The Loving Presence of God Helps Mend Our Wounds

Spirituality in Nature

Many times when we think about traumas and mental health, we think about the need for individuals to improve their own self-worth. Self-worth is a large part of we overcome shame and guilt and begin to find a feeling of wanting to belong. Guilt is the idea that we have done something bad, while shame is the idea that we’re inherently bad. Although, shame and guilt are just as powerful as one another shame is usually the destructive part of us that believes we can do longer change or do better. Everyone at some point in their lives experiences shame. When I was working with alcoholics at the rehabilitation center, the majority of them felt shame for what they had done and believed that they could not change. People who are LGBTQ experience a form of shame for the way they were born and never learn to fully believe in themselves. Many times people deal with shame by overeating, withdrawing, exhibiting compulsive behavior and more. These are all unhealthy coping mechanisms people pick up because shame directly impacts our personal self-esteem.

Brene Brown says, “If we want to live fully, without the constant fear of not being enough, we have to own our story.”

There are many times we feel inadequate and like we will never be enough and it is in those feelings we begin to act out those exact feelings. The message we say to ourselves is, “I am not worthy.” Because of what happened to me as a child, sometimes I feel like I will never be worthy of love. However, there is one guiding principle that diversifies us from our shame. That diversification is a fire in the soul. What is a fire in the soul? That is the loving presence of something larger than us.

In Elizabeth Smart’s autobiography, “My Story,” she walked through her tragic story of kidnapping, rape, slavery and horrendous abuse. Every ounce of her self-worth and self-esteem was stripped by Brian David Mitchell. Although, there were plenty of times she thought of planning her escape and dreaded the idea of living out the rest of her days as his wife. There was not a single point were Elizabeth Smart thought of taking her own life. Seeing those words written in her book made chills run down my back. How could you go through something so terrible and wicked and not want to die?

 

Elizabeth Smart had something that I believe is an essential part of healing and recovery for all victims of mental illness. She had an undying love for a higher power. I believe that there is something that happens to us as humans when we hold on to the concept of our soul, to the concept of something larger than us.

With spirituality, we are able to connect to a wholeness that is lost without it. The idea that God is inside each and every one of us is not just a Christian fallacy. I believe in order to self-actualize, there needs to be a connection to a creative force or energy that completes who we are. Many times, mental illness can be the consequence of what I consider to be a spiritual crisis. I believe my diversity is in the fact, that I am a strong believer in all religions, spiritual groups, and practices. I have practiced Wicca, shamanism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity.

I take and pull from each of the disciplines and create a spiritual template that aligns with my soul. Indeed, that creates an everlasting flame that will never blow out. Cultivating a resilient spirit is dependent on finding wholeness within ourselves and overcoming shame.

I believe one of the best ways to heal shame is to find forgiveness and healing with your higher self. Religious diversity, no matter what it is, will be a core component of my counseling methodologies.

 

Never Give Up Hope

 

Decades of Systematic Oppression, Mass Incarceration, Racial Tension and the War on Drugs.

This is America Drug Violence

Decades of Systematic Oppression, Mass Incarceration, Racial Tension and the War on Drugs.

In the film, the 13th, the documentary exposes the truth involving the mass incarceration and criminalization of African Americans through the end of the civil war up until the turn of the century.

Violence against African Americans has been a distinct part of our economic and political system that has built and maintained a labor of division and injustice in the United States. Since President Nixon was elected into office, the United States created a reported “war on drugs.” The war on drugs was a sensationalized campaign evoked by new office members like Clinton and Ronald Reagan. In reality, the war on drugs has continued to be a political campaign that has helped build an economic industry of violence, prejudice, and criminalization against African Americans in the United States. 

Social unrest and racial tension have existed in America for many years. Throughout history, institutional oppression and structuralized racism have been a relevant method for maintaining social control and dominance over the African American community. Records of methods used to control African Americans dates back to Colonial Virginia. “In order to maintain power among the people of African descent, oppression and internal colonialism emerged through legislative actions by the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1692 to institutionalize slavery” (Seabrook, Wyatt-Nichol, 2016). 

