Tag Archive | Psychotherapy

Support for Partners of Vets, Desperately Needed

The film, “Thank you for Your Service,” is an outstanding movie. It is informative and directed more like a documentary rather than a blockbuster film with special effects and big names. This is essential to make it raw and to create an illusion that you are in the midst of someone’s private life. And you are because even though these are all actors, they are portraying real people and these events did happen.

So I would like to use this film as a spring board into the issue of support for partners of vets, which is not the intention of this film; though it is there begging to be the subtitle. All of this film caused me to be at the edge of my seat because the male soldiers were so emotionally unstable; I felt afraid of what they were going to do next. The ending hit with a bomb as the main soldier told the story of how a woman’s husband was killed. Yet what stuck with me the most was this line, which says so much about women today “Would you like a blow job,” she says thinking this will comfort her husband. He isn’t communicating with her and this is all she can think of. This comment and the woman’s fixation on sex (to get him to talk) during the entire movie is just one of the reasons it is imperative to have support for partners of vets.

Back in the early 80’s, my then husband was a sailor enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He was about to be deployed on a West-Pac (aka tour of the Western Pacific) for six months. The families were brought in for a meeting prior to their departure to help couples understand what to expect, or what was normal. They told us about the departure, a little bit about what was going to happen and when we should expect the men to return. They also talked to us about relationships and sending letters, and about the fact that the Captain’s wife would be our ombudsman, available to us while the men were gone. This woman, whose name I cannot recall, met with the ladies during the six months on at least a monthly basis. We got together to chat, have coffee, discuss the letters we were receiving, any news we might need to know and ask questions about our housing, our money or any other issues of concern. It helped to build comradery, alleviate isolation and perhaps depression, but also to develop respect for the military and our spouses.

As I work with the military now, as a contracted civilian psychotherapist, not one single person has understood what an ombudsmen is nor do they recall such intimate gatherings taking place as I assumed was typical. There are yellow ribbon ceremonies that take place months after a return from deployment. At these presentations it is nicknamed “death by power point,” which means there isn’t a lot of concentration on what is being said. The meeting I attended with my ex-husband in the 80’s was approximately 30 people with our Captain speaking to us directly. The ceremonies today can be anywhere from 70-300 and sometimes even more than this. My psychotherapy table is the least visited booth on the breaks. Once the ceremony is over, people race to get out the door first. It is very sad to me because this is too little, too late and I feel as if it is nothing more than a checkbox being ticked; rather than attention to the mental health needs of men and women both soldiers and their partners. When I talk to people about this, the only thing I ever hear is “it would cost too much money.” This essentially means a person’s life is not worth it. What we see in the movie noted above is the main character being told by the VA that he won’t be able to see a mental health person for a number of weeks. He responds that he could be dead [by suicide] by then.

Going back to the issue of partners in the military, the point is that women today have no self-respect (nor do men) and look at themselves as sexual objects rather than partners and team players. What can we expect though when we live in a sexualized society where people are overly focused on what your sex type is and are confused about what gender they want to be? Where women believe that a date means you need to have your breasts hanging out, heavy make-up and six inch heels rather than a time to dress like a woman with the intention of getting to know the man in front of you.

Many children today are raised by single parents and sometimes they don’t even know their father or their paternal family. Often I see that they are pacified by technology. The teen girls and young adult women I talk to don’t use birth control and so many are desperate to trap the guy with a baby. Others use feeble excuses as to why they don’t use protection such as the doctor said they couldn’t get pregnant or it has been so long without a pregnancy they thought they couldn’t. These guys are happy to become “gamers” today and the girls stand idly by wondering why they won’t pay attention to them. They don’t need a war to ignore.

Since everywhere a woman turns she is being portrayed as a sex object, in the media and society, what else is there for her to think? Parents are not educating their children on sexuality nor are they teaching standards (I see this moreso with one parent families because there is no time to have quality time). Parents often race to get home to cook dinner while they check FB or Twitter and start chatting with someone else who is not there. Thus the kids are following their intended role models.

Once women were groomed to be married and the talk of sex was the last thing they would learn (if they had a talk at all). They learned about courting men which meant being a good conversationalist. They learned to dress appropriately so as not to tease. They learned to behave like mature ladies rather than silly girls. They understood that at times men needed their space and to walk away and self-soothe if need be like attending to a personal project or hobby. Women used to be self-sufficient. They were involved in women’s groups, charities/fundraisers, raising their children, running a household. Their days as teens were not spent hoping they would get laid but hoping they would find a suitable match. Their parents didn’t allow them to shop at a store such as “Victoria’s Secret” and purchase thongs or push up bra’s (when I was a teen even, this was a store for adult women not teenagers), it was a time of restraint and modesty.

