I have a piece of wildlife art on my wall: a majestic stag, staring intensely at me from a forest glade. When I look at it, my body settles. In fact, when I’m on a break between sessions, I often sit on my couch and stare at this deer, looking at it as it looks back at me. A couple moments of mindful reflection in the blur of an otherwise busy day.
A few weeks ago, I noticed a client standing in front of this piece of art, staring at it thoughtfully. I immediately assumed it was bringing him the same joy it brought to me. When I observed him more closely, I saw a flash of pleasure dance across his face. I suddenly remembered that he was a hunter.
“You’re thinking about shooting that deer!” I proclaimed, somewhat shocked.
“No,” he said to me, grinning slyly. “I’m thinking of cooking it up over a campfire, and eating a great venison steak.”
It’s all a matter of perspective. It doesn’t matter what we’re dealing with in life, there are always many ways to look at any situation.
A snow day this week could be a headache, or cause for celebration.
Are you aware of the direction your thoughts take you? Our automatic thoughts are powerful guides in terms of how we interpret the world around us. They drive our emotions. It’s generally not a situation that causes an emotion, but rather the way we think about it that drives the feeling.
If we want to change our feelings, we have to change our thoughts. We can’t always control our environment, but we can control how we choose to think about it.
One of the most impactful ways of gaining a new perspective is to work within groups. We’re able to see ourselves, not just through our own lenses, but also through the lens of others. A carefully facilitated and safe therapeutic group provides the ideal venue.
We offer a variety of workshops and programs. Landing Strong members are welcome to join at any time. New programs are being launched on a regular basis (check out the “Programs and Workshops” tab under LandingStrong.com) We hope you’ll join us. Spoiler alert: Keep an eye out for our emotions management program, coming soon!
Warm thoughts from the Landing Strong Team,
Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych. Founder, Landing Strong
Twenty years ago I did some time in a federal penitentiary.
It’s not what you might think. I didn’t break the law. I was acting in the role of Chief Psychologist for four hundred federal male offenders. Trying to help them undo the harm they had done to others.
Truth is, there are some wrongs that simply can’t be righted, no matter how hard we try. The dead can’t come back to life, and some emotional injuries run too deep to be healed. Figuring out how to lessen the emotional impact of such loss is incredibly important, both for the victims and the perpetrators. Otherwise, there is no moving forward.
During this time I met Pierre Allard, an amazing Chaplain who has been championing the Restorative Justice movement in Canada for decades. He told me of a reconciliation group he had facilitated, where a group of offenders who had committed murder met with family members of victims of murder. The goal was for the two groups to sit in a room together, so the men who had committed the crimes could hear how the loss of a loved one had impacted the survivors. My discussion with Pierre centered not on the actual meeting, but rather, the minutes leading up to it.
The family members were brought into the room first. Many were pale and out of shape. Grief had visibly been affecting a number of them physically. Their eyes were bloodshot, rimmed by dark circles from decades of sleepless nights. They walked with slumped shoulders and shuffled gaits. Avoiding eye contact with one another, they clutched their coats tightly around themselves, despite the warmth of the room. They spoke hesitantly, their thoughts jumbled with the powerful unprocessed emotions that they were experiencing.
Then the offenders came in. They entered with straight backs and sure strides, carrying well-sculpted bodies, the result of countless hours in the weight room. They sat together with comfort and familiarity. Articulate and thoughtful, they spoke of their deep regrets and immense shame. Their clear voices were indications of having spent many years processing their feelings and experiences with professional staff within the facility.
I remembered this story recently as I witnessed the impact of trauma on the loved ones affected by it. It is not just the immediate victims who are injured. Those who love and support them are also powerfully affected. Secondary traumatization can be profound. In many ways, these people too have experienced a profound loss. They may not have been in the direct line of fire, but for many, the person who came home injured from work may not be recognizable. Years, and even decades, are spent trying to restore connection. Countless efforts are made to end the isolation that can accompany the injury of a loved one. They wait patiently, looking up a lonely road, waiting for their loved ones to return home. Soldiers in their own right, they travel a journey that is seldom discussed. Used to turning attention to the injured family member, it can be hard to know how to care for themselves.
Let’s not forget anyone on this journey. Not those who have been injured in the line of work, nor those who support them. Whether it is in the role of a spouse, partner, child or friend, we are all affected by trauma.
Warm thoughts from the Landing Strong Team,
Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych. Founder, Landing Strong
As we gear up for the holidays, it’s easy to get caught up with the demands of the season. For many, the extra load can feel somewhat overwhelming. With this in mind, we have created something special for you: 8 Holiday hacks to keep your recovery on track. In this special booklet, we offer tips and strategies for staying sane in a time of increased demand. We’ll also be sending mini versions of these strategies to you through social media channels over the next few weeks.
Want to start the New Year off right? We have some exciting new programs launching in January that we invite you to join. It’s important to call soon so that we can arrange insurance coverage for you to attend.
