Monday, April 15, 2013


It has been a very long time since I have had real inspiration to write a blog post here. But there is something I just have to write about today.

As a counselor I see all type and manner of teens in my office. Some with life adjustment issues, some with life and death issues. Now, there is one issue in particular that has been coming up more and more.  That would be how kids are using social networking to cyber bully one another 24/7.

In the old days, if there was a bully messing with you at school - even if the teacher didn't do anything about it - at least you could (generally) go home and have a break from the peer persecution. Not any more.

I have young people all but emotionally undone in my office because near-strangers from a school with thousands of kids in attendance took to Twitter to tell their "followers" that the targeted teen was a "loser."

The above was an actual exchange between two teens. More "followers" is now the trump card? I asked this teen if she knew who Jim Jones was (of course no one under 40 knows who he is). He also had a lot of "followers" but that didn't make him a good person. 

What can we as counselors, teachers, parents do about cyber bullying? What can we do for our teens to encourage them to "sign out," as it were, once in a while at home so that they are not 24/7 at the mercy of cowardly online bullies (teens seem to have moved away from Facebook somewhat and toward Twitter to carry on their "wall wars"). 

While I love technology and the connections the online world can afford us, I am so glad that Facebook and Twitter were not around when I was in high school. There is no reason people need to stay "plugged in" 24/7.

One young person said that when she tried to confront one of her online bullies face to face, they backed down.  What would happen if teens knew how to talk TO each other and not just ABOUT each other? 


Thursday, September 15, 2011


In this busy life it seems that the time to sit down and write a well thought out blog post has become less and less through the years. While that is the case, social networking and the brief approach of sharing a 140 character thought or inspiration or declaration seems to fit more easily within the packed daily schedule.

Having said that, will I still blog here? Yes... occasionally.

But if you want to find a more frequent connection to Selah Counseling you can do that through following on Facebook or Twitter. Come and join me there and share your own inspirational thoughts or quotes on life and mental health.


Friday, April 22, 2011

What Therapy is and is Not

"Therapy isn't curing somebody of something; it is a means of helping a person explore himself, his life, his consciousness. My purpose as a therapist is to find out what it means to be human. Every human being must have a point at which he stands against the culture, where he says, 'This is me and the world be damned!' Leaders have always been the ones to stand against the society — Socrates, Christ, Freud, all the way down the line." - Rollo May

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Forgiveness Factor

How important is forgiveness? What if we don't feel the person who hurt us deserves to be forgiven? Does it merely hurt that person if we choose not to forgive? No. In fact, the only person it hurts if we fail to forgive... is one's self. That other person is likely oblivious to the hurt we feel, or furthermore--may not even care.
So how important is forgiveness? It is just the very thing we need to be able to embrace for our own well-being.

A couple more thoughts about forgiveness before I share a song on this topic. Forgiveness is not simply, or necessarily, a one time event. You may find, like I have, that forgiveness is a process. A process that may take daily, or sometimes hourly, reaffirmation on our part that we choose to forgive the one who has hurt us.

One more point: forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing. We can make the choice to forgive--to release ourselves from the resentment. But that does not always mean that the "checkbook" of the relationship has been reconciled. There may still be a negative balance against which checks from the relationship that are presented for payment may "bounce." But the personal cost is greater not to forgive. Remember, it is not your fault that the "check" presented to you may "bounce," the only thing you are responsible for is yourself... not anyone else's rubble.

"You live your life like a tornado.
Destruction follows everywhere you go.

And you have no plans to stop or slow.
I will not let this bitter root grow in me.

I will not let you leave that legacy,
But it gets so hard when pain is all I see.
And every time I find healing, you’re making a new mess,

And I am learning the real meaning of forgiveness.
And I tried to remove myself from your path,
But I keep on waking up in the aftermath.
So I pick up again and say I won’t look back.
And I will not let this bitter root grow in me.

