Sexuality- and Gender-Based Oppression and the Expansion of the Moral Circle
In the group psychotherapy course that I took in the second year of the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) program at Adler University, members of my cohort and I regularly engaged in group discussions regarding topics at the intersection of social justice and clinical practice. In one such discussion, several female members of the class talked about their social experiences as women, in particular their feeling that they cannot comfortably express their true selves, but must tailor their behaviour to the expectations of their partners, families, and the larger society. This discussion prompted me to think more deeply about how one’s gender—via the mediation of others’ unfair and discriminatory behaviour—can negatively affect one’s psychosocial well-being. I consequently conducted research into this topic, and came across empirical evidence indicating that one of the most pressing issues pertaining to gender identity and sexuality is that a large number of human beings worldwide are treated unfairly and oppressively due to their gender and/or sexual orientation. The oppressive treatment of human beings with gender identities and sexual orientations different from our own is obviously a social justice issue, and, as I will argue in this essay, an issue the proper resolution of which would substantially benefit from the human rights-driven expansion of what I call the moral circle. I will firstly present some of the empirical evidence showing that many people worldwide are oppressed due to their membership in different gender and sexuality categories, then introduce my concept of the moral circle and discuss how the circle’s human rights-driven expansion can aid the process of abolishing gender identity- and sexuality-based oppression on a global scale.
Empirical work conducted in a Western as well as a non-Western societal context points to the operation of gender discrimination at both the familial (specifically parental) and societal levels, and reveals an association between exposure to gender discrimination and experiencing psychosocial difficulties (e.g., poor self-esteem) (Kira, Shuwiekh, Kucharska, Abu-Ras, & Bujold-Bugeaud, 2017). Research conducted in the United States demonstrates a connection between gender discrimination and gender inequality at the workplace, as manifested, for example, in a male-favouring wage gap between men and women, women representing fewer than 20% of technical positions in top tech companies, as well as significantly fewer females than males in tenured academic positions in the field of engineering (Heilman & Caleo, 2018). A study examining the school experience of transgender youth living in various regions of the U.S. found that substantial numbers of these youth report exposure to trans-prejudice-driven verbal and physical bullying, as well as physical assault in school settings (Singh, 2013). Furthermore, analysis of contemporary Russian society reveals that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals face sexuality- and gender-based discrimination and rights violations (Buyantueva, 2018).
I will now switch the focus of this essay to a concept I refer to as the moral circle. Historically, human beings the world over have struggled against systems of power and oppression to secure certain rights and freedoms for both themselves and their fellow humans. In so doing, they can be seen as having created and expanded a moral circle within which the individual can be reasonably sure that their rights, liberty, and dignity will be protected by other members of society. Examples of attempts at expanding the moral circle abound, from the historical and global anti-slavery movement to the women’s suffrage movement, from the international struggle for workers’ rights to the global anti-racism effort, and from the movement for Indigenous peoples’ rights to anti-sexism advocacy.
In my view, which I believe most observers of the modern world will agree with, the moral circle is still and should be undergoing expansion. I am particularly concerned with the manner in which this expansion occurs, as I think the approach that human beings attempting to build a more fair and just world take determines the relative success of their efforts. The idea that I wish to voice my support for in this essay is that, in order for the expansion of the moral circle to have substantial moral effects, it should be human rights-driven. A moral document enshrining a variety of fundamental rights it describes as belonging equally to all members of humankind, the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights addresses moral concerns in the social, cultural, legal, political, and economic domains (UN General Assembly, 1948). The human rights-driven expansion of the moral circle can thus arguably be seen as capable of securing oppressed individuals’ rights and freedoms in a substantial way, that is, in all societal spheres.
Returning to the matter of sexuality- and gender-based oppression now, it is possible to see that the previously described oppression that women and LGBT individuals experience in various social realms requires the kind of powerful social justice-based response that the human rights-driven enlargement of the moral circle affords. In order to ensure that the rights and freedoms of individuals of different gender identities and sexual orientations are protected in all spheres of society, social justice advocates around the globe should strive to contribute to a human rights-driven expansion of the moral circle. Efforts in this regard can consist of educating the public about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights via public lectures and workshops, encouraging our family members, friends, and community members to familiarize themselves with the Universal Declaration and to share what they have learned with others in their lives, and initiating phone call-based or letter-writing campaigns intended to persuade our political representatives to vote in favour of legislation that helps advance universal human rights, among many other conceivable actions.
Buyantueva, R. (2018). LGBT rights activism and homophobia in Russia. Journal of Homosexuality, 65(4), 456-483. https://doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2017.1320167
Heilman, M. E. & Caleo, S. (2018). Combatting gender discrimination: A lack of fit framework. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 21(5), 725-744. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1368430218761587
Kira, I. A., Shuwiekh, H., Kucharska, J., Abu-Ras, W. & Bujold-Bugeaud, M. (2017). The dynamics underlying the negative mental health effects of gender discrimination in two samples: Poland and Egypt. Current Psychology, 1-15. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-017-9730-5
Singh, A. A. (2013). Transgender youth of color and resilience: Negotiating oppression and finding support. Sex Roles, 68(11-12), 690-702. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-012-0149-z
UN General Assembly. (1948). “Universal declaration of human rights” (217 [III] A). Paris. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/
A discussion that members of my PsyD cohort and I at Adler University had last semester in a humanistic-existential psychology class drew my attention to the important concept of intersectionality, which states that some human beings are multiply oppressed as a consequence of simultaneously belonging to several historically oppressed social groups (e.g., certain racial and ethnic groups, certain socioeconomic classes, and certain genders). Being a clinical psychology student undergoing training to advance social justice through my future clinical practice, my interest in the intersectionality topic was piqued. I conducted some research regarding the subject on my own time, and eventually discovered information that can help answer the questions, how have I seen intersectionality advance the cause of social justice, and how might an increase in intersectionality contribute to the building of healthier communities. I will first discuss how the research I conducted helped provide an answer for the first of the aforementioned two questions.
My research familiarized me with social democracy, a social and political movement advocating partial de-commodification of the market economy, regulation of the market in the interest of the public, full employment, and the recognition of a variety of social and economic rights, including workers’ rights and rights to healthcare, welfare, and education (Jackson, 2017). In addition to the aforementioned social, economic, and political goals, advocates of social democracy seek to advance feminist, anti-racist, pro-environmental, disability rights-related, and Indigenous rights-related goals (Jackson, 2017).
Analysis of social democratic goals shows that social democracy represents an egalitarian form of thinking that aims to ensure the health, welfare, and security of all members of society, regardless of their racial, ethnic, sexual, religious, and other identities (Jackson, 2017). It can thus be argued that social democracy advocates recognize the truth of intersectionality, namely that there are people in modern society who are being multiply oppressed by virtue of being members of several historically oppressed groups. As a result of them effectively thinking in terms of intersectionality, proponents of social democracy advance the cause of social justice by endeavoring to build a society free of all manner of oppression.
I will now examine how the research I conducted regarding intersectionality helped me answer the second of the two questions mentioned at the beginning of this essay, namely, how might an increase in intersectionality contribute to the building of healthier communities. My research drew my attention to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Analysis of this important moral document demonstrates that it includes such articles as “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” and “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind…” (UN General Assembly, 1948). On the basis of such articles, commentators have noted that the Universal Declaration sets forth “…a particularly comprehensive principle of non-discrimination” and calls for societal transformation ensuring the protection of all people’s human rights everywhere (Cançado Trinidade, 2008).
The above paragraph makes it clear that racial, class, gender-based and other forms of oppression all constitute human rights violations. Therefore, intersectionality can be seen as a concept referring to being multiply oppressed as a result of simultaneously belonging to several social groups that have historically had their fundamental human rights violated. If social justice advocates view intersectionality in this manner, they can become human rights advocates who engage in activism, advocacy, and educational efforts intended to increase respect for the human rights of all members of society. Viewing intersectionality as a concept descriptive of a human rights violation-related problem provides those committed to building more just and thus healthier communities with a concrete, clear goal to work towards, namely increased respect for fundamental human rights across society.
Cançado Trinidade, A. (2008). Universal declaration of human rights. United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law (pp. 1–4) [On-line]. Retrieved from http://untreaty.un.org/ cod/avl/ha/udhr/udhr.html.
Jackson, A. (2017). Reflections on the social democratic tradition. Retrieved from http://www.broadbentinstitute.ca/reflections_on_the_social_democratic_tradition
UN General Assembly. (1948). “Universal declaration of human rights” (217 [III] A). Paris. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/
Why Sports are Beneficial to Our Daily Lives
Arjan Mann, Youth Volunteer
Playing sports is the best activity that has ever happened to me and it will be to people as well if they realize how pleasurable it is for a person’s life. Sports are essential for careers and for life in general. The skills a person can learn from playing sports gives people a variety of talents that a person can use in an individual’s job or in life. Playing sports helps people in life for three reasons: people stay healthy and fit, it gives people good coordination and people
learn to be creative.
In the first place, by playing sports people are able to stay fit and healthy. For example, by competing in tennis, I am able to stay healthy and fit. Sometimes, my tennis matches are three hours long. I am much more fit than an average child, and I can use these skills and apply them to my daily life. By using this talent on a regular basis, I am able to overcome any hard-physical task, and I will be able to do it much better than a regular child. As a result of being fit, I am able to perform strenuous physical daily tasks, and by playing tennis, I am able to incorporate this in my daily life by staying fit.
