being honest, my writing style doesn’t just reflect the fact that I’m in Graduate School. I have a tendency to intellectualize. This defense mechanism is effective in distancing me from problematic emotions that I’m trying to avoid. In this post, I’m going to mix things up a bit. What follows are a few random segments of things I’ve recorded on my Dragon Dictation App….
I had a really crappy shift last night!!!!
“Here’s the thing: Between work, school and family life, I find I’m in over my head. The littlest things have been driving me batshit crazy. I have absolutely no patience whatsoever & am turning into a horrid cunt rag….
I was on a floor that was very understaffed. There were 7-8 patients to a nurse on a med-surg floor. Everyone’s in a bad mood & I hit the ground running.
Unable to get a report, I hit the ground running. I find myself entering “Git-Er-Done Mode” & run around like a chicken with my head cut off. I focus on the task before me, complete vitals, clean up the rooms, pick up the linen bags and answer all call lights. Inevitably, I run into that one person who manages to drive me absolutely insane. As my patience is tested, I bite my tongue and plaster a fake smile on my face.
As much as this troubles me, I have to be honest I’m at my wits end. I can do no better….
There are only so many hours a person can spend taking care of others…
For example, there’s this guy on the floor who had a hip replacement that got infected. He has a weak bladder as a result of his “prostate issues”.
As the only tech on the floor with over 20 patiences, I find myself spending the majority of my time in his room. While I don’t want to ignore my other patients, I’m told he is a fall risk. I end up going into his room about every hour or so, so he can stand up to pee. Additionally, he can’t pee in bed so we must endure the process of getting him in and out of bed takes about 20 minutes. He is in a lot of pain, and is not steady on his feet. I hold him up as he uses the urinal to pee. He only produces about a few tablespoons at a time. By the end of the night his patience has grown thin and becomes angry that I am not moving fast enough. I want to cry because he doesn’t realize how many other patients I have to care for. However, I say nothing and do my job as expected…
I become disgusted with his impatience…
I want to tell him what I think about his inability to show me respect & gratitude.
However, I somehow can’t find the words to say how I feel to someone who isn’t willing to listen.
I ask him if there is anything else he needs on my way out the door in the most polite voice I can muster….
The frustration can overwhelm me so I numb myself into a zombie-like emotional stupor to get through the night.
And then there’s the issue of lazy staff & being shit on as a float-pool night shift tech…
As the float-pool tech I’m usually assigned the toughest clients on the toughest floors. Additionally, since I work the night-shift, I’m often on the floor to myself. This is maddening, primarily because I’m not able to ask for fair treatment. You know the whole “nurses eat their young” bullshit.
A convenient example of this bully-behavior occurs when lazy nurse play on their phone while gossiping and their eating dinner at the nurses station. They can’t be bothered to get off their sorry asses to answer a frickin call light . I’m in no position to voice my opinion as a float pool tech I have nobody in my corner. If I do, I only do so in the most polite and professional voice possible. Either way, I have to muscle my way through the evening, and try my best to forget about this infuriating behavior on my way home.
After full work-weekend like this (Friday – Sunday from 7p – 7a) I drive home in a overtired stupor.
I crank the music on loud and slap my cheeks on the way home in an effort to stay awake By the time I get home, everybody is gone. Kelly is driving to work and the kids are starting their day at school. Monday’s like this are my only day off. I spend most of this time napping and cleaning. The house is usually a mess: the trash needs to be taken out and there are piles of dish and laundry to clean. I grit my teeth and get down to business. My goal is to finish cleaning the house before 10 so I can fit in 4-5 hours of nap-time.
Once I arrive home with the kids shift two starts I feed them an early meal, help with homework, and play the role of taxi cab driver. Once my husband is home, I focus on completing some last minute paperwork for an a.m. meeting with my internship supervisor. I then work from Tuesday – Thursday 8-3 at a homeless shelter providing individual and group therapy….
and then before I know it Friday has arrived & the cycle continues….
I just visited my psychiatrist & am beginning to realize how traumatizing this invalidation has been….
I can’t help but notice how much of what we become is a byproduct of others’ demands. I’m an adaptive reaction to the demands placed upon his by significant others and society in general. I still grieve over the idea that validation is something I may never receive with regards to some critical traumas in my childhood.
The lingering question which remains is: “Was it real or just in my head?”
I know: that sounds like a stupid question. However, as I reflect on my childhood experiences, what pains me is that I can’t point at a single person who ever looked at me and saw me hurting. I was struggling and in a lot of pain, yet never heard anyone say:
“I see your sad, let me give you a hug, it’ll be okay.”
“What happened was bad, I’m sorry to hear about it”.
To this day, nobody in my family is willing to acknowledge the hurt I endured. At school, classmates blamed me and teachers pretended not to notice. “It” fucked me up further by using this baggage against me. Consequently, the process of healing has been very lonely since nobody can fully understand and support me in my own trauma recovery. I am left with a loss of something profound that has left me grieving. And since there’s no remedy for the loss, I must accept it fully as a reality of my life. Despite my mind’s inner protestations.
I’ve struggle to play catch-up for lost time but find that doing so isn’t fully realistic.
There are critical years in which I failed to progress developmentally as others did. There are these letters that I dug up in the hallway closet to my sister. I’m a freshman in college and complaining about the other residents on the dorm floor I resided on. They were filled with an insecurity, hatred and frustration that pertained to something I didn’t want to see you didn’t want to acknowledge about the state of affairs in my life.
