Tag Archive | Trauma

Mental Health and Gun Control – 19 Years

This past month has been a terrible time for those of us in Columbus, Ohio. First, we lost a juvenile who was in court and, because of his violent behaviors, was subsequently shot outside of court by a deputy sheriff. Then we lost two respected police officers in the very small town of Westerville. Both involved mental health issues of the victim in one case and the perpetrator in another. In the past week, our country lost a total of 5 police officers, including Westerville. We lost a total of 17 teens and school staff in one high school in Florida.

High school shootings have been going on since 1999. Now we are hearing the media say FL was worse than Columbine. This isn’t a competition to see whomever shoots the most kids wins. All school shootings are traumatic, are equal and should never have happened. It is time to wake up and smell the coffee.

We need to stop blaming and start taking action. Political activists want to blame and act as if it is the Republicans fault that high school shootings exist; when in fact we have had both Democrat and Republican presidents since 1999. Over the years, both sides have made statements about offering love and prayers, obviously they are going to say that because it would be heartless not to. What is worse though is that both sides have said “This will never happen in our country again.” Unfortunately we have now seen 19 years of this happening again in our country. We have seen this happen at the college level, high schools and an elementary school. It is time to stop blaming one side or the other and get to the table and have discussions. To start with, this does not belong on a lobbyist table, it needs to be a discussion of professionals in the mental health industry, police officers, forensic specialists as well as the leaders in the NRA and they need to listen to one another. Listening is the key ingredient in making change, not trying to get votes.

I have been in the mental health profession since high school shootings began. I was trained in holistic thought processes so I am not prone to listening to one side; I try to hear the whole story. You can’t understand anything unless you are looking at the big picture and the long term effects. I have lots of prejudices, believe me, yet I work with people from all different backgrounds, including those I have opinions about. However, because I believe people have a right to be heard and it is hard for me not to have empathy when I hear them and have taken them into my fold as a therapist, I am able to set my opinions aside for this client or clients and provide them the support that they need. After all, working with someone in therapy, I believe, is helping them to become a better person. This is what it means to be a professional.

America has become a Roe v. Wade in the sense that everything is a Pro-Life v. Pro-Choice extreme thinking conversation. No one ever listens to the other side. It is idiotic and stupid when one side is incapable of listening to what the other side has to say. It is ridiculous to hold an opinion that you are right and they are wrong. Sure we all joke and say, “but I am right,” but to actually believe this to the point that you can’t possibly sit down with your opposing view neighbor and have a cup of coffee and hear what each other has to say is beyond sad. It is disturbing and this is what our country has to offer right now.

All these people who get on bandwagons and say they are “tolerant” or “celebrate diversity,” are online yelling at the other side and giving their biases about race, religion or culture. When we are behaving in such a hostile environment as we are on social media, how can we expect that a mentally unwell person is not going to take advantage of this? If Kathy Griffin isn’t capable of understanding that there is a line you don’t cross when it comes to shouting your hatred toward the president of the United States, how in the world can you expect a mentally unwell person to understand and intellectualize what is happening online?

It has become common place to hear about shootings and we have become immune to this. We get an endorphin rush when it happens and a week later we forget. What do we expect is going to happen to someone who has mental health problems and is paying attention to all of this online. We get to be voyeurs but they internalize it and fantasize about it and feel empowered by this.

Madeline Albright (the first female Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton) spoke in San Jose, CA sometime in the early 2000’s and I went to listen to her talk. She spoke about the split in politics and how it has become so damaging to the D.C. atmosphere. When she began her journey in politics, it was normal for Republicans and Democrats to eat together, party together even walk down the street together. Our country being divided to the point of not being able to say who you voted for without getting spit on, means we do not live in a safe place and we cannot expect things to change; as long as we behave in this manner. If our politicians can’t behave like professionals and respect their own colleagues, how can we citizens be expected to behave like decent people? Right now the Democrats are just being sore losers and this is what we teach our children across the country not to do when they are on a team. Republicans were sore losers during Obama; worrying about a birth certificate. Each politician who wins the presidency has 4-8 years in which they can be elected to serve. Be patient and it will be your turn. The winners go in cycles; it is just the way we vote. There has not been one president that has been perfect and not one who has not been narcissistic.

