“Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.”
-Robert Frost

I picked up this quote from Eric Wagner, Ph.D. when he was discussing the intricacies of the counseling process.  I like this quote because it speaks to my experience as a therapist and as a student.  Through education, we are able to pick up a variety of different lenses in which to view the world.  The more time spent in the educational process, whether at an excellent four year institution like Loyola or otherwise, we are collecting different ways that people perceive the same event.  This is a far cry from where we started in our development; the only lens being our internal experience.

The tone of the quote is also something that I feel is worth emulating.  The end result of education should not be arrogance towards experience, but rather a calm curiosity for what can be new.  The possibility of viewing each experience through the variety of lens is fascinating and not tedious.  Time for anger or self-doubt quickly passes as you switch perspectives to help you make sense of your initial reaction.  We do this through following Frost’s advice; “listen.”  It is through listening and not hearing that we are able to experience.  Simple words that have so much meaning to them.

To put things in perspective, the Fall semester has come to a close.  You officially have new lenses to look through and have signed up to learn about more.  So this Spring semester, take each class as an opportunity to become more “educated.”

-Logan Williamson, LPC

Please check out the Care For the Pack Blog for information about the University Counseling Center, Student Health Services as well as more thoughts and musings from our contributors!

 

Comments Off | Permalink »

The Art of War

Conflict can be difficult.  No one really enjoys it and those that do enjoy conflict are elevated to having their own show on E! because they are so weird.  I have a bias against reality television, but that is for another blog post.  Conflict can escalate over the holidays though for many different reasons.  Not least among them are high expectations, temporarily forcing incompatible personalities together, and heightened stress around organizing events so that everyone is “happy.”

I want to offer some advice for surviving this mess of priorities, personalities and potential conflict so that you can enjoy the spirit of the season.  When managing potential conflict, I tend to go towards the experts in search of advice.  Freud?  Gandhi? Jesus?  All great sources I’m sure, but I’d rather go with Sun Tzu.

Sun Tzu is a Chinese Military tactician from 200 B.C. and is generally considered one of the greatest minds in history.  He wrote a treatise called Art of War with wisdom on how to successfully win battles even against those with greater strength or numbers.  The piece that I draw from his work is a rather simple concept.  If someone is trying to engage in conflict with you, it is because they have viewed the landscape and judged it to be in their favor.  Basically, people are not likely to pick a fight they believe they will lose. 

If people begin conflict they think they can win, then it is important for you to survey the landscape too.  Usually, they are right.  Politics and Religion shouldn’t be discussed over turkey and stuffing for a reason.  The landscape is never in favor of winning.  However, because the relationship “landscape” is one that changes all the time, following Sun Tzu’s advice is wise.  Wait, delay, shift, reposition until things are more in your favor.

I want to be clear too.  Conflict with family is natural and expected.  I don’t mean yelling and shouting matches.  Well I do, but I’m also talking about how to make decisions about time spent with friends versus family or discussing your lower than expected grade in Biology.

Also, I’m not advocating avoidance.  Avoidance of the problem is generally a bad thing.  Sun Tzu was a military tactician and wrote about how to win.  Engagement around difficult issues should still occur.

Lastly, it is important to understand what it means to “Win.”  Winning isn’t best defined as getting your way or winning the argument.  Instead, resolving differences or soothing failed expectations in a way that relationships are maintained and strengthened can lead to more quality wins.  For instance, if your parents ask you about your poor biology grade and you are too disappointed to talk or your grandparents are coming over in 5 minutes.  Delay the conversation, even if you know that they will get over it.  You can win by discussing it after family is gone and you have more time to talk about your plans to do better, and in the meantime everyone was able to enjoy the extra family members.

-Logan Williamson, LPC

Comments Off | Permalink »

After the massacre at Sandy Hook, I felt sad, irritable and almost disoriented.  From talking to others, my reaction seemed fairly normal.  Whew!  I had to rely on my coping skills (playing music and disconnecting from the information overload) to get myself back to a place where I could really examine what had happened in a critical fashion.

