Forgiving Our Families

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“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” ~  Lewis B. Smedes

It’s not hard to own the hurts we suffered as children and adolescents.  Often, they are packed away in the suitcases that carry us away from home and out into the world.

Quarrels, punishments, being discounted and being treated unfairly are taken along with all the necessities, gifts and treasures.  We make promises to ourselves saying that we will NEVER treat our kids the way our family treated us.  Scott Fitzgerald likens these wounds to ‘splits in the skin that won’t heal’.  So we arrive at our destination, unpack, and neatly tuck them away as well earned, lifelong resentments.  They become poisonous possessions.

“Sticking with your family is what makes it a family.” ~ Mitch Albom

Forgiving family members for the cruelties, meanness and injustice we suffered is not absolving them for those behaviors.  A friend of mine had a difficult childhood with a mother who was filled with anger and pain.  Her loving responses always came with strings attached.  She was rarely fair to her little girl and often filled her with shame and guilt.

My friend struggled and kept going back for more, sometimes doubting her own quality of mothering with her children.  Finally, she determined to have a relationship with her mother that had clearly defined boundaries.  She made a profession of forgiveness to her mother and extended forgiven-ness to herself.  She loves her mother from a safe distance and has released herself from bondage.

Visits back home do not allow for putdowns or guilt trips.  Her family and memories as restored treasures since she emptied out the packed away resentments and claimed freedom.

The work of healing cannot begin until we find it in our hearts to let go.  Family is a gift presented to us by a loving God.  These are the people who know us best and with whom we are most deeply connected.  We must find ways to stick together.

_____________________

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_team_member admin_label=”Robert Kenneth Jones” name=”Robert Kenneth Jones” position=”Columnist” image_url=”https://chaplainusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/robert.jpg” facebook_url=”https://www.facebook.com/KenJonesBoy” linkedin_url=”https://www.linkedin.com/in/robert-kenneth-jones-8861183/” _builder_version=”3.0.101″ global_module=”26968″ saved_tabs=”all”]

Robert Kenneth Jones is an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse.

In a career spanning over four decades, his work helping people recover from childhood abuse and addiction has earned him the respect of his peers.

His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration and meditation.

Contact Bob Jones on Linkedin

Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast

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Tell Your Stories on Memorial Day

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“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.“ ~ Theodore Roosevelt

Memorial Day weekend is here.

We are leaving in planes, trains and automobiles to celebrate the unofficial start of summer.  Of course, there are more somber reasons for this holiday.  The observance began three years after the end of The Civil War in response to neglected graves of soldiers who gave their lives for cause and country.

The original May 30 date for ‘Decoration Day’ (as it was originally called) has been changed.  We now recognize and honor all of those who died in wars and in peacetime.  We put flowers on the resting places of parents, grandparents, children, relatives and friends.  Memorial Day has certainly expanded.

“If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Memorial Day reminds me of who I am.  Each of us comes as a reflection of generations.  Our ancestors are there in the lines and creases, the smiles and the color of our eyes.  Even the inflections of our speech and sense of humor belongs not only to us.  I am made up of their memories.  One of the things we might do on this weekend is to share those memories with family members.

What a fitting time this holiday weekend is to tell stories that will honor who we are and who we bring with us. I wish I had listened more closely to the ones that were told when I was a boy. Like so many people, I wish there was a recording of Dad’s voice, his reflections on his service during the war, his perspectives on peace and stories of his childhood.  I long for Mom’s recollections of being a girl and rebelling against her own mother and father.

So, I encourage everyone to spend some time at family gatherings this weekend to tell folks about your adventures and misadventures, to share your memories.  You may have to wrestle the younger ones to the ground, bribe them with ice cream or catch them at bedtime.  But now is the time.  Don’t wait because someday, someone might be happy that they listened.

Today I will start to tell my stories.  I will bless my ancestors by passing them on.

 

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Robert Kenneth Jones is an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse.

In a career spanning over four decades, his work helping people recover from childhood abuse and addiction has earned him the respect of his peers.

His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration and meditation.

Contact Bob Jones on Linkedin

Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast

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Finding My Neighbor

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We become neighbors when we are willing to cross the road for one another.  There is so much separation and segregation: between black people and white people, between gay people and straight people, between young people and old people, between sick people and healthy people, between prisoners and free people, between Jews and Gentiles, Muslims and Christians, Protestants and Catholics, Greek Catholics and Latin Catholics.  There is a lot of road crossing to do. ~ Henri Nouwen

Who is my neighbor? The question is never satisfied with a qualified answer. For some reason we struggle with it in so many ways.  Gun violence and murder in our schools, Black lives matter, Blue lives matter, and a cry of #metoo all plead the same question.  It has resonated in the hearts of people for more than two thousand years.  It can even be found as a scriptural directive.

