Taming the Fire: Trauma and Anger

Part III of a Six-part Trauma Series. Trigger warning: This is a difficult topic. Some examples of traumas will be eluded to without details in order to set a scene for clarity and relatability.

Part II of this series, Trauma and Depression: The Other Side of the Mountain, can be found on aplaceofhope.com blog.

Part I of this series, What Trauma Is and Is Not, can be found on aplaceofhope.com blog.


Ever since your trauma, you find yourself feeling so angry. Everything bugs you for no real reason you can see. The thoughts running through your mind surprise you. Nothing is enjoyable. It feels as if the universe and everything in it has conspired against you. 

No one understands. People keep checking on you. They ask you if you are mad. Of course, you say no because you know there is no logical reason to be angry. They do not believe your answer because everything in your tone and body language says otherwise. You know this, but there are just no words for what is happening. You wish they would stop asking already because the questions are no longer about “the incident,” or “the trauma,” but about you. You have begun to wonder if you are broken beyond repair and the futility of it all fuels the volcano within. Will the cycle ever end?

Remember how trauma was described in the first edition in this series: 

“A very difficult or unpleasant experience that causes someone to have mental or emotional problems, usually for a long time. It can be helpful to think of trauma as a sort of spectrum, ranging from unpleasant surprises on one end to near-death experiences on the other.” (Emphasis added)

No one asks for a trauma. Even if you are intentionally acting in a risky manner, it is highly doubtful the results of trauma were what you intended to accomplish. Trauma is an interruption, an abrupt and jagged curve in the road. It affects every single aspect of life; mind, body, spirit, and social realms. 

The initial distress of a trauma may be over. The perpetrator was caught. The compensation money has been deposited. Your body has healed. You came clean about your part in it and everyone rallied around you with support when you needed it most. You may even believe that God was with you and “it was all for a reason.” No matter what the situation, at one point, you were headed down Road A and trauma came along and, without your permission, flung you to Road Z. Your boundaries were crossed, and the outcome was a whole lot of unfairness. Rest assured, the absolute reasonable and correct response to injustice and boundary crossing is anger.

Really? You sure?

Yes. Really. I am sure.

This may sound wrong to some of you. Many people have been taught that anger is wrong and “mean”. This is simply untrue. Anger is a healthy emotion. The problem often arises when anger, aggression, and rage are confused for each other.

Our emotions are part of an intricate, brain-based signal system that runs on rules and algorithms, often outside of our awareness.  Anger is an emotion that supplies us with heat and energy to propel us toward keeping ourselves safe, speaking the truth, and striving for justice. We know when overt actions occur, someone hits us or takes something of ours, anger is appropriate. When it becomes more subtle, when, “they didn’t mean to crash into me on the freeway,” our logical mind may tell us a story to keep us in social equilibrium. However, our much more “feely” right brain will still know that a rule was violated, and the emotion of anger will be triggered accordingly. This is why you do not know why you feel as you do sometimes.

As mentioned, anger is not to be mistaken for aggression or rage. To understand the difference, consider the following chart:

Emotion Emotion Self-talk Emotion Action
Anger “This is unfair. It needs to change” (Firm, heated, but not disrespectful or harmful. You can think and make a plan) Firm voice, persistent. Willing to persist from different directions until heard. Easier to lay down boundaries. Thoughts are action/solution focused. 

Aggression

“This is unfair. Someone needs to pay and I’m going to make it happen” (Heated, loud, distrusting, disrespectful) Pushes you to prod and poke until you hurt the other side. Yelling, insulting, intimidating, withdrawal of affection. Thoughts are focused on punishment.
Rage “AAARRRGG!!” (Incoherent, irrational, loud) Yelling, hitting, throwing, breaking things, bailing on others. Not controllable without outside help. Thinking is usually offline.

Anger is a normal and proper response to trauma. However, if not properly vented or addressed, it can fester and grow, leading to aggression or rage. If you have struggled with anger and it feels as if it is becoming a wildfire, here are some things you can try:

Give Yourself Space to Tell (or Show) the Truth. Undoubtedly, there are aspects of your traumatic experience that feel unfair and/or violating. You have a right to those feelings. It is important to express them in a healthy manner. Everyone processes differently. Some people need to tell their story over and over again until the brain is satisfied it has worked out all the details. Other people feel better if they act out their feelings (throwing ice cubes in the bathtub, chopping wood, smacking balls at the batting range, and so on). Others feel best if they take their tragedy and morph it into something useful to others. Whatever method works best for you, find a way to speak or act your truth. Start with God, the Universe, a pet, a journal, or a trusted and safe friend. Don’t lock it up inside.