Recently, I moved to New Orleans from Denver, Colorado.  I treated children, adolescents and college aged adults in the same school district as Columbine High School – www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbine_High_School_massacre.  I had colleagues who were first responders on the scene and I had an office in a church where one of the shooters was a confirmed member.  I had a friend who was in the library where the shootings took place.  Additionally, I worked with clients who were separated by 2 or 3 degrees from victims of the Aurora Theater Shooting – www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurora,_Colorado_theater_massacre.  This type of event hits home for me as someone with a more intimate knowledge of how mass shootings can destroy lives, families and bring entire communities to their knees.

I began to look at how I connected to the Sandy Hook community.  I realized that my most visceral reaction came when I heard that Adam Lanza had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a lesser form of Autism.  Working with this population is one of my clinical specialities… they are a part of my community.  I have worked with so many people who fit this diagnosis, and not one of them will ever turn out to be a mass murderer.  I could not stomach the thought that these people could be faced with another social mountain to climb.  The news media did not directly associate the two, but of course people are looking for an answer as to how this could happen.

I don’t think it will ever be clear which diagnoses Adam Lanza fit, but I hope that people do not associate Autism/Asperger’s with violence and murder.  I knew that if I am an advocate for this community, then I needed to voice my perspective and share my experience.

Recently, I read an article on this very point from someone who has Asperger’s and it can do a much better job of explaining why Asperger’s should not be associated with Mass Murder/Violence than I can: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/my-life-aspergers/201212/asperger-s-autism-and-mass-murder

The most salient excerpt:

“People with Asperger’s typically have difficulty reading the unspoken cues of other people.  You might say we are oblivious to the language of emotion.

Yet we are emotional people.  Many studies have shown folks with autism have very powerful emotions; the problem is, we often can’t express those feelings in ways others can recognize.  Sometimes our responses seem inappropriate (we may smile when you expect us to look sad.)  Other times, an event that triggers a strong emotional response in one person has no visible effect on a person with autism.

Lay people often take those signals to mean we Asperger people don’t have feelings, or we don’t care about them, or that we lack empathy.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.

As the definition of autism and Asperger’s says:  This is a communication disorder. It’s not a “lack of feeling” disorder.   In fact, most clinicians who work with people on the autism spectrum will tell you autistic people tend to care deeply for people in their lives, and have a sweetness; a childlike gentleness – something totally at odds with what you’d expect in a cold blooded killer.

There is nothing in the definition of Asperger’s or autism that would make a person think we are a violent group.  That’s reinforced by criminal justice studies telling us that people with autism are much less likely to commit violent crimes than the average person.  Indeed, those studies show autistic people are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. 

If you’re looking for a group of people to fear, we’re not it.”

-John Elder Robinson

Someone asked me the other day if I take my own advice that I give to clients.  I hope you can hear it in this article.  Everyone needs effective coping skills and we all should stand up for the communities that mean the most to us.

-Logan Williamson, LPC

Comments Off | Permalink »

Congratulations, you’ve officially made it through the fall 2012 semester!  Time for some much deserved R&R with family and friends during the break.  If your family lives in the Greater New Orleans area, you have probably been back and forth on several occasions to do laundry, eat a home-cooked meal, or just touch base over a cup of coffee.  If you live further away, the winter holidays might be your first trip home for the year.

Going home for the holidays can initially be filled with great expectations and a little anxiety.  You might believe that you have changed dramatically in your time at Loyola and wonder what your family will think of the “new you.”  In some ways, Loyola might feel more like “home” to you.  This is absolutely normal and signals your shift toward independence and adult living.

Don’t be surprised if you notice that your family and friends “back home” have also changed since you’ve been away.  You have probably heard the talk time and time again about how college changes the student; however, it is also a time of transition for your loved ones.

Here are a few tips to cope with the holiday trip home:

  • Holidays can be both joyful and stressful.  If you notice yourself feeling the “holiday blues” think about your expectations for returning home and put things back into realistic perspective.  Consider recording a “home for the holidays” playlist to assist with relaxation.
  • Try pre-planning your trip.  By setting a loosely structured schedule, you can more easily make time for friends and family.
  • Make time for rest and self-care.  You are likely to feel exhausted after final exams but still want to visit with everyone back home.  Plan your time to include sleep, exercise, and relaxation.
  • Talk openly with your parents about household rules.  Discuss curfews, chores/upkeep, and be open to compromise.
  • Keep in contact with your friends from Loyola.  Make a few phone calls, Skype, or send email/text messages.  You’ll be happy to pick up where you left off when you return to campus in January.
  • Volunteer.  Remembering the Jesuit ideals of compassion and dignity this holiday season and giving of your time and energy to assist in the lives of others will leave you feeling a sense of renewal and motivation for the spring semester.