I will not let you leave that legacy,
But this constant fight is breaking me.

 And every time I find healing, you’re making a new mess,
And I am learning the real meaning of forgiveness.
And it hurts when you hit at the hearts of the ones I love;
When everything you touch is rubble and dust.

And it gets so hard to know how to trust,
But I will not let that bitter root grow.
I will not let it, no no.
But it gets so hard.
And every time I find healing you’re making a new mess,
And I am learning the real meaning of forgiveness."
(Lyrics by Sara Groves)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Exile of the Mind

Have you ever had a loved one in your life that just seemed to suddenly slip away deep into the unknown recesses of their mind? One day they are alive and present -- and the next they don't seem to resemble the person you know and love.
Why? Age? Surgery? Illness? Accident? This happens more often than we would like to think about. And sometimes it can be sooner than a family expected -- and not due to aging. There seems to be a link between excessive stress or traumatic life events that can cause a loved one to sink into an untimely disappearance to the exile of the mind.
"A number of authors have suggested a possible link between life traumatisms and the dementia* processes. The aim of this study is to reveal the presence of life traumatisms preceding the apparition of the dementia syndrome.
[The study] includes 565 patients presenting the criterion of dementia as defined by the DSM IV, and questionnaires filled out by the principle caregivers. One item of the questionnaire referred to life events played a part in which could have the development of the disorder. In a second stage, the reported events were classified into 4 distinct categories: loss, repeated or prolonged stress, psychotraumatism and depression-inducing events."
The above is only one excerpt from many articles that exist on this topic. Such information gives credence to my hunch that repeated and prolonged stress, or traumatic life events can cause a person (who finds no other solace in their daily lives) to retreat to the reluctant exile of the mind.

(*If the condition has been present less than 6 months and had a more acute onset it is termed delirium.) 

What can be done to help a loved one recover? Every case is unique of course, and only a medical professional can determine whether your loved one is experiencing dementia or delirium. However, your familiar, reassuring, and watchful presence is one of the most valuable things that can happen in the recovery. As you wait for your sick loved one to get better, you accomplish a lot by supporting them. It is also crucial to minimize anything that could further stress or confuse your loved one. Also it is important to quickly tell hospital/hospice staff if you notice uncharacteristic changes or behaviors. Then, it will take time and patience in the anticipation of recovery. You can be a welcomed familiar face -- whenever your loved one is able to return from the exile of the mind.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's Not OK

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where every fiber of your being knows that what is happening to you is not OK, and that you are not alright? I'd venture to say most of us have. Sometimes the best thing I can say to another is: no, that is not OK and no, you are not insane.

"I'm Not Alright"

"If weakness is a wound that no one wants to speak of
Then 'cool' is just how far we have to fall...
I am not immune, I only want to be loved
But I feel safe behind the firewall.

Can I lose my need impress?
If you want the truth I need to confess

I'm not alright, I'm broken inside
And all I go through, it leads me to you

Burn away the pride
Bring me to my weakness
Until everything I hide behind is gone
And when I'm open wide with nothing left to cling to
Only you are there to lead me on.

Honestly, I'm not that strong."
(Sanctus Real)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Love never fails (read the fine print)

