Month: September 2016

“The Art of Distraction”

“The Art of Distraction”

by: Jason Pogue, PLPC

My wife and I are soon expecting our first child. We are excited and terrified all at once, and this spurs us on to read and talk with those who have gone through it all before. Though much of what we are practicing are techniques for ‘letting go’ and letting her body do what it was made to do, some of the techniques are purely in the realm of distraction. When the pain is so great, how can you or your partner distract you from it? These techniques for childbirth aren’t much different than the “techniques” we all pick up over time in a pain-filled world. I am reminded of this statement I’ve heard from a number of different wiser and older friends and mentors:

“No human being can fully bear the weight of reality.”

Even though I agree with this statement I can often feel as though I should be able to fully bear the weight of it all…that to set the pain and sorrow aside for a moment is actually being inauthentic or callous toward others or myself. When this feeling of should is not actually coming from others, I can still shame myself for spending an hour in distraction with television, or avoiding what I think I need to be doing in that moment. But is distraction always a problem?

The truth is that reality is a mix of both beauty and brokenness – both joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain. Yet often we can find the sorrow and pain winning out…snuffing out our joy. It only takes a few minutes of reading the news to be overwhelmed by the amount of violence, death, corruption, hatred, deception, and malice in the world around us. If we were to remove every bit of distraction from our lives and force our eyes open upon the unending wounds of the world, we would be swallowed up by grief. Though it is a painfully important exercise to wrestle with the big questions of life, to constantly live in this place would be simply unbearable.

The question is not whether distraction is good or bad, but what kind of distraction(s) are we involved in and how flexible are they? Taking some alone time to listen to music is a far more healthy a distraction than drinking until you black out. A good distraction, or coping-mechanism can assist you to bear through an excessively painful or overwhelming moment until you are in a safe enough place to process what has occurred.

More than just assessing the kind of distractions we engage in, a healthy arsenal of coping mechanisms assesses how flexible our distractions are – after all, you probably can’t go into a room and listen to music for an hour when you have a presentation to give at work or when your little boy is crying because he is hungry again! Consider one healthy coping mechanism of sharing what your internal experience is with someone else – this can be hugely beneficial in calming our bodies down and feeling known, but it would be entirely destructive to engage in with an abusive listener waiting to use our vulnerability against us. Sometimes the ways we’ve been wounded erode our ability to assess one person from another, and instead of engaging in the appropriate coping mechanism we simply choose one way of relating to everyone.

The problem is not distraction, or coping mechanisms – these can be a gift at times to get us through unbearable moments. The problem is when a particular distraction or coping mechanism becomes our only answer to the pain, is destructive to our lives, or continuously takes the place of ever actually returning to the pain and sorrow that resides within us and in our world.

So how are you doing with the art of distraction? If you aren’t able to cope, or are seeing destructive, rigid, or unending distraction taking over your life I invite you to give us a call to meet with a counselor, grow these skills, and process the emotional turmoil beneath it all. You have the ability to not only survive the grief of this world, but to work through it so that you can take joy in your day-to-day life. Why not start using it today?

What is trauma and do you have it? An Intro to EMDR

What is trauma and do you have it? An Intro to EMDR

by: Courtney Hollingsworth, LPC, EMDR Therapist

Do you have trauma in your past? Probably. It can be defined simply as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. any event that causes an unusually high level of emotional stress and has a long lasting negative effect on a person. More than the mind or body can bear. If nothing in your personal life story comes to mind when you read those lines, prepare yourself for the day it does, because that day will come. Why can I say this with certainty? Life. Life is filled with brokenness, loss, sorrow, and pain. No one gets a free pass from that.

Sometimes mental health professionals differentiate between “big ’T’ Trauma” and “little ’t’ trauma.” Big “T” Trauma is a sudden, big traumatic experience such as sexual abuse, domestic violence, combat, natural disaster, rape, a life-threatening event, unexpected death of loved one, and crime. But even more common is little “t” trauma, which tends to be a smaller event, is often chronic, or experienced over and over, such as verbal abuse, bullying, loss of a pet or job, divorce, betrayal, etc. Just because the trauma feels smaller does not mean the impact is smaller. A helpful metaphor for the difference might be the difference between having your body set on fire vs being burned all over your body by matches. Both cause painful and lasting damage; it just occurs differently.

EMDR is helpful with a variety of big “T” Traumatic experiences that have caused a person to suffer from PTSD. EMDR can has also been proven to be effective for clinical issues that can be the result of little “t” trauma, such as depression, addiction, anxiety, and self esteem.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an evidence-based treatment for trauma. More than 27 studies (since 1989) have demonstrated EMDR’s effectiveness in treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The Department of Defense, Department of Veteran Affairs, American Psychiatric Association, and the World Health Organization all recommend this treatment.

For more information about EMDR or to set up an appointment, please contact Courtney Hollingsworth​, LPC, EMDR Therapist at ​courtney@avenuescounselingcenter.org

Finding Pluto: Why knowing our stories is critical to healthy relationships

Finding Pluto: Why knowing our stories is critical to healthy relationships

This all looks really sciency, doesn't it? But look! It has Pluto on it.

This all looks really sciency, doesn’t it? But look! It has Pluto on it.

By Jonathan E. Hart, LPC

Someone asked me the other day, “Why do we need to look back in our lives to explain why we feel bad about things?”  My answer was simple and succinct:

“Pluto.”

The non-planet was only discovered because astronomers were looking for something they couldn’t see.  They had noticed a “wobble” in the orbits of Neptune and Uranus that shouldn’t have been happening if there was nothing else out there.  Math-magicians and astronomers then calculated the mass that would cause these wobbles, and the approximate location in which it would be, and started looking.  They eventually discovered Pluto and its moon, Charon (per this website).  They would likely have never seen Pluto at all if they hadn’t looked for the reason behind that wobble. 

This is a metaphor for our emotional lives.  There are times when we have emotional experiences that seem to be out of proportion to the events at hand.  When something that seems trivial bothers us,  we commonly try to ignore the feeling by telling ourselves “I feel silly.  I’m making a big deal out of nothing.”  We essentially try not to be bothered … and yet we are bothered. 

If you’ve tried this, you can probably verify that this strategy is rather useless.  The bad feeling builds up with repetition until we feel like we have to say something.  By that point, what we say or do is often quite out of proportion to the situation. 

This is usually because what is “visible” – that is, the obvious situation – is most often not all that is in play.  There is more “mass” involved than can be seen.  Getting at that mass will help explain what is happening inside us.

It might have been easier to chalk up that planetary wobble to the visible planets.  The observers could have said, “There is no other explanation.  Neptune is just… crazy.”  It would be annoying every time it was observed, but we would have to shrug our shoulders and walk away.  It sounds foolish when we are talking about astronomy.  It is just as foolish to do this when we are talking about our hearts and minds.

The things that bother us do so for a reason.  When we give our feelings some credit, we have discovered a “wobble”.  By noticing the wobble AND acknowledging that it is there (instead of pretending it isn’t or blaming it on the visible circumstances), we have the opportunity to look around and discover what the other “mass” is that is affecting our experience of what is visible.

Everything makes sense when we know enough story.  What we feel is not always completely reliable, but it makes sense.  Our emotions often don’t match the scenario we are facing, but when they don’t, it’s not because we’re crazy.  It’s because we don’t know enough about ourselves or each other to sufficiently explain it. 

If you have discovered a “wobble” in your current experience, and you would like a little help figuring out what it’s all about come on in and let’s talk about it. –JH