The painful reality: I was different.
College proved to be a continuation of events in high school. The state of affairs I tried so desperately to run away from in high school were repeated in college. I really was different & hated to admit it. Fitting in wasn’t really in the cards for me. My life experiences were so divergent from theirs since we were just on very different pages. There’s nothing I could have done to catch up and I was stupid to think this was possible. I didn’t want to see this since it was tied up with so much unresolved hurt.
I guess this is why I continue to struggle in making friendships….
I have created two opportunities to forge a friendship. On Wednesday I’m getting together with a fellow intern at Panera. On Thursday, several ladies from work are getting together. I’m uncertain how things will progress & frankly nervous about going, but will give it a swing.
If for no other reason than to address my insecurities head-on…
Tuesday, March 28, 2017….
Its 7:45 at night about two weeks after I originally posted this. The hamster wheel of responsibilities has continued unabated. I still work Friday – Sunday 7p – 7a. I still spend Tuesday – Thursday 8a – 3p at my internship site. I often bring home stacks of paper work from my internship and if I’m lucky I get a few hours of family time. Monday is my only day off and I use it to nap since I’m exhausted…
…Anyway, during my therapy session last week, a crazy, serendipitous, ironic, and strange coincidence occurred!!!
This therapy session happened last Friday morning & its just now that I find myself processing the things we had discussed that day. After I provided a few updates & reflected the impact of recent events, he brought up the issue of intellectualization. He “called me out” in his calm, still, nonjudgmental manner. informing me that I tend to do it often.
I recall discussing how various trauma triggers throughout my week brought up painful memories. I shared how I felt like a well within me that inner well of frustration, I was running on empty. As he sat there in his calm and empathetic manner, I felt compelled to do the same. A feel hurt lingered underneath causing tears to well within my eyes and a lump form in my throat. I sat there dumbfounded for what seemed like an eternity. Where the heck had this come from? Honestly, I didn’t know this well of emotions was there. How was it, that I was able to not feel my feelings and conceal them so effectively from my own awareness? How numbed was I to the reality within me? However, rather than sit with this question in stillness, I fell back to that standby coping mechanism: “intellectualization”. In an effort to move forward towards understanding, I said to myself:
“For heaven’s sake get a hold of yourself!!!”
I admitted to him honestly, my shock & befuddlement. I asked him, “what is it you’re tapping into and how did you know it was there?” He replied that it is a common reaction to prolonged trauma. My mind floated naturally to the overly researched and clinical examination of my own past (read this blog). I described the ready-made explanation for the how and why of my life. He smiled back at me as I talked without interruption and I knew I was doing it again…
“Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves.” (van der Kolk, 2015, p.97)”
So this experience was an answer to my prayers from the man upstairs…
You see, I’m just months away from completing my education. I will be done shortly & it couldn’t come soon enough. School will be a thing of my past & I won’t have to spend all my spare time studying, reading, or writing papers. So what can I do with my spare time? I will be using my degree to start a new career & plan to look for a new job. However, the question of “what now” still arises.
I want to continue moving forward. This education has been a useful vehicle to propel me forward in this respect. I need to focus on the next phase of my journey. I realize now it should include the psychological and spiritual healing I’ve put off for so long.
For the longest time, I’ve planned to continue my education and pursue a Phd. There’s part of me that likes the idea of “Going All The Way” in order to prove myself. However, this ego-based drive is probably not healthy (if I’m being honest). Like Dorothy and the ruby slippers, I don’t need to go any further than within myself to realize my value. Seeing validation from others in this way, can only perpetuate the same flavor of bullshit that has infected just about every area of my life. This academic pursuit will only enable me to keep perpetuating the erroneous myth that intellectual understanding can equate to healing.
The intellectualizing really has to stop. I need to do move forward into uncharted territory. The path before me is filled with a strange mixture of fear, excitement, & happiness.
So this inner creative person, is lurking within who is repressed, annoyed and frustrated. She wants to express herself freely, through whatever means that tickles her fancy. I simply hope to express myself freely and see where things lead. I wish to use these ideas floating inside my brain and transform them into something tangible that can exist in the world “out there”….
However, there is one critical caveat.
The motivating factor underlying this path should be to continue my spiritual journey of personal healing and growth. I need to develop a relationship with the man upstairs. I need to find avenues that can allow me to reconnect my “numbed out” mind with my body… I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see what happens…
Van der Kolk, B. A. (2015). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. Penguin Books.
“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.” Henry David Thoreau
“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing” George Bernard Shaw
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders & absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely & with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Rules for Happiness: Something to do, Someone to Love, Something to hope for” Immanuel Kant
“We ate well and cheaply & drank well and cheaply & slept well and warm & loved each other” Ernest Hemingway
The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” Henry David Thoreau
The above video was captured as I decided to take my family out to my favorite sushi restaurant. On this particular evening riots had organized in the Old Market as well as on 120th and Center street. After speaking with some of the protesters, I had asked someone who had organized the protest. Apparently, it was organized by a Native American Organization at UNO. In the last week, I’ve had time to absorb the fact that Trump is our next president. While I tried to limit my social media interactions this week, avoiding political commentary hasn’t been as easy as I hoped. There are a diversity of reactions both within and amongst the political parties. Everybody has a strong opinion about the results and whose fault it is…
…Today, during a get-together with friends at my house I learned of all the arguing that’s been going down on Facebook lately. Everybody began describing how the election has actually caused a rifts in relationships with friends and family members. I was surprised to hear all this since I’m not a big social media fan. Out of an implicit respect for one another, we avoided the subject of how everyone voted. Instead, we all concluded the importance of respecting the diversity that this country was built upon.