Bishop Michael Curry told us about the great commandment of love at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.  He said; “Jesus of Nazareth on one occasion was asked by a lawyer to sum up the essence of the teachings of Moses, and he went back and reached back into the Hebrew scriptures to Deuteronomy and Leviticus and Jesus said you shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.”

The Good Samaritan shows us how to become a neighbor.  He crosses the road to help a stranger and takes the risk of reaching out to a perceived enemy.  The injured victim becomes a neighbor.  He is given kindness and compassion by a stranger where he had been ignored or avoided by his own people.  The neighbor generously rises above community expectations and common practice both in giving and receiving.

Who is my neighbor today?  Possibilities for an answer will be presented to us around every corner.  We will have chances to cross the road on more than one occasion.  That friend who has become an irritation is waiting for the hand of forgiveness.  The young person who looked so threatening could use an encouraging word.

The one who celebrates a religious practice unlike our own can be asked to lunch for an enlightening exchange of ideas.  The person of another race seeks our genuine brotherhood.  We cannot hope to receive love if we are not willing to give it.  We cannot claim to be members of the human family if we do not rise above that which causes separation.  We must cross the road and become a neighbor.

The world is waiting. Someday we will discover that everyone is our neighbor.

______________________________________

Photo by Elijah Macleod on Unsplash

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Robert Kenneth Jones is an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse.

In a career spanning over four decades, his work helping people recover from childhood abuse and addiction has earned him the respect of his peers.

His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration and meditation.

Contact Bob Jones on Linkedin

Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast

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How Trauma Is Killing Us: Understanding Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES)

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“If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.” ~ Richard Rohr

Another tragic mass shooting resulted in the deaths of ten people at Santa Fe High School near Houston on Friday May 19, 2018. There have been 22 school shootings so far this year where someone was injured or died.

It is hard to comprehend.  There has been more than one shooting each week. What is going on? Our children are killing each other in a very public forum at the places where nurturing, learning and growing into good citizens should be happening for them all.

Instead, the threat and fear of death and violence is following them into every classroom.  Why do we adults seem powerless to put measures into effect that would change the situation immediately? We seem to be passively accepting that this is the new normal…that nobody is safe anywhere.  Of course, this is not true. My sense is that we are overwhelmed and don’t understand that unimaginable pain, mental illness and trauma are culprits behind all the violence.

I have learned a lot about (and from) kids through my professional involvement over the past four decades. Even though I would love to pour all of my experiences and wisdom shared by mentors and the kids themselves regarding childhood trauma into these pages, there would never be enough room.  So allow me to synthesize some of what I know about violent children and relate it to school shootings.

  1. Childhood trauma is an underpinning of the rage which creates horrific violence.
  2. Traumatized kids cannot imagine a future without more pain. Usually they lead lives filled with current conditions of chaos and unpredictability leaving them continually re-damaged.
  3. Aggressive behavior is the last survival behavior a kid uses. He has already tried to find relief in every other way.
  4. No hopeful kid ever picked up guns or explosives, took them to school, and started a killing spree. Only hopelessness can create it.
  5. No kid ever thought that killing his classmates and teachers would bring him attention and fame. He just wanted to die.

“The status quo is only interested in incessant judging, comparisons, measuring, scapegoating and competition.” ~ Gregory Boyle

In each case, experts have lined up to offer all kinds of solutions.  Mostly they involve gun control of one kind or another on one side and the arming/hardening of schools on the other.  We seem to be stuck in debates which lead to very little action.  Unfortunately, almost all of the proposals are reactive.  Rather than putting our efforts into primary prevention, we seem bent on expending massive resources fighting a losing battle against the NRA or by turning schools into impenetrable fortresses.  I wrote a column several weeks ago about the folly of these tertiary interventions as they apply to our addiction epidemic.  The same applies when it comes to this problem.

Since childhood trauma, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), seem to have a causal relationship to violence and school shootings, I believe that we can develop screening and assessment protocols to identify at-risk people and circumstances.  We will then be able change our modus operandi from blaming, shaming and punishing people to understanding, encouraging and healing them.

Graphic from Center for Child Counseling.

What are ACEs?

ACEs are Adverse Childhood Experiences.  These are events which occur before age 18 (most damaging are those which happen prior to age 6) and are beyond a young person’s control.  A lifetime of hardship and adversity can follow which could be passed on from generation to generation.

The principal types of ACEs are:

  • Emotional, physical of sexual abuse
  • Emotional and physical neglect
  • Living in seriously troubled households (homes that have domestic violence, or mental and/or substance (alcohol or drug) disorders, or parental separation or divorce, or a family member who is incarcerated.

As the number of ACEs a youth experiences increase, so too does the risk for these health and mental health problems – often before they depart their teen years. The greater the number of ACEs a youth experiences, the greater is the likelihood of multiple problems. ACEs science clearly shows that childhood trauma results in adolescent and adult onset of chronic physical and mental illness, violence, and being a victim of violence.

