The wisdom of tolerance

The wisdom of tolerance

I started reading Michelle Obama’s book Becoming this weekend, and was reminded that unless I have walked in someone’s shoes, I really have no way of knowing what they’ve been through.  Michelle speaks kindly of her stern and humourless Aunt Robbie who lived on floor below Michelle’s family.  If young Michelle and her brother Craig got too wound up, Aunt Robbie let them know:

Aunt Robbie would flick the light switch on our shared stairwell, controlling the lightbulb in our upstairs hallway, off and on, again and again- her polite-ish was of telling us to pipe down. 

Michelle’s parents took this in stride, reminding the children that even if they didn’t know the context, they were instructed to remember that context existed.

Everyone on earth, they’d tell us, was carrying around an unseen history, and that alone deserved some tolerance.

What incredible wisdom, to remember this simple fact.  If someone does something rude or thoughtless, I can assume it’s deliberate.  Alternatively, I can remind myself that I don’t know what’s been happening in their day, or what kind of life they’ve had.  I can tell myself that that seemingly unkind action may simply be out of context.

So the next time someone cuts you off in traffic, or is rude to you in line, it may help to send a request to the universe that their day will get better.  Wish them a bit of happiness in what may be a difficult day.

Warm regards, 

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

The things I’m thankful for

The things I’m thankful for

I like to take Thanksgiving literally.  A time for reflection, and gratitude.

The internet and news remind us that there’s a lot wrong with the world.
This weekend I plan to turn it off.
Instead, I want to think of the many things that I’m thankful for. 
 
Simple things, nothing earthshattering…

A perfect latte on a cold day

The tantalizing smell of a roasting turkey

The good company of family and friends 

Sun rays glistening off a water’s surface

The cry of a newborn baby

Crisp fall air and brilliantly coloured trees.

Picking perfect apples on a sunny Saturday morning.
 
Join me in thoughts of gratitude and plenty,
Warm thoughts and Happy Thanksgiving 

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

Starting the day with intention

Starting the day with intention

This week, I met someone new.  Let’s call her “Ray of Sunshine”.  She sparkled so brightly I was almost blinded by the bling that adorned her arms and fingers.  Fluorescent pink eye shadow and a matching headband complemented her brightly flowered shirt.  

“Thanks Girlfriend” she sung out to me happily as she rang up my purchase.  

“Great outfit” I offered smiling 

“I gotta whole cupboard ‘a bright flowered shirts to choose from” she chimed in,  “Makes me happy”.

Now that’s a woman with intention, I thought with admiration as I left the store.  It felt good that this happy stranger had referred to me as “girlfriend”, randomly deciding that kindness was to be her default greeting.  Everything about her told me that before she had even started her day, she’d decided it was going to be a good one.  What would happen If I started each day with the same degree of intention?

Something to ponder as I search my makeup drawer for baby blue eyeshadow and a matching sparkle shirt. 🙂 
 
Warm regards, 

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

Keeping ourselves hidden

Keeping ourselves hidden

During a recent training trip in Quebec, I took advantage of a warm afternoon by taking a stroll down a remote country road.  At the end of the road, the sound of a trickling waterfall caught my attention. Drawn towards it, I spied a small blue door supported by weathered stone pillars.  On the door was a sign declaring “Propriete Privee,” or private property.  Surrounding the small waterfall were five lines of barbed wire, ensuring that no one enter the property.  
 
What a shame, I thought to myself, that such a special spot be barred from view by others.  The owners may have had good reason to guard their property – perhaps trespassers had abused the privilege of visiting.  I realized though, that those past incidents served to form the rationale for a permanent barrier.  The gate served not only to keep people out, it also prevented people from coming in.
 
It isn’t uncommon that we build barriers to keep ourselves safe following trauma.  Whether it’s imaginary walls or barbed wire, the thought of letting others in can be threatening.  I have no doubt that when we build the walls we do so because they are needed.  How do we know, though, when it’s safe to take them down?
 