We have come to a place where we have no standards. There are no rules in society. We are career women yet many go to work thinking about some guy they will see there. We don’t dress like women who want to get ahead because we have lost a sense of dignity and integrity. More and more companies are adopting a work culture with no professional dress policies.

Therefore, how can we expect a young woman whose husband or partner comes home from war to think of nothing more than sex? The soldier is coming home from war without their mental health as a top priority, even though they are a ticking time bomb. The partner has no support, the soldier has no support and so it is the blind leading the blind. I’ve seen so many resources available to give the post-deployment folks free this and free that and incentives for one thing or another. All this money could be utilized more effectively by supporting them with psycho-education and mental health services that are mandatory and respected.

In the movie the soldier is told (by his superior), to not allow his men to see him as a weak person getting services from mental health. This is not an isolated situation as I hear this time and time again from vets and their partners. We are all too aware of the problems with the Veteran’s Administration. What some people don’t realize is there is not enough staff and people are backlogged and no one gets preferential treatment. The staff are not treated fairly or with respect in some cases, no different than corporate America. Essentially, they are government workers no different than at the Department of Motor Vehicles. I learned recently it is not run by the military but by a corporate boss who is assigned to head the VA but this is not necessarily based on merit, experience, or military background.

In Britain, after a woman gives birth, a health worker follows her for a year to teach her how to care for her new child. In Britain, when soldiers return from war, they are held on base for 30 days before reintegration into society (as I’ve been told by an officer) and have a much lower suicide rate than the U.S. When astronauts land back on earth, they too are held before being reintegrated back in society. Why do we choose to ignore the people we have trained to kill, knowing full well that more than 30% will come back with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? Worse than this is that 20 veterans die by suicide daily. The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists have been fighting with the military for years to hire us to work with soldiers on base. The jobs currently only recognize social workers.

What I would like to see is an independently licensed clinician, who serves as a family support worker. Someone who is assigned to a household that they follow for a year pre and post-deployment on a monthly basis. Someone who goes to the home weekly post-deployment, and then monthly once services are set up and followed through on. We do this with foster children as this was once my job. While in the home, the worker would be responsible for psycho-education first and foremost, secondly helping the family to fill out forms and explaining the importance of these services. Their job would be to assess and monitor follow-through on mental health support (not to provide it, i.e., not be the actual therapist as you cannot be in a dual role but offer counseling support). This job would then write reports to provide to a supervisor who is monitoring the clinicians in the home. No confidential information need be provided to anyone with exception to that which is a limit to confidentiality (which already exists for clinicians in the military). The records that pertain to mental health would be held by the supervisor. The supervisor could provide demographic information in the way of statistics so that the information gained could be utilized effectively within the military.

You would need a licensed independent clinician handling this assignment in the home as they would be qualified to assess major vs. minor psychological concerns that a simple case worker with only undergraduate knowledge would not have. Obviously, these clinicians would need special training to have more knowledge of military life, family needs as well as advanced training in PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorders), TBI (traumatic brain injury) and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) symptoms.
If this type of support were made available to families, I suspect (common sense) that one would see lowered rates of death by suicide, homicide short-term and long-term, military divorce post-deployment, and a better quality of life overall to be had by military families.

We are in a pro-military society now and have gained so much psychological knowledge about the effects of battle since World War I. Why are we wasting this valuable information? Why are we spending so much money on war and then spend money on incentives rather than quality support? Why is a soldier’s life valuable but his/her partner’s is not especially when the family unit is imperative to the success of the soldier’s return? The success rate of person’s who struggle with PTSD is partly dependent on how it is managed within the family (believability, validation) and what support systems they have available to them in the community as well as through mental health and other adjunct resources (i.e., books, workshops, groups).

What we are essentially saying to a soldier and their family is “Thank you for your service and hey, Good Luck to you!” Isn’t this a bit hypocritical? I think they deserve better.

