Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for November, 2012

By: Brian M. Murray, MS

Psalm 122:8 (NIV)
For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.”

It is that time of year. The time when family and friends visit, sometimes planned and sometimes they just show up, and sometimes they just show up for a week or more. Surprise! Shopping for presents resembles a scene like a crowd of people trying to board a subway during rush hour. Then there is the constant competition of people jockeying for position at the checkout lines Holiday traffic on the road begins to challenge time management running late for appointments and parties. There are events to attend at church, work, neighbors, friend get-togethers, and then there is the “surprise” family still parked in the living room wondering what is taking so long.

The children want special gifts which is something that about another half a million other kids want requiring hours of waiting in line at the malls. Then there is the parking, more jockeying for position, tempers flare at the grocery store, baking goodies for the events, and oh yea, the “surprise” family is still at home visiting and dinner is a last minute thought. After dinner the ladder is coming out and up go the Christmas lights and the tree. And then the realization kicks in, the tree has not been bought yet, another oversight leading to thoughts about what else has been forgotten.

Yep, it is that wonderful time of year when people give of themselves until they reach stress levels that soar into a panic. They near the end of their ability to give of themselves and begin redlining into emotional overload. Like the famous Ogre in the scene out of Shrek Christmas “this isn’t Christmas, this is chaos.”

Stop everything! Take a moment and slow down. It does not have to be this way and there are strategies to help manage what can feel like madness. The one thing that is often forgotten about during the holidays is the individual self. Taking time to relax and bring stress down to an acceptable and manageable level is important, especially during the holidays. Schedule time and make a plan to do something just for you and selected non-stressful company. Do not think about it or try to make excuses, take the time. Events get sacrificed, not thyself. There is no rule book anywhere that says people have to punish themselves in the name of trying to do it all.

A technique that is very useful to de-stress is something called mindfulness and creating a mental “safe place.” To do this, find a quiet place with no distractions, closing the eyes, mentally visualize a scene that brings calm and peace. The beach, babbling brooks and mountains are often favorites that bring a sense of serenity. Then, envision the self being there in that moment. This should be somewhere that is non threatening and a place to escape. This is just one way of many ways to combat anxiety and relax the body. There are breathing techniques and meditation that is strongly counter the effects of stress.

Above all else, take some time to focus on God in that quiet moment and know that He is in control of His Kingdom. Christ tells us in Matthew 11:-29-30 that we will find rest for our souls in him as his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Christmas is the time of year set aside to recognize the birth of the Prince of Peace. Take some time to reflect and meditate on the wisdom written in Psalm 46:10, “be still, and know that I am God.”

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 www.LifeWorksGroup.org or call 407-647-7005″

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

By: Brian M Murray, MS

Anger is a natural emotion that all people experience at one time or another. How people handle anger is what can make the difference between a constructive outcome or destruction. Often getting in the way of handling anger are cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are the result of automatic thoughts that occur when we experience events in life. These distortions can and often create a false reality. A false reality can be construed in different ways such as feeling the need to always be right about topics of discussion or life events. This can lead to magical thinking of how things are supposed or should be leading to maladaptive beliefs.

In many situations when maladaptive beliefs are challenged it can stir up angry feelings of which one of the biggest culprits is feeling disrespected. A good question to challenge a maladaptive belief about what a person might be thinking or feeling in a situation is to get to the bottom of  “what is it that I believe about this situation that makes me angry?” This question addresses emotional reasoning that if a person feels angry then it must be true.

Sometimes what people say and do may feel like disrespect or create feelings of being challenged. However, could it be possible the other person is simply discussing the subject and would like some further information? The underlying message of interpretation of the offended person is unfair treatment from others. This can be a slippery slope and this line of thinking can lead a person down the road of despair and that life in general is not fair. The reaction response which is anger is “I will not stand for it and I am going to fight.” Unfortunately there are times when people drift off into a negative mind set and that everything in life has be dealt with forcefully and angrily.

Okay, hold on a minute. Before we don our boxing gloves, ring the bell and the fights on, let’s slow things down and look at some resolutions on how to defuse an anger time-bomb. The first is split second thinking and this is often the hardest part. Catching our initial thoughts in mid-stream before reacting to a situation is of utmost importance. This is literally the very first split second thought. There is this teeny window of opportunity that allows us to catch ourselves and think to the self “hold on, what am I reacting to, and what is the threat?” Before reacting, think of how to instead respond. There is a difference between reacting and responding. One is about aggression and the other is about being assertive. Reacting, especially in an explosive manner, is aggression and responding is being assertive.

