Thoughts About My Deployment to Puerto Rico
by John Thurman, M.Div., M.A., LPCC
What would you do if you had lost everything in a natural disaster except your life? How would you handle the loss of fresh water, power, and no internet connectivity? What if you could not leave your neighborhood for two weeks because of toppled metal and concrete power polls. And finally, how would you manage to get around, when your roads are washed out?
Just three weeks ago winding down a deployment to San Juan where I was serving as a Stress Counselor for over 1900 FEMA employees who were working 7-12 hour shifts for the fourth week in a row. The folks are an incredible group of workers, who despite news reports, have a sincere and compassionate heart to help the resilient, strong people of Puerto Rico.
I got into San Juan on a Tuesday afternoon and was greeted by a colleague who took me to the San Juan Convention Center which would be my workplace for the next several days.
After meeting my point of contact and receiving an in-brief my associate and I headed over to my room at the Fortaleza Suites, in Old San Juan. Hotel space in San Juan is at a premium because of the lack of power and the influx of thousands of people who are helping out with the relief and rebuilding efforts on the island.
Once we had parked the rental, we began our short journey down the darkened, wagon wheeled rutted streets of Old Juan. As we walked, I heard the steady, mechanical purring of multiple lights giving generators which provided small patches of illumination on the dark path to our hotel.
Over the next several days I had conversations with nearly 250 individuals, attended multiple meetings and broke bread with linemen, nurses, Disaster Mental Health professionals, doctors, NGO (non-governmental agency) relief leaders, chaplains, relief workers from the mainland and other countries. Also, I had the honor of meeting several Puerto Rican mental health professional, local pastors and locals and learning from them.
One of my takeaways from my Puerto Rican friends is in spite of the destruction and devastation, the people of Puerto Rico are a tough, resilient lot.
One day I had the opportunity to go into the countryside with my friend Sam Porter, the Executive Director of Southern Baptist Disaster, whom I had met at the JFO. He wanted to show me what Southern Baptist was doing in a couple of local communities. As we made our way into the countryside, our first stop was Arecibo.
This city is on the northern coast of Puerto Rico, on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, about 50 miles west of San Juan. It is the home of the Arecibo Observatory, for movie fans, it has been used in the James Bond movie, Golden Eye and in 1997 movie Contact which was based on Carl Sagan’s book and featured Jodie Foster.
Arecibo was hit with harsh winds and flood waters, Sam told me some of the fertile farmland had been under ten feet of water for over a week. Relief workers in this area were working with local churches and communities helping with “mud-outs,” water purification units, and building repair.
From Arecibo, we turned left and headed into the interior of the island to the town of Utuabo which is located in the central mountains. This area had significant damage due to flooding and wind damage. As Sam and I made our way from Arecibo to Utuabo was observed thousands of trees that were badly damaged or were blown over by the hellish winds that pummeled the island for hours. Also, there were hundreds of areas where mudslides have occurred. On one stretch of the road, we observed local collecting water from roadside springs.
Even though our little five-hour trip gave me just a small taste of the impact of Hurricane Maria on this beautiful, unincorporated American territory, I reaped deeper understanding of the effects of this storm on the island and its people. Also, after talking to numerous Puerto Rican resident, I gained a more profound sense of their resilience.
In addition to the devastation, there is another growing aftermath of the Hurricane, the displacement of thousands of Puerto Ricans including school children. As of November 10th, only 15% of the schools were open. In a news article from just a few days ago, Florida was trying to absorb 165,000 Puerto Rican, American citizens into its economy, many other states are also incorporating may newcomers into their economy at least for a season.
Puerto Rico has a long recovery ahead of them. Their economy was already in shambles due to years of crooked politics, horrible financial management, and corruption leading to a $118 billion debt crisis. Their new governor and his leadership team have promised to make the changes necessary to give Puerto Rico a promising future. I hope and pray it happens.
I believe, in my heart of hearts, that Puerto Rico will rise, like the ancient Phoenix, out of this devastation and become a prosperous and even the fifty-first state of the United States.
On my last day, I said my goodbyes and “Ubered” to the airport, where hundreds of people stood, bidding farewell to mothers, dads, and children headed to various parts of the mainland to meet up with family members to continue their education and to get away from the devastation for a season.
As my flight lifted off from San Juan’s Luis Marin Airport, I felt, a sense of relief because my work was done. However; this time I also experienced a profound sense of gratitude for things I usually take for granted, things like friendship, health, predictable electricity, safe water and food, freedom of movement, and internet access.
This Thanksgiving will be a new one for me. After seeing, hearing, and smelling the results of Hurricane Maria I have a new and fresh appreciation for the mundane. Also, as we move into this Thanksgiving, many of my friends from the New Mexico Army National Guard are landing in San Juan to help out. While they will miss Thanksgiving with their families, they will always remember, like many others helping out in Puerto Rico, a Thanksgiving where they were helping others.
Thanks for letting this helping traveling helper share some of his experience, have a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving.
Most of these are my images, but the unwatermarked ones are from a Eluid Echer, a young photojournalist from Puerto Rico, please check out his powerful images.
