Sunday, August 21, 2016

Fly Away from the Dream Squashers for Safety and Stability
pic credit
When preparing to write this post, I kept thinking about a scene on Everybody Loves Raymond where one of the characters named Robert says something quite true about what he calls “dream squashers.” Deborah, his sister-in-law, discusses returning to her career while the rest of the family focuses on the negative aspects of the idea. I identify with how Robert recounts his childhood dreams as he encourages Deborah to “strap a rocket on her back” so she can fly away from the naysayers – the dream squashers. It helps me make light of things, but the statement that he makes is very valid.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to help myself and others construct something of their own rocket to help them fly to a safer place of optimism and balance. Before diving into the nuts and bolts of some technical things and how neglect and my ignorance of them has contributed to my revisitng of Stage One of trauma recovery, I thought I'd hit on some positive, practical, basic, and concrete things that I have found to be very helpful in the past.

Self Care to Start

Perhaps the most important and effective thing that a person can do to boost their spirits flows from self care. I'd reinjured an old back injury a few months ago, and the pain was so terrible that I neglected myself. A friend of mine asked me when I'd last bathed after I was able to walk a bit better, and I couldn't remember. She made me promise that I would take a bath, and she said it was the first step towards feeling better. I found that she was quite right, but I'd spent a good chunk of time ignoring my body because of physical pain. My first step forward out of that blue fog came through basic efforts to care for myself. I was amazed at how much better I felt afterwards and how nice it felt to indulge myself in a leisurely bath instead of my sickbed.

Some people need to be reminded to slow down, and some need to be urged to be more active, depending on their patterns of responding to stress. In my case, I needed to be inspired to be active. I'd retreated from the pain through inactivity, but I also retreated from my friends. My neglect of self points to the importance of staying connected to others instead of retreating in isolation. I remember an acquaintance of mine who often admitted that “isolation was his drug.” When we're in pain, we tend to avoid social contact. Do it anyway! It will help if you surround yourself and stay in contact with people who encourage you to be healthy and optimistic. They can loan their optimism to you if you're lacking your own from time to time.

Goal Setting

Another way of nurturing positive thoughts can come through setting simple goals. If we think of ourselves as ineffective, pursing a measurable goal and tracking our work as well as our progress can show us that we do have choice which gives us a sense of accomplishment. There's that old joke about how one goes about eating an elephant. We do it a bite at a time, and all we need to do sometimes involves planning realistic steps which allow us to tackle something that seems to great for us to fathom.

If we have a bank of bad experiences, setting manageable goals and achieving them gives us evidence to the contrary We tend to believe that we are powerless when we're overwhelmed, but setting goals helps ground us in reality and lets us see more objectively that we are not as powerless as we feel. Tracking our achievement also can serve to help us be accountable to ourselves which is always easier and less uncomfortable than having others impose it on us.

Visualization as an Adjunct to Goal Setting

Psychology Today recently published an article about the “Best Possible Self” visualization as a means of significantly boosting optimism. The more often that we engage in the practice, the more benefit we will glean, but even just following through with it once can yield much help to us in the short term. I am reminded of how certain therapies take advantage of the part of the mind that can't distinguish what is real from what is imagined, so it does not surprise me that research supports the effectiveness of this mental exercise which nurtures the soul.

When you have at least 10 minutes of free time or more, envision yourself in a future that has turned out to be the rosiest that is possible (and feasible). It may help to pick a particular time-point in the future, say 10 years from now.

In this future, you have reached all the goals you had set for yourself, you have climbed the pinnacle of your dream career, you have found the soul-mate and love of your life, you are in peak physical shape, you have friends who are trustworthy and caring, and so on. You get the picture. Visualize what such a future will be like and feel like to you in as much detail as possible.

This practice differs from mediation because it is guided and purposeful, where as meditation aims at calming the self and the mind. While the best possible self visualization exercise might draw on similar skills, it draws on creativity and problem solving and goal setting skills. Mediation also focuses on the present moment, and this kind of visualization focuses entirely on a bright future. The article cites several research studies that demonstrate the many desirable benefits of the exercise on mood, outlook and even on pain tolerance. And optimism brings many subtle but powerful health benefits.