ACEs and the Extreme State

Most of us have been exposed to at least one ACE in our lives.  But very few of us can relate to the impact of real life, hard core trauma experiences which cause the ‘survival brain’ to take control of our behavior. Children who have suffered cigarette burns at the hands of parents or those who are abused sexually every night endure torture which most of us cannot imagine.   These events or series of events have been referred to as the extreme state by Dr. Corinne Gerwe.

Sigmund Freud theorized survival as a predominant driving factor in human behavior.  When trauma is experienced it is followed by an intense feeling such as fear or anger.  Physical symptoms follow like a racing heart or nausea.  The survival brain goes into high gear, virtually closing down the ‘learning brain’ sensing an emergency situation.  The behavior(s) which are enacted and relieve the intensity of the feeling are logged in the memory and become intrinsically linked to emotional survival.  They will be continually reactivated by their inter-related feeling/physical symptom states whenever the intense feeling shows up.  They can develop into persistent and often obsessive patterns that are not grounded in rational thinking or intention.  They can be described as behaviors that a person will swear never to do again and yet repeat despite attempts to resist.  These behaviors can be difficult to explain and even a mystery to the person enacting them as noted by Gerald M. Edelman in his 2003 study of neuronal consciousness.

Understanding ACEs and the extreme state should allow us to stop wasting time looking for scapegoats, endlessly searching for motives, slapping the dismissive labels of evil, loser, or bad guy on a person who has inflicted terrible damage.  It will enable our communities to own their part in violence when little has been done to prevent it.  Healing only occurs when we recognize the true nature of a problem, understand its’ defeating nature, and apply steps to change the way we deal with it.  Prevention is the only long term solution.

“Denial is perfectly beneficial until it’s not anymore.  Then we need to find a safe place to peel back the layers of our own pain.” ~ Gregory Boyle

Primary Prevention and Intervention Using ACEs

We have a golden opportunity to solve this most intractable school shooting problem as well as other less dramatic consequences of ACEs.  One community where systems are in place to change the dynamic is Memphis, Tennessee.  Their ACE Awareness Foundation takes a three-step approach.

  1. Universal Parenting Places (UPP sites) ~ UPP sites are judgment-free zones where parents can go for help. They can talk with counselors, explore their own ACEs and learn how to alter their behaviors in their homes. Counseling is offered at no cost to the consumer. Research has shown that being able to trust another adult and “just let it out” helps people work through their experiences and take control. For some adults with a high ACE score, finding out that there may be a scientific reason their minds and bodies react in certain ways can also be liberating.
  2. Parent Support Warm Line ~ At home, caregivers can call a free phone line (844-UPP-WARM) administered by Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital for guidance and support with parenting issues in real-time. It’s manned by licensed therapists who have trauma training. ACEs are more likely to occur during peak hours of parenting — late afternoon to bedtime — so the Warm Line is available for parents who need to talk through something or who just need a timeout.
  3. Community Outreach ~ Healthcare providers, organizations and civic leaders attend workshops focused on creating trauma-informed citizens. The State of Tennessee has also held statewide summits and created task forces to combat the issue, creating ACE Awareness Partners.

“We envision a Memphis where everyone knows where to get the help they need. Every adult and child should be able to take control of their own destiny.” ~ Ellen Rolfes

The more we can do to prevent ACEs, the closer we will come to ending school violence, bullying and even mass shootings.  With this in mind, I propose that every student in every school, and every parent or caretaker should complete an ACEs assessment.  Those who are deemed at risk would receive immediate referral and help.  This is a full systems change from intervention to prevention that won’t come easy. But we need to create a critical mass of people who understand ACEs, can speak that language and can take action.

The Work Has Already Begun

There are now 38 states and the District of Columbia who have done their own ACE surveys through the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) since 2009.  The BRFSS is an ongoing data collection program designed to measure behavioral risk factors for the adult population (18 years of age or older) living in households.  The original Kaiser-CDC ACE Study began in 1995 and completed in 1997, but participants were followed for 20 years. New data on the more than 17,000 participants continues to be collected.

ACEs assessments and questionnaires are being used in education, healthcare, parenting programs and juvenile justice systems around the country.  A group called ACEs Connection describes themselves as “a social network that accelerates the global movement toward recognizing the impact of adverse childhood experiences in shaping adult behavior and health, and reforming all communities and institutions — from schools to prisons to hospitals and churches — to help heal and develop resilience rather than to continue to traumatize already traumatized people.”  They have organized concise methods for communities to start up local ACEs Networks.

Below you will find pdf downloadable tools from my Google Drive that can be used to determine ACEs risk for adults, children and teens. Start by finding your own ACE score. Let’s join the effort to bring about some real, long lasting change.