There has been 19 years of school shootings though, with both Democrats and Republicans serving our country. We do need gun control – obviously – no one needs an assault weapon. We should be grown up and mature enough to understand that no one is saying you can’t carry a gun. It is one thing to carry a gun in your holster, on your belt that you are legally allowed to carry or a hunter with a rifle in the back of their truck on a rack. It is one thing to have a gun legally and one illegally. The topic of Mental Health needs to be brought in and we need to be more strict about mental health assessments when carrying a gun. Perhaps everyone needs to have a mental health assessment in order to legally purchase a gun. It wouldn’t be a bad idea. I have family that all carry guns, they would not like to be inconvenienced. However, I am sure all the families who are victims of the 19 years of school shootings, did not like to be inconvenienced either. When the “right to keep and bear arms” amendment was signed into the constitution, we were a different world. Back then it was cowboys and Indians and revolutions that made a positive difference in this country. School shootings make a negative difference in this country, it harms our psyche and destroys our families.

I am listening to children tell me they are afraid to go to school. They are having panic attacks whenever there are noises at school. Instead of just a tornado drill or an earthquake drill, they are having to learn how to hide from a school shooter. I am hearing parents who want to put their kids in private education or home school them. Is this what we are going to come to because adult professionals are not capable of coming to the table and reach an agreement?

Then of course you have the criminal world. No matter what we do, criminals and mentally unwell people can get access to a gun out on the streets. It is not too hard to  go into a bad neighborhood and within a few minutes find someone walking down the street who knows someone who has one to sell. Having worked in bad neighborhoods and spent many conversations talking to people who lived there, I am aware of how easy this is. Having spoken to people who have been drug addicts or alcoholics, I have heard many stories of how easy it is to get what you want if you need a fix. This means we need to have tighter laws about what happens to people who are caught selling guns illegally. The guy who sold the gun to the perpetrator of the two police officers in Westerville was found and brought in. I have no idea at this point what will happen to him or what the laws are currently. I do know that in California, where I used to work on the streets, a crime carries a stiffer penalty if it is gang related. Do we have strict enough laws for the people selling guns illegally, nationwide? Shouldn’t they get the same attention as the perpetrator, since they knew the reason for buying was not for something good? Wouldn’t they be an accessory to the crime?

These are the questions we need to be asking. We need to have discussions about this within our communities and amongst our professionals and come to some answers that we then present to Washington. But it is time for us to behave like grown-ups and professionals and listen with the purpose of coming up with a solution. I am tired of hearing that the NRA has control over Congress. What does this mean? It means that they have control over the lives of our children and grandchildren. Again, if they have had control over Congress they have had it for at least the 19 years we have been concerned and this has been over terms of both Republican and Democrat presidents.

What is a solution that is workable? What is a solution that is going to be tougher on crime, stricter on mental health awareness and reporting and one that makes sense and will protect our children, our families and our country? Stop blaming and start forming community discussion groups, in person because we aren’t capable of having talks online. Bring all the professionals involved to a table and have a discussion that is going to create positive change in our country. We don’t need an assault weapon to go hunting in the woods or to protect our family. A simple gun or rifle will work fine. Let’s show our children that we are capable of making this world a safer place.

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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!

The Child of the Narcissist – Part Two

In 2011, I wrote the article The Child of the Narcissist and since this time, I have grown quite a bit as a psychotherapist and as a person surviving this type of parent. The reasons for this is that I worked on taking my power back from this person, in order to be able to help other people do the same thing. I also did this because I felt as if I were out of integrity as a therapist not being able to do so.  I still felt like a child around this person and, as a therapist, I needed to grow up personally to be a better professional.

I won’t be able to do a step by step plan in this circumstance because it really depends on who this person is to you. You know them. You know what it might take intuitively, so standing up to this person will vary. It is important though, for your own healing process, to not only understand what Narcissistic Personality Disorder is but to understand how to heal from this. How to move forward in your life without continuing to be a victim. So I am updating the original article here from a more mature, healthier perspective. You can read all types of pop psychology books that will make you more “in the know.” Reading these books will only give you tools to make you believe you can now diagnose this person and prepare you with a suit of armor. This is not healthy – to only read about them. It is important to read about how to heal from this parent and for you to become a healthier person.

One thing I want you to understand before you continue reading is that you are not changing the Narcissist here. You are changing yourself.

Firstly, focus on taking your power back from the Narcissist.

1) You have to stand up to them in whatever way makes sense with this person. Maybe you confront them head on (sometimes this can be dangerous though, especially if you are unprepared for the outcome. I know people who have been assaulted by the person as a result.) In my case it was spontaneous, without warning, somewhere deep inside of me I just snapped (unlike the TV show no one was killed or harmed in anyway). It helped in my case because the placater in the family stood up for me and the hero just remained aloof. Everyone else just stayed quiet. After this person (the Narcissist) threw a temper tantrum and saw they would receive no attention from anyone, it just ended right then and there.

