What is love anyway?

What is love anyway?

It’s hard not to ask the question, especially at this time of year. The following answers were offered by young children in response to a survey by the Couples Institute regarding the question “What is love?”  

Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your fries without making them give you any of theirs
– Chrissy age 6

Love is what makes you smile when you are tired
– Terri, age 4

Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it every day
– Noelle 7

Love is when mommy gives daddy the best piece of chicken
– Elaine age 5

Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day
– Mary Ann age 4

You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it,  But if you mean it, you should say it a lot.  People forget
– Jessica age 8

Perhaps the best example of love wasn’t something that was said, but done. Leo Buscaglia shared this special moment he witnessed:

A four year old child had an elderly gentleman as a next door neighbour who had recently lost his wife.  Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman’s yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there.  When his mother asked what he had said to the neighbour, the little boy said “Nothing, I just helped him cry”.

For me, love is an action.  It’s about moving toward rather than moving away.  It’s about staying present, even when it’s uncomfortable.  It’s about patiently waiting through silence, until emotions can form.

Love is what keeps us whole, allows us to heal, giving the walk forward meaning.

Warm thoughts and lots of love on this Valentine’s Day,

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

The surprising face of courage

The surprising face of courage

In this line of work, I’m honoured to hear countless stories of courage in the face of adversity. Recently, as part of our Identity and Transition course, veterans and first responders have been putting pen to paper.  Led by our inspired writer Karalee Ann Clerk, participants who claim they can’t write step forward into the spotlight, bearing their hearts to the group. A sacred circle has formed, woven of trust, strength, compassion and courage.  Each week my heart grows as I view their lives through the lens of their experiences.  I mentioned to the group that if anyone was willing to share their weekly writing with the greater Landing Strong community, I’d be happy to publish it.  One of our Veterans (and also a former Corrections Officer) stepped to the plate. 

Thank you R.B. for trusting us with this piece of your heart:

I remember not seeing my father’s car. It was a fire engine red 1965 Pontiac Parisienne. A boat. A convertible boat. He loved that car, and that car was gone. I was 7 or 8 and had just returned from school. My mom told me matter of factly, “Your fathers gone and he is not coming back.” 

At that young age I knew that despite how bad things had been at home and judging by my family’s current trajectory the dissolution of my parent’s marriage meant things were about to get a whole heck of a lot worse. I was terrified for myself and my siblings. 

It was within this moment that I first learned how to numb fear.

I used to think courage is when you think taking an action may hurt you, but you do it anyways because it is in line with your values. It’s pushing yourself through something despite fear.

When I learned how to turn off fear I lost with it my sense of courage. How could I experience courageousness myself when I wouldn’t allow myself to be afraid? Looking back now I wonder if this is part of the reason I found myself in such a mess to begin with. It makes sense – nothing I did could appropriately scare me.

 I’ve always been a risk taker. I used to think it was just who I was. I needed a little something extra to get a kick out of life. Were all of these risks really just a scared child trying to get back his sense of fear?

Masking emotions allowed me to excel as a grownup. I joined the army and really found my place. Here was a place where my risk taking could be rewarded.

Trauma followed me out of my childhood and into the army. Looking back it was as if we were marching in lockstep together. After several major events I knew my psyche needed out and I released after a short but exciting three years.

The experimenting that began with alcohol in my early teens turned into a full blown addiction by my early twenties with a trip into rehab for a month. Eventually fate would land me in prison – as a correctional officer where I spent nine years of my life deep-diving into the never ending well of despair that is our criminal justice system.

Of everything that happened to me, in my childhood, the army and working at the jail, I never considered anything I did courageous. How could I. I was never afraid.

This scares me though. Writing this down, wondering how all of you are going to react. Will you accept me? Will you shun me? Will I even read it?

I feel courageous when I share with people. It excites me in a good way. Will something I say resonate? Will the words I speak ignite a feeling in you? One you haven’t felt in a while, or haven’t been able to express?

I was only able to go back to the memory of my father through years of introspection and therapy. It was through the act of recovery that I was able to see just how courageous I was. Not in that moment as a child. Not because I survived all of the perils life could throw at me. But because I could take that moment, that moment I turned off that emotion of fear, and I could have it back. 

Sometimes memories can be about something that you didn’t see. Like a red convertible in the driveway. I can go back there now.

I can tell that little boy whose father just left him that everything is going to be alright, and the courageous part about my life is now I’m telling it to you.

  • R.B.

Warm regards,

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

The moment you stare into someone’s car

The moment you stare into someone’s car

Have you ever pulled your car up to a stoplight and glanced over at the driver in the car beside you.  Magically, somehow they know you’re looking at them.  They stare right back.  

Just by looking at someone, you change your relationship with them. 

By looking at something, you change the nature of its existence.

Wayne Dyer reinforced this notion when he wrote:
When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.   

When we look at things repeatedly through the same lens, our thoughts and feelings about them don’t tend to change.  By looking at our experiences through the eyes of others, we are offered the gift of being able to see them differently.  Our world expands.

We can’t change what happened to us. We can change the way we view it. 
There’s incredible power in that. 

Warm regards,

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

It’s all a matter of perspective

It’s all a matter of perspective

Last week was a bit of a rough one for me, and my brother, bless his heart, sent me flowers.

Touched by the gesture, I brought the flowers to work so that they could be enjoyed by all.  The first client who walked in the building noticed them immediately.

“Who died?” he asked.

The second person who entered the building was someone we’ve known for a while.  When she saw the flowers she leaned over, closed her eyes and took a deep breath.  Sighing, she sat down to wait for her appointment, a serene expression on her face. 

The exact same experience, but very different reactions.  Proof that emotions aren’t created by situations… rather, they are the result of how we interpret them.  It’s our thoughts that determine how we feel, not the actual events. The wonderful thing about this is that it gives us a powerful degree of control over how we experience the world.

If you want to learn more, give us a call or send a message.  We’re gathering names for out next Emotions group, starting in the near future.  If you’ve already taken the Emotions program, the Healthy Living course may be for you.  It’s a hands-on chance to apply all that we’ve learned to our daily lives.

Warm wishes,

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

I’m fixing my Karma

I’m fixing my Karma

Okay, so maybe I was not perfect this week.  Pretty good at work, but a bit on the grouchy side with my husband [sorry Joe].  I think something I was worried about spilled over into the home front.  We talked it out, and all is good now.  I’m reminded of the importance of repair.  If I’ve done something thoughtless, it’s easier to allow time and distance to heal rather than having those difficult conversations.  But in the spirit of Karmic correctness, it’s always better to face up to those times when we have faltered.

I heard the expression “I’m fixing my Karma” the other day, and loved it because it makes the assumption we are all works in progress.  Walking, running, stumbling, and then getting back up again, dusting off, and trying to find our stride.  I want to work not just on forgiveness for others, but also forgiveness for myself.

Each day, we all do our best.  Perhaps that’s more than enough.
Warm regards, 

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