So, here’s to you and making the most of your time over the holidays. Enjoy and we’ll see you next year!

Alicia A. Bourque, Ph.D.
Director, Counseling & Health Services

 **While you are here, click on our recent posts for a variety of different topics!  In fact, bookmark the Care for the Pack Blog as we update it twice a week!**

 

 

Comments Off | Permalink »

Why Can It Be Difficult to Live At Home?

Living at home during college can be _________.  You fill in the sentence.

I bet it isn’t “awesome” or “ideal.”  Sometimes, at best, it can be“thrifty” or “convenient.”  Why is this?  Aren’t we supposed to love our family?  Aren’t they supposed to be the ones we can count on and who support us?  Then why do we have such difficulty when we live at home or go home for the break?

There are two concepts in Family Systems theory that help us understand why this is so difficult.  The first is individuation.  This is the process of our identity moving towards independence and responsibility and away from relying on the family to function for us.  In the past, reminding us to do our homework, clean our room, or brush our teeth before we left the house was necessary and helpful.  Now, in college, not so much.  Your room may not be spotless, or your dental hygiene perfect, but these are choices you are making about your lifestyle.

The next concept is one borrowed from 6th grade science class – homeostasis.  In Family Systems Theory, homeostasis is a family reacting to someone trying to make a change.  This reaction is trying to bring that person back to the way things used to be.  If you are less reactive to an argument with a sibling, they may become even angrier so they can illicit the angry reaction that they are used to getting in a fight.  Unfortunately, when talking about homeostasis, same = good, even if same = unhealthy as well.

If we put these concepts together we get homeo-individuation-stasis.  No, not really.  But we do get quite the mess.  If it is normal to take on more responsibility for your lifestyle and making choices that your family used to make, AND your family is primed to overreact to bring you back to how it used to be… you can imagine how fights quickly boil down to:

You: “Mom, I’m 18 years old.  I can make my own decisions!!!”

Mom: “Well I know how this is going to turn out and for these 3 really thought out reasons you should do exactly what I say!!!!”

You: *door slam*

The key to these situations is to realize when you might be getting into a scenario where you are taking over new responsibilities.  Once you realize you are there, acknowledging your family’s perspective rather than denying it outright can go a long way towards softening the blow when you make your own call.  Also, compromising can be an excellent way to show your ability to be an individual while leaning on the wisdom of your family.  Just because you are taking over new responsibilities, doesn’t mean that they are all against what your family believes.  Leave Rebellion back in High School where it belongs.  Maturing means negotiation and respect towards the people that care about you.  In this way you strengthen the bonds with people who you count on and who support you.

-Logan Williamson, LPC

Comments Off | Permalink »

Finals Help – No One is Looking

Finals can be a tough time for everyone.  For the prepared, it is a work filled frenzy.  For the procrastinators, it is a work filled frenzy.  It can be a time where we become focused on ourselves and how heavy our work load is and how much stress we have before the last day of classes.  This is a time to rely on our values, not forget them until things get easier.  I’ve heard that values are what you do while no one is looking.  So if everyone is looking at themselves, this is the time to act!

In the spirit of service and community, do something nice for someone today.  Lend someone your notes.  Explain the question they are stuck on.  Offer up your car for the late night Taco Bell run as a study break.  Call your friend the morning of the final so they make it on time.  Open the door for a stranger.  Pull your head out of your own… To Do List and make a difference in someone else’s day and your day as well.

-Logan Williamson, LPC

**While you are here, click on our recent posts for a variety of different topics!  In fact, bookmark the Care for the Pack Blog as we update it twice a week!**

Comments Off | Permalink »

Don’t Be a Jerk

I’m linking to an article I found interesting the other day.  Its title is less direct than this Blog Post – “How to Be a Jerk.”  It looks at how people can be jerks and with a wink and a nod forces you to look at how you are jerk… but of course that would never happen right?