How Do You Handle Adversity?
By John Thurman
Did you know individuals typically respond to adverse events in one of three ways?
I do not know about you, but the past three months have been deeply troubling to me. Between the floods, hurricanes, the massacre in Las Vegas and the terrible firestorms in Californian not to mention the egregious behavior of Harvey Weinstein, as well as one of the team physicians for the Women’s Olympic Gymnastics team. It is getting to the point where the 24-hour news cycles of CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC seem to bombard us with nothing but toxic news.
Regarding the Weinstein story, I have been amazed by the courage of how many of his victims have come forth to share their stories. I am deeply touched and encouraged by the courage of seeing how many of my friends have shared in the #MeToo tag. I cannot even begin to imagine what some of these women have been through, but also know this issue occurs in the workplace, churches, schools, and God only knows where else.
Well, let's jump into the three ways people respond to adversity, trauma, or natural disasters.
Dr. George S. Everly Jr., Ph.D. is an author and researcher who is ranked as the number one published author in the world in two fields: Crisis Intervention and Psychological First Aid. He has spent his adult life studying people’s reaction to adversity, in the U.S., Korea, the Middle East and Europe.
I have had the privilege of being one of his students over the years and believe his findings can help you, and me understand more about how we react to adversity. In the following posts, I will talk little about some of the neuroscience behind his findings. My goal is to give you hope and understanding as you look into how you handle adversity.
In 2017 Dr. Everly published A Field Guide, Psychological Body Armor®: Lessons From Neuroscience That Can Save Your Career, Your Marriage, and Your Life.[i] (Ordering info at the end of post). The three patterns come directly from this resource.
According to the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, “Going through trauma is not rare. About 6 of every ten men (or 60%) of men and 5 of every ten women (or 50%) experience at least one trauma in their lifetime.
Women are more likely to experience sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse.
Men, on the other hand, are more likely to experience accidents, physical assaults, combat, disaster, or to witness death and injury.
As stated earlier, Everly has revealed three responses. Keep in mind these reactions are not always crisp, neat, and separable.
The first response is almost a form of behavioral immunity. This pattern has been called resistance. This resistance refers to the ability of an individual, a group, an organization, or even an entire population, to resist manifestations of clinical distress, impairment, or dysfunction associated with critical incidents, terrorism, and mass disasters. Everly suggests we think of this as immunity.
The second pattern of response is characterized by significant distress but is usually short-lived. There is a natural rebound from the incident wherein behavioral health returns to its pre-incident levels or, may even reach higher levels than before the event. This is called post-traumatic growth or thriving. Everly calls this phenomenon reactive resilience. Therefore, resilience refers to the ability of an individual, a group, an organization, or even an entire population, to rapidly and efficiently rebound from psychological and behavioral issues related to critical incidents, terrorism, and mass disasters.
These people indeed experience distress and perhaps temporary dysfunction. They may not be able to think clearly or in a focused manner. They may even become temporarily overwhelmed with fear, anxiety, or sadness. They may act impulsively, even experience impulsive or aggressive inclinations, or the desire to “escape.” They may experience acute stress-related physical complaints. Lastly, they might question their faith. Never the less, they rebound. They are reactively resilient. Sometimes this can occur naturally. Other times it happens with the support of family, friends, fellow strugglers or a crisis interventional specialist.
One of my friends puts in this way; ‘Pain shared is pain divided. Joy shared is yoy multiplied.”
There is a third pattern of responding to adversity. It is replete with behavioral and psychological dysfunction (the ability to do what one needs to do). In this pattern, people are significantly impacted by the event, experiencing significant distress and dysfunction. The inability to think clearly and solve problems is protracted. Emotional reactions are intense and sometimes overwhelming. People will often describe themselves as “being divested,” or “crushed” by the experience. They will often add, “I was never the same after the incident.” Often a lasting psychological and disability arise. The ability to work is impaired, marital relationships are strained if not terminated, and behavioral and mental health seem to chronically vacillate. Sometimes these section to adversity is hidden or subtle such as the ability to function at work but not at home. Sometimes these behaviors show up shortly after the event other times these feelings, emotions, and behaviors may lay dormant for a season.
I hope this information has been helpful in understanding how people respond to adversity. The good news is out of these three patterns, only a small percentage of individuals, some models suggest as 7.5 to 12 percent develop these types of enduring symptoms.[ii]
As a person of faith, I sincerely believe as you and I grow in our understanding of human behavior and the application of robust, time-tested biblical principles we can experience dynamic personal growth, in addition, we can become more compassionate in helping others.
How does this passage relate to responding to adversity?
2 Corinthians 1: 3-5 NLT “ 3All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 5For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.”
Thanks for taking some of your busy days to read this article. I would love to hear your comments.
[i] George S. Everly, Jr. Ph.D., Psychological Body Armor®: Lessons from Neuroscience That Can Save your Career, Your Marriage, and Your Life. (Ellicott City, MD: Crisis Intervention & CISM Resources, LCC, 2017), 13-15. For ordering information email firstname.lastname@example.org
[ii] Matthew Tull, Ph.D., 9/11 and PTSD Rates .https://www.verywell.com/911-and-ptsd-rates-2797198. Accessed October 2017.