Until the next post, don't give up! Don't let the dream squashers get the best of you! They don't deserve the satisfaction.

For further reading until the next post:

Safer Decisions: A Tough and Challenging Topic

I'd hoped to follow the previous post about how we make decisions and the risks we take with something more positive. As I'm walking through my own personal labyrinth of recovery from new challenges, I couldn't connect with the material very well.

In a way, it demonstrates the difficulties that we face when we do build Safety and work at Stabilization for ourselves as we recover from trauma. Life also gets in the way of that, as we have to go on living our lives as we heal. We still have our daily work, routines, and our ongoing care of self and others. My life has had the added elements of a couple of recent deaths including the suicide of a friend, the loss of my 16 year old cat last month, a flaring up of more than a few chronic illnesses, and a serious injury in my immediate family. These make the daily grind of all of the other pressures of life that we all share in common (like the rising cost of everything and enduring pre-election politics) that much more of a struggle.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Managing Ignorance and Knowledge in Recovery

Ignorance (lack of knowledge) affects all of us. Recognizing that you lack knowledgeable about something and seeking information or advice shows strength of character as well as wisdom in decision-making. The true problems arise for us when we don't realize that we're ignorant about a matter and to what extent our knowledge reaches. In the discussion of risk, often times, no one has information about uncertainty, but just that knowledge alone can help you make wiser decisions. So while you may feel like you're standing on the edge of a precipice and just might fall in to trouble, the fact that you're aware of your footing and your limitations does provide a great deal of power about what you can do and how to prepare for what you might face.

This post is also another one that looks at hard facts that can be difficult to thin about but will perhaps help us identify pitfalls that affect how we manage acceptance, expectation, and growth in recovery from trauma.  The post which will follow will be more encouraging and pleasant!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Understanding Risk : Learning to Move Towards Safety
(photo credit)
I once heard a lecture about fostering critical thought that aimed at defining risk and the information that we have when we must make choices. Some choices are easier than others, depending on what may happen if we make the wrong choice, and if we've exited a high demand group, we are likely brutal perfectionists

The personal costs involved in making choices influence us, and access to information about the ways others have tackled similar choices also impact this hard work. Understanding these factors can help us to feel better about the process of decision making, especially if we feel a bit rusty.  I've warmed up with age, but I still often struggle with making big decisions, especially ones that concern optimism about myself.  But looking into taking risks can help us develop and practice optimism that can help us build as much safety and stability as we can.  All people need it, but at least we human beings are all in the same boat.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Developing Tools to Find Safety in the Face of Uncertainty

In the discussion of building safety in stabilization in recovery from post traumatic stress, we've recently considered the role of acceptance and expectation in that process. We lose perspective because we get more consumed with survival for far too long which interferes with our ability to embrace joy and live optimistically. 

Understanding mankind's vulnerability in the grand sense gives a a map of the landscape, and creating a starting point of moments of safety give us a starting point. Learning how to safely move forward through the oft convoluted maze of healing also gives us a safe habits and help in that process.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Safety in Optimism as a Learned and Re-Learned Skill

Earlier posts looked at the grand picture in life concerning our expectations for safety in a world where things exceed our control. Camus defines well that we are stuck in the human condition which requires struggle and disappointment that doesn't end. Catherine Marshall looks to the acceptance of what Camus describes but differentiates hopeful acceptance from the pessimism of resignation that seems to be it's own kind of premature death. Today, I'd like to tighten that broad focus on uncertainty down to a more basic and immediate one.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Modern Day Witch Hunting in the Christian Church!books/cnec

A guest post by author, Shirley Taylor
from her blog, 

(originally published July 29, 2016)

Is the CBMW willing to bring back witch hunts?

The answer is yes and unless you read it for yourself, you will not believe it. Newly selected president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Denny Burk, in his vision for CBMW seeks to enforce the Danvers Statement, and create wider acceptance of it. The Danvers Statement is the modern day equivalent to the Malleus Maleficarum (The Witch Hunter’s Bible) which caused the deaths of thousands and thousands of women who were accused of consorting with the devil.

