Thursday, December 27, 2012

Beating the Blues of a Deployed Spouse

Brian M. Murray, MS, IMH

Having a spouse or loved one who is deployed either in the military, as a missionary for a church or on assignment with company related business then chances are at some point the blues will kick in missing that other person. For the person who is deployed or on assignment the trip is often like an adventure staying busy and focused on the task at hand. Adjusting to other cultures and travel become time consuming. For the person at home life goes on as usual minus the spouse. After a little bit of time the at home spouse begins to feel the void and time missed spent with the other person. This is often when the blues kick in really missing them being a part of their everyday life.

Deployed spouse blues is similar to depression in how it is handled. Isolating and spending too much time alone leads to similar symptoms of depression. It is different however as the blues are just that, feeling down by longing for what is missing. Depression comes with a set of specific criteria that defines it as depression. Some of the overlap of the deployed spouse blues versus depression are poor sleeping habits, feeling sad or empty for most of the day, feelings of restlessness or slowed down, easily fatigued and diminished concentration. The reason for this is the distraction of thoughts of the other person being gone and adjusting to living life without them for period of time. Suddenly the home becomes a one person responsibility. Children, pets, maintenance and everything else that goes along with running a household can become difficult.

So if a person is feeling bluesy from a spouse spending chunk of time away from home what can be done about it? Interestingly, the solution is the same as depression. Get busy! Do not isolate or shrink back from friends and family. If anything engage more than before. Do not skip social functions or call in sick to work. Often there is time when spouses spend time together such as in the evening hours. Fill that time with other activities so as not to fill that time with the emptiness and lonely feelings without the other person there. Take walks, go to the park, library, bookstore, exercise or something else during that time preferably outside of the home and if that is not an option then find projects to work on at home. The idea is to create a distraction.

Now for some good news. Feeling the loss of a deployed loved one is an indication of love for the other person. Understanding that feeling, that void, shows just how much the other person brings meaning and joy to your life. Spend some time reflecting on the relationship and allow yourself to embrace the moment when the two of you will reunite. Sometimes spending time apart helps the heart grow fonder and for the long haul can greatly enhance a marriage.

One last suggestion, before the other person gets home, take some time a few days out to prepare the home for their return. To give an idea of what this might look like think in terms of a mini-honeymoon. Don’t just tell them how much they were missed, show them and let them see just how very much they are a special part of your life.

About the author- Brian M Murray is a devoted professional helping people overcome difficult obstacles in life. He is a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern located in Orlando and Winter Park Florida working as a counselor in a private practice setting at The LifeWorks Group.

Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint. "Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2012), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit or call 407-647-7005"


Friday, December 21, 2012

Top Ten Reasons Why Familiies With Mental Illness Issues Avoid Counseling

By Matt W Sandford

People don’t always do what’s best. Actually, in the grand scheme, probably most of us would, if we could look back with objectivity, need to acknowledge that many of our choices were full of self interest and didn’t work out as we hoped nor satisfied our long term goals. But when it comes to mental illness in our family, there’s more at stake than our own comfort or the comfort of our loved one, isn’t there? There could be a lot of motivations behind someone’s choice to not pursue mental health services for a loved one. I am going to offer ten “thinking traps” or ways folks may get hung up and so avoid doing what is needed, in no special order.  

1.      “What Will People Think”

Many people still shy away from getting help through counseling, seeing it as stigmatizing or embarrassing to the person and the family that raised that person, as if having mental illness means that someone must have done something wrong. They chose to hold people’s opinions in higher regard than the best interests of their family member.

2.      “I Don’t Want Them To Be Labeled or Treated Differently”

      In this case the family member believes that if someone gets mental health treatment that their family member will forever be relegated to a segment of society that is looked down upon and either pitied or bullied or taken advantage of. And there is reason for such concerns – because it does happen. There will always be people who misunderstand and mistreat those who are seen as different. And yet, their family member is likely already being misunderstood and mistreated, because they have a mental illness that is going untreated and therefore is not managed and not making improvements. The best way for the family member to overcome being labeled and mistreated would be to get the treatment they need and improve their functioning.

3.      “It’s Not That Bad” or “They Are Doing Okay”

            This is straight up denial of the severity of the dysfunction their family member is suffering. They may not have an understanding of the nature of mental illness, thinking “they are just going through a phase”. Or they may be attributing the problems to circumstances and saying – “well, when such and such changes they will recover or snap out of it”. It may just be stone walling, putting off the inevitable. Or it may be they simply can’t accept reality. In some cases it may be due to mental illness on the part of the family member as well, or that they grew up in a family environment that was so dysfunctional that they really do have trouble defining what is healthy or appropriate in terms of behavior.

4.      “I Am Against Medication”

           I have encountered many folks who have an aversion to psychotropic medications. They somehow see them very differently from medications used to treat biological conditions, somehow deciding that brain chemistry is different in some way than being biological. Many say they fear their family member becoming dependent on a medication for the rest of their life, as if it would become a crutch or become an addiction. Well, crutches help people who can’t walk effectively without them. It seems that walking effectively would be the issue. As to the addiction issue, if they simply mean the person would need it to function effectively, then it is the same as the crutch issue. If they fear that their family member would develop tolerance of the drug and/or go through withdrawal if they were to go off the drug, then I can appreciate those challenges. However, these issues still seem less threatening than the predicament of the family member who needs medication to go through life going without something that would improve their quality of life in the present. These are common issues that a psychiatrist should be able to help them navigate.