“In the liberal community, you hate this idea of creating people as a monolith. ‘Don’t look at Muslims as a monolith. … But everyone who voted for Trump is a monolith, is a racist.’ That hypocrisy is also real in our country…And so this is the fight that we wage against ourselves and each other because America is not natural. Natural is tribal. We’re fighting against thousands of years of human behavior and history to create something. That’s what’s exceptional about America. This ain’t easy. It’s an incredible thing.” – Jon Stewart
So having said this, I feel it is vital to put what has happened lately into a historical and cultural context….
Many of the protests in response to this election reflect unresolved cultural traumas woven throughout the fabric of our nation.
While, the DSM-5 manual discusses trauma from a medical, diagnostic viewpoint, it provides interesting commentary on the culturally relevant diagnostic considerations…
Considerations such these point at the obvious fact that individuals can’t be extricated from the societies in which they live. Sociocultural context is a key consideration in the understanding of traumas, since it tends to occur within a specific historical frame of reference. This fact is especially critical when diagnosing and treating trauma-related disorders since the DSM-5 manual is “largely derived from a Euro-American epistemology, (Stamm, et al, 2004, p. 90).” What follows is a quick and dirty overview of trauma as a collective and culturally-relevant concept.
What is Collective Trauma?
As I may have mentioned in a previous posts, I am a student therapist who has been diagnosed with PTSD. For this reason, I’ve have both a personal and professional interest in trauma. Additionally, as a biracial individual with a mother who grew up in the Philippines during WW2 , I’ve observed that trauma develops at a sociocultural level as well. In a recent interview for a school assignment, she made the following comment about her early memories during the war:
“I don’t remember much of my early years. I was born in 1938 and the war started in 1941 by the time the war started I was three years old…. I don’t remember much about growing up in a normal sense, such as reading books and going to bed at night since we were refugees of the second world war and were living in caves alongside mountains, growing our own food…”
As a young child, I learned to respect the painful nature of these early painful memories. For this reason, despite a burning interest in learning how these experiences influenced my mom, I know little about them. The memories she has shared are simple and sweet, told through the eyes of a child. She recalls her mother growing a vegetable garden for food. Oftentimes the peanuts grown by my grandmother were their only source of protein. She remembers “peeing on the peanuts,” since this helped them grow, while trying to avoid the lettuce. To this day, she absolutely loves spam as a “delicacy” (in her mind). When she was a kid, it was always the one thing left behind by the G.I’s that she longed for most. She also remembers asking the American Soldiers for Chicklets and watching the dog fights in the night sky, unaware that the pretty lights and sounds meant someone was dying.
It is against this personal backdrop, that I find myself examining the aftermath of the 2016 Presidential Election. Underneath all the strife, are unhealed wounds from America’s History. There’s a saying that I think best summarizes this history:
“Hurt People, Hurt People”
Alexander, et al, (2004), state that “cultural trauma occurs when members of a collectivity feel they had been subjected to a horrendous event that marks their memories forever changing their future identity (p. 1).” Stamm, et al, (2004) note that “trauma can affect the social fabric of a nation or culture during civil wars or in interactions or conflicts with other cultures or divergent subgroups of the same culture, (p. 90).”
Individual vs. Collective Traumas
Regardless of whether they we are talking about collective or individual traumas, the following symptoms can be observed:
Exposure to Traumatic Events
“The essential feature of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the development of characteristic symptoms following exposure to one or more traumatic events, (American Psychiatric Association, 2013, p. 274).”
Following the occurrence of these traumatic events intrusive symptoms can be observed when events or situations trigger memories of the original trauma. The American Psychiatric Association, (2013), describes these intrusive symptoms as including distressing memories, dissociative reactions, and emotional flashbacks and “prolonged stress [upon] exposure to…cues that…resemble an aspect of the traumatic event, (p. 271).”
Persistent Avoidance of Stimuli Associated with Trauma
Regarding the diagnosis of PTSD in individuals, the DSM-5 notes that: “the individual commonly makes deliberate efforts to avoid thoughts, memories, feelings, or talking about the traumatic event…and…avoid activities, objects, situations, or people who arouse recollections of it, (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).” An article titled “Collective Trauma: The nightmare of history” (Audergon, 2004), provides an interesting perspective of this symptom from a sociocultural perspective….
Collective traumas affect all segments of a society in different ways. “One part suffers the atrocity and another part declares it is time to move on, (Auerdgon, 2004, p. 21)”
“Often the dominant group….will not include the traumatic story of an oppressed minority group into its collective ‘narrative’, (Auerdgon, 2004, p. 21)”
This lack of accountability makes it impossible to heal these social wounds. We become divided and cut off from valuable lessons and knowledge buried within these experiences, (Auerdgon, 2004, p. 21).
