Victimology

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victimology |ˌviktəˈmäləjē|
the possession of an outlook, arising from real or imagined victimization, that seems to glorify and indulge the state of being a victim.
I want to share with you a mindset or approach to life that has crippled me more than anything else other than being a sinful, fallen human being.
Being a victim. I should clarify, I don’t mean I have been crippled by an actual victimization that has occurred. That is different than this. Some of us have experience trauma and abuse and are victims of tragedy. I mean another kind of victim.
I mean the kind of victim that can best be described as passivity. This kind of victim revels in being a victim. This kind of victim using their victim-ness as an excuse to not move forward. This kind of victim is crippled and unable, dare I say unwilling, to make any changes or adjustments to their live in order to grow and move on from whatever circumstance they find themselves in.
This kind of victim is passive. They allow life to happen around them, to them… without taking any stand or trying to effect or impact what is going on around them. This kind of victim assumes they aren’t able to change anything so they don’t try. They passively watch as life passes them by, thinking to themselves how unfair it is that everyone else has everything they want and how good stuff happens to everyone else but me, I’m stuck here in the mud with crap just happening to me.
I am a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern (fancy way to say Licensed Mental Health Counselor in training) and have suffered my share of mental health related difficulties. I am aware of the intricacies of mental health struggles and how difficult it can be to take responsibility and action in our lives. I know how easy it can be to allow life to happen without trying to engage and impact the direction of life. Please understand that when I say, we can’t afford to passively approach our lives.
I only took seven years to complete my Master’s degree, which gave me plenty of time to think through and mull over how I approach mental health. I have realized a couple things about how I approach mental health issues. First, we all have a backstory. Each one of us has a history that helps to explain who we are and where we have come from. For many of us, in that backstory are clues to why we are using the particular coping strategy to manage life. Oftentimes, we don’t even realize our coping strategies are maladaptive or unhealthy… they are the only ones we know.
Secondly, in that backstory is the root issue we must face and overcome if we are to move on with our lives. For each of us this is different. It may be trauma or abuse. It may be our perception of experiences we had growing up. It may be unresolved guilt or anger. Whatever the root issue is, it will eventually have to be overcome.
Thirdly, I know we are responsible for our actions, thoughts and behaviors. We have to be. We aren’t machines or robots. There are at times circumstances making it more difficult for us to act, think or behave in certain ways… but that doesn’t give us a pass to sit back and stop acting, thinking or behaving in rational healthy ways. If we want things to be different in our lives, we are the catalyst to make that happen.
We can no longer accept passivity and victimology. Can’t continue to live life from the sidelines expecting for it to somehow get better or be different if we aren’t willing to get in the game and make an effort to make it different and better. You are responsible for the way you approach life. You are responsible for your victim mindset.
And so am I.
I have come to understand when we approach life and mental health circumstances we have to uncover the root issue in life causing us problems. We have to learn better ways to cope or manage our behaviors. We have to restructure the way we think each day. We have to adjust our behavior patterns to healthier ones, to ones utilizing healthy coping strategies to combat life. We have to take responsibility for ourselves, our actions and the place in life we find ourselves.
I am no longer content playing a passive role in my life, allowing someone else other than me or God to have the spotlight in my life. Are you? Are you ready to actively engage in your life? Let’s and together and overcome passivity and victimology.

Empathy

Several sessions with clients at Sequel have caused me to think through a wide range of feelings, emotions and thoughts I experienced. Most of the time they don’t create in me a particular disturbance. Admittedly, early on in my internship last term, I had to work through some issues of working with this population. I have come to grips with the realization they need the assistance we are offering them. I have also realized some of them are here because they have made huge mistakes and deeply regret what they have done and are learning from the treatment how to ensure this never happens again. Some of the clients here will not have happy endings.