5.      “We Can’t Afford It”

           This is certainly a common objection and I can appreciate the complexity and distress of this issue. Certainly all the available opportunities should be pursued to see if there is help available – insurance, government aid, community services, family or friends or the body of Christ, as well as pro bono services. The point is, is this an excuse, or has the family actually explored the options?

6.      “It Will Expose Family Secrets” or “I Can’t Face the Family Stuff That Would Come Up”

           This thought is tied to the “what will people think” idea, but in this case the fear is not about what people will say or think about my family member or about the stigma of mental illness, but what may be “found out” through the grape vine about our family secrets. (Let it be stated here that all counseling is covered by confidentially laws). Or it may be about a family member who believes that they cannot deal with the family issues that may be uncovered through the psychotherapy process. And so what it means is that they don’t get help for the family member because they are avoiding dealing with their own psychological issues.            

7.      “Counseling is All About Blame” – Meaning it Would Require the Family to Change Their Dysfunctional Coping

           Not only do some family members fear having to confront family secrets or their own skeletons, but beyond that they may comprehend (or it can also be subconscious) that exposing a family member’s mental illness may require something of them, meaning they would have to change in some way. Families subconsciously gravitate towards the status quo, clinging to unspoken family rules and roles and expectations. And so, if their family member gets help and changes, it will affect them and they will have to change as well – maybe change their habits, their priorities, give up something important or comfortable to them or take responsibility in some new way.   

8.      “I Want to Take Care of Them Myself” 

          This viewpoint may be motivated by a few of the other objections that have been stated, but it may also stand on its own. In that case, what is behind this thinking could be the belief that “only I really know what is best for my family member” or “I am more loving and devoted to them that some professional”.  However well meaning this family member is, they simply are not likely to possess the knowledge and experience concerning mental health issues to provide the treatment that is necessary. There are a number of serious mental illnesses that require a treatment team of professionals, including medical doctors, psychiatrists and psychotherapists to treat the individual in coordination. This team approach is very important when it comes to addressing co-morbidity, which means situations when a patient carries more than one diagnosis at the same time.

9.      Fear of Rejection/Disapproval/Anger/Retaliation by the mentally ill family member

           There is certainly a real possibility of such reactions from the mentally ill family member and the concerns are warranted, especially in situations when this family member has demonstrated that they can be violent. And yet, where does that leave the family? Because the family member has this proclivity, they may become harmful or violent at other times they don’t get their way and thus the family will live in this fear for themselves and others so long as the family member does not get treatment. The family will need to be courageous and accept that the road to safety is through risking rejection by the mentally ill member. Besides, if they get help for this family member, it may be that some day they would be able to appreciate what was done and why.  

10.  Sometimes, someone in the family subconsciously, or consciously, is getting their needs met through the family member’s dysfunctional living style

          Maybe they are benefitting in some way. Maybe the person intimidates people that they don’t like, or had a grudge against? Maybe the mentally ill family member keeps the heat off of them, that is, serves as a suitable family scapegoat? Sadly, it is possible that a family member holds resentment or spite towards their mentally ill family member and so wants them to stay in their state of suffering. An example of someone getting their needs met consciously through the family member staying stuck in their mental illness would be the person who fears that if their family member’s condition would improve that it would mean they would lose the person’s disability check.

I want to express that this list is not intended to communicate that there are no legitimate concerns involving participation in counseling. No doubt, counseling for a family member can be challenging, disruptive and costly. But avoiding counseling is like the passage in James about the man who looks at himself in the mirror and then goes away and forgets what he looks like.  James says that rather the one who acts on what he sees and perseveres, “will be blessed in his doing”. James 1: 23-25

And wouldn’t we all do well to heed the statement of James 4:17 “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” If you really don’t know if your family member needs counseling, but you have concerns, it cannot hurt to seek out a psychological evaluation, rather than simply ride it out.

It’s all about the courage to get help.


Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint.

"Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2012), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit or call 407-647-7005"




Thursday, December 20, 2012

Could My Child Become a Violent Shooter?

By Chris Hammond

Yes, no and maybe.  Remember the Hulk?  A normal looking man who turn into a green monster in a matter of seconds.  As a man he seems kind, understanding, logical, sympathetic, and systematic but given the right opportunity, he becomes unreasonable, angry, aggressive, spontaneous, and violent.  In a very simplistic way, this illustration clearly describes what happens to a violent shooter.  Yes, there are personality profiles, addictions, disorders, environments, and relationships that all contribute to the likelihood that a person will become a shooter but the bottom line is there is still a willingness to become the monster that lurks deep inside.

Who does this happen to?  Be honest for a second and recall your last monster like appearance.  Were you ranting and raving about something meaningless, were you throwing something across the room, were you crying uncontrollably, or were you wishing harm on someone?  If you can honestly assess your own monster like tendencies than you have the ability to discern your child’s monster like tendencies.  Everyone has this, it is just a matter of degree and triggers.

