How do we make a difference when the problem feels so big?

How do we make a difference when the problem feels so big?

How do we make a difference when the problem feels so big?

Over the past few weeks, the very foundation of our country has rocked with the discovery of 1,323 bodies of First Nations children at various sites across Canada.  It’s believed that there are many more yet to be found. 

I’ve hesitated to write about this.  It’s incredibly important and I don’t want to get it wrong.  How do we possibly come to terms with this level of atrocity?  The genocide of a generation of our First Nations children: are we glimpsing the ugliest part of humanity? 

I’m reminded of a discussion I had many years ago following news of the tragic shooting at Montreal’s École Polytechnique where innocent lives were taken.  During a National conference of 1000 psychologists, we sat in a room together and asked ourselves the question: How to we respond to such atrocity?  How can we prevent such horrific acts of violence from reoccurring?  There were no quick answers.  We all felt powerless.  Eventually one of the speakers stood and spoke in a tentative voice:

“I don’t have the power to change the world, but I certainly can have a significant impact on my immediate circle within my community.” 

Others chimed in:

 “If each of us has a voice and speaks out, we are 1000 strong in this room alone.  If we all speak to 100 people that’s 100,000 minds that we have the power to change.  We all have an immediate circle of influence.  If we all commit to being part of the solution, demanding change, that has to have an impact”.  

I don’t pretend to have the answers.  Nothing can make this right.  We can’t go back and undo the harm that has been done.  I was taught that Canada is a mosaic woven of many different colours and fabrics.  I believe the diversity is what provides richness to our Country. 

We don’t heal from our past by looking away.  If there is to be hope for a version of Canada where all are treated with dignity and respect, we need to witness even our nations darkest periods.  

Ignoring pain does not allow for healing.  It prolongs it.  Let’s strengthen our circles, making sure the steps forward are meaningful and lasting.

This is news that needs to be felt.  Only then can we ensure it never happens again. 

Warm regards,

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

Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder

Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder

Working in the federal penitentiary, I frequently met inmates who chose alcohol over life.  They repeatedly shared stories of relationships that fell apart because the pull towards substances was more compelling than their desire to be in relationships.  When given the choice, they chose Johnny Walker over their partners. 

The decision to cut down on substance use (or to be abstinent) is really a decision about health and connection.  

I choose to trust.
I choose to feel.
I choose to fully live.

Abstinence does indeed help the heart grow fonder.
We run group programs year round designed to help you ensure the life you are living reflects the life you want. Feel free to call us if you’d like to jump into an upcoming group.

Warm regards,

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

Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder

Noticing the tiny perfect things

I recently watched a charming movie on Netflix called A map of tiny perfect things.  A young couple, caught in their own personal ground hog day, struggle to find meaning when every day seems a repetition of the previous one.  Somewhat like waking up each morning to hear the COVID report. They hatch an ingenious scheme to devote themselves to finding tiny perfect moments that exist within the fabric of each day.  

I love this idea.  Instead of focussing on things that can’t be controlled, I want to form my own list of tiny perfect moments.  It’s easy to miss them.   Sometimes we have to look very closely to see.  

I’ll share one from yesterday.  A young man in his late teens is at the Big Stop struggling to get his debit card working. He’s filled his gas tank, but can’t pay for it because his card won’t work.  The cashier mentions that she is supposed to call the RCMP in such a circumstance.  Immediately a woman in line steps up and says “don’t do that, how much is the bill?  I’ll get it for him”.

Embarrassed that I didn’t think of it, I offer to cover half.  Turns out the bill is only $20.

That could be the end of the story, but it isn’t.  As I am pulling out of the station I see the young man waving his arms and running after me.  He explains that he got his card working and wanted to give me back the $10 I had chipped in, insisting that I take it.  He was articulate, thoughtful and appreciative.

What a beautiful tiny perfect moment to start this week’s collection.

In group we have the opportunity to witness many tiny perfect moments.  Moments when people listen to one another without judgement.  Notes of support that are offered after a difficult share.  Celebratory cheers when there has been an accomplishment.  Or simple quite head nots of understanding when a group member shares something they are struggling with.