“one part of society ‘goes ahead’ while leaving those who suffered to bear the trauma of their own…bemoan[ing] the fact fact that survivors of a group….cannot seem to leave the story behind, (Auerdgon, 2004, p, 21).“
Alterations in arousal, reactivity, mood, & cognition…
According to the DSM-5, alternations in cognition and mood can include “exaggerated negative expectations regarding important aspects of life applied to oneself, others, or the future…., (American Psychiatric Association, 2013, p 275).” While alterations in reactivity can include “heightened sensitivity to potential threats…[and reminders of a] traumatic experience. (American Psychiatric Association, 2013, p. 275).” How does this insight pertain to collective traumas? Auerdgon, (2004) notes the following:
“While historical revisionism is often thought of in relation to extremist nationalist groups, we all contribute to it when we only become interested in a version of events that protects our interests or innocence. The result is widespread misinformation and thinking of things….The nightmares of history don’t spontaneously erupt. Past injustices & traumas remain in the fabric of our collective interactions and are ignited to create war…..(Auerdgon, 2004, pp. 21-23).”
Trauma as Historical Concept
As someone who has struggled with PTSD, I can tell that regarding the unresolved hurts of my past infected every area of my life until I faced them willingly, with a desire to heal. In a nutshell, you perpetuate what you deny & the only way out is through. Interestingly, these traumas have a silver lining hidden buried beneath the hurt, that only those who have faced them can attest to.
Trauma as Cultural Concept
Culture consists of a shared system of meanings within society that define modes of expression and communication, (Chung & Bemak, 2002; Nazir, et al, 2009). It influences how we view the world around us and sets the normative standards for behavior (Chung & Bemak, 2002; Nazir, et al, 2009). As a form of “mental programming” (Chung & Bemak, 2002, p282), it defines our value systems and preferred ways of thinking and feeling. Trauma is also cultural since it can “involve more than physical destruction of people, property, and landscapes….It attacks what constitutes culture of which there are some essential vulnerable elements: body/space practices, religion, history, language, state organization, and economies, (Stamm, et al, 2004, p. 95). The widespread Native American Genocide in early U.S. history, is just one excellent example of this.
Trauma as a Sociocultural Process
There’s definitely more than a grain of truth the the notion that we perpetuate what we deny. Regarding my own personal traumas, until I let go of my own desire to avoid and deny these memories to myself, I was unable to fully heal. This unresolved “crap”, infected every area of my life until I was welling to address it honestly with a goal of healing and moving forward. As I have since discovered, buried deep within these traumatic memories are life lessons that have brought me clarity and a life worth living. I firmly believe this is something that only those who have truly healed can understand.
This insight alao pertains to the unresolved collective traumas that underlie many of the protests in the recent 2016 presidential election.
When Do Cultural Traumas Emerge from Social Events?
In his book “Cultural Trauma, Collective Identity”, (Alexander, et al, 2004), notes that not all bad things that happen to us influence us traumatically. “Trauma is not the result of a group experiencing pain. it is the result of this acute discomfort entering into the core of the collectivity’s sense of its own identity…Collective actors decide to represent social pain as a fundamental threat to [our] sense of who [we] are, where [we] came from and where [we] want to go, (Alexander, et al, 2004, p. 10).” What follows is a quick and dirty overview of the factors involve in the re-defining of events as collective & cultural traumas:
FACTOR ONE: Making Claims of Cultural Significance
“The gap between event and representation can be conceived as the ‘trauma process, (Alexander, et al, 2004, p. 10).” In other words, the social process of trauma begins with a narrative that claims certain social events represent some fundamental injury that resulted in the destruction of for a collectivity of peoples. An article by Silver & Updegraff, (2013), provides two interesting insights regarding the nature of collective and individual traumas.
FIRST, utilizing the 9/11/01 Terrorist Attacks, Silver & Updegraff (2013), describe distress reactions to traumatic experiences as a bit of a double edge sword:
NEXT, Silver & Updegraff, (2013) note that man’s search for meaning is what ultimately promotes healing, regardless of the specific meaning we attach to the experience:
FACTOR TWO: Carrier Groups or “Meaning Makers”
Alexander, et al, (2004) describe carrier groups as the meaning makers in the sociocultural trauma process. Carrier groups consists of anybody who has a place in the social structure who represents a specific sector or group of individuals. Examples include religious leaders, politicians, mass media and even celebrities on occasion. The key factors definitive of a carrier group are (1) an ability to communicate this claim effectively and (2) the power and prestige to be heard, (Alexander, et al, 2004).
FACTOR THREE: Trauma as a Speech Act
Alexander, et al, (2004) also describes the trauma process as an act of speech and includes the following components:
“The Speaker: Carrier Groups, (Alexander, et al, 2004, p. 11).”
The Audience: The general public who listens to this message (Alexander, et al, 2004).
“The Situation: The historical, cultural, and institutional environment within which the speech act occurs, (Alexander, et al, 2004, p. 11).”
FACTOR FOUR: Narrative Development
In order to construct a narrative for the meaning underlying this traumatic event, a storytelling process develops in the speech act between carrier group and society. This new social narrative encompasses four critical components:
“The nature of the pain…the nature of the victim…the relationship of trauma victims to wider audience…attribution of responsibility, (Alexander, et al, 2004, pp. 14-15).”
FACTOR FIVE: Social Institutions & Stratification Hierarchies
This narrative creates a story that is imbued with meaning. It defines the nature of social suffering in a particular traumatic event of our culture’s history. Social institutions including religion, science, government, and science together influence how this meaning-making process unfolds.
FIRSTLY, social institutions influence how the speech act unfolds. Who the carrier groups are and who the audience is and the specific meaning attached to the experience. For example, religious institutions address the question of “why did God allow this to happen?”