How does this happen?  It is like the flick of a switch.  One moment everything seems fine and then the switch is flicked and things are out of control.  Behind the switch however is a trigger that provoked you or your child into becoming the monster.  So the key is to know your own switches first and then you can more clearly see your child’s.  After all, some of your switches are likely to be the same or at least similar areas of frustration.

Why does this happen?  Well, within all of us lies an evil nature that if properly provoked could result in behavior uncharacteristic of you or your child.  Yes, it is hard to believe that your sweet innocent child might have some evil lurking inside but there is only person to be born without an evil nature and subsequently die without committing a sin and it is not your child.  Accepting the reality is far better than living in a fairytale land and pretending that your child is incapable of any harm. 

What can I do to stop it?  Once you have accepted the possibility that your child could cause harm to others and learned their triggers, then you are in an excellent place to discern what type of care or treatment is needed.  If your child has numerous violent video games, talks about killing people, is easily angered into rage, has a history of causing harm to animals, or shows great disregard for authority, then your child needs immediate help from a trained professional.  If the reaction is less severe, then modeling proper behavior is the best place to start.  Your child will learn far more from how you act rather than what you say.

So yes, everyone is capable of evil.  No, this does not mean that your child will become a shooter.  But maybe, through good modeling in keeping your parent monster in check, you can teach your child to keep their monster from coming out and harming others.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mental Health & Accepting It's Time to get Help for Your Child

Brian M Murray, MS, IMH

“If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves.” ― C.G. Jung

A child in an elementary school is behaving differently from the others; not only in his behavior but also that he says things that children in the 4th grade usually do not talk about. He wants to bring harm to others. This harm described as burning or hitting others. When he is questioned by school administrators he just laughs and does not answer the question. The teacher is always calling the school staff as the child bullies others and will not behave in class or work on assignments. The school calls the parents; a meeting is scheduled with a school psychologist and testing confirms a diagnosis.

The parents are called for a special meeting with school administrators, the psychologist and the school advises the parents to get help outside of school to help with the troubled behavior. The parents are offended by what they are hearing and feel embarrassed and ashamed of what is being presented to them. Their pride and ego defenses spring into action and demand that the school do something more to take care of the problem. The parents seek someone to blame whether it is a teacher or an inadequate school program. Certainly it is not the child, it must be the school.  The school is doing everything it can with what it has been equipped with to handle such cases but it is not enough in this situation. Further counseling is recommended outside of the school.

What is going on?

While this is not a common scenario is does happen with some consistency. Ask most school administrators and they will tell you of a scenario similar to this one that often unfolds every school year. There is one (or more) student who need mental health treatment. The student is constantly attracting the attention of the school and using its resources and yet the parents are in denial over the reality that their child needs help.

This leads to a catch 22 situation. The parents want the school to handle it and the school is letting the parents know the child needs help outside the scope of what the school can provide. For the school it can become a legal matter and for the parents it becomes a matter of overcoming denial and moving into acceptance and getting their child the help they desperately need. Sometimes it takes a community to counsel a child both in and outside of the school. If a child is exhibiting behaviors and using language that are threatening to others it might be time to begin defusing what could be a potential ticking time bomb.

What to do about it?

If you are a parent and you find yourself and your child in a situation like this please know that it is okay to get help. Do not let shame and self doubt become obstacles to helping your child. Move out from a mode of thinking that the problem will just go away or your child will somehow grow out of it. Move into a mode of acceptance and understand that the problem rarely somehow will just take care of itself.  Trying to take care of the problem yourself or thinking that you can often leads to exhaustion, disappointment and no results.

One of the greatest stigmas of mental health counseling is being open to discuss counseling and overcoming the negative perception that going to a mental health professional is going be a grueling and emotionally painful experience. The inverse is actually true. Going to counseling will help a child learn how to manage their thoughts and feelings leading to improved behavior. Additionally, the parents often find help for themselves along the way learning how to cope with a child who can be emotionally and cognitively difficult to handle. Get into counseling and get the help that is needed. This does not suggest that the child is bad or there is something fundamentally flawed with the family. It means that help is needed in order to manage and cope. Professional therapists are trained to educate and help provide solutions to the problem.

Other ways to get help is to find a support group for parents of children who have the same conditions. For example, a parental support group of children with Autism, Oppositional Defiance or ADHD. There is healing and comfort in knowing that what the family is experiencing is not as uncommon as it may seem. Sharing ideas and how to handle specific problems with each other can go a long way toward self care and helping the child. Do not isolate and know there are professionals in the community who can help. They are there for a reason. It is okay to reach out and get help.

About the author- Brian M Murray is a devoted professional helping people overcome difficult obstacles in life. He is a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern located in Orlando and Winter Park Florida working as a counselor in a private practice setting at The LifeWorks Group.

Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint. “Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2012), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit or call 407-647-7005


How to Cope After a Community Disaster

Calm after Crisis - Understanding the Emotional Warning Signs & Trauma Symptoms After a Community Terrorist Attack

By Dwight Bain

A community crisis, (like the Boston Marathon Bombing), can terrorize an entire community in just a few minutes, while the recovery process to rebuild from a major critical incident may take weeks or months to sort through. The more you know about how to survive and rebuild after the crisis, the faster you can take positive action to get your personal and professional life back on track. Since community crisis events like extreme acts of violence, school shootings or terrorism are unpredictable it requires a different course of action from natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, fires and floods. What can you do right now to cope with the psychological impact of a major community crisis?

Dealing directly with your emotions will reduce the tension and stress on you, which allows you to have more energy to deal with a difficult situation. However, if you stuff your fears and frustrations in a major community crisis, your emotions can quickly blow up without warning. Exploding in rage on your children, your coworkers or your marriage partner will only make a difficult situation worse. Community crisis events are a terrible situation full of loss and difficulty for everyone. By taking action now you can move beyond feeling overwhelmed by intense stress, anger or confusion. As you follow the insight from this recovery guide, you will be taking positive steps to rebuild with the focused energy of an even stronger life for you and your family after the emergency service workers pack up and go home because your community has recovered.

To best survive a major community crisis, you need a strong combination of three key elements

- healthy coping skills
- healthy supports and a
- healthy perspective
While things will never be the same as they were before the community crisis, (like a mass shooting); the following guidelines will give you the key elements needed to get past the overwhelming stress and to find even greater strength on the other side.
- What are the dangerous warning signs of stress overload?

A major community crisis affects everyone however; it becomes dangerous to our health when the stress goes on for an extended period of time. Major stress can affect adults, children, the elderly and even pets, so it is important to be alert to watch for the danger signs of the psychological condition called, 'Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder', (commonly referred to as PTSD), in yourself, your family members and coworkers. These symptoms include any dramatic change in emotions, behavior, thought patterns or physical symptoms over the next few days, weeks or even months. Since community crisis events are a terribly stressful time for everyone and often remain stressful for days or weeks to come, there are a number of factors to be aware of to keep yourself and those who you care about safe. 

Dangerous Stress Warning Signs-
These signs are indicators that the intense stress from the critical incident is beginning to overwhelm the individual. The longer the stress symptoms occur-the greater the severity of the traumatic event on the individual. This does not imply craziness or personal weakness; rather, it simply indicates that the stress levels from the storm were too powerful for the person to manage and their body is reacting to the abnormal situation of having survived a major trauma.
It's normal to feel completely overwhelmed by a community crisis like a mass shooting or natural disaster; however there are danger signs to watch for in yourself or others that may indicate psychological trauma. Adults or children who display any of the following stress symptoms may need additional help dealing with the events of this crisis. It is strongly recommended that you seek the appropriate medical or psychological assistance if you see a lot of the physical, emotional, cognitive or behavioral symptoms listed below in you, your coworkers, or someone in your family or home, especially if these symptoms weren't present before the crisis.
Physical Symptoms:
Chills, thirst, fatigue, nausea, fainting, vomiting, dizziness, weakness, chest pain, headaches, elevated blood pressure, rapid heart rate, muscle tremors, difficulty breathing, shock symptoms, and so on.
Emotional Symptoms:
Fear, guilt, grief, panic, denial, anxiety, irritability, depression, apprehension, emotional shock, and feeling overwhelmed, loss of emotional control, and so on.
Cognitive Symptoms:
Confusion, nightmares, uncertainty, hyper-vigilance, suspiciousness, intrusive images, poor problem solving, poor abstract thinking, poor attention/memory and concentration, disorientation of time, places or people, difficulty identifying objects or people, heightened or lowered alertness, and so on.
Behavioral Symptoms:
Withdrawal, antisocial acts, inability to rest, intensified pacing, erratic movements, changes in social activity, changes in speech patterns, loss of or increase of appetite, increased alcohol consumption, and so on.
If you are in doubt about these symptoms in your life, or someone you care about, it is wise to seek the care of a physician or certified mental health professional. Better to actively deal with the stressful emotions directly to help yourself and your loved ones to immediately cope with this crisis because these emotions tend to worsen and get more intense if left untreated. Remember that there are many experienced professionals who can help you and your children recover during a time of crisis. You do not have to go through this alone.

Take action now to prevent stress from continuing to overwhelm you or the people you care about. Call a trusted friend to talk through it, reach out to clergy, or call your family doctor or counselor. If you don't know someone to call about these emotional issues, you can reach out for assistance by calling telephone hotlines which are offered at no cost to you. These numbers are often posted by local media, hospitals, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army or FEMA. If you, or someone you care about are feeling overwhelmed by stress, anxiety, guilt or grief it's important to make the call for assistance now to learn how to get past the pressure to begin to feel 'okay' again.

- How does a community crisis event affect kids? 


It depends on the age of the child. The younger the child, the more they look to their parents for emotional security and strength. If a Mom or Dad are "shell-shocked" or "numb" and not able to manage their own emotions or responsibilities; the child will feel that pressure and become very confused and further stressed. Remember, it's normal to be overwhelmed by a community crisis like a mass shooting. This is why it's so important to take care of yourself in order to take care of your children and those your care about through the long period of recovery and rebuilding after the crisis.