In addition, by engaging in sports, a person learns to be more creative. For example, when I was playing chess, I was learning how to be much more creative because I could use so many different combinations in the game. When I used to play chess for my school, my teachers were saying how I was getting much more creative with all my writing. As a result, I was doing much better in school. This caused me to achieve better grades, so I was happier and my parents were ecstatic as well.
In the third place, playing sports gives people good hand-eye coordination. For example, if a person has good hand-eye coordination, then an individual can become a surgeon with no worries. My father’s friend’s son used to play sports and he graduated from Harvard University and he is now an eye surgeon. By playing sports, he was able to have good hand-eye coordination, which allowed him to get this amazing job. This all happened from him playing
sports when he was younger. I also hope to be this way because in tennis a person has to have good hand-eye coordination. As a result, this former student is now living a good life because he played sports when he was younger.
With participating in competitive sports, students are able to have so many options with their future. Sports gives people advantages and amazing opportunities in life. This will make it easier for people to find jobs. As a result, sports should be played by all children in the world. It will teach them to be ambitious and that is how the real-world works. People cannot survive
realistically without sports. Consequently, sports are the best activity that humanity has ever had.
Why Sports are Beneficial to all Individuals
Raajan Mann, Youth Volunteer
Evidence shows that active children are more likely to mature into physically active adults. Playing sports has so many benefits because it teaches people many life lessons. Simply exercising for fifteen minutes every day can change peoples’ lives. Sports has many advantages such as teaching people strenuous work, keeping individuals in shape and teaching people not to give up.
To begin with, playing sports teaches people strenuous work. For example, athletes have to try their best, and if they do not do this, they will have no chance of winning. When the Milwaukee Bucks, a National Basketball Association, were playing the Eastern conference finals, they thought that they would win easily over the Toronto Raptors another basketball team, but they lost very badly. Sports teaches individuals that if they do not try their best in life, then athletes will not succeed. As a result, people will have face everyday challenges if individuals do not try their best.
In addition, playing sports teaches people not to give up because unexpected events can occur in sports. For instance, when playing sports athletes should never give up because they always have a chance to win. When I was playing at Sunshine Hills Tennis Club against an opponent who was two years older than me, he was winning six games to two in the first set and each set consisted six games. In the second set, he was winning five games to one, and I never gave up and won the set seven games to five. As a result, if citizens play a lot of sports, they will learn to not accept defeat in life; for example, if an individual applies to medical school, and they do not get accepted, their habit will be to keep trying and there is a chance they can get accepted the third or fourth time they apply.
Lastly, participating in sports keeps individuals in tangible shape. For instance, in order to play sports very well athletes need to be in adequate form to be able to run for long amounts of time, and sports require a lot of exercising. This year, I started track and field training at Bear Creek Park in Surrey B.C and at first, I was very slow, but when I started getting more in shape and stronger, I started to get faster and I improved at lot. Sports teach people that it is vital to be healthy and not obese and unhealthy. Sports teaches individuals to stay in shape in order to have a comfortable life. As a result, people will have more friends and they will not be made fun of because of their looks and their obesity; they will also have more job offers because they have the capability to find better employment.
Sports are beneficial to all individuals because competitive activities teach people how to always keep going and remain active. It teaches people to stay in healthy conditions; it also motivates individuals to participate in vigorous work. Sports are crucial to people because it helps people with life skills and sports are also very challenging and stimulating. Overall, every individual should be exploiting the benefits of sports every day of their lives.
Use it or lose it
I am often inspired by the astonishing inventions people made and left me an impression that they must have been a very gifted brain or are probably born genius until I came across this finding of Jim Kwik, a brain coach and an author of a book Limitless, who openly challenges all of us that we have a brain like a genius. This discovery embarked me to get aware of the science behind its functioning and came to know that brain acts like a muscle akin to other body muscles, which get strengthened by exercising on a regular basis to builds more energy for longevity. This is now possible due to our brain capacity we are able to fly like a bird, pull heavy weights like an elephant or even dive deep down oceans like a fish. . Recent studies regarding brain activity revealed that our brain is 100 percent at work even it doesn’t halt while we sleep. This piece of information has paved a way by narrowing down the odds that only restricted to the word genius, and opened up an avenue to muse over about amazing brain functioning what our brain can really do if we use the most of it. But often times, we get distracted and procrastinate while doing important things in our life whether learning new skills or achieving goals we truly have passion for. So then, why can’t we use most of our brain to reach its maximum level of functioning? Out of many, one main reason is being overloaded with stream of information through technology, as Jim pointed out, that in fact impeded our brain functioning as a result of 4Ds that are: digital deluge, digital distraction, Digital dementia, and digital deduction.
Many of us get bored many time while performing tasks we even have passion for, or, probably have this thought that this is not right time to do such activity, hence, making it even harder to complete in a long run. Like, sometimes, we find ourselves drifting away while reading a book even if we love to get knowledge by learning through others experiences and historical events. Incidentally, How many of us can read the book till its end every single time? Well, not me always. The reason might be a handsome excuse of not being a right time or could be brain fatigue that ends up letting that book be more like “shelf help rather than self help”.
Now I have come to believe that knowing how to read a book to pass on its information into long term memory is an art that not only helps to get good focus but also optimizes its retention in the brain at its maximum. Here I am going to share some useful Jim Kwik’s Strategies which he shared in his book for unlocking brain capacity and learn faster by following FASTER acronym: .
F is to forget: It means, whenever we are either reading a book or getting information through other mediums, we can be more focused on the topic by forgetting any other prior learning related to that piece of information we are going to read. You may have noticed kids learn faster than adults, because they are approaching with their beginner’s mind with no prior learning on that.
A is to act: Mostly, we are trained to learn passively in a traditional classroom by consuming the information rather than acting on it. By putting action you add some creativity to the new ideas you just have learned and applied on you in the best way possible, like, by asking yourself how you can include this new piece of information into your day to day life.
S stands for state of mind: Jim in his book claimed that learning is sate- dependant and by consciously choosing to be in the state of joy, excited about learning new information, and curiosity can make information more a part of your implicit memory. If you remember your back school days, you may notice that knowledge you have learned out of curiosity and showed excitement over it, is still remained the part of your long term memory as opposed to the classes you barely managed to pass time in.
T is to teach: This is what I am doing now at this moment to consolidate this new information by teaching you about. The idea behind is that make intention to teach what you learn so that you will be more focused in getting this piece of knowledge you are going to get. Think about if you are going to give a presentation on a topic you’re learning of that particular subject would be more focused and it will have more retention in your brain.
E is for enter: Like other ongoing commitments we do whether it’s a doctor appointment or parent teacher meetings, we should also enter a time in our calendar for our personal growth and development. it is evident that to learn new skills you need to develop a habit for it by designating a time on your schedule on constant basis which increases the likelihood of this new habit permeates into your brain to become part of implicit memory.
R is for Review: Lastly, the best way of retaining information is to reviewing it. Our brain responds quite well to primacy and recency which means what we read in first few minutes and what information we ended on have more chances to be remembered. The best way to review what you are reading is by taking a 5 minute break after 25 minutes reading to reassess what you have learned and how it is going to help you or others around you.
As I mentioned earlier, brain acts like a muscle so it is up to us to use it to make the most of its full potential by fighting against the 4Ds before we lose it.
Kwik, J. (2020). Limitless: upgrade your brain, learn anything faster, and unlock your exceptional life. Hay house, Inc.
Drowning in Empathy: The Cost of Secondary Trauma
By Manny Gill, BSW and Gary Thandi, MSW RSW
There has been considerable attention of late paid to the trauma experienced by those on the front-lines. Paramedics, police, nurses, doctors, social workers – anyone who works with our most vulnerable communities – can be deeply impacted by their interactions with these populations. The sheer number of fentanyl-related deaths has shone a spotlight on the issue of secondary trauma experienced by front-line service providers and caregivers.
Such news stories lead us to wonder: how can we possibly care for others if we are constantly drowning in their sorrows? This question is at the centre of Amy Cunningham’s work on how secondary trauma can lead to compassion fatigue (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZsaorjIo1Yc). Helping professionals such as doctors, police officers, social workers, counsellors, nurses, and firefighters can all experience secondary trauma – that is the exposure to someone else’s trauma can traumatize us.
The repeated exposure to secondary trauma can lead to compassion fatigue, which Cunningham describes as a symptom akin to that of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Individuals acting as helping professionals in their daily lives can also experience compassion fatigue. “If you are someone who is helping a friend recover from an addiction, raising children, or if you are caring for your elderly parents you may be susceptible to experiencing secondary trauma,” notes Registered Clinical Counsellor Kelly Besla-Mooker.
Secondary trauma, according to Cunningham, happens when we genuinely empathize with someone, by picking ourselves up and putting ourselves in their shoes, that is we “really get where they are coming from.” Each time we put ourselves in someone else’s shoes we feel what they feel, but by constantly experiencing secondary trauma, it changes us. Cunningham uses the example of silencing her phone while in a session with a client so the client knows they had all of her attention. From then on, silencing her phone led to her always associating that action with that client’s story. For years, she would be transported back to that room whenever she silenced her phone. Secondary trauma doesn’t only last until the next day or even the next week, you can still feel the effects weeks or even years later.