6613_6613_5There are several sessions that will always stick out to me and be a constant reminder of my time here. One of those sessions was with a client who had been here about a year. His charge is for molesting his younger sister. During a session we were discussing what he thought was appropriate punishment for various individuals who had committed sex crimes against others. The questions in the workbook asked the following (and his answers): If it were up to you, what would the punishment be for someone who raped your mother? Client responded they should get the death penalty. If it were up to you, what would the punishment be for someone who raped your wife? Client responded they should get the death penalty. If it were up to you, what would the punishment be for someone who sexually abused your child? Client responded they should get the death penalty. I then asked him, how he thought his parents felt about the offense he committed? He thought about it long for a time and then responded with ‘that’s probably what my parents think should happen to me.’ It was at this moment the client had a realization of the gravity of his offense.

One of the coping strategies I have noticed the clients at Sequel employ often is one of disassociation. They disassociate themselves from their sex offense. It’s like they conceptualize it as something that someone else has done, but not them. They think of it in terms and don’t truly connect the dots for them. They objectify it and separate themselves from it. This is very difficult for me to process through internally. I am not sure that i am able to understand how it is they are able to separate out like this. When we talk about the details of their offense it is as though they are recounting something they saw in a movies or on t.v.

I suppose this is an effective way to cope with the awful things they have endured in their lives both as victims and as perpetrators. This doesn’t create any particular disturbances in me, what it does it makes a little more difficult for to me understand where they are coming from. Makes it harder for me to be empathetic towards them.

I overcome these feelings inside of me by remembering they were victims too. I learned that very quickly at Sequel. They have all been victimized in some way. This doesn’t change the fact they have victimized someone, but it does humanize them. Remembering they are also victims, provides a setting for empathy to be offered because they have been hurt and are still healing from their own hurt. We have all been victimized in some way and we all need some one who is willing to listen to our story and offer some understanding and assistance in unpacking the bags we have brought with us. That’s why I like being a counselor. Offering understanding and assistance. Offering empathy.

By default

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As I have shared several times in the last week or so, I am wrapping up a masters in counseling. I have been in this program for a long time. When I initially started it I though I might want to be a counselor, then I decided I didn’t want to be. Then I did. Then I didn’t. Many items over the course of this program I have said I ended up in this program by default. I’m not really sure what that means or why I would say it, but I did. I think I was trying to justify why I wasn’t in an MSW (Masters of Social Work) program. As though I needed to justify it. I don’t. But I felt as though I did. Again, not sure why that is.

I don’t think I am in this program by default. I think I am in this program because it is what I needed at the time for my own redemption and salvation. Thanks to what was coming next in my life after I entered this program, I feel I am better equipped to serve people as a counselor than I could have ever imagined myself to be. It is said, the best substance abuse counselor a are addicts. They get it. They understand it. I wouldn’t necessarily hang my hat on that, but I can understand where the thinking comes from. Once you have descended into the depths, you are better equipped to assist others as they are walking there themselves.

I have descended into the depths of the pit of despair.

Strangely,this degree program was in many ways he therapy I desperately needed during some of the most critical times of my life. I will in fact make (and currently am) a wise and very efficient counselor. I am not here by default or because I couldn’t get in anywhere else. I could and did. I am here because it was what was best for me. For my growth. For my redemption.

I am not ashamed of wanting to be a counselor. It is a good job. Helping people who desperately need help. It is in reality so closely tied to what interested me about bible college too. If I am honest, being a counselor probably lines up the best with what I feel to be my God ordained and called purpose.

I don’t want to let that cat out of the bag tonight, but suffice it to say, I am in the right field. Servings he right kinds of people. I am being used where talents, gifts, abilities, passions, desires, skills and calling are best used.

I have not sold myself short. I have in fact found what may in reality be the real me. The me I was made to be. The me is who more at home here than anywhere else. These are not words I would have said at any time in the history of this program.

I am a counselor. I am not out of place.

and there you have it… I’m a MH geek.

