Doing Psychological First Aid

Do you know Red Cross? Most likely. It’s known globally to come by first administering physical First Aid to the wounded and traumatized on the spot.

Psychological First Aid resembles Red Cross Physical First Aid. Both is for emergency and prevention. Both teach on-the-spot procedures to avoid much suffering, even death.

When a person got bitten by a snake, for instance, instant Aid must be provided. It’s impossible to contact a doctor right away.

To prevent unnecessary emotional trauma leading to suicide, loved ones or friends need to know how to do basic psychological First Aid on the spot.

Then, you bring the person to a doctor or hospital for proper treatment.

The need for widespread training in on-the-scene Psychological (or emotional) First Aid is plainly evident all around us.

We see children being sexually, physically, or verbally abused by toxic parents.

We see marriages and families breaking up.

We see old people lonely, unwanted, sick, homeless.

We see the unemployed suffering severe anxiety and insecurity.

We see people in shock in disaster or war-torn areas.

We see the mentally ill in and out of institutions.

We see students or teenagers becoming disillusioned, self critical, contemplating suicide.

We see people or media “fooling our minds” every day, by misguiding, deceiving, tormenting, scaring, pampering, teasing.

The need is simply overwhelming.

Yet something can be done. During every emotional crisis or traumatic event. On the spot.

Know and learn about it … before things get too late.

Possessiveness and Pain

A lot of persons are hindered by possessiveness. Not able to hold things loosely. Let go. Release the squeeze.

Smothering rather than loving is typical. Parting cannot happen without internal bleeding.

If you ask Nora, she gets blown away with the thought of relaxing her grip on her young adult daughter. Who is leaving and getting married.

Deep inside, she admits fearing surrendering her prized “possession.” Even though she must say goodbye eventually.

Because releasing introduces the panic of losing control. The terror of risk. Uncertainty. Concern for safety.

It applies to friendship too. Friendship needs letting your friend have the freedom to be and to do. A space for the other person to grow.

Also, in releasing a dream. At times, we need to come to grips with reality. What really is. So we can let go. And move forward to a new story.

What maturity all this requires!

Dr. Chuck Swindoll once wrote, “The greater the possessiveness, the greater the pain.”

What is it that can bring peace to a possessive heart? To turn loose. To let go. Because, in fact, there’s nothing or no one that we can truly own.

Everything goes. Sooner or later. Child. Job. Wealth. Romance. Friend. Future. Dream. Health. Even this life.

Things get really safe only when we learn the art of holding things loosely. Everything is safe which is so dedicated to God.

Get Natural

Substantual evidences from the US National Institute of Mental Health, the International Society of Sport Psychology, and other authorities have declared a best natural anti-depressant.

Exercise.

I remember one of my clients who took up boxing in the gym after taking brain drugs for a time. She reported that her exercise made her feel far better than all the psych drugs she took combined!

In dozens of clinical studies, exercise is proven to have superior supportive psychotherapeutic benefits. A repellant against depression and negativity, such as fear, worry, anger and tension.

Practiced regularly, exercise (aerobic or nonaerobic) helps bring better self esteem, enhanced mental and emotional performance, and resilience against stress.

Exercise “natural anti-depressant” may include: power walking, jogging, running, swimming, basketball, football, boxing, dancing, even gardening and housework.

Of course, a rule is do it safely and don’t overdo it to avoid unnecessary injury. Also, don’t try to expect to heal your emotional wounds overnight through exercise.

Major depressives in exercise programs spend their time too in psychotherapy. That goes to the internal roots to permanently keep the blues at bay.

Personally and professionally, I love daily power walks. At times, running. To exorcise my own demons! My own bodywork to free my mind so I can be of better help to others.

I like Henry David Thoreau, who writes:

“I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend 4 hours a day at least … sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.”

Christina

Christina, one of my patients, recalls how her mother would leave her working and sleeping with the maids. Away from the rest of her siblings in the house.

“The more I tried to please my mother, the more she’d put me down. All throughout my childhood, I wondered about this: I felt like an ‘insect’ rather than my mother’s child,” laments Christina.

Christina is a 50-year-old adult now. A wife and mother of 3 grown up boys. But she still feels like an “insect.”

Although she looks naturally pretty, she rarely appreciates what people say about her. Mostly she hardly looks people in the eyes.

Somehow, Christina figures that she is that way always. Her life today is safe and comfortable, but it’s barren and emotional destitute.

The “inner child” contains memories, images, and feelings of your childhood. Both conscious and unconscious. What is consciously remembered and what’s repressed or forgotten.

When a child is abused, traumatized, or deprived, the “inner child” splits from consciousness when being abused. But it carries repressed anger, rage, hurt and fear.

As you grew into adulthood, the repression from childhood and “splits” from consciousness remain. Even now, as an adult, you still have inside you the child you once were – your wounded inner child.

Healing the wounded inner child involves telling the story in therapy. Why is telling the story important?

Dr. Charles Whitfield eloquently explains,

“We begin to see the connections between what we are doing and what happened to us when we were little. As we share our story, we begin to break free of being a victim or a martyr, of the repetition compulsion.”