According to Cunningham, it is important to note the distinction between burnout and compassion fatigue. It was not until the late 80’s that Dr. Charles Figley did research on trauma and he noticed that compassion fatigue is different from burn-out. Burnout implies that you can no longer carry on with your work, because you are tired or worn-out and somewhere along the way you lost interest; compassion fatigue on the other, hand starts “to change who you are.” Cunningham uses the examples of a child protection social worker who is constantly vigilant and scared for her children or a nurse who to this day knows the smell of death from a patient that died.
Cunningham notes how helping professionals do not admit to compassion fatigue – instead they say they are fine or that they are professionals and can carry on with their work. It becomes a problem when stress and trauma start to affect us and our body and mind are screaming that we are not okay. The behaviours of someone experiencing compassion fatigue can manifest themselves by sleeping too much or not enough, working too much, or feeling underappreciated. Cunningham notes that while we are still working the same job we started out with, it is us that has changed as a result of the constant exposure to trauma. The last symptom of compassion fatigue is self-entitlement; which Cunningham describes as the justification of negative maladaptive behaviours as a result of the positive things we do. For example, a social worker might justify their crankiness in the morning, because the night before they stayed awake all night helping a client. Or a nurse that works two shifts in a row, might justify drinking all weekend, because they put in 60 hours this week.
Compassion fatigue is not a lifelong illness. Cunningham emphasizes that it can be identified, arrested and treated at any time. She labels this as post traumatic growth. In order to do that we must start by caring for ourselves first so we can care for others. Cunningham’s tip to overcome compassion fatigue is to spend ten minutes each day to ourselves, whether to pray, mediate, exercise, or take a walk. Take ten she says. Registered Clinical Counsellor Kelly Besla-Mooker states that, “we need to give ourselves a mindful reminder and consider that even in an airplane the air hostess informs that you must put on your own oxygen mask before assisting someone beside you, even if you are sitting beside a child”. This teaches us that in order to not suffer from compassion fatigue, frontline workers would benefit greatly from getting the help they need to cope with this trauma so they can effectively do their jobs in the future and also not be affected in their personal lives. This means lots of self-care, seeing a therapist and having a support system.
Highly Recommended Books
For Parents Who Care About Parenting And Want to Do Better: Six Reviews
Max Innes, PhD
Clinical Fellow, Approved Supervisor American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
For Parent Support Services Society of British Columbia And Moving Forward Family Services
Siegel, D.J., Bryson, T.P. (2011) The Whole-Brain Child: Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind. New York: Delacorte Press
If you are going to read just one book on parenting, Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson’s The Whole Brain Child is the one to read. Not only is it the best book on parenting, it is essential reading for all parents. Combining a thorough-going knowledge of child development and neurobiology, with their gift for organizing and presenting ideas clearly and succinctly, the authors pass on essential knowledge and know-how about parenting. When necessary, technical ideas are expressed in such a way that they are easily grasped and always connected to the practical challenges of parenting. Good parenting practices are made all the more accessible through Tuesday Mourning’s expressive illustrations.
We can learn how to survive and thrive in challenging parenting moments, how to change command and demand parenting into connect and redirect parenting and, instead of dismissing and denying our child’s feelings and concerns, encourage them to cope with difficult experiences by helping them to exercise mindsight. We discover that knowing a little about the brain and the way a child’s brain works helps us to make better decisions about parenting. For example, the next time our child loses it and rages, it will be helpful to discern if it is an upstairs tantrum or a downstairs tantrum,and knowing this will ease our way to know whether to connect with our child’s left brain or right brain.
Or, what about the next time there’s a “wipe out” on the scooter and, although their physical injuries are superficial, our child seems inconsolable? Perhaps, instead of, “Don’t cry, it’s OK. You’ll have to be more careful!” (dismiss and deny), we might try the name it and tame it approach. Storytelling is something kids look forward to. And, just as children listening to stories is important, so is being able to tell their stories, especially when something hurtful, surprising or disappointing has happened. Taking time to help children talk about what has unsettled them provides them the opportunity to address what has happened and come to terms with it so that they can move on (name it and tame it).
In The Whole Brain Child we learn about mindsight and how to teach it to children. Just as we see what happens “out there” with our eyes, we can see with our minds in a different way. We can visualise, imagine and ponder happenings. We can attend to the pictures in our head, the thoughts in our mind and the emotions in our bodies. When we take notice of what’s going on inside, we have more control over what we do outside, in the world. When we are able to recognise what is going on in our own mind, we can begin to understand what someone else might be seeing, imagining, thinking and feeling. When we and our children use this ability (mindsight) we are in touch with the important human (and primate) quality of empathy.
Above all, reading The Whole Brain Child will help us to be mindful parents, relating to our children thoughtfully and deliberately, with growing confidence in what we are doing, rather than reacting and flying by the seat of our pants. In our complex, fast changing lives, filled with multiple demands and responsibilities, it’s all too easy for us to be tough on ourselves as parents, even though we do the best we know how. However, there is good news. In the words of the authors; The great news The Whole-Brain Child offers is that even in the hard times you go through with your kids, even the mistakes you make as you parent, are opportunities to help your children grow, learn, and develop into people who are happy, healthy and fully themselves. (p. 149)
Ginsburg, K.R. (2011) Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings. Elk Grove Village, Il: American Academy of Pediatrics
Kenneth Ginsberg, a pediatrician and specialist in adolescent medicine, introduces his excellent book by reminding us that stress is a fact of life; there’s always some stress in our lives. Indeed, it is an important tool that can aid our survival. We need to be aware of and, if necessary, respond to stress when we feel threatened. Stress takes on various forms at different levels. We are likely to experience a high level of stress if we see a mother bear with cubs coming down the road toward us. And we get stressed at little things like tomorrow’s exam, although it may not seem “little” at the time. How we identify and respond to different levels of stress is important because it has consequences for our safety and our health.
Stress is the outcome of many bodily responses. When we see, hear or feel something that alarms us, a complicated interplay of sensory responses and hormones occurs in our organs and cells, in interaction with our brain and nervous system. It is this interaction that we identify as stress. Our emotions have a lot to do with how we experience stress. And it is our brain that organizes our emotions and what we do with the consequences of stress in our bodies. How we think about stress and what we choose to do about it influences the outcome of stress. Resilience, a characteristic of all life, is a human quality that can be trained and can help us respond to stress effectively.
As parents who want the best for our children, we do our best to protect them from harm and misfortune. It soon becomes apparent, however conscientious we are, that we cannot eliminate stress from their lives. And even if we could, it would not be helpful because, as we’ve seen, stress is important to our survival. What we do want is to be able to help our children recognize stress and respond to it in ways that are most beneficial to their health and development. One gift we may have to offer, to help our children deal with stress, is to model how to handle stress in a healthy way. What we do as parents, as we manage stress effectively, will help our children know how to manage stress they experience. For most of us, this means we have to increase our self-understanding and do some personal work to change our own stress response. When we do this, it will benefit both our children and ourselves.
What else helps our children manage stress in their lives? Kenneth Ginsberg suggests that we show and teach our children how to be resilient, and to do this he introduces us to the “7 C’s of Resilience”: Competence, Confidence, Connection, Character, Contribution, Coping, and Control. Throughout the book he shows us the importance of these themes in our lives and how to work with them, providing examples to illustrate what he tells us, together with practical skills we can teach our children.
To recall one of many examples on encouraging confidence, Kenneth Ginsberg suggests that we need to often “catch them being good” at any age. Remember when your toddler staggered from one parent to the other parent’s outstretched hands. “Good job!” and many other encouragements you said over and over again. While the activities we choose to praise and our tone of voice will change as our children mature, genuine praise is good to hear at any age. When and why does “Good job” turn so quickly into “You’ve forgotten to do your chores again!” or “Why can’t you smarten up?” Perhaps it gets more difficult to offer praise and encouragement because what needs appreciation becomes less obvious, and we get out of practice. However, its good to remember that its not just the successes they and we accomplish, it’s also their and our qualities as people. We may wait a long time to praise our child for getting an “A”, scoring a goal, or achieving valedictorian. However, all young people have personal qualities like humour, independence, perseverance, kindness, curiosity and many more that you can identify. Catch them being good.
Siegel, D.J., Bryson, T.P. (2014) No Drama Discipline: The Whole Brain Child Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture your Child’s Developing Mind. New York: Bantam Books
If you’ve read The Whole Brain Child and you’re looking for more, you will find Dan Siegel and Tina Bryson’s No Drama Discipline rewarding. There is the same attention to the latest research from child development and neurobiology, the same commitment to detail and clarity in the way they express their ideas, and the same reader-friendly layout that was apparent in their first book. If you feel that your child is “out of control” and you are close to “climbing up the wall,” or you just want to handle the challenges of parenting with a little more equanimity, the ideas in this book have the potential to bring you and your child relief, and a little more calm into your life. “You can do better”, as they say.