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Attachment Issues and Women Abandoned

If you can struggle through the first half of this movie, with its extreme versions of a woman who appears to be histrionic, you will get a second half that is much more intense and mature. This is typical with Bollywood films. They start out with characters who seem like people you have never known (unless you work in a psych hospital) because they often have bizarre personalities, overact their emotions and then there is the dancing and usually lip synching. In this film they actually added what appears to be a real singer. What I found sad was the deterioration of their society by trying to imitate western culture instead of embracing their own. However, the attachment issues are what this film is really about. Something I did not even realize until they finally brought in the psychotherapist, who was actually portrayed in a realistic and therapeutic way, to give a nod to an acceptance of psychology in a culture that does not embrace this at all (not unusual as most cultures don’t).

The therapist is played by Shah Rukh Khan, a very famous actor in India who has played everything from a person with Asperger’s to a psychotherapist. The last film I saw him in he acted like someone sniffing cocaine through the entire movie, so it was refreshing to see him in a more serious role. They actually show the psychotherapist with ethics in this film. Of course there is some suspense now and then as they try to bait you into thinking he might do something very bad. It made me tense because I am tired of seeing these disturbing portrayals of psychotherapists in the media. I even kept thinking, please, please, don’t do it. He didn’t. However, what the psychotherapist is able to uncover, with his unconventional, but appropriate, modalities are the young girl’s attachment issues.

Attachment issues occur in infancy when a child is removed from the mother and father for whatever reason. I have seen this occur with a woman who’s mother was taken from her at birth for quite some time because of the mother’s mental health issues. A young man I know had yellow jaundice and was hospitalized for a week – with mother coming in each day but for only an hour. Another young man was kidnapped at a year and a half by his father and the mother had no idea of his whereabouts. All foster babies in social services end up with attachment issues. In this movie, the girl’s father’s business goes under and the parents leave her with grandparents and go in search of work via new business deals. She writes to them daily but they never respond to her letters. Mom returns with a baby, temporarily and still does not return to take daughter back until later when her child fails miserably in school.

Thus the real concern here is mother being taken from baby or young child and the child is unsure whether they will return. As a result of this, the child develops coping mechanisms to survive. In this movie, the child sought to get attention from her parents, when they did return and she was seen as an unruly child. The parents (this is not unusual) do not take responsibility for the fact that their child is behaving as a result of their actions early on. As an adult, she is unable to attach to the men she believes she is in love with and runs away from them before they have a chance to abandon her.

Many women come to me with an inability to have healthy attachments as a result of birth trauma (or trauma as a young child). I have spoken about Narcissism on here quite a bit and this is similar but not the same. With Narcissists, the parent (s) is there but they do not form a healthy attachment to their child or they are not warm and nurturing and able to respond to the babies needs. Attachment issues can be seen in a variety of diagnoses as it really depends on how the person has interpreted the situation, their emotional intelligence level and the meanings they have placed on scenarios around them. The only constant I see is an inability to have a healthy relationship with a partner. I see unhealthy relationships with parents as well because it is hard to fix these things. The parent (s) is not in therapy. Sometimes the parent is a Narcissist, a substance user still, have mental illness, or they are ignorant to self-awareness in general because they live in denial. With foster children or adopted children, if they are able to find the biological parent, the parent is unsure how to attach to them after all these years. This causes more trauma.

In this Indian movie, “Dear Zindagi,” (2016) it appears that everything comes together within about ten sessions. This is not realistic but it is a movie and they had spent an entire hour or so showing you a histrionic woman doing things like bouncing around in her apartment so you could watch her hair twirling around (about three times there was a scene like this for several minutes). Several scenes of she and her work mates getting drunk, and the second break-up scene was very confusing because I wasn’t even clear they were in a relationship in the first place (mistake in scriptwriting or editing, who knows). In real life, it is easy for this therapist to see attachment issues but not so easy to help a person turn it around.

Childhood wounds are not as easy as having a nice conversation with your parents or bringing them flowers, as she did in this movie. It is not easy to grow up and act like an adult with your parents, when you have been behaving like a teenager around them for most of you adult life or just rejecting them completely. It is difficult when there are multiple babies from fathers and finances are more of a priority then self-awareness and healing. When a couple comes in for therapy and working on communication issues are taken over by dual self-esteem problems that are very deep and untouched. So you are not looking at a simple process. Nonetheless, I think the movie did do some good things. Show psychotherapy in a positive way – to get people to consider this as an option. It opened the door to a conversation of attachment issues, though I don’t believe they actually ever used this phrase. It became an intellectual discussion about life, even though it did not start out this way.