A balloon is a good example of how this works. Adverse events come to us in our lives and each time this happens it adds a little bit of air to the balloon. When we respond to the event, we are asserting ourselves, it lets some of the air back out of the balloon. This is how the anger is managed, air comes in and some of it gets let back out. When the air goes into the balloon and does not get let out it keeps building and expanding until it can no longer hold the volume of air and it reacts, an explosion occurs. As human beings there is only so much we can hold. The idea of defusing and managing anger is to be more assertive by responding to others and events. This can be done is a respectful manner where feelings and thoughts can be expressed and easing the building tension and anger inside of us.

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 www.LifeWorksGroup.org or call 407-647-7005″

Read Full Post »

By: Brian M Murray, MS

One of the hallmarks of a great marriage or relationship is being involved with a person who values the other person’s feelings in a respectful and caring way. Validation in a relationship is kind of like a relationship health check. It is the ability to communicate thoughts and feelings that are accepted by the other person. Healthy relationships do not criticize or belittle the other person for expressing their feelings. Whether intentional or not, being critical or belittling the other person can send signals that what is being expressed implies the other is wrong, or somehow it makes them a bad person. Invalidation is negative behavior that can and often turns the overall mood of the relationship sour. The initial gut response to the negativity is often anger and resentment. The anger and resentment are the result of feeling the pain of the invalidating comment.

Emotional support is very important as it validates each other’s feelings by communicating the importance of how valuable the other person is. There are certain characteristics or “checkpoints” that a person can look for in a relationship. Like anything else in life, once in a while it is good to have a check up. While this is not an exhaustive list, here are some points to ask for a quick self check. In parenthesis are examples of invalidation.

  • Are you open to each other’s ideas, thoughts and feelings and implement active listening? (looking or walking away when they talk)
  • When discussing feelings and emotions is the other person non-critical of you for having them? (stop crying, or, don’t be such a baby)
  • Do you both accept the fact that your feelings and thoughts are your own without being judgmental toward each other? (oh, just get over it, get to the bottom line and stop digressing)
  • Are you both able to ask for help and support from each other without worrying about how the other person will respond? (not my problem, you’re on your own)
  • Are you both able to talk trusting that the other will empathize with you and have an understanding ear to your concerns? (you are too sensitive, why are you so sensitive about everything?)
  • Do you both feel accepting of each other with positive regard and have a general sense of mutual support for each other’s endeavors? (I hate it when you come to me with this type of junk, you are all talk and no action)

Congratulations if you answered yes to all of these questions as these are some of the hallmarks of a great marriage and relationship. For the ones answered no it might be worth it to take look and see if there is something can be done. These questions serve as guidelines that indicate mutual respect by honoring each other. In other words, they become statements where one person validates the other by setting the self aside for a moment while the other person is valued in the moment. Validation is important for the relationship to grow and mature where each person has the freedom to be themselves without condemnation, criticism and judgment from the other.

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 www.LifeWorksGroup.org or call 407-647-7005″

Read Full Post »

By: Brian M Murray, MS, IMH

 

“It sometimes takes a state of solitude to bring to mind the real power of companionship.”
― Stephen Richards…

A woman is married for 18 years has 3 children, active at her church and involved with a women’s small group two times a month. She goes home, sits in front of the computer and logs onto a social network. Looking around she notices all of the things that other people are doing in their lives and starts to think about her own. Everyone looks happy, enjoying time with their families and friends and yet, deep down inside of her she knows the truth about her loneliness. Even though she is socially involved with others she has a lost empty feeling inside like something is missing. She realizes one day that in spite of all of her efforts to stay busy she realizes that she is really a very lonely person.

This story is too often a common scenario. So how can a person be socially plugged in and still feel lonely? Feeling lonely is not about how many friends or contacts a person has but it’s about the quality of those connections. With 3 children and a husband how can anyone have time to be lonely? It is possible and it happens. For starters getting plugged into a social network may be a good way to stay in contact with friends and family but is hardly a source of real connection. Furthermore, social networks offer a lonely and bored person an avenue to compare and contrast their lives to others. When a person begins to look at their life and feels like there must be something more, feeling empty and alone then it sets up the perception that they are all alone.

Social connections involve being with people we can connect with in a deep authentic way. This allows us to be ourselves when we are around those people and we are able to share ourselves with them and them with us. While the married woman in this story presents a woman who is socially active, she lacks the deeper friendship who is a close confidant. There is a quality connection that is not found in other relationships, even her husband and kids who are busy doing their own stuff in other rooms of the house. Without this deep connection a person can begin to feel left out leading to depression and other health problems.

