Malinda Davenport-Crisp, PhD, LPC/MHSP 

Licensed Professional Counselor - Mental Health Service Provider  

 

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Trauma focused counseling brings about relief

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Arguing: Are you getting your needs met?

Posted by MalindaDavenport on January 4, 2013 at 7:15 PM Comments comments (238)

“When we understand the needs that motivate our own and others behavior, we have no enemies.” Marshall Rosenberg

 

Have you noticed that even when we employ our best efforts to abide by the rules of communication, we can end conversations feeling invalidated and unheard? Those televised political debates and the social networking entanglements or diatribes, have highlighted a breakdown of magnificent proportions. It appears that judging, diagnosing, and criticizing are the typical ways we have been trained to respond to perspectives not our own. When I personally operate using those strategies, I am often ignored, misunderstood, argued against, and offended. Stranger still, I sometimes feel a strange heat of empowerment when blazing those judgmental, righteous opinions myself, especially if I can “back it up” with statistics and words like it’s about truth, God, or “right.”

 

During a debate or argument, at some intersection, I become lost or consumed in a fog of the other’s wrongness and my own rightness. Being right feels like a drug dispensing a promise of superiority. When arguing my rightness, I can’t imagine any other way but my own in meeting those basic universal needs. Any roadblocks on my side are minimized, and discrepancies on the other side are exaggerated in order to further validate my compulsion to be right. Finally, when I calm down, I feel a second of disgust or disillusionment, because no one won, mostly neither party was fully heard or respected.

 

When I point fingers, I don’t know about you, but I feel the oft heavy weight of the reality that we are all connected, and the opposite is true as well - when someone loses, in many respects, we both lose. Regarding the topic of communication , psychologist Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, stated it well:

“I would like to suggest that when our heads are filled with judgments and analyses that others are bad, greedy, irresponsible, lying, cheating, polluting the environment, valuing profit more than life, or behaving in other ways they shouldn’t, very few of them will be interested in our needs. If we want to protect the environment, and we go to a corporate executive with the attitude, “You know, you are really a killer of the planet, you have no right to abuse the land in this way,” we have severely impaired our chances of getting our needs met. It is a rare human being who can maintain focus on our needs when we are expressing them through images of their wrongness.”

 

I had an opportunity to test my own communication skills by being in an argument recently. In this case, I had a difficult time hearing criticism in the form of how I didn’t live up to the expectations that another had of me. There were “transgressions” on both sides (imagine that as an excuse!) since the other party had in actuality not lived up to mine either. And I told them so, which said accusation flew like a lead balloon.

 

What was going on? As with every argument, each person has their perspective and assertions. I saw discrepancies in what they were telling me; they were committing a transgression against me! FYI, I am no brain surgeon but I know Truth and deception, I can feel it in my bones. Yet, alas, I was set adrift into the rightness fog. God showed up I am glad to say and reminded me in that still small voice that I was not lost, I indeed had enough insight to recognize I needed to locate and use my compass.

 

That day, I reminded myself that all humans have more in common than we often believe we do. I found my compassion. In fact, reality is we each have the same needs. Empathy made me recognize our conflict was in how we were getting these needs met. The defensiveness came because neither one of us in the heat of the moment could see that we both could possibly work out a win-win mutually satisfying outcome. The verbalization and diagnosis of rightness and wrongness that was the fuel of the argument fire was the death nail. No more discussion.

Now maybe I wanted there to be a death nail. In that case, end of story. However, what if I wanted to work out issues for a basis of developing / maintaining a mutually workable relationship? If we had a “mulligan” or a “redo,” I would suggest that we discuss what we were feeling and what we needed to solve this problem. Rosenberg states that pain, fear, hurt and anger are tragic expressions of unmet needs.

If we ever get through the “rightness & wrongness” roadblock, we might be able to develop a plan to meet the actual need. The fear of not having the need met, or not valued, made us not ask for it to be met more clearly- “we have not, because we ask not.” Asking for what would make our lives more wonderful is hard sometimes. I don’t know if, in that moment, I could have found the words to express it. Plus what if they decide they won’t do it? That would be a hit. But if we don’t ask clearly, it most likely won’t be met. I would love to live in a world where folks can realize their needs can operate with the goal to work together for a win-win solution without beating the tar out of one another like enemies.

Toward a Recovered Church

Posted by MalindaDavenport on June 20, 2012 at 8:40 AM Comments comments (55)

Church ‘should’ be a healing community, at least, that is our hope. But it is a hope that often conflicts with our actual experiences.

 

We often use ineffective strategies to get our needs met. Some of these strategies take the form of ‘cognitive distortions’ which are exaggerated and irrational thoughts that perpetuate our difficulties. For instance, people criticize religious people and church in many venues, with various motives and agendas. The goal it appears is to cajole church into being something different, better, less, more, etc... such that "church should be ____ (fill in the blank).  But is it really helpful to “should” on an institution like church? Is it even possible for us to “should” on church with a pure agenda? The media surely tries.