The word discipline often conjures up images of military order and swift punishment for those who fail to abide by its rules. However, this is a particular usage of the word; there is no necessary connection between discipline and punishment, and military order and swift punishment are not recommended for parenting. If you consider the origins, “discipline” is related to “disciple”. Leadership and learning “the way” are what is imparted to the disciple, who commits to following principles that he or she is drawn to and increasingly believes in. While you may not find your children hanging on every word you say, expectantly waiting for the next, your role as parent is hopefully closer to that of a nurturing teacher, leader and guide rather than that of a shrill drill sergeant. The central message of No Drama Discipline is that: You really can discipline in a way that’s full of respect and nurturing, but that also maintains clear and consistent boundaries. You can do better (p. xiv).
While “spare the rod and spoil the child” is less often heard these days than in the past, “tough love” and “tiger mother” are still close by. Strict, no-nonsense, “do as your told” parenting is still with us. While this may be one part of parenting, the authors of No Drama Discipline let us know that the research on styles of parenting is clear: Kids who achieve the best outcomes in life – emotionally, relationally, and even educationally – have parents who raise them with a high degree of connection and nurturing, while also communicating and maintaining clear limits and high expectations. Their parents remain consistent while still interacting with them in a way that communicates love, respect, and compassion. As a result, the kids are happier, do better in school, get into less trouble, and enjoy more meaningful relationships (p. xxv).
Among many helpful ideas you’ll find in this book, are:
- Strategies that help parents identify their own discipline philosophy – and master the best methods to communicate the principles and skills they wish to pass on
- Facts on child brain development – and what kind of discipline is most appropriate and constructive at all ages and stages
- The way to calmly and lovingly connect with your child – no matter how extreme the behaviour – while still setting clear and consistent limits
- Tips for navigating children through tantrums to achieve insight, empathy, and repair
- Twenty discipline mistakes that even great parents make – and how to stay focused on the principles of whole-brain parenting and discipline techniques.
No Drama Discipline will help you relate with your children so both you and they feel more competent, confident and connected.
Faber, A., Mazlish, E. (2012) How to talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. New York: Scribner
As you might guess, this book is all about communication! If you’re looking for a tried-and-true, thoroughly tested book, praised by parents and professionals around the world, you are likely to enjoy How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish share their latest insights and suggestions from their 30th Anniversary edition. In a clear, down-to-earth, respectful style, the authors outline challenges of parenting, describe approaches to overcoming them, and explore typical parent-child exchanges, before and after the principles they suggest, illustrated with expressive cartoons of parenting in action.
If you find workbooks helpful, you will appreciate the numerous exercises including topics to consider and debate, questions to answers, and worksheets to complete. In fact, the authors suggest that you take your time, reading the book a chapter at a time, completing the exercises at the end of each section and, if possible, sharing and discussing what you read with a friend. They suggest that reading and sharing their book in this way will likely help you most because you will have time to consider their ideas carefully, think about how the parenting responses and skills they describe apply to you, and how you might introduce these skills into your own parenting. As they comment; experience tells us that the discipline of having to put skills into action and record the results helps put the results where they belong – inside you.
As we read the book, we find chapters on helping children deal with their emotions, engaging cooperation, alternatives to punishment, encouraging autonomy, praise, freeing children from playing roles, and putting it all together. The authors recognize that living with children can be a humbling experience; I was a wonderful parent until I had my own. I was an expert on why everyone was having problems with theirs. Then I had my own.
They start with feelings. How we address feelings are crucial because many of us when we were children and maybe some of us even now, as adults, are sadly not taken seriously – not our feelings, not our ideas, not our preferences. As children, we had little control of what others said or did to us, or did not do for us. Many of us, when our feelings were inconvenient for our parents, were persuaded that what we felt in the moment was not really what we felt, or could not possibly be the case, or that we ought not to feel that way. The beginnings of “fake news”. We had to deal with all these contradictions as we were attempting to make sense of the world. So, this is where the authors begin; for us as parents to stop and listen, take notice of what our children are telling us, accept what they are feeling (even if it is inconvenient, unimaginable, improper, weird, out of step etc.), and provide our children with the space and opportunity to trust their feelings.
Children have to figure out their own feelings – we cannot teach them how to feel but we can help them to express their own feelings (not what we think their feelings should be in various circumstances). We can listen, acknowledge their feelings, and give them the opportunity to act in ways that honour their feelings. The authors do a good job of helping parents in this direction. As they say, If our attitude is not one of compassion, then whatever we say will be experienced by the child as phony or manipulative.
Siegel, D.J., Bryson, T.P. (2020) The Power of Showing Up: How Parental Presence Shapes Who Our Kids Become and How Their Brains Get Wired. New York: Ballantine Books
If, like me, you’ve read one or more of their books, and believe that Dan Siegel and Tina Bryson are among the top authorities writing on parenting today, you will be interested in what they have to say about the importance of being a parent and how to be a good one. Their most recent book focuses on how parents approach the child-parent relationship and answers the question; What’s the single most important thing I can do for my kids to help them succeed and feel at home in the world?
You will be relieved to read that many of us – especially committed, thoughtful, intentional parents – are frequently troubled by feelings of anxiety and inadequacy about the way we parent. We don’t stop at worrying about our children’s safety and wellbeing; we also worry about not being a “good-enough” parent, not teaching them all the skills they’ll need in life, letting them down or hurting them, not giving them enough attention – or too much, and all the other concerns as we reflect on the way we relate to our children. To all this the authors have one essential message full of comfort and hope, Just show up. When you’re not sure how to respond in a given situation with your child, don’t worry. There’s one thing you can always do, and it’s the best thing of all. Instead of worrying, or trying to attain some standard of perfection that simply doesn’t exist, just show up (pp. 3-4).
The authors suggest that “showing up” is to do with providing a quality of presence as well as being physically present. Showing up means bringing our whole being – our attention and awareness to the moment – when we are with our children. Then our children will have the experience of having our undivided attention for the time we commit to really showing up. Four characteristics of showing up are explored in the book – the Four S’s. Providing the Four S’s of showing up will ensure that our children feel safe, seen, soothed and secure. When our children feel safe, they will feel protected from harm. When our children feel seen, they will know that we care about them and pay attention to them. When our children feel soothed, they will know that we will be there for them when they’re hurt. When our children feel secure, based on presence of the other S’s of showing up, they will be able to trust us to predictably help them to “feel at home” in the world, so that they can then learn how to help themselves feel safe, seen and soothed.
The authors introduce their book with a quotation from Winnie-the-Pooh. I don’t think I can do better than end this review with the same lines of reassurance, something we’d all welcome from a parent:
If there is a tomorrow when we’re not together . . . there is something you must always remember.
You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is,
Even if we’re apart . . . I’ll always be with you.
Christopher Robin to Winnie-the Pooh, Pooh’s Grand Adventure
Siegel, D.J. (2013) Brainstorm; The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain: An Inside-Out Guide to the Emerging Adolescent Mind, Ages 12 – 24. New York: Penguin
If you have challenging times with your pre-teen, teenager or teen-adult, would like to understand them, and get along better, Dan Siegel’s Brainstorm does an excellent job of describing the fast-changing teenage brain and offering practical direction for the parent. He provides explanations for adolescent behaviour that is so often unfathomable, and offers ideas about relating to teenagers to enable us to be in step with their developmental concerns, and continue to relate to them successfully as parents.
Siegel suggests that the essence of the adolescence can be captured in the acronym ES-SE-N-CE. ES – Emotional Spark: Emotions are close to the surface and intense during adolescence and, although they are sometimes difficult to handle (for teen and parent alike), they are essential to the creation of meaning and vitality throughout our lives. SE – Social Engagement: Relationships with friends take on special importance in adolescence. Friendship and social connectedness remain essential throughout life. N – Novelty: Searching for and creating new experiences that stimulate senses, emotions, thoughts and activity take on a high priority during the adolescent years. Novelty is a significant aspect of a healthy lifestyle throughout our lives. CE – Creative Explorations: Adolescence is a time of getting used to a new world view that results from increased sophistication of conceptual thinking, abstract reasoning and expanded consciousness. For the adolescent, it is getting used to the brainpower of a new viewpoint; for the adult, as we age, it is increasingly a matter of holding on to this brainpower.
Everyday parent-teen occurrences are frequently challenging for parents because each of these characteristics of the essence of adolescence, when taken to the limit, can be disturbing, even dangerous. For example, the quest for novelty can lead to extremes of behaviour such as drug use, high-risk behaviour, and limit testing in attempts to heighten sensory stimulation. Explanations for this sort of behaviour and practical steps to address it are explored throughout the book, as are ways of understanding, living with, and addressing the potential difficulties.
Another reason parents may experience discomfort, as they negotiate this stage of parenting and watch their teenager grow, is that the very characteristics that identify the essence of adolescence are also vital and meaningful aspects of a full, meaningful, and satisfying life in general. Few of us, as adults, manage to keep alive the vitality of youth. Perhaps this is because we have had to give up so much to get whatever we have managed to get. This may lead to disappointment, regret, even envy as we witness our child approaching adulthood.
As well as difficulties, there are rewards for the parent and benefits for the young person, when challenges of the parent-teen relationship are addressed and a balance found. If open to the possibility, we as parents can be reintroduced to the vitality in life that the teen so often seems to take for granted. The essence of adolescence and of adult life will have different expressions but they need not be alien. Indeed, the essence of adolescence may be nothing short of the essence of life.
