Illusion of Control

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For many trauma survivors, the illusion of control provides a way to feel control so that they balance out feeling out of control when memories, flashbacks, and emotions of their past traumas surface. If they can control as much as possible about their daily lives it can appear to them that they are no longer out of control as a result of their traumas. The more control they have the better able they are to avoid the distress that comes with facing their traumas as described in this study Perceived Control and Avoidance in Posttraumatic Stress.

Many times a trauma survivor will seek out anything they think they can control in order to avoid the distress of their trauma history. The illusion of control is defined as “The illusion of control is the tendency for people to overestimate their ability to control events; for example, it occurs when someone feels a sense of control over outcomes that they demonstrably do not influence.” Many times people with trauma history will feel they can control everything around them and even convince themselves that the control they think they have is real.

If they can hold on to this belief that they are in control, then they do not have to confront the loss of control they feel when they relive their traumas. Even if they believe they control one thing, it is better than feeling as if they control nothing. This control can take many forms and some of them can be very destructive.

Self-harm is a classic trauma control. If someone is cutting, they are in control of the release of their pain. If someone is controlling their family members lives and choices, they are in control of trying to make their life different from what it was during their traumas. If someone is enforcing their control of themselves with drugs and alcohol, they diminish the emotions of their trauma.

The other side of control is avoidance. If someone can feel as if they are in control they can avoid confronting their traumas and the emotions that go with them. The very ways that they exercise control can be avoidance. For many trauma survivors, avoidance is automatic. They would do anything to not have to experience the emotions that come with remembering and talking about their traumas.

The illusion of control can seem very real, but it is false no matter how one might try to convince themselves otherwise. The illusion of control can seem to be real for a long time, years even, but there are points where it is evident that it is not and there will come a time it will not hold in the face of the emotions of trauma. These times usually come when their are anniversary dates involved with traumas, when flashbacks and memories occur, when someone engages in therapy, or when nightmares surface.

The illusion of control is only a covering, like a blanket of snow that remains for a while but eventually starts to melt, have holes, and disappear completely.

Until next time,
Deborah

Hold The Line

boundaries

Setting boundaries is one of the hardest things for people to do, especially people with trauma history. Many times, people do not feel that they can set boundaries as they want to do everything they can to make sure everyone else is okay and that everyone else is happy at the expense of their own feelings or needs or rights.

Also, the need to make other people okay or happy starts early, very early usually when people are still young children to win their parents love or attention. By the time most people realize that they are giving others everything and themselves nothing, the need to give up their needs and rights has become automatic. It is then very difficult to start setting those boundaries. It feels uncomfortable, even wrong. People react very badly to it. It is hard, very hard to do. But like anything else in life, it is repetition and reinforcement.

In order to start setting your boundaries you have to ask yourself what are your rights. What are your rights as a human being? The right to be respected as an individual, the right to make your own choices, the right to be find happiness for yourself, the right to manage your own life, the right to say no. Even these can be hard questions to answer for those who have not had boundaries most of their lives.

Start with one question that you answer, let’s say it is the right to make your own choices. Based on this, you then start making your own choices and then holding the line as you confront your own doubts that you can do it and the push back from others who are wondering why you are doing it now when you never have before. You will have to hold the line against opposition and against the negative thoughts in your own mind. And again, it is a daily, sometimes every minute repetition and reinforcement that this is your right and that it is okay for you to do it.

Most of the people who have known you a long time and have been able to treat you in certain ways all your life and have you respond to their needs and demands in certain ways all your life will not be happy that you are now setting these boundaries. They will in fact question why you are doing this. They will in fact look for reasons why so that they can blame this on someone or something else because you certainly cannot do this on your own. They will take it personally that you are not giving them what they want as you always have done and that it must because you don’t love them anymore. This will be your hardest task in holding the line.

