Forgiveness

Recently, I had two unexpected physical setbacks within days of each other. The second setback caused me to go to the E.R., something I do not do quickly or often. Regretfully, during this time of excruciating pain, extreme sickness, and weakness I was treated in ways that I would not have treated others in. The people involved were fully aware of the details of each of my setbacks including my E.R. visit and regretfully, took advantage of me during these times. This made me think about the bigger picture: we all have people who are not in our inner circle but are in what I call the perimeter circle who we must interact with. People in our inner circle are those I consider to be my loved ones. People in the perimeter circle are those people I interact with whom I do not consider to be my loved ones (friends, etc.).

At times we have people from our perimeter circle take advantage of us and treat us in ways that they would not want to be treated in. When this happens it may help to remember that we cannot control how others behave but we can control our reactions and behaviors. Many of you reading this, if not all of you, along with me live in the energy of treating people in the positive ways that we want to be treated. Therefore, when we are treated in ways that we would not treat others in I think about this quote by Don Miguel Ruiz “Whatever happens around you don’t take it personally…..Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.”

It’s important for us to find the self-care tools that work for us especially in dealing with people who treat us in ways they would not desire to be treated. We are unique individuals and so it is not uncommon that what works for me may not work for you and vice versa. Two of the tools that help me move beyond situations in which people treat me in ways they would not want to be treated are forgiveness and connecting to the other side (-sometimes called Heaven, the afterlife etc.). Forgiveness is important because it is about me and you. Forgiveness is not about the people who have wronged us or otherwise treated us in ways they do not want to be treated. Forgiveness is about us acknowledging and processing our feelings in healthy ways which arise from those who have wronged us.

Depending on the severity of the hurt, pain, trauma, etc., will determine how often we need to go through the process of forgiveness. As we do this we let ourselves off the hook. The subject of forgiveness is something I discuss much more in depth in the book that I am writing. I also discuss what forgiveness is not. Some people think that if they forgive they are letting the people off the hook who have wronged them- this is not correct. Holding someone accountable for their behavior is different than going through the process of acknowledging your feelings and processing them in a healthy way (-forgiveness); they are two different situations. The positive about my situation with my physical set backs include the medical/E.R. staff were compassionate, empathetic, and professional. Second, I lost 3 pounds in approximately 4 days (-I am fighting to keep them off)! In closing, as always we deserve the best and nothing less! We are worth doing the work on ourselves, especially when people transgress against us, so that we can have the best lives possible.

Mental Health

 

Regretfully, mental health has a nasty stigma within some cultures and communities.  This has led to profound emotional pain and an inferior quality of life for some of my clients.  I have also heard from my professional colleagues about the mental health insanity plea being used in court inappropriately as a catch all to prevent some defendants from going to jail.  All of this makes the existing mental health stigma worse and the challenges and barriers even harder for some individuals living with mental health issues and mental health disorders.  Although the definitions for mental health are plentiful in general my basic definition of mental health is the quality of our mental state which is comprised of our emotional, psychological, biological, physical, and social attributes and environments.  The reality is that we all have mental health issues, however, what varies is the degree and the severity of our mental health issues and/or mental health disorders.  For example: I have some clients who have been diagnosed with the bipolar mental health disorder.  Through my clients I have come to understand their challenges and struggles resulting from living life with a bipolar diagnosis.  One common challenge they all have to deal with is the stigma associated with being bipolar.  This stigma adds to the challenges they already strive to conquer each day in dealing with the reality of their diagnosis and how it effects their lives.  Disorders within mental health that require professional help, such as the bipolar disorder, are real.  Therefore, people should not be afraid to seek help for any reason and there is nothing wrong with seeking professional help.  No one should be embarrassed or ashamed for seeking professional help in dealing with their mental health issues and/or mental health disorders.  Instead they should be respected and praised for having the courage to do so in a society that still has significant stigma pertaining to mental health issues and mental health disorders.

I believe it is important to educate ourselves about the issues, taboos, and stigmas we have pertaining to mental health.  However, when we educate ourselves it is important to do so from well-balanced sources that present the facts about mental health.  Examples of some of the sources that do so are listed below with links to their webpages.  A few of the ways that we can support our loved ones, co-workers, community at large, and anyone else dealing with mental health issues and/or disorders is by educating ourselves about their specific diagnosis, unconditionally supporting them in healthy ways that hold them accountable as applicable, and by providing a non-judgmental empathetic ear.

