Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Drop That Horseshoe: There’s No Such Thing as Bad Luck

“Depend on the rabbit’s foot if you will, but remember it didn’t work for the rabbit.”
- R. E. Shay

Have you broken a mirror in the past seven years? Any black cats crossed your path lately? In nearly every culture, in every part of the world, there are some things attributed to luck: the chance happening of good or bad events, also known as fortune or fate.

Luck is used as the rationalization for any number of seemingly inexplicable circumstances. A gambler winning game after game at a casino table is said to be “riding a lucky streak” (though his winnings can likely be attributed at least in part to skill); a homeless person is deemed “down on his luck” (though there is almost certainly a concrete, albeit unfortunate, circumstance behind his tragic state); an individual for whom things always seem to go right is ascribed “the luck of the Irish” (and just what, pray tell, is so lucky about Ireland?).

Those who subscribe to the luck theory and observe superstitions such as avoiding the number 13 and tossing salt over the left shoulder when it spills will insist that it works.

For them, it does work; however, this is merely a testament to the power of the mind to persuade us to see what we wish to see. Luck works in much the same way as positive thinking. If you believe you are “safe” because you avoid opening umbrellas in the house and walking under ladders, then you will be safe.

On the other hand, if you break a mirror and convince yourself that bad luck is destined to infect you, you will subconsciously sabotage yourself and therefore attract bad luck- or at the least, chalk up unfortunate events to the breaking of the mirror instead of discovering what really happened so you can prevent a reoccurrence of the problem. Seven years is a long time to wait for your luck to change.
It’s your time – how will you spend it?

Instead of rubbing the bellies of pregnant women or hoping to find heads-up pennies lying around, why not try positive thinking?

You will achieve the same results, and you won’t have to rely on discovering four-leaf clovers or avoid stepping on sidewalk cracks.

Using the power of positive thinking is as simple as believing good things can and will happen to you. You don’t have to memorize a complicated set of rules or follow elaborate rituals to attract happiness and success. So toss that lucky tee shirt from high school and tap in to positive thinking today. Your bad luck sentence is officially discharged.

There’s some good stuff coming up. Do you know that once you change your mind, you change your life?

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Friday, October 27, 2006

Meditation: Join the Club: Live and Online Support Groups

You may be surprised to learn that whatever type of trauma has affected your life, there is probably a support group of people who have been through the same thing and are willing to talk about it with you. Many kinds of trauma are difficult to discuss with anyone who hasn’t had the same experience. Support groups are created with that truth in mind.

If your trauma is a common one, such as alcohol abuse, there may be a live support group that meets regularly in your area you can attend. Most churches, community organizations and local newspapers provide lists of area support groups with meeting times, locations and contact information for the coordinators of the group.

If there are no live support groups in your area, you might consider forming one. You can find guidelines for forming support groups at your local library or online.

Even if the support you’re looking for is not so common, the internet has allowed people all over the world to connect and unite who might otherwise never have known anyone else like them existed.

There are communities, forums and private chat groups online to cover just about every walk of life, from displaced homemakers to victims of sexual abuse to reformed ex-convicts. With careful research, you can find a supportive and friendly internet community to share your trauma with and connect on a level that would otherwise prove difficult, or even impossible, for someone who hasn’t experienced a similar event.

Next time, I’ll let you a secret…There’s no such thing as Bad Luck!

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Meditation: Connecting Above Pain

Meditation is a time-honored relaxation technique that has been used successfully in Eastern cultures for centuries to alleviate stress and focus the mind. This technique has recently gained popularity in the United States as millions of people discover both the physical and mental health benefits of meditation, while realizing that it’s not as difficult as it sounds.

In trauma applications, meditation can help you rebuild the energy your negative emotions zap and learn to cope with the difficulties associated with trauma. Meditation is one of the easiest and most inexpensive forms of self-therapy: all you need is yourself and a quiet room.

There are several variations of meditation you can perform. You should choose the steps or combination of steps you’re most comfortable with and use them on a regular basis. Following are a just a few of the hundreds of meditation forms in existence; or you can combine elements of different meditation programs to create your own unique method.

NOTE: In all methods of meditation, the object is to clear your mind of conscious thought and concentrate on simply existing in the moment.