So what can a person do about it?

Loneliness can be used as a signal that emotionally we are becoming or already have become isolated. It is an emotion, a feeling that true companionship is absent. Adding more people and connections doesn’t very often fulfill this void. Often a person will add to their list of people hoping that one of them will provide the long desired deep connection that is missing in their lives. It becomes like a game of salesmanship, if numbers are increased then sooner or later a connection will occur. Sometimes utilizing the “miracle question” can be a great way to explore what is making a person feel lonely. Asking, “If I woke up tomorrow and I was not lonely, what would that look like.” While this can be a great abstract question, it may not provide relief for the feelings; however the answer to that question is designed to bring awareness to what needs are not being met. This can help someone find what is being sought after in a relationship.

Begin the process to problem solve and develop an action plan. Find a person you really like and begin to cultivate a friendship with that person. To have a good friend requires being a friend. Sometimes waiting on someone becomes an endeavor that never reaches fulfillment. Invite someone to the movies, or to a museum. Something along the lines of “hey, I am going to the art museum and thought of you and that you might be interested, do you want to go?” If the person says no then go anyway and tell them later about the experience. Sometimes the tendency is to isolate and withdraw when others do not want to go. Think of being self worthy of the endeavor and go anyway, or call another person that may be of interest. Practice small acts of kindness. This can go a long way in showing another person how much you care about them by saying thank you for something they did or paying a compliment. What these solutions can offer is moving yourself away from being a victim of feeling lonely to being proactive. If you don’t like feeling lonely, take steps to change it. Being socially active is good, it provides the opportunity for authentic friendships, but remember, it’s not the numbers of people known, but the quality of intimacy with one or few that makes the difference.

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 www.LifeWorksGroup.org or call 407-647-7005″

 

Read Full Post »

By: Brian M Murray, MS

Addiction has a vicious underlying cycle that is often overlooked by the addicted person or by friends and family around the addicted person. At work contributing and compounding the problem is a cycle that cannot be seen usually until someone is able to point it out to them. In the belly of the beast of addiction is the reoccurring need to use drugs and alcohol. This is the nature of dependency at its core.

The first part of the struggle with an addiction is involved with some kind of emotional distress also known as a trigger. This can be thoughts or feelings that are carried from childhood, an unpleasant life situation or the fact that a person just cannot figure out how to cope with life in a positive way. It can be an unhappy marriage, financial issues, low self esteem problems, and there are a whole host of issues that can trigger emotions or feelings creating discomfort within the addicted person. This feeling is often not felt on the surface, but is more of a mechanism that is working in the background. While this is happening the problem is not being addressed and in a conscious way except for the strong urge to use. This is about getting to the root issue.

When feelings and emotions are being repressed or internalized it leads to distress. It may become apparent to the addicted person at this point that there may be a problem that has to be taken care of. They are uncomfortable and the use of coping mechanisms begin to creep into the thought process of how using will make them feel better. What is not understood is that by making this decision it only compounds the problem by stuffing the feelings down never allowing themselves the freedom to be expressed. The only way out is to self medicate and then they will feel better…temporarily.

Self medicating with drugs and alcohol is the part of the cycle where the person engages into compulsion and picks up. This causes the feelings or negative emotions they are experiencing to numb out. Often the underlying thought is if they don’t feel them then they won’t have to experience them. The downside of numbing out is when this part is over feelings of guilt come into play. The guilt message says that the person is bad for their behavior which leads to emotional distress and the cycle begins all over again. Over time this behavior becomes a self fulfilling prophecy, “I feel bad, numb it out, I feel bad again, numb it out, still feeling bad, numb it out with even more this time” and so forth and so on.

What Can Someone do About it?

One way is to increase self awareness of emotions is through an approach known as mindfulness. This is about taking an inventory of the environment and try to understand and identify what the trigger is for the emotional distress. Begin to journal thoughts and feelings whenever awareness exposes the emotions. This way often unnoticed emotions are brought to the surface and made conscious. This understanding can allow the addicted person to recognize them and take action or implement a distraction to do something else other than pick up and start using. Begin to ask questions that address why these feelings are occurring this way and what is associated with them. It could be that perceptions and thoughts about what is being experienced are clouding up the ability to seek true healing without the use of chemical substances.

