Emotional First Aid Manual

Emotional First Aid Manual

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781929830152
Publisher: Innovations Press
Publication date: 01/17/2007
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

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The Emotional First Aid Manual


By Janet Buell

Innovations Press

Copyright © 2006 Janet Buell
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-929830-15-2


Chapter One

Section One-Adult Trauma

Loss of a Job

The loss of a job is often underestimated in its potential for devastating effects on a person's life. While the occasional individual takes it lightly (usually someone with a large bank account and good prospects for immediate re-employment), most of us rate it right up there with a divorce or a serious accident when it comes to overall stress. The reasons for this are numerous and include damage to ego and sense of self-worth, the threat of financial ruin, the loss of friendships and close ties, and the necessity of confronting potential rejection in the search for a new position. Never take lightly the effects of job loss even when the person is putting up a brave front. Many people find it hard to talk even to friends and family about such a loss because of the damage to their self-esteem.

Because medical insurance and regular paychecks often come to an end with the job, the unemployed person who is suffering depression or great upset is unlikely to seek professional help. His or her need for comfort from friends and family is usually at an all-time high.

Pep talks are tempting ways to try to help a friend but they are rarely effective, giving only a short-term boost at best. No matter how reasonable a person tries to be, losing a job can cut right to the core of his or her self esteem. Unless you are the lastperson fired or laid off before the company shuts its doors, a job termination creates the idea that you are expendable, that you aren't worth the salary you were being paid.

Because this often causes the newly unemployed person to feel strong emotions that are not "acceptable" in society, emotions like anger, bitterness, resentment, and fear, it can be difficult to get the person to open up and express those emotions.

If you truly want to help someone who has suffered a job loss, you will need to be prepared to follow the Seven Golden Rules of Emotional First Aid scrupulously. If you haven't recently read the chapter called Vital Information, be sure to do so again. Compassionate, non-judgmental communication will be the key to helping the person express those unacceptable emotions and thus get relief from them.

The best way to build confidence in order to get a new job is to communicate those feelings fully. The procedure that follows is designed to help you help your loved one open up and express himself or herself. Be prepared to spend as much time as needed. There are times when the person has had a string of job losses and the procedure below will need to be done on several of them beginning with the most recent and continuing backwards in time. It is best also to start at the very beginning of the job loss. This part of the incident might be when the person first began to suspect there might be trouble months before the actual termination occurred.

On rare occasions, a person is reluctant to begin speaking of the loss. In that case, begin a conversation about the job he or she just held and what it was like, and quite naturally, when the person begins to feel more comfortable with you, he or she will progress to speaking of the termination.

Now begin the Compassion Remedy that follows:

Compassion Remedy

The first step in handling a recent loss or trauma is to encourage the person to talk about it and to listen carefully to what the person says. Some encouragement may be needed at first. You can encourage a person to say more by use of the following prompts:

1. Tell me what happened.

2. Did anything else happen?

3. Is there anything else you want to tell me about that?

"When did you first realize there might be a loss of your job in the future?" is also a useful prompt. At no time during the conversation should you become critical or judgmental. Make a point of always letting the person know that you have heard what he or she is saying. A simple "uh huh" or "ok" is enough to acknowledge that you have heard someone. Most people will be very eager to talk to you as long as you remain compassionate and interested. You encourage the person to communicate fully by avoiding judgmental or critical communication or attitudes and by following the Golden Rules of Emotional First Aid. The person's recounting of the event may run for a few minutes or several hours. Be prepared to listen patiently throughout. If the person has told you about the incident but still has attention on it, ask him or her to tell you about it again one or more times.

Frequently, after telling you about the event, the person feels relieved and has no further interest in the event. If that is the case, end the Compassion Remedy at that point. If that is not the case, ask the person if there is something he or she now feels could be done about the event or if he or she now sees some way to handle the effects of the event in a positive manner. Looking at this point of view may help the person feel able to act as cause in the event rather than feeling victimized by it.

