Monthly Archives: July 2011

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Divorce and Children: Protecting the Innocent

Divorce can become a very self-centered time for parents. I do not mean this in a judgmental way. There, but for the grace of God, go I. During my divorce, which took place over 25 years ago, I became so anxious for my own future, I didn’t take the time to empathize with my children’s experience and I believe they suffered as a result.

This is so sad because secure attachment for children is key to their healthy development and something like divorce can interrupt this attachment and in so doing, create anxiety, depression, under-achievement, behavioral and health problems for kids.

Research demonstrates that children who see their parents work to get along, during and post-divorce, fare just as well developmentally as children whose parents remain married. How sad that some divorcing parents, consciously or unconsciously, emotionally abuse their children by treating them as objects rather than human beings. They power-struggle with a tug-of-children that leaves the child internally conflicted with loyalties and betrayals; all this pain for a situation the kids did not ask for and had no control over.

We see this type of behavior when parents repetitively talk about time with their kids as “my time”. Sometimes they will power-struggle with each other about “my time with my child” and demand that any missed time must be made up because it belonged to one parent. As you can see, this is all about the parent and has no compassion for the experience of the child. Wouldn’t it be more child-centered to refer to that time as “our child’s time with me”?

Think and inquire about what your child needs from you as an innocent participant in the face of divorce. Instead of demanding, “Today Johnny is mine!”; you might request, “I think Johnny is really needing and wanting to spend some time with me. I also believe this is very important to his well-being and his growth.” Notice how this approach puts the child in the forefront, not you. When a child observes this type of behavior from a parent, the child does not experience being in the middle.

Also, no matter how contentious your divorce, it is imperative for the child (except, of course, for extreme reasons of physical and emotional threat) that the child be supported to maintain an ongoing relationship with each of his/her parents. When the child observes you being supportive of his/her relationship with the other parent, the child is liberated to continue in secure attachment and therefore, enjoy all the developmental gifts inherent in that process.

If you are divorcing and can not see the “parenting forest for the trees”, get some support from a Collaborative Child Specialist.  The Collaborative Child Specialist is a licensed clinical mental health professional with specialized training and experience in working with children.  Unlike a court evaluator or a parenting coordinator, the Child Specialist does not assess, evaluate or make recommendations. The Child Specialist is neutral to both parents and an advocate for the children. One of the major advantages of the Collaborative Process is to build upon the strengths and cooperation of the parents so they can become more aware of the challenges their child faces in divorce; prioritize those challenges, and then share their commonly held value of their child’s well-being  to work together to meet the needs of their child.

Parents are more receptive to hearing information about their children because they know that the Specialist is not in a position of “choosing” which of them is the best parent, but is only there to be a voice for their children.  Parents then have the responsibility of taking that valuable information about their child to heart so that they can make the necessary co-parenting adjustments that puts the child in the forefront.

A Collaborative Child Specialist is a precious gift to both children and parents of divorce. Seek a Collaborative Divorce and receive this professional feedback for the good of your children. You can find all the information you need on the websites of the Collaborative Divorce Institute: http://www.collabortivedivorceinstitiute.com and International Academy of Collaborative Professionals: http://www.collaborativepractice.com/.


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The Precious Spirit of Aloha

I am spending some vacation time on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. This is such a pristine and relaxing environment, one is motivated to literally breathe easy. Breathing easy is actually an alternative phrase for the word aloha.

Aloha is a commonly used word for “hello” and “good-bye” that tourists say when they are visiting the Hawaiian Islands.  However, “Aloha” means much more than hello or good-bye. Aloha is an extension of your loving inner spirit and it leads us to a powerful way to resolve a problem, accomplish a goal, and to reach a peaceful state of mind.

In the Hawaiian language, aloha is actually a compound word which includes both  “the sharing (alo) of joy (oha) and/or being in the present (alo) to exchange life energy (ha).” As you exchange this energy with others you become attuned to the spirituality that the Hawaiians call mana. According to Hawaiian tradition, the loving use of this incredible power is the secret for attaining true health, happiness, prosperity and success.

The way to tune into this energy and have it work for you is so simple that you might pooh-pooh the concept. What do you have to lose? Take the time to try it out. According to Hawaiian culture, this is the most powerful technique in the world. Although it appears to  be extremely simple, it may not prove easy because you must remember to do it and you have to do it a lot.

It is a secret which has been given to humanity over and over again. The secret, according to Shaman Serge Kahili King, is this: “Bless everyone and everything that represents what you want.” He maintains that to bless something means to give recognition or emphasis to a positive quality, characteristic or condition, with the intent that what is recognized or emphasized will increase, endure or come into being.

Blessing is effective in changing your life or getting what you want for three reasons. First of all, the positive focus of your mind stirs up your own positive creativity; secondly it moves this dynamic energy outward; thirdly, when you bless for the benefit of others instead of directly for yourself, you tend to rise above any subconscious fears about what you want for yourself, so that the focus on the blessing acts to increase the same good in your own life. What is so beautiful about this process is that the blessing you do for others is a reciprocal process that helps you as well.

