Archives for January, 2012
When I teach parent awareness courses I usually start with the question, "What is your worst fear as a parent?" It is an uncomfortable question and the faces in the audience search for a way to avoid the answer. They also want to provide an answer. The answer will break the silence concerning a secret they carry. Parents typically respond: My worst fear is that my child will end up doing something wrong and it will be my fault. My worst fear is that my child will die and it will be because I didn't do something right. My worst fear is that I will die and my child won't have a mother/father. Fear is related to anxiety and anxiety is about something that has not yet happened that we fear will happen.
In Part 3 of the Stress Connection we will move into the heavy part that addresses Suicide Risk. If you haven't read the two parts preceding this blog please do so. It will provide more clarity surrounding the continuum I am addressing when it comes to stress, anxiety, depression, and suicide risk. Stress and depression exist before a suicide attempt. When we know the relationship of stress and depression to suicide, we can see how coping skills can help prevent suicide. Teenagers need to be aware of some facts about suicide and the warning signs that help determine whether someone is a suicide risk. Adults need this information as well.
In Part One of the Stress Connection we looked at stress and coping skills. We also explored what happens when there is a breakdown of coping skills. Healthy coping skills include things such as: talking to someone who cares, exercise, sports, reading, listening to music, doing something nice for someone else, talking to or spending time with pets, watching a good movie, spending time with a friend, going to your special place to think, developing a sense of humor and any thing else that can have the effect of lifting your spirit. Unhealthy coping skills includes things such as alcohol or drug abuse, reckless driving, promiscuity, self-mutilations, isolation, excessive risk taking, anger acted out as violence, or any thing else that has the effect of increasing your shame, guilt, or feelings of poor self-worth. When eustress leads to stress and on to distress we have a situation where coping skills begin breaking down. This leads to loss and an accumulation of loss leads to a sense of powerlessness. Powerlessness can lead to depression. The signs and symptoms of depression occur on a continuum----from mild feelings of sadness or grief, which everyone experiences at some time, to clinical depression, a serious behavioral or emotional pattern in which several symptoms of depression are exhibited over a prolonged period.
There are many things that teens worry about and this worry may turn to anxiety or it may remain as a worry. I find there is a continuum where stress is concerned and worry is another word for a type of stress. Stress, when viewed on a continuum, looks like this: eustress-----stress-----distress. Eustress is the type of stress most associated with nervousness that precedes something important like an exam, the first day at a new job, or asking your girlfriend to marry you.
In the last blog I was discussing PTSD, Repetition Compulsion, and Crime Scenes. This is complex and painful material. There are those who navigate the repercussions of trauma very well. There have been numerous studies on resiliency conducted in an attempt to understand why some people handle atrocities better than others. There are many people who are impacted by trauma for the rest of their lives. Trauma that originated from human harm is often quite difficult because it involves the change in trust where people are concerned. People populate our lives and we are not islands. If a person was betrayed by a person or persons it can be incredibly hard to regain that trust. Trust may apply to the person who did the harm as well as to all people. I would like to share a story about Abigail and Oliver who are two cockatiels that live with me. This is a story of trauma and changing the course of events.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is found under the large dark umbrella known as anxiety. Earlier in the Angst and Anxiety Blog we spoke about the types of problems that exist under the heading of anxiety. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a particularly painful disorder that is best seen as a problem owned by someone who has witnessed, experienced, or heard about a trauma. The concept of death is intrinsically involved in PTSD. In order to qualify for this diagnosis the person needed to have feared for her life or believed his life or the life of another was being threatened. There is considerable information out there on PTSD and this is a good thing. It is my belief that PTSD is much more common than previously thought. We know about combat PTSD and other types of PTSD created by rape, sexual abuse of children and survivors of genocide or other human-made atrocities. Nature can create a situation where death is central to the equation through hurricanes, tornadoes, monsoons, earthquakes, wild fires and blizzards. When traumas originate from human beings it is a different scenario for many reasons.
You may have seen the 1957 film titled 12 Angry Men. There are also some remakes, but I believe the original is the most powerful. The plot to this film is surrounds a jury who has gone into the jury room in a capital murder case concerning an 18-year-old boy accused of murder. It appears to be an open and shut case. In the first round of votes 11 out of 12 jurors vote the teen guilty. The 12th juror will not agree with the other 11. What unfolds is an expose in prejudices, the influence of our past experiences, biases, assumptions, and preconceptions. In 12 Angry Men anger is the emotion up for most of the jurors. Their anger in fueled or informed by other emotions that eventually come to light as the film progresses. As parents it will serve you and those you love if you can uncover your biases, assumptions, preconceptions, and prejudices. It will also help your children if you can help them to uncover theirs.
The largest group of clients I see is the adolescent population. I love their energy and honesty. I am honored to be trusted by these sentient young people. I hear considerable commentary from teens about feeling outside mainstream society. Many adults believe an adolescent wants to be on the outside and secures this position through everyday acts of rebellion. We don't have a formal rite of passage in the American culture for children to use to transition into adulthood. As such, children in the adolescent years have created their own rite of passage. Without a rite of passage there would be no movement, only stagnancy. Van Gennep (1909) reminded us, "Through such rites society reproduces itself. People are given new statuses without the social structure changing." (cited in Eriksen, 1995, p.124).