Supporting our Vets

Supporting our Vets

Our annual practice of honoring Veterans each November reaches far past closing the post office. While it’s great to acknowledge the efforts of our military past and present via a blanket Facebook post, we can also use this day to expand our understanding of a culture and way of life that we’re not familiar because we lack shared experience.

Like most trauma, our Vets may return home from combat with the hallmark after-effects of poor sleep, recurring nightmares, and a highly-sensitive fight or flight response to seemingly everyday noises or incidences. The general public could learn more about how previous experiences travel home through the body and the brain so we could each be more aware.

Therapist Robin Walters-Powell treats Veterans who have returned to civilian life. She finds one of the more un-talked about repercussions this population of people experiences in homecoming is a challenged sense of belonging and value. Our military does a tremendous job of training its recruits to follow command, put the needs of the troop as the priority, and to execute with precision. Once our soldiers return to civilian life, our highly individualized approach to everyday living can become an overwhelming hurdle to connecting to loved ones or the community at large.

Our service individuals desire connection to society,  yet often our society lacks the language or culture that they’ve been trained to operate. Of course, a lack of shared experience – especially in regards to oversees tours and active duty – poses a large barrier to connection: civilians can only imagine or lean on Hollywood’s renditions of battle. With the lack of experience often comes lack of understanding and even compassion to the fact that these experiences have shaped the way our military professionals see and understand the world. Even in non-combat Vets, the structure provided in their years of experience, such as the practice operating based on given orders, feels foreign to the ways of American business and work.

So how can our community truly honor Veterans this November? Robin offers a few suggestions:

  • Recognize that the way a service person sees the world is not the same way you see the world. Everyone’s worldview is based upon experience and the military experience is different but neither wrong nor bad.
  • Affirm the contributions of Veterans and the way they benefit the group at large. Speak to the specific ways that their presence makes life better for those around them.
  • Hire our highly-skilled Vets for jobs that require training in specific areas. The military trains these individuals for a wide range of duties that will serve our community beyond enlistment.
  • Support local agencies designed to connect former military with other military individuals. FOCUS in Findlay offers a Battle Buddies program to foster support and mentoring between military individuals in civilian life.
  • Listen with patience without intent to change or correct. Validate past experiences and help them find healthy ways to use those experiences in the community.

 

To consider expanding your understanding, Robin recommends the work of Sebastian Junger, such as his book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging or any of his series of TedTalks.

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What you can, when you can

What you can, when you can

For some folks, creating a gym routine is a natural and enjoyable part of their lifestyle. It’s helpful for maintaining and even expanding fitness levels through cardio work or lifting weights. Our own Andrea Clements, Office Manager, loves her habit of visiting Anytime Fitness for sessions on the elliptical and utilizing a lifting regimen. 

However, therapist Holly Schweitzer Dunn finds this form of exercise less than exciting. “Anyone who knows me knows that I strongly dislike working out. Seeing people run nowhere on treadmills seems like the personification of depression and hopelessness. Hearing grunts and groans as men and women max out their muscles to the point of damage seems counterintuitive. I believe fitness should be a regular part of a person’s life, done with ease and joy rather than suffering.”

It seems there are others who agree with her. 

Olga Khazan writes for The Atlantic: “In the approach’s slow simplicity, it could be a more sustainable way to exercise…doing whatever physical activity you can whenever it’s convenient is still a decent way to burn a few calories and feel less sedentary. An exercise strategy intended for Navy SEALs is actually perfect for everyday cubicle dwellers.

“But in a way, it fits with a broader cultural trend of embracing imperfection and simply trying one’s best. Americans’ stressed-out lives have given rise to a new philosophy in which we are, essentially, encouraged to admit defeat on certain things (spotless kitchens, impeccable pecs, and so forth). Our schedules won’t ease up on us, the thinking goes, so maybe we should ease up on ourselves.”

For those who are trying to integrate movement into their everyday lifestyle, perhaps this more natural approach – what you can, when you can – will indeed “grease the groove” for your brain and your body to adapt to newer ranges of motion or added strength. Exercise then becomes not “one more thing to do” but a way of living mindfully with your body.  

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Can I get a witness?

Can I get a witness?

“When you’re anxious and you need encouragement not direction.” 

This was the realization of one of Holly’s clients, whom we’ll call Linda, one day while retelling a story of a panic attack. She shared how her boyfriend had been supportive, recognizing her distress. “I know what to do: I need to calm down, I need to breathe…. What I need him to do is witness and walk through it with me.” 