SECONDLY, “The constraints imposed by instution[s] are mediated by an uneven distribution of resources, (Alexander, 2004, p. 15).” Those in power, with dominant social position, are able to create a social narrative that favors their perspective. This can be seen in the typical U.S. History textbook.
FACTOR SIX: Identity Revision
Collective traumas develop as a sociocultural process that defines the nature of an injury, who was the victim, who is the perpetrator, and what are the lasting consequences, (Alexander, et al, 2004). Our collective identity is continually revised based on the meanings given current events.
“Identities are continually constructed and secured not only by facing the present and future but also by reconstructing the collectivity’s earlier life, (Alexander, et al, 2004, p. 18).”
In this respect, identity is a fluid concept that is experienced as a collective sense of who we are. It continually evolves based on how integrate current events into our “sense of self”.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed). Washington, D.C.: Author.
Alexander, J. C., Eyerman, R., Giesen, B., Smelser, N. J., & Sztompka, P. (2004). Cultural trauma and collective identity. Univ of California Press.
Audergon, L. (2004). Collective trauma: The nightmare of history. Psychotherapy and Politics International, 2(1), 16-31.
Chung, R.C.Y. & Bemak, F. (2002) The relationship of culture and empathy in cross-cultural counseling. Journal of Counseling and Development. (80) pp154-158.
Nazir, A, Enz, S, Lim, M.Y., Aylett, R., & Cawsey A. (2009). Culture-personality based affective model. AI & Society. 24(3) pp 281-293.
Silver, R. C., & Updegraff, J. A. (2013). Searching for and finding meaning following personal and collective traumas. Retrieved from: https://webfiles.uci.edu/rsilver/Silver%20&%20Updegraff%20Searching%20for%20Meaning%202013.pdf
Stamm, B.H., Stamm IV, H.E., Hudnall, A.C., & Higson-Smith, C. (2004). Considering a theory of cultural trauma and loss. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 9(89), 111.
My Bullet Journal Experience…
I’ve always had an organizer to help with my perpetual absent-mindedness & tendency to put things off. These organizers represented my commitment to the long term goals I’ve set for myself. On the one hand, this habit is certainly helpful in breaking things down into manageable baby steps. This system has been nice, but somewhat laborious to set up. Additionally, I find this focus on the long-term goals, is at the sacrifice of incidental life-events. Bound and determine to complete my to-do-list, I find I’m complaining endlessly about how life gets in the way. I need something that can allow me to live more presently with greater gratitude and appreciation…
…Then I found the Happy Planner System
I was enthralled at first by its name. The idea that one would include happy and planning in one descriptive phrase perplexed me. I’m not exactly the “Type-A Personality”, and prefer a “fly by the seat of your pants” approach. I visited a local Michaels and loved how customizable these planners were. Most importantly, they provided an opportunity to engage my creative juices. This “Happy Planner” is something quite unique. It isn’t quite a scrapbook & not an organizer. Its a memory book or gratitude journal of sorts. You keep track of your days, while remembering the moments. I was hooked….
My Happy Planner – “A Gratitude Journal/Scrapbook”
So this is my very first “Happy Planner”.I’ve decided to use it simply as a journal and scrapbook. I find myself printing out incidental photos from my phone and glueing them onto the pages of my planner. I then record key events of my week. With everything I have going on, my journaling is more “quick and to the point”, highlighting key events and memorable life lessons.
On these two pages, I describe my intention for this Happy Planner…
Major Life Events & Milestones…
The Importance of Gratitude
Last week, I decided to begin a project I’ve been putting off for quite some time. I began digging through old family photos and placing them in photo albums. I was surprised at how much my boys have grown up & was sad the time had passed by so quickly. I was also profoundly grateful for my life & regreted how I had fallen in the trap of allowing “life to get in the way”. I became immersed in my desire to achieve several long-term goals that I failed to see the bigger picture…
The Power of Resilience….
A patient I cared for at work, made an impact on my life that will stay with me always. I was able to meet him when he first arrived in the hospital complaining of a bowel obstruction. I was able to help wheel him into the operating room for exploratory surgery. I was there when he received diagnosis of terminal cancer. I was able to say goodbye as he went home to be with his family. This man is an immigrant from Africa. He worked hard to complete his MBA while in the states and just bought his first home. He showed me pictures of his large family: five kids and a loving wife. He told me he intended to remain positive and planned on “fighting until the end. He didn’t want his kids to think he was giving up. I cried on the way home when I heard this story. I was grateful that the biggest thing I had to worry about was the messy house & a need for some sleep.
The Perplexing Nature of Self Deception….
I blogged about this one. It on the nature of self-deception. I wondered how easily it was for us to lie to ourselves. How can we be the deceiver & deceived at the same time? Is part of our mind immersed in creating the lie while still another part is attempting to forget we have done so????
Anyway, this is what happened in September…
This is “part two” of a post on “twisted self-deception”. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines self-deception as: “the acquisition and maintenance of a belief (or, at least, the avowal of that belief) in the face of strong evidence to the contrary motivated by desires or emotions favoring the acquisition and retention of that belief, (Self-Deception, 2006).” Twisted self-deception on the other hand can be defined as, “instances [in which]…people deceive themselves into believing things they do not want to be true” (Mele, 1999, p. 117). Two questions have perplexed me greatly about this issue of twisted self-deception:
FIRSTLY, how can someone act as both the deceiver and the deceived?