Read Full Post »

Reaching out to Those who Serve us All

Brian M Murray, MS, IMH

 

 

 

 

Setting the Stage

The flight arrives at Atlanta at 11:00 PM. There is a special staging area downstairs of the airport to “check in” and get bus transportation to Fort Benning Georgia, about a 2 hour drive. Arrival downstairs is shocking, there must be at least 1000 others waiting to get onto busses going to different locations, all military, some active duty directing traffic, some are civilians and others wandering around trying to make sense of it all. Down at the end of the staging area is a “special” transport area for trainees. The bus departs at 1AM and arrives at Fort Benning somewhere between 3AM and 4AM. No sleep as anxiety is too ramped up about meeting the Drill Sergeant for the first time. The bus pulls up, a dark lean cut man with a “Smokey” brown hat steps on board, calmly says “you have 10 seconds to GET OFF OF MY BUS!” 10,9,8,7,6, 5…he counts down and then right at 4 he yells “YOU MOVED TOO SLOW AND IT COST YOU THE LAST 4 SECONDS! TIME TO PAY UP, EVERYBODY OVER TO THE GRASS FIELD, TIME TO GET HOT!”

It took 6 weeks to figure out why he did that. The point is slow movement cost lives. Symbolically 4 were lost that morning because we did not move fast enough. This is the beginning to learn how to adjust, to move more quickly and with purpose. It is a sharpness that gets only sharper and quicker as time moves on. Constantly adjusting to chaos, unsure of what to do or where to go and then disciplined regardless of your decision. There are no right answers. Come to find out at that level there are no decisions, there is only execution. More yelling through a bullhorn, it’s dark outside, frosty breath air under the stadium lights standing in a sawdust exercise pit the drill yells out, “YOU NO LONGER ARE PART OF A DEMOCRACY, YOU SERVE A DEMOCRACY. ALL CITIZENS AND THE PRESIDENT THEY CHOOSE TO PUT INTO OFFICE ARE OVER YOU, YOU SERVE THEM, NOT YOURSELF! THEY TELL THE COMMANDERS WHAT TO DO WHO TELL YOU WHAT TO DO! THAT IS YOUR CHAIN OF COMMAND! IF YOU DO NOT OBEY YOU WILL GO TO JAIL!”

Welcome to Infantry training at Fort Benning Georgia. Into the abyss one goes and the question pops up “what did I just sign up for?” The first order of business is to understand the oath sworn just before the airplane ride to Atlanta was a total commitment to serve the people of the United States of America. Thirteen weeks later, graduation, and frequently off to another school, Airborne, Ranger, Air Assault, 10th Mountain, Bradley Crewman and later in career, Special Forces, Sniper, Pathfinder, Long Range Recon and the list goes on. Always learning and always adjusting, deeper into the abyss one goes.

In these schools, some pass, some fail some get hurt and go home, it is a profession and with it comes it share of achievements and setbacks. Lifetime friends are made and the camaraderie is unparallel anywhere in the world.  It’s a common bond found on common ground of a vicious truth knowing that others are going to pull just as hard for me as I will for them. All of this training, all of this preparation and then something like Desert Storm or 9-11 happens and the reality of war becomes a startling glare in the face. Thoughts race “did I train right, did I cheat myself, I should have been more serious about physical exercise, can I trust my leadership, can I trust myself, I feel sick, I’m anxious, I’m scared…what about my wife, my daughter and my son. I hope my mom doesn’t freak out. I love my family, I love my country…I must be strong for their sake. Off into the abyss one goes…1 tour, 2 tours, 3 tours, 4 tours, 5 tours over the next 7-10 years. This time the abyss went deeper and farther than ever before imagined. The life left at home is now a distant memory.

Presenting the Facts

Over the past 11 years our nation has been at war. As of 9/30/2011 the Department of Veteran Affairs reported there is an estimated 22,234,000 United States military veterans. To put this in perspective the world’s largest military force according to the CIA Factbook, China, has 2,250,000 active duty personnel. The United States has an all active duty personnel at 1,450,000. The point is the United States has an enormous veteran population and most people know someone who has served or know someone associated with someone who has served.

The United States Army is reporting that in the first part of 2012 that suicide rates are at an all time high. This impact is being felt among all ranks and all socio-economic-cultural backgrounds. This is not limited to the guys on the front line trading bullets. The impact, stress and trauma of 11 years of war are deep and are reaching upper echelon. It would behoove the Veterans Administration to have a contingency plan gathering resources to offset and counter the assault that is currently taking place in their mental health departments. Their hiring practices have filters that screen out solid professionally licensed therapists that could be helping a lot more veterans than they already do. Almost 1/3rd of the 1.64 million returning service members are reporting mental health problems. The RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research in 2008 reported at that time that there were 300,000 veterans with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and/or Major Depression and as many as 320,000 have experienced a Traumatic Brain Injury.

