The face of courage

The face of courage

They say courage is born on the battlefield.  That may be true, but I think just as often it arises in the aftermath, when we work to face our emotions. Anyone in a service profession knows about putting a “game face” on.  You know it, showing no fear even when you are about to walk into a situation that is dangerous, frightening or threatening.  Joe Frazier knew it when walked into the ring to face Muhammad Ali, arguably one of the greatest boxers of all time.  Ali had a total of 56 professional wins, 37 of them by knockout.  So when Frazier walked in the ring, he likely knew that he had a 50% chance of being knocked unconscious.  Yet he did it anyway.  
 
Shoving our emotions aside in times of distress is important and often necessary.  It allows us to remain functional.  The challenge is knowing when and how to take our game face off, and look deeper to discover what it is that we are actually feeling.
 
In treatment groups I’ve had Special Forces Members, Police, RCMP, Firefighters, Paramedics, EOD Techs, Corrections Officers and Trauma Counsellors say the same thing.  Coming to treatment was one of the hardest, but most important things they have ever done.
 
So perhaps courage does take many forms.  The obvious ones, and the more invisible form as we all come together to regroup, recalibrating our central nervous systems, and reclaiming important aspects of self that may have been lost along the way.
 
In my mind, that is indeed the face of courage. 
 
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

The meaning is what allows us to tolerate the pain

The meaning is what allows us to tolerate the pain

Every military member and first responder signs up knowing their job involves risk.  You may not know exactly what the risks are, but have a general sense that things could get very ugly.  Why do we do it?  Why expose ourselves to harmful things when we know that there’s a significant chance of personal injury?
 
Why support a family member who may be taking these risks?
 
Why would someone willingly enter a burning building, respond to a fatal motor vehicle accident, take on the responsibility of making life-or-death decisions, or be in the role of caring for those who have injured others?  
 
We do it because deep down, we believe we can make a difference. 
 
Whether it’s through direct exposure in the field, or more indirectly through the viewing of images and videos, there’s no doubt that repeated trauma exposure takes a toll.   
 
Through witnessing one another’s experiences, we’re able to appreciate the difference each person made.  We’re a community that walks with you to understand your injury and help you reclaim parts of your life that may have been lost.  
 
Come walk with us this Fall, we’re running group programs that are well-suited for both new and returning members of our team.  We’ll be sharing details on our social media pages this week so be sure to check us out on Facebook or our website
 
With gratitude, 

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

Small steps in the right direction

Small steps in the right direction

It’s supposed to be spring, but it’s still cold outside.  We’ve had a couple glimpses of sun and warmth, only to be quickly reminded that winter isn’t too far in our rear view mirror.  Remember, objects in mirror are closer than they appear.  This year, more so than many I remember, the wait for spring feels long.  Winter brought with it a lot of ice, restricting movement and keeping us confined to our homes perhaps more than usual.  With the promise of warmer days just around the corner, many of us are likely seeding our lawns, tilling soil, and preparing for growth in the new season.  

This growth can take a lot of forms.  It may be literally working in your yard, or might look a little different: inviting someone new out to coffee; speaking to a friend or family member from your heart; trying something new; making the decision to get help; or continuing your growth through participating in a workshop.  

What kind of growth are you looking for this season?  What specific steps can you take towards reaching that goal?  

Remember, small steps in the right direction eventually get us somewhere big.

Warm regards,

Belinda

Belinda vs. Brussel sprouts

Belinda vs. Brussel sprouts

When I was little, my mother repeatedly tried to get me to eat Brussel sprouts. 

“I can’t…I don’t like them!” I’d exclaim

“I didn’t give you many”, she’d insist. “Don’t leave the table until you’ve eaten them up”.

And with these simple words, the challenge was on.  Belinda vs. Brussel sprouts.

Resting my chin on my hands, I’d stare down the offending cabbages.  Determined not to weaken my resolve, I alternated my gaze between the congealing green lumps in front of me, and the painfully slow moving hands of the wall clock.   Eventually, she’d give in, removing the plate and sending me upstairs to my room. I’d won…or so I thought.

I’m reminded of the fact that sometimes if we really don’t want to do something, no-one can make us do it. Even if it may be good for us.

The funny thing is, I don’t actually mind Brussel sprouts now. It’s all a matter of how it’s prepared.

Trying new things is hard, and stressful.  Like making the decision to begin therapy, or sign up for a treatment group.

“But I don’t do groups!” you may exclaim.

Ah yes…remember, it all boils down to how it’s done.

We’re cooking up some great programs for you. 

Starting May 24 and running five successive Fridays, Landing Strong is offering Stop faking good and start feeling good: A program for managing emotions.  I’ll be co-leading with Psychologist Patricia MacDonald and Trauma Yoga Therapist Caelin Nadin. A powerhouse team who know how to have fun.   Even if programs aren’t normally your thing, come out and give it a try…  

It’ll be good for you 😉 

Drop us a line at info@landingstrong.com or call to reserve your spot 902 472-2972.  The program is already half full so book soon to avoid disappointment. We will work with your insurance providers to obtain authorization for you to attend.

Warm regards,

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