ACEs Toolbox; Questionnaires and User Guide

ACEs User Guide

Finding Your (Adult) ACE Score

ACEs Child Questionnaire

ACEs Teen Questionnaire

ACEs Teen Self Report

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_team_member admin_label=”Robert Kenneth Jones” name=”Robert Kenneth Jones” position=”Columnist” image_url=”https://chaplainusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/robert.jpg” facebook_url=”https://www.facebook.com/KenJonesBoy” linkedin_url=”https://www.linkedin.com/in/robert-kenneth-jones-8861183/” _builder_version=”3.0.101″ global_module=”26968″ saved_tabs=”all”]

Robert Kenneth Jones is an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse.

In a career spanning over four decades, his work helping people recover from childhood abuse and addiction has earned him the respect of his peers.

His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration and meditation.

Contact Bob Jones on Linkedin

Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast

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God Shows Up

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“God could easily give you grain and fruit without your plowing and planting. But He does not want to do so. . . . What else is all our work to God—whether in the fields, in the garden, in the city, in the house, in war, or in government—but just such a child’s performance, by which He wants to give His gifts in the fields, at home, and everywhere else? These are the masks of God, behind which He wants to remain concealed and do all things.” ~ Martin Luther

I have been writing and thinking about masks this week.

There are so many psychologists and philosophers who teach of our tendencies to hide behind them.  Carl Jung’s concepts of individuation revolve around the integration of false and true self.  Masks are the symbol of our hiding, pretending, lies and illusions. I have come to believe that there are sacred disguises…human ones, ones presented in the beauty of nature, ones revealed in stars and sky…which are the Masks of God

Martin Luther understood that God interacts with us and shows himself in countless ways beyond our understanding.  G. K. Chesterton wrote a verse about the ‘million masks of God’.  Joseph Campbell told Bill Moyers that the images of God are many.  He called them the masks of eternity that both cover and reveal the Face of Glory. I think this is at the heart of our existence and the center of an experience of being God’s Beloved Child.

God shows up.  I have seen him in the eyes of men and women in a homeless shelter in Asheville.  I have been touched by him on the waiting wall by street kids in Fort Lauderdale.  I have heard his cry in the voices of those who suffer addictive illness.  God is not a remote deity who waits grumpily on a throne of judgment to pounce on our wrongdoings and many sins.

He not only shows up as a vulnerable and broken savior who willingly dies on a cross, but also beckons us to follow him there.  He shows up as ‘angels unawares’ in ancient scripture. He reaches for our steadying hand in the person of our grandchild.  When we are told that God is omnipresent, this is what they are talking about.

The masks of God are everywhere.  Look around.  God show up.  He tells us, in the words of the Prodigal Father to his resentful son; “I am with you always.  Everything I have is yours.”

__________________________

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_team_member admin_label=”Robert Kenneth Jones” name=”Robert Kenneth Jones” position=”Columnist” image_url=”https://chaplainusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/robert.jpg” facebook_url=”https://www.facebook.com/KenJonesBoy” linkedin_url=”https://www.linkedin.com/in/robert-kenneth-jones-8861183/” _builder_version=”3.0.101″ global_module=”26968″ saved_tabs=”all”]

Robert Kenneth Jones is an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse.

In a career spanning over four decades, his work helping people recover from childhood abuse and addiction has earned him the respect of his peers.

His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration and meditation.

Contact Bob Jones on Linkedin

Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast

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Loneliness; A Clear and Present Danger of Our Times

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Much has been written and broadcast about the devastating Opioid Epidemic facing us.  The most recent data and statistics report increasing tens of thousands of individuals and families have suffered enormous losses.  But we are just beginning to understand that there is an underlying cause of this terrible crisis.

Extreme loneliness just might be the powerful primary feeling fueling opioid, alcohol and other drug addiction. The sweeping problem is being called “The Loneliness Contagion” because it actually seems to be contagious.  John Cacioppo, PhD from the University of Chicago believes it is spreading from person to person like a disease. Though experienced inordinately among millennials, it is increasing across the generations.

Where Is This Loneliness Coming From?

Dr. Shannon Monnat says that we live in an era of individualism, disinvestment in social safety nets, declines in social cohesion, and increased loneliness.  Could it be that this is coming from a new kind of isolation due to social media?

Isolation due to lots of time spent on social media sites while glued to cellphones is one of the reasons for decreasing real life interactions and what is being called Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).  Though there are multiple chatting contacts, swapping of photos and other kinds of interaction, people are feeling lonelier than ever.  This is strikingly similar to the social isolation commonly known as an experience affecting the elderly due to decreased mobility and loss of friends and partners. Despite the fact that younger people have massive quantities of friends online, this increasing loneliness stems from a decreasing quality of relationships.  In other words, a person may have a lot of friends but still find that their needs for social contact are not met.