"Love never fails." No matter your spiritual background you have likely heard that one. But read the fine print. Love never fails (but people do, and they will).
What is the first thing that happens when love does fail? Does the person who failed get the blame? No. Love does. People get hurt and they swear they won't love again. Plus add to that, they have lost hope as well.
I've worked with a lot of families and have seen a lot of lost love -- and a lot of people failing one another. This kind of thing gives me fresh eyes for an old story.
There was a once son who had a family. It would have seemed as though he had all he needed. He even had a brother to lighten the load (and take part of the blame when things went wrong). And yet, there was discontent among the family members. The siblings were bickering, the son didn’t like that he lost privileges because the other sibling had broken some rules. In addition to all that, times were tight in the land and the son was not getting all the material things he believed he deserved. The son was tired of the chores, tired of the rules -- tired of the lack.
One day the son decided he was going to leave. He was entitled to have all he wanted, and to live the life of freedom he believed he deserved.  Did he ask for these things? No. He took them. In fact, he demanded them. And then he left. Left in a hurry without giving his family any time to prepare... or to have any closure.
From here most people know how that story goes. But there has got to be a back-story that few may have thought about.
What about those left back home? What about the father? Well, we know he was ever watching--hoping the son would return. But I imagine he was also grieving. What about the brother? We know he was angry and felt he got the short end of the stick. Why? Because he had not only been the one to work doubly hard now, but I imagine he may have also been someone who needed to comfort his father during this time of sadness and loss. No wonder he was angry! He is thinking "My brother is off having the time of his life, doing whatever he wants, getting all the clothes, food, easy company and laughter he wants. And me? I am working twice as hard now... and dealing with my father's broken heart."
Seems like it would be very easy in that situation to blame love. Love did fail! We gave our best, and still we are left with empty hearts and calloused hands!
Even when loss and disappointment of such life altering proportions does inevitably arrive (unannounced and unwelcome)... I must remind myself (and I encourage you to remind yourself) it is not love that failed. People fail. Love never fails. And please, try not to give up on hope either, for it was not hope that disappointed.
"Don't say it's love that broke your heart
When you trusted someone
Cause love's the victim, not the crime
And love will be there to break your fall
If you'll trust in love, just in love
Know that love could never break your heart
But love can break your fall.
I know it's hard to trust again
But I'll stay with you, stay with me now
Let go of your heartache, learn to forgive
Won't you wait just a moment
And give your heart a chance to begin again
Though you've run before
Tell me, where will you go if you walk out the door?
I could never have found my own way
It was God's love that saved this heart of mine from dying
And when you find His love is all that you have...
Then you see love is all that you need."
(By Grant Cunningham and Mark Hammond)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Myth of Perfection

There is no solace to be found in the myth of perfection. And yet, so many of us hold up the banner, and pledge allegiance to the myth of perfection.

Is there anything wrong with the pursuit of goodness, excellence, fidelity? Of course not.

However, living in circles that primarily outwardly display the persona of perfection can fill one with the idea that their imperfections are not welcome in the daylight. There is plenty of affirmation that struggles and failures are not welcome out in the open. I speak from the experience of having been raised within Christian circles. You want to know something about amazing grace? The amazing thing is that so many of the ones who take on the name of Christ know so little about extending grace to other humans.

This is not a dissertation for or against religion. This is more of an encouragement for anyone who might still be willing to open up and be appropriately transparent with others around them.


For the purpose of letting others know that they can make it through hard times. (Some say the only way out is through.) That maybe they don't have to pull up stakes and run and hide to conceal their imperfections and wounds. That they are not simply welcome within a community once they clean themselves up bind up their own woulds and present in front of others with the continued myth of perfection untarnished.

"Step away
Keep your distance
I can't be what you want me to be
But right now there are things inside I don't want you to see
So take your personal spotlight
Shine it on someone else for a while
I can't force a happy face or makeshift you a smile
I can't deny what I see, what I feel or what's in front of me
So take your world of precious moments of make-believe
They never made me believe in anything
But left me with nothing to hold on to
Your quick fix and magic tricks can only disguise what I was going through
And now I'm thinkin' it was when it wasn't
And now I'm tryin' to rationalize what just doesn't
Come together and somehow doesn't make sense
But God, how can I convince them when I'm not even convinced?

Everyone is thinkin' it, but nobody's sayin' it
Everyone's sayin' it, but nobody's feeling it
Everyone's feeling it, but nobody's seein' it
So how am I supposed to know what's real?