Walking Meditation: When you perform walking meditation, you can meditate and exercise at the same time. To meditate while walking, you simply concentrate on either the feeling of your foot meeting the earth with each step, or on your breathing, which should be relaxed and natural. Achieving concentration in order to block out thought takes practice, but the natural rhythm of walking provides an excellent starting point for the beginning meditation student.

Standing Meditation: Performing standing meditation is a good way to practice proper breathing, as a standing position is conducive to correct posture and fully open airways.

To practice standing meditation, stand straight and comfortably with your feet pointed forward, approximately a shoulder-length apart. Place your hands one over the other on your lower abdomen and concentrate on breathing. Take slow breaths and hold for about four seconds before releasing slowly. Proper meditation breathing is done through the nose, both in and out. Standing meditation can be performed with your eyes open or closed, according to your preference.

Seated Meditation: This is the most popular form of meditation. In a quiet room, be seated either in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor, or on the floor in a cross-legged position (usually Indian or Lotus). As with standing meditation, you can concentrate on breathing and slowly empty your mind of thought. Seated meditation is performed with relaxed, open eyes focused on a fixed point on the floor approximately three feet in front of you. Many practitioners of seated meditation use external stimuli for concentration (see “Meditation with External Stimulus).

Reclined Meditation: Reclined meditation is best performed just before you intend to go to sleep, as often you will find yourself falling asleep as you do it. This variant is the same as standing meditation, only lying down. The eyes are always closed with reclined meditation. This is a helpful technique for people who have trouble falling asleep.

Some forms of meditation are best done at the end of the day, when it won’t matter if you fall asleep.

Meditation with External Stimulus: If you cannot (or would rather not) focus on breathing, you might consider using an external stimulus to focus your thoughts for meditation. One traditional example of external stimuli is a mantra: a word or phrase that is repeated either aloud or silently throughout the meditation session.

Some of the more popular meditation mantras are Buddhist or Indian in origin, such as om or aum (OHM: no English translation); om mani padme hum (OHM mah-nee pah-d-may HUNG: the jewel of the lotus); or rama (RAH-muh: chant used by Gandhi).

You can also create your own mantra with a meaning significant to you or your trauma. Other external stimulus used in meditation are: candles or incense; instrumental music or recorded chants; fans or white noise machines; small fountains; or recorded nature sounds such as waterfalls, bird calls or whale songs. You can use whatever you’d like, as long as it is soothing and relaxing to you.

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Journaling To Release Part (2)

Here are a few tips on choosing an appropriate journal for your self-guided therapy:

· The size, layout, look and feel of your journal should be symbolic, either of your intentions or your personality. Take your time in picking out a journal you enjoy looking at and holding. Give yourself permission to spend a little more than you usually would, and avoid bargains or sales (unless the one on sale is exactly what you’re looking for). Attaching a slightly higher dollar value to your journal than what you might pay for something like a typical school-grade spiral notebook gives the importance of your journal a mental boost, and helps remind you that what you put inside it is important to you. If you don’t want anyone else to read your journal, no matter what, invest in one with a lock.

· Choose a writing implement that you will use specifically for your journal. With the exception of a pictorial journal, pencil is the poorest medium to use, as it conveys the sense of a temporary state that can be changed with a pass of the eraser. Pen or marker are the best choices. You should write with the medium you feel most comfortable in, that benefits you in a symbolic or significant way. You can choose an ink color you like, buy a set of glitter pens, pick up a novelty pen, or even get an old-fashioned quill pen- they are available in ballpoint versions or traditional chisel-point and inkwell styles. Be sure to only use the writing implement you choose for your journal, and not for grocery lists or jotting down phone numbers.

· Find a home for your journal and keep it there unless you’re writing in it. Establishing a permanent place for your journal- under the bed, on the top shelf in the closet, in a dresser drawer, on your nightstand- is an important step in your journaling routine. This helps to reinforce permanence and form new habits (and eliminates the possibility of losing your journal).

Soon…I’ll share with you the amazing benefits of meditation, and how to do it well. Stay tuned!

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

For Your Eyes Only: Journaling to Release Part (1)

Keeping a journal or diary is one of humankind’s oldest traditions. The thoughts, feelings and emotions of generations have been preserved through countless pages inscribed with words that are often kept private throughout the life of the writer, and revealed only in the interests of adding to historical record.