Think about the advice given on commercial airliners to parents traveling with small children. "Should there be an unexpected cabin de-pressurization; oxygen masks will drop from the ceiling. Place the mask over your nose and mouth like this and then place the mask over the mouth and nose of those around you needing assistance." Take care of your own emotional needs first, and then you will be in a stronger position to help those around you. If you feel overwhelmed in giving your children or others who may depend on you for support, please ask for help. It's okay to be tired, worn out and overly stressed. That's normal after a community crisis.
However, it's not okay to ignore caring for the needs of those counting on you like children, the elderly or pets. Sometimes a parent may need to make adjustments at work or change their own schedules for a while by delegating some tasks in order to have time and energy to help their children avoid feeling more pressure from the difficult experience that surviving a major disaster brings. If you feel that your caregiver 'tank' is empty, let someone else help you for a while until you get your strength back. That's best for you and for those that you care about.

When you can focus and dedicate attention to understanding the needs of young children, notice what they are saying, drawing or doing to determine if they are still feeling overly stressed from the traumatic event.

School age kids
need to talk, draw pictures or take positive action, (like having a lemonade stand to raise money for kids just like them who may have lost loved ones or family members because of the traumatic event), so if you give them something to do to help, they can take positive action and sort through their emotions immediately.
High school age kids
may try to act "cool" about everything, but often are more scared about the changes, losses and confusion than any other group. They are older and may need to experience a bit more "reality" at times to loosen up their ability to talk about what is happening around them. If they are willing to talk to their siblings, other family members, clergy or counselors it often doesn't take very long before they can grow strong enough to deal with their emotions and get back to feeling like themselves again.

The greatest danger sign to be alert and aware of is by noticing any dramatic changes in behavior. If a child was always happy go lucky before the crisis event and now sits all day to watch video footage of the shooting, or other world disasters on the news channels- then you may want to figure out why they made such a dramatic shift in personality. Watch for other major changes in sleep patterns, school patterns, school performance, peer relations and so on. If you see major changes that concern you, it's time to seek professional attention for the child with their pediatrician or with a child behavioral specialist

- What are some ways to help our kids talk about the crisis?

You can reach out to children in many ways to help them deal with this stressful time. Talking, writing, drawing, or writing poetry about the experience with the disaster will make the time pass more quickly, and may even lighten someone else's load of emotional pain and difficulty while helping you back through the process. Talking about any crisis event in life can help kids learn the basics of moving from the panic of basic survival to building strengths through problem solving.
- Are there any "hidden dangers" in media that parents should be concerned about that might make the crisis worse?

Too much media exposure is dangerous for kids. It is better to get a media "news update" once or perhaps at the most, twice a day to avoid the danger of media over-exposure. Leaving the news on all the time will depress the mood of the person who hears it; since deep down inside we learn to go "numb" to the normal emotions of the stressful event, to press on and burn reserve energy in the process. If your child didn't watch the morning news programs before the community crisis, be cautious about allowing them to watch TV news alone or having long blocks of unaccounted time with too much isolation. Best is to sort through media outlets-like television, Internet, radio or newspapers, which may contain content that is overly stressful or just too depressing for a child. Then set boundaries to protect them from additional stress in media stories, since it is important to protect their home and minds by managing the media around them.

It's wise to move from negatives to positives in highly charged and difficult situations like a mass shooting or wide spread community disaster. We have all seen enough negative images to last a lifetime and yet the media will often play scenes from a disaster over again and again. Also, parents and kids can sit down and discuss why they really need to have so many media and entertainment services available in their homes. Many families found that not having the Internet, cable television and loud music playing in their homes while staying in a shelter allowed them to reconnect as a family with much greater communication. By sitting down and discussing these issues your home can be a more positive place, by creating more positive energy to mange the stress of recovering from this crisis situation.

Since watching other people's problems in other parts of the country will cause more stress in an already stressful situation it's better to focus on your responsibilities today, right here in your own community. When things in your life are strong again, you and your family won't be as affected by the images of crisis from other places. But that's another day, so for now as you recover, it's better to focus on getting you and your kids though the day that you have been handed without making it harder because of the hidden stress of media overexposure.
Also, the same principles apply for the aged as for anyone else. Seniors often can spend a tremendous amount of time in front of negative media images which can be harmful to their well being. Better to get involved in helping others, praying for those affected or donating to help as you can than to become overwhelmed with the stressors of others by becoming desensitized from media over-exposure.
- How can I help my family get back to "normal" after a community disaster?

It may take weeks or months for people to feel that things are back to "normal." The actual psychological impact of the storm will vary widely between people based on factors like- age, their previous experiences with crisis events and most significantly how much stress they already had in their life before the disaster. The more stress someone had in their life prior to the traumatic event, the longer it takes to recover.
Here are some immediate ways to bring order and calmness back into your life after the chaos and confusion that follows a natural disaster or community crisis like a mass shooting.
1) Reconnect in relationships -