Try to be patient with the subtitles if you are not a foreign film fan like myself and give this movie a try if you can relate to the above. It is on Netflix and I think you will find it entertaining and enlightening if you can be patient through that first half.

 

Analyze This!

This is a really great video from “The Psych Show” host Dr. Ali Mattu. All therapists dread this question but he does an exceptional job of explaining what is really going on. I agree with him completely. It also says a lot about co-dependent behavior. Wanting to know whether or not a person is okay with you, feeling threatened by a therapist because you don’t know how to act around them. It is also a way of saying “I have low self-esteem,” out loud or “I know I have a zit on my nose,” to attack before you are attacked. A defense mechanism designed to protect ones self, which is in essence saying “En garde.”

Usually when I am asked this question I will say, I am here to have a good time and I get paid to do these things. I might also say “What do you do for a living,” then I will ask them if when they go to people’s houses do they question people about these things that they do. For example, CPA – do you go to a house and question people about whether or not they expensed the boat they have out on the dock and then discuss the legality of this? Or a carpenter – do you go to a house and think about all the mistakes in the way it was built (actually they do – then they can drum up business). When therapists go to a party, we are dressed in our normal non-professional outfit, might have a drink in our hand or took a bite on a cheese puff and are wondering about the books on the shelf or the cute guy in the corner, just like you are.

Growing Up With a Narcissist

Remember back when you were young. Did you often feel as if you were to blame for everything? Was one sibling revered over you (usually this might be the male child)? Did you try to assert your opinions only to see them turned aside with a phrase similar to “What do you know anyway?” Or at times you might hear “It’s always about you isn’t it?” Did you then and do you now feel as if you are desperately trying to get your parents approval for the decisions you make in life, yet never seem to do anything right? It is very possible that you grew up with a Narcissistic Parent.

My original blog article, The Child of the Narcissist was published in 2011 and today has more than 10,000 readers from around the world – and still counting. I published a part two about a month ago and then just recently put together a CD: The Child of the Narcissist – Guided Meditations for Healing. This CD is available on CreateSpace for only $10.99 a great deal for someone looking for something to utilize as an adjunct to therapy.

CD Cover

A Narcissistic Parent robs a young person of their childhood and then makes life difficult when they try to become a parent themselves. It is emotional abuse that you will suffer your entire life until you take your power back, as an adult. A child of a narcissist has a difficult time individuating from the parent and growing up into an adult. How can you when they are continuously keeping you down? If you also suffered physical and sexual trauma from this parent, it is even more difficult to go out into the world and try your best to be a successful person. The tragedy is that as a child of a narcissist, as long as they hold you emotionally hostage, you continue to seek their approval which you will never get.  How do I know all these things? I am not just a psychotherapist but a survivor as well. I took my power back and write about this now on my website jkvegh.com

The Meditations which I recently published on CD through CreateSpace (and soon to come on Amazon) came about as I began to search for a different way to approach clients in the healing process. I am a great believer in  meditation  and will share this with clients. Then one day I sat down and wrote a script for different meditations that might help a person who was a victim of parental narcissism. Having meditated myself for over 30 years, I used my knowledge of guided meditations from Jon Kabat-Zinn and Shakti Gawain and thought about what someone might need to hear as a child of a narcissist.

This is meant to be an adjunct to therapy because, as a professional, I know doing the CD alone will not be enough. You can’t just self-heal with a series of meditations.  Your voice has been blocked and you need to talk and be validated. Make sure you have a therapist whom you are beginning to do work with and have discussed your mother or father with. Of course this might also include other family members too. Whomever you were raised by and considered a parent.

After you listen and participate in the meditations, make sure you have pen/pencil and paper available to do stream of consciousness writing. This is so beneficial to the process as well. A lot will come up for you and you want to jot this down and then share it with your therapist.

Many things are written about Narcissism and there are even many wonderful movies which highlight this topic as well. These are great resources to utilize. However, the most powerful process in healing from Narcissism is transforming from child to adult in therapy. Now I am offering you this really great CD which has different tracks focusing first on the mind – holistic, than on the body – somatic, and finally, on the spirit – transpersonal.  Taking your power back from the perpetrator will allow you to have the life you have been holding yourself back from all these years. You deserve it!

Women, Take a Stand!