Teamwork: Reaching Out

As an Infantryman I was taught the value of teamwork and how collectively helping each other creates cohesion and confidence. When others fall you help pick them up and keeping going, you keep fighting and you never quit. It’s dirty, it’s bloody and it’s painful, but you keep going. The idea is if one person quits it can cost the lives of the entire unit.

Awareness of what a fellow veteran might be experiencing is imperative and calls for community effort and teamwork. Knowing there are over 22 million veterans’ living among us is a staggering figure. While not all of them may have combat related problems or been through a combat scenario never discount that possibility. The threat of life is all it takes to have PTSD. Many veterans are humble about their service and do not share details about what they have experienced, and for good reason. Many of them do not want to recall the memories of past trauma and start reliving those memories they have locked away.

If you know of a veteran who is struggling with life, using drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism, seems distant, isolates, avoids family and friends or appears lost in the world do not ignore it. Offer help and assistance, let them know you appreciate what they have done and would like to help them. Adjusting back to life at home can be difficult and takes time. To return from deep in the abyss is challenging. It is more than readjusting from military life to back home; it is about adjusting to a new place altogether called home.

Read Full Post »

By: Brian M Murray, MS, IMH

 “Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid, one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.” -Douglas MacArthur…

On November 11th the veterans of the United States of America get to stand up and be recognized, all 22.7 million of us. It is a time for one day a year to being able to say, “Yes, I am one.” Handshakes, parades and hugs and many thanks are commonplace throughout the day and are well appreciated. Recognizing each other there is an unwritten understanding, a common bond knowing that at some place and time in history we all played a part of who we are today. There is a sense of pride…and we are humble at the same time. It is called “the service” for a reason, serving a democracy is at the core for which the military stands. It is recognized as an honor to serve out of respect the citizens of the United States and the free people everywhere. Veterans are people who adhere to a set of beliefs to uphold the Constitution and protect the very freedoms that provide for the common defense of all people. It was an oath we swore by the day we signed on the dotted line.

As a veteran of the United States Army, I wanted to take a moment to give thanks to all of those I served next to during my time of service from 1989-1993. That is what Veterans Day is, to recognize all who have served. It is a time of reflection, celebration and remembrance. During the times I served I made friends that still continue to this day. And sadly, there are some friends that never made it home. One of my friends, PFC Vance T. Coats, at Fort Benning during basic training was one of the 23 killed during Operation Just Cause (Panama conflict). He is laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. I am thankful he was honored with a burial at that place. I am sure there are many veterans who have a similar story they can share as well about the friends they have lost. It becomes another part of something that is carried knowing there are two sides to this coin, it was a choice made to do what we do, and I wish there was something I could have done to make it better or make it different. We never forget those veterans who still remain in our hearts.

The times veterans share are numerous with many thinking about the good times, and it is this time of year that we stand tall and wear proudly the colors of who we are that run so deep. As the saying went back in the day, we all wear green and we all bleed red, together we are one. To this day I still feel that fraternal connection. It is a bond that is built and found nowhere else in life.

That is the spirit of the veteran. For me, the Infantry branch in which I served, willing to be there for my brother to the end. The movie series “A Band of Brothers” is a very appropriate title and an Army of One means something more than just a fancy slogan. To those who understand this and know the feeling in their heart you know who you are. To others the only way I can describe this is it has to be something that is experienced. The feeling and the bond that is built is a result of training, camaraderie and knowing that a person is going to be there for you regardless of your situation. It is the ultimate common denominator and it is this mindset that is a necessary to survive on the battlefield. Without it, lives become scattered, confused and lost.

This Veterans Day understand that each veteran has their own unique story experienced in their own unique way. It is an important story as it is often carried in the heart. It becomes a part of who they are; a part of the fabric of their being. Give a hug, give a thanks and a handshake, celebrate in the way that honors them, that is all they ask for if really asking at all. For me, I am humbled on Veterans Day as I believe that serving my country was not out of obligation but out of choice. It was something I really wanted to do, to have that experience, an honor to serve my country and know that as I grow older I can reflect back and think “we did it, didn’t we” We did it, collectively and generationally. I saw many changes during that time, Panama, Berlin Wall coming down and then Desert Storm. The world was changing fast at a mind dizzying pace, something each veteran has experienced during their time. I am confident that many of you will agree that what I signed up for and what I witnessed were two completely different worlds, but nevertheless, the experience is something I do not regret and will not forget. Thanks to all of my fellow veterans for making it manageable, to you I give thanks for being there. I hope you all have a blessed Veterans Day.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: