depression after a traumatic experience. Now, thanks to groundbreaking "Blooming Again," you can strengthen your resiliency and thrive again. Renowned psychologist Darlene Powell Garlington explores the challenges everyone faces in life that lead to feelings of devastation and how to move beyond them. Using provocative self-inventories, her own personal trauma and her private practice experience, Dr. Darlene takes you through the process of building individual, family and community resiliency.
Written with sensitivity and practicality, "Blooming Again" addresses the mind, body and spirit interconnectedness and uses an integrative health approach that challenges the reader to explore the sometimes tough, sometimes unspoken questions of the meaning of life during times of pain and suffering. Proven principles, skills and techniques will help you recover, heal and thrive after a crisis through everyday interactions that help you express positive feelings, communicate more effectively, resolve conflicts and rely on God.
You will be inspired and motivated to find and fulfill the lesson and purpose for your experience by gaining insight, awareness and understanding, which lead to the courage and self-knowledge it takes to move beyond pain, rebuild a loving family and establish a "new normal" filled with peace and joy again.
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Blooming AgainWeathering Personal Storms and Growing Resilient Families
By Darlene Powell Garlington
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Dr. Darlene Powell Garlington
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWEEDING CLEARS THE MIND
Identifying the toxins and how to combat them
Building resiliency within your family starts with you. While it's useful to assess what you want in life, do you know what you want in yourself? How would you assess your own emotional health? Do you understand your strengths and weaknesses? Are you able to weed out negative thoughts that counteract resiliency? Do you know how to identify toxins that threaten your health and how to combat them? I believe the best way to address these questions is through a holistic health process. In order for you to be whole, you have to take care of each part of yourself — mind, body and spirit — in a connective way. By identifying the interrelationships among these three components, you can start to refine and build your strengths and develop your resiliency. In this chapter we will discuss the mind and what you can do to strengthen your mental and emotional health. Before we do, let's look at how the mind, body and spirit are interrelated.
THE SCIENCE OF STRESS
Neurophysiological research has shown the strong interconnection among the mind, body and spirit. This means that there is a relationship between what we think, how our bodies function and our faith. When things are going well in our lives, we think happy thoughts, we feel energized and our faith is strong. However, when crisis strikes we may become overwhelmed by the trauma or stress. We can't think clearly, we become agitated, panicked or the opposite — immobilized. Why does this happen? There is a physiological reason for it. When we are overwhelmed by stress or trauma, we become hyper aroused and dysregulated. This is caused by the two branches of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) being destabilized. The ANS regulates and controls stress and emotions, and the mind and body have a natural capacity to restore when faced with tragic situations.
Our bodies biologically respond to threat and fear. When we experience trauma, the sympathetic arm of the ANS goes into action: Our breathing and heart rate accelerate, muscles become tense and stress hormones are activated. We may begin to sweat. Positron emission tomography (PET) scans have shown that during this shift, when the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is activated and dominant, the brain stem and basal ganglia (the part of the brain that controls autonomic muscles such as the heart and lungs) become more active and the neo cortex (the part of the brain that controls cognition) becomes less functional. What this means is that activity in the thinking, logic, judgment and language centers of the brain diminishes, which interferes with cognitive and motor functioning. Higher order brain systems such as language, motor activity and speech are compromised. That is why we can't think clearly, we may stammer or stutter and we may become clumsy. We will fight, flee or freeze due to the trauma or stress. Nervousness or anxiety interferes with optimal functioning or peak performance. Think of how a talented student has trouble speaking in front of the whole class or an athlete can't compete on the field while a crowd looks on.
When the threat passes, the reciprocal part of the ANS, the parasympathetic arm, brings the system back to homeostasis (normalcy); breathing rate and heart rate slow down and calm sets in as the nervous system comes back into balance. With this calm comes the ability to think and react clearly.
Self-regulation by intentionally engaging the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) allows us to regain cognitive function and engage in more empowering thoughts. Our speech and language skills are restored. To self-regulate, we need to be able to shift from sympathetic to parasympathetic dominance when faced with trauma, crisis or adversity. To facilitate this shift, we need to focus on our senses and engage in deep breathing, which causes the body to relax. Techniques such as grounding (more about this later) also help our body to calm down or self-regulate. Practicing breathing and muscle relaxation helps us make this shift and we begin to feel more in control. Our mind/cognitions are then able to focus on positive self-statements of resiliency and strength. It becomes an exercise in mind over matter.