Know Your Temperature. Anger carries heat and energy with it. This makes it easy to notice if you pay attention. On a piece of paper, write a line and put numbers one through ten. One indicates complete calm and happiness and ten is rage. At each one or two points, write down a personal experience that correlates to that place on the line. Perhaps one would be when you were lying on the beach in Maui. Four might be when that person cut you off on the freeway. Seven could be when your mother said she was not coming to your wedding.  Perhaps the angriest you have been was when your significant other left you. That might be your ten. Whatever it is, notice the types of thoughts and body sensations you have at each point along the way. Then, find a way to check in with yourself a few times a day to measure where your anger meter is. If it is rising, stop and spend some time speaking truth or self-soothing until you are calm and in control of your thoughts and actions.

Opposite Action. Don’t make things worse. Once you have decided that a given episode of anger is not about the present moment, you need to override your emotions with a decision. Decide how you want to behave and do that, even if your anger tells you otherwise. It is easiest and most effective to act opposite to the emotion. Perhaps you are having a particularly rough day and your sister is twenty minutes late. Suppose your trauma occurred when you were waiting for a friend who was late. You realize that the intensity of your anger is coming from the trauma and is out-of-proportion to the current situation because your sister is rarely late and always apologetic. You decide that when you see her, you will smile, listen carefully to what happened, and give her a hug (when, really, you want to scream, throw things, and chase her out of the room). This takes strength, but after a few practice runs, it will not only be easier, you will feel more powerful and in control.

As with the above example, the taming of the fire of anger (keeping it anger rather than allowing it to grow into aggression or rage) produces a feeling of great empowerment. Anger is helpful and healthy. Attempting to stoke it or quench it will only result in physical illness, chronic irritation, or other unhealthy response. You are not bad because you are angry. God is not mad at you for being angry at the trauma. God can weave whatever we give Him into a beautiful tapestry, but He knows that the particular thread of trauma itself is unpleasant. If you struggle with chronic anger, you need not suffer alone. There are many professional anger management treatment programs like the one at The Center • A Place of HOPE. Find a trauma survivor support group. If that does not sound like enough, then consider a call to The Center for information on its trauma recovery program. 

Written by Hannah Smith, MA LMHC CGP, Group Therapy Training & Curriculum Consultant for The Center ● A Place of Hope. As a Neuroscience-informed, Licensed Therapist and International Board-certified Group Psychotherapist, Hannah’s passion is to see people reach their potential and find lasting, positive change. The Center is located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety, and more.

The Center • A Place of HOPE specializes in the treatment of depression and has been voted a Top 10 U.S. Depressions Treatment Center.  We use a whole-person approach that allows you to discover what is truly going on in your mind, body, and spirit. Contact us today at 1-888-771-5166 and begin the healing process.

A Cleanse and Detox Protocol that Addresses Depression

Your body has multiple organs and systems that work together to filter and flush toxins out of your body.  The liver, kidneys, lymphatic system, lungs, and skin can become overwhelmed by the large amounts of toxins in our diets. Not to mention daily environmental factors we encounter. 

Unless we are very intentional about diet and lifestyle, there’s a good chance we are not supporting these organs and systems with the nutrition and activities they need to stay in tip-top shape.

At The Center • A Place of HOPE, when we work with a new client who is struggling with depression, we often recommend a three-week protocol designed to cleanse and detox the body. The protocol incorporates detox agents, dietary changes, and actions that support the body in performing at maximum capacity and work to eliminate problem-causing toxins that are affecting health and mood.  Below is the recommended protocol.

Look to incorporate detox agents into your daily routine.  Each day, do at least two of these: 

  • Drink a cup of dandelion root tea in the morning and another one in the afternoon.
  • Take 500 mg of N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) twice a day.
  • Take 300 mg of milk thistle (extracted from the fruit or seed, not the leaf, and standardized to 70 to 80 percent of the active ingredient silymarin).

These are dietary changes that will assist in supporting your body.  