When Shots Ring Out Heroes Show Up
By John Thurman M.Div., M.A., LPPC
This is the second in a three-part series regarding the nefarious acts of violence committed by this savage, predator wolf who caused so much death and destruction in the Las Vegas Shootings. While the twenty-four hour new channels like Fox, CNN, and MSNBC continue their coverage of the act of terrorism, they are beginning to share some of the stories of the heroes of that night. I believe in the days before us we will learn more about these men and women who started out as country music fans gathered for a fantastic evening and ended that day as heroes. While most of these heroes lived, some were shot, and others were killed while trying to protect, treat, and evacuate the wounded.
This is phenomena that I have observed several times, sometimes in person and other times when I am attending the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation’s two-year meetings in Baltimore. One of the most influential segments of this conference are the stories and briefings from first responders who were actually on site helping people at places like the Dallas Police Shootings, the Pulse Nightclub Massacre, the San Bernardino shooting, and the Sandy Hook Shooting.
Here is how these events seem to unfold from my vantage point. A killer, a wolf, seeks to find, kill and injure the innocent, exposed, unaware civilians (sheep) who have gathered for fun, food, fellowship, community, and music. Once the wolf initiates his cowardly, spineless act of terror most of the terrified civilians (sheep) run for their life, which is a healthy, and often the life-saving response. In nearly every similar situation like this, there is always another group that responds. These people are not armed or trained in the profession of arms, but when trouble occurs, they do not run, or if they do, they do not move very far. Instead, they move toward the exposed, injured, and helpless citizens in an attempt to get them to safety.
LTC David Grossman is a mentor and acquaintance who graciously endorsed by the first book Get a Grip on Depression uses the analogy of a sheepdog. I will give you a very minimalist version of his metaphor with a link to his works.
He states there are three types of people. There is the wolf, who can be an individual or group whose mission is to kill civilians, the second type (sheep) and keep them living in fear. Now, this is not a negative term, but one more based on behavior. Then there is a third group, the sheepdogs. The sheepdog, remember this is a metaphor, he or she loves the sheep, they protect the sheep, will die for the sheep, and they do not mind taking on the wolf. This is the role of law enforcement and the military. Grossman says that the sheepdogs are societies protectors, primarily law enforcement and members of the military, for a more in-depth description check out the link in the next paragraph.
I like the way that Brett & Kate McKay described this in their article, Are You a Sheepdog? Part 1, which is on the Art of Manliness website.
Here is a brief excerpt.
“Most people are sheep. Grossman is not using the term pejoratively; he is simply referring to the fact that most human beings are kind, gentle, and peaceful. The conflicts and ethical dilemmas they are regularly faced with rarely rise to the level of life and death, good versus evil. For the most part, people deal with challenges that are more annoyances than true crises. Moreover, when faced with conflict, they try to do the right thing, avoid making waves, and demonstrate the pro-social behavior.”
There is a second type of sheepdog, who loves being a part of his or her sheep family and sometimes knowingly or unknowingly they are also a sheepdog.
So what do sheepdogs like this do when trouble rears its ugly head? Rather than run away from danger, something deep and mysterious kicks in, they run towards it. The best example of that night was the number of law enforcement officers you saw with weapons drawn, looking to engage the wolf. However, there was another group of sheepdogs that night. Though they were unarmed, they exposed themselves to danger while seeking to help protect the distressed, treat the wounded, comfort the dying, and evacuate the injured. Here are a few examples.
Anthony Chavez, from my adopted hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico was attending the event with several of his friends. As the shots rang out, Anthony, initially identified as the “hero in the red hat” began pushing people into areas that were protected from the gunfire.
Dean McAuley initially helped his friends to safety and returned to the killing field. McAuley, who is also a firefighter from the Northwest ran by the medical tent, grabbed a pair of gloves and helped bring two injured women to the treatment tent then assisted 17-year-old Natalia Baca, by putting a tourniquet on and helping start an IV in her arm. The next morning, he volunteered at one of the hospitals to further assist those that were injured.
Heather Melton spoke of how her husband Sonny, “Grabbed me and started running until I felt him get shot in the back. Sonny died while trying to shield his wife.
Jonathon Smith reportedly lead over 30 people to safety until he was shot in the leg.
Rob Ledbetter, an Army veteran who had served as a sniper in Iraq immediately began using his Combat Lifesaver skills to treat the wounded around him.
These are, just a few of the heroic stories that we will hear over the next several days.
As horrible as this week has been, I know something unique about a free society like ours. The first is, even though, in many ways we live in a post-Christian culture, some of the profound truths of our faith show up in bad times like these.
A portion of some of Jesus’s words to his followers is a Scripture that I have both heard and used as an Army Chaplain at memorials for Medal of Honor winners, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13 NLT Now while Jesus is talking about his ministry, I believe this snippet of verse was very much alive the night of the Las Vegas Massacre.