I remember playing a mean trick on a rather needy friend in college.  She couldn’t stand missing out on our group adventures.  One day we posted a sign outside of her dorm room saying; “We are out having fun without you.” All of us hid behind her door waiting for her arrival.  We heard her shuffling down the hall.  She stopped, read the note and brokenheartedly sighed. “Oh, No!”  Even though we burst through the door merrily giggling, she had a really hard time recovering from our prank. I’m not sure she ever really forgave us.

We have a fundamental need to belong.  This is what gives life meaning.  In order to feel a sense of belonging there must be the presence of real (skin-to-skin as opposed to virtual) relationships.  They must be based on mutual caring responses in which we feel loved and valued.  It is also necessary to have frequent interactions with other people.  Loneliness diminishes or disappears when we feel like we matter.

One of my most profound memories of loneliness is of a time shortly after divorce.  I had moved back to Fort Lauderdale in hopes of re-centering my life.  A friend helped me find good digs in a little house to rent and a job to keep me busy.  For the first time in several weeks there seemed to be a light in the darkness.  I pulled into the driveway after a rather successful day at work, opened the door and shouted “I’m Home!” as was my custom when living with my ex-wife and kids.  Only emptiness replied.  I was alone…really alone…and the feeling of loneliness overwhelmed me.  My response was to pour myself into a bottle of bourbon.  And I kept pouring for a long time.

The Extreme State; Loneliness and Repetitious Behavior

“I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various sections.
and it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly, that I am ill.
I am ill because of wounds to the soul, to the deep emotional self,
and the wounds to the soul take a long, long time,
only time can help and patience, and a certain difficult repentance
long difficult repentance, a realization of life’s mistake,
and the freeing oneself from the endless repetition of the mistake
which mankind at large has chosen to sanctify.” ~ D.H. Lawrence

Dr. Corinne Gerwe, PhD has done extensive research on what she calls the Extreme State.  Her research shows that loneliness can be a predominant feeling which is responsible for igniting addiction and chronic relapse.

Her book, The Orchestration of Joy and Suffering: Understanding Chronic Addiction (Algora Publishing 2001), explores the relationship between childhood experiences resulting in extreme feelings and subsequent behaviors that relieve or diminish the intensity of the feelings.  She demonstrates that the behavior patterns, including addiction can persist throughout a lifetime.  She also outlines unique treatment methods.

I worked with Dr. Gerwe for several years.  We found that when loneliness is experienced in the extreme (or for long durations) that the brain begins to search for relief found in behaviors.  Neuronal pathways provide quick solutions to resolve or lessen the intensity of the feeling.  Even behaviors which have proven to be destructive such as drug and alcohol abuse are repeated and repeated (as D. H. Lawrence explains in his poem).

It is a cycle that feeds on itself.  For example, one set of behaviors that results from loneliness is isolating oneself.  It would seem counterintuitive yet is one of the most common responses.  As a person withdraws from the world, isolates and avoids, they become even lonelier and more likely to use opioids and other drugs/alcohol.  Is it any wonder that powerful opioids, which practically eliminate physical/emotional pain and suffering are being used to combat chronic loneliness?  Is it any wonder why that might be contagious?

Health Issues Result from Loneliness

Loneliness is killing us…and not only through an opioid epidemic. It has been reported by Richard Lang, MD of Cleveland Clinic that loneliness affects 60 million Americans and that chronic loneliness poses a serious health risk. New research suggests that loneliness and social isolation are as much a threat to your health as obesity and smoking cigarettes. It can impair cognitive performance, compromise the immune system, and increase the risk for vascular, inflammatory, and heart disease.  A recent study also indicates that loneliness makes people more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.

Loneliness is one of the feelings most associated with suicide.  Being socially isolated from society can take a toll on mental health and lead a person to become depressed and consider suicide. Socializing and interacting with other people is a basic human need. If social needs are not met, a person can start to feel lonely which leads to depression and possibly suicidal thoughts.

Finally, studies show that loneliness increases the risk for early death by 45 percent and the chance of developing dementia in later life by 64 percent. On the other hand, people who have strong ties to family and friends are as much as 50 percent less at risk of dying over any given period of time than those with fewer social connections.

There seems to be no doubt that loneliness is an epidemic, a contagion and one of the most serious health risks facing us today.  So, what can we do as Chaplains, pastors, social workers, healthcare providers, friends and family to help turn the tide?

How Relationships Defeat Loneliness

 “Keep in mind that to avoid loneliness, many people need both a social circle and an intimate attachment. Having just one of two may still leave you feeling lonely.” ~ Gretchen Rubin

 There are two basic remedies for loneliness:

  1. We must have and develop strong skin-to-skin relationships. It’s not about the number of ‘friends’ we have on Face Book.  We can be surrounded by people and still be lonely. There is undeniable benefit to real time interaction, play, work and social gatherings with people we care about.
  2. We need to belong. Our special communities such as religious organizations, 12 Step Groups, hobby circles, fraternal societies and other intimate gatherings are like a transfusion for loneliness.  This is not about activities.  We can go from event to event or meeting to meeting and still be lonely. A sense of belonging, really being an integral part of something, is what’s critical.