  • Eliminate all alcohol, soda, energy drinks, coffee, and juices or teas with added sugar.
  • Avoid all candy and other sweets.
  • Drink two cups or more of fresh-pressed vegetable juice every day.
    Limit animal products; eat no more than six ounces of animal flesh a day.
    Avoid all dairy products except for butter.
  • Focus on whole foods (whatever you can buy in the produce section).
  • Drink at least two liters of water a day.  

It is important to move the blood and lymphatics.  Each day, do at least two of the following: 

  • Dry skin brushing, which involves brushing your skin with a soft brush prior to a bath or shower. This provides gentle exfoliation, boosts circulation, and encourages new cell growth.
  • Spend time in a sauna, then follow up with a cold rinse for ninety seconds or less. (I recommend choosing this at least three times a week.)
  • Exercise for at least twenty to thirty minutes at a time. Exercise boosts circulation through the body, which helps flush toxins out.  

Now, we must talk about sleep!  Get at least seven and a half hours of sleep a night. This will help you feel rested and less stressed.  Sleep reduces inflammation so the body can function at its best.

In addition to helping your body get rid of built-up toxins, this plan will also eliminate foods that are common causes of food sensitivities and inflammation in the body.  After following this protocol for three weeks, you are in the perfect position to slowly reintroduce common problem foods back into your diet, paying close attention to any reactions you may be having.

Pick one of the foods that was eliminated, and eat it twice a day for two days. Bread is a good example.  Be sure to keep a journal and write down any differences you notice in your body, energy, or mood. Make a note if you feel more depressed, have headaches or joint pain, or feel bloated. Also, notate if you are experiencing brain fog or have trouble concentrating. 

If your body responds negatively to the food item you have reintroduced, remove it again from your diet. Wait a few days, then reintroduce a different food and pay attention to how your body responds.

Whether you have gluten sensitivities or not, when it comes to managing your mood, clean eating is going to make a major difference.

The Center • A Place of HOPE specializes in the treatment of depression and has been voted a Top 10 U.S. Depressions Treatment Center.  We use a whole-person approach that allows you to discover what is truly going on in your mind, body, and spirit. Contact us today at 1-888-771-5166 and begin the healing process.

Creating a More Physical Lifestyle and Altering Your Attitude

In addition to doing wonders for your brain and body, physical movement can be a game-changer when it comes to your overall attitude. Exercise is the perfect tool for reprogramming a depressed prefrontal cortex. It can reprogram how you think and cope too. 

Here’s what else regular movement is going to do for you:

Increase your confidence. There’s a confidence that comes from having a body that is fit and healthy, and there is also confidence that comes from doing something every day that you know is good for you. Either way, regular physical movement empowers you to feel better about yourself.

Boost your creativity. Research conducted at Stanford University showed that something as simple as casual walking improves creativity by boosting convergent thinking (solving a problem) as well as divergent thinking (coming up with original ideas). [1]

Help you cope. We’ve already talked about the fact that the endorphins released while exercising serve as your body’s natural painkillers while helping to reduce anxiety and stress. That makes exercise the perfect go-to activity when you’re looking for a healthy coping strategy. Unhealthy coping techniques (such as misusing alcohol, overeating, and excessive TV viewing) may provide a temporary release or escape, but they are expedient at best and cause more harm than good in the end. Physical movement, however, is a coping strategy that not only provides relief at the moment, but it also offers innumerable lasting benefits for a healthy brain and body.

Increasing your activity level for one day is a great start, but the most powerful benefits will come from consistency. Once you get moving, how do you keep moving, day after day, week after week? 

Here are five ways to reap the long-term benefits of a more active lifestyle:

  1. Keep a journal. Write down what your thoughts and feelings were like before, during, and after exercising. Write about any improvements you feel in your body, attitude, or emotions. 
  2. Be consistent. Especially as you get started, remember that consistency is more important than intensity. As you gain strength in your body and mind, you may naturally want to increase the intensity of your workouts. In the beginning, however, make consistency your number one goal, and the rest will follow.
  3. Ban all-or-nothing thoughts. Consistency and commitment are indeed essential for an effective activity regimen, but don’t be hard on yourself if you slack off a bit. Perfectionism is the enemy of progress.
  4. Enlist the help of fitness apps. Downloading a fitness app on your phone or purchasing an activity tracker isn’t necessary (so don’t put off your fitness goals until you have one) but can be motivating for some people. If counting steps or reaching activity goals by using an app or tracker feels rewarding, do it!
  5. Create a favorite workout playlist. Music and movement are a powerful combination. Creating a playlist of lively tunes that make you want to move is always a great idea.  