God wired we humans to be incredibly resilient. Though we have to take devastating hits on our society from 911 through other acts of terrorism, we as a country continue to bounce back. We care for the physically and emotionally injured, we care for the survivors of those lost, and honor the dead, and we move forward as a nation.
My article on Monday will visit the topic of resilience and will give you practical, faith-friendly tool you can use to become more resilient.
Call to Action
I want to leave you with a question, that you will probably not be able to answer, and that is ok. What would you have done had you been in the crowd that Sunday Night?
A Second Call to Action
READ this powerful and insightful article from WebMD, it could save your life! Enroll in First Aid Course. Hopefully, you will never need to use what you learned, but if you live an active lifestyle, have kids, or elderly parents, the First Aid Basic Course might be a great skill set to add to your life.
I would love to get your thoughts so feel free to make a comment.
(c) 2017 John Thurman. All Rights Reserved
Photo Credit Dave Becker
Healing from the Las Vegas Shootings: Begin the Journey
John Thurman, M.Div., M.A., LPCC
The horrible event that occurred in Las Vegas this week reminds me that there is evil in the world. One cold blooded active-shooter made a deliberate choice to use his altered weapons to rain down hell of an innocent, unsuspecting crowd of concert attendees. With a twenty-four-hour news cycle, i.e., Fox News, CNN and other news outlets, it is difficult not to be bombarded by the overload of video, audio, and talking heads. One of the issues of nonstop disaster coverage, particularly of heinous events like the Las Vegas shooting is that it amplifies our fear and dulls our senses. More importantly, if we allow our children to watch it with us, there is no telling what damage we could be doing to their innocent psyches.
As I heard the news, I felt this deep, twisting sense of heaviness and sadness in my heart. I cannot imagine what that night must have been like for those attending the event as well as the thousands of others that would be pulled into the tragedy of that night. Oddly, I also felt that help was one the way. I have counselor friends, peer support team members, as well as Disaster Mental Health Chaplains who would be on their way to help. Just as they had at Aurora, Sandy Hook, Orlando and other places that had experienced manmade acts of terrorism.
With that in mind, I wanted to share some things you can do to deal with some of the emotional aftermath so such a horrible event. Besides working as a therapist, author, and speaker, I am a Crisis Response Specialist who works with businesses and communities after they experience workplace violence and trauma.
When any mass shooting or another type of man-made traumatic event or natural disaster, it is normal to feel anxious, scared and uncertain about what the future could bring. Usually, these unsettling thoughts and feelings fade as life begins to return to new routine.
You can assist the process by keeping the following in mind:
⋄ People react in different ways to traumatic events
⋄ Avoid obsessively thinking about the disastrous event
⋄ Ignoring feelings will slow the healing process
⋄ Talking about what you feel may be difficult, but it will help you heal
⋄ Being proactive about you and your family’s situation and well-being (rather than passively waiting for someone else to help you) will help decrease feelings of powerlessness and vulnerability. Focus on anything that allows you and your family feel safe, calm and secure.
Here are some recovery tips:
•Re-establish the routines of your personal and family life
•Connect with others in your neighborhood, workgroup or place of worship
•Challenge any thoughts of helplessness
•Minimize media exposure
•Make stress reduction a priority
Tips for helping your kids cope:
•Provide your kids with ongoing opportunities to talk about what they may be feeling and thinking.
•If you do not know the answer to a question they have, don’t be afraid to admit it.
•The repeated exposure to media may trigger or bring up unrelated fears and issues in your kids. As much as possible, restrict their exposure to news stories about the event.
•Remember that children often personalize situations. They may worry about their safety or that of their family, even if the traumatic event occurred far away. Reassure your child and help him or her to place the situation in context.
•Watch for physical signs of stress, crying, insomnia, excess fear, and worry.
Humans are designed to be resilient. In several studies, Dr. George Bonano, The Other Side of Sadness, identifies resilience as the core experience of most people who experience trauma. By resilience is meant the ability of individuals exposed to a potentially highly disruptive to maintain both healthy psychological and physical functioning and the capacity for positive emotions.
While many are still reeling over the events of last Sunday, I can tell you both based on my years of work in this field as well as a growing body of research that we as individuals, families, and Americans will take care of the dead and injured, support each other and experience positive post-traumatic growth because we are America Strong.
I hope that these words from the New Testament will help you and your family in the days and weeks ahead.
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. “ 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NLT
I will follow this blog with two more. One Friday I will talk about the heroes of that day, and what it is that makes people do heroic things when facing certain danger. On Sunday, I will give you some things to think about when it comes to everyday resilience.
Tell what you are thinking by making a comment. I look forward to hearing from you.
(c) 2017 John H. Thurman Jr.
Photo Credit David Becker
Seven Secrets to Building Resilience in Your Marriage.
By John H. Thurman Jr.
Resilience is the ability to resist the manifestations of clinical distress, impairment or dysfunctions that are often associated with critical incidents and personal trauma.
Dr. George Everly, Psychological Body Armor.