You can't get through a crisis alone. Since we all were impacted differently, it is vitally important to talk about the stress and pressures you have experienced with the people closest to you. Reach out to friends and family as soon as possible, and call people you haven't heard from in a while. Just checking in to see if they are okay will only take a few minutes, but it will empower and help both of you. Simply talk about what each of you experienced through the crisis and how you got through it. Tremendous connection can occur through crisis, so this is an especially good time to reach out to friends or family who may have drifted away from your closest circle of relationships. Take action now to reach out to people with words of encouragement and support, but don't wait for someone else to call you- since their phone may not work! Go find them and then reconnect the relationship while helping each other rebuild.
2) Rebuild your routines-

This is one of the most important factors to quickly get life back on track because we all draw strength and security from a structured daily routine. Bed time, dinner time, getting up to go to school, or work, or church or the gym to work out. To regain strength quickly identify what your normal routines were before the crisis-and then get back to them as soon as possible. Even if you are staying in a hotel, shelter or with family members for a while, stick with the rituals that you have typically followed that make up your daily lifestyle. This way you will feel the comfort of your stable and predictable routines, regardless of the stress of the many changes happening around you.
3) Reach out for faith-

In times of crisis everyone believes in the power of prayer and the importance of their faith. There is tremendous strength in knowing what you believe and living in harmony with those beliefs and values. Plugging back into your faith after a community crisis will allow you to release anxiety over the things that you know are too big for you, because you can trust God to handle them. Dedicate a few minutes or perhaps even an hour per day to quiet mediation and reflection on what matters most if you want to continue to grow strong in spite of the crisis.

This is especially important when you or your children may feel lost, alone or afraid. God cares and taking time to pray and release those burdens will help you make it through the rest of your day. Many churches and houses of faith have chaplains, recovery teams, support services and even financial assistance available to help their members cope with the crisis. Helping others in need is one of the greatest ways people of faith model what they believe, so avoid the tendency of being "too nice" to ask for help if you need it. Having a committed personal faith combined with the connection of a local house of worship will give you a tremendous sense of community to get through this crisis as well as the ones to come.
4) Retell your story-

Young and old alike will benefit from hearing about how other people survived the trauma they experienced. There is tremendous power in telling your story; healing power for you and helpful power for others who will gain insight and strength by hearing how creative people can become through the crisis. As you speak up about what happened, it will make it easier for other family members or coworkers to talk about their feelings of loss as well. Things will never be the same as before, but life will go on and we can rebuild and get through it better together. Telling your story now will give you additional strength as well as connect you to the neighbors and friends as they share their story with you.
No matter what the size of crisis event, you can find strength on the other side. Following the action steps in this resource guide will allow you to begin building strength back into your personal and professional life no matter how big the crisis event was. As you grow stronger you can tell others, which will encourage them to press on as they rebuild their lives, right next to yours. Stronger people create stronger communities and that is the journey you have already begun. I encourage you to stay with it as you build an even stronger life after the crisis, and then reach out to others in rebuilding your community.
Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article.

About the author- Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor and Certified Life Coach in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. Read more Crisis Recovery resources at his website

Shyness, Social Phobia & The Introverted Personality Type - Sorting Them Out

By Matt W Sandford, LMHC

Many folks have just always been shy. They’ve always felt some degree of awkwardness and nervousness in social situations and in some ways have held themselves back, were reserved. And most of us shy folk struggle with this reticence and have deeply wished we could change this aspect of ourselves. When you don’t like something about yourself, you soon turn to believing that that problematic area is something that is wrong, either something to be ‘fixed’ in order to be ‘normal’, or worse, something that cannot be fixed. It seems to me that a lot of folks end up confused about the meaning of their shyness and how to address it. Therefore, I believe it can be helpful to define some of the differences between shyness, social phobia, or social anxiety disorder, and the aspect of personality called introversion.

When people feel shy they are experiencing some discomfort concerning their perception of how they will be thought of by others, mostly with folks they do not know or don’t know well. They are lacking confidence in their ability to perform social skills with adeptness and to make a good impression or they may lack in knowledge and experience of social skills. A person who is shy may be introverted or not and may have social anxiety or may not.

Introversion is an aspect of personality and is compared to extroversion. Most people view introversion as meaning shy or not liking to be around people, and extroversion as being the opposite. However, this would be inaccurate. Introversion and extroversion have to do with where a person gets their energy and prefers to direct their attention. Those who are extroverted get their energy form being with people and like to direct their attention to the external world. The more extroverted one is the more they seek out being with people and feel energized from people contact and a variety of activities. The extrovert often prefers to process their thoughts verbally. Introverts rather get their energy from their inner world and from reflection. Interaction with people and activity can be draining to them, particularly if the activity and interaction is highly stimulating or fast paced. This does not mean that they don’t enjoy being with people; it just means that it requires something of them and they can’t do it forever without a break. Introverts usually are more drained by larger groups or folks they don’t know well, which is why they can be confused with exhibiting shyness.

Social Phobia, or Social Anxiety Disorder, on the other hand, is a mental disorder listed in the DSM IV, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the tome of counseling psychology. The disorder is defined as “a marked and persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others.” This fear of being scrutinized, judged, embarrassed and rejected causes much anxiety and avoidance of some or maybe many social situations. This is different from shyness and different from introversion, although they do relate to one another. Social Anxiety disorder likely is formed through childhood experiences of being shamed, rejected, belittled, bullied, and/or verbal or emotional abuse. But it can also be formed through experiences of being ignored, shunned, criticized, neglected and/or held to rigid or unrealistic standards of performance. In broad strokes, what I am saying is that social anxiety disorder is the prime disorder that is formed as a result of a lack of love and acceptance. We all learn and incorporate a great deal of our core identity, that is, what we believe about ourselves, from our childhood environment.