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE in Edmonds, Washington, voted a top ten facility for the treatment of depression in the United States. Dr. Jantz pioneered Whole Person Care in the 1980’s and is a world-renowned expert on eating disorders, depression, anxiety, technology addiction, and abuse. He is a leading voice and innovator in Mental Health utilizing a variety of therapies including nutrition, sleep therapy, spiritual counseling, and advanced DBT techniques. Dr. Jantz is a best-selling author of 39 books and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN.

[1] Marily Oppezzo and Daniel L. Schwartz, “Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking,” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 40, no. 4 (July 2014): 1142–52, http://psycnet.apa.org/record /2014-14435-001.

How Digital Distortion Magnifies Depression Symptoms

It’s long been recognized that “keeping up with the Joneses” is a big part of what keeps us all running the “rat race.” Those may be outdated phrases these days, but the condition of unhealthy envy they describe is alive and well.

It’s admittedly difficult to avoid noticing the outward appearances of your neighbor’s life—job, car, home, overachieving kids, and adventurous vacations—and comparing them to your own, concluding your neighbor must be better off and happier than you. This comparison game is rigged from the start. Media marketers work overtime to be sure you feel your life is lacking so they can sell you what’s missing.

Before the Internet, however, those we compared ourselves to were mostly flesh-and-blood people. They lived down the street or worked down the hall. It was at least possible to see them at their worst as well as at their best. And they numbered in the dozens at the very most.

Now we compare ourselves to thousands, if not millions, of virtual neighbors. And we see only what they allow us to see—photos of their pets, happy dinners with friends, the view from an exotic beach, kids getting academic awards, crossing the finish line at the Boston Marathon. Most of this is posted by people who are “friends” in name only. It’s a giant understatement to say that all this adds up to a man- aged and distorted view of who people really are and how they actually live. And that’s before we account for perceptions created by advertisers that can be grossly manipulative, misleading, or outright false.

Those suffering from depression are already poised to believe that their lives don’t measure up to the lives of others. The Internet provides persuasive “evidence” they’re right about that.

While much of what you see on the Internet presents an overly rosy view of reality, millions of other sites peddle the opposite extreme: nonstop doom and gloom. It’s an alarming parade of war, famine, political strife, social injustice, and environmental catastrophe. Spend much time there, and you’ll be convinced the world teeters on the edge of calamity and collapse every second of every day.


Professional Health Tip from Dr. Gregory Jantz…

Conduct a technology detox once a week, or if that is too hard, once every two weeks. Take a Saturday or Sunday, and leave the device on the charger and out of sight (and earshot). See if you can go a full 24 hours. Get outside, enjoy fresh air, talk with friends, go to an event or favorite place and just…detox. 

If you have kids, set deadlines each evening for their device to be in your closet on a charger. We use 9pm in our home. Most teenagers are online from 11pm to 3am, disrupting sleep, being exposed to potential bullying and inappropriate images or text.

If you feel stress from reading a news feed, or an opinion page, or from your social networks, I encourage you to disengage. Avoid contentious, argumentative, men and outrageous conversations or opinions. Reside in a place of positivity, happiness, compassion and helping others.


 

I believe a steady diet of “digital distortion” is harmful to anyone’s mental health and magnifies depression symptoms. It rarely leads to healthy or effective political engagement on important issues. In fact, exposure to “doom porn,” as it is sometimes humorously called, simply reinforces feelings of powerlessness and despair. That’s why, to a person struggling to overcome serious depression, it’s positively toxic. Turning off the spigot and cleaning up the digital sludge is an essential step toward recovery.

If you are struggling with depression, anxiety or stress, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help. Our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

Physical Activity Helps Us Eliminate Self-Defeating Attitudes

Some of my best ideas and most profound attitude adjustments come while I’m cycling or jogging.  While jogging, I can actually run the gamut from thinking negatively about a problem, to being open to new possibilities, to actually coming up with a positive solution to my concerns — all during a few miles of physical exertion.  

Perhaps you’ve had the same experience. Brisk walking, running, cycling, hiking — any kind of physical exercise that’s challenging for you — can help you see your problems with new eyes and, in fact, alter your attitude.  Let me give you an example.