”Last week Sara got so mad she threw her shoe at me. It missed my head by about three inches!" Larry said.
"At the time I thought he deserved it," Sara admitted. "But the fact that I could do that really scares me! I feel as if our marriage is in serious trouble.”
While not every couple throws shoes—or anything else—that sense of uncontrollable anger is not uncommon for many couples regardless of creed, ethnicity, or social status. Unfortunately, some feel that the heightened level of emotion is the beginning of the end of their relationship.
In my more than 35 years of counseling and 45 years of married life, I've observed that how couples respond to an event such as Sara's shoe-throwing can help them develop resilience, the ability to bounce back or recover quickly from change, misfortune, and unmet expectations.
As we explored their past ten years together, I knew that even though they were now in a difficult season, Larry and Sara had built resilience into their marriage. To create a resilient marriage, your commitment to the relationship must be stronger than your history, mood, or situation. Couples who are resilient have these seven qualities in common.
1. Resilient couples don't fall prey to misconceptions about marriage.
One thing that can damage our resilience is the mistaken notion that a good marriage equals a calm and peaceful one. In the ten years, Larry and Sara had been married, five jobs, one miscarriage, five harsh financial seasons, four moves, and two adventure-filled boys had taken their toll. Not to mention the fact that they came from two different family styles: Sara's parents were divorced. Her dad had cheated on her mom multiple times, and then abandoned the family when she was ten. Larry, on the other hand, grew up in an intact family—his parents are still together more than 40 years later.
As we talked, Larry nailed one of the great Christian misconceptions about marriage: "We had no idea how difficult marriage would be. If you listen to people at our church talk about their marriages, it would be easy to believe nobody has been through what we've experienced.”
It amazes me that in this day when marriage ministries and materials are so prevalent, couples still believe a great relationship will be a peaceful one. They often feel invincible, especially in the early stages of marriage. This can lead them to deny the impact of stress and family history.
Many couples mistakenly think that loving each other means always getting along. But conflict is an inescapable part of marriage if the couple expects their relationship to grow and mature.
2. Resilient couples find help when they need it.
Many couples "go it" alone—trying to deal with their issues without getting outside help from a trusted source who can offer biblical encouragement, guidance, and support. Those are typically the couples who end up with broken relationships.
Larry and Sara had always been involved in small church groups, which had been invaluable sources of strength when difficult circumstances such as miscarriage and job loss came along. But when they felt more "out of control," such as Sara's shoe throwing, they knew it was a signal to seek professional help.
3. Resilient couples remember the good things about their marriage and each other.
"He's a good father to our boys," Sara mentioned when I asked them to list each other's good qualities. "And he's patient. He puts up with my quirks.”
"I love how loyal and passionate she is," Larry added. "Sometimes she goes overboard, but I know her heart's in the right place.”
The longer we talked, the more relaxed they became. "We're not quitters," Sara said. "When I see how many of our friends have crashed and burned in their marriages, I'm glad we've hung in there.”
Larry looked embarrassed but said, "We had no idea what we could endure as husband and wife. But we still love each other.”
Resilient couples choose to focus on the good as opposed to camping out on the bad.
4. Resilient couples accept the differences in their personalities, views, and ways of getting things done.
Sara entered marriage fearing the sharp conflict she'd watched her parents experience, while Larry came expecting the intimacy and commitment he'd seen his parents enjoy. For several years, they acted out based on the marriage models and communication styles they brought with them.
Sara tended to over-talk everything. Then if she felt Larry didn't "get it," she'd become angry. "When I try to talk to Larry," she told me, "he always seems to run and hide. He'll either collapse in the recliner and be sucked into the television, or he'll retreat to the computer room. When he does that, I feel like going ballistic, and sometimes do.”
Larry responded, "She has an opinion about everything, and when I don't engage in the conversation, she gets heated, so I retreat. Then she throws a shoe at me!"
Men and women really do have different needs.
For guys, we want to feel competent and needed. We want to feel respected. One friend of mine used to say, "Men are like dogs, they need three things: someone to feed them, play with them, and occasionally say, 'Good boy.’"
I encouraged Sara to be more mindful before sharing an opinion. She also became intentional about giving Larry positive feedback on things he did around the house and with the boys. She even began to find herself being more sexually provocative with him.
For women, the key is to help her feel valued and cherished. If she feels her husband can love her the way she is, then she feels more secure. When a man listens to his wife, without trying to fix her, for instance, he'll be amazed to see how she can engage him physically. Larry noticed that as he listened intently to Sara, she actually talked less. He even began to buy her flowers, knowing how much she appreciated the gesture.
Sara and Larry became more focused on their communication styles and began to senseless tension and more hope. Larry was choosing to stay connected and not withdraw, and Sara was trying to lower her intensity level.
"We're not the same," Sara mentioned. "And I'm starting to appreciate the fact that that can be a good thing.”