I have also known people who stood up to their parent and the family abandoned them. This is something you have to be prepared for and reconcile this within yourself.

2) You have to set boundaries with this person and continue to set boundaries, and continue to set boundaries and continue to set boundaries.

3) Be prepared not to take the bait – there are going to be times when you are with this person. I have found that, in my circumstance, a long time passes without criticism and then out of nowhere I am hit with some strange comment, an insult, or some type of questioning that I know is going to lead to trauma in the family. I know if I am not careful answering this question, to deflect the intended result on their end, people will be hurt.

Example: Lets say you mention something to the Narcissist. You are with other family members, whom you said something about. The Narcissist says something out loud “outing” what you said. You are suddenly caught between a rock and a hard place.

In this type of situation you could get caught up in defending yourself, or you could just be honest. Yes I said that. Then you talk to the other family privately on your own, without the Narcissist in the room.

4) Work on detaching yourself from this parent or family member – You have to be in a place where you no longer need them or their nurturing. This means you get your mother/father from a surrogate. Find an elder or older friend that you look up to. It is also important to heal from these wounds by focusing your attention on yourself and building your ego.

This last part is the most important aspect of healing from the Narcissistic parent. You don’t think of this parent as being dead. You just don’t worry about what they say or do because you are not invested in gaining something from them. You know longer need them for validation, love, support. You have separated and individuated (become an individual separate from your parent) and are behaving like an adult now. This is very important because what I have learned is that until you are able to do #4, you will continue to behave like a teenager around this parent, no matter if you are 30 or 60. Until you individuate, (let go and mature) you will find that when you are around them you continue to act like a child.

Now that I have individuated from my parent fully, I find I am actually able to listen to them differently. Sometimes I actually learn something from what they say. Sure, there are moments, such as #3 above but I recover from this more quickly because I realize they have no power over me.

In 1980, I ran away from this mess and during this time lost an ability to grow with nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters. I missed out on so much simply because I could not bare being around this parent anymore. The emotional abuse was so overwhelming to me. I had a “parent” in California, where I was living for 30 years. This woman guided me, protected me, taught me, nurtured me and I was able to grow as a person. However, I returned to Ohio in 2010 because I realized, as a therapist, it was time to heal from the Narcissistic parent. I did not really understand this until I became a psychotherapist. I knew it would help me in my practice and help me to teach others as well. I was guided to this process intuitively.

*To understand separation and individuation a little more, here is Murray Bowen’s philosophy which I kept trying to read and understand in my graduate program, until I finally got it one day. It also helped that I worked with a clinical supervisor during my internship who focused on Bowen’s theory of family systems. (a selection from Wikipedia)

Differentiation of self

Differentiation of self is one’s ability to separate one’s own intellectual and emotional functioning from that of the family. Bowen spoke of people functioning on a single continuum or scale. Individuals with “low differentiation” are more likely to become fused with predominant family emotions. (A related concept is that of an undifferentiated ego mass, which is a family unit whose members possess low differentiation and therefore are emotionally fused.) Those with “low differentiation” depend on others’ approval and acceptance. They either conform themselves to others in order to please them, or they attempt to force others to conform to themselves. They are thus more vulnerable to stress, defined as stressor(s) and psycho-physiological “stress reactivity,” and theirs is a greater than average challenge to adjust/adapt to life changes and contrary beliefs.[7]

To have a well-differentiated “self” is an ideal that no one realizes perfectly because, like with Abraham Maslow’s concept of “self-actualization“, it is a concept without literal physical or material example. Even if total self-differentiation is achieved in a given moment or context, it is, like feeling states or thoughts, temporary and ephemeral. Those with generally higher levels of “self differentiation” recognize that they need others, but they depend less on others’ acceptance and approval. They do not merely adopt the attitude of those around them but acquire and maintain their principles thoughtfully. These principles, morals, and ethics help them to decide important family and social issues, and to consciously or unconsciously resist lapsing into emotional reactivity and feelings-based—-usually impulsive—-thoughts and actions. Thus, despite conflict, criticism, and even rejection, those with greater capacity to “self differentiate” can stay calm and rationally “clear-headed” enough to distinguish thinking rooted in a careful assessment of the facts from thinking clouded by emotion. What they decide and say matches what they do. When they act in the best interests of the group, they choose thoughtfully, not because they are caving in to relationship pressures. They’re more objective observers, more capable of calmness under relationship and task pressures. Confident in their own thinking, they can either support another’s viewpoints without becoming wishy-washy; or, they can reject another’s opinions without becoming hostile with them, or passively disconnected from them. This is especially relevant to the family of origin, and as we grow and develop maturity, also with extended family members, friends, or associates.[8]

Now on CD The Child of the Narcissist: Guided Meditations for Healing

Also available for download too!