SECONDLY, Why does someone believe something they don’t want to be true?
I feel I managed to address these questions to my own personal satisfaction in the first post. However, my ultimate goal was in attempting to apply this insight to the issue of addiction. How does twisted self-deception pertain to instances of recovery from addiction? While completing a reading assignment for my future internship, I uncovered some useful information worth commenting on here.
Mistaken Beliefs About Recovery…
Gorski & Miller (2013) discuss “Mistaken Belief’s About Recovery” in Chapter 5 of their book “Staying Sober” and make the following comments:
“There are a great many mistaken beliefs that trap relapse-prone people into a state of hopelessness. Many people have these mistaken beliefs and act as if they are true…Mistaken beliefs about relapse create self-fulfilling prophecies. When mistaken beliefs become ‘true’ to you, you act as if those beliefs are true (Gorski & Miller, 2013, p. 103).”
This insight provides an explanation for how we can deceive ourselves. By failing to get that beliefs act as self-fulfilling prophecies means, our handling of them is one-sided. Rather than examining them critically, we utilize life experiences as evidence & support for our belief system, (when in fact they are byproducts of it). What follows is an overview of common mistaken beliefs about recovery according to Gorski & Miller, (2013).
Role of Substance Use…
Gorski & Miller (2013), state that it is common for many in recovery to believe that recovery means abstinence and relapse simply means using. Consequently, the primary goal is to not use as a matter of conscious and deliberate choice. Gorski & Miller, (2013) note that addiction is a biopsychosocial process with many sobriety based-symptoms that linger after a person has quit using. Managing and understanding these symptoms is essential if one is to succeed in recovery
Relapse Warning Signs….
Gorski & Miller (2013) caution that “a common mistaken belief is that relapse just suddenly and spontaneously occurs without warning signs” (p. 107)…Or, they might believe that warning signs only pertain to usage of alcohol or drugs. Interestingly, Gorski & Miller (2013) caution the role of denial in blocking one’s awareness of critical relapse symptoms. As I reflect on my own experiences with twisted self-deception discussed in the previous post, I can appreciate the power of denial in this instance. I was so caught up in my own emotional survival during “the it years” that I couldn’t see how my life was spiraling out of control.
Relapse & Motivation…
Many people in recovery believe that “if I relapse, I am not motivated to recover…I have not hurt enough to stay sober (Gorski & Miller, 2013, p. 109-110).” The fact is, those in recovery may understand that they need to quit and know this is the solution. Much as I understood during “the it years” that the solution to my situation was leaving, the pain of unresolved traumas was overwhelming. In a mirror-like sense, Gorski & Miller, (2013), note that “most relapse-prone [addicts] are in terrible pain…the pain is so severe it prevnets them from functioning when sober” (p. 110). In other words, it isn’t about motivation, (or a lack thereof). A failure to get this fact can produce feelings of great shame.
Beliefs about Treatment…
“Many people who are recovering from addictive disease work very hard to recover…yet they fail” (Gorski & Miller, 2013, p. 111). Consequently, they believe that treatment is either ineffective or 100% effective. and that failure is a byproduct of being “constitutionally incapable of recovery” (Gorski & Milller, 2013, p. 111). This final insight is also helpful for me in better understanding the nature of addiction. Individuals struggling with recovery can struggling with feelings of helplessness & hopeless as I did when trying to leave “it”.
What is Your Emotional Hot Potato????
The above video comes from a book by Shel Silverstein titled “The Missing Piece”. I think it effectively communicates a core issue underlying the notion of self-deception. The purpose of self-deception is so we can live in our own preferred version of reality. This version of reality supports our preferred system of beliefs. It also edits out those things we do not wish to understand & hate to accept. It is like an emotional “hot potato”. We would prefer to willfully deny this fact through an array of cognitive mental gymnastics, than accept reality as it exists.
Sometimes the truth can truly hurt & facing it can appear an overwhelming & impossible task…
Gorski, T. T., & Miller, M. (2013). Staying sober : a guide for relapse prevention. Spring Hill, Florida: Herald Publishing.
Mele, A. R. (1999). Twisted self-deception. Philosophical Psychology, 12(2), 117-137.
Self-Deception (2006, October, 17). Retrieved from: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/self-deception/
Shapiro, D. (1996). On the Psychology of Self-Deception. Social Research, 63(3). Retrieved from: http://www.communicationcache.com/uploads/1/0/8/8/10887248/on_the_psychology_of_self-deception.pdf
The purpose of this assignment is to identify trends in patterns throughout my family by creating a genogram. Attached are photos taken genogram along with commentary on visible trends. After examining these familial trends, I will consider how they are likely to influence me as a future therapist.
Metcalf (2011) describes the genogram as a “diagnostic tool [that is utilized] to help families see patterns within their past and present” (p11). While similar to a family tree, the genogram also includes information on key life events, communication patterns, and relationship quality (Genopro, 2015). A close examination of the family tree allows familial hereditary trends and us to develop a psychological history (Genopro, 2015). What follows is an overview of insights gained from this exercise. An enlarged version of my family genogram is attached to the end of this paper.
While this project was definitely a challenge technologically, it was also educational. I’m fairly happy with the outcome, although I noticed one minor mistake. I forgot to put the male parent on the left (Metcalf, 2011, p14). While I wasn’t able to make these changes to the attached photos, a corrected version of my genogram was emailed to the instructor with a registration key for viewing.