Being healthy requires that you consider yourself, your needs, your rights, your emotions on the same level as you do for other people, maybe even more so. If you are not taking care of yourself helping others will drain you of your energy, your health, your emotions and there will be nothing left with which to support yourself. And as long as you are giving all to others they will continue to drain you dry and expect you to continue giving them what they need and want.

Define your rights. Be assertive. Learn to say no. Protect your space. Hold your line. By doing this you will find for yourself better self esteem, conserving your emotional energy, and be more independent. Hold your line.

Until next time,
Deborah

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Keep Trying

There are days and situations where we all feel that we just cannot keep trying. Times when we have tried and failed and tried and failed several times and we become mentally and physically drained. Sometimes, these things can feel overwhelming. Especially, if there are multiple things at once.

Just this past week, the new therapist at our office and I struggled mightily with window cling coverings. Yes, I know, that seems like such a small thing in comparison to some of the things that we can go through, but it was a prime example of how to keep trying. I am really terrible at measuring things, figuring out how things should fit together, anything related to rulers and mechanical application of things. Luckily, the new therapist is much better at it than I am. However, we still struggled over and over to figure out how to cover the windows with these patterned clings so that they mostly matched up and actually covered the bulk of the windows.

It was a lot of doing and redoing. Thinking and thinking again. Failing and failing again. It took a long time each time we attempted it. At times it was very frustrating. It was tiring and draining. It was a constant learning process. But we continued to keep trying.

At the end of the process, the windows looked beautiful. It was well worth the effort. At the time of the struggle though, we wondered if it would be. If we had not continued to keep trying, we would have never ended up with the beauty that is now shining on the windows.

This is the outcome of the struggle to keep trying. The pressure that polishes. The pressure that turns carbon to diamonds. The pressure that changes things including ourselves. The pressure of realizing that you can keep trying and you can come out on the other side better for it.

This week whatever your struggles are keep trying. The struggles do not last forever, though they can seem like it. They will end or change as long as you keep trying. Doing one thing, one piece, one issue at a time even if it is over and over, keep trying. The results can be beautiful.

Until next time,
Deborah
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Moving and Expanding

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Mindful Montana Wellness, LLC is moving and expanding!! We are growing in order to serve more of Billings and the surrounding areas. We are very excited about the new opportunities our move and expansion will provide for us and for the community.

On Monday, September 2, 2019, we will be moving our offices to 926 Main Street Suite 18 in Billings, Montana. We will still be located in the Billings Heights. This location is on Main Street in the Heights in the brown office buildings next to Domino’s across from TireRama. Suite 18 is located on the right side near the back corner.

We are also very excited to be adding a new therapist to our practice. On Monday, September 9, 2019, we will be adding therapist Kirsten Pett, LCSW to our practice. Kirsten has several years of experience working in residential facilities and also in the public schools as a therapist. She utilizes Mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation, and several other therapeutic techniques.

With the addition of a new therapist, we will be accepting new appointments for children, adolescents, and adults. These new appointments will start after September 9, 2019.

We are excited about these new opportunities and being able to continue to provide mental health counseling services in Billings and the surrounding area.

Until next time,
Deborah

Pros and Cons

Many times during therapy sessions I ask clients a question, “What do you want?” It seems simple, straightforward, but in fact it is quite the opposite. The answer is tangled up in emotions, the past, fear, low self esteem, and much more. It can be very difficult to come up with what you want, with what you want to happen or change, with what your goals are. But deep down everyone knows them, fear usually prevents acknowledging what they are and accepting what will have to happen in order to obtain them.

When I talk to clients about what they want, I ask if they have ever made a list of the pros and cons for each one. Usually the answer is no. The only way to weigh them out is to truly see them. Writing is one of the most therapeutic ways available to all of us to analyze different parts of ourselves and our stories. Write out the pros and cons of what you want, what you want to happen or change, and your goals.

For example, if you want to remove yourself from a toxic relationship, what are the pros of that and what are the cons. You may be thinking, how can there be cons when removing something toxic from our lives, but every choice has consequences. Some are good and some are not. Pros – You might be happier, safer, freer, gain more self esteem, find better relationships, not be abused by that person, start a new life, protect others, etc. Cons – You might be alone for some time, you may lose family or people that are important to you but toxic, you might feel badly for the other person’s emotions if you leave, other people may blame you for how the toxic person reacts, you might not be happier or feel safer being alone, you might fear the changes that come with ending a relationship, etc.

But what is your ultimate goal in wanting this change? And if you don’t change will you ever be able to reach that goal? Can you continue the same as you are now and have anything change in yourself, for yourself? Remember we cannot change anyone else. So it is only you in the decision to change.

Fear will be the greatest enemy when weighing the pros and cons. Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision. “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” ~ Jack Canfield Acknowledge what you fear and continue with the pros and cons. Acknowledge the cons, and proceed with the pros. Do not let fear keep you from what you truly want.

Until next time,
Deborah

Boundaries

Setting and maintaining boundaries is one of the most difficult things for many people to do. Most of the time, it is because they have been taught by others that having boundaries is wrong. Why would anyone want someone else to feel that setting boundaries is wrong? Because they benefit from the other person NOT setting boundaries as it gives them whatever they want from that person without resistance. That is also why those very same people are the most angry and upset when we decide to put boundaries in place where there have been none.

As we are taught to believe that we have to please others in order to gain their love and friendship, we are taught to believe that we have to always say yes to them. Always be doing things FOR them. Always be giving of our time, our money, our feelings, our effort to make them happy so that they will care about us. This is a false relationship. What they care about is what you are doing for them, giving them, allowing them to take from you….it is not you the individual that they care about.

We can have no boundaries for years of our lives. We can come to believe that this is how we have to live. We can come to believe that this is necessary for any relationship we have. All the while, we are pouring from our cup until there is nothing left in the cup for ourselves. We are drained, tired, angry, sad, and empty in our efforts to fill the cups of others.

To examine your own personal boundaries have a look at this set of questions BoundarySigns Take some time to really think about and answer these questions. Think about all of your relationships from early in your life forward. What do your boundaries look like and why do they look that way?

After you have spent some time examining your boundaries and why they are the way they are, sit down and really think about your life priorities. Some examples of priorities are Work, Family, Health, Relationships, Recreation, Self-Care, Personal Growth, or Sports. There may be others that are priorities for you. Once you have your priorities, write down how you can focus on those for yourself not others. Again, for yourself and not others.

Doing these two things will provide you with more clarity about the state of your boundaries and what is really important to you. Then, you have to implement the changes necessary to start maintaining the boundaries necessary for your priorities to be realities.

Until next time,
Deborah

Growth Hurts

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Growing is a painful process. Change hurts. Fear of both keeps us stuck.

We fear the unknown. The situations that we have experienced in the past and the situations in which we currently allow ourselves to live – are familiar. We know them. We know what they will cost us. What we have to give up to stay in them. What we have to tell ourselves to be in them. These are things we know and so we do not fear them. Change and growth on the other hand are things we know nothing about and we are terrified of them.

If we grow what happens? What will change in our lives? Will it be better or worse than what we have now? Will we be alone – lose our relationships or our family members if we change or grow? What will this growth cost us?

There are no easy answers to those questions. There is no way to know what will happen. I am not sure there is even a way to stop the fear of growing and changing. But there are some other questions you can ask that may have an answer.

Are you happy reliving the past? Are you happy in the present? Do you want to keep living in the trauma of the past or the trauma of the present? Can you see yourself in the same place in a year, 5 years, 10 years? Do you want to continue to live the way you are living? Is a different life worth the risk of the pain of growth and change and the risk that you may lose people in the process?

Only by honestly answering these questions can we begin to pursue change and growth which is a process. Growth and change are not immediate. It takes time. Each person’s time is different. It is often painful. It is hard and we often want to give up because the familiar is so much easier, we think.

Do you want change and growth and what cost are you willing to pay for it?

Until next time,
Deborah

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