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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

You never know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been

You never know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been

“Don’t look back, stay in the present,” people may tell you, urging you not to dwell on the difficult times. 

Yet…like trickles of rain finding their way through creases in a rock, our minds revisit old scenes and emotions, replaying them in an endless loop that interrupts sleep.

It may feel like you’re haunted, having these old stories replay over and over in your head. In reality, it’s our brain’s way of pointing is to the things we need to examine in order to recover.

“You never know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been.” A wise man said to me recently.  Besides the fact that’s it’s a great lead line for a country Western song, it’s also true.  Our brains know that, in order to heal, they need to repeatedly return to the site of injury, working to make sense of what happened.  The problem is, when we do it alone, we tend to view our past the same way, over and over.   Knowing where you’ve been helps navigate the way forward.  Doing so in good company provides a fresh lens through which to view it.

Join the Landing Strong on-line experience.  Call now to register for programs starting in November and January. We’ll help you find your way.

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

Honouring who we are

Honouring who we are

This week, I devoted time to sort through stuff in my basement with the intention of clearing out junk that has accumulated over the years.  I found a box filled with all of my report cards from elementary school to the end of high school, as well as some journals, creative writing assignments, and art books.  I’ve always believed that life is about constant change, striving to be a better person, growing, adapting and taking on new challenges.  Looking back at my younger self, I’m not so sure that I’ve actually changed.  There’s a consistency to who I’ve always been that’s reflected through the art, writing, and report cards of my younger self.  
 
Striving for personal growth, fighting for social justice, practicing the voice of leadership, and expressing my thoughts through writing and art are themes that have been consistent through my entire life.
 
Even in grade five, my stories were about trauma and redemption.  I wrote about hardship, regrouping, and finding the strength to get life back on track.  In all of these stories, people had to trust in themselves and others in order to move forward.   
 
There are many days in my adult life where I question myself, and wonder if I have what it takes. Looking back, I realize I’m on the right path.  Some days, I’ll do it well.  Some days… not so much.  
 
Despite how much I think I’ve changed, maybe underneath it all we’re not that much different from who we’ve always been.  The gifts we’re born with that make us unique, are there from the beginning.  It’s a matter of how much we honour and develop them that determines whether or not we’re on the right path. 
 
If you’re injured or finding yourself off-track, it’s likely not because you’re a different person now, but rather, that you haven’t yet figured out how to continue being the person you’ve always been.  
 
We’re not just a trauma recovery centre.  We’re also a centre for resiliency and personal growth, for both those who have been injured as well as those who love and support them.  
 
If you’re interested, we still have space in our next caregiver program.  Honour who you’ve always been, but learn to take care of yourself in the process.  

Warm wishes,

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

Snow day

Snow day

Do you remember dreaming of snow days as a child?  I’d cross my fingers in hopes that school would be cancelled.  Snow day.  These two beautiful words evoke excitement and anticipation, with the thought of an unstructured and unsupervised day laying ahead.  Even as we grow older, the freedom associated with snow days persists.  Some of us might make a last-minute rush to the grocery store to stock up on storm chips.  Others might curl up on the couch for Netflix marathons.  
 
Although I know that heavy snowfalls will precipitate massive cancellations in my client schedule, I have to confess… a part of me gets excited.  I’ll have a whole day of no structure, and little supervision.  What kind of trouble can I get myself into, I wonder?
 
Okay, I know I’ll end up using this time to catch up on overdue work.  But it’s incredibly satisfying knowing that I don’t have to. 
 
At Landing Strong, we recognize that snow days aren’t as much fun for everyone.  Driving in such conditions is stressful.  For those of you in first responder roles, we acknowledge that you are putting your coats on as we are coming home and taking ours off.  For this, we thank you.  
 
Snow days are a reminder that the emotional meaning of current events is coloured by the lens of past experiences.  What might be positive for one person could be alarming or stressful to another.  Trauma is like that too. 
 
Trauma isn’t about what happens to us, rather, it’s the personal meaning of the event in the context of our lives that’s important. 
 
That’s why we can’t judge others’ reactions to things when they differ from ours.  We haven’t walked in their shoes, or seen things through the lens of their experiences.  By seeking to understand, we diminish the aloneness of their experience. 

Warm wishes,

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