The first time I heard a woman tell me that she was paying all the bills in her cohabiting relationship with a young man, I was caught off guard. The second time I wasn’t so shocked as concerned that this seemed to be a new norm for young people. After that, I began to feel depressed as it was not just young people but many women who were dealing with this. How could women be in a relationship with a guy who expected to live off of them? Of course when you look at our society these days, MEN are a rare breed. Boys don’t seem to grow up anymore.

In the inner city guys have their pants pulled down like a two year old and stick hoods over their heads so you can’t recognize them. In the professional world, men wear casual Friday’s every day of the week and the tech world doesn’t seem to even take a shower. They are more than happy to go “Dutch,” on a date. The term “gamer” seems to be the norm from young guys to older guys (I won’t call them men when they don’t act like one). I am hearing many guys who live in their parents basement and not always because they are using substances. I hear this from their male friends who are more responsible than they are, from their parents who enable them or from sisters who were a lot more mature than their brothers. Why haven’t these boys been raised to be men? Why haven’t they been taught to have a sense of pride? Work ethics? Chivalry?

Many reasons. One, two parent families don’t make a choice to have children when both are slaving away at the office and come home tired and pacify their kids with whatever will make them happy. Two, single parent families can’t really do everything and more often than not, the father is not there (i.e., emotionally, financially, spiritually) to help raise his children. Three, we as women give up and go in too fast and take what we can get. I will focus on number Three, here in this blog post.

As a woman, you have to take your time getting to know the person you are going out with. We are still being raised on the importance of marriage and babies but this doesn’t mean you have to settle. Women are more mature than men, which is often why we go for older one’s – to get that equal balance. As we are more mature it means we have a lot more power too. Except, when we don’t use it, we are just as immature as the guy is. We can make these guys change into men by demanding more out of them – before we have sex and definitely before you say “I Do.” If they want you, they will wait and they will pay more attention to what you want. If they don’t want you, let them go, who cares! No one is worth wasting your time over.

I am not saying change the guy you are with, because you have already allowed him to get away with his lifestyle. You can’t change someone. I am talking about changing the consciousness of society by expecting more. If a guy is told a few times that he dresses like a slob, he needs to behave more responsibly, he is a player and has a bad reputation, and you don’t date boys but only men, he is going to be one lonely person. He is going to have to start shaping up if he doesn’t want to sit home every night of the week. Instead, you are feeling sorry for him and thinking your “love,” is going to fix him. It hasn’t happened ever in the last several thousand years and it isn’t going to happen with you either. Plus, you are not a psychotherapist, hairstylist, doctor, and you don’t run a “Charm School for Men.” By going out with a guy like this, you are just as bad as he is. So stop doing this to yourself. You deserve better!

I always hear women say that it is hard to find a “good man.” It is in today’s society, so this means you live alone for awhile until you are in a better place where you attract the good man and the right man into your life. He will come along when you are not settling for someone else. When you are focusing on your education, your career, your self and then, once you have the life you want – or have fulfilled your personal dreams, when you least expect it…there he is. Happiness attracts happiness, low self-esteem attracts low self-esteem. Birds of a feather. Start working on you and stop staying longer than you should.

Don’t drag yourself down with these low-life’s who have some feeble excuse about why they are the way they are. It is quite incredible that women coming from the same family as these guys, actually come out much stronger and more of a survivor than their brothers do. Their attitude and the way they were raised or the ex-wife they had to deal with is NOT YOUR PROBLEM. When they stop giving you excuses and talk to you like a respectable, responsible, MAN who is focused on you and not winning you with sympathy votes, this is the person you want to pay more attention to.

Being alone is more satisfying then putting up with some loafer who expects you to front the costs of his living arrangements. You will be much happier than living with a man who is cheating on you, or a “gamer,” or a liar, or a social media freak or some other such nonsense. These are not boys you want to raise a family with. They are misfits of society that haven’t grown up but only because we have enabled them to be who are they are. Start taking a stand as a woman and demand more out of men around you. Over time, they will get tired of being alone and being told to grow up and they will. They will be forced to.

Happiness in a relationship comes from two people who have taken their time to invest in building a foundation. From two people who have put a great deal of effort in communicating what their needs and wants are to make sure that this is a person they can build a partnership with. Love is nourished by having respect, shared interests, finding relevance in one another, supporting one another’s dreams, and being responsible for the partnership as a team.

It takes time to find the right man to share your life with. Don’t be desperate. Be alive and moving forward with your dreams.