I counseled a young man who was suffering from intense loneliness.  He had just started his freshman year at a local college and had changed from a happy, confident, outgoing high schooler to an isolated, self-conscious, anxiety ridden guy.  All of his friends had gone away to other schools and he was the only one left behind.  There were no more service clubs or sports teams in his life.  His studies were going nowhere.  Jeff was considering suicide.  It was not that he was alone.  He had a roommate, lived in a busy dorm, had joined an intermural football squad and was attending church on campus. He was a busy as he could be. But there were no real quality personal or community relationships.  He might as well have been a hermit for the overwhelming loneliness he was experiencing.

Jeff’s situation is not uncommon. Senior citizens who retire from their life’s work know well what he was going through. Folks who relocate to another part of the country for great work opportunities understand it. Suddenly, what I call a ‘peopled life’ becomes vacant. The answer cannot be found by busying oneself.  For Jeff, and all the lonely people, the solution lies in connecting and creating personal relationships through belonging to meaningful community.  A feeling of being understood and valued creates a closeness that is being craved in loneliness.

This closeness doesn’t have to be something that happens randomly or by accident.  For Jeff, we connected with a religious fraternal campus organization.  He joined and was embraced by the members.  He had a new family of friends.  He also began attending AA meetings at a nearby community center.  There he found other people who were struggling just like him.  The members met for coffee and had frequent social events.  His loneliness faded into oblivion.  It was as simple as that.  Community is within our control to create.

This contagion or epidemic of loneliness can practically be eliminated. Parents can be alert to the fact that filling our kids’ lives with activities is not always the answer.  Quality play time with a friend or friends (yes…unsupervised by adults) is what is needed.  Chaplains can spot the isolated LEO and help direct him or her to the right organizations.  It might be a great idea to establish support groups right in the workplace as well. We have the power to help others find the way out of loneliness…and we all have the power to stop feeling lonely. That power is found in real relationships.

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_team_member admin_label=”Robert Kenneth Jones” name=”Robert Kenneth Jones” position=”Columnist” image_url=”https://chaplainusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/robert.jpg” facebook_url=”https://www.facebook.com/KenJonesBoy” linkedin_url=”https://www.linkedin.com/in/robert-kenneth-jones-8861183/” _builder_version=”3.0.101″ global_module=”26968″ saved_tabs=”all”]

Robert Kenneth Jones is an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse.

In a career spanning over four decades, his work helping people recover from childhood abuse and addiction has earned him the respect of his peers.

His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration and meditation.

Contact Bob Jones on Linkedin

Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast

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A Choice For Happiness

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The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise man grows it under his feet.” ~ James Oppenheim

We have choices to make.  They lie before us waiting for fulfillment.  Each of us has the ability to be happy and set out to make happiness happen.

Despite the problems and woes that have littered life…despite the things that are looming in the distance…we can still make the decision to be happy and to create happiness around us.  There is no magic formula.  It is just about deciding to accept the people, places and things surrounding us as being just the way they are.  We can complain and whine over our circumstances or celebrate the fact that we survived despite (or because) of them.  Happiness is an inside job and the choice to recognize that truth is ours to make.

I hear people grumble so often that someone has made them unhappy.  Something happened years ago which ruined their lives.  Losses and tragedies have made it impossible to allow for real happiness.  There is not enough money.  There is nobody to love.  There is no fun at work.

On and on we look for happiness outside of ourselves only to be disappointed when it is fleeting.  Only the false self or ego drives us to find happiness anywhere but within our own hearts.  We are immersed in the real happiness for which we were created.  We have the freedom to choose to allow God to be God and accept the contents of the moment as a reason to celebrate being alive.

Make the decision now.  Be happy.  Work for happiness in all you do and say.  You might be surprised as it abundantly rains down and all around as a result.

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_team_member admin_label=”Robert Kenneth Jones” name=”Robert Kenneth Jones” position=”Columnist” image_url=”https://chaplainusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/robert.jpg” facebook_url=”https://www.facebook.com/KenJonesBoy” linkedin_url=”https://www.linkedin.com/in/robert-kenneth-jones-8861183/” _builder_version=”3.0.101″ saved_tabs=”all” animation=”off” background_layout=”light” global_module=”26968″]

Robert Kenneth Jones is an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse.

In a career spanning over four decades, his work helping people recover from childhood abuse and addiction has earned him the respect of his peers.

His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration and meditation.

Contact Bob Jones on Linkedin

Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast

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A Mother’s Love

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Author’s mother and infant sister.

“But there’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.” ~ Mitch Albom

Our mothers give us life. 

Nurtured and developed as one from our conception to birth, we spend the rest of our time separating.  We yearn for her embrace and reject it over and over.  We bless her for her kindness and protection, and then curse her for embarrassing and smothering us.  We run back to her for kisses yet flee her when we are ‘busy’.

