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Author Archive for Pam Raphael – Page 2

Trauma is stored in the whole body – so start there!

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There are many things in addition to therapy that you can start doing to rewire your brain on your own – with intention.

We know that recovery and emotional healing is a whole body experience. Therapy is a critical element and provides an “anchor” point and lens to interpret and make sense of your journey – past and present. But the rest of the change happens through experiences in your body and by you intentionally taking small emotional risks to express yourself in a safe and contained way.  Recovery can also be fun.**

Self Defense Class
For men and women who feel very dis-empowered, disconnected from their strength, have difficulty saying NO – a self defense class is a wonderful way to safely move toward connection with your power.

Martial Arts Class
This is an excellent way to get into your body and start to connect with your power center in a safe way. There are less combative versions, like Tai Chi, which is more meditative and a great place to start. Other forms, like Aikido, teach you forms of combat and if  you have not found a healthy channel for your unexpressed anger, this might be for you.

Volunteerism
If you have been unemployed for any length of time,  you can feel very disconnected from your sense of professional identity. For professionals, this can be even more debilitating and confusing.  Find a local non-profit organization near you and start volunteering. This is a great way to build confidence and reconnect with your professional identity. You may also make new friends and have additional references that can help when you start interviewing again.

Join a Cause
The world is not fair, justice is not guaranteed and it’s important to have allies.  If you are struggling with the anxiety and anger from a personal injustice that you can’t resolve therapy is a must. But there is also something you can do to channel that anger in a constructive and healing way: volunteer with an organization whose mission is  justice. It doesn’t matter which one (social, criminal, economic – there are many) the point is to get involved and find people, like you, who care and want to do something about it.

Take an Acting Class
Improvisation and acting classes can give us an opportunity to step outside our comfort zone to express in ways we would not have opportunity to “in real life.”  It allows us to try on other characters and forms of expression and most importantly, it can provide an excellent way to grow our tolerance for attention and being seen in a positive way.

Some recommendations: Playback theater, Theater of the Oppressed, Improvisation Classes, Acting Classes

Take a Yoga Class
Recognizing we have a body and what it might be telling us is a critical part of any recovery process. Yoga provides a gentle and powerful way to connect with your body. If you are a trauma survivor you may want a trauma sensitive yoga class – look for that in the information when you are choosing the class that’s right for you.

**Before you start, talk about options with your therapist to determine your readiness for some of the things listed  above.

How Do I Create a Healthy Relationship?

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Newsletter Healthy Relationship pg1

Can we trust Fluffy?

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The goal of therapy is to expand our tolerance for the parts of ourselves and the world around us that scare or threaten us. To calm the storms.

It can be confusing because things we want to hold on to; relationships, people, jobs, commitments, can also be toxic and harmful.

Or perhaps they are not harmful but we are triggered because they are similar to a past trauma. How can we tell?

We have to face the pain in order to decode it. We have to feel the feelings in order to manage them.

It is one of life’s strange ironies that the key to all healing and happiness is to look at the hard stuff.   Growth requires the willingness to accept what is – both in ourselves and the world around us.

fluffy

Is he? or is he really a cute little puppy? That’s what we have to discover

How To Stop Bullying: Band Together

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These Boys Teach us to Band Together to Stop the Bullying

This video came across my Facebook page and I wanted to take a moment to dig a little deeper on why this is so important.

These boys show a great example of leadership and creativity and most importantly: solidarity.  By wearing the coats and ties they give status to their friend’s uniqueness.  They are sending a message that he is like us.  When we are targeted it is impossible to regain power and status on our own. We need the help of bystanders or someone with more authority and power.  That power can be in numbers  – as in this case – or in the form of one person.  In fiction he or she is a super hero with a super power. We don’t need super powers to solve problems. All we need is our creativity and the will to create change.

The result is that we build resilience for everyone.  The bystander develops confidence and skill, the bully is not shamed which is important for their emotional recovery, and above all, the person targeted has a shared experience that minimizes or eliminates the traumatic effect and speeds up recovery toward resilience.