There is of course, more to it than that. Some people will experience much shaming in their childhood and not develop social phobia, whereas someone else may experience it to a lesser extent and struggle mightily with social anxieties. The reason for such variation would be due to factors such as the person’s personality, their particular interpretation of the events, their relationship to the perpetrators, the duration and severity and type of shaming they experienced, as well as the presence of systems of support and recovery, meaning if someone had others who did provide acceptance, affirmation and consistent positive regard and to what degree.  

When I looked at an Amazon book list on social anxiety, I found it commonly associated with shyness. I suppose that this would be because you can work on the symptoms of them both at the same time with the same approaches. However, this does not mean they are synonymous, or interchangeable. Social Anxiety does result in shyness, or social reticence and discomfort, but the reverse is not true – shyness does not produce Social Anxiety Disorder. Although, certainly for the person suffering from Social Anxiety Disorder, experiences in which they feel and behave as shy will confirm to them their social ineptness and deepen their anxieties. The difference has to do with what a person believes about themselves. The person with social anxiety believes that at their core they are defective, or not good enough, and therefore will not be accepted and approved of by others, at least unless they can hide their true self and perform up to the standards of others. Those who experience shyness, on the other hand, may be having these types of core beliefs about themselves, or they may not. For shyness that is not resulting from social phobia and a shame based sense of self, the shyness is more due to a lack of confidence in social settings, usually because of a lack of experience and helpful modeling. In my opinion then, shyness can be considered as a way to describe a form of low grade social anxiety that falls short of meeting the criteria for the disorder of Social Anxiety Disorder.

Introverts, by nature of their personality and bent towards reflection, would likely have a higher percentage of persons who would characterize themselves as shy. Since introverts won’t seek out meeting new people as often nor stay in social interactions that are draining (or frankly, sometimes, perceived as shallow, and less than stimulating) to them as long, we would expect them to have less opportunities to practice social skills and therefore, develop shyness. As this is developing, it seems to me that it can impact the person in one of two ways. Either their longing for acceptance and connection will grow and propel them to seek out interactions and a place to belong, or they will develop a hardening of their heart to protect them from hurts, with the result being arrogance and aloofness.   

 So what does all that mean? What if I’m not sure where I stand, and whether I have the disorder or not? Here’s some questions to help you think it through:

1.       Introversion question – Would I rather make a new friend, or invest time in an old friend or two, deepening the relationship?

2.       When I am in a social situation am I usually more concerned about not knowing what to say, or that others will reject or judge me or think poorly of me in some way? 

3.       When some kind of opportunity comes around to develop your social skills that will involve engaging other people, do you want to go, even though you are nervous and scared, or is your initial reaction to avoid it?

4.       Your friend invites you to a party in which you will know maybe 2-3 out of 10-15 people. Do you:  A) go, but only spend time with the ones you know well, B) decide that you are going to try and meet some new folks, seeing if you can tag along with one of your friends, or C) avoid it because you wouldn’t know most of the folks there?

5.       Are you more likely to believe that if you could improve your knowledge and confidence that you would improve your self esteem, or that if you made these improvement that you would just find something else to beat yourself up about?

6.       Would you say that your struggles with social situations have impaired your functioning at work, school, or at developing romantic relationships, and would you agree that the degree of your fears concerning social experiences is for the most part more than is warranted?

Answer Key

1.        introverts would likely choose the second option  

2.       shyness for the first option and social phobia for the second

3.       shyness for the first, indication of social phobia for the second

4.       A – introvert or shyness or both, B – shyness, C – indicates Social Phobia

5.       First part – shyness, second part – suggests Social Phobia

6.       If you answer yes, then Social Phobia

I understand that it still may be difficult to delineate between shyness and Social Anxiety Disorder. What I would suggest is that you make a go of developing your social skills by practicing them and see if it increases your confidence. If you find that you are having difficulty in overcoming your avoidance and fears, then I would encourage you to seek counseling.


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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Why the 'Whys' Don't Matter

By: Laura Hull, LMFT


Newtown.  Aurora.  Columbine.  Benghazi. New York City.  The mere mention of these places and the events associated with them provoke a visceral response in many.  Columbine was almost a generation ago, yet it is a memory that awakens when senseless school violence becomes national news.  Ten years of time was erased and fresh pain surfaced for many when the decade anniversary of 9/11 was commemorated a few years ago.  There are some events that are just so horrific; it is nearly impossible to comprehend on so many levels.  Newtown was supposed to be safe.  Six-year-old children are not supposed to die. 


From the shock and horror that emerged following the murder of twenty first grade students and six adult school employees, came the questions in the minds of so many, “How did this happen?”  And more to the point “Why did this happen”?  The police and investigators have now shifted into the mode of trying to make sense of something that makes no sense.  Dutiful news reporters calling in live feeds from the town remind us that the search for why this happened is ongoing; with the promise “We will keep you updated as details emerge…” As any good investigator will verify, and for that matter, any reporter worth his salt will attest, when trying to get a complete picture of the story, certain questions must be answered.  Investigators will try to answer the “how, who, what, when, where, and why.” I submit it is important to answer all the above questions except for one:  the why.