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ambigamy/201211/how-be-jerk

It gave me an opportunity to reflect on my own occasional outburst of jerkiness.  What I really took from this article is how unhappy Jerks must be… Being wrong happens and admitting it relieves the weight off of your shoulders of having to justify each step along the way.

I believe that patterns are easier to change once we have some insight into them.  After reading this article, it will be much harder to act like a jerk for too long.  When I hear myself saying, “I’m not insulting you, I’m just being honest,” I’ll know that I’m just saying, “Let me be a jerk for a little longer.”  And that is a tough thing to ask someone.

I think this article is also trying to get at the idea that our gut is sometimes a poor compass… to completely mix my metaphors.  This is a lesson that I have to continue to relearn.  No matter the level of expertise, we can tend to atrophy back into old patterns.  Accountability is essential to consistency.  So take a risk this week and see if you are being a Jerk.  Are you slipping into old patterns because “you got this?”  Maybe you need some extra accountability?  We all do!

-Logan Williamson, LPC

Comments Off | Permalink »

Two Sports Stories for the Soul

I was speaking with a man the other day about therapy.  He mentioned that he had heard how therapy was not the best format for men.  He argued that men often relate in different ways or at least like to be involved physically while talking, as opposed to sitting in an office.  For this reason, sports are often a great place to draw examples of overcoming challenges because men can relate to succeeding in this physical realm.  The key is generalizing from the sport to our lives.  Thus, I leave you with two sports stories.  I hope you can take their message and apply it to your life.

“I think I’m dying”

Charlie Beljan is a rookie in the most mental game around, the PGA Tour.  He finished his second round by scoring a 64 on the road to his first win and an $864,000 payday.  However, he was playing with a different kind of handicap (pun intended).  During that second round, his second lowest of his career, he had a panic attack.  He felt his heart racing, his chest tighten and he looked over at his caddy and said, “I think I am dying.”  Fortunately, his heart attack was just an anxiety attack on adrenaline.

Check out the full story here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/13/sports/golf/charlie-beljans-panic-leads-to-hospital-and-then-pga-title.html?_r=0
Also: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=869m3DvAIMQ

What struck me was that this is the ultimate story of overcoming anxiety and a panic attack.  He won a four round tournament against the world’s best competition even while he thought he might die.  It proves what we all know in our head, but not always in our heart… anxiety is almost always worse than what the actual outcome will be.  We know this because the most logical person would conclude that playing with extreme anxiety would get in your head enough that you place 2nd in a professional sporting event.  Not for Charlie Beljan and probably not for us either.

“Something to learn from winning and something to learn from losing.”

There could be a book written about R.A. Dickey, the star pitcher for the NY Mets who recently won the most prestigious award in all of pitching and one of the top awards in all of sports, the Cy Young Award.  In fact, there has been: http://www.amazon.com/Wherever-Wind-Up-Authenticity-Knuckleball/dp/0399158154

I was a terrible baseball player when I was growing up, but my favorite baseball player is and was Nolan Ryan.  A man who holds the record for most strikeouts, but never won the Cy Young.  To be a Cy Young award winner… Ugh… I have trouble finishing the sentence.

But R.A. Dickey won it.  He won it at 38 years old.  He won it with a pitch that he developed a year and a half ago.  He won it after being in the majors for 11 years, never being considered a good pitcher, much less one of the greats.  He won throwing a knuckleball.  No one has ever won the Cy Young as a knuckleballer until R.A. Dickey.

I’ve heard Dickey interviewed a couple of times.  His story would make a grown man sigh and a weaker one ball his eyes out.  Overcoming childhood sexual abuse, depression and suicidal thoughts, this guy has not had an easy road to the top.

Most recently though I heard him interviewed about the Cy Young he had just won.  His reaction was almost non-plussed.  He understood what the award was and what it meant, but he saw it as a benchmark.