Until we have laws to protect us we are on our own to stop bullying.  It isn’t always easy but bullying cannot exist in an environment that demands tolerance and acceptance of  our differences.  These boys showed great courage and are a great example for the rest of us.

Great job Danny and his middle school friends in Bridgewater, Mass!  This is how to stop bullying.

I’m Fine, Thanks. . . coming soon!

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Something came across my desk that I just have to tell you about:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cranktank/im-fine-thanks

This is a trailer (and a request for funding) for a documentary about complacency. I watched the trailer and I just fell in love with it. Of course I will pledge and I hope you will too. But even if you don’t please get the message and pass it on.

In my work with people suffering from the effects of bullying, I see all too often how we stay in jobs, relationships, family systems where we are miserable, abused and lost because we think we have to follow the rules. We believe in one right way to be in the world: one way to be accepted by those around you, and if you’re not, then there is something wrong with YOU.

Well, I’m here to tell you that there is nothing wrong with you. Gay, straight, black, white, thin, fat, left, right…you are just fine the way you are. If you are not accepted, appreciated and cherished by those around you then there is something wrong with them. Not you. If you are unhappy in your job, your relationship, your life, then risk the change. Find people who get you. Follow that still voice, that tickle of curiosity, go where your heart is calling you. There are more routes and possibilities for happiness than you can imagine.

Reach out, step back, look up…set your course…If you are not fine, you will be.

Instead of labeling someone a “victim” – a better way

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Creativity, Innovation, and Transformation as Side Effects of Empathizing 

The Myth of Victim Mentality

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Why do people who are in abusive relationships stay in them?

Why don’t battered women leave?

Why doesn’t a kid who is bullied just hit back?

The common answer is that some people identify with victim-hood as a way of avoiding responsibility for their own lives. Some people just like to be abused and get some kind of pleasure from it. For kids, it’s part of their social development to learn how to live in a tough world.

These are all outdated and easy catchall explanations that blame the target and allow bullies and tyrants to continue to abuse with impunity. We know that abuse is wrong and thankfully we are slowly gaining legal ground that offers protection and accountability. But we still want to blame the target. Why?

The biggest reason, in my opinion, is that this is the easiest answer available that absolves us of the conflict we want to avoid. If we admit that the bullies and tyrants are the problem, then we have to do the hard work of confronting the reality, or worse, the bullies themselves. We have to file the police report, talk to the principle, and provide a safe haven for someone knowing that we now have our skin in the game. It is easier to be a bystander and attribute the control to the person we could never be – a victim.

People avoid conflict as much as they can because we haven’t been taught how to fight fair. We don’t know how to take on the bad guy. And worse, sometimes the bad guy is someone we know or even love. It’s just so much easier to think that this person who is nice to me would only treat you that way because you deserve it, asked for it, wanted it.

So what do we do?

First – let me repeat the premise that victim mentality is a myth. People do not choose to be abused. They adapt to it and learn to exist in and around it in order to survive. Depending on their age and level of brain development they initially go into shock and then their brains adapt. This adaptation is now being studied as part of a new field of brain research called Interpersonal Neurobiology.

What this new field of brain research is showing us is that the brains of people who experience trauma adapt in a way that makes them further vulnerable to abuse. It is not a conscious choice to stay in an abusive situation. The part of the brain that enables us to use reasoning and the capacity to problem solve is literally taken offline during times of high stress and trauma. And when this is repeated over weeks or years, especially in childhood, parts of the brain can literally be damaged.

Why do people who are in abusive relationships stay in them?

Why don’t battered women leave?

Why doesn’t a kid who is bullied just hit back?

It is because they have not yet developed or have lost the capacity to solve the problem themselves. They are locked in a room with a terrorist and they can’t even see the door.

They need our help. Most importantly, they need our compassion and understanding. Someone who is battered, abused, bullied is not enjoying the experience. They don’t deserve it. They want things to change.

Now that you know that, what will you do next time?

