Category: Trauma

Turning Off and Tuning In to Another Mass Shooting

black ribbonI found out the horrific mass shooting yesterday in Florida this morning, not because of the TV or the radio or the internet but because someone I happened to be with mentioned it.

Word of mouth is how I’ve learned almost all of my news for the past two months. It’s been part of an experiment that has involved purposely turning off and tuning out the barrage of news and infotainment that I had eagerly welcomed for so long.

Before these last two months, my radio was on constantly. I was constantly reloading the New York Times website. I could sound informed and knew a little bit about a lot.

But I was also getting numb to it all. Information overload can increase stress and make it hard to absorb anything at all. And so while it’s important to me to be engaged in the world beyond my nose and take action where I can, it’s also been important to see what happens when I turn everything off for awhile. If I’m not distracting myself with the news or really entertaining podcasts, where does my mind go? If I’m not hearing about everything that’s truly terrible in the world, what does that do for my ability to feel and act calm?

We need to notice the impact that news has on our spirits and sense of well-being. We need to try to be mindful as we figure out the right ways and times to be present with the world around us. That’s what I’m working on.

Please join me in adding your name to the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence’s petition for stronger gun control.





You’re probably not crazy

Am I crazy?Lately I’ve been reflecting on the magic I’ve found in three words that I’ve been using often in my therapy office. These three words lead clients to visibly relax — to breathe more deeply, sit more comfortably, and move quickly (if temporarily) through layers of worry.

The words are these: You’re not crazy.

Oftentimes, therapists forget to tell our clients they aren’t crazy. We assume that our clients already know this — that they have a sense that what they’re experiencing is solidly in the range of normal human experience. But the truth is that life can be so difficult and paralyzing and isolating that it can be easy to begin to believe that nobody else thinks this way, or feels this way, or is this way.

And yet what neuroscience has been teaching us lately is that even very scary mental health concerns have very real neurobiological underpinnings. There are good, brain-based reasons to explain why kids and adults sometimes feel depressed and anxious. There are clear brain-based reasons that show why people sometimes experience temporary relief in self-harm. There are straightforward, brain-based reasons why trauma survivors often are flooded by memories. It’s important for clients to know that they  are having a very normal (if challenging) response to what’s probably an abnormal, stressful situation. In other words, they’re not crazy.

Of course, there’s a difference between hearing your therapist say something and believing it. But after clients have trusted me with their vulnerabilities and truths, it can be powerfully reassuring for them to know that I still think they’re as sane as the next guy — or me. It’s not a magic pill, but it’s a start.

Is your sanity feeling threatened? Contact Dana to set up a time to talk through what’s been going on with you and figure out a plan to move forward, sanity intact.