Joining a treatment group offers a safe way to connect with others.  You’ll never be asked to share anything you aren’t ready to share, and we offer a structured and supportive way of exploring topics that we hope you’ll find useful on your journey to health. We still have a few seats left in the “Stop Faking Good & Start Feeling Good” group, please call to sign up soon to avoid disappointment.  Our upcoming Community Connection days allow a more informal way of connecting and having fun.  Running over three Fridays in October, the first one on October 4th is for Veterans and First Responders who have taken programs at Landing Strong.  The second (being held on October 11th) is opened to those who have taken group programs with us and to their partners, spouses and others who have been important supports.  On October 18th, we welcome anyone who has taken a Landing Strong Program as well as any Veteran, Military Member or First Responder who might be thinking of taking a program, but aren’t sure and want a chance to test the waters.  We are offering these Community Connection Days free of charge, just give us a phone call to let us know you’re coming.
 
Warm regards, 

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

What does it mean to live well

What does it mean to live well

“Helping people overcome their demons is not the same as helping people live well”  
– Martin Seligman 

 
What does it mean to live well?
Is it to be rich?
Is it to be loved?
Is it to live a life of purpose?
 
Many of you have chosen a life of service because at a deep level, you understand that personal fulfillment is connected to the notion of contribution.  Being of service is valued.  Through meaningful connection to one another, our lives have purpose. When we take off the uniform, it can be hard to know who we are.  
 
Chances are, who you are was determined long before you put on the uniform.  As a kid, you were probably the one who offered to help out. In social situations, you likely notice who is in need and are quick to offer assistance.  
 
Who you are is not defined by the clothes you wear, rather, it’s who you are inside: who you’ve always been.
 
Sometimes, when we’re injured, it’s easy to lose sight of that old self.  It’s still there.  It’s always been there.  Just waiting to re-emerge when you are ready.

Warm regards, 

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

Even before it officially arrived, Dorian was here

Even before it officially arrived, Dorian was here

Even before it officially arrived, we felt the effects of Hurricane Dorian.  Bayer’s Lake shopping Centre was jammed full of cars, with people honking at each other in a manner that was distinctly un-Nova Scotian.  Long lines formed at grocery stores and gas stations, and shoppers scurried about frenetically.  A province where people usually hold the doors open for one another, on Friday they rushed through, allowing doors to slam shut behind them.  A woman I recently met described the rising anxiety she felt at the thought of being without power.  During Hurricane Juan in 2003, she went 14 days in the dark.  There were many indications that this was a province that has previously suffered the devastating effects of a hurricane.  

 Although kids were thrilled at the cancellation of school, many of us struggled with the clean-up and aftereffects of Dorian.  Communities bonded with one another, checking to see if everyone was okay.  Even while I send this note out, many of you in rural areas are still waiting for power.  Personally, I received a few free skylights in my roof and the removal of my porch, no charge, courtesy of Dorian.  Although we are grateful that we suffered nothing close to the devastation of our friends in Bahamas, many people worked very long hours this week in order to help restore order and comfort to our lives.  A special thanks to those police, firefighters, first responders, volunteer tree removers and Hydro workers who put in very long days on our behalf.  I spoke with Rod, from Hydro Nova Scotia.  He showed up at our house at 6:30 Sunday am to cap off loose wires and then again on Wednesday night at 10:00 pm to help restore power.  His team had been working 6:00 am until 10:00 pm all week.  

The effects of trauma are multi layered.  Experiences from the past colour the lens through which we view our present.  This recent event reminded me of that.  So if you notice people being a bit less happy, comfortable, or patient than usual, let’s cut them some slack.  They may have lost their crops, still be in the dark, be figuring out how to repair their cars or homes, or possibly, be struggling to regroup after being reminded of the aftereffects of Hurricane Juan.  

Warm regards, 

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

Savouring the last taste of summer

Savouring the last taste of summer

Last weekend, I took some time to sit on our cottage deck, soaking in the last few rays of summer. There’s always something a bit sad about Labour Day weekend.  Like all good things, summer must come to an end.  Joe and I enjoyed some bruschetta, made with tomatoes purchased at the local farmer’s market and basil harvested from our garden. We took the time to savour the rich flavour of the food in front of us, enjoying the stillness of the lake and the calmness of the moment.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness of daily life, forgetting to slow down and savour the colours, smells and textures around us.  Autumn is a particularly good time for this.  I invite you to take photos of the natural beauty around you.  Capture a shot of something that settles you: something that bring you peace. Take a moment to write a line about what makes it special and send it to Mackenzie at mseagram@landingstrong.com.  

Let us know if you’d like to remain anonymous or if we can acknowledge your first name and we’ll share your inspirations on our social media channels. 

Many hearts beating together make us stronger.

Warm regards, 

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

Do I measure up?