5. Resilient couples develop and maintain an internal locus (focus) of control rather than an external focus.
I asked Larry and Sara to recount some of the difficult times in their marriage and how they got through. They told me that six months into their marriage, Larry lost his job. It could have been devastating, especially since Sara's part-time job didn't bring in enough money to cover their bills. When many couples would take out their frustrations, fears, and worries on their spouse, Larry and Sara decided instead to focus on the possibilities.
"We knew we loved each other," Sara said. "It wasn't Larry's fault he was downsized. We weren't sure how it would work out, but we believed Larry would find a job and that God would lead us through this difficult time. And he did.”
"So what keeps you two together?" I finally asked them.
"I love him and want us to get better," Sara told me.
Larry agreed. "We believe God can and will help us work things out, but it's tough." They both took their marriage vows seriously and didn't want to become another statistic. They hoped to survive this rough time and were committed to the process.
6. Resilient couples manage their emotions.
Larry admitted to me that he can be a "control freak" at times. Sara, on the other hand, is a "free spirit.”
As the weeks went by, Larry and Sara started to focus on their personal responsibility for their portion of the relationship's troubles and move forward.
After Sara's fourth overdrawn check, Larry had had enough. Instead of blowing up or withdrawing from her, which had previously proved unsuccessful, Larry took another approach. He waited for a couple of days so he could calm down. Having a measure of control over his emotions, he could talk to her in a calm, rational way and they were able to resolve their money issues.
7. Resilient couples reinterpret past failures and use them as growing points instead of perennial negatives.
In other words, they look at past mistakes to make positive, life-changing applications.
Sara admitted she felt she had to punish Larry with angry outbursts to get him to do anything. As she worked on her side of the responsibility equation, she realized some of her anger was rooted in bitterness toward her dad. So Sara began to pay close attention to the things that could trigger her emotions. In the course of our counseling, she was able to see the hurts for what they were and began to come to terms with the damage. In the process, her feelings about Larry grew softer.
Both Sara and Larry let go of the old hurts and took active measures to reconnect. Larry is "staying in the room" when Sara is struggling. Sara is feeling more secure in her relationship with Larry as she sees the changes he's making. They use the words, I was wrong. I'm sorry I hurt you. Will you forgive me?
In the six weeks, they were in counseling with me, Larry and Sara were able to receive enough mercy and grace to forgive each other and make adjustments necessary to move forward
Today they report that shoes are no longer a weapon of choice, but something to wear.
Call to action:
Are you interested in getting help in your relationship? Feel free to email me: email@example.com
THE LEADERSHIP STYLE OF GENTLENESS
By Gayle Foster
I write about leadership. But today I want to focus on qualities that are not always associated with leadership. However, if you do not have these qualities no one will follow you. And if you have no followers you are not a leader. That’s pretty plain and simple.
The qualities are kindness, gentleness, humility and graciousness. Unfortunately for the segment of society that is most often associated with leadership, the cholerics, these qualities are often lacking. These qualities are often lacking in me.
Telling people what to do is not effective. It is offensive. No one wants to be told what to do. They want servant leadership, not dictatorship.
Using strong language to make a point only turns people off and offends their sensibilities. People seek shelter from a blast. They are never drawn to it.
Accusing others who do not get it of being stupid or lazy does not motivate anyone to change, it only motivates them to stay away from you. If someone has a different opinion than you, it does not make them stupid. And if you act like they are, you have completely lost your ability to win them over. If someone doesn’t do what you think they should do, it doesn’t make them lazy. It just means that you didn’t do a good job of motivating them.
Sarcasm is never an effective motivational tool with anyone. The only point it makes is that you are a toxic person who will hurt others.
Abruptness does not promote connection or conversation. It makes people feel devalued. It makes people feel like your thoughts and feelings and presence is not important. It makes people feel used. You got what YOU needed. You are done.
People will forgive almost anything except for arrogance. No one has a problem with people who make mistakes. Everyone has a problem with people who feel like they don’t.
If you want to make people pay, teach them a lesson, put them in their place, or make them feel like they made you feel , you will not only be a miserable person because you will be eaten up with bitterness, but no one will want to entrust themselves to you. They are not willing to pay the payment you will extract if they make a mistake.
Smugness does not prove a point. It only makes people want to slap you. If you get that look, you stand a better chance of people following you if you are wearing a paper sack over your face. You can turn people off without saying a word. You cannot lead or influence a person who is turned off by you. If you don’t know what “that look” is, I’m sure your spouse does. Ask them.
No one operates better under an atmosphere of guilt than they do under an atmosphere of praise. One of the best word mantras to live life by was written by Ken Blanchard in his classic book, “The One Minute Manager.” He said to “catch someone in the act of doing something good and tell them about it.”
Being opinionated is the opposite of being teachable. Even if you are completely correct, if you say it in such a way that puts everyone else down, people are not going to take your side.
People are more drawn to the way you relate to them than by what you say to them or what you have achieved. They will only follow someone who makes them feel safe.
Power is found in gentleness. Jesus said, “The meek will inherit the earth.” Kindness is the most motivating tool in the world. Humility will cause people to follow you through many mistakes. And graciousness will create an atmosphere that people will flock to.