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I am taking a break from doing some homework to take a minute and share with you why I have realized that I am a nerd, a geek of sorts. The homework I was working on was writing a progress note for my internship class tomorrow. Many of you know, I am wrapping up (in my last term!!) of a master’s in mental health counseling. I am taking my final class, internship, and we have to turn in progress notes similar to what we would have to keep in our client files while in real practice as a counselor. You may or may not be aware recently the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was updated to its fifth edition, the DSM 5. I have spent my entire counseling educational career learning the fourth edition.

Now I am learning the DSM 5.

Don’t misunderstand me, I am not complaining. At first, I thought this would suck… but as I get into it I think exactly the opposite. I am reading it… from the beginning and not just turning the ‘relevant’ pages I need at the moment. I started reading it for fun the other day. Yep, I’m that guy.

Back to my homework, which took longer than it should because I was just reading and reading regarding some of the disorders that were updated in the DSM 5. This is where my neediness or meekness comes out. Who reads the DSM 5 for fun?

No one.

It would be like reading a dictionary or encyclopedia because there wasn’t much else to do with your time. Well, not quite that bad, but close. I’m reading it for a couple of reasons. First, I have to know the DSM 5 in and out in order to be able to take a state licensure exam and pass it. Secondly, I would like to understand the edits made to improve the usefulness of the DSM 5. What better way to understand it than to read it?

From what I can tell (this is in no way an assessment or review of the DSM 5) efforts were made to streamline the DSM 5 and makes its implementation in clinical practice easier and more efficient. It would appear as though I have already drank the kool aid and decided I like it and want more. Lots more.

That’s ok. There is nothing wrong with embracing or accepting the changes that have come our way in the mental health community. The DSM 5 is here to stay whether we like it or not. Change is always hard, even when the change is very good, needed and necessary. I have concluded I am going to keep an open mind regarding the usefulness of the DSM 5 and read it to learn it. Does this make me a mental health geek/ nerd? Maybe. Frankly, I don’t know of any of classmates who are reading the DSM 5 for the sheer pleasure and enjoyment of it.

What can I say? I stand out from the crowd. I do things differently than others.

And that I am very ok with.

and there you have it… I'm a MH geek.

20140115-231540.jpg

I am taking a break from doing some homework to take a minute and share with you why I have realized that I am a nerd, a geek of sorts. The homework I was working on was writing a progress note for my internship class tomorrow. Many of you know, I am wrapping up (in my last term!!) of a master’s in mental health counseling. I am taking my final class, internship, and we have to turn in progress notes similar to what we would have to keep in our client files while in real practice as a counselor. You may or may not be aware recently the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was updated to its fifth edition, the DSM 5. I have spent my entire counseling educational career learning the fourth edition.

Now I am learning the DSM 5.

Don’t misunderstand me, I am not complaining. At first, I thought this would suck… but as I get into it I think exactly the opposite. I am reading it… from the beginning and not just turning the ‘relevant’ pages I need at the moment. I started reading it for fun the other day. Yep, I’m that guy.

Back to my homework, which took longer than it should because I was just reading and reading regarding some of the disorders that were updated in the DSM 5. This is where my neediness or meekness comes out. Who reads the DSM 5 for fun?

No one.

It would be like reading a dictionary or encyclopedia because there wasn’t much else to do with your time. Well, not quite that bad, but close. I’m reading it for a couple of reasons. First, I have to know the DSM 5 in and out in order to be able to take a state licensure exam and pass it. Secondly, I would like to understand the edits made to improve the usefulness of the DSM 5. What better way to understand it than to read it?

From what I can tell (this is in no way an assessment or review of the DSM 5) efforts were made to streamline the DSM 5 and makes its implementation in clinical practice easier and more efficient. It would appear as though I have already drank the kool aid and decided I like it and want more. Lots more.