 

Here “should” refers to a psychological term by Clayton Barbeau to describe one type of cognitive distortion of our expectations versus the reality of our experience. But when it involves church, we should be able to “should” on it, right!? Church is that place where we have put so many ideas of our best hopes and largest ideas of virtue on an entity. Church should be fair game, maybe it's slanderous, maybe its scandalous. But for folks who see the issues from the inside, we can often agree with the allegations.

 

There are two forms of ‘should-ing on church’. First, it can mean what we expect church to be doing. We say the church is supposed to be a special agent in society used by God to meet human need. Are they living up to the mission? We are always asking questions on whether it has fulfilled its special task and calling. Furthermore, each one of us has an opinion of what doing the right thing “looks like” at church despite budgetary, vision statement, personnel, training, time, or even, moral constraints.

 

The second form of ‘should-ing’ speaks of our own experience. We can easily do the second form of “should-ing” as we repeatedly rehearse the past ills done by church. These forms of ‘should-ing on church’ appear to stem from a patterned need that we have for alleviating guilt, or even a hope that we can gain approval from others who also have come to recognize that something stinks in Scotland. Moreover, there is an urge we often personally channel seen in our wider culture to ‘beat up on’ church because it has had so many great resources and has dropped the ball so egregiously. We hope the 'jackeling' (a habituated pattern of name-calling), attacking, defending, and running away, which alienates us from life and disconnects us from community, will make the church turn from it’s wicked ways and be the way it ‘should be’. That something reflects resentments that we believe in our gut to be what is wrong with the way we “do church.”

 

I would suggest there is a bigger issue... because of something grimmer... Our concern is ultimately the conundrum in our human condition. We can’t simply “should” or compulsively push our opinions on church in an effort to bully church people into acting better or the way we think they should. If that were possible, it would have already transpired… and probably transpired thousands of years ago! It is our ultimate powerlessness that rivets us. We often express the reality of the powerlessness concerning our broken humanity by reflecting our personal pain onto others, even church. And the more we try to punish church, even with all the ‘shoulds,’ the more we end up furthering our own dysfunction. Part of the issue is that we see “church” as something apart from who we are. We as believers are the church and so it reflects us.

 

Is it that ‘the church can be a healing place, if people were not so broken’ or is it better stated that ‘the church can be a healing place if we as a people could better accept our common brokenness and embrace that with each other to give space to promote healing? Alas, that is the problem... People make up the church. And People are broken. So we as believers walking in need of, and sometimes in fear of, community, are able to make a recovered church. Well, with God’s help and our willingness, we can.

 

A church that I can believe in, is one that operates under principles and traditions that are solid, proven strategies of helping broken people seek and find peace with God, serenity within themselves, and connection with others. The only pre-requisite is willingness to walk this out. It is rooted in an admission that we are powerless, really, over that basic level brokenness and that there is a power greater than ourselves that can restore us to sanity. The brokenness that stems from our human condition, is woundedness that only the Great Physician can heal through His spirit and His recovered community, what we call church.

 

I would like to write in future blogs about the principles which are greater than personalities within the recovered church which make authentic reconciliation to God, ourselves, and others possible.

 

A final note. The most frequent result of should-ing is procrastination. If we find faults, we just decide to do nothing. Ever see that in church??

The Science of Addiction

Posted by MalindaDavenport on April 25, 2012 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (38)

The science of addiction is fascinating. I recently read an article on the website, "How Stuff Works" called How Addiction Works that gave a quick, yet accurate assessment. I have worked with so many individuals, highly motivated, to quit all kinds of addictive mood altering substances and processes. The recidivism (rate of return) is astronomical and confounding. In my research and experience, it takes more than willpower, motivation, self efficacy, and support for long term recovery.  

Addiction is an area I specialize in helping individuals uncover and bring healing into points of entry where addiction gained its stronghold which can be viewed as a traumatizing event. These can be "little t" traumas such as hearing a statement made by a loved-one in the heat of the moment that affected your self -esteem, an argument or fight you witnessed, or a scary situation or turn of events.   Entry points can also stem from experiencing a car accident where someone was killed or maimed, being in a war and seeing action, being assaulted, etc. You get the point, I hope. 

Trauma is witnessed differently by different people. People hold memories in their body and feel sensations differently. All people who have these experiences deserve relief. Relief through healing is preferable to relief through acting out in addiction. Yet addiction feels so good and it tends to bring immediate results. I totally understand that if a human's options are only two in number so that you have to either feel crappy or feel good than I see where feeling good would win... all the time! But feeling good can come through treatment of trauma. There is hope!

I see healing occur through the use of two types of treatment modals. One I use is Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The other is called EMDR also known as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. If you are interested I suggest you do some research and/or call me. EMDR grants the person alleviation of symptoms rather quickly (to varying degrees) while the Trauma-focused CBT brings about greater insight and awareness as well as symptom relief over a bit longer duration in therapy than EMDR typically.

The science of addiction is facinating. However, I hope we all will be motivated to seek the help and support for any issue in their lives before they get to the point of disruption that typically occurs when people come into my counseling office struggling with the ill effects of addiction. Quality of life counseling and prevention are so rare... that's another blog!  


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