False sense of happiness
My security wrapped up in this
These control freaks seek out who they can brainwash and make activists
They'd rather have me lie than bring my failure to the light Keep your secrets to yourself It's not about you but them lookin' right No time to be ugly Don't trouble them with your doubt and fears Shout for joy little boys and girls You brokenness ain't welcome here
Well excuse me while I bleed through and my life becomes see-through
Don't ask for transparency but reject what you seein' too." (John Reuben)

Monday, December 7, 2009

The mysteries of change and pain

It seems to me that one roadblock that stands in the way of change is the tendency for people, myself included, to deny or numb the pain we feel about our situation. I’m sure, of course, there are certain types of pain where this strategy is perfectly justified. But what happens when we deny the pain related to something such as our life, history, vocation? Here are a few things that seem to be common to the experience:
  • We forget how to dream
  • We forget our true capabilities and skills
  • We become unhappy (both consciously and unconsciously)
  • We turn to forms of escapism

So how should a person deal with this pain? One suggestion is to recognize and feel the pain. It will be uncomfortable and it could hurt a great deal, but you will at least know you are alive instead of being a zombie or on autopilot. And in fact, I have learned to acknowledge that in some ways, pain is my friend. Not in a sadomasochistic way, but in the sense that pain can provide me with information. Information that may be useful on my journey toward change and growth.

It was been discovered that it is often in these moments of pain that we can begin to be willing to open the door to change. When we are honest with ourselves about the problem, we give ourselves the opportunity to fix it. And not only that, we can tap into an incredible source of motivation.

More at this link...

"We change when the pain to change is less than the pain to remain as we are." (Ed Foreman)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Loved ones with Depression

It is widely reported that mental illness may strike one in four individuals. However, the reality is that it affects us all! We all have contact with individuals who struggle with mental health challenges.
How can you help a loved one who may suffer from depression? Empathy, love, support--even humor.
I will share a link here with some food for thought on this important topic.

Mental health problems do not affect three or four out of every five persons but one out of one.
(Dr. William Menninger)


Alumni page on Facebook for LaSalle University in Mandeville, LA.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Adding Insult to Injury?

Most of us have heard that expression. No one wants to be in the position of having insult added to injury they are already coping with. I have found that often we are the ones who more often than not are adding the insult to our own injuries. How do we do that? One of the ways I know I do that is by adding suffering on top of the pain I experience. How do I do that? One way is by not living in the present moment--let alone the present day. If I am feeling pain or infirmity on a given day, many times my mind starts wandering away from the present moment. I start thinking “if my (knee or back, etc.) is hurting like this today, how am going to maintain complete strength and independence at 80?” Seems pretty silly to be thinking that when I finally get to a place of re-centering myself. But in a moment like that--then is when I add suffering to my pain--when I add insult to my injuries. It is often not so much what is happening to us, but more the meaning we ascribe to it.
So many truths come to mind when I am being present enough in the now to regain my focus. Simple lines from songs, like: “One day at a time” or “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow... morning by morning new mercies I see” or even “I dig my toes into the sand, the ocean looks like a thousand diamonds strewn, across a blue blanket, I lean against the wind, pretend that I am weightless--and in this moment I am happy.” Music has always been able to reach me when about nothing else could.
I also gain life enhancing wisdom from books I read. Here is a quote: “All God’s beautiful creatures do (stay in the now) in every moment of their existence. They’re not concerned with their demise; they bask in the exhilaration of the now. Every moment is fully experienced. They don’t make life an enemy and use up their precious moments in a state of anxiety or depression.” (Wayne Dyer)
The above quote brought to mind:
“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers--most of which are never even seen--don't you think He'll attend to you, take pride in you, do His best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way He works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how He works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”
(Matthew 6:30-34)
OK. So, I have got here a fair amount of excellent meditation material to help me focus on the now. Simple daily meditations to remind myself: “His grace is sufficient” I have “strength for today and hope for tomorrow” help me stay focused on the goal: “maintaining a friendly relationship with the now rather than treating it as an obstacle to endure on the way to somewhere else.” (Dyer)
What will I choose right now? What will you choose?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

LOL your way to better health!