CD Cover

Forgiveness Is for You, Not Them

Forgiveness is a dirty word. It causes people to do things they don’t understand and then shame themselves for doing so. Having a sense of what this word means only comes when you are more fully aware of what choices you need to make in your life. It happens when you are clear about how to set boundaries and to ask for what you want. However, religions tell people they need to “forgive,” self-help books tell people they need to “forgive,” then folks dish out this word with “I forgive you,” and all they are really saying, when they aren’t clear what it means is, “I am sorry I was upset with you for your behavior. I shouldn’t have been.” This means we are merely letting the person off the hook.

Forgiveness is something you have to give yourself but only when you are strong enough to step away from a situation and have some clarity and wisdom to know that you must now let go (or you are ready to let go of) the hold the other person or situation has over you (such as past trauma).

If a person strikes you, you don’t walk away and say the next day “I forgive you,” therefore we will continue our life as it is and hope this doesn’t happen again. That sounds easy but likewise if you are with a partner who does not find relevance in what you have to say, you don’t “forgive” them so that you can just have peace once again until the next scenario crops up. Instead, you must view the relationship and say to yourself “Am I getting what I want from this partnership?” If your gut says “no,” then don’t allow yourself to find fifty different excuses as to why you are really the problem instead of them. You also don’t say “Okay, I forgive my perpetrator,” so that my family will be happy that I have shut up about what happened.

Naturally if you are in a bad relationship, you must take responsibility for making an unwise choice. However, this does not mean you should stay. You do need to face your partner and state your intentions. “We need to do some work on our relationship by doing, x, y, z.” If their response is negative, they do not feel a need to do anything, than your answer should be “Then I don’t think we have anything more to say to one another and it is time to end this.” The way they will react to you when you are being mature and standing your ground with them might not be mature in response. After all, if they are a mature person themselves, you probably wouldn’t be in this predicament in the first place.

Once you stand your ground and state your intentions, you must follow through. If you don’t, than you are saying, “I am not a person who deserves respect because I don’t respect myself.” This is not the time to say “I forgive you,” otherwise we are back to my initial paragraph.

It is important not to use the term forgiveness to anyone unless you are self-aware, have moved on and are in a stronger place in your life. It is not necessary to say this to anyone else anyway because you are the one who needs to know this in your heart, not them. You need to be ready to let go the issue that you face with another person but only when you see your responsibility in the matter. Your responsibility means “I made a choice to be with that person even though I knew intuitively that it was wrong, so I am forgiving them of any hold they have over me.” They did not do anything to you that you did not allow by staying with them and not setting boundaries or asking for what you want. In a past trauma you are saying “I have worked on myself and I no longer need to make that aspect of my life a conversation I need to have.” This is something you will feel within, after doing a lot of psychotherapy and soul searching.

This is a huge thing for me to write and put out there because it really doesn’t make any sense unless you have survived a situation and can really grasp what this means.

Yes, you can “forgive” your child for a mistake they made. You are their parent and it is important to teach them what is right and wrong. You can “forgive” a spouse for making a mistake, when they come to you and take responsibility for what they did or said and are stating a realization they have had about how this has effected your relationship. If they are coming to this conclusion then they value you and the affect their actions have on others. Of course, this again does not apply to someone in an abusive situation as this is merely the cycle of violence that continues over and over. I am talking about a healthy mature relationship where two people are growing as a couple.

In fact, I don’t even like using the term forgive in the above paragraph either. I would say “Thank you for taking responsibility for what happened.” With a child I would say “This was wrong what you did,” and here is the reason why. You state what behaviors you want from them in the future and depending on the mistake you either give consequences or tell them you will give them another chance to prove themselves. It isn’t about forgiveness really but a lesson learned.

Try to take forgiveness out of your vocabulary all together until you are clear what it is that needs to take place in your heart. Then begin to let the past go inside yourself, after you are in a stronger, self-aware state and have a sense that you no longer need that aspect, or person as a part of your life and you are ready to move forward without this being part of your story.