Dan Siegel summarises as follows: Our adolescence is a time of great integration – integration of the many aspects of ourselves. During this important period in our lives, the second dozen years, we explore the very nature of who we are. And as we weave the essence of adolescence – the emotional spark, the intense social engagement, the novelty seeking, and the drive toward creative exploration – into who we are becoming, we are undergoing a fundamental life process that does not, by any means, end when we are twenty-four. Integration of identity is a lifelong journey . . . (pp.229 – 230)
Contamination OCD During a Pandemic
This article was co-authored by the therapist and client. Client portion is in italics.
I had been treating a client with C-OCD for about 12 weeks when pandemic isolation began. It struck me that the pandemic offers a rare (thankfully) opportunity to learn SOMETHING about OCD. I am not sure what we might learn, and I only have a single client to observe. Here are my observations. The client’s comments are in italics.
C-OCD is an anxiety disorder that is typified by intrusive, obsessive thoughts of fear or disgust of contamination from substances or other persons. The obsessions cause physical and mental anxiety, which is countered by compulsive responses that give short-term relief. The almost universally prescribed treatment is Exposure and Response Prevent (ERP). “Talk therapy” is counter-indicated and even cognitive restructuring is often discouraged, as it might lead to ritualistic mental compulsions. I included mindfulness exercises, initially for calming, but then as a component of every exposure. Be aware of the anxiety, be aware of the anxiety subsiding, be mindful that nothing bad occurred.
The thought of any type of exposure therapy caused me an extreme amount of discomfort. Often even speaking of an exposure or exposures to follow would cause mental and physical anxiety. The immediate response of the OCD is to avoid these situations at all cost. I had to enter each session with an immense desire for results and a trust that my therapist would not push me beyond a manageable state.
This client responded well to in-office and in vivo ERP. Over the pre-pandemic period, his anxiety levels fell about 30% across various categories of obsession. As prescribed, we started with obsessions that generated mild and moderate anxiety. He was not exposed to substances at the high end of his anxiety scale.
I was curious that the client exhibited a reasonable level of concern for avoiding Covid infection the last two times we met at my office. Actually, he was less concerned than me. About the same time I stopped seeing clients directly, he was laid off and he isolated in his apartment with his partner. His isolation created an opportunity to reduce his obsessions to everything in his living space. He is not going out. No contagion is coming in. Let’s systematically expose him to every household contagion and see if we can normalize life within his living space.
I gave him a daily regime of three exposures, beginning with milder obsessions. Anxiety levels usually decreased significantly after three days and I added new exposures, climbing the ladder of anxiety level. This client is able to “get through” anxiety without immediate compulsive response, because he has an end of day cleansing response, a ritualistic shower. After two weeks, I asked him to not shower that evening. Almost every C-OCD client has a clean space. His is his bed. The thought of going to bed without a shower caused him high anxiety. Surprisingly, after just one exposure, his anxiety began to fade and soon he enjoyed the freedom of being able to sit on his bed whenever he liked. I varied the time of day and how frequently he could shower, so he could not time his shower as a response to exposures. Sometimes he would shower before he did his daily exposures and not shower again for two days.
The pandemic gave us an opportunity to work with OCD in an extremely controlled environment. Many of my obsessions stemmed from the fear of contaminating my “clean space” which for me was my home, more specifically my bed. We increased the frequency of the exposures and also the number of sessions per week, I believe this was fundamental in the speed of which I was able to notice results. I exposed myself every day to multiple “contaminants” and had the ability to report my struggles and successes almost immediately, with the opportunity to adjust if needed. With the increase in frequency of both the exposures and sessions, I had no choice but to allow the ERP to work. We also identified and modified my largest ritual, which was my shower. I believe this was extremely important as my behavior heavily revolved around this ritual.
It was all going so well that I did not want to risk “mudding the waters” by exposing him to the outside, pandemic world. Nor did I want him to build obsessions by not going outside. His view of the risks and appropriate precautions was quite reasonable. His challenge was to distinguish between rational and obsessive measures. To draw that line, we agreed to use the guidelines given by BC Health. The client was concerned that anything beyond them could trigger a slippery slope of obsessions. He did not hesitate when I asked him to go outside (I struggled with the ethical implications of asking a client to expose himself to a real threat.) Walks led to trips to the grocery store.
There are a few things I find interesting about this behaviour. An individual with an obsession to substance and health contaminants had little difficulty responding rationally to a real threat. Can the client learn something from the contrast in behaviours? Will this rational thinking and behaviour rewire his brain, much like most CBT interventions intend?
When the pandemic first began, I was aware that if I did not approach it in a rational way my brain could quickly turn it into an obsession. I knew I could not let this take place as my fear would change from the irrational objects and scenarios that I had the ability to manipulate to the entire world outside of my apartment. I am completely aware that the fear I have of my specific “contaminants” and my responses to them are irrational and that my brain does not respond correctly to them. When presented with a rational threat, I had to not only protect myself from the virus but also respond to it in a rational way or risk a relapse of my OCD tendencies. I took the guidelines supplied to me by the government and followed them to the best of my ability, just as I had done with the ERP. I believe for the ERP therapy to work it is important that a client have trust in their therapist; That they are responding to threats in a rational way and that the therapist will not expose them to anything that will be detrimental to their health.
For the client, it is now “welcome to my world.” Everyone is living in a world of contagion, labelling things clean or dirty, safe or dangerous, and behaving accordingly. We are treating others as if they are infectious. I question my own rational-obsessive dividing line? Living in his world has helped me to understand the OCD condition. It is easier in some ways for him to be out because he does not have to be as watchful. People are avoiding him. Surfaces are being washed regularly.
And so, we continue titrating up the household exposures. His symptoms are about 70% remitted after nearly two months of household exposures and response prevention. We are tackling high-anxiety obsessions. We have partially de-ritualized his shower, so it is more for normal hygiene and less about removing contagion. The client often says he feels confused, uncertain about “what is happening to my brain,” as rationality fills spaces that were irrational and long held beliefs are exposed as false. The pandemic gave us a laboratory to stage ERP and insight into what the condition feels like.
As I slowly watch my obsessions and compulsions dissolve, I feel a sense of confusion. Things that caused a large amount of anxiety in the past simply fail to register in my brain as a threat. Through ERP, mindfulness, a strong desire to succeed, and a dedicated therapist, I have been able to evolve my behaviour into something that closely resembles normal behaviour for the first time in my life. The pandemic has presented me with an opportunity to not only work on my OCD (through ERP) on a daily basis but has also shown me how to approach an actual threat rationally. I now, in the oddest of ways, look forward to my exposures and I have established a trust in myself, and in rational thinking and behaviour that were once not present in my life.
I welcome responses, especially from therapists with OCD clients.
Michael McLaughlin, RTC
Ways to combat your fears
Fear is fundamentally a physical reaction to any perceived harmful stimulus which elicits an instant response of either fight , flight and freeze. It is the basic instinct we are born with, have you ever noticed an infant response when you jump the baby into the air, that how she get startled on hearing a loud noise coming from outside that you might not be very receptive of but that will make her cry at the top of her lungs. This is what we are naturally installed with a fear emotion from the beginning of our very existence. However, fear is not always an appalling state of mind, albeit, it also prepares us to take some precautions against perceived imminent danger or threats. For example, in the context of today’s pandemic state, fear of contracting virus is something that makes us do some prescribed safety measures to stay safe against this harmful deadly little virus. This type of fear is what you call as, “realistic fear”. Unlikely, there are so many other kinds of fears reside in ourselves that based on our self made assumptions about certain things or events that has nothing to do with reality. Unfortunately, such types of fears or worries we anticipate them as real threats disproportionately, which sequentially, leave a very huge impact on our general well being. You will be amazed to know that many psychologists have researched on the nature of worries and found almost 98 percent of them are unreal without any explicit threat. Following are the most salient fears among them:
Note: The views, information, or opinions expressed are those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those of the organization.
Father Involvement in Childcare
Bobbie Miteva, Registered Therapeutic Counsellor
article originally appeared in https://www.healinghouseherbal.com/news-and-articles
On June 21st many Canadian families will be celebrating Father’s Day. It is great to see that fathers have their special day, just like mothers do, but I doubt that the majority of Canadian fathers feel equally appreciated on a daily basis. Although we are gradually moving away from a centuries-long focus on mothers as the primary caregivers, and it is a lot more likely to see engaged fathers at the playgrounds across the Lower Mainland (compared to just a decade ago, or compared to numerous other places in the world), there are still various barriers to fathers’ involvement.
Cultural and religious norms are often intertwined with gender expectations around manhood and parenthood, which present us with the view of the father as an emotionally-distant provider, whose involvement in parenting is limited to disciplining. However, even for fathers who do not follow this script there remain certain logistical barriers to involvement, including work schedule and commitments, lack of role models and lower probability of custody after divorce to name a few. And yet, over the last three months of disrupted routines I have witnessed – as a parent and as a counsellor – many fathers taking over the role of primary caregivers, making difficult compromises in order to be there for their children (not necessarily as providers) and letting their nurturing side shine. I have seen children re-connect with their often less-present dads in meaningful ways, which has truly filled my heart.