To Dickey, the Cy Young had his name on it, but should have the name of all the people who contributed to his growth as a person and a baseball player.  He said his identity used to be wrapped up in his performance as a baseball player.  I could see changing this because you sucked as a pitcher.  I mean who needs to go home and beat themselves up every night because you can’t strike out A-Rod or Jeter and are just trying to be good enough to stay out of the minor leagues?  But I might change my tune after I’ve been named a Cy Young award winner.  There are plenty of examples of this in the sports culture.  Do you think Tiger or Lebron would say something like, “There is a something to learn from winning and something to learn from losing.”

Roles models for how to strive for professional and personal success and growth are few and far between.  We should hold up those that are humble and celebrate the successes of those that overcome adversity in all areas of their life.  I particularly like the idea that we are not our performance in a given moment.  A more genuine and accurate approach views self-identity in context of the whole person, incorporating both strengths and weaknesses.

Nolan, you have some competition.

Comments Off | Permalink »

Thankfulness

Thanksgiving is upon us again and this year I encourage you to consider it as more than just turkey and football.  Family Systems Theory teaches us that family traditions are important.  They help shape the values and the direction of the system, as well as reminding us of our roots.  Willful participation is like renewing your membership to the group and recommitting to the values that the system stands for… at least ideally.  We felt thankfulness was so important in fact, that our government institutionalized a day to be thankful.

I believe that we continue to celebrate Thanksgiving because we recognize its inherent importance in psychological health.  Being thankful for our blessings, being thankful for the friends, the family and the support that we have to get through the daily grind and the tough times helps us keep perspective on life’s challenges.  This process of perspective taking forces us to understand our position as middle of the road.  It could be worse, it could be better.  Effectively, it acts as a way to regulate our emotions.

To use a film metaphor, Thankfulness helps us understand that we, as an individual, are not life’s only main character.  We can shift the lens for a moment and see that the efforts people make in our favor are sometimes not asked for, earned, or even deserved at times.  They are another main character’s efforts to give to their community or support system.

We talk a lot about community, and Thankfulness perpetuates the positive attributes in a community.  We know this through basic Behavioral Psychology.  Reinforcement is a much better method of affecting behavioral change than punishment.  When I am going through a rough patch and I tell a supportive friend that I really appreciate them being there for me, what will they most likely do in the future if I find myself there again?  Well, if I have worked to reciprocate their support and I’m genuine in my appreciation, they are much more likely to be supportive again.  In fact, through this process, our relationship has been enriched.

Neuropsychology can even be helpful in understanding how Thankfulness is important.  It used to be thought that the brain was static and did not change past a certain point… “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”  Now we use the term, neuroplasticity, to understand that the brain strengthens and pares down neural connections on a regular basis.  If we are spending our time with a Thankful mindset, then we are strengthening this positive thought process and sending the negative thoughts into disuse.  When faced with which path to go down, the brain will slowly, but surely, take the more positive path on its own.

So this Thanksgiving, appreciate this built in opportunity to express your gratitude towards those who support you.  Recommit to those ideal values and try to find opportunities to renew your membership.  We all have a lot to be thankful for and not just on Thanksgiving.

-Logan Williamson, LPC

Comments Off | Permalink »

November 12-16th: Loyola University’s first Eating Disorder Awareness
Week

In the United States, 10 million women and 1 million men are affected by
disordered eating. These types of unhealthy behaviors are even more
prevalent among college students, and can lead to myriad physical and
psychological problems.

In response, the University Counseling Center, Co-Curricular Programming
and Residential Life will be working together to promote some exciting
and informative events!

“Be Comfortable in Your Own Genes Day!”

We’ll be collecting jeans in the residence halls throughout the week.
Students can donate jeans that are too big or too small. This is a great
way to give back to the community, while examining your own beliefs
about body image and healthy habits.

11/15/12, 7p.m. in the Audubon Room

Jesse Hartley, Executive Director of the Children’s Advocacy Center,
will speak about her experience with an eating disorder. If you have
ever been curious about someone’s individual experience or wanted to
know more about how eating disorders make their impact, please join us.
Discussion and free dinner included!

Also, watch for our Tabling throughout the week in the Danna Center with
information about eating disorders, healthy habits, and how to approach
a friend of concern.

-UCC Staff 

Comments Off | Permalink »