That's right my friends! Whether you LOL, ROFL, LYAO or just plain old chuckle... let it out! The heartier and more frequent the better! Most of us have heard the old adage "laughter is the best medicine." But, how can humor and laughter heal? Well, let's find out more!

9 Ways That Humor Heals

By Therese J. Borchard

Of all my tools to combat depression and negativity, humor is by far the most fun. And just like mastering the craft of writing, I’m finding that the longer I practice laughing at life—and especially its frustrations–the better I become at it, and the more situations and conversations and complications I can place into that category named “silly.”

G. K. Chesterton once wrote: “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” And Proverbs 17:22 says that “a happy heart is good medicine.” I’d add that human beings can heal (at least partially!) from a host of different illnesses if they learn how to laugh. Here are just a few ways our bodies, minds, and spirits begin to mend with a dose of humor.

1. Humor combats fear.

I know this first hand, having sat in a community room of a psych ward watching a video of a comedian poke fun at depression. Like everyone else occupying a chair in that room, I was scared to death. Of many things … That I would never smile again. Or love again. Or even WANT to love again. I was fearful of life, and everything it involved.

That panic didn’t instantly transform into a hearty chuckle once the psych nurse popped in the funny video. But the climate of the room was noticeably different. Patients began to open up more, to share some of the details they had left out in the prior group therapy session.

Humor disengages fear because it changes your perspective: of the past and of the present. The traumatic childhood episode loses its tight grip on your heart if you can place it into the “ridiculous” category of other stories from the past. With a playful perspective, you can remove yourself from the marital problem that has you debilitated with anxiety. Laughter forces a few steps–some much-needed distance– between a situation and our reaction. We all would do well to follow the advice of Leo Buscaglia: “When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. And swing!”

2. Humor comforts.

Charlie Chaplin once said, “To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain and play with it.” I suppose that’s why some of the funniest people out there—Stephen Colbert, Robin Williams, Ben Stiller, Art Buchwald—have journeyed through periods of torment.

There is an unspoken message hidden within a chuckle–even the slightest cackle– that says this: “I promise, you’ll get through this.” Just like the comforting hug of your mom when you were three. In fact, New York City’s Big Apple Circus has used humor to console sick children since 1986, when they started sending teams of clowns into hospital rooms with “rubber chicken soup” and other fun surprises. “It’s for the children, yes,” explains Jane Englebardt, deputy director of the circus, in an “American Fitness” article. “But it’s also for the parents who, when they hear their children laugh for the first time in days or weeks, know everything’s going to be O.K.”

3. Humor relaxes.

Like any exercise, laughing relaxes you, and works against chronic stress that most Americans wear on the shoulder. Mehmet C. Oz, M.D., a heart surgeon at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, explains why this is so in a 2005 “Reader’s Digest” article:

When you push any engine, including your body, to its maximum, every once in a while it slips a gear. The ways the body manifests that are: irregular heartbeats, high blood pressure, and increased sensitivity to pain. When people use humor, the autonomic nervous system just tones down a bit to take it off high gear, and that allows the heart to relax.

4. Humor reduces pain.

Apparently the psych nurses at Laurel Regional Hospital weren’t the only ones gathering patients around the TV to watch funny flicks or videos. Dr. Elias Shaya, chief of psychiatry at Good Samaritan Hospital in Baltimore also tries to instill the importance of laughter in his patients. Says Dr. Shaya: “I advocate finding ways to laugh by watching comedy or engaging in looking up jokes and sharing them.”

“Humor rooms,” which encourage people to use humor in their recovery from any kind of illness, are now available in some hospitals. And science backs these efforts. In a study published in the Journal of Holistic Nursing, humor very definitely seemed to diminish pain. Says Dave Traynor, M.Ed, director of health education at Natchaug Hospital in Mansfield Center, Connecticut in “American Fitness”: “After surgery, patients were told one-liners prior to administration of potentially painful medication. The patients exposed to humor perceived less pain as compared to patients who didn’t receive humor stimuli.”