There are numerous studies examining the positive effects of a father’s involvement on children’s socio-emotional development. The infants of fathers who attend to their cries and engage with them in a playful way grow more emotionally secure and with higher self-esteem; they engage in more pro-social behavior, leading to stronger social attachments as adolescents. Compared to mothers, fathers tend to engage in more stimulating play with their children; they also encourage exploratory behavior and risk-taking, thus fostering greater independence and confidence. Through rough and tumble play children also learn to regulate their feelings, which is correlated with less externalizing in the form of oppositional behavior, temper tantrums and aggression. Similarly, children who have positive relationships with their fathers are less likely to develop anxiety or depression, and overall have good mental and physical health.
In terms of children’s cognitive development there are studies suggesting better academic readiness at the beginning of school, and higher academic achievements throughout the school years for children of involved fathers. Compared to mothers, fathers are less likely to modify their language when speaking to their children, thus challenging the latter to expand their vocabulary, which is linked to better linguistic capacities. Girls and boys tend to benefit in similar ways from their fathers’ positive engagement with the exception of a few noticeable differences among the genders: boys tend to engage in significantly less disruptive behavior (compared to the sons on non-present or non-engaged fathers), with effects lasting into adulthood; on the other hand, teenage daughters of involved fathers engage in fewer sexual risks, and are more likely to develop healthy relationships with men throughout adulthood.
Considering that there has been a significant decrease in the prevalence of traditional nuclear families, I realize that these findings may leave many readers with questions regarding the development of children raised by one parent only, same-sex or gender-queer couples, and extended families. Fortunately, there is more research being developed to examine some of the related influences, which I would like to address in another article. Instead, my goal here is to celebrate the role of father figures (in any type of family) by highlighting some of the positive influences that they have on children.
And since many of us are still living the consequences of the pandemic, leaving many fathers with less work than usual, I’d also like to take the opportunity to encourage them to engage in quality interactions with their children, thus making the best of the increased availability they may have. The key word here is quality, because the examined positive influences are not as significant when fathers are simply present or engage in many, but not necessarily positive/stimulating interactions. As in any meaningful social connection warmth is essential. This is not to say that fathers should not engage in disciplining; to the contrary, limit-setting and consistent enforcement of (logical) rules are important for children to feel secure and learn valuable skills. However, don’t forget to praise good behavior, which not only reinforces what you’d like to see more of in your children, but it also increases their self-efficacy and self-esteem.
Fathers can also help a lot with caring (cooking, feeding, bathing, tucking into bed) and teaching – especially now that many school-aged children are involved in online learning or attend school part-time only. Yet, by teaching (I don’t mean just school projects and homework); fathers can model problem-solving and teach skills anywhere from tying shoelaces to surviving in the wild. With nice weather coming up hopefully there will be many opportunities to teach children how to ride a bike, swim, fish or set up a tent.
Finally, I’d like to end by emphasizing that one of the foundations for childhood development is play – solitary, make-belief, with siblings or friends, with all caregivers – allow yourselves to act silly every once in a while, and have a fun summer!
The Need for Short, Medium and Long-term Systems of Mental Health Care
Typically, when feeling unwell physically, one can visit their doctor, a walk-in clinic or the hospital and have their issue tended to. Our healthcare system is set up well in this regard – while not perfect (waits, faster services for those who can afford private care) this model of someone being sick or injured and having resources they can readily access, works well: obtain medical treatment as and when needed, follow up as and when needed. If the need is more specialized, the doctor can refer to a specialist. Compared to other systems around the world, it is exemplary.
That same model exists for mental/emotional health and well-being: short-term immediate support and some short-term follow-up.
Examples of publicly funded immediate support include: crisis lines, ER at the hospital and services such as Fraser Health’s Urgent Care and Response Centre, Vancouver Coastal Health’s Access and Assessment Centre and MCFD’s Child and Youth Walk-in Mental Health.
Publicly funded short-term follow-up mental health and wellness services are intended to provide a limited number of sessions, with a limited focus (i.e. addictions, mental health, victims of violence, K-12 students, etc.) based on parameters set out by who funds the program. Examples of publicly funded short-term mental health follow-up services include: Health Authority Addictions and Mental Health services, MCFD Child and Youth Mental Health, School Counsellors and non-profits funded by MCFD, Health Authorities (the two largest funders of publicly funded mental health).
Longer-term supports are typically beyond the scope of publicly funded systems – only available through private therapists, either through a patient-pay or insurer pay system. Private insurers also tend to prefer short-term services as they are cost effective. The above described immediate and short-term publicly funded services model can work well for anyone needing immediate and short-term mental health care but these systems are not set up for medium and longer-term support and healing.
Moving Forward Family Services is able to provide short, medium and long-term therapy. While receiving some public funding, the vast majority of our services operates on philanthropic support, and thus we are able to operate to address not just the short term needs of clients, but also their medium and longer-term needs.
This public/private (philanthropy) model may not address all mental health and other social-emotional health issues, but it can be one way to address gaps (lack of affordable, accessible medium and long-term support) that exist within current models and contributes to our vision towards healthy, healing communities.
Individualistic Services may Hurt, not Help, Families
Imagine a family struggling – maybe there are one or more members of that family struggling with mental health, addiction, or significant stress related to finances, employment, expectations placed on the person by themselves or by others, etc. (For the sake of this example, let’s go with a ‘nuclear’ family of male and female married adults, with two children – though I realize that many families today don’t fit this mold). Whatever the issue is, it is highly likely that the issue impacts not just one member of the family, but ultimately everyone. For example, untreated depression in an adult can impact their relationship with their partner, and their parenting of their children. I would venture to say you do not have to imagine a family – you likely know one, or your family maybe in fact be struggling with one or more of these issues. This certainly does not make you abnormal – again most if not all families have such experiences.
So, using this example, of a family, let’s say that one day things escalate, as the husband and wife argue loudly, and the man pushes his spouse. Say neighbours hear the noise and police are called. The man is arrested and taken to jail for a night and charged with assault. Because there are children, the Ministry of Children and Families are called.
Now there is absolutely no excuse for the act of pushing, and in no way do I want to minimize it, but overall it’s the man’s first offense and is considered of a nature that did not cause significant harm, meaning most likely he will receive a court disposition that requires he attends counselling to learn how to better manage his anger and use of aggression.
Despite the incident, the husband and wife want to stay together and are committed to working on their issues. While the man is being held accountable for his actions, the family has also suffered, and yet little to no help is offered to the entire family. Instead, our ‘systems’ basically take this family and individualize them. By this I mean:
The man will go through the criminal justice system (court) and then placed on probation (corrections) and be directed by a judge to take counselling. However, the judge may not know that this man may not even get this counselling – as BC Corrections assesses the offenders and determines that only those rated ‘high’ and ‘medium’ risk to reoffend will receive their programs. Their focus is on ‘reducing recidivism’ – meaning counselling to improve that person’s overall emotional well-being isn’t their focus – rather they just want that person to not commit further crimes.
The woman will not receive any tangible services from BC Corrections. She instead will be directed to seek services from police and community-based victim services. While these organizations do great work, their focus is not in helping a woman work on her relationship.
The children will potentially receive services from the Ministry of Children and Families or through school-based counselling services. In the case of the latter, given high caseloads, the children may be deemed too low a priority to receive assistance. So those kids fall through the significant gaps.
So, a family in crisis will be expected to go all around town to get very individualized services – services that do not really focus on healing and strengthening families. And again, that is if they get services at all. If they are eligible, then they still likely will be sitting on wait lists. Thus, even if they receive counselling, it will take place at different times, meaning each of them is undergoing what could be a significant change at different times. I wonder sometimes if our systems are setting these families up to fail, and actually contributing to the stress they were already feeling.
Compare the above to a one-stop shop where services could be offered to every member of a family, at the same time, in the same location. In this scenario, given there may be different dynamics, maybe the husband would be seen by one person, the wife by another, and the kids by another. Maybe after a few sessions they could then be brought together and work on their issues as a family, and begin to heal as a family.
Given how much we spend on social and criminal justice issues, I would suggest the cost to doing such work would be less expensive, and considerably more beneficial (meaning even more cost saving in the long-run). It would of course require those organizations responsible – schools, criminal justice, corrections, MCFD, Health and non-profits – to all work collaboratively. Not any easy task to say the least, but one we should expect from those who are supposed to keep our communities healthy, safe and vibrant.
Is it fair to be unfair?
Over the past few days, media has been reporting massively regarding what happened in the US and how it unleashed a violent reaction among black people in North America. Now that we all know that injustice is a ‘lived reality’ of today’s world, and it needs to be stopped. But, there are some questions yet, unanswered in my mind. Like, has injustice really started from there, to begin with, or are there any other subsequent events involved? Very often, we hear these jargon terms on the news about anti-racism, systematic violence, ethnic cleansing, and discrimination over gender, religion and colour. Still, we seldom put the pieces in place to solve the puzzle for this stereotypical mindset.
As we dig a bit down, we would realize how deeply this cruelty seeps into our social justice system. What I could possibly pull together the knots to understand this very phenomenon that social injustice might be a by-product of an impression that has been transcended through generations. Either, in the form of folk stories, we grew up listening from our forefathers about different racialized/ethnic groups in a witty manner; Or, portraying their prejudiced images on mass media to gain consensual opinions. This notion has further been shaped by observing individuals’ attitudes in society towards others different from themselves, by any means. As ‘actions speak louder than words,’ these hidden messages are embedded so deeply in our society today, that eventually, give rise to an air of injustice. Like, I remember, back then, grew up observing people’s derogatory behaviour towards transgender, left them no choice but to allure them, despite all the humiliation they receive in return, just to get money for their sheer existence.