If you are interested in learning more about Interpersonal Neurobiology:

http://drdansiegel.com/
Interpersonal Neurobiology PDF
Being a Brain-Wise Therapist: A Practical Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology

Visual representation of my practice using Wordle

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word-cloud

Just for fun I tried this website http://www.wordle.net/ and created this word cloud. I took all the text from my website www.helpwithinreach.org to see what words would be emphasized and sure enough the areas I work with most are showing up as the biggest in my cloud. This is good because it is congruent with how I thought it would look. If it had not, it would have been a great way to see just where I need to adjust. I personally think it is a great tool for identifying the themes you are operating from.

Try this: Write a letter to yourself describing your life right now and paste it into wordle and see what is reflected back. You may be surprised.

The Other Way Power is Abused

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When you think of power and people who abuse it, what often comes to mind is the forceful, aggressive kind of person who pushes their agenda at all costs and disregards the opinions of anyone in their way. Bullies are characterized this way.

Another way that people abuse power that is less recognized is neglect. Another word that I think fits is “abdication.” When we accept the mantle of responsibility, we are making an agreement that we will act responsibly and be accountable for everything that is associated with the role we have accepted. AND it is our responsibility to know what that means and where the boundaries of that power lie.

I see many examples of people and institutions who have abdicated the power they have willingly assumed. Some examples of what I mean include:

  • Parents who ignore the bad behavior of their children even when it is clearly distressing to them and others present
  • Leaders who fail to ask for or ignore the truth when it is given
  • New managers who think that their skills as individual contributors are good enough to make them competent
  • Politicians who ignore the pleas and concerns of their constituents in favor of their own interests

The recent scandal at Penn State is a clear example of what I mean. People who had enormous power to stop criminal behavior, chose to turn their heads and look the other way instead of acting. It was easier, it was safer (for them) and it preserved their own interest: to maintain the status quo.

And now we are seeing the cost of this failure in human terms: Lives and trust destroyed.

There is a saying in business that “it is better to act and ask for forgiveness than ask for permission and be told no….”

But the trouble is, not everything can be forgiven. Not all can be healed. Abuse of power scars our psyche. It tilts the balance ever toward destruction and cynicism. The future decisions and choices we make are informed by this betrayal of trust.

We lose good people and good people become lost.

Power is not something that only some people have, it is something that we ALL have and we use and mis-use it every day. In the jobs we hold, as parents, as care-takers of the environment, as stewards to our pets, as citizens and in all the other ways we live in relation to the world around us, we have power. If we don’t take it seriously, if we ignore it, if we neglect it, it becomes destructive and whether we admit it or not, our impact on the world – our immediate world and the larger global community – is profound.

You have power – whether you know it or not, whether you admit it or not. You have power. Here’s how you can tell if you have power: you are breathing.

Own your breath and please breathe responsibly: Show up. Don’t assume. When you know you need help, ask for it. Take the feedback of people you trust. Look honestly at yourself and get therapy if you need it. Use kindness and allow vulnerability in others. Don’t look away. Speak what you see. Tell the truth. Listen. Cry. Be humble. Take every choice seriously and think about who will be impacted by that choice.

Own your power and use it responsibly…now breathe.

The road from bystander to leader takes time…

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Yesterday I watched as the owner of my neighborhood 7-11 verbally abused and berated a woman who happened to park in a way that was unacceptable to him. She did nothing wrong, there were simply not enough spaces and she improvised, but he was relentless and it went on for several minutes. I was across the street by the time I figured out what was happening and just stood there paralyzed. I realized as I got into my car that I was acting the ‘bystander’ to an act of bullying and I specialize in bullying – so how could this happen to me? It is hard to change from being a bystander to a leader when confronted with bullying. It takes practice and even though you KNOW the research and statistics and what to do. When faced with brutality, you are also confronting the indirect trauma of witnessing it. I will remember this incident and do better next time and the next time and the next until I respond without thinking. “Stop your bullying because it is wrong and it won’t solve your problem” I hope you will too