Safely Tucked in the Middle? Contrasting and Comparing Camus and Christy
Catherine Marshall authored Christy, the historical fiction novel which was based on her mother's experiences in a remote mountain community in Tennessee. In the picture shown here, I included a rendition of her book which features Kellie Martin who played the protagonist in the CBS TV drama that was developed from the novel a number of years ago. (I figured that her work might be more recognizable that way.) 

Catherine was a Christian who was married to Peter Marshall, the famed, early 20th Century, Scottish-born, Presbyterian minister in Washington, DC who served as the Chaplain for the US Senate. She was a prolific writer and editor, but she's best known for Christy novel A Man Called Peter which was also adapted into an award-winning film, her biographical tribute to her husband who died at quite a young age.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Finding Safety in Myths? Camus as Futlity's Starting Point

I am by far a greater fan of Master of the Absurd, Franz Kafka, who laments in his writings about the nature of man and his limitations, but I could not help but think of Albert Camus' essay about The Myth of Sisyphus concerning the subject of futility and expectation. Can his writing help us find some footing in recovery from trauma so that we can build some type of stability? Trauma robs us of our sense of safety, causes us to feel isolated, and it obscures our memories of stability if we truly had any as a starting point. Trauma causes us to realize the reality of our fragile nature and alienates us from optimism.

This theme is of interest to me because of the problem of figuring out how to fix one's aim when it comes to expectations – especially in relationships. Camus sees the proverbial glass as half empty, and it won't be long before the liquid in the glass evaporates. What would the Apostle Paul recommend for us to consider regarding a glass that is only half full while there is great need for more help for our human condition? Sometimes, I feel the weight of Sisyphus rolling down on me and all of my fantasies because I've been badly burned by the idea that the glass will soon be full. Can I use the writings of the atheist of absurdity to figure out how to understand Paul's admonishment to be content and at peace, despite my very human circumstances in real life?

Monday, August 8, 2016

“Bloom Where You're Planted” as a Thought Stopping Cliche

I'd heard that phrase before, but even now and even with my positive experience with the concept many years later, the phrase still connotes something negative for me. 

The last post detailed my very good experience with the sage advice of determination to bloom and grow, even if it's not where you want to be or the conditions are not that favorable.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Good Aspects of “Bloom Where You're Planted”

Platitudes can be helpful when they're used well and when both parties understand what they're meant to communicate. Much like pictures, they can encompass and encapsulate more meaning that just the words in-and-of-themselves. They're verbal shorthand that can sometimes be more direct and concise than long discussions, and they're especially helpful when one party doesn't have a lot of emotional energy to stop and listen to a long explanation. We can all imagine a tenacious flower like a dandelion that grows in a tiny bit of soil that has inadvertently collected in a crack in a sidewalk. Sometimes life requires our tougher nature to prevail.

I remember when Mary Englebright's graphic arts became quite popular, and the picturesque phrase became a useful phrase for her theme of gardening. If you're safe in the place where you find yourself, figuring out how to thrive where life plants you, it's a lovely idea. When you're covered in mud, before a long soak in the tub after a day of gardening, the picture of the promise of burgeon buds and blooms keeps you going. As mentioned in the previous post, I think that it can be a great example of what that verse in Philippians means when it says to think about goodness to foster contentment.

Safety, Ambiguity, Expectation and Balance

As a child, in an effort to comfort me, an elderly woman at my church would encourage me to read what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Church at Philippi. Basically, he says that he learned how to be contented with whatever situation he faced. One of the primary ways of coping with bad situations, according to what he wrote, involves thinking about good things as opposed to dwelling on the bad ones. 

Unfortunately, much of what he wrote requires a pre-existing and healthy sense of self, and it seems to take for granted that people have some pre-existing sense of moderation and balance. I still struggle with this aspect of life and thought. While I know now from experience that I misinterpreted a good bit of what I think he meant to communicate, I still must work a bit harder, pondering things regarding expectation.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Back to Stage One of Healing: More on Safety and Stabilization

It's been quite a month, and life is settling back into something like normal. Redeeming Dinah, the blog exploring the Duggar Phenomenon as a function of the family agenda promoted among many Independent Fundamental Baptists is up and running. It's been a month since the panel where survivors of the system talked about their experiences. Afterwards, I returned home from Dallas to be met with a couple of deaths of loved ones, some injuries, and the sadness that goes along with them. The dog days of summer do not make matters any easier.