The misery of fate doesn’t limit to the outside world only; rather, it has crept into our own community circle. We don’t hesitate to exhibit discrimination among our own children based on gender and complexion, give them signals unknowingly, that this is not acceptable, and they really need to do something to compensate. We also tend to be unjust when we belittle our maids or servants (folks from countries like India and Pakistan may be aware of this dilemma) and make them feel inferior to our misconduct. Injustice may also prevail when we put our own rights at bay to bring peace and harmony in our lives. In turn, set such bias norms for coming generations to follow.
Conversely, It won’t be in vain to say that the need for fairness is instinctual, as this may also be observed among young kids. If you ever get a chance to see little preschoolers playing together, you will be amazed to notice how they advocate for fairness and even stand up for the rights of others. I can also relate this with my own experience as a little kid when my elder brother was once got spanked by a boy in our neighbourhood (who was almost 8 years older than me). I still remembered how fiercely I reacted and approached his house. To his mom’s surprise, I told her what he did with my brother and that I wanted to do the same. Although, oblivion to the societal norms as a kid, this sense of seeking fairness still can be cultivated on the micro-level to eliminate this social epidemic.
In short, the purpose of this post is not merely to unravel the bitter reality, instead, reflecting upon those events that could progressively involve its prevalence at large. Injustice has no boundary, has no class and value, yet still a universal fact that cannot be brushed under the rug without being addressed. If today is anti-black racism is on the rise, it could take any other form tomorrow. The list would go on unless we change our narratives towards this very belief of discriminating against people based on their race, sex, and religion.
West not Necessarily the Best
There is a conceit in the west that somehow our criminal justice, education, health and social service systems are vastly superior to the same systems that exist in other jurisdictions. The comparisons are often most explicit when comparing western systems to systems that exist in African, Asian and South American communities (I would suggest that it’s not a coincidence that these are communities of colour).
We often hear that bribery is common in some parts of the world: that all it takes to get things done, for example to get permission to run a business or develop on land, is ensuring the right people are paid to speed the process up or to have them look the other way if certain shortcuts need to be taken. Again, whether explicit or implied, the message seems to be loud and clear, that “West is best,” when it comes to how our local, provincial and federal governments – and the systems they oversee (the aforementioned criminal justice, education, health and social service systems) – operate. Somehow corruption is rampant in those ‘third world’ nations, yet few seem to acknowledge such corruption exists here too.
While bribery in some nations is overt, it is systemic and covert in the West. For example, handing someone an envelop full of cash to curry favour may be deemed ethically, morally or legally wrong in the West, yet we do similar questionable activities that are somehow considered above board. For example, having a ‘business’ lunch – and writing it off as a taxable expense – with someone you want to impress / curry favour with is deemed completely acceptable, or rewarding government contracts or esteemed appointments (i.e. senator/ambassador positions) to ‘insiders,’ party donors or lobbyists is somehow okay (while it may lead to outrage in some circles, such practices have basically continued unabated for years).
Many of the inequalities of decades ago – sexism, racism, homophobia – are still around, though in some instances they have become less overt, and more systemic and entrenched. For example, few would openly support the notion that abusing women is wrong, but our systems have created numerous obstacles for women who try to leave abusive relationships. We may talk about equality for women, but our systems don’t reflect that. The same can be said for other oppressed groups – our education, criminal justice, health care and other systems are rife with such systemic discrimination.
Such discrimination and corruption as I’ve described above are far from the only problems within our systems. Many oversees communities may not even have formal criminal justice, health, education and social service systems, but their collectivist approach to supporting each other can often more effective than the individualistic, bureaucratic and fragmented services that exist in the West. Yet again, our more formalized systems are promoted as being ‘evidence-based,’ transparent and accountable, though frankly they are far from it.
Ultimately, I am not arguing that one way is better than the other; democratic governments in the East, West, North or South all function in ways that can benefit their citizenry and in other ways may hurt that very population – thus no one system is perfect. I am instead arguing that in the West we need to drop the conceit that our systems are superior, and instead be open to learning and growing so that they can truly serve and support those they were designed for – all of us.
Paradies, Y., Ben, J., Denson, Elias, A., Priest, A., Pieterse, . . . Gee, G. (2015). Racism as a determinant of health: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PloS one, 10(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0138511
Tattersall, I. (2009). Human origins: Out of Africa. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(38), 16018-16021. https://www.pnas.org/content/106/38/16018.short
UN General Assembly. (1948). “Universal declaration of human rights” (217 [III] A). Paris. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/
Why I Speak Up Against Prejudicial Thinking
Originally written in 2016
Not a single soul who has worked tirelessly to create the life and home they have dreamed of deserves to be made to feel unworthy of creating the life of their choosing — especially if it really doesn’t harm anyone else. The majority of the South Asian community members who make these “monster houses” are those who have come from next to nothing in Northern rural areas of India.
I feel like everyone can pinpoint that one moment or conversation that sparks something in their mind that begins a change in the way they think. For me this was during my first year of university in my English 1100 class. The professor liked to begin our lessons by discussing current events or media topics. On this particular day she brought to school a newspaper on which the entire front cover was a picture of a big house taken from a low angle to make it seem even bigger and rather unappealing. The heading read “Monster Houses Taking Over.” She asked us how this made us feel.
Everyone looked at one another and shrugged and said they really had no reaction at all. She asked us what the use of the word monster suggested. Being the keener of the class I raised my hand (though unsure what she was getting at) and said that it’s meant to suggest these houses are something negative and something we should be afraid of. She responded that “I was on the right track” but she wanted more of an explanation into this insight.
She then wrote two words on the board with the standard hyphen between them as always. INDO-CANADIAN. She said what does this word look like to you? Everyone read it aloud. She said, “Look at the word itself. It literally reads that you’re Indian minus Canadian. You’re not really Canadian you must be differentiated from the “REAL” Canadians — the Caucasian-Canadians. You don’t see or hear the term Caucasian-Canadian a whole lot do you?”
She explained to us that in predominately Caucasian areas houses such as the one pictured in that week’s paper would typically be called “mansions” or “beautiful dream homes.” But because it is “Indo-Canadians” making these large homes, they are now something negative. They’re intrusively gaudy structures, taking over the city, changing the look of things and the status quo. As if the owners of these homes are setting up shop in an area that doesn’t truly belong to them.
The stereotypes and prejudices had me surrounded. I couldn’t help but feel like I was being barricaded by them. These subtle but detrimentally damaging messages in the media are what contributes to the mentality that prejudice, stereotyping, and racism — in a not so blatant manner, is acceptable.
That discussion in the first five to 10 minutes at the beginning of that class was it for me. That’s what opened my eyes to the underlying hints of racism and stereotyping in our everyday lives. The difference of perspective portrayed in mass media, which then seeps into our minds when we least expect it. Before having it pointed out to me that it is important to not just passively receive information but critically analyze all that you come across, I was walking around with my mind turned off to such prejudices. And now that I saw it, there was no way it could be unseen, it was now everywhere.
I noticed it in the way the grocery teller said “you people” to me in regard to how Indians seem to buy a whole lot of milk. I noticed it when customers at the retail outlet I worked at as a teen asked where I was actually from and weren’t satisfied when I kept answering “Prince George.” I noticed it at the doctors office when receptionists would speak extra slow and loud to my grandfather, who understood English perfectly. The stereotypes and prejudices had me surrounded. I couldn’t help but feel like I was being barricaded by them.
So, as an ethnic minority, and an inhabitant of one of these monster homes, I began to answer back. Sarcastic annoyed remarks to anyone who I felt was belittling me because of my race or being small minded towards my culture. I became overly sensitive and defensive in a lot of scenarios in which it probably would’ve just been easier to let it slide. But having something to be vocal about helped me come out of my shell. It helped me develop enough of a passion to care enough to speak up and not shy away from setting people straight when need be.
Unfortunately, I don’t see a whole lot of that happening. So I wonder, for those individuals who just sit tentatively being the inferior minority and being OK with it — while their homes and identities are being attacked by ignorance and negatively, have they just not had that eye opening moment yet? Or perhaps it doesn’t bother them enough? Why do so few people care to correct what is wrong and fight against this shadow of oppression which follows us and is so embedded in our everyday lives. Is it so common that most of us don’t even notice it anymore?
Not a single soul who has worked tirelessly to create the life and home they have dreamed of deserves to be made to feel unworthy of creating the life of their choosing — especially if it really doesn’t harm anyone else. Some people choose to place precedence on saving money for travel, others spend as it comes, and certain individuals wish to invest in creating big beautiful homes which they couldn’t have dreamed of making let alone living in at one point in their lives. The majority of the South Asian community members who make these “monster houses” are those who have come from next to nothing in Northern rural areas of India. So now that they have the means to a better life, who’s to stop them?