As I was running the other day, I began thinking about challenges at the office. I love my work, and the rewards far outdistance the difficulties. But as with any business, not all aspects of it are pleasant. As I started my run, I was pretty down on a few individuals, and on myself for my reaction to some of the things they had said.

The first couple of miles, I heaped one negative thought on another. My usually buoyant spirit was fast dissipating under the weight of my wallowing in negative thinking. Here I was, a counselor committed to helping people work through the pain of their own emotional exhaustion, and I was demonstrating the same behavior as those I’m committed to helping.  

On the spot, I made the decision to change my attitude. I picked up my pace and got my heart rate up. Then I said a prayer, asking God to forgive me for indulging in an attitude of despair and complaint. I started to count my blessings — thanking God for my wonderful wife, who has been my partner for so many years. I thanked the Father for the beautiful Northwest where I’m privileged to live.  I started reciting the names of my friends who care about me and who had touched my life. I prayed for each of them, one by one, asking God to give them strength and courage and that they might always have the inner resolve to be the persons our heavenly Father designed them to be.  

By now I was cruising. I scarcely remember the scenery, the rocks on the road, the traffic, or anything else on my run.  Everything had suddenly come together for me — the physical, emotional, and spiritual — and it started by simply getting some exercise for my body.  

When I came home, I felt taller and stronger inside and out.  Gone were my earlier complaints — still to be dealt with but now with a different attitude — and in their place was a spirit of gratitude.  

We dare not underestimate the importance of physical activity in helping us to eliminate self-defeating attitudes.  Just getting up, getting out, and moving can be helpful.

There are now scores of studies that confirm that exercise can be a direct antidote to stress.  Whether a workout activates stress-destroying endorphins or simply provides for a relaxing pause in the action, we know something good happens.  

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE in Edmonds, Washington, voted a top ten facility for the treatment of depression in the United States. Dr. Jantz pioneered Whole Person Care in the 1980’s and is a world-renowned expert on eating disorders, depression, anxiety, technology addiction, and abuse. He is a leading voice and innovator in Mental Health utilizing a variety of therapies including nutrition, sleep therapy, spiritual counseling, and advanced DBT techniques. Dr. Jantz is a best-selling author of 37 books and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN.

Depression and Suicidal Thoughts

Suicide. For many of us, it is an uncomfortable topic to discuss. But ignoring this serious issue will not help improve it.

By now, most of us are aware of the sobering increase in depression, anxiety and suicide rates in the United States. Depression will be the #1 health issue in the world in 2020 according the the World Health Organization. Suicide rates have increased about 30% in the United States in just the last 18 years. In many areas the numbers are much higher. Kansas, for example, has seen a 49% increase. Men are 4 times more likely to commit suicide than women.

We must acknowledge that these are a result of a society and culture we have collectively created over generations. While it is important for us to have frank discussions on how we can adjust and improve in each of these areas, it is also important to understand that each of these areas is treatable.

How To Help Someone Who You Believe May Be Suicidal

It is normal to feel uncomfortable when speaking to someone for whom you believe may be considering suicide. Just remember, the goal is not to take on the person’s problem or to have all of the right answers. The goal is to show honest compassion. If you do not know how to approach someone, you can call a suicide prevention hotline or a treatment center and get advice from them. Please see resources at the end of this article

If you are truly concerned about someone, do not wait. It is better to approach your friend or family member with compassion and caring, than to hope that their pain goes away.

According to the American Counseling Association, here are some key points you can make when discussing with your friend or family member.

  • “We all go through tough or scary times.” It can be common for an individual to believe they are the only ones who struggle with life’s challenges. Reminding them that all of us, including you, struggle at different points in life, lets them know they are not alone in their feelings. Acknowledging their concerns are legitimate can reduce the stigma of reaching out for help.
  • “It’s OK to ask for help.” By saying this, you normalize the help-seeking process. You remind them that we all need help sometimes.
  • “I’m here for you.” It is important to let your friend or family member know you are available to LISTEN without judgment.

Professional Health Tip from Dr. Gregory Jantz…

Avoid the temptation to give advice. Sometimes we all just need to feel heard. If they request advice, a good response can be, “I know I love you, and I want to make sure I help you you get through this. Let’s consider professional counseling or treatment.”


Are You Depressed?