Care for the Caregiver Part 1: Supporting and Thriving
Learn Strategies to be a stronger, more resilient support for someone you care about who has PTSD or other Operational Stress Injuries
An encore presentation for those who could not get into the first round.
Monday January 7, 2019 10-3 pm
Care for the Caregiver Series Part 2: Effective communication skills
Learn strategies to reconnect in a meaningful way
Friday January 18, 2019 10-3 pm
New Year New You Part 1
This year, set yourself up for success. Regroup, recalibrate and reclaim your life.
A program for military members, veterans and first responders.
Friday January 11, 2019 10-3 pm
Reconnect with yourself
Discover your true potential
Group sizes are limited, book now to avoid disappointment. Call (902) 472-2972 for more information or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ever been so obsessed with something that it’s all you can think about? That’s kinda me these days. I constantly think about the Landing Strong Program. It’s almost all I talk about. It’s become a bit of a problem for me. I seem to have sidestepped small talk, and get straight to the point as I’m so hungry to make it happen.
I’m planning the open house, which will be this summer, and imagine what it will feel like when we receive word that we have been offered funding so that people might access services barrier-free.
I imagine myself being active with program participants: hiking, biking, golfing, fishing, swimming, doing yoga, pilates, and stretch classes. Heck as a clinician who sits all day, I’m excited about being active together.
I envision active, experiential learning, where we work in community to remove barriers, address fears, and instill confidence and hope.
I see laughter, and I see tears. Most importantly, I see people regaining the ability to connect with and express their emotions appropriately, even after years of feeling angry or flat. I feel their hope and witness the dawn of comprehension wash over their faces when they realize that recovery is possible.
I anticipate people discovering creative aspects of themselves that they did not know existed, or that have been long forgotten. I’ll know it’s there by the spark I will see in their eyes as they talk about what they’re doing. They will tell me excitedly how they plan to carry it over into the community.
I see families engaged, and happily involved with program participants and our larger community through our family support program. I definitely see us all going to on-tree together. Maybe a picnic at the beach or having some fun at a local gym or pool.
I am planning the intricate details of the graduation ceremony; even making small gifts to give to participants as I plan the celebration.
I see it that clearly. I hope that you are able to join me.
I had a first responder in my office this week who totally inspired me.
In his journey of recovery, he’s picked up a new hobby. It’s healthy, active, and encompasses much of his free time when he’s not working. He wonders if this new obsession is healthy. He’s been great about being home when his partner is home, but in his down time, he’s all over this new passion.
I asked him about his drinking, which had been reaching alarming levels in the past few years. Attending choir practice is a routine form of debriefing where he works.
“Funny you should mention that,” he responded. “I’ve been so busy, I haven’t had time to drink. I’m down to one beer day.”
“How about your anxiety?” I asked.
“Been too busy to think about it,” he grinned.
Sounds to me like recovery. Recovery isn’t about not doing things. It’s about replacing unhealthy habits with more positive alternatives. Things that bring us joy.
That’s one of the reasons we are incorporating leisure pursuits and physical activities as core elements of the Landing Strong programming. We know that development of hobbies and interests is not easy, particularly when life feels overwhelming.
So we do it together. Have a wonderful long weekend and Happy Canada Day!
I remember when the kids were little, they had a pet Betta fish. For some reason, that only they would understand, they named it “Llama.” One day, I asked my son to clean the fish water. He happily obliged, but left the small round fish bowl on the bathroom sink (with the fish in it). We went out for dinner, and when we returned, the fish had jumped out of the bowl. A thorough search led to a ghastly discovery… Llama had completely dried up on the bathroom floor. So dry in fact that I could not pick him up by hand, and had to use a putty knife to gently chip him off. His poor dehydrated form came up in one piece, except for a small segment of his fin that remained cemented to the floor. I dropped him into the fish bowl, preparing to dispense of him.
To my surprise, when I picked up the bowl, I noticed that Llama appeared to be breathing. Watching intently, I saw him magically rehydrate, and slowly regain movement and life. By the end of an hour, it would have been impossible to know that he had been near death. The only telltale sign being a small piece of missing fin.
Trying to understand the miracle I had witnessed, I did some research and learned that Betta fishes were discovered living in puddles, drainage ditches, and rice paddies in China. Extreme changes in environment forced it to adapt, finding a way to survive harsh conditions. The instinct to jump, and find a bigger puddle had backfired on our poor friend. Natural survival adaptation, however, allowed it to shut down its metabolism and wait out the “drought” until the opportunity to rehydrate presented itself. Like a dried up puddle being replenished by rain.
Llama the betta fish dried up and came back to life.
Although he made a full recovery and lived for a long time after, he had a chip in his fin (a piece of the middle missing) from the rescue. It didn’t affect his ability to swim, but remained with him, an understated reminder of his resilience.
Recovery from trauma does not mean going back to being exactly the same person we were before our injury. It means learning to move forward: wiser, smarter, and better prepared to protect ourselves against future injury.
Connecting with Belinda
Founder Belinda Seagram, Ph.D. shares regular blog posts to inspire you during your journey.