There are still two seats left in our Healthy Living Group starting next week.  It’s a chance to ensure the life you are living reflects the person you want to be. Give us a call today if you’d like to join.

Warm regards,

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

The power of walking one step at a time

The power of walking one step at a time

ThT

The power of walking one step at a time

No matter how long your journey appears to be, there is never more than this: one step, one breath, one moment… Now.
               – Eckhart Tolle

Many of you who know me know that my family is strongly connected to Africa.  We’ve taken school groups to Kenya and Tanzania, both for community service and a trek up to the top of Kilimanjaro.  My son Kyle, my daughter Mackenzie, and I have done Kili twice.  Joe, my husband, eight times.  Each time, leading a group of trusting students.
 
Park rangers tell us that, generally speaking, half of the travellers who try don’t summit.  Our groups average a 98% success rate.  Here are some of the things we’ve learned that help:

  • Training takes time, and is done in gradual increments.  The journey is made one step at a time, one breath at a time. We start in September for a March climb.  Early training hikes are short, weight free, and low intensity. Over time we increase intensity, duration and load.
  • Working as a team increases the likelihood of success.  We train together, walk together, celebrate together, and struggle together.
  • No headphones are allowed.  By staying connected, we talk and encourage one another.  The strength of our team is directly related to the strength of the relationships with have with one another.
  • Every hike involves treats: something home-baked and yummy to look forward to.

Trauma recovery is like a personal expedition to Kilimanjaro.  I like to think all of the same principles apply.  Working together, we can significantly shift the odds in our favour.  As the guides say Pole pole (slow slow)…one step at a time.

Warm regards,

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

The power of choice

The power of choice

No matter what the situation, remind yourself “I have a choice.”
               – Deepak Chopra

Injury is often associated with powerlessness or a loss of control.  When I first started working in the federal penitentiary, I believed I was capable of evoking powerful, positive change.  Both for the inmates I was working with, as well as with the system itself.  

“You don’t belong here” the inmates repeatedly warned me.  Turns out they were right, but it took me seven years to understand that.  

I’ve never thought of myself as a quitter. I had to learn the hard way about the difference between quitting, and choosing not to continue.  Quitting is giving up.  Choosing not to continue is making an informed decision based on your experiences regarding what is healthy and sustainable, and what isn’t. It’s easy to judge ourselves based on what we were not able to do.

We can focus on the things we couldn’t do, or we can choose to focus on those things that are in our power.
I choose to do my best to help someone today
I chose to invest in my health
I chose to move forward.
I chose love.

Warm regards,

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

What if we were royalty?

What if we were royalty?

Recently I’ve been enjoying the television series The Crown, and find my thoughts returning to a scene where Queen Mary explains to her granddaughter the young Queen Elizabeth, the importance of remaining impartial: 

“To do nothing is the hardest job of all. And it will take every ounce of energy that you have. To be impartial is not natural, not human. People will always want you to smile or agree or frown and the minute you do, you will have declared a position, a point of view…and that is the one thing as Sovereign that you are not entitled to do.”  “Well that’s fine for the Sovereign… but where does that leave me?” Queen Elizabeth responds sadly.
 
It strikes me this conversation is not limited to royalty. Many of us are in service related professions where we routinely perform duties that may not be in line with personal beliefs or preferences.  Putting on a “game face” is part of the job, and a display of emotion can compromise our ability to do so effectively.  

Soldiers are asked to go onto the battlefield, defending a cause they may not believe in. They do not have the privilege of evaluating whether they want to advance when ordered to do so.

Police are asked to place themselves in the midst of violent situations, working to protect those who, a moment earlier, may have been threatening them.

Paramedics repeatedly respond to calls at the same house for drug overdoses.

To be of service means, by definition, to put our needs aside and tend to those of others.  There comes a time, though, when we need to put ourselves first.  Recognizing what we are experiencing, and finding a safe place to work through the emotional residue.

Only then do we truly care for ourselves.  Separate and distinct from the work we do.

Warm regards,

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