Take this A Place of HOPE online evaluation and receive immediate feedback

A whole person approach to care has proven to be powerfully effective. It takes commitment, for sure. Treatment can involve weeks of work with trained professionals. But the results can be dramatic and beautiful. Treatment is effective for depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and combinations of the three. 

Important Notes on Helping Those With Suicidal Thoughts

We often get asked whether a loved one should talk about suicide with the individual who may be suffering. We believe the answer is yes. Do not wait to see if it subsides. But importantly, start by being a good listener. Let them tell their story. Do not try to fix their situation with immediate feedback. Acknowledge their pain and express your sadness that they are not feeling well.

There are many things that should not be said. It is important not to try to minimize their pain, or make them feel guilty or “selfish”. Do not try to scare them away from suicide. Their pain is real, and they need understanding and love. Most importantly, they may need help to regain their strength, balance, and ultimately their happiness.

If you are concerned about someone, encourage them to get help. Encourage them to talk to a professional; you can even have an initial call yourself with a professional to learn how best to be helpful. Know that treatment can be very effective for those considering suicide.  

Resources

  1. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 800.273.8255
  2. Crisis Text Line – 741-741
  3. To learn about treatment programs for those suffering from depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, please call The Center • A Place of HOPE Admissions  – 888.771.5166

 

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE in Edmonds, Washington, voted a top ten facility for the treatment of depression in the United States. Dr. Jantz pioneered Whole Person Care in the 1980’s and is a world-renowned expert on eating disorders, depression, anxiety, technology addiction, and abuse. He is a leading voice and innovator in Mental Health utilizing a variety of therapies including nutrition, sleep therapy, spiritual counseling, and advanced DBT techniques. Dr. Jantz is a best-selling author of 37 books and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN.

When Faith Provides a Source of Truth in Depression

Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose? These are deeply personal questions that I, as a Christian, believe are also deeply spiritual. These are questions most people wrestle with over the course of their lives.

By answering these questions, people come to accept their own identities, understand their value in the world, and define a purpose worth striving for.

Depression distorts those questions and blocks healthy answers. Depression instead asks:

  • Where is joy?
  • When will this be over?
  • Why is this happening?
  • How did I get this way?

The answers depression provides weaken a person’s belief in life and the future. Depression says you are alone in your misery. Depression says nothing is ever going to get better. Depression says you’re not worth anything. In contrast, faith strengthens a person’s belief in life and the future. Faith argues that you are not alone, and faith assures that there is a Father who values and loves you.

When life doesn’t seem worth living, when there doesn’t seem any truth or joy or even answers in the world, the spiritual connection of faith provides a source of truth, joy, and answers outside of you. This spiritual reservoir can spring up and replenish parched souls.

When you are in the midst of depression, you must stop listening to the voice of depression and concentrate on God’s truths:

GOD DOES LOVE YOU.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”—John 3:16

GOD WANTS YOU TO EXPERIENCE JOY.

“Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”—Isaiah 51:11

THROUGH GOD’S STRENGTH, YOU CAN LEARN AND GROW EACH DAY.

“It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.”—2 Samuel 22:33

GOD’S DESIRE IS FOR YOU TO KNOW CONTENTMENT IN LIFE.

“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.”—Philippians 4:12

WITH GOD’S HELP, YOU CAN RESPOND TO YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES INSTEAD OF REACT.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”—Romans 12:2

In the midst of your depression, listen to God instead of your despair. Fill your mind with promises and hope from his Word. Always measure against the truth in Scripture what you are told by any religious group. And don’t let others tell you what the Bible says; read it for yourself. There are reasons for your depression, but God’s desiring you to be unhappy and miserable is not one of them.

If you are struggling with stress, anxiety, or depression, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help. Our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with an admissions specialist today.

 

 

Be Aware of Life’s Challenges

As you work towards becoming stronger and more resilient in areas of your life, it’s important that you remember O’Toole’s Law.  Simply states, O’Toole’s Law says that Murphy was an optimist.  If something can go wrong with Murphy’s Law, it will go ballistic with O’Toole’s!  With that inescapable truth in mind, here are four areas where you will need to be particularly vigilant in the days ahead to ward off emotional exhaustion and stay strong.

Be alert to ordinary, expected life events.  None of us can escape these.  They are the stuff life is made of: high school, trade school, and college graduations, moving across the street or across the world, retiring, getting a promotion, making new friends, or trying to fit into a new neighborhood.  Anticipate these events as best you can. If you do not have a plan to accept them in the normal course of living, any one of them could throw you for a loop.