That’s ok. There is nothing wrong with embracing or accepting the changes that have come our way in the mental health community. The DSM 5 is here to stay whether we like it or not. Change is always hard, even when the change is very good, needed and necessary. I have concluded I am going to keep an open mind regarding the usefulness of the DSM 5 and read it to learn it. Does this make me a mental health geek/ nerd? Maybe. Frankly, I don’t know of any of classmates who are reading the DSM 5 for the sheer pleasure and enjoyment of it.

What can I say? I stand out from the crowd. I do things differently than others.

And that I am very ok with.

Why do we Act the way we do?

PsychodynamicTherapy
I have been fascinated with human behavior and the reasoning for why they act and behave the way they do. This has been helpful to me a range of work environments. I use it regularly to make assessments regarding people and their motives. This is acutely helpful as a counselor, being able to understand people’s motives based on their background or history. Trying to understand them or get inside their heads to see things from their perspective.

This aspect of humanity, the why for our actions, really intrigues me. I mean it really intrigues me. I find myself constantly asking myself questions, trying to understand why they act the way they do.

Why?

What happened in their history, motivating them to act in a specific way. The trick is, sometimes these motives are hidden inside us and we don’t even recognize them for what they are – motivations.

There is a mother of some kids at my boys’ school I see sometimes when I go and pick the boys up from school. She is always yelling and putting her kids down. She always has a scowl on her face. Every time I see her, I want to ask her ‘why are you so mad?’

Why?

What happened to make her so mad? What in her past history set her on the course leading her to the place of anger? Where has she come from to get to this place? Does she even know she is angry? Does she know why she is angry? Is she aware of how she is treating her kids? Does she know how it makes her look to those around her?

These are the questions I ask myself about other people regularly.

I suppose human behavior doesn’t fascinate me as much as what motivates the human behavior.

The motivation.

What motivates us? This is a complex question with diverse and varied answers depending on who you ask and how self-aware they are. Many times we don’t realize or recognize what our motivations are because we don’t take the time to think them through and figure it out. It is much easier to plow through life responding to the stimuli not thinking about why we are acting the way we are.

It is easier and safer.

Knowing the why behind our actions forces us to deal with the why of the why. When we poke around inside our own minds trying to understand why we are so angry, we are going to be forced to deal with the source of the anger. Or ignore after we find it. But, once we know the cause it is harder to ignore than to just unpack it and figure it out.

Ignorance truly is bliss. It’s kinda like Neo in the Matrix, once you go down the rabbit hole, there is no turning back. You can’t un-know what you know. If we never ask the question of why or search for the answers we will never have to confront the root cause.

I am fascinated by what motivates us to act the way we do.

I love trying to get inside your mind.

Why don’t you lay down on the couch and let’s chat for a bit.

The Beginning of the End

Tunnel
I started this journey in October of 2007… that’s over six years ago.

Six years ago.

Today is the beginning of the end. This is the first day of class of my last term in my masters in counseling. In 9 weeks I will graduate and complete this degree. There is a light at the end of the tunnel!!

These last six years have been some of the hardest years of my life. Not because of this education… this education was one of the very few constants in my life over these years.

I have learned much about myself, my wife, the resiliency of my children, what authentic community feels like, the pain of losing jobs, the difficulty of financial ruin, the anguish of mental breakdown, and most importantly the unending love of my savior for me.

I also learned about the healing of restoration, the excitement of redemption and the joy of emerging on the other side of intense pain & difficulty.

By the grace of God I have emerged victorious against my foes.

There is a sense of accomplishment that goes along with getting to this place in my life… but honestly, it isn’t the kind of feeling of accomplishment you might expect. I am proud of myself, but more than anything I am proud of the God who has gotten me through.