It is also important to check with the person for any decisions he or she might have made at the time of the incident. Often a person makes major decisions during a time of loss and it is beneficial to take note of those decisions and to talk about them to a friend. Sometimes the decisions were wise ones and the talk reinforces them, but there are other times when the decisions would have proved to be destructive. An example might be someone who decides never to risk trying for an important job again because the loss was so painful. If left unexamined, that decision could prove to be harmful. Once the person has had the chance to talk about the loss at length and to begin the healing process, he or she might change his or her mind about the wisdom of such a decision. The spotting of decisions and communication about them with a compassionate listener is one of the most beneficial parts of this procedure. There may be one decision or many. Take plenty of time on this question and give the person the chance to examine all decisions.

If, during the course of doing this procedure, the person starts to speak of an earlier similar job loss, go ahead and ask the person to focus on that earlier time and ask the same series of questions about that incident.

When all decisions made at that earliest time have been viewed, the person will feel relieved and more extroverted and it is then time to end the procedure.

It can take some time for the process of grieving to come to a closure.

If you feel the reactions of your friend or loved one to the incident are extreme, use the list of resources at the end of this section to encourage professional help. For the person who has strong ties to a religious group, there is often pastoral counseling available. For those who don't, many wonderful counseling centers exist where help can be obtained. The appendix of this book contains references to help find professional help.

Loss of Hopes and Dreams

The loss of a hope or dream is often part of another loss. The breakup of a marriage, for instance, also involves the loss of the dream of a happy union. The loss of a child also involves the loss of all your dreams for that child. But there are also losses of hopes or dreams that stand alone.

The dream of living in peace can be crushed by the onset of war. The dream of becoming a dancer can be crushed by the day-to-day rejections of a tough business or by a sudden physical injury or the accumulation of many small injuries. A sudden feeling of loss of a hope or dream is easier to spot in another person. There is a dramatic change following the realization of the loss.

Gradual losses may be harder to spot. Here are some clues that will help you tell when your friends or loved ones have suffered such a loss.

a general drop in emotional level (cheerful to apathetic, for example)

a visible drop in brightness/alertness

frequent illness in a formerly healthy person

an increased need for sleep

an increase in drinking and/or drug use

a sharp increase or decrease in consumption of food

If you have a friend or loved one who has been excited about plans for the future-goals or dreams-and you observe a fall off in that excitement, don't wait! The time to offer a compassionate ear is before he or she becomes totally discouraged. Whether the loss is due to a series of small rejections or one big one, the method for helping is similar.

There are people who give up on a dream that could have been turned to reality if they had only been able to persist a little longer. Your help might enable them to stay with in the face of rejection and ultimately win.

Other times, the dream was not possible, at least not in the exact way the person saw it. An example might be someone who dreamed of a happy relationship with his or her current spouse. The fulfillment of that dream requires the efforts of both parties. For that reason, the person does not have full control over the outcome and can fail through no fault of his or her own. Your help might enable that person to give up the dream of having a good relationship with that one specific unwilling person and yet succeed ultimately at the broader goal of having a happy relationship with a willing partner. Thus, your intention in helping is not to insist that the person continue toward the exact same dream but to see him or her regain confidence and either strengthen his or her resolve to attain the original dream or recognize the need to broaden the dream and work toward attaining that.

If you haven't recently read the chapter titled Vital Information, reread it now and then proceed with the following information.

Compassion Remedy

The first step in handling a recent loss or trauma is to encourage the person to talk about it and to listen carefully to what the person says. Some encouragement may be needed at first. You can encourage a person to say more by use of the following prompts:

1. Tell me what happened.

2. Did anything else happen?

3. Is there anything else you want to tell me about that?

"When did you first realize there might be a loss of your dream in the future?" is also a useful prompt. At no time during the conversation should you become critical or judgmental. Make a point of always letting the person know that you have heard what he or she is saying. A simple "uh huh" or "ok" is enough to acknowledge that you have heard someone. Most people will be very eager to talk to you as long as you remain compassionate and interested. You encourage the person to communicate fully by avoiding judgmental or critical communication or attitudes and by following the Golden Rules of Emotional First Aid. The person's recounting of the event may run for a few minutes or several hours. Be prepared to listen patiently throughout. If the person has told you about the incident but still has attention on it, ask him or her to tell you about it again one or more times. When a series of smaller rejections over a period of many years is involved rather than one shorter large rejection, it can still be treated as one incident. Ask how long the person has been trying to obtain this dream and then let him or her know that you want to hear about that entire time period.

