Managing Triggers

Managing Triggers

“I’ve learned how to be in the present”
“How?” Asked the boy
“I find a quiet spot and shut my eyes and breathe”
“That’s good, and then?”
“Then I focus.”
“What do you focus on?”
“Cake” said the mole.
True confessions time.  When I’m in yoga, trying to clear my mind, I may not think about cake, but I do contemplate having a lovely London Fog at the café next to the studio when class is over.  It’s usually when I am really uncomfortable, experiencing the full force of my cardboard stiff body that I allow my mind to drift to more pleasant things.
It’s normal not to think about the things that are uncomfortable.  When we are at work doing uncomfortable tasks, that’s an essential skill.  Knowing how to unpack it at the end of the day, though, is often a skill that needs to be developed.

Warm regards,

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

The beauty of simplicity

The beauty of simplicity

Summer is often a time of travel and exploration.  This year will be no different.

I won’t be leaving the province, but instead will enjoy a staycation, looking more closely at the wonder of things closer to home.  

Last weekend, Joe and I walked a dark laneway near our cottage, surrounded by hundreds of fireflies dancing in the darkness around us.  It was our own miniature Canada Day celebration courtesy of Mother Nature.  Truly magical.

A few months ago, during a full moon, I managed to capture the above image on my iphone. If I hadn’t happened to wake up in the night, I would have missed it.

Tomorrow, a farmer’s market in Belleveau Cove will have my attention.  I’ve discovered that Tyler from Bear River has the best oregano bread I’ve ever tasted.  Bliss for a mere $5 a loaf.  In a few weeks’ time, we’ll be sea kayaking near Yarmouth, an area of Nova Scotia we’ve little explored.

Sure, there are things that leave me more than a bit uneasy if I allow my thoughts to dwell on them. 

The world is in an unprecedented state of unrest.  

I don’t know when I’ll next get to see my son, or extended family who live in Ontario.  

I just need to speak to my 87 year old father to be reminded of the meaning of resilience.  An artist, he is little perturbed by the state of the world, focussing instead on the incredible landscapes he recreates on canvases.  He understands the secret…  The beauty of simplicity.  Walking his tangled garden, capturing small glimpses of beauty, and finding creative ways of recreating them.  

Way to go dad, thanks for the inspiration!

Warm regards,

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

Pacino’s moment of compassion

Pacino’s moment of compassion

Another great restorative yoga class this week left me feeling calm and centered (thanks Lisa!). At the end of the class, we practice Savasana, a pose where we lie silently on our backs, eyes closed. This exercise isn’t a physically challenging one, but it is one where the mind tends to wander. During this part, our instructor played a wonderful rendition of the tune “Sea of Love,” the theme song from the 1989 box office movie sensation. In this moment, where we are supposed to be clearing our minds, I was replaying a scene from the movie involving Al Pacino, who plays the role of a burnt-out cop. He is part of a sting operation designed to apprehend people with outstanding warrants, luring them in with the promise of having breakfast with the American Major League baseball star Dave Winfield. Everything was going smoothly until one late-comer shows up holding the hand of his young son.

“Hey, am I too late?” he asks.

“You got an invitation?” Al Pacino demands. The father hands over a piece of paper.

“Ernest Lee, the invitation’s for you only,” Pacino asserts.

“I can hardly meet Dave Winfield without takin’ my boy”, the man pleads.

Not wanting to ruin what was clearly a positive relationship between father and son, Pacino decides to cut him a break.

“We’re all booked up.” Pacino discreetly flashes his police badge, signalling to the father that the baseball player event was a trap.

“Thanks man,” the father backs away with his son.

“Catch you later,” Pacino responds before driving away.

It’s a dark film, about a dark topic, but many years later that’s the scene I remember… someone in a dark place, showing an act of compassion.

Memory and association are closely related. It is not the actual events that create our emotions, it’s how we process and remember these events. If I were stressed out maybe I would have remembered the fact that Al Pacino was a drunk and that the movie was actually about a serial killer. Because I was relaxed, I just remembered the good bit… the compassion.

This is a reminder for me to take the extra time to care for myself. If I take this extra time the bad things I may have experienced don’t seem quite so awful. (And believe me, in my seven years acting as Chief Psychologist in a federal penitentiary, there was bad stuff). If I take the time to process these events, they don’t affect me as much. I am more able to remember the good aspects of my job.

Many of us have experienced or witnessed incredibly traumatic or dark things as a routine part of our daily work. Looking back, how we feel about them is largely determined by how we remember them. The lens of trauma only remembers things the same way, repeated over and over. By welcoming the perspective of others in a safe and supportive environment, we open ourselves to seeing things in a new light, often changing the way these events emotionally impact us.

Link to Al Pacino’s Sea of Love