In the documentary, there is a clear investigation into how slavery in the United States is necessary for understanding the foundational racial oppression of African Americans in our current political landscape. Through a historical understanding of how our country has continually used tactics of manipulation, abuse and deceit to keep African Americans disempowered through reconstruction, Jim Crow, Civil Right and Civil Disobedience to the newly imposed form of cultural domination of embedded racism in the criminal justice system. The documentary sets the stage for how the war on drugs is, in fact, a continued method of oppression against African American communities. 

The war on drugs as a weapon of violence against African American communities

The documentary gives voice to the massive enforcement of laws criminalizing personal drug use and possession of drugs in the United States causing devastating harm to individuals lives. Enforcement and increased criminalization of drug usages in African American communities ruin individual and family lives; discriminate against people with color and undermine public health. The documentary takes a stand on showcasing the societal consequences of not decriminalizing the personal use and possession of illicit drugs.

In the 196-page report, “Every 25 Seconds: The Human Toll of Criminalizing Drug Use in the United States,” there is clear evidence that the enforcement of drug possession laws causes extensive and life-threatening damage to individuals across the country. The long-term consequences of the criminalization of drugs in these communities can separate families; exclude people from job opportunities, welfare assistance, public housing, and voting; not to mention, can also incriminate and expose the individuals to a lifetime of discrimination and stigma.

However, the problem is that drug discrimination in America is a clear replicated pattern of discrimination against African American lives. During the 1980s – 1990s, harder enforcement for criminalization became a huge political concern for white communities around America. The war on drugs: was never a genuine public health concern but what Michelle Alexander characterizes as “the New Jim Crow.”

In the 1980s the invention of crack cocaine was administered into Black communities and was even backed by the CIA. This event has been denoted as “one of the most bizarre alliances in modern history, the union of a U.S. backed attempt to overthrow a revolutionary socialist government and the Uzi toting ‘gangsters’ of Compton and South-Central Los Angeles.”  The aforementioned quote is in reference to accusations brought forth by investigative journalist Gary Webb against the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and its role in smuggling illegal contraband to fund an army named, ironically enough, the Contras. Several presidential administrations would later wage a war on drugs, and despite the proclaimed purpose, seemed to only adversely affect the very same African American community it knowingly allowed the filtration of drugs into.

This is a perfect example of violence African American communities experience, as white men were flooding their communities with the incredibly illegal drug and black men, were being served life sentences in prison.

Racial Profiling and Criminalization

The “war on drugs,” officially declared by President Richard Nixon in 1971, has come to refer to police practices that involve stopping and searching people who fit the “profile” of drug users or couriers on the nation’s highways, buses, trains, and planes; saturation of particular neighborhoods (almost entirely low-income communities of color) with law enforcement officers charged with finding drugs in any quantity through widespread “stop and frisk” activities; no-knock warrants, surveillance, undercover operations, and highly militarized drug raids conducted by SWAT teams.

This creates a systematic environment of racial profiling that continues the systematic oppression of African Americans. 

Racial profiling perpetuates negative stereotypes of black males as “criminals,” “aggressive” or “dangerous.”

“Many African-Americans contend that the issue of stereotyping them as criminal defendants and then disaggregating them out from other racial groups for discriminatory treatment by police officers is commonplace and, in essence, the price for being Black in America” (Joseph 2003).

The cause and effect of these laws have created an entire system of incarcerated African American populations whose faces have not only been sensationalized as “criminals” but have also endured the long-suffering of racial prejudice and unfair treatment against law enforcement officials.  Not to mention, the sensualization of African American men as criminals has increased civil violence against African Americans. 

“This is America:” A Real Exposition into violence against African Americans in the U.S.

