It doesn’t matter what others think

It doesn’t matter what others think

It doesn’t matter what others think.  If it’s real for you then it’s important.

People often apologize for being injured.

“I shouldn’t be this way, I was never deployed.”

“I shouldn’t be struggling, I only went to Afghanistan once and my buddy over there is fine and he was there twice”

“I shouldn’t be taking up a seat in this group, there must be others who need it more than me.”

In fact, I’m not sure I have ever run a group where a large proportion of the members don’t somehow feel that they didn’t earn the right to be there.

I remember a day in my private practice when I saw an army intelligence officer who was struggling.  During a tour overseas he was required to witness countless satellite images that haunted him.  After returning home, he walked with shoulders slumped, burdened by his experiences. Working together, we tried to lighten his load.

Sitting patiently in the waiting room, waiting for her appointment, sat an anxious petite 10-year-old blonde girl.  Her forehead was creased with worry wrinkles, her nails bitten to the quick.  Her hand wringing as she anticipated speaking of the things which were most upsetting to her. 

Did both have an equal right to treatment?  I believe so.  Certainly their experiences are very different.  In my mind, it isn’t about measuring the degree of pain one has experienced.  Rather, it’s about noticing the impact those experiences have on our ability to navigate our way through life.  Whether we have been hit by missiles or paralyzed with anxiety, the pain is real.

It’s not our place to judge whether or not you should feel a certain way.  If it’s real for you, that’s all that matters.  

Warm regards,

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

The business of getting better: part 6

The business of getting better: part 6

Intoxicating anger

Anger is intoxicating.  There’s no doubt about it.  It’s powerful, and has the illusion of strength.  People will often respond to us more quickly if we’re angry.

Anger can be a force to be reckoned with.  The military recognizes this, teaching people to harness their anger as vehicles for mobilization during difficult moments.

“Don’t get sad, get mad”

The problem is, power gleaned through anger is power taken, not power earned.

Is it possible, I wonder, to have power without exerting our will over others?

Maybe what we are really talking about is leadership.  

Certainly, there are many different styles of leadership.  We are all familiar with dictatorships, where those in power exert their control over others. Failure to conform is associated with profound negative consequences. We are fearful of their anger.  Think Stalin.

Charismatic leaders, on the other hand, rely on the leader’s charm and attraction to inspire devotion among followers. After meeting with Charismatic leaders, we are inspired to be of service.  We leave feeling they are special. Televangelist Billy Graham is a famous example of this style of leadership.

Transformation leaders, on the other hand, inspire greatness. They instill valuable and positive change with a vision of developing followers into leaders. After meeting with these leaders, we feel special: confident and inspired to be more. Nelson Mandela is an example of such a leader.

I think we have all had times when we realized our anger had power.  It’s a hard habit to break, particularly if we don’t feel safe.

Is this a time when transformational leadership might be an option for you?  Maybe you are already practicing it. What does it look like in your life?

Warm regards,

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

The business of getting better: part 5

The business of getting better: part 5

The freedom of choice.
 
Many years ago I attended a work seminar where the facilitator spoke of the importance of developing a Plan B for any major venture you take on.  His words struck a chord, for at the time I was working in a federal penitentiary.  I wasn’t sure how long I would remain there.  Every day, I was surrounded by people who repeatedly reported how many years they had until retirement. 
 
“Good morning” they would greet me cheerfully, “only six years left ‘till retirement”.  

It was the institutional running joke, with people reporting the time they had left on their “sentences” prior to being released.  Like the inmates they were supervising, they were serving life sentences on the installment plan. 
 
This prompted me to develop a solid Plan B.
 
From that moment forward, every day that I went to work became a choice.  I could continue, or I could change, but I would not allow myself to complain about it because I had the freedom to exercise my will.
 
Even now, every day I go to work knowing that I have options.  My Plan B may not make much money, but it’s always less stressful and generally involves doing something creative. Somehow, that allows me to go to work each day with joy, owning the decision to be there.
 
It may be your Plan B involves taking time off work so that you can take proper care of yourself. That in itself is a plan.

Warm regards,

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

The business of getting better: part 4

The business of getting better: part 4

Developing a solid Plan B

In her book Option B, Sheryl Sandberg describes the devastating impact of unexpectedly losing her husband Dave during a trip to Mexico.  The purpose of the trip was to renew their wedding vows after eleven years of marriage.  One minute he’s on the elliptical trainer climbing his way to health, and the next moment he is lying on the floor, gone.  Suddenly, she found herself in a deep void attempting to begin a life that she did not imagine nor choose.  She described feeling completely unprepared and alone. Grief became a demanding companion, with ordinary events like school parents’ night becoming unexpected landmines.