When tragedy visits, it is a very natural human response to want to know “why.”  Why did the young man take a gun into the school, look into the eyes of children, and fire multiple times?  Why did the teen shooters in Columbine have a death wish and the determination to take fellow classmates with them?  Why did a group of extremists carry out jihad in the skies over New York City? Why? Why, God, why?


As a counselor, I am often asked things such as, “Why is this happening to me?”  “Why did my spouse cheat on me?”  “Why am I depressed all the time?”  “Why can’t I do anything right?”  There’s a very human desire to try to understand why bad things sometimes happen to good people.  We are raised to believe that if we “live right” then bad things will not touch our lives.  Even though we know on a conscious level that life is not fair, we struggle to understand WHY it’s not fair.  It’s so easy to get caught up in trying to solve the riddle of the whys. 


I have never been to Newtown.  I do not know anyone personally touched by this tragedy. Most of us don’t. Yet I have had a sick feeling in my stomach since the story broke.  I have six children of my own, and this story scared me.  It hit me hard; far more as a mother than it did as a therapist.  I thought of those poor children and the fear they must have felt.  I thought of those poor parents and other family members whose lives were shattered.  I believe it is an incident that we will always remember “what we were doing when”….As a rational therapist, I know the odds of this happening at my children’s schools are slim in the grand scheme of things.  Yet, I hesitated in sending my children to school today.   In the battle of my professional side vs. my mother (human instinct) side, Mama won.


In my practice, I often caution clients against getting caught up trying to figure out why things have happened the way they have.  It expends a lot of time and energy that can be put to better use. It often does not solve the problem.  In Newtown, police are interviewing witnesses and investigators are attempting to restore the destroyed computer of the young man that perpetrated this horrific crime.  But in truth, regardless of what is uncovered, it does nothing to change the reality of the situation.  Maybe this young man had a personality disorder or an autism spectrum disorder.  Maybe he didn’t.  It doesn’t change anything.  Some would argue that understanding why this happened could potentially prevent similar events in the future.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  The investigation into the lives of the teens behind Columbine yielded some insights into the motives of the criminals.  It did not prevent the shooting at Newtown.  Understanding the motives and intent of the criminal masterminds behind the 9/11 attacks did not prevent Benghazi.


Whatever is uncovered in the investigation in Newtown, it will still not answer the question of why.  On some level, I believe the real questions our hearts are asking include “Why did You allow this to happen, God?”  “Did Your eyes turn away when Adam Lanza entered that school?” “Did You not hear the cries of those 20 Children?” As a person of faith, I know that God is in control.  I know this at the core of my being.  Psalms 46:10 should always be a source of comfort.  I know better than to ask God why.  We know some things are beyond human understanding.  There will be many dark days ahead as our country struggles with the reality of what has happened.  I cannot imagine what the parents waiting at that fire station experienced when it was announced that there were no more survivors in the school.  I have worked with grieving individuals throughout my career, and yet my mind could not even go there.


In the days ahead, there will be both good and bad things that will emerge from this tragedy.  The good may involve the community pulling together to support one another.  Nationwide, it may bring out the desire to be better or more attentive parents.  It may inspire some to re-examine and re-dedicate to their faith.  Perhaps more focus will be put on mental health issues and what we need to do to provide help to those who struggle with mental illness.  On the other side of the coin, this tragedy runs the risk of becoming a political hot button, with guns and finger-pointing being front and center in a debate.  The horror of December 14, 2012 will change our country permanently. Whether or not we ever have a complete understanding of why it happened, it is important that we understand how this happened.  How this young man obtained the guns is important to preventing future events.  We already know the who, where, and when.  Finding out how Lanza’s plan came together may reveal things that prevent future tragedies from occurring.  But trying to understand “why” has the potential of yielding nothing more than “if….then” scenarios, such as “if we find out that Lanza was mentally ill, then we can understand why this happened.”  “If we ban guns, then this will never happen again.”  Any beginning philosophy student will admit this is faulty thinking; merely a slippery slope.  It does not provide comfort or real meaning.  It’s grasping at something, anything really, that attempts to make sense of the senseless.


When clients ask me to help them understand “why” something happened, I often ask them how it helps to know “why”.  It’s usually a surprising question to them, one they struggle to answer.  The best answer I’ve ever received in response was “if I can understand it, then I can have closure”.  I can understand why people feel that way at times.  But understanding something does not change the reality of what has happened, and more importantly what must be worked through.  As our country works its way through the stages of grief - which it will - regardless of whether or not we ever find an answer for “why” a young man committed this heinous act, healing will begin.  It’s a process, but it will happen.  Our task is to do what we can to help the process.  Perhaps there’s never been a better time to apply the serenity prayer:


God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can;

And wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is,

Not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right

If I surrender to His Will;

That I may be reasonably happy in this life

And supremely happy with Him

Forever in the next.



--Reinhold Niebuhr