There are so many complications in our relationships.  That same giver of life, however, never gives up on us, never grows truly weary of our bothers and always hopes and prays for us.

I have been given the great blessing of witnessing generations of mothers in my family.  My daughters have given birth to my grandsons and granddaughters.

Five years ago my wife and I went to be with my youngest after the birth of her first child, Jack.  The way she looked down at her little guy with that wondrous frown of delight, her tenderness, soothing words, pleasure in her husband, and hourly sacrifices made me remember her mother.  I see her in her Mama’s arms and something inside of me sees my mom and grandmother doing the same things through the ages.

I have experienced the transformation of my daughter-in-law as she moves from work to home summoning effortlessly the energy and happiness of raising and playing with our two granddaughters in Memphis.  Then I remember playing with my own mother and grandmother on the floor as a little one.

My dear wife mothers her children, her grandchildren, her former students and her wayward husband ceaselessly and I am awed. There is never a day that goes by without her compassionate words of encouragement.

I experienced the passing of my sister-in-law a few years ago.  Her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren grieved her loss and celebrated her life together. Her grace remains with each of them as time goes on.

On this Mother’s Day, all of this reminds me that our mothers are truly to be called blessed forever.  The love they give is more than we can ever return. So, today I will pray for all mothers.  I will remember their love that gives us life.

_______________________

 

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_team_member name=”Robert Kenneth Jones” position=”Columnist” image_url=”https://chaplainusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/robert.jpg” facebook_url=”https://www.facebook.com/KenJonesBoy” linkedin_url=”https://www.linkedin.com/in/robert-kenneth-jones-8861183/” admin_label=”Robert Kenneth Jones” _builder_version=”3.0.101″ global_module=”26968″ saved_tabs=”all”]

Robert Kenneth Jones is an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse.

In a career spanning over four decades, his work helping people recover from childhood abuse and addiction has earned him the respect of his peers.

His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration and meditation.

Contact Bob Jones on Linkedin

Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast

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Banner Photo by Randy Rooibaatjie on Unsplash

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Our Obligation to Privacy; Offering the Seal of Confidentiality

I woke up a few mornings ago, fumbled for my IPhone to check the ‘urgent’ message flash on its’ screen, and found that Twitter was advising me to protect my privacy.  It seems that a virtual bug of some kind exposed their users to hackers by showing passwords in plain text.

Oh, horror!  I complied quickly…and you should too Mr. President.  Who knows what fake news might be transmitted in your tweets. 

I recovered from my cyber-panic rather quickly as a little chuckle came from my inner Bob.  None of the social media outlets like Twitter, Face Book, Google+, LinkedIn even existed twenty years ago. My privacy worries in 1998 were more concerned with who might see through our windows with the drapes wide open.

The only thing that I can think of which corresponds with current qualms about privacy was when folks dug deep in the early 1950’s to get a private telephone line so that nosey people might not overhear their conversations on less expensive party lines. My maternal grandfather always had a little quip to offer.  When asked how he felt about the lack of privacy on party lines he said; “You shouldn’t go skinny dipping if you’re worried people will see you naked.” That kind of says it all.

Millions of us proudly throw ourselves (wearing-only-a-selfie-smile) into a collective cyber lake showing everyone anything they want to see. Then we gripe about privacy and confidentiality. If transparency is what we want, privacy will be sacrificed. You just can’t have it both ways.

Privacy and Confidentiality; What’s The Difference?

The terms Privacy and Confidentiality are sometimes used interchangeably but there is a distinct difference.  Just about everybody has some desire for freedom from public scrutiny. We want to share information deemed private at varying degrees depending on our own boundaries and need for personal space.  These are the issues surrounding privacy and confidentiality. So, what is the difference?

  • Privacy is the right to be let alone in personal matters and limits public access.
  • Confidentiality refers to a state where an expectation of trust is established between parties that information/records will be kept secret within the parameters of their informed, expressed, often written, agreement.

In other words, Privacy is about a person and Confidentiality is about information.

Privacy; From Being Available to Being On-Demand

The fourth amendment to the constitution which secures our right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure is also cited as the basis of our right to privacy. But is a real expectation of privacy even possible in the age of technology?  An Op-Ed Piece in the New York Times announced “The End of Privacy” in October 2017.  It reminded me of The Times famous article in January 1966 stating that “God Is Dead.”  We often rush to sensational observations.  Traditional notions of God were changing in the 1960’s and our understanding of Privacy is changing in this era.  We are continually evolving.

Several years ago I accompanied a friend to the porch of an elderly gentleman in the remote mountains of Western North Carolina.  The man’s son asked us to intervene in a rather sensitive family situation.  Mr. Caldwell was nearing 90 and living alone at the cabin in which he had been born.  His wife had died many years earlier.  One of his seven children lived on a section of land nearby, but worried about his aging father.