When I began this journey, this masters degree, I honestly wasn’t sure why I started it. I didn’t really want to be a counselor. I would have rathered an MSW (Master’s of Social Work)… I felt as though this was more up my alley and have continued to profess that over the course of 6 years. Each time reassuring myself when I complete this degree it will certainly help me in ministry. I no longer feel this way exclusively. It will help in ministry, but it also fits me very well. I enjoy counseling (actually I enjoy being on both sides of the couch, but that’s for another time) and believe I make a good counselor. I listen well. I have good insight. I offer sound, wise advice. I certainly have experienced my own pain in a way that is meaningful to others and in a way that resonates with them. I can help others because of what I have experienced. I am a better father and husband because of what I have experienced. I am more humble because of what I have experienced.

I have learned more than I can put into words about myself. One thing I have certainly learned is I am able to accomplish something. Over the last six years, more times than I care to recount, I have felt like a failure. I am not a failure.

Quite the opposite is true.

I am a Champion.

Today, I lift the head of the giant and celebrate my defiance. But the Lord is with me like a dread champion; Therefore my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will be utterly ashamed, because they have failed, With an everlasting disgrace that will not be forgotten. (Jeremiah 20:11 NASB)

Today is the beginning of the end.

Margins

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Over the break I was talking to a friend of mine about running. We were discussing how I had recently ran 15 miles. He asked how long it takes me to do run this far. I replied about 2 hours give or take. I average nine minutes a mile or less, so a seven mile run takes roughly 63 minutes. I plan about two to two and a half hours for 15 miles. His follow up question was when do I do this. It is not uncommon for me to walk out the door to go on an hour plus run at 10 pm or later. I find time for this by running late in the day.

I began to feel guilty for finding the time to run when he replied II just don’t have the margin in my life for one hour or more of running each day. I felt like maybe I shouldn’t be finding the time either. Are my priorities out of whack because I have this margin?

I don’t think so. My health is very important to me.

Running literally is therapy for me.

I have about five therapy sessions of hour or more each week. I run because is I like it, I enjoy it. But more than that, it is essential for me to keep my mind sane. It may sound funny, but it actually need to run regularly.

For me, running is living within the margins I have established in my life to keep my life in balance. Just like eating (eating healthy foods) and sleeping are within the margins of life so is running.

Margins are in place in life to assist us to ensuring the things that matter to us have space in our lives. Margins in are place to keep us on track. Margins allow us to set priorities and then keep them. My priorities, or what is inside my margins, may not be the same as yours. Just because what’s in our margins is different, doesn’t mean either is wrong. It means we have different priorities, margins protecting different things.

That’s ok.

There’s nothing wrong with it.

Running (even for an hour or more at a time) is within my margins.

What’s in yours?

Setbacks

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Setbacks. Roadblocks. Speed bumps. Pot holes. Getting knocked down. Challenges. Obstacles.

Whatever you want to call them we all experience them.

I love to trail run. Running is sublime in and of itself, but being able to commune with nature and enjoy the run in that environment is truly a pleasure. The downside to it is that I often get so wrapped up in the moment and the joy that I often don’t notice a root sticking out of the ground invariably I trip and fall. And it hurts. It is surprising. Did I mention it hurts? But you get back up and you keep going. You finish the run. And you don’t hesitate to trail run next time either.

This week, brought me my biggest setback in my counseling program. I have to withdraw from my internship. It really sucks. But it is ok. It is out of my hands. The site I was interning at, didn’t have the number of clients coming in regularly that I need in order to complete the hours I needed to complete. So in order to not jeopardize my placement in the program I am withdrawing, reloading for January and I will start again.

Throughout our lives we will encounter roadblocks, setbacks, challenges, obstacles. What do we do when we encounter them? Do we stay on the ground? Do we admit defeat and give up? It would do no good to give up the trail run after tripping over the root, because you would be stuck on the trail and possibly become food for the next skunk ape to pass by (I live in Florida and the skunk ape is our version of Bigfoot).

We can not let these setbacks define us. We have to be defined by our response to the setbacks. And our response to these setbacks needs to be to get up and try again. We can’t let a few setbacks stand in the way of our goals, dreams and becoming the person we want to be.

Reload.

Start again.

Keep trying.