For therapeutic purposes, sometimes the act itself of writing down past trauma allows you to face it more fully and release the negative feelings associated with the event.

The journaling process can be a short-term program used solely for working on a specific trauma. If you keep a short-term journal, you may wish to burn or destroy it at the end of the process as a symbolic realization of your freedom from trauma. If you enjoy journaling, you may wish to continue keeping a written record of your thoughts and feelings. Many people keep daily or weekly journals their entire lives. Journaling is an excellent form of self-communication that can benefit you whether or not you’ve experienced trauma in your life.

There are many different formats your journal can take. Following are some of the most common, but feel free to come up with your own journaling style to suit your specific needs:
· Freeform thought. Freeform writing is a technique used by many authors and aspiring authors to jumpstart creativity. Keeping a freeform journal is a good way to uncover thoughts you may be hiding even from yourself, and for beginners it’s an excellent starting point. The instructions for writing freeform are simple: just sit down with your journal and writing implement of choice, and start writing. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or even coherence. Simply write down whatever comes to mind. Try to do this for at least five minutes to give your mental engines time to warm up. If you don’t feel like stopping after five minutes, just keep writing. Daily freeform writing is one of the most therapeutic practices available.
· Memory release. This technique is most beneficial for short-term journaling, particularly if you intend to destroy the journal in a symbolic manner when you’re finished. Memory release journaling is exactly what it sounds like: you merely write down your memories of trauma and any feelings associated with them, and then release those negative feelings. Imagine that they are now on paper, and therefore no longer in your heart or mind. For this reason, it is more effective to destroy the journal when you are finished with it.
· Dear Jerk letters. If a specific person or group of people, living or dead, was responsible for the trauma in your life, writing a letter or series of letters to them can be helpful in transcending your trauma. You will probably never send them the letters, but putting down in physical form what you would say to them if you could is immensely satisfying on a personal level. You can address the letters to their names, or give them creative nicknames (Dear Jerk, Dear Friend-Stealer, Dear Scum of the Earth) to protect your privacy and add more kick to your scathing monologues.
· Story-form therapy. Some traumas are too fresh or too painful to relive fully. In these cases, writing a fictionalized account of the experience can be helpful in releasing negative emotions. You can change the names, locations, ages, or even genders of the participants in your personal trauma to give yourself a more objective view of the situation and assist you in coping or finding closure. Creating alternate versions of the situation helps to displace bad feelings. You can even write yourself a happy ending, or give your fictional self victory over your oppressor.
· Pictorial journals. You may feel words are inadequate to convey your traumatic emotions. If this is the case, you might consider drawing a journal instead. Just as you don’t have to be a good writer to keep a journal, you don’t have to be a good artist to draw one. Use whatever form you feel comfortable with, whether it is stick figures, abstract scribbling, or fully detailed rendering. The only important step in journaling is to get something concrete down on paper, and no one but you will ever have to look at it.

Choosing the right journal can be just as important as what you place inside it. The human mind is a powerful thing, and our thoughts and perceptions have an incredible influence on our actions.

Wait…There’s more to come. Watch out for part 2…

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

“It Could Be Worse”: Dramatization and Awareness

For mild trauma, sometimes laughter really is the best medicine. If you are able to look at the situation objectively, you may be able to “laugh it off,” or at least arm yourself with enough knowledge to realize you had it easy.

There are two ways to approach this method. The first is to simply use your imagination. Picture the trauma, and then imagine all the ways in which it could have been worse.

For example, if you have a checking account, you may have bounced a check, ended up having to pay a fee to the bank and had to postpone paying one of your bills or go without something you planned to purchase. Now, imagine what might have happened if you bounced multiple checks. You might have had to put off several payments.

The snowball effect could have caused you to lose your car, or have your power shut off. Your bills could have spiraled out of control, eventually leaving you homeless.* When you imagine the worst, it’s easier to put setbacks into perspective.

Traumas can be seeds for more pain – or for growth.

*NOTE: Bouncing multiple checks and losing your power, your car, or your house qualifies as major trauma, for which dramatization is not always effective.

The second approach to dramatization and awareness of minor trauma is to research actual cases where the situations of other people turned out worse than yours. You can search online for news stories, or browse the periodicals archive at your local library.