Why People Overworry

A few nights ago, I was watching one of Dr. Chuck Swindoll’s public speeches on YouTube.

I liked the the question and theme of his talk: “What is the #1 struggle of people today?”

In my brain, I had several guesses before Dr. Swindoll announced it. Money? Sex? Power? Marriage? Family?

None of those.

Dr. Swindoll pointed to this: WORRY – our #1 struggle.

Agree. Whatever the life issue or breakdown, too much worrying is so common. A frequent resultant pattern in most people’s reactions.

The overworry then produces large doses of anxiety. Paralyzes productivity and problem solving. Causes unnecessary pain in relationships.

Psychologist Dr. Chad LeJeune explains how it works:

When you’re hiking along a cliff, for instance, she says your brain may tell you “I might fall” and you picture yourself falling. She says it’s a helpful thought because you realize you need to be careful in your walks.

However, “when your anxiety is high,” Dr. LeJeune continues, “you’ll experience that image not as ‘I might fall’ but as ‘I will fall’ ”

This shows that, with heightened anxiety, you’re less able to discriminate between the thought of “might happen” and reality.

I’m reminded of a patient, Edward, whom I once invited to the MRT city train station. It’s part of his anxiety panic “exposure therapy.”

Edward retreated. Ran away from the exercise. He had experience being mugged and held up in the MRT many years ago. In his mind, he said it will happen again.

Psychologically, it’s called “cognitive fusion.” A thought becomes fused with what it refers to. The fused thought is experienced as reality … outright an inevitability.

You can fly, but that cocoon has to go.

“You can fly, but that cocoon has to go,” says a message printed on a poster. The poster shows a picture of a beautiful butterfly.

Many of the individuals I’ve worked with actually need to hear that message. It’s true for all of us going through woundedness.

So we could learn to fly again.

Roberto, whose would-be bride had a two-month affair with a womanizing politician, was stuck. Despite massive remorse and changes in his fiancée, he kept blaming her for his immobilization.

As a result, Roberto found himself severely depressed each day. Obsessing over what can’t be undone. Self-medicating thru alcohol and paid sex.

At work, he’d cry buckets of tears that kept him from moving ahead. His psychological and emotional state was like an “immobile cocoon.”

Trauma or loss can be compared to two things. It can be a “war zone” and a “safety cocoon” all at the same time.

When you choose to battle beyond trauma or loss, you’ll be able to see the big picture. You’ll be able to experience the thrill of developing new wings towards new adventures.

When you hug your cocoon to yourself, you can only view life on the surface. It somewhat feels safe staying in the cocoon. But you’re not flying.

Are you firmly stuck in your trauma/loss cocoon? Or, have you gently and progressively been trying to develop new wings?

I’ve met people who are trying to fly while they hang on to their cocoon. It doesn’t work. That cocoon has to go before you can freely fly!

Of course, when you’re newly traumatized or abused, you need a safety cocoon for awhile. But you don’t want to hide there the rest of your life.

You make better progress when flying. Not stuck in the cocoon, walking or crawling.

Is there a beautiful butterfly stuck in your cocoon today? Until when will you wait to spread its wings and fly into new adventures?

Bullies and Victims

Hollywood actor, Tom Cruise, battled the effects of childhood bullying. For many years he struggled with anxiety panic at home and at school.

Cruise says of his father, Thomas C. Mapother III:

“He was a bully and a coward … the kind of a person who, if something goes wrong, they kick you. It was a great lesson in my life – how he’d lull you in, make you feel safe, and then, bang! … Big bully comes up, pushes you. Your heart’s pounding, you sweat, and you feel like you’re going to vomit …”

Bullies have a strong urge to dominate. They lack empathy. Untroubled by anxiety or guilt over the suffering they inflict on others. They blame others for their offenses.

Males are more prone to physically bully. Females bully by picking on appearances, social status, and relationships.

Generally, bullies attack – through damaging, manipulating, or controlling relationships and situations.

How about the victim?

Some victims of bullies are “blind.” They refuse to defend themselves. Offer healthy boundaries. They allow themselves to be bound by the bully to isolation, humiliation, and despair.

A case in point is Martha, one of my clients who is repeatedly abused verbally and physically by her husband. For years, she displays pain, which fueled further attacks from her bullying spouse.

It impresses me how much Martha readily acquiesce too quickly to her husband’s demands. She’d just cry and cower. She’s so submissive before she’s picked on and bullied.

Dealing with bullies is not avoiding conflict. Running away, pretending bullying or abuse is not happening, hiding it, or being afraid to talk about it is actually destructive.

Facing bullies is taking responsibility to speak up to them. You walk tall so they don’t perceive you as weak or easily manipulated.

You set and state limits on bullies. Healthy boundaries so they know your thresholds. You don’t volunteer to be a victim.

You remove yourself from a relationship in which a bully tries to control or own you. You don’t allow bullies to undermine your sanity … or that of your children, loved ones.

Face bullies. Protect yourself. Seek support. Be brave.