Don’t give up.

This is by far the biggest obstacle I’ve encountered in this program, believe me there have been many setbacks, but it will not defeat me. It will not cause me to give up. I will not admit defeat. I will not fail.

What defines us is not whether we experience a setback or not… it is what we do after we encounter them. Do we get back up? Do we stay the course? Do we finish the run?

Not allowing the setbacks to stop us is more descriptive of who we are.

Get up, keep going, don’t stop.

That’s what I’m doing. How are you going to overcome your setback?

I Like to Live Alone, but it’s Crowded Inside

In 1995 the movie Se7en was released.

On the soundtrack was a track by an unknown band at the time named Gravity Kills, that song was titled Guilty.

The band’s first album was self-titled and featured Guilty as the leadoff song on the album (after the intro track). Seven tracks later was Never, which started with the lines: “I like to live alone, but it’s crowded inside sometimes.”

When I first heard the song at 17/18 it blew my mind. I was like, wow… for some reason it just seemed to fit. This was years before I became acquainted with mental illness. I’m not suggesting that I have more than one person living inside. But maybe I am.

Let me explain.

I am almost a month into an counseling internship. The clients that I see are homeless or the next best thing to it. They are single mothers, single dads, and families whose lives have taken a drastic turn in a direction they did not expect or want. As I have been counseling these clients, I have been reminded of something I realized sometime ago. Whether we suffer from mental illness or not, we all have multiple persons that live inside us.

We all live daily with at least 3 persons inside us:

We live with the person that we want to be. This is the DREAMER. This is the embodiment of our dreams, hopes, passions, aspirations… everything that excites us, gives us reason to get out of bed in the morning. This is the person that we want to be. This is the person that we want others to view us as being. This is who we define ourselves to be. This is the person that thrives in our dream world. This is the person who wants us to succeed more than anything else in life. Unfortunately, this person often doesn’t get to be the primary reflection we see in the mirror. This person often gets drowned under the other persons.

We also live with the person that the voices in our minds tell us we are. No, we don’t all hear voices, but we do hear lies that we tell ourselves about ourselves. This is the LIAR, because they rarely tell us the truth about who we are. This is the person who wants us to fail. This is the person who is actively trying to make us fail. This is the person who never has anything good to say about us. This is the person who constantly beats us down, only focuses on our failures and weaknesses. This person has a very loud voice.

The third person that lives inside is the person who is just making it through the day. This is the PRESENT. This is the person who has succumbed to the weight of the world and everyday life, this is the person who just wants to survive. This is the person who has almost given up on dreaming… because they can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel… they don’t even realize they are in a tunnel, they believe they are in an endless cave. This person lives with the constant stress and pressure of life. They feel the weight of it every moment of every day. They are almost defeated… many times they are outright defeated.

Therein lives the struggle. Deciding which person is going to be our reality. It is possible to hear the voice of the person we want to be and not be the person we want to be, yet let their voice be the loudest calling us, urging us, forcing us to move forward, to make difference to change our circumstances to be the person we want to be. Too often, we settle to hear the vice of the liar or of the present and we don’t listen to the voice of the dreamer.

We don’t let the dreamer excite our passions.

We have settled.

We don’t dream.

We don’t get excited.

This can be a sad, depressing way to amble through life.

There is another way out…

Christ.

This may not solve all the dilemmas of our life, but Christ does provide peace.

He does provide a truth.

He does provide acceptance and LOVE.

He allows us to dreams and encourages us to dream big. He shows us that the voice of the liar and the present don’t have to be our reality. He holds us close until we realize we were meant for more.

We are WORTH more. We have infinite value to a God who loved us enough to die for us.

It is difficult to drown out the voices of the liar and the present by ourselves. It is much easier to do when we are wrapped in a passionate embrace by Christ our Savior and God.

Who are you going to listen to? Are you going to let the liar and the present keep you from being the dreamer that God designed you to be?