Archive for: March 2013

Trauma, trauma, kiss a llama!

Have you ever listened to children’s nursery rhymes and wondered where they came from? Well. . . I was thinking the other day about this poor traumatized llama, and I found myself wondering—what qualifies as trauma? So off I went to where I learned that trauma is ‘an experience that produces psychological injury or pain.’


Generally, we think of trauma as an extreme injury or a shocking event, in spite of the fact that we all have many small snippets of psychological injury or pain woven throughout our lives.

So what’s the bottom line?

The most sustained impact of traumas—large or small—is the fact that these painful experiences leave behind a residue of beliefs—about ourselves, others, the world, God. Often these beliefs are pretty profound—they sink in deep—and very often they skew our view of ourselves, our world, each other.

So how does this work?

If you are a toddler and you are watching as mama hits daddy (or the reverse), you begin to believe the world is not safe and this can establish a strong fear base for dealing with the world around you. This can in turn hog-tie you—keep you from taking common everyday risks that allow you to move ahead in your life.

Can you do anything about this now as an adult?

Yes! The first step is to recognize that you may have blocks that are holding you back from engaging with the world in ways you’d like to. From that point, you would probably do best to see a good therapist. Together you can process confining beliefs and learn to see the world through a new pair of glasses that can help you see your way to more joy.

Investment or Folly?

When I was a little girl, I remember my mother tsk-tsking over some of the “fancy” boats some of our friends had. She would shake her head and talk about the waste of money.

As my bro, sis, and I grew up, my mother wondered sometimes why we hadn’t adopted her party line. I know she spent some relatively intense time over the years bemoaning the fact that we were more wayward than she thought we ought to be; she had taught us—why didn’t we listen? Where had she gone wrong?

Fast-forward to the present–many, many years later!

We were enjoying breakfast with friends this last weekend, and as we chatted, my friend Diane was bringing me up to date about her kids, grandkids, in-laws, out-laws, and many nieces and nephews. Now Diane knows how to do family! She has lots of family, having both her adoptive family and her  biological relatives.


Diane and husband Obie made an investment in a houseboat 21 years ago. They keep it at a marina on the end of a lake not too far from the city. During the summer season—and even the spring and the fall—every weekend finds them on the boat. It’s what they do.

As we talked about family, she commented that her nieces had just called to see about spending a weekend on their houseboat this summer. And the next-door-neighbors, who were friends of their children while they were growing up, had called. During their conversation, they had shyly asked if they might spend a week with Diane and Obie on the boat.

Making breakie

Diane and Obie generously share space with many family members and friends. I remember her leaning on us to come up sometime and spend a weekend with them. We made it happen. They shared the main cabin with us and pitched a camp tent on the roof for their master bedroom. We also now share delightful memories of long paddle-boat trips, short sail-boat jaunts, good books, and smoked salmon & wild blackberry omelettes.

Sail away!

Diane and Obie spent good times with their kids–and their kids’ friends—as they were growing up. They still do. Today their young adults are doing well, and Diane and Obie are very proud of them. These “kids” still look forward to time spent away with family at the lake.

When Diane and Obie made the investment in their boat over two decades ago, I wonder if they consciously thought of the time they would spend sharing fun and laughter—the stuff which enables parents to pass on their values to their kids. I don’t know! But heck—even the neighbor kids caught some of the family warmth—and it is still providing a rudder for them as they navigate the course of their lives!

Bravo to people like Diane and Obie who have shamelessly celebrated family fun! And to their kids—and their neighbor kids—who learned a lot about how to live as they shared the warmth of family. Maybe—just maybe—it has something to do with their strong family bonds today.

What if I Don’t Know my Goals for Therapy?

Think you might need a counselor, but aren’t sure what your goals are? Generally this is no big pro-blem-o.

Puzzled Man

When you make an appointment with me, and you show up for the first time, I like to do a preliminary assessment. Although I want to know what brought you to see me and what your goals are for counseling, I find that most clients welcome the chance to begin to interact with a new person without having to come up with all the lines. For you, this helps to break the ice a bit; for me, asking a few questions gives me an overall bird’s-eye-view of your life. This helps me to see a balanced view of what is going on for you, and I am not so apt to miss some glaring problem that you might be so used to that you forget to mention it.

If you know you need to take a look at your life and you need some help processing, but you’re having trouble coming up with your ‘goals’ for counseling, not to worry!

By the time we have finished the general assessment, I have a fair picture of some of the areas that are likely troubling you. Sometimes also, I can see areas of concern that you may not be consciously aware of. After all, if you already have all the answers, why would you go looking for someone to help you process the things that are troubling you? If you need to talk about what goals you want to pursue, that’s ok. We can work on them together. Just remember—you have the last word!

Life Lessons Learned

Boy studies

wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo

Benjamin Solomon “Ben” Carson, Sr. is the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Early last month he was the featured speaker at the White House prayer breakfast.

Rather than political rivalry, or partisan politics, what I took away from his speech were some of the lessons Dr. Carson reported learning from his mother as he grew up in poverty in the slums of Detroit.

Despite having only a 3rd-grade education, tackled her sons’ education single-handedly, challenging her boys to learn more and be more. Young Ben, who reports having had a nasty temper and poor grades, grabbed hold of this task and ran with it. No one can argue but that he made very, very good on mom’s challenge.

These are the lessons young Ben learned from mom as a young boy:

1. About being PC – “Do your own thinking. Feel free to speak up about it, but always speak with respect for the other person or side.” As an adult, he muses, “We need diversity of thought and we need to use our brains, but we must always do this respectfully!”

2. On being a victim – Ben’s mom asks, “Son! Do you have a brain? Do you? It doesn’t matter what Johnny or Susie said or did. You can figure out a solution! You are not a victim! Get out there and take responsibility!”

These two bits of advice from Mom Carson set well with me. Think about them for a moment and see what you think!