If people are not following your leadership it is time to look inside. And the “you” in this entire post is directed toward me, Gayle Foster. I hope you have benefited by reading the private notes I wrote for my own benefit.
I would love to hear your thoughts on leadership styles and what is motivating or demotivating. Do you see anything that can be improved upon in yourself? Do you see where you have been hurt by someone trying to lead you and how things could have turned out differently. Let's all help each other.
Gayle Rogers Foster
Image by Caroline DePalatis.
Reflections on the Tribe 2017 Conference.
Tribe 2017 was not my first writer’s conference, but it is just what I needed at this junction in my life. Every writer’s conference I have attended has contributed to developing my craft by giving me tools, insights, and connections with others that broadened my horizons and given me the courage to push forward.
I have been a follower of Jeff Goins for a little over a year and appreciated the insight and energy that he brings to the table. When I began reading about the Tribe Conference 2017, I made it a priority to get myself over to Franklin, Tn for the event. Believe me, it was a great choice.
Tribe 2017 was different from the get-go in at least three ways. First, it was not billed as a Christian Writer’s Conference, while many believing people attended, I loved the fact that there was some meaningful cross-pollination. Second, the youthfulness and innovative tone of the presenters, as well as the Premium workshops gave me several insights in how to more effectively utilize the power of the internet to share my message. Third, the vibe of the Tribe, the genuine feeling that I was being invited to join a band of like-minded writers and other creatives who desire to share their stories with the world.
Jeff Goins thank you for listening to your mentors and putting yourself out there and inviting your Tribe to come along for a shared adventure.
Twenty-Five Stress Relief Tips
by John Thurman M.Div., M.A., LCMHC
I have literally just come back from a two week deployment as a Stress Counselor working with the FEMA Call Center in Denton, Tx. The folks at this facility take the calls from Hurricane survivors in all manner of stress, including life and death situations. My job was to be with them ans share tools and tips that could help them deal with the sometimes intense nature of the calls.
My freind, Maggie Anderson from Albuquerque is currently in Tx working with a ministry team to help the Harvey survivors begin the process of recovery, I am thankful for her photo.
Here are twenty-Four Stress Relief Tips.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know men and women are continually being bombarded with stress. Whether you are married or single, young or old, stress is an ever-present challenge. Stress-related illnesses are on the rise and have you noticed all of the sleep aid ads on television. With all of this stress we are faced with I thought it would be a good idea to give you Twenty-Five Stress Relieving Tips.
Today, I am in my hotel getting ready to go to work at the FEMA Call Center in Denton, Tx where I am detailed for a couple of weeks to work as a Stress Counselor. These people are on the phone 10 hours a day, seven days a week talking to survivors, helping people get their applications for FEMA support filled out correctly to get the callers what they need. I sincerely appreciate these folks, who have compassionate hearts. It is an honor to work with them. As the images of Irma flood out televisions and smart devices, the folks at the call center are preparing for the next wave of calls. Keep them as well as first responders, and survivors in your thoughts and prayers.
This is a second article concerning the components of resilient people, last week I wrote about the Two Traits of a Long-Term Marriage. Today I want to share a true story about a FEMA employee I met last hurricane season when I was working as a Stress Counselor at the JFO (Joint Field Office) in Baton Rouge last year.
I had been on the scene for a couple of days when a woman about my age asked if I would like to join some of the team mates for a cup of coffee and some homemade cookies. Being the “new Guy," I think they were trying to make me feel welcome in the very dynamic world of disaster response. I marvel at the team stories of what they had done over the years as they shared their FEMA stories. In FEMA land people identify their longevity by how many hurricanes they have experienced. As we begin to break up a couple of my new friends told me that I needed to speak to Deb (not her real name).
I introduced myself to Deb and asked about her FEMA story. Then I just engaged my listening ears and eyes as she began to unpack her story. In August of 2005 Hurricane Katrina unleashed her fury on Southern Louisiana in the days and weeks that followed a story of tremendous human suffering followed. Deb’s story begins here.
I lived near the 9th Ward, and shortly after the levee broke, my family and I found ourselves flooded out and stranded. Thanks to some strangers, we were rescued and eventually made our way to a shelter, after spending a night on a bridge. From there my children and I lived in a shelter for about a week, within a couple of weeks, we moved in with some friends outside of Baton Rouge to begin our lives again.
Once we settled in I heard the FEMA was hiring, so I applied. I was so excited when they told me that they would be calling me within a few days. And as sure as the sun rising this morning I had a job at FEMA within five weeks of being flooded out in New Orleans. I have loved working with this organization who care so much for survivors of natural disasters. After all, they helped my family, and I get our feet back under us, and now that my children are all grown up it gives meaningful work as well as some time to enjoy my grand babies.
Then it happened again. One night in August of 2016 one of my boys called me and asked me if my house was flooding. I told him that I was fine, and though it had been raining that I was high and dry. That was until I swung my feet over from my bed to my floor when I felt the water coming over my feet. I thought, not again. Well, guess what, again has happened. My home was flooded, and once again my son and some friends helped me get out of my house. Fortunately, what was left of my “precious things” that I recovered from the floods were up high on my walls and in a storage facility that was on higher ground. The only thing I lost was furniture and some clothes, and for that I am grateful.