Sources of Information
My primary sources of information were my parents and sister. My grandparents are all deceased, and my mother’s family lives in the Philippines. Due time-zone differences, calling them wasn’t possible. I am also not very close to my father’s family and have not decided to contact them for this assignment. My husband’s portion of the family tree, was from his own memory. He isn’t very close to siblings and his parents are both deceased.
While I was unsure of whether or not it was necessary to include my husband’s family tree, I decided to do so, only because his family background differs so greatly from mine. It provided an opportunity to understand the ripple effect of family history on development and growth (Metcalf, 2011). In addition to a history of abuse and addiction, there are quite a few divorces throughout my husband’s family tree. In contrast, my family background included no history abuse or drug addiction or abuse. However, a huge cultural gap between my paternal and maternal relatives was quite problematic for me. I attribute this cultural gap to an misunderstanding between my maternal grandmother and mom. Additionally, this factor can explain in part why I was never close to my maternal cousins. I discuss this further below:
Genogram for My Maternal Side
Acquiring information for my mother’s family was especially challenging because much of the information we require predates World War 2. Few records are still existing from this time period due to widespread loss resulting from the war. The time zone differential also made contacting my mother’s family problematic. Several key insights can be noted when viewing this side of family tree.
My mother is closer to her maternal sisde.
My mother says she rarely had an opportunity to meet her father’s family. However, after World War 2, her four aunts and uncles lived nearby and she grew to know her mother’s extended family well. Without asking my grandparents, it is impossible to know the reason for this.
My mother has a distant relationship to her sister.
My mom and her sister both came to the United States in the 1960’s in order to complete medical school. While it was never their intention to stay here, they ended up marrying and settling down in the States. Despite the fact they live in the same country, they rarely speak. While they deny animosity, I am uncertain as to the reason for this. My mother is unwilling to elaborate.
I feel a closer relationship with my maternal grandparents.
Culturally, the Philippines is collectivist in its orientation and life centers around family. My mother has explained that a sense of love and connection comes through honoring your “duty”. This notion involves committing a significant portion of your identity and life’s purpose to your role within the family. In the individualistic society we live in, this is a foreign notion. As a byproduct of this cultural difference, I was always closer to my maternal grandparents. I felt they took it upon their selves to fulfill a role as grandparents and were aware of how important this role was. I came to understand all their actions and words as reflecting a sense of duty, which I understood as an expression of their love.
The women in my mother’s family are all well educated.
As the story goes, my maternal great-grandmother (Dorotea Santiago-Gonzales) was an only daughter with several older brothers. Her family put the sons through college but not their daughter. T his angered her, and she determined all her daughters would get an education. Consequently, her daughter Maria became a teacher, Guadelupe a Chemist/Business owner, and Consuelo, an M.D. Her oldest daughter, Maria, carried this tradition further, and put her two daughters (my mother and aunt) through medical school.
Genogram, for My Paternal Side
Similarities between my mother and father’s family include well-educated individuals who appear to enjoy long-lasting marriages. However, key differences, in a culture gap and divergent perspectives on a women’s proper role in the family. What follows are a few key insights from this side of my family tree.
My paternal grandmother did not get along with my mom.
My grandmother Charlotte was a stay-at-home mother. She was a byproduct of the “Leave-it-to-Beaver” era, and believed a woman’s place was in the home. My paternal grandmother never got along very well with my mother, and often made snide remarks about the fact that she worked. When I asked my mother about this, she downplayed the severity of things, although I notice she was often uncomfortable around the holidays. I think the fact that my mother is Catholic and my grandmother Charlotte was atheist didn’t help matters either
I never felt comfortable around my cousins and was never close to them.
In my immediate family, my mother was the disciplinarian. My father preferred to allow her to take the lead in this respect. As a result, I was raised according to my mother’s cultural beliefs. My mother discouraged me from dating until college. I was much more naïve and inexperienced in this particular area than a typical woman of your age. Additionally, my mother made me dress conservatively and preferred me to not wear any makeup until college. Finally, in keeping with her culture, I was to always show my mother respect. These character traits made me very different from my cousins. I had two female cousins the same age as me, and I was the oddball. They were your typical rebellious American teenagers. They wore makeup and the latest most fashionable clothes. I was a naïve tomboy that always listened to her mother. Fitting in was difficult for this reason.
My father is very close to his brother Ted and has a distant relationship with Mike.
My father has one brother who is about 15 months older who is still very close with. In contrast his youngest brother, Mike, is 18 years younger. They are not really very close, since my father was out of the house by the time Mike was born.
My Husband’s Family Tree
My husband’s genogram is reflective of a greater degree of turmoil, in comparison to my own. While this family background has been the source of much pain, my husband has endured these experiences to become an amazing and thoughtful husband/father. Key insights reflected in my husband’s family include the following:
My husband’s Father was Abusive.
While my husband bears a great deal of anger towards his father, he has forgiven him. Nonetheless, painful memories still exist.
He was close to his grandmother who raised him.
My husband is the youngest of four siblings, and didn’t get to know his parents very well. Fortunately, for this reason, he seems to have repeated fewer of their mistakes.
He never knew his mother. She was a chronic alcoholic.
He never new his mother very well since she wasn’t around. Due to lasting effects of prolonged substance use, she lasting cognitive deficits later in life. This made a relationship with her impossible.
