The Pierson Wildlife Museum and Learning Center is a one-of-a-kind educational display of big game trophies harvested all over the world by Dr. Kenneth Pierson. You can expect to see world class taxidermy of 100 full-body mounts and 50 head mounts. His collection includes the Big Five, the Grand Slam, and a western black rhino. Dr. Pierson was also an avid reader with a vast library that includes many first edition leather bound books. His collection includes numerous ones by President Theodore Roosevelt but also includes several by Henry Morton Stanley, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” The Pierson Wildlife Museum and Learning Center is a one-of-a-kind educational display of big game trophies harvested all over the world by Dr. Kenneth Pierson. You can expect to see world class taxidermy of 100 full-body mounts and 50 head mounts. His collection includes the Big Five, the Grand Slam, and a western black rhino. Dr. Pierson was also an avid reader with a vast library that includes many first edition leather bound books. His collection includes numerous ones by President Theodore Roosevelt but also includes several by Henry Morton Stanley, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”
The issue of gun control has been an on-going situation over the years, but has gained increased attention due to recent events. Over the past few weeks there has been much attention given to tougher laws, increased mental health screenings and increased security. I want to take time to address the complicated issue of gun control from one social worker’s perspective and take the discussion on this issue in perhaps a different direction than where it has been going so far.
I want to point out a myth that this debate has brought out. A myth that has come out is that mass murders are committed by seriously mentally ill people. In an article by Michael B. Friedman that appeared in the January 17, 2013 edition of the Huffington Post, Friedman points out that people with mental illness are not likely to be violent and that acts of mass murder are carried out by some who are mentally ill, but these types of acts are also likely to be carried out by those who are not mentally ill. This is an important point to make because there have been calls for increased attention to those with mental illness. Does this mean that people who have identified themselves as having issues with mental health have limited rights? I am not talking about the right for a person with mental health issues to own a gun, but rather are persons with mental health issues going to be labeled violent and have their access limited to the community at large? This is a question that remains to be addressed in the debate.
Aside from the issue of mental health and gun use, I want to bring out a deeper discussion of why people may choose to use violence to deal with some situations. I have pondered this for some time and have wondered how much the role of shame has played in a person’s choice to use violence over other options. First, I need to define a key difference between shame and guilt. The word shame is defined per the Social Work Dictionary 5th edition (Baker 2003) as:
A painful feeling of having disgraced or dishonored oneself or those one cares about because of an intentional act, involuntary behavior or circumstance.
Guilt is defined per the Social Work Dictionary 5th edition (Baker 2003) as: An emotional reaction to the perceptions of having done something wrong, having failed to do something or violating important social norms.
When you look at these two definitions there is an important difference between the two states. Guilt is an emotional reaction to violating social norms and to put it simply says “I did something bad.” Shame on the other hand is a much deeper feeling in which a person internalizes feelings of negative self worth. Basically, shame says “I am a bad person.”
When I look at the incidents of mass violence and violence in general, I have wondered if the person or persons committing the violence have experienced shame in some way. My point is that if shame is left unattended and not dealt with, that a person may choose to use violence to deal with the feeling of being wronged or slighted by others. This choice may not be used for a few incidents, but over time if a person experiences many incidents of being wronged either by others, systems or even by themselves they may feel the only way around these intense feelings is to hurt others to feel vindicated. The other issue that is related to shame is power or the lack of it. When a person lacks the power to make changes to deal with the shame they have experienced they may choose violence as a way to achieve power. For me the issue of gun control is more than banning guns or not, it is more about looking at why people choose to use violence in the first place. I believe that when the underlying issues of violence are addressed, you may see a reduction in all violence in general. I also believe that when a person is given the chance to be heard and they are able to get their story out, it goes a long way to reducing the feelings of shame and guilt that if left unchecked can lead to violence . Brené Brown, Ph.D. has done some excellent work on vulnerability and work on shame. I have included a link to her work on shame. She addresses the issue of how shame impacts our lives. She has focused her work on listening to people’s stories and learning about what pain they have been through as well as what people have done to deal with these intense feelings. http://www.brenebrown.com/videos
When you get to the site, please click on the “listening to shame” video. I have stated this in a previous post on new path notes that I believe it is very important for people of all ages to have a safe place and a safe person in which to share their hurts. I believe if a person is truly heard the feelings of shame and hurt can be reduced. I am speaking of all violence types not just those involving guns. When people start to deal with the feelings that are behind the violence, violence can be reduced. When people are given the chance to be heard they begin to heal. Please remember that there are people out there willing to listen to what is going on in your life. All you need to is start asking people to listen. I wish the best to you all!!