It's now been several months (!) since a post about the stages of trauma, and I have plenty more material upon which to draw to illustrate the journey of healing. I aspired to take the high road through a miserable process of injustice and gossip from people whom I respect and to show them love. I think I've learned lessons about anger and love, about people who are unsafe, about how difficult it can be to figure out all of that, and more. I'm reminded that the people who mean the most to me whose opinions really matter are all that really matter, even though gossip can do much damage. 

Friday, July 1, 2016

Demanding Duggar Cradle, Teen Homes and the Baptist Myth of Family

Welcome to the resource page that accompanies the discussion:

From Demanding Duggar Cradle to Troubled Teen Home:  
Overcoming the Baptist Myth of Family
Friday, July 1st, Dallas, TX

View the slides here, and visit Slideshare's website for download.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Understanding the Duggars: A Series of Posts at **Redeeming Dinah**

As part of a presentation, I decided to create what is essentially an online bibliography for those interested in background information about the Duggars, the Independent Fundamental Baptists (IFB), Gothard, Quiverfull, and the Troubled Teen Homes within the IFB. Information about them all can be accessed at the new site, Redeeming Dinah

Overviews of these subjects are provided/  Just the tabs at the blog's header for pages of info that include brief descriptions, helpful links and videos.

As part of that effort, I turned a fairly extensive email interview with a journalist about a year ago into a blog series at the new site. I hope will provide resources and encouragement to those who have exited the high demand systems listed above. It was a nice opportunity to review and consolidate information to make it more accessible.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

What are Your Barriers?

This is a nice image.  (Though I suspect that the volatiles in the ink had more to do with the ant's behavior.)  But that's still a barrier, and there just might be unbounded freedom on the other side of yours.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Anticipating Father's Day

Excerpt from a previous post  ~  

Purity Balls,29307,1822906_1736958,00.html
A few days ago, I happened to see some new photos of fathers and daughters at purity balls by photographer David Magnusson from his book on the subject that will be available later this year. The portraits were featured on several online sites, but despite the “colorful” language of vulgarity in the commentary, this site shows more of the pictures in an easy-to-view format. Some of them look like the dads are getting ready to lead their girls off to the slaughter, or perhaps they were on their way to a funeral. Some of them actually remind me of a sick version of American Gothic, primarily because the poses don't look anything like ones that I find appropriate for fathers and daughters. I also can't get beyond why they all look so morbid in their expressions. ??? I'm also noted for my strong opinion about the depiction of such a ritual in Courageous, a Quiverfull Movement indoctrination film.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Drama of Mother's Day in High Demand Religion

For many reasons, Mother's Day takes on great significance for me this year. I turn fifty later this year, and my high hopes of possibility of having a baby of my own have vaporized with my age.

My next sentence that I must write? I take a deep breath, as I know well the showers of words of well wishers who ask why why didn't pursue adoption. The answer to that question is very complex and only people who struggle daily with chronic illness – those often suffered by children who grew up in troubled families – aren't really anyone's business.

But people ask, and people pressure for answers that they find comforting and satisfying to them with little awareness or regard for any pain that such questions might pose for others. They ask because we human beings fantasize and idealize the virtues of motherhood, and we need them. But for many of us, the reality of the subject of motherhood is not at all pleasant.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Considering Angst as a Healthy Part of Growth while Anticipating Mother's Day

The Quiverfull and Patriarchy Movements in Evangelical Christianity (which are strongly associated with the Religious Right and with the homeschooling movement among Christians) understand any deviation “from family” as a great moral problem. 

 Family translates for many as only the specific will of the parent, and for many, this means obsequious submission to the “vision” of the father concerning even banal elements of daily life. Not every family is so stringent, but children, budding adult children, and fully grown adults are expected to write their lives according to the dictates of the family script of their family of origin. Such families do not tolerate true differentiation from their ideal, regardless of what price children may pay.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Anticipating Mother's Day

Mother's Day (Cindy Kunsman)

My first multimedia work inspired by a vignette about five year old Ashley's behavior described by Francine Shapiro in
EMDR: The Breakthrough 'Eye Movement' Therapy for Overcoming Anxiety, Stress and Trauma.

I know too well what it's like to be Ashley.