Frequently, after telling you about the event, the person feels relieved and has no further interest in the event. If that is the case, end the Compassion Remedy at that point. If that is not the case, ask the person if there is something he or she now feels could be done about the event or if he or she now sees some way to handle the effects of the event in a positive manner. Looking at this point of view may help the person feel able to act as cause in the event rather than feeling victimized by it.

Check also for any decisions the person might have made at the time of the incident. Often a person makes major decisions during a time of loss and it is beneficial to take note of those decisions and to talk about them to a friend. Sometimes the decisions were wise ones and the talk reinforces them, but there are other times when the decisions would have proved to be destructive. An example might be someone who decides never to try to attain his or her dreams again. If left unexamined, that decision could prove to be harmful. Once the person has had the chance to talk about the loss at length and to begin the healing process, he or she might change his or her mind about the wisdom of such a decision. The spotting of decisions and communication about them with a compassionate listener is one of the most beneficial parts of this procedure. There may be one decision or many. Take plenty of time on this question and give the person the chance to examine all decisions.

If, during the course of doing this procedure, the person starts to speak of an earlier similar loss of a hope or dream, go ahead and focus on that earlier time and ask the same series of questions about that incident.

When all decisions made at that earliest time have been viewed, the person will feel relieved and more extroverted and it is then time to end the procedure.

In the rare event that the person doesn't want to talk about the end of the dream, encourage him or her to talk about the dream itself, and when the person becomes more comfortable talking to you, he or she will quite naturally begin to speak of the end of the dream.

If you feel the reactions of your friend or loved one to the incident are extreme, use the list of resources in the appendix to encourage professional help. For the person who has ties to a religious group, there is often pastoral counseling available. For those who don't, many wonderful counseling centers exist where help can be obtained. The appendix contains references to find professional help.

Trauma of Feeling Different

Feeling "different" can be enjoyable when the difference is one we have chosen, but when that difference is forced upon us by circumstances, we may react quite differently. The loss here is based on a desire most people have to be "normal" or like their peers or people they admire. The part of the situation that is traumatic begins with the first moment the person decides he or she is different and that it is undesirable to be different. The person who never notices his or her differences or who never sees it as a negative condition will not need help in this area. The person who is aware of a perceived difference and dislikes it may need a great deal of help.

In an ideal world, we would all accept and appreciate our own differences and those of our fellow men and there would be no loss attached to it. But this is far from being an ideal world.

How can you tell when a person does need help in this area? Look for some of the following signs:

Dressing to hide a physical difference (Example: wearing long sleeves even in the warmest weather to cover a birthmark or scar.)

Avoiding certain activities because they might show off a physical difference (Example: an overweight person who won't participate in sports but looks wistfully on from the sidelines.)

Avoiding activities like games because they might reveal a lack of mental quickness or agility

Ultimately we want our loved ones to have the strength to deal with a difference; not to simply conform at all cost. Making a person wrong for caring about a difference is not the answer however. Encouraging the friend or loved one to communicate fully about his or her feelings of being different is the answer.

People often make life changing decisions based on such an upset and those changes can be destructive. We need to allow all the emotion to be voiced and the decisions made to be re-examined. By doing this, we help a friend or loved one learn not to allow his or her life to be destroyed by these differences. It is vital on this procedure to find the moment when the person first decided that they were different from others and that they felt it was a negative difference.

Compassion Remedy

The first step in handling a recent loss or trauma is to encourage the person to talk about it and to listen carefully to what the person says. Some encouragement may be needed at first. You can encourage a person to say more by use of the following prompts:

1. Tell me what happened.

2. Did anything else happen?

3. Is there anything else you want to tell me about that?

At no time during the conversation should you become critical or judgmental. Make a point of always letting the person know that you have heard what he or she is saying. A simple "uh huh" or "ok" is enough to acknowledge that you have heard someone. Most people will be very eager to talk to you as long as you remain compassionate and interested. You encourage the person to communicate fully by avoiding judgmental or critical communication or attitudes and by following the Golden Rules of Emotional First Aid. The person's recounting of the event may run for a few minutes or several hours. Be prepared to listen patiently throughout. If the person has told you about the incident but still has attention on it, ask him or her to tell you about it again one or more times.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Emotional First Aid Manual by Janet Buell Copyright © 2006 by Janet Buell. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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