Stress is a common and normal part of everyday life. We experience stress as a result of job, school, family, social and other life events. Stress in small amounts for a short period of time can be of some help, spurring us on to complete tasks and meet goals. When stress is prolonged over a long period of time and continuous, stress can cause major issues mentally and physically. This piece is meant to provide some insight on how to deal with a particularly stressful time of year, the holiday season.
The holiday season tends to be a more stressful time than other times of the year, assuming that the other times of the year are not filed with major life event stressors. The reason the holidays tend to be a more stressful time of year is due to several factors:
1. The demands of entertaining or being involved with many events 2. Financial because of all the demands to purchase gifts especially if a person is on a tight budget 3. Depression due to the loss of loved ones who would normally share in the holiday events 4. Feelings of guilt over saying no to many invitations to events 5. Dealing with feelings of anger or hurt over past wrongs committed against us by family
The list above names just a few reasons we would feel more stress around the holiday times. It is important to remember that we experience stress all year long, but the holidays tend to be more stressful because all of the stress we feel during the year tends to build up, and the flurry of events that entail the season are all compacted into a very short time. In other words, too much to do and not enough time to do it. Here are some ways to lessen the stress of a very hectic season:
1. Learn to understand what your body is telling you. When a person feels stress, the body is the indicator of what is going on. Signs such as headaches, upset stomach, clenching teeth and fatigue can all be signs of the body and mind being under stress. Learn to recognize what your body is telling you. These signs may mean you need to back off a bit and take it easy.
2. Take time for yourself. This can be easier said than done, but if you make a conscious effort you can take time for yourself. When people fail to do this, the holidays can overwhelm them and they may not be able to rest mentally and physically. Make an effort to take breaks in a busy day; remember to breath deep and let it out slow.
3. Communicate, communicate, communicate! If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, talk with others and let them know how you are feeling. Often, talking with other people is very helpful in stress reduction, as you may find others who share your issues. You learn that you are not alone in the holiday process.
4. Exercise. Along with taking time for you is exercising. Sometimes, in the middle of the rush, people forget to go for a good walk or take time to stretch. Exercise is a great way to keep yourself fit and reduce stress. Exercise can also be done as a fun holiday activity with family and friends after dinner or events.
5. Do not feel guilty about setting limits. You know how much you can deal with. Do not let feelings of guilt let you take on more than you can handle. Set some limits and say no if need be. If you do not set some limits on your time, your time will be taken from you and you will not be able to be at your best.
6. Understand that you may experience feelings of loss, especially if you have lost loved ones who would normally be a part of annual family gatherings. Understand that it is normal to feel sad at times due to the loss and know that it is important to share your thoughts and feelings about this with others.
7. Please, please do not be afraid to seek out professional help if needed. So many times people feel guilty or ashamed to seek out professional help at this time of year. Know that it is alright to ask for help, and others have done this in the past. Asking for help does not mean you are weak or soft; it is healthy to do this. There are many places to reach out to, like crisis hot lines, shelters and hospitals. It is my hope that in this holiday season you are able to reduce your stress and enjoy time with others. Remember that there is help available for all who need it.
Over the past few weeks, the term of self-efficacy has been on my mind. This has come from a combination of media attention about kids struggling in school and a continuing education course I am currently taking on the basics of the addiction process. What has continually come to light for me is the longer people are left to fail, the more likely they are to develop an attitude that they can never succeed in life. This attitude of failure can be exacerbated by things said or little things that are done to individuals. I wanted to take time to first define what self-efficacy is and give my thoughts on what will increase it.
According to the Social Work Dictionary 5th edition 2003, self-efficacy is defined as follows: A client’s expectations or beliefs in his or her ability to accomplish specified tasks that are needed to reach therapeutic goals.
This means that if a person has an expectation of success or mastery of a given skill, the more likely they will accomplish the task given them. The opposite would be true if the person experienced repeated failure at a given task. The main point here is that people do not master tasks overnight, and that success is truly a journey if I may coin a phrase. The same can be said of failure, that it can be a journey as well. People who experience long-term failure can develop low self-efficacy; thus, when help is provided, it may take longer for them to develop a sense of accomplishment.
It is important to understand that, when dealing with people who have experienced long-term failure, they may not respond to well-intentioned intervention or assistance. The key is to start where the person is at, and to help them achieve small successes and then build on these. One other important point to make is that people need support when they fail to try again and again. I believe it is so important to help people find a safe place where they are allowed learn from failure and find small successes.
I posted last in May of 2012 on life skills 2.0 what I have learned along the way. I mentioned in that post of the importance of finding a safe place. I meant that whole-heartedly because a safe place or even a person is where you can go to recharge your spirit and fight on another day. People will and do experience failure, but they can learn to succeed if given support to do so.