Before the night was over several of my FEMA friends were calling me to check on my status. I ensured them that I was just fine and that I was with my boy. The office told me to take whatever time I needed to before coming back to work. Within a day of two, I decided to get back to my job which is helping others. My home was insured, I carry the Federal Flood Insurance, so there was no need for me to wait around for something to happen.
I asked Deb about what made her so resilient and gave her the persistence and tenacity to refuse to become a victim. Her eyes opened a little wider, and a smile quickly came upon her face. My people, my family, are a tough bunch. Over several generations my people have show grit in tough times. My grandmother used to tell me that no matter what happens you have to keep your chin up and look for better days ahead. You see, I know that no matter what happens to me, He is going to be there with me to guide me, strengthen me, and give me hope. I also know that He has given me this type of work to do at this phase of my life to be a help and a testimony to others.
What a powerful statement.
Today, as I am mentally preparing for the next few days of my FEMA deployment, I am grateful to know people like Deb. As we speak, I am sure that she is in Baton Rouge helping the survivors of Harvey and Irma.
So, when it comes to tenacity and perseverance how would you rate yourself? In a culture that is fixated on blame, do you find yourself drinking the Kool Aid of blame shifting or are you in a place where you own the space that you find yourself? Are you whining or winning? Are you developing tenacity and perseverance, or wallowing in self-pity and despair. The choice is yours; I hope you will choose the higher road.
I would love to hear your thoughts!
Two Traits of a Long-Term Marriage
by John Thurman
Perseverance and tenacity are two of the most important, least discussed, aspects of building and maintaining a long-term marriage. I should know, my wife, Angie and I recently celebrated our 45th anniversary. This year we took an anniversary trip to the Grand Canyon by train. We left Albuquerque on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief and got off the train at Williams Junction. The next day we took the Grand Canyon Railroad to the Canyon. We had a wonderful, memorable time celebrating this milestone, with great conversations, fun memories and moments of relaxation.
Over the years, young people have asked Angie and me about the secret of staying married for this long. She has been known to say something like, “John can quit on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I can quit on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Depending on which church service we attend, we confess our sins, we let the Lord know that we messed up, and so far he has given us the grace to move forward.
In all seriousness, if you stay married long enough you will go through various seasons. There will be warm Summers of recreation, joy, fun, and great memory building. There will be Fall seasons in your relationship when you will see things are moving toward a somber transition, some things like dreams, feelings of love may appear to be dying or at least losing their zest. Then there is Winter, a time when things could be very quiet, cold and apparently dead. Unfortunately, so many mistake this season in a relationship as final. Then comes the Spring, a time of new, fresh, growth, renewed hope and change.
One of the most important things that Angie and I have learned are that a couple cannot avoid these seasons. Way too many couples quit in the Fall and Winter seasons of their marriage. They lose hope, they quit.
The resilient couple, those who are tenacious and persevere, learn that these seasons are just seasons, nothing more. And with that resilient mindset they live and learn through the falls and winters to experience personal and couple growth.
Forty-five years ago we stood before the Lord, a preacher, as well as family and friends to repeat our vows. 45 years ago the vows were beautiful, vintage, romantic, and traditional words that gradually changed our lives.
Tenacious, preserving couples believe in the vows they said, and after forty-five years of multiple seasons, Angie and I can both say that we have and will continue to live out vows as long as we draw breath.
As I begin to wrap up this article, I would like you to take just a moment to review the meaning of perseverance and tenacity.
Perseverance comes from the eating word perseverance which means steadfast. In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it means - continued efforts to do or achieve something despite difficulties, challenges, and opposition.
Tenacity comes from the Latin word, tenacity and means not easily stopped or pulled apart. The Merrian-Webster dictionary means mental or moral strength to resist opposition, danger, or hardship. It also implies firmness of mind and will in the face of danger.
I am not sure where you are in your personal relationships or marriage, but I want to encourage you to hang in there. Billy Ocean, and I am dating myself, performed a song, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
Unfortunately, our culture is becoming a relationship wasteland. If people do not get what they want in a relationship, or if they are going through a hard time, they quit and go looking elsewhere.
I want to challenge you to do a gut check on yourself and about your relationship. Are you a person/couple who demonstrate tenacity and perseverance or are you a quitter.
Make the choice today to go for the long haul.
How? If you have made a mess of your marriage, confess your mess to God and your spouse, clean your mess up, and move forward.
Here are two articles that you might also enjoy: the first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal entitled Starts and Stops ; Ways to Keep Your Relationship Moving Forward. www.abqjournal.com/510859/headline-135-2.html
The Second,How to have a Happy Wife www.johnthurman.net/johns-blog/how-to-have-a-happy-wife
Would love to hear your thoughts, so let me hear your comments.
John is a Counselor, Author, Speaker and Photographer that helps people "Get a Grip on Life."