So, how do we become witnesses for those around us in the midst of anxiety, fear, or simply a bad day? All you have to do is listen and tell them why it makes sense. Try adding these to your routine vocabulary: 

  • That sounds hard.
  • It makes sense you would feel that way.
  • I hear what you’re saying.
  • That was a tough position, you were in a tough place.
  • There sure is a lot of emotion connected to this.
  • This is complicated.
  • No wonder you feel this way. 
  • I’m listening.
Perhaps a friend or loved one is experiencing something irrational, but rationality doesn’t need to take the lead in your attempts to be supportive. Begin by simply validating and acknowledging the emotion they’re experiencing. You don’t have to agree to show empathy. 

 

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You’re Shoulding All Over the Place

You’re Shoulding All Over the Place

For all of our therapists, a red flag of overusing the judgment faculty part of the brain is using the word “should.” A judge is someone who divides, decides, casts an opinion or makes a decision about a situation. It renders a Should: this person Should not have done this. It divides an experience into camps of right and wrong, and a judge sits above that situation.

It’s human nature to give thought to past situations that didn’t go as desired. What could we have done differently? How should we have thought about this before? These are human questions. And they can be useful if considered in a way that says, “now, I have a choice” and move from a place of intention rather than reaction. An element of discernment is healthy and normal.

However, discernment turns to judgment when you attach shame to it. When someone tells about an experience and inserts multiple Shoulds, we hear the brain trying to find power when it was powerless. The Should, a core negative belief, is evidence of some self-blame. If the Shoulds keep you up at night about either past or potential future situations, it becomes a potential source of anxiety or depression, or a myriad of other mental health concerns. It can feed a habit of the brain constantly seeking danger, as blame is often evidence of the brain’s way of labeling a threat.

When you find yourself Shoulding, here are a few things you can do:

  1. Personalize it: take it out of what “a good person” would do; there might not be a “right” way to handle your situation.
  2. Ask yourself what you want and/or what you need.
  3. Notice if there is a place that needs the energy of forgiveness – acknowledge any mistakes by yourself or others, and spend a few moments reflecting on the human propensity to mess up.
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Judging Others, Judging Ourselves

Judging Others, Judging Ourselves

Judging Others, Judging Ourselves

by Michele Minehart, RYT & Community Educator

Last fall I drove through a subdivision and noticed a house with Christmas lights in full glory well before the societally-agreed-upon commencement date of Thanksgiving. I heard a voice in my mind say, “Ugh, seriously? Already? Can we not just have one holiday at a time?”

As I drew closer, I remembered that the family in that house had only recently moved in. My inner dialogue began to shift, as it said, “Oh, I bet they’re so excited to celebrate their first holiday season in their new home! I bet the anticipation is making this a fun time of  year for them.”

I recognized my judgmental tendencies, believing that others should act according to my own sense of Shoulds and Shouldn’ts, and then had a much more profound realization. As I drove outside their home, edifying opinions as to their exterior illumination schedules, the owners of the home felt none of it. Their day and their lives didn’t change based upon what I thought of their decisions. But mine had. I could feel the “clenchiness” of my judgment, almost as if my eyes narrowed and chin dropped as the negative energy arose. And then I felt my heart lift and my shoulders soften as I welcomed the warmer feelings of a first Christmas in a new home.

Sometimes the undertone of “do not judge” is a call to leave everyone alone to their decisions, or ways of living, and perhaps there’s room for more “live and let live.” But in my experience, making an effort of releasing judgmental thoughts changes me and allows me to live with a sense of freedom. I’m relieved of needing to carry the weight of the Shoulds of others – and, with practice, I learn to set down my own set of Shoulds. I can reroute the energy of judgment and spend it instead on inhabiting joy.

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Non-judgment in EMDR

Non-judgment in EMDR

Non-Judgment in EMDR

At MBHA, one of the cornerstones to treatment is an EMDR-infused philosophy that honors the body and the emotions of one’s past experiences while simultaneously keeping one foot in the present moment. 

When trauma occurs, the brain responds by becoming hyper-vigilant or “stuck” in accessing (read: judging) if a threat is present, and to make up for the extra awareness the observing part of the brain becomes underdeveloped. In EMDR treatment, we spend time in a resourcing stage so that the person can feel grounded in a sense of safety. The process involves looking in on the past from the present – not recreating the past. 

One of the challenges of EMDR is when the judging brain wants to take over, often experienced as a client asks “am I doing this right?” The process necessitates witnessing instead of judging. The brain moves from labeling a moment to witnessing the moment and examining the feelings and emotions that arise. 

Treatments like EMDR work to develop the underdeveloped observing brain by safely noticing what’s happening in the moment. They can feel safe, aware they’re sitting in a space with a person they trust, while still tuning into the sensations of the body, and the emotions that arise while a person calls up the memory. As we enhance the brain’s ability to do that – to observe the reactions of our body and emotions, it’s possible to get more practiced at removing the element of judgment from our day-to-day experience.

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