We are a direct product of our own thoughts. What we think to ourselves determines our emotions and informs our behavior. If we think a task or situation is overwhelming, impossible or tragic, then our reaction to it will be anxiety, confusion and avoidance. On the other hand, if we reframe the same task or situation as unexpected, difficult, complex or sad, we can react objectively and more rationally. It is important to stop, listen and then examine what you think to yourself in times of strife. What are the negative weeds of thought that are choking you and preventing you from living your life to the fullest?
My friend Maureen was recently the victim of her own negativity. She was earning six figures working for a major corporation when she was laid off at the height of this current recession. Suddenly in the same boat as many women living from paycheck to paycheck, Maureen experienced feelings of anxiety; her mind became overwhelmed with questions and self-doubt. "What if I can't find another job in this market?" she asked herself. "My savings will run out ... I won't be able to pay my bills. Will I lose my home? I won't be able to afford health insurance. What if someone in my family gets sick?" The crisis of being unemployed overwhelmed her and resulted in fears about maintaining her standard of living, or making a living at all.
In another case of debilitating negativity, a patient of mine also lost his job, but his "weeds" were entirely different from Maureen's. My patient felt a great deal of anger toward his employer. His job had been his life, and now he felt obsolete, unprepared and ill equipped to handle a job search because it had been many years since he had last looked for employment. The Internet, social and professional networking sites had changed the game. He started to doubt his employability, value and experience; his self-esteem and self-worth suffered.
These negative feelings can come to anyone who is hit with unexpected rough weather. Fear and doubt are natural responses. So how can you redirect your negativity when it threatens to choke out your positive responses? It does take a little practice, but awareness is the first step. By recognizing or identifying patterns of unhealthy reactions, you can often nip them in the bud before they have a chance to take root. Here are some exercises to help you get started in becoming a good gardener of your mind.
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MIND CULTIVATION: EXERCISE 1
What are your inner thoughts? What do you say to yourself when faced with a challenge or a crisis? How could you redirect your thoughts and attitude for a more positive outcome? On the line beneath each of the six bulleted statements, rewrite a positive inner thought. For example, instead of thinking, "I am not smart enough to do this," think "I can figure this out," or "I may not be able to figure this out myself, but I can ask someone to help me." Now you try it.
I'm not smart enough to do this. _______________________________________________________________ I'm not strong enough to handle this. _______________________________________________________________ This is impossible. _______________________________________________________________ This is unfair. _______________________________________________________________ I don't deserve to be happy. _______________________________________________________________ It serves me right because I'm _________________ (fat, stupid, lazy, unorganized, ugly, etc.). _______________________________________________________________
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LOOK THROUGH THE GARDEN WINDOW
What do you think about yourself and what do others think of you?
Often our self-perception isn't the way others see us; we may be our own worst critic. Knowing and receiving the positive opinions and feedback of others can chop down the weeds of negativity. Finding out how others view you and identifying your strengths can build resiliency.
American psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham created a cognitive psychological tool called the Johari Window to assess self-awareness. Primarily used in self-help groups and corporate settings as a self-discovery exercise, this tool helps people better understand their interpersonal communication abilities and relationships. By doing so they can identify areas to improve, make changes and adjustments, and strengthen and enhance their resiliency.
During the Johari Window exercise, you would select five or six words from a list of fifty-six positive adjectives that you feel best describe your own personality. Your friends, family members and/or colleagues would then be given the same list, and each peer would pick five or six adjectives they feel describe you. These adjectives would then be mapped onto a grid, as seen below, which Irish author and philosopher Charles Handy calls Johari House with four rooms:
Room 1, or the "Public Self," is the part of yourself that you see and others see. The adjectives that are selected by both you and your peers are placed here. Room 2, also known as the "Blind Spots," contains the aspects that others see but of which you are not aware. Adjectives selected by only your friends and family are entered into this quadrant. Room 3, also called the "Hidden Self," is your private space, which you know but keep from others. The adjectives selected only by you, but not by any of your family or friends, are placed into Room 3. It is then up to you whether to disclose this information to others. Room 4, the "Unconscious Self" quadrant, is the most mysterious room in that the unconscious or subconscious part of you is neither seen by you nor others. Adjectives that are not selected by either you or your peers remain in this room. They represent your behaviors or motives that were not recognized by anyone participating. This may be because they do not apply or because there is collective ignorance of the existence of those traits.
This type of exercise is a powerful way to gain insight, knowledge and understanding of yourself and those around you. The goal is to maximize the Public Self (Room 1) and minimize the other rooms so that you are aware of your many strengths, which are resources you can draw upon when you are experiencing challenges.