In his recent music video, Childish Gambino, a Grammy-winning alias of Donald Glover, has seen a viral explosion all over social media. But why is this video so poignant in American media?  The video opens with a smiling and happy shirtless Gambino as he dances in a very light-hearted rhythmic fashion to a very light-hearted tune; however, as the video continues you can see that the image of very “happy” facade is juxtaposed with him shooting a hooded black man in the head and gunning down a black choir.

The chorus sings: “Yeah, this is America/ Guns in my area/ I got the strap/ I gotta carry ’em.”

Within the song there is a very clear and creative message being conveyed: Gun violence in America is a racial issue.

As a society accepting the normalization of gun violence against racial minorities is not only a social injustice but a disempowering narrative we’re passing down from generation to generation.

According to Live Free, a gun violence non-profit, “THERE ARE ALMOST 12,000 GUN MURDERS PER YEAR IN THE U.S. (MORE THAN THE ANNUAL DEATH TOLL OF U.S. SOLDIERS DURING THE VIETNAM WAR) AND THEY ARE THE LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH FOR AFRICAN-AMERICAN MALES AND THE SECOND LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH FOR LATINO MALES, AGES 18-34.”

Since of the deaths of artists like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and a continued tally of unarmed African American men who have died in “officer-involved shootings,” it is clear that America is experiencing the violent consequences of an unprocessed history of racial tension, which is poignantly examined by the Black Lives Matter Movement. However, over the countless of areas and faculties we’ve employed for the restitution of this tumultuous political landscape, we do not always consider drugs to be a planted weapon against the African American people.

Raise Your Vibration – Why Kindness Matters

I hate to think about the world in terms of hippy maxims or quantifiers like “you’re killing my vibe, man” or “whoa dude where did that energy come from.” But lately, I have really been thinking long and hard about a relative truth hippies get right.
What is a Vibration?
Your vibration is essentially your thoughts.

What do I mean by this?

In the recent studies by positive psychologists, they find that thought patterns predict whether or not an individual feels happiness. This is not only a phenomenon brought on by positive psychologists but behavioral and cognitive psychologists as well. In cognitive psychology, we learn that our thoughts essentially dictate and control our behavior. When we think low vibrating or low unconscious thoughts, we reactively act those thoughts out in our day-to-day life.

Let me give you an example of this: 

  • Have you ever been so stressed at work that you feel like the world is crumbling down around you?
  • Have you ever had an inter-personal conflict with your wife, daughter or other family members where you feel like a victim?
  • Have you ever unconsciously lashed out at an individual, pointed fingers or blamed them?

And if you checked yes to all of these questions, don’t feel bad that is completely natural and normal. No one is perfect and we all make mistakes. In fact, I have recently been in situations where I was doing all of these at the same time. Trust me, it wasn’t good for my mental health. And as a psychologist-in-training, I knew something needed to change. If you’re having an inter-personal conflict with someone who is abusive, the best thing you can do is to remove yourself from the situation and work on making yourself happy.

However, in order to understand this happiness, you need to RAISE YOUR VIBRATION! 

What I am saying here is don’t get stuck in a victim mentally just because you have felt victimized. Even though you can’t always love people up close, that doesn’t mean you should stop your thoughts and start thinking negatively. The more we think negatively about people in our lives, the more we blame and hate and point fingers – the less happy we are.

Have you ever felt what it feels like to love? It is the most magnificent, wonderful feeling in the world. And we can still choose love every time. When we are stuck in our negative thought loops, we start discounting all of the beauty and life there is in the world. We also start turning that hatred towards others inward on ourselves. When we can’t blame other people for the negativity, we blame ourselves and we keep perpetuating the cycle of hate and doom.

But we can choose to be happy. We can choose to express, feel and always have unconditional positive disregard for everyone we meet. We can appreciate all individuals are beautiful, lovely beings of light who have their own struggles and their own life experiences that make them who they are.