Don’t worry about forgiving them, focus on taking care of yourself and moving forward in your life in a way that works for you. Choosing the wrong person to be in a relationship with isn’t about forgiving them, it is about forgiving yourself, being strong, taking responsibility and making the right decision this time. Staying with the wrong person only prolongs your ability to have the life you want.

Enjoy your life and the people around you. Choose people who support you for the person that you are and for the path you have chosen to walk down.

How Do I Know When Therapy Is Done?

I want to say here “What is the meaning of life?” though that question doesn’t completely relate to my topic above. On some measures it does though. Therapy is different for every single person. On a spiritual level, I know that you will know when it is “done” when you feel ready to leave. This does not mean that therapy is “done” as in forever if you are someone who really appreciates self-awareness and continuing to do in-depth work on yourself. If you are only there for a minor concern, such as an EAP (Employee Assistance Program, aka short term therapy) type matter, often times people get to a place where I know and they know, that there is really nothing more to say.  When I work with couples, I either know that I can’t really do much more for them or things are going really well and they are feeling great about themselves or a change is made and then the choice to continue becomes individual.

When it comes to a traumatic injury whether it be current or long-term (childhood), it is much more intense. Sometimes therapy is for the first time and then I am working with the client to help them to have a voice. It feels good for people to be able to finally say “This is what that son of a bitch did to me…” and for them to hear “That was terrible, OMG, I can’t believe someone would do that…” It is the first time they are getting validation. The wounded child is being soothed and nurtured. I watch them begin to stand up for themselves over time, in their personal lives, as they continue to be heard and acknowledged and respected in a safe environment. This is extremely rewarding for me as a therapist and obviously a huge break through for them. Then the client will at some point walk away from therapy for a bit – to take a break. Sometimes I know that the process is on hold for a short time until they are ready to return to me, or to someone else.

I am happy for a client to choose someone else, if they want to, once they have gone through a breakthrough with me. It is good for a client to get a different voice, a new method and from the place they are at now. Even if they haven’t had a breakthrough but still choose to go to another, it is okay too because this is what they need to do. It is the soul searching process that brings us to enlightenment on some level. The answers are there for you, as you continue to search and when you are ready, it will come.

When I get a client who has been with another therapist, I try to check in with them first, to see what worked and what didn’t work. This is important for me and for them. One, it helps them to have some closure if there was a negative experience and two, it helps them to celebrate the work they have already accomplished. This also builds trust as I am again giving them a voice right up front about being in the psychotherapeutic process.

When I work with someone who have been working on “this issue for years,” I acknowledge that now we are going to work from a different place than where they started. I listen to what they have already learned and accomplished but at the same time I am finding out where it all began (so that I am clear). Sometimes, I hear things or “see” things that maybe someone hadn’t put together before. This is because, when a client tells their story more than once, it changes (with their new voice, new insights they have had since then) so it makes sense that I will or might see things that another therapist did not see (and the same goes for one of my clients seeing a new therapist).

This is why it is important to not be frustrated with yourself when you find yourself needing therapy “once again.” Life impacts us hard and over the years, more things happen to us, we begin to see patterns of our own self-destruction, our mistakes, things we didn’t see at 20, become much more realized at 30, 40, 50, 60, and so on. I could not have told you any of this at 20, nor could I have been the therapist I am now at that age. When I become 70, I will be a much different therapist than I am now. Thank goodness! I hope I will learn something in the next 20 years. The same will happen with the client. We grow and we evolve. What we could expect in 1980, we most certainly cannot expect in 2015. That is sad on so many levels. Yet, this is something that people from the 1890’s would have said in the 1920’s as we see with Violette (Maggie Smith’s character) on Downton Abbey. So this creates depression, frustration, realization, awareness, many mixed emotions that at first can be quite daunting.

Therapy will end when you feel it is time to end. You are in control of your life and making this decision is one that should be made clearly and consciously and of sound mind. It should be made because you are satisfied with the results, though if you are not and find you need a different therapist this of course makes sense too. My only caveat is not to leave because you are confused or frustrated about what your therapist has said. Tell them and if the answer you get doesn’t agree with you intuitively, than you should move on. This has come up for me in the room on a few occasions and I try to deal with it head on. It is important for the therapeutic process, for trust and for the client to determine whether they are going forward with me or someone else. I have so far, only had positive results in these circumstances, except on a very rare occasion. Even then, I knew that it was not meant to be as I was not the right person for the job. I don’t believe in accidents in life. Things happen for a reason.

Finally, it is never wrong to be in therapy. If you are curious, questioning, concerned, unsure, frustrated, grieving, upset, unhappy and what to make a difference in your life…than therapy is a great place to be.