In order to gain the benefit from blessing, you will have to give up or cut way down on the one thing that negates it: negative thinking. This includes criticizing instead of acknowledging; doubting instead of affirming; blaming instead of appreciating; and worrying instead of anticipating with hope and trust. According to the spirit of Aloha, these negative thoughts tend to cancel out some of the effects of blessing. So the more you negate, the harder it will be and the longer it will take to receive the good from a blessing.

Mr. King also shares the technique practiced by Hawaiian shamans which enhances your power to bless by increasing your positive, personal energy. It is a simple way of breathing that is also used for grounding, centering, meditation and healing. It requires no special place or posture, and may be done while moving or still, busy or resting, with eyes open or closed. In Hawaiian the technique is called pikopiko. Piko means both the crown of the head and the navel.

The Technique
1. Become aware of your natural breathing (it might change on its own just because of your awareness).

2. Locate the crown of your head and your navel by awareness and/or touch.

3. Now, as you inhale put your attention on the crown of your head; and as you exhale put your attention on your navel. Keep breathing this way for as long as you like.

4. When you feel relaxed, centered, and/or energized, begin imagining that you are surrounded with an invisible cloud of light or an energy field, and that with each breath the energy of this cloud or field increases.

5. As you bless, imagine that the object of your blessing is surrounded with some of the same energy that surrounds you.

Aloha seems to be indescribable, and undefinable with words alone; to be understood, it must be experienced. Aloha has deeper meaning and sacredness than is inferred by how we tend to use the word. One thing seems to be certain when one delves a bit deeper into what the word “Aloha” represents”; it is an invocation of and a connection to the Divine that dwells within all of us.


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Stress andTrauma: Second-Hand Shock

Here is an excerpt from our book Second-Hand Shock: Surviving and Overcoming Vicarious Trauma. Co-author Vicki Carpel Miller, BSN, MS, LMFT and I hope you find it to be informative and helpful.

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire

We have all heard of Second-Hand smoke.  What image does that conjure up for you?  Let us put you in a room with a heavy smoker.  You are breathing in the smoky air.  As you inhale, it irritates your nose, your mouth, your lungs, your bloodstream; it smells and remains on your skin, your hair and your clothes.  After a while, you might start wheezing or coughing; your eyes may become irritated.  Then, it may become difficult to breathe.  Prolonged exposure creates a greater risk for adversely affecting your health and well- being, perhaps causing damage to your heart and your brain.  Inhaling smoke over time may cause you to develop asthma, emphysema, chronic pulmonary disorder, cancer and the like.   Let’s look at how the experience of absorbing trauma, second-hand, is equally as dangerous.

The experience of absorbing trauma, second-hand, is much the same as the second-hand smoke example.  The person who experiences the primary trauma (in our example, the smoker) may be adversely affected by a syndrome called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  The primary trauma survivor is the one who was in the car accident, at the disaster, caught in the storm, fighting the war, being abused or abandoned by a parent, a spouse, or suffering the rape, the robbery or the attack.  They are having the event directly happen to them. The heroes and caregivers who are called upon to help, listen, observe, intervene, guide and care are exposed to that same trauma, second-hand and over time, are at risk for Second-Hand Shock Syndrome (SHSS).

We believe that Second-Hand Shock Syndrome is a spectrum disorder that encompasses a wide range of physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual effects from the indirect experience of trauma much like being in the presence of a smoker creates the experience of second-hand smoke. Over time, this can indirectly create disease in its recipient.  The effects of trauma are secondarily contagious, adversely affecting your body, mind and spirit.

An Epidemic?

We believe that there are many millions of people struggling with some form of Second- Hand Shock Syndrome; both professional and lay persons.  We are all exposed to trauma daily, many times a day. The news, radio talk shows, instant information via the Internet continue to feed us copious doses of trauma-content while we have little consciousness of the fact that we are even being traumatized; much less what the trauma content is doing to our health and well-being.

When we are first indirectly exposed to trauma, our brain begins to paint an empathic picture for us by the activation of mirror neurons in the visual cortex, We ‘see’ the event as if it were happening to us. A series of bio-physiological events then occurs which results in the spilling out of chemicals into our bloodstream and throughout our body. This chemical chain reaction ultimately concludes with the over-production of cortisol, which is attributed to the onset of many serious physical illnesses.

We believe many people are currently being treated for the symptoms of Second-Hand Shock Syndrome, which can be confused with other illnesses.  Many folks are receiving treatment for arthritis, cancer, heart disease, obesity, anxiety and depression, who likely began their downhill descent with some form of Second-Hand Shock Syndrome. We think it needs to become a recognized diagnosis and we believe that if people began to acknowledge and control the chronic intrusion of trauma content in their lives; their physical health would improve. It would also save our ailing health-care system billions of dollars.

If you are a caring listener, please take care of yourself. Trauma-content stories can be hazardous to your health. Educate yourself about Second-Hand Shock. Please check out our website: www.vicarioustrauma.com.