So the next time you hear someone speaking in a belittling manner about all those darn huge ethnic minority owned homes sweeping the cities of B.C., just keep in mind that living with joint family is a norm in the Indian culture. Naturally so, the larger the family, the more the preference to live in a larger sized home. Perhaps once we begin to view all Canadians as inclusive members of society then we can begin to break the psyche that immigrants are somehow “invading” and disrupting societal norms of Canada. By being vigilant to pinpointing prejudicial thinking, we can begin to tackle issues which are all too often swept under the rug and left for fantastic university professors to bring up to clueless introductory level students in the hopes of setting off that spark in at least a few of their minds.
Help for Alcohol Abuse
GS Thandi, MSW RSW
The majority of adults in Canada drink alcohol in moderation; however, for some, their drinking becomes problematic. An addiction to any substance like alcohol or drugs can have many negative consequences, including poor health, conflicts with family members, difficulty holding down a job, and financial strains.
To determine if you have a problem, consider the following four questions, known as the CAGE test.
- Have you ever felt you should CUT down on your drinking?
- Do you get ANNOYED when people criticize you about your drinking?
- Have you ever felt bad or GUILTY about your drinking?
- Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover (this is called an EYE OPENER)?
If you answered “Yes” to two or more of these questions, you may have a problem with alcohol. But help is available.
If you are considering cutting down or quitting, talk to your doctor. When someone tries to quit drinking after a long time (or even after a short time of frequent use) – they go through physical withdrawal. The body has become used to alcohol and is attempting to adjust, and during this time a person may become quite ill – so you should never detoxify without medical assistance. There are also detox centres you can stay at, where nurses and doctors monitor you to ensure you are detoxifying safely. A detox centre stay can last from a few days to several weeks.
While detox centres help with physical withdrawal, treatment and recovery centres help a person manage psychological withdrawal. Over time, alcohol or drugs may have played a large part in your life, and you will now need to learn how to live life without using. Residents at treatment centres participate in intensive group and individual counselling sessions focusing on their getting healthy physically and mentally, and on helping them identify ways to manage their addictions. After treatment, which can last from a month to several months, many people go on to reside at recovery homes. Here, a resident continues working on his addiction while slowly starting to re-integrate back into society (residents in recovery homes can, after showing they are ready, do things like work while continuing to get support from other residents). In some larger cities, there are recovery homes where languages besides English are spoken. Sometimes a person may go straight into a recovery home instead of first going to a treatment centre. The big difference between treatment and recovery is treatment tends to be more intense (more programs) and usually there are medical staff on site.
For those who do not want to reside at a treatment or recovery home (called inpatient treatment as person remains there, as an “inpatient”), most cities have Alcohol and Drug Outpatient programs, where counselors in the community can help a client (“outpatients”) to overcome their addictions challenges through individual and group sessions. There are also AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) support group meetings held regularly in cities and towns throughout Canada (some meetings are conducted in languages besides English), where people go to meet and talk with others who have chosen to live alcohol and/or drug free. Meeting information, times and locations can be found online.
If you are struggling with an addiction, or are impacted by a loved one’s substance use, feel free to vist mffs.ca or call 778-321-3054 to arrange confidential counselling support.
Parenting teens in difficult times
Mehreen Masud, Counsellor
“How many times do I have to repeat this” or “you are so annoying.” You would probably be familiar with this kind of conversation if you are the parent of a teen. As it visibly sounds, parenting has never been an easy job throughout the generations; in fact, it can be more challenging when you have teenaged kids trying to exert their newly discovered powers, in the form of anger outburst, on to you despite all the efforts you made to discipline. Things even get a lot more complicated if you’ve brought up respecting your parents and complying with their decisions without questions, and now it is nerve-racking to get your point come across. Not only this, you feel like drowning in the water if you are living in a joint family system where your parenting style might be judged by the display of your kids’ behaviour.
Circumstances like these may, in turn, take a heavy toll on you if you are already in a difficult situation, being a single parent, having relationship issues, or going through COVID related stress. Take a breath; you are not alone in this; as being a teen parent, I feel the same ebbs and flow of parenting that also come along with bundles of joy.
Being a teenager parent is not easy, but being a teenager is tough too. Just flip the side for a moment so you may able to see what is on the other side of the mountain. You may notice how your sweet 15 years old is struggling hard to manage his/her hormonal changes that occur in the brain that is usually at its peak during puberty. You may also be able to observe Erickson’s identity crisis of his/her new role after being exposed to the secondary growth into its body. That’s how they act more likely an adult and don’t ready to accept your commands as opposed to the old ways of interaction you are accustomed of.
Knowing this may ease off the burden a bit and helps you be more receptive to deal with it. The good news is that it is not too late to improve your parent-child bond. You can still make conscious efforts to get this through, but that doesn’t mean you can fix it all either. Sometimes you don’t know how to resolve disagreement and be on one page, but honestly, you don’t have to. All you can do as a parent to be there for them, listen to them with your calm (no matter how hard it is), hug them, kiss them (if possible), or send text messages to connect, regardless of your dispute.
If this is something you find really difficult to do while undergoing additional stresses in your life, give some quality time to yourself either in the form of meditation or reflecting upon yourself when you were a teenager and what you missed being treated at that time regardless of what you have gone through.
In the end, I would conclude with this beautiful message:
“You will teach them to fly, but they will not fly your flight. You will teach them to dream, but they will not dream your dream. You will teach them to live, but they will not live your life. Nevertheless, in every flight, in every life, in every dream, the print of the way you taught them will remain”
Honouring the Strengths of Survivors of Violence
GS Thandi, MSW RSW
Often Victims of intimate partner violence are portrayed as completely powerless and helpless in addressing the abuse. What isn’t recognized is the enormous strength and intelligence many Survivors of violence have exhibited. Survivors are quicker to report instances of abuse now than even a few years ago, and this is likely due to greater awareness of the dynamics of abuse and greater awareness of their rights. Much of the credit for this goes to the tireless crusaders who have skillfully used the media and social media to get such messages across.
Some advocates have even suggested that some women from diverse ethnic groups, such as South Asian Canadian women, may be more prone to call police than their Caucasian Canadian counterparts – an interesting suggestion that seems to turn the view of the helpless South Asian victim of intimate partner violence on its head. Given a good number of South Asian women choose to stay with their partner, it is feasible that they call police early to intervene and get their spouse some help – to end any abusive behaviour early on rather than letting it go and it becoming worse over time. As well, they may be more prone to address the abuse within their relationships than their Caucasian Canadian counterparts, who are just as apt to walk away from an abusive relationship as they are to call police (in many instances with the latter, they may be dating, whereas in the case of South Asian couples they are often married and may have children, therefore the woman sees a greater reason to address the abuse sooner rather than face the prospect of a lifetime living with it). Another key point that seems to indicate Survivors are in fact actively dealing with the abuse is that they often tell others (usually their siblings or their parents) and have those people first intervene to stop the abuse or have them call police. The Survivor may do this as a strategy: so she can maintain that she never called the police – and avoid potentially being blamed by her spouse or members of his family – if she and her spouse reconcile.
Of course for every Survivor of intimate partner violence who takes that step, there are many others who continue to suffer in silence. More needs to be done for them, as well as for all victims who face an often uncoordinated and unresponsive criminal justice, health and social service system that doesn’t sufficiently take their needs into consideration.
Whether a Survivor calls the police or tell a trusted family member, what seems clear is that many are not idle victims who are ignorant of their rights and suffer in isolation (again, those situations still exist, and we as part of the larger community need to help those Survivors in any way possible). While there is still a great deal all of Canadian society can do to end relationship abuse, we should not forget that Survivors of intimate partner violence exhibit great strength in the face of adversity.
The Importance of Father Involvement
GS Thandi, MSW RSW
Any man can be a father. It takes someone special to be a dad.
In the past, both here in Canada and in many other nations around the world, mothers were expected to do the lion’s share of raising the child, while the men worked outside the home to support the family. Women did not have to do this alone – grandmothers and aunts, who either all lived in the same home or nearby, also helped raise the child. However, today, usually both mother and father work, and many of these parents do not have other families nearby to help raise the child. More and more, fathers are being called upon to take a more active role in raising their children, while both mother and father balance this huge responsibility while working outside the home.
As well, since those days when men and women’s roles were much more rigid, we’ve learned a lot about the importance of father involvement in a child’s life. Increasingly, research is beginning to discover the many ways that father involvement is beneficial for children. For example, father involvement has been linked to improved mental health and better ability to cope with stress, disappointment and frustration in children. Children with involved fathers end up with better grades in school.
Many fathers in the Lower Mainland seem to understand this important connection. Go to a park (at least pre-Covid), and chances are you’ll see several fathers pushing strollers, or on the playground with their children. They’re there at toddler playgroups, and to drop their children off at school Sure, they may not be out there in the same numbers as mothers – all I can say is times are changing and more men are assuming roles that were once considered (unfairly) a mother’s domain. But change happens slowly … but it definitely is happening.
Fathers can be involved from birth by holding their babies as often as possible, and taking on roles as diaper changer and baby bather. Such regular opportunities to hold your baby help in the bonding process. The Father Involvement Network based out in Ontario gives a number of suggestions on how to be an involved father:
-play with your child-learn to read your child’s cues-read to your child-turn the TV off during meal times-respect your child’s mother-say “I love you” to your child-listen to your child-laugh with your child-provide for your child’s needs-give hugs and kisses-be there, be there, be there!