Her friend and Psychologist Adam Grant flew across the country to support her.  His words of comfort were that she would need to allow her grief to run its course.  She asked Adam how she could get some resiliency.  He told her that resilience is the strength and speed of our response to adversity.  It isn’t about having a backbone, but rather, about strengthening the muscles around our backbone.

I know that many of you have endured life altering loses.  “Option A” of life, as we originally expected it, no longer exists. It might be the loss of a person, of health, of your identity, or of your belief in the world.  For some reason, the unfolding of your existence has been irrevocably altered.

What do we do in such times? In Sheryl’s case, it was to recognize that Option A as she put it, life with her husband Dave, was no longer available. The only option, according to her friend Adam, was to “kick the shit” out of Option B. 

What stage are you in? 

Have you started to allow yourself the possibility of developing an alternative option for yourself?

Like Sheryl, we encourage you to allow others in, to assist in the re-visioning and restructuring of your life.  Know that we are here for you.

Warm regards,

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

D-Day Commemoration

D-Day Commemoration

It was on the night of June 5, 1944 that Winston expressed to his wife that they were going to bed with the knowledge that by morning, 20,000 soldiers may have lost their lives.

He was referring to Operation Overlord, the biggest seaborne operation in history.  An event that served to turn the tide of the Second World War as 156,000 Allied forces united to storm the beaches of Normandy in an effort to liberate the country from Nazi occupation.

More than 10,000 people lost their lives in an all or nothing gamble that paid off, but at tremendous cost.

Yesterday marks the seventy-five anniversary of the D-Day landings.

I woke up this morning with gratitude and appreciation for the sacrifice of those who paved the way for the rights and freedoms that we enjoy today.  

To the soldiers, the veterans, their families, and the leaders who bore the weight of such heavy decisions.  I give thanks.   
 

Warm regards,

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

The business of getting better: part 3

The business of getting better: part 3

Changing the world, one conversation at a time.

When we run programs at Landing Strong, we spend quite a bit of time discussing how to create an environment that feels comfortable and safe. Participants tell me that it’s not uncommon to walk into a community coffee group where they’re initially having a good time, only to have the mood shift once the subject of politics comes up. Suddenly the tone is angry and loud. Instead of ideas and insights forming the discussion, hard opinions become the propulsion for discussion.  Listening decreases as each person fixates on ensuring their “truth” is heard.  

 When this happens, I know it’s just a matter of time until the conversation shuts down, and the potential for insights and wisdom arising from the discussion are lost. 

Speaking truthfully without hurting feelings, writes Cheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, is an acquired skill.  It’s that wonderful balance between appropriateness and authenticity. 

In her book Lean In, Sandberg notes “When communicating hard truths, less is more…The ability to listen is as important as the ability to speak.”

What if we all made it our mission to seek to understand the opinions of others, without needing to be right?  How would the world change?  We may disagree with what we hear, but at least by listening we are inviting an opportunity for dialogue. Sowing the seeds of change.  If we are able to shift our focus from being heard, to accepting the uniqueness of each person’s truth, the discussion becomes richer.

I have to admit, I don’t always master this art.  But I try.

Please join me in noticing the tone and manner in which we communicate with others.  Is it inviting or overbearing? Welcoming or deflective?

As Sandberg confirms, being aware of the problem is the first step to correcting it.

Warm regards,

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

The business of getting better: part 2

The business of getting better: part 2

Lesson 2: Developing your own personal brand

Welcome to our second week of applying business principles to health and recovery.  This week, I’d like to talk to you about the power of belief.

Branding is a term in marketing that helps us understand the intended customer experience.  Donald Miller, in his book Building a Story Brand, describes branding as a transformational process: it’s a journey that offers promise of a desired final destination.  Our “brand” is our aspirational identity.  It’s how we want to feel.  Branding is about helping to guide people toward a stronger belief in themselves.  

Miller provides the example of Starbucks.  When you purchase a Starbuck’s coffee, you’re buying much more than coffee.  You’re buying an experience – a way of seeing yourself – sophisticated, chic, someone worthy of being treated to something special.  The simple act of drinking coffee is transformed into an experience of savouring, and the price becomes secondary to the experience.  Marketing genius.  

I think about how we describe ourselves to others, and wonder how our personal branding affects how we are perceived, and treated.

Do you view (and describe) yourself as an injured veteran or first responder?  Or are you someone who is embarking on a journey of personal growth following traumatic exposure?  

Are you unemployed, or taking time to learn more about yourself?

