Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

By Sara Staggs, LICSW, MPH

1387245111_cf42ed3372_zChristopher MacDougall says “Every morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up and it knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.”   This actually isn’t true. Gazelles are herd animals. Any given gazelle in the herd doesn’t have to be faster than any lion—it just has to be faster than the slowest antelope.

Comparing ourselves to others makes a lot of sense from this evolutionary perspective. Being found wanting by fellow people can result in either getting kicked out of the herd or being eaten. We are hard-wired to constantly be comparing ourselves to others.

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Why Do People Give Unwanted Advice?

By Sara Staggs, LICSW, MPH
Unfortunately, connecting with others doesn't usually involve concrete changes like this.

Unfortunately, connecting with others doesn’t usually involve concrete change like this.

It helps to remember how little we really see when we initially engage other people, or even people that we know fairly well. And while it seems like recognizing the limits of our knowledge would make it harder to connect, the opposite is really true. See, when we assume that we have the whole story, we tend to also assume we have the answers.   Ever been on the receiving end of unsolicited advice that was totally ridiculous? That’s why.

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Pets and PTSD

By Sara Staggs, LICSW, MPH
DSC01961“My dogs save my life every day. They keep me sane, grounded. When I see how much they love me, I feel worth something. Plus, they rely on me to take care of them, so they give me a reason to get healthy.” –trauma survivor

Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is a relatively new name for something that’s been in use for years—centuries, actually. In fact, the first documented case of a pet assisting therapeutically was in 1792. And, of course, the history of people keeping pets goes back millennia. I’m of a mind that if people have done something for that long, there’s probably a reason involving adaptation and benefit. But this isn’t enough for insurance companies, and frankly, it’s helpful to understand what, exactly, it is about pets and our relationships with animals that is beneficial so that therapists and other support professionals can use them effectively.

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Ferguson and the Flight Response

By Sara Staggs, LICSW, MPH

DSC01407The flight response can actually show up in a number of interesting ways. The first one is the most obvious, which is the classic flight of “fight/flight/freeze.” It’s the desire to escape from a dangerous situation. A recent example is Dorian Johnson’s description of running away with his friend Michael Brown from a homicidal gunman.

“After seeing my friend get gunned down, my body just ran,” he said. He ran to his apartment nearby. Out of breath, shocked and afraid, Johnson says he went into the bathroom and vomited. Then he checked to make sure that he hadn’t also been shot.” [emphasis mine]

His statement that “my body just ran” as though of its own accord is well put, since during a crisis moment, the neocortex gets quiet and decisions come from an older, more instinctive place. Whatever he chose to do wouldn’t have been a conscious decision and I’m very glad his body didn’t choose the fight response in this situation.

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Culture Shock: Not a Disorder, but Still Very Real

By Sara Staggs, LICSW, MPH

Look in the DSM and you won’t find culture shock. It’s not a diagnosis or a medical condition, so there aren’t any criteria or evidence-based treatments.* But I’ve been in Ghana for over 3 weeks now and I’ve been interested to see how the themes of trauma, culture shock, grief, self-care, adjustment, coping skills all overlap and interlock. I don’t feel that different than when I’ve experienced other kinds of loss.

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5 Signs You’re Being Manipulated

By Sara Staggs, LICSW, MPH

DSC02352“Manipulative” is a dirty label assigned to clients. I’ve heard it from bosses and colleagues, read it on charts. However it’s also a very real thing many of us have experienced in our workplaces, classrooms, friendships and dating lives. And since it can be a difficult to recognize this red flag in the beginning of an abusive relationship, I think it’s worth describing on a trauma blog. After all, many people don’t recognize they’re in an abusive relationship until it’s too late and it’s difficult to get out for emotional, economic or logistical reasons. So if you see these happening, take note.

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Diagnosing: The 5 Step Empowerment Model

By Sara Staggs, LICSW, MPH

DSC04269Many clinicians who are working in the systems are set up to not have all the information. In the three states I’ve worked in, I’ve never heard of a public agency that pays for diagnostic tools anyway—so I know I’m talking to clients that have often landed diagnoses without ever having undergone any diagnostic testing. And while I’m familiar enough with the criteria for many diagnoses that I have them memorized, most of my trainings have focused on symptom treatment, not diagnosing. For example, while DBT is designed to treat borderline personality disorder, its administration is taught to address particular symptoms that are self-evident in the skill descriptions: emotion regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance and mindfulness. When I use DBT, it’s because I’m addressing a need in that particular area, not because I’ve bestowed a diagnosis on the person in front of me.   Here are 5 steps that clinicians can use to talk with clients about diagnoses.

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Why Is It So Hard for People to Understand You?

By Sara Staggs, LICSW, MPH

2014-07-31 12.02.49

Ever heard that conflict is inevitable? And yet do you still get frustrated when it happens?

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Recent Comments
  • Sara Staggs, LICSW, MPH: You sound like a very generous spirit! Thank you so much for sharing this.
  • Sara Staggs, LICSW, MPH: That’s rough! Even if it’s good advice, sounds like she can’t hear it when...
  • ashie: I have FM (in remission) and while people have given me unsolicited advice on how to deal with it, I saw it...
  • Janetamphlett: I loved this little essay. The hardest things, sometimes, are the most basic. It’s always more...
  • Wanda: During phone conversations with my sister, she often launches into long, detailed stories filled with...
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