Resources to further educate ourselves about mental health issues and mental health disorders:

National Alliance on Mental Illness:

https://www.nami.org/About-NAMI

World Health Organization:

http://www.who.int/mental_health/management/en/

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:

https://www.samhsa.gov/about-us

Office on Women’s Health:

https://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs:

https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/

Unconscious Bias and Racism

A couple of days ago I went to use the restroom in the building where I was counseling clients. As soon as I walked into the bathroom just as I was about to say hi to the woman looking at me she asked, “oh are you here to fix the toilet”? Now, it occurred to me that maybe she equated seeing a woman of color who just happen to be wearing business casual clothes (pants, shirt, and black dress shoes) with being a person who is there to fix the toilet or perhaps it was both unconscious bias and racism that guided her. I can honestly say that was the first time in my life I have been asked if I was there to fix a public toilet. Regretfully, I have been dealing with ignorance, unconscious bias, and racism from others my entire life just as many of you have. My first experience literally began in kindergarten in which my fellow classmates, of different races, formed a circle around me and called me various racial epithets. As you might imagine this was very hurtful to me.

I am closer to being 50 years of age than I am to being 40 years of age (-yes, it is true I do not always like to tell my age especially as I am getting dangerously close to the big 50), which means I have been dealing with hate, unconscious bias, and racism for a long time. Thanks to my parents I learned at a very young age that hateful, ignorant, and racist people do exist and they represent their own beliefs and do not speak for their entire race. My parents provided excellent examples for me to follow as a child. My beautiful Caucasian mother has dealt with and continues to deal with the ignorance, hate, and racism of others towards her based solely on the color of her skin. My beautiful African American father dealt with the ignorance and hate of others his entire life as well based solely on the color of his skin. One example my father shared  involved him being in his military uniform. As a result, he dealt with ignorant, hateful, and racists individuals who would call him the N word based solely on the color of his skin regardless of his worth as a man and regardless of his military uniform.

Fortunately, having parents who knew that the hate, ignorance, unconscious bias, and racism that was propelled onto them was a reflection of those who did this behavior and not a reflection of their entire race. I was raised knowing and understanding this truth from my parents’ experiences as well as from my own experiences. I did not appreciate the inappropriate words towards me from this lady whom I told I couldn’t help and continued about my business. The next day I saw this woman again and I chose to speak to her. This was another example I learned from my parents: to take the higher road. I could have easily chosen to be as ignorant and disrespectful to her as she previously was to me but that would only further perpetuate her negative energy into the universe. Therefore, I chose to treat her in the way that I desired to be treated. Again, lessons I learned from my parents.

As we go through this world dealing with the ignorance, hate, unconscious bias, and racism of others, we could easily respond in the same negative manner. However, if we look through history we will come across all of the phenomenal great leaders that have gone before us. Such leaders have left excellent examples of how they tackled and dealt with these issues while taking the higher road. These awesome leaders also advocated for social justice and equality for all people and for all populations. Spreading this kind of positive energy along with education, just as those great leaders of the past have done, can lead to significant positive change throughout the world. This is the type of legacy that we can all do our part to contribute to right where we are and it starts with our individual actions towards each other.

Childhood

I previously had a client who stated, “I’m sick and tired of my wife telling me I need to talk about my childhood!” Talking about our childhood in therapy has been joked about in numerous sitcoms and movies. At times when among our close friends we may sometimes find ourselves jokingly asking (as we shake our heads) “who hurt you?” All jokes aside, who we are all begins with our childhood. For better or worse the foundation of who we are and why we behave in the ways that we do all begins with our childhood. Depending on the type of traumatic experiences we had during our childhoods we can begin to understand the effects of that trauma when we work on ourselves. I tell my clients all of the time that I have to do the same hard work on myself that they have to do in order to work on my issues. The issues may be the same or different but we all have to do the hard work on ourselves to deal with our issues and most, if not all, of our issues go back to our childhood in one way or another.

As adults we may not recognize the connection to our present behavior until we actually stop to do the hard work on ourselves in order to deal with our issues. Becoming the best person that we can be involves a lifelong journey of working on ourselves. When we do this continuous hard work on ourselves it enables us to also have good mental health, emotional health, and spiritual health (-for those who are spiritual). We are always worth the time and effort required to be the best possible person that we can. So as I’ve said before, you deserve the best and nothing less! So we must do the work on ourselves so that we can have the best. I’m referring to having the best mental, emotional, and spiritual health. In doing so we truly honor ourselves in a priceless way.