5. Humor boosts the immune system.

Whenever I prick myself accidentally, I tell a joke, and my finger doesn’t bleed! Well, not exactly. But if you are laid up in bed with a terrible strain of the flu that your four-year-old brought home from her play date yesterday, try to find an itsy-bitsy thread of humor in your situation, and you’ll be back to work in no time. Or, better yet, dwell in the misery and stay away from the cubicle longer.

In 2006 researchers led by Lee Berk and Stanley A. Tan at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, Califormia, found that two hormones—beta-endorphins (which alleviate depression) and human growth hormone (HGH, which helps with immunity) increased by 27 and 87 percent respectively when volunteers anticipated watching a humorous video. Simply anticipating laughter boosted health-protecting hormones and chemicals.

In his “American Fitness” article, Dave Traynor explains a separate study at Arkansas Tech University, in which concentrations of immunoglobulin A were increased after 21 fifth graders participated in a humor program. (I’m nervous to hear about the details of that fifth-grade humor program, because my kids roar whenever you throw out a bathroom term.) Laughter was once again found to increase the ability to fight viruses and foreign cells.

6. Humor reduces stress.

The same research team at Loma Linda, California, conducted a similar study recently to see if the anticipation of laughter that was shown to boost immune systems could also reduce the levels of three stress hormones: cortisol (”the stress hormone”), epinephrine (adrenaline), and dopac, a dopamine catabolite (brain chemical which helps produce epinephrine).

They studied 16 fasting males, who were assigned to either the control group or the experiment group (those anticipating a humorous event). Blood levels showed that the stress hormones were reduced 39, 70, and 38 percent respectively. Therefore, researchers suggest that anticipating a positive event can reduce detrimental stress hormones.

7. Humor spreads happiness.

I remember playing the game of “Ha” as a young girl at my third-grade slumber party. I would lay my head on my friend’s tummy, and she would lay her head on another friend’s tummy, and so on. The first person would start the chain of laughs with a simple, “Ha!” The second person, “Ha Ha!” The third, “Ha Ha Ha,” at which point everyone would break into hysterics. About absolutely nothing. The way a person’s abdomen tightens and moves when she says “ha” makes you want to giggle.

My point: laughter is contagious. That’s why there are 5,000 laughter clubs around the world—where people laugh for no reason at all. Say what? According to Dr. Shaya of Good Samaritan Hospital, “These clubs have exercises that teach how to move your face, how to laugh more intensely to involve the shoulders, then the belly.” Laughing yoga classes are also popular today.

8. Humor cultivates optimism.

Humor is like gratitude in that it nurtures optimism, and Dan Baker writes this in “What Happy People Know”:

[Appreciation] is the first and most fundamental happiness tool. … Research now shows it is physiologically impossible to be in a state of appreciation and a state of fear at the same time. Thus, appreciation is the antidote to fear.

So if humor can change a perspective on a painful memory of the past or a gnawing issue of the present into opportunities to laugh at the inherent craziness of life at times, then a person can better facilitate his own healing.

9. Humor helps communication.

This is good marriage advice for anyone. But especially for the person prone to anxiety and depression. Most of Eric’s and my fights end with one of us making a sarcastic remark that is met with a snicker, and then a yuk, and then a roar. Voila! The quarrel is magically resolved! Sort of.

Humor is a way to articulate those truths that are so difficult to express otherwise. It’s handy language for someone like myself that doesn’t like to use big words, who is still fretting about her low verbal SAT scores because the college administrators didn’t think they were funny. If only they had read this article!

Therese J. Borchard writes the daily blog Beyond Blue (voted by Psych Central as one of the Top 10 Depression Blogs)