Be alert to the probability of unexpected life events.  These are the shocks and sorrows of life.  The death of a spouse or a child; the tragedy of an automobile accident; getting a call in the middle of the night informing you your best friend has suffered a massive heart attack.  These are really tough times. To be strong is to prepare yourself for these sudden events by building a strong foundation faith in God and in his ability to see you through. With God-based courage, you can face the ups and downs of life and remain strong.  The hard times will not destroy you or drive you into prolonged depression and despair.

Be alert to ongoing events that can drive you crazy.  These can be the everyday emotional killers — like the dog next store that barks endlessly, the ongoing skirmishes with a spouse, the quarrels with our kids.  You may be caring for an aged parent who lingers on in poor health, sapping you financially and emotionally. It could be the sheer boredom with a career that’s going nowhere, pressures at work, or unresolved issues with an ex-spouse.  

Events such as these tend to have a cumulative effect. If we do not recognize them and deal with them as emotionally health persons, they won’t be easily resolved.  As they weigh us down, we may feel as if we’ve been ground down to almost nothing. Yet to accept the unacceptable with courage and good humor is one of the ways you can regain control of your life.  In God’s strength you can be strong in even these most difficult daily situations.

Be alert to stress born of your own personality traits.  Much of your stress is actually related to how you are wired.  If you are a perfectionist, life is going to be stressful. In fact, it may border paralysis, with that feeling that you’re never quite up to par and continually comparing yourself to others.  If you feel insecure, lack self-worth, and have an overwhelming sense that people are out to get you, you will often allow stress to get the better of you, and it invariably will steer you toward emotional exhaustion.  

When, however, you learn to roll with the punches, laugh at our world, and not take yourself too seriously, then what are stressors to others will become little more than annoyances to you.  Can you make huge changes in your personality? Probably not. That’s why your best solution is to know yourself, be aware of your challenges, and let life be your wise teacher as you anticipate future events.  

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, emotional exhaustion, anxiety or disordered eating, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help.  Contact us today at 1-888-771-5166 and begin the healing process.

 

Do You Have a Pattern of Pessimism?

A state of happiness is really a state of mind.  It is a way of looking at the world and circumstances.  One of the key components to this state of mind is learning to exercise optimism.  In a pessimistic, negative world, this can be quite challenging.

Undoubtedly, you have heard the adage about the difference between an optimist and a pessimist.  The optimist sees the glass as half full, while the pessimist sees the glass as half empty.  The pessimist chooses to focus on what is not in the glass; the optimist chooses to focus on what is.  The operative word here is “chooses”.  An attitude of optimism or an attitude of pessimism is a choice.

The good news is, if you have learned to be pessimistic, you can change.  And the first step toward change is admitting the way you are now.

If you are a pessimistic person, proclaim it, own up to it, and accept it.  Frequently, people don’t see themselves as pessimistic.  In fact, while they view everything else as being universally negative, they tend to view their pessimism as positive.  Instead of interpreting themselves as pessimistic, they instead see themselves as pragmatic, realistic, more informed and enlightened, savvy, and smarter.  For them, a pessimistic response to the world is seen as protective and even superior to the optimist.  Because they approach life believing the worst in circumstances and in people, they feel they are better prepared for whatever life throws at them.  They live a guarded, cautious, defensive life.  Problems, difficulties, inconveniences, and downright disasters are expected.

Pessimists live their lives in perpetual fight-or-flight mode.  Life is a battle to be confronted, factored, and endured.  Every good thing that happens is an unexpected, short-lived surprise.  Every bad thing that happens is confirmation of the correctness of their pessimism.  Since people tend to want confirmation of their own opinions, they choose to focus on the bad things that happen.

A pattern of pessimism can be very difficult to give up because it seems safe.  If you’ve been wounded, it appears smart to venture out cautiously, carefully, defensively.  Pessimism appears to be just the armor you need to engage a hostile world.  Pessimism becomes not an armor of keeping the world out, but a prison keeping you in.  It’s a world that says the worse thing that can happen to you is to be hurt by someone or something else.  This is a world where hate triumphs, where evil flourishes, where wrongs outweigh rights, where oppression is standard and disappointment is the order of the day.