A Johari Window's fifty-six adjectives used as possible descriptions, in alphabetical order, are:
able accepting adaptable bold brave calm caring cheerful clever complex confident dependable dignified energetic extroverted friendly giving happy helpful idealistic independent ingenious intelligent introverted kind knowledgeable logical loving mature modest nervous observant organized patient powerful proud quiet reflective relaxed religious responsive searching self-assertive self-conscious sensible sentimental shy silly smart spontaneous sympathetic tense trustworthy warm wise witty
A Nohari Window is the inversion of the Johari Window and is a collection of negative personality traits instead of positive. They are:
blasé boastful brash callous chaotic childish cold cowardly cruel cynical distant dispassionate dull embarrassed foolish glum hostile humorless ignorant impatient imperceptive inane inattentive incompetent inflexible insecure insensitive intolerant irrational irresponsible lethargic loud needy overdramatic panicky passive predictable rash selfish self-satisfied simple smug stupid timid unethical unhappy unhelpful unimaginative unreliable vacuous violent vulgar weak withdrawn
To assess your self-awareness, you can do the Johari Window and Nohari Window exercises with a group of close friends and/or family members, or just give them the lists in written form and ask that they be returned when they are completed.
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MIND CULTIVATION: EXERCISE 2 Let's take the Johari Window exercise one step further and collect feedback about your resiliency in a crisis and interpersonal communication from people close to you. This exercise requires that you initiate communication and receive responses from others. Copy the six questions below and share them with three other people in your life. Or sit and interview them with the questions. When they complete the feedback and return it to you, place their input in a journal or notebook so you can refer to it when necessary. With this information, you will be able to look for consistency and reliability. Asking for feedback will help you to be more introspective and self-aware. It will further your ability to identify and eliminate the weeds in your mind. Questions 1. Please explain how well you think I cope with adversity. 2. How comfortable are you with my expression of emotions, especially tears? 3. How do I problem-solve when I experience a crisis? 4. What do you think is my strongest coping ability? 5. What do you think is my greatest challenge in coping with adversity? 6. Do I convey my specific feelings and needs clearly?
Think of this as an opportunity to see how others view you and provide information for you to grow and make positive changes in your life. It is meant as a constructive exercise, and you must remember that their feedback has been shared to enhance your understanding of yourself, not to criticize you. The goal is to build resiliency through positive thinking.
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CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF RAIN: CRYING CAN BE HEALING
Tears are like rain in a garden, refreshing stressed plants. There is a connection between tear ducts and areas of the human brain. Humans are the only animals that produce tears in response to trauma. What do you tell yourself about crying? Do you say, "I am weak. People will take advantage of me if I cry. I need to suck it up"? In western cultures, men are more likely than women to feel this way. Whereas young girls are encouraged to explore, verbalize and demonstrate their emotions, boys, from the time they are very young, are taught to be "tough" and stoic, to not openly share, show or express their feelings. What our culture fails to recognize in socializing our young men in this way is that it is more empowering and resilient to say, "I will feel better after a good cry. Crying is a sign of the strength to be sad, vulnerable and real. Strength and crying are not mutually exclusive."
Just the act of talking and crying about your situation with someone else can help to clarify your thoughts and feelings. This worked well for Maureen. When she was feeling overwhelmed with the uncertainty over her job loss, she allowed herself crying time, which helped her see that she had more control over her situation. This empowered her to seek out other opportunities through networking and explore some entrepreneurial endeavors by looking into franchise ownership. When Maureen was able to discuss her feelings openly and cry about her employment situation, she was able to think more positively and problem-solve more effectively.
According to a study by Chip Walter, reported in Scientific American/Wikipedia (December 2006), of more than 300 adults, on average, men cry once every month and women cry at least five times per month, especially before and during the menstrual cycle, when crying can increase up to five times the normal rate, often without obvious reasons.
Can anyone attest to this? I know I can. I must admit there are times when I have cried just watching a TV commercial. How many times have you been moved to tears without really knowing why?
Tears produced during emotional crying have a chemical composition that differs from other types of tears, such as basal tears that lubricate the eye and keep out dust, and reflex tears that result from irritation of the eye. Emotional or psychic tears contain significantly greater quantities of hormones.
Excerpted from Blooming Again by Darlene Powell Garlington Copyright © 2011 by Dr. Darlene Powell Garlington. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
PART I: INDIVIDUAL FLOWERS....................31
Chapter 1: Weeding Clears the Mind....................33
Chapter 2: Nutrients Build and Sustain the Body....................65
Chapter 3: Sunlight Feeds the Spirit....................81
PART II: FAMILY PLANTING....................97
Chapter 4: Fertile Soil Enriches Marriages....................99
Chapter 5: Strong Roots Build Resilient Families....................125
PART III: COMMUNITY GARDEN....................163
Chapter 6: Cultivating a Work Ethic....................165
Chapter 7: Toiling in the Village Leads to Abundance....................179