Remembering, that you are not a victim and that you have enough self-love to remove yourself from toxic situations is no one’s fault. The only thing you can control is yourself and what you experience in every moment. You cannot change other people, you cannot make other people happy and you cannot blame yourself if other people don’t understand your situation.
But you can choose kindness, happiness, and love in every moment.

  • Do you have an ex you still hate?
  • Do you have a frenemy who you think toxic, mean thoughts about?

I encourage you to sit down and send them love today. Whoever you hate, send them love at every moment and you feel the shift in your happiness. You will feel the stress dissipate and the negativity evaporate.

Cleaning Out Our Closets

Sometimes, when someone asks us to clean out our closets, we look them straight in the eyes, slam the door and run in the other direction. Cleaning out our closets can be a scary, horrifying feeling. When someone is able to awaken us from the slumber we’ve been in, unconsciously walking through life, without any clue of how scattered our thoughts, feelings and emotions have become we just might as well be dead. It is kind of like the little saying, “you can’t teach a dog new tricks.” Why should anyone change when they’re perfectly fine reveling in their own filth? Cleaning out our closets is a feeling that can make us gasp for breath and hold on quickly to what we truly want: solitude.

Solitude is the one thing in this world that can protect us from the dangers outside of ourselves. But I feel like I should rephrase this sentence because it is a little negative. When I wrote it, I was probably going through one of my “oh so common artistic sagas,” and dramatically pinned the essence of my feelings into a proverbial punch line.

But I think what I am speaking about here, is a very relevant fear of intimacy. And don’t get me wrong, it isn’t that I don’t crave, desire or want intimacy. It is that I am just afraid of losing myself. I mean think about it this way, relationships are work. I can barely be in the car with my mother for more than 45 minutes without going back into negative distortions, thought loops and an overwhelming sense of irritation.

How am I supposed to be anywhere close to relationship material?

I don’t want to sacrifice the last chance I’ll ever get to be in love with me. I want to date me. I want to wake up every Saturday morning with me in my arms and maybe my goats. BTW if you start seeing goat t-shirts being worn for quirky, hipster girls who think animals on t-shirts are cool – I started the love of goat trend.  But in all seriousness, I find nothing more enjoyable than my own presence and I’ll give you a list of reasons why:

  • I don’t have to shave anything
  • I can leave paint on my body and only strangers look at me funny
  • When I am alone I prefer to skip like a child who hasn’t taken her medication
  • I like dancing naked
  • I don’t have to cook for anyone else
  • My mind isn’t constantly fixated on another person
  • I have time to think, assess and reassess my emotions
  • I can financially and emotionally support myself

And the list goes on and on… but it isn’t that I am not lonely. I get lonely all the time. Especially, when Bob from the corner bakery thinks it is more fun to try and sleep with me than be my friend or companion. But that’s okay. We all want love at the end of the day and we all fear rejection. I know that I fear rejection more than the plague its self. That’s really where I think my ego comes into play and something I really struggle with. I have a fear of losing and admitting I am somehow weak.

So, the question is…

How do we find a balance between fulfilling our needs for intimacy and companionship emotionally while maintaining our desire for independence? I think nature, meditation, passion, and art fill me, but I still desire and crave connection with people who think like me.

 

 

Expectations

Wandering in the snow, lost in time
It’s a foolish, desperate crime
I want all that is not mine
I want them
In the darkness, there is a song
sung only to those who really need a blow
my limbs are trees
beckoning
where my skin unravels
in the middle of the woods
So follow me in the darkness
to the place where there is no savior
and I will breathe this air
oh, no
oh, no
oh, no
There are places all our friends go
They hide their pride
and I beckon you
slowly, twisted like paper
There are places no one else will go
so follow me into the woods
and I knew the blackness was whole
you’re apart of me
you’re into me
and I fly soaring over trees
my eyes drift in the leaves
like Christmas eve reversed to Halloween
life in the middle of the road
traversing home