There’s only one problem with this worldview; it’s a worldview.  It’s a view completely obscured by this world.  It presupposes that all there is or is ever going to be in this world, with all its faults and problems.  This is the type of world described in Ephesians 2:11 – 12.  It is a view “without hope and God in the world.”

But you do have hope, and God is in the world, so this worldview is a lie.  Since the underlying assumptions of your pessimism are a lie, it’s perfectly logical, rational, pragmatic, enlightened, and savvy to reject it and instead base your response on life to truth.  And what is truth?  God is truth.  Instead of a worldview, have a God view.  With a God view, your response to life can change from pessimism to optimism.

Are you struggling with pessimism and feeling depressed? Do you feel that your life is not in your control? The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help. Contact us today at 1-888-771-5166 and speak with a confidential specialist. Begin the healing process and have confidence that there is hope, and that joy and optimism is attainable.

Feelings Are in the File Cabinet

When you woke up this morning and prepared for your day, do you remember everything you did? You may remember that you showered, dressed, had breakfast, and went to your car. Do you know how many seconds you washed your hair or if you washed your ears first or your elbows? Do you remember what contributed to the decision of which cereal to eat (or whatever)? My guess is probably not. Most day-to-day, trivial, or familiar thoughts, actions, and feelings fly under the radar in the “non-conscious” zone.

Just as we can be unaware of our routines, we can also let negative feelings or self-defeating thinking slip by unnoticed. You may occasionally notice them, but you will likely also have a list of reasons they belong there. Most of the time, you go back to your daily routine, feeling low, but at some point, you stop questioning these thoughts and feelings. Over time, your self-esteem erodes. You may even struggle with anxiety or depression, but it all feels true and right.

Let me encourage you to question such things. Ask yourself why you feel so bad.

To understand a common reason for our negative self-image, picture your brain is a file cabinet. These files are tagged either with words or emotions. In the frontal lobe of your brain, in the place right between (and behind) your eyes sits someone called the, “Executive Assistant” – the EA. The EA runs the office and works with millions of little couriers. Some of them go on their own and the EA has no control (such as the ones who run the heart). Others can be told what to do to a point (such as the ones who can make you hold your breath). Others are fairly easy to manage (the ones who want the same thing the EA wants). Finally, there are some couriers you have to pretty much kick into shape (the “but I don’t want to clean and organize my garage this weekend” couriers, for example).

You may have read about “Brain Babble” – the thing that happens when automatic, but inappropriate or inaccurate thoughts run the show. Did you know a similar phenomenon can happen with emotions? Emotions can also be filed incorrectly.

Imagine you observe a classroom of six-year-olds. Ten minutes before class is to end for the day, the teacher announces that everyone can spend the time coloring. At the end of the time, little Jay-jay comes to show the teacher his picture. Jay-jay is smiling ear-to-ear and the teacher beams as she congratulates him on his good work. How do you think Jay-jay feels in that moment? What do you think will happen the next time he is given time to color?

Now imagine the same scenario, except this time when Jay-jay proudly displays his masterpiece, the teacher replies with, “What is wrong with you? Don’t you know by now that frogs are green and not purple? Goodness! Go try again!”

How do you think the little guy would feel then? Pretty terrible. What do you suppose he will do next time he is faced with a pack of crayons and blank paper? Can you hear what his little brain would say to him? “Give it up, Jay-jay – you can’t color right!”

Is that true? Did Jay-jay do anything wrong? NO! Where was the problem? With the teacher who put down his work. But, what did Jay-jay end up feeling? Deflated and inept.

Emotions experienced in such situations are intense and are tagged into the brain with “danger signs” attached to them. They feel real and unless you are aware and can access your wise mind, the temptation to believe these types of false messages may seem too great.

If you find yourself struggling with overwhelming emotions, a poor self-image, or even numbed-out feelings, or if you fear that you may be believing lies about yourself, extend compassion to yourself the same way you would to someone else who believed untrue things about themselves and go on a quest to find the truth. If you cannot seem to do this on your own, then consider taking time away in the supportive environment of The Center • A Place of HOPE. The staff knows how the file cabinet works and have helped many people in their pursuit of truth as they take the journey to build a healthier life.

Written by Hannah Smith, MA LMHC CGP, Group Therapy Program Coordinator, she is a Neuroscience-informed, Licensed Therapist and International Board-certified Group Psychotherapist. Hannah’s passion is to see people reach their potential and find lasting, positive change. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety, and more.