Divorce is common in my husband’s family.
Excluding my husband and his half-brother Wesley, everyone has been divorced at least once.
He isn’t close to his siblings.
He is not close to his siblings Galen and Kathy. Since they are repeating many of the unhealthy patterns of his parents, he as chosen to distance himself from them. He doesn’t want this sort of influence upon our two sons.
Genopro [Computer Software]. (1998). Retrieved from: http://www.genopro.com/setup/
Genopro (2015). Introduction to the Genogram. Retrieved from:
Metcalf, L, (2011). Marriage and family therapy: A practice oriented approach. New
York: Springer Publishing Company
This week a beloved member of our family died. His name was “WARFY”. He was a 19-year-old cat my husband got from a farmer while looking at a camper shell from a local craigslist ad. This elderly man had about 20 animals on his farm and was having difficulty “keeping up with them”. As a big Star Trek fan he decided to name his pets after various characters from the show. My husband fell instantly in love with two tiny kittens who were born from the same litter. “WARFY” was the large, dominant and friendly one. “DATA” was a much more shy and reserved feline….
….At any rate, I remember getting ready for my Sunday night shift and passing Warfy as he was attempting to climb up the stairs. He stopped part way and looked up at me as if to say, “Can you carry me the rest of the way?” I called my son and had him grab our old friend. I told my boys, that the time is near and they need to say good-bye. At 16 and 10, they did understand, but it was nonetheless difficult for them. He passed in his sleep some time that night while snuggling next to my oldest son….
….Fast-fowarding a couple days, I’m was confronted with more sad news today. My son came home today and told me his friend’s mother just died at the age of 31, due to complications from drug and alcohol use. This was like the cherry on top of a sundae. Throughout the week as a therapy student and healthcare worker, I’m already inundated with sad news. this sort of ring-side seat tragedies and turmoil definitely leaves is impact upon me…
…Today, while scrolling through the OWN Network Youtube Videos, I found myself watching on a few random clips and reflection upon the happenings of my week. Here are a few favorites …
The Power of Gratitude….
This video discusses the power of gratitude: a feeling of appreciation and thankfulness. I am a big believer in the idea that what you focus on expands. In other words, like attracts like. If all you do is complain, what you get back in life is more to complain about. Focusing instead on what you have to be grateful for is a powerful force for change. My job is helpful in putting things into perspective, I’m profoundly aware that life itself is a gift. Tomorrow isn’t a guarantee. Every day, is all there is…..
I’m grateful for my two boys & the opportunity I have to watch them grow into two young up. I almost lost my oldest son & endured a miscarriage before having my youngest. I love these two boys with every ounce of my being…
I’m grateful for my “partner in crime”. He has brought into my life the experience of knowing what it is to be truly loved. I am grateful for this in ways words don’t describe after surviving a “dysfunctional” relationship in my youth…
Finally, I’m grateful for 40+ years of perfect health. I’m grateful for all the life experiences that brought me to the present moment. They have allowed me to grow into the person I am today. I spent my youth working through unresolved traumas. I now have opportunities to work on myself, uncover my true potential & life purpose.
History or Destiny? Which one are you choosing today???
“When you hold onto your history, you do it at the expense of your destiny….” – T.D. Jakes
I love this tidbit, definitely an “AHA MOMENT”. As this video notes, you only have so much energy in life to give. The question which then naturally comes to mind is: where are you focusing your energy? It has taken me many years to let go of old traumas, and begin forgiving unresolved transgressions within my family. As T. D. Jakes also notes: “Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself”
“When you know better you do better” – Maya Angelou
Here, Oprah describes feeling alone after being moved away from her grandmother. She states she came to understand then that “If anything is going to move forward in my life, I have to be responsible for making it happen.” This means seeing yourself as a solution the the problem, and living by the serenity prayer. What can you change? Focus on this. What is beyond your control, (i.e. other people and/or circumstances)? Let it go, forgive, and move forward…..
*Be willing to see things for what they are. This requires a bit of Radical Acceptance…
Believing in Yourself
Beliefs when unexamined exist as self-fulfilling prophecies. Oprah calls these “Shadow Beliefs”. Examining these belief systems and understanding them is critical to “Getting Unstuck”. Failing to do so, means acting on all your unresolved bullshit. You perpetuate what you deny endlessly like a hamster on a wheel. Understanding this, has allowed me to dig deeper, into the true nature of my motivations. What drives me forward? As Oprah notes, until you understand this, all you can do is mindless acting on your shadow belies. In the end, you’re running away from what you don’t want, according to a predefined and skewed belief system.
The Secrete to Surrender…
“God can dream a bigger dream for you than you could dream for yourself – Oprah”.
I still struggle with this life lesson. Surrendering control and allowing things to happen is difficult for me. However, I’ve noticed that when I hold too tightly to something it escapes my grasp. For much of my life I’ve felt “perpetually stuck”. Creating forward motion has required me to learn to let go.
*I’ve set goals for myself.
*I strive to achieve them.
*I’ve hope for a successful outcome.
*I’m doing all I can, one step at a time.
*I surrender & hold onto my faith.
*Things will fall into place as they are meant to….
*This is what is meant by “letting go”
“I’m grateful to have been loved and to be loved now & to be able to love because…love liberates it doesn’t hold – that’s ego. Love liberates. – Maya Angelou”