Do I measure up?

“I’m tired of feeling bad about myself.  How can I learn to feel better?”

It’s a great question, and is likely a challenge that has faced us all at some point in our lives.

Personally, I think low self-esteem is the result of high expectations.

We’re all good at some things, and not so good at others.

Low self-esteem happens when we think we should be good at everything.

Those of you who struggle with addictions likely can relate.  Addictions aren’t the result of expecting too little.  It’s usually about expecting too much and feeling frustrated with ourselves when we don’t measure up.

So my word for the week is compassion.  

Are you able to take a moment to appreciate those things you do well?

Try practicing compassion with yourself in those areas that you’re not strong at.  No one gets better when they are being yelled at.  Our inner critic can have the loudest and most disabling voice of all.  

You may know that you love deeply, and care deeply, but not actually know how to communicate that to others.  Instead of focussing on those things we can’t do, and feeling badly, I encourage you to notice your areas of strength, building on them so you have the confidence to work on those things that are still “in development.”

Warmly, 

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

Trust is not a four letter word

Trust is not a four letter word

“I don’t trust anyone.” 

It’s a phrase I hear quite often, usually by people who’ve had harmful experiences that left them feeling disillusioned or hurt.

It’s natural to build walls to protect ourselves when we feel threatened.  The problem is, trust is often described in black and white terms: it’s there or it isn’t.

In reality, I see trust as having many dimensions.  Let’s think about it for a moment.  If we were facing a zombie apocalypse, who would you most want by your side?  Is it the same person who you’d hire to care for your children or grandchildren?  Probably not.  Mary Poppins and Van Diesel definitely fall into different categories of trust. Trusting someone with your physical safety needs is different that trusting them to care for your children.

I trust my husband Joe implicitly, but he might not be my first choice when it comes to decorating cupcakes (flashback to our wedding where we decorated our own bride and groom cakes.  Joe’s cake consisted of a war scene with Tonka tanks, explosions and GI Joe parachuting down into the middle).  Yeah…I definitely don’t trust my husband when it comes to decorating cakes… but,  I do trust him to be there for me when it comes to the really important stuff.  

I like to think of trust as a three dimensional star with many prongs.  I can trust some people along many dimensions, others along only a few.  That’s okay, as long as I don’t trust people in areas that aren’t their strength.

So if you catch yourself thinking “people can’t be trusted,” try looking for exceptions in this “all or nothing” thinking pattern.  It may be there are some things they do well. See what happens if you modify your expectations accordingly.  
 
Warmly, 

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Founder, Landing Strong

The Thin Blue Line

The Thin Blue Line

Those of you who have signed up for careers in the military or as first responders understand what it means to be dedicated to a life of service.  Family members also become part of this commitment, making sacrifices so that others may be safe.

I was speaking with a law enforcement officer today who described the “thin blue line” that has become synonymous with the police line of duty.  The black space above the line commonly represents society, order and peace, while the black space below, crime, anarchy and chaos.  It’s a thin blue line (police) that runs between the two, keeping society protected.  Uniforms often reflect the thin blue line, or variations of it.  Although the stripe on your uniform may be a different colour, the unifying theme is the commitment to service and duty.
 
I’m often struck how deep and automatic the dedication to service runs: putting oneself in harm’s way so that others might be protected.  Even after long careers, veterans often search for ways to “give back” or be “of service” to their communities.  Many people describe repeatedly volunteering for horrific duties so that others won’t have to.  Whether it’s volunteering to assist with the Swissair disaster, responded to a fatal house fire, working daily with gangs, investigating homicides, or being first at the scene after a horrific car accident, someone always steps forward, putting themselves at risk so that their friends, colleagues, and community, may be protected.  As you well know, this is not without a toll.  Not feeling the injury while at work doesn’t mean that a deep-seeded pain isn’t there.
 
What happens when the uniform comes off?

Whether it’s at the end of a long shift, during a break following injury, or after a long career, knowing how to care for oneself is not always simple.  I often hear people talk about “becoming the job.”  Family members fret that their loved ones no longer feel the same.

It’s for this reason we are launching our new program Identity and Transition: discovering who you are when the uniform comes off Whether you’re on active duty, in transition, or retired. This course is for you. If you’re not yet ready to sign up for the program, we hope that you’ll follow our online resources related to this important topic. 
 
Warmly, 

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Founder, Landing Strong