Are you exhausted, or rather, in need of a well-earned break?

Are you trying to recover what was lost, or looking to broaden who you can be?

Are you overwhelmed by emotions, or enriching your ability to feel and connect with others?

It’s worth considering how you want to feel, and being mindful to integrate these words into your internal vocabulary.  Words are powerful, for they are the utterance of our internal brand. 

Warm regards,

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

The business of getting better: part 1

The business of getting better: part 1

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of reading about business.  At Landing Strong, we’re committed to providing top-tier services on a non-profit budget.  Hence the need for great business strategizing. 

As I read, I’m struck by how many business principles are equally relevant to health and recovery. Over the next four weeks, I’d like to share with you things I’m learning with the hopes that you too will find them helpful.  Please join me on my voyage of inspiration.

Lesson 1: Success is the bi-product of a series of small experiments

It’s an unfortunate reality that most new businesses fail. In the Lean Start Up, Eric Ries claims this is because new business owners tend to make a common error: they put a large investment into a single idea and hope like heck that that they got it right.  The author suggests a more innovative approach to entrepreneurship is to run start-ups like a series of small experiments that inform and guide business development.  No single stage is too big an investment, and it is always possible to pivot and change tactics if it looks like an idea isn’t working out as expected.  

I love this notion, because there’s no pressure to get it right the first time.  In fact, the assumption is that you likely won’t get it right immediately, and you’ll probably have to continuously gather feedback to inform product refinement.

What if we applied this principle to healing and recovery?  One of the most common errors I witness in terms of people who are trying to make changes in their lives is the pressure they put on themselves to get it right the first time they try something new.  If it doesn’t work, they assume it was a bad idea.  Maybe, in fact, it was a great idea, it just needed a bit of feedback and fine tuning. 

When we design new Landing Strong programs, we work hard to get client feedback at the end of each session. Why?  Because our assumption is there are parts that were likely great, and other parts will probably need to be tweaked in order to improve.  The program becomes the product of an organic interaction between facilitator and participants.

Recovering from trauma exposure involves reinventing the self.  It is, in a way, a new business start-up.  Instead of waiting to have it all figured out and hoping we get it “right” let’s consider recovery as a series of small experiments in which you will be trying on new ideas or behaviours, seeing which are helpful and which need tweaking.  We should expect the first version of anything won’t likely be right.  Rather, it’s a first step in the gradual shaping of something new and wonderful. 
 

Warm regards,

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

Trained to stay strong when the going gets tough

Trained to stay strong when the going gets tough

As many of you already know, this is a special week.  It’s National Police week, a time when we’re encouraged to pause and think about the invaluable contributions these men and women make to our quality of life.  We thank not just the officers, but also their families, for the steadfast work they do in supporting their loved ones.

It’s my privilege to work with a number of officers, and I am constantly astounded by the extreme situations they find themselves in, and the incredible resourcefulness it takes to stay focussed on the job at hand.  I bear witness to the toll it takes on them, and the dedication they demonstrate through years of service. How do they stay resilient I wonder? This question has been a lifelong obsession for me, taking me back thirty years to my master’s research when I interviewed officers across the country, trying to understand the unique stressors that police officers face while on the job.

It takes a special kind of person to stay strong when the going gets tough.  The job takes a number of forms: whether it’s keeping our streets and highways safe, working homicide cases, investigating cybercrime, conducting sex crime investigations, working undercover with gangs, conducting military investigations, or in the case of RCMP members, doing time in isolated Northern communities.  

To each and every one of you, we are grateful for your efforts.

Thanks to you, our communities are that much safer.

Warm regards,

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

Safe and stuck vs uncertain and growing

Safe and stuck vs uncertain and growing

Have I ever mentioned how much I love homemade chocolate chip cookies?  Something deep within me settles as the familiar aroma of fresh baked goodness wafts through my kitchen. The simple routine of baking offers me reassurance that all will be okay. 

Although routines can be comforting, never straying from them has consequences.  Just because old habits make me feel good doesn’t mean they’re always good for me.  I love that there are things in life that are a sure bet, but at the same time, realize that taking risks is part of moving forward.  

I’ve taken a lot of risks lately.  I’ll admit it, it has not been easy.  It would definitely have been simpler and easier to stay in a place that’s old and familiar. 

So why do it you might ask?  Why challenge myself when I could simply sit at home baking cookies and watching Netflix?

Truth is, I believe there’s something big around the corner.  Something wonderful that’s worth the journey.  We’re not quite there yet, but we’re getting there.  You and me and the Landing Strong Team.   

How incredible that we allow ourselves to venture into that new place together.
 

Warm regards,

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