Generally, you will always be able to find cases concerning people who had more difficulty than you, yet they survived- and you will too. After all, you’re still alive. If you want to take this method a step further, you can do something to help others in your situation. Make a donation to a specific case or a related charity, or start a support program or fund drive in your community. Taking action, no matter how small, often helps to alleviate the feelings of loss and helplessness associated with trauma.

I’ll be sharing with you one of my most favorite past time – journaling. Watch out this space.

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Monday, October 09, 2006

Trauma: Breaking the Chains by Tenzin

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
- Sir Winston Churchill

Bad things happen to good people. It’s a fact of life. One of the most extraordinary things about human beings is our capacity for resilience in the face of trauma. Miraculous survival and recovery are not occasional happenings in the world.

Every day, someone survives a tragedy. Every day, someone takes another step toward a happier life despite a past trauma. Every day, life goes on, and we adjust. And we are stronger for it.

The suggestions in this section, once again, are not substitutes for professional psychiatric care. However, many people have found self-help effective for relieving the stress of trauma and taking control of themselves.

Whether you choose to seek professional help or embark on a healing path yourself, know that you can break free and begin to live again when tragedy touches you. You don’t have to let trauma keep you from achieving what you want out of life.

You can choose just one, or any combination of these techniques to work on freeing yourself from trauma. If you are uncomfortable with an approach, move on to another selection.

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

“Exposure Therapy Implementation! By Tenzin

Some ways you can implement exposure therapy for the BIG Three fears!


  • Wear your slippers to the grocery store. If you’re feeling ultra-brave, scuff your feet across the floor to call attention to your slippers. If you’re feeling ultra-timid, go to a grocery store far enough from your house that the shoppers will probably never see you again.
  • Sing at a karaoke bar. While you’re sober.
  • Choose one completely inappropriate article of clothing (a Dr. Seuss hat, a big pair of fuzzy mittens in the middle of summer, a headband with bumblebee antenna) and wear it in public as long as you can. This is not only good exposure therapy- it’s fun!
  • Join a local Toastmasters club or offer to give a public presentation on an area relating to your expertise at a library or school. Public speaking is an excellent channel for exorcising humiliation, especially if you do it on a regular basis (that’s speak in public, not humiliate yourself).


  • Call up a deejay at a local country radio station and request a song by Metallica or Ozzy Osbourne. Be aware that you will be rejected; you might be laughed at and rejected, and there is a possibility you may be laughed at and rejected on the air.
  • If you’re single, use an online location service like Classmates.com or PeopleFinder.com to find an old school classmate you used to have a crush on. Contact them and ask for a date (or just initiate a conversation). If you’re married, contact an old school classmate and invite them to lunch. At worst they’ll say no; at best, you will have rediscovered a friend.
  • Write a poem or a short story and try to submit it to a newspaper or magazine, or enter a writing contest. If you aren’t rejected, become a writer immediately.


  • Try to nail Jell-o to a tree.
  • Buy a new video game and attempt to win it in one sitting. If you play video games on a regular basis, buy a video game that’s different from the ones you usually play (for example, if you enjoy fighting video games, try a quest-driven format. Or video chess.).
  • Start a new hobby that requires creating an end product, such as knitting, model kit building, or cake decorating. Please note that if you are working on your dietary habits, it is not advisable to embark on cake-decorating exposure therapy to combat fear of failure. You will feel obliged to consume your failed attempts. Instead, try vegetable sculpture or fruit bowl arrangement.
  • Challenge Jeff Gordon to a stock car race. This will also help overcome your fears of rejection and humiliation, as at least one of them is bound to happen.

Conquering your fears is like climbing a mountain – do it one step at a time.

You can determine your own form of exposure therapy by coming up with ways to face your personal fears one small step at a time. If you can’t think of anything, ask a friend to help. Most people are more than willing to try something new, especially if they get to watch you do something entertaining.

NOTE: These exercises are not intended as a substitute for professional psychiatric care.

If your fears are extraordinarily strong and interfere with normal functions or daily activities, you should seek the advice of a certified psychiatrist. Self-induced exposure therapy can be effective in reducing or alleviating normal fear, but should not be used in cases of mentally crippling or trauma-induced fear.

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