Mr. Caldwell refused to have a telephone.  When Mathias, the son, contracted with AT&T to install a line, the service man was met at the door with a shotgun aimed at his midsection and orders to “git offa my land”.  My friend and I went over to mediate a couple of days later.  Steve talked to him about how nice it might be to be able to pick up a phone to call Mathias anytime he wanted to say “Hey” and check up on the grandkids.

Mr. Caldwell seemed to agree and thought that would be a really nice convenience.  I asked him if it might be okay to set up another service installation to which Mr. Caldwell said “Hell no!”  I responded that I thought he liked the idea of calling up Mathias.  He responded that it sure might be nice, but on the other hand, Mathias could also call him up anytime he wanted.

The thought of random telephone ringing and family involvement was like an invasion and “an end of peace and serenity.”  Mr. Caldwell died several years later with no telephone but plenty of self-directed privacy.  If Mathias and any of the family ever wanted to make contact with him they just made their way to the house.

Our evolution from Mr. Caldwell’s concept of telephone privacy to cellphones becoming a fifth appendage and being always on-call is dramatic to say the least.  We have to be reminded constantly to silence or turn them off in churches, businesses and theatres.  They are a part of every meal and activity, buzzing and ringing us to respond to a text or pending conversation. We have increasingly accepted and embraced this intrusion.  Now, it seems there are concerns that the devices have become addictive. The average American adult spent about 2 hours and 51 minutes on their smartphone every single day in 2017. So much for privacy as we once knew it.

What I’m getting at here is that even though we have every cause to be alarmed at massive amounts of personal information being hacked from our merchants, healthcare and service providers, we have made a choice to provide easy, on-demand, real time access to all of this data.  There are a number of ways to protect information stored on smartphones by simply restricting privacy and location settings. You don’t have to share everything on social media outlets like Face Book.  You can limit who can see/share your information by deciding who can access it.  Privacy should be honored and respected by corporations and by the techno-world.  Every effort should be made to continually improve safety of information and to foil hackers.  But it is incumbent upon each of us to create our own limits and boundaries as well. Remember what Grandpa said about skinny dipping.

Confidentiality; A Seal of Promise and Trust

Chaplains, Clergy, Attorneys, Social Workers, Substance Abuse Professionals, Therapists and Healthcare Professionals are well instructed in matters of confidentiality.  It has become so important that I have started calling the relationship established as The Seal of Confidentiality (like the Seal of the Confessional known to Roman Catholics). All fifty states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government have enacted statutory privileges providing that at least some communications between clergyman and parishioners are privileged. In United States law, confessional privilege is a rule of evidence that forbids the inquiry into the content or even existence of certain communications between clergy and church members. It grows out of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Common law and statutory enactments may vary from place to place.

The ethical principle of confidentiality requires that information shared with a clergy member, healthcare worker, counselor or therapist in the course of the professional relationship or treatment is not shared with others. This principle promotes an environment of trust and reinforces honest and open disclosure by the client, patient or parishioner. Exceptions to confidentiality exist when it conflicts with the professional’s duty to warn or duty to protect. This includes instances of suicidal or homicidal ideation (with plans) as well as child, elder or disabled/dependent adult abuse. All-in-all, there are five generally recognized exceptions to the seal of confidentiality referred to as the Five C’s.

  1. Consent; A professional may release confidential information with the consent of the patient or a legally authorized designee (parent, guardian, or medical surrogate).
  2. Court Order; Confidential information can be released upon the receipt of an order by a court of competent jurisdiction. A subpoena may not meet the standard for release in many places.
  3. Continued Treatment; A clinician may release confidential information necessary for the continued treatment of a patient. This exception is recognized by HIPAA.
  4. Comply with the Law; A professional may reveal confidential information in order to comply with mandatory reporting statutes as mentioned above (abuse).
  5. Communicate a Threat; This is known as the Tarasoff Exception to confidentiality. It exacts a professional’s duty to protect others from violence from a client/patient.

We must be ever vigilant and serious in our confidentially sealed relationships.  It can be easy to compromise by disclosing information to other interested parties when the situation seems important or worthwhile.

In my role as a Clinical Director at a residential hospital based substance abuse treatment center in North Carolina, I was once faced with the daunting choice of disclosing or not disclosing confidential information to a local chief prosecutor.  The attorney and I had a good working relationship and casual friendship.  One day he called me at my office to inquire about whether a certain fugitive was a patient in our facility.  I responded that due to federal and state confidentiality laws I could not give him that information.  Of course he knew this to be true, but continued to press the matter by saying that he could arrest me for not telling him of the persons whereabouts.

I told him that he was putting me in a situation of obstructing justice (by his definition) on one hand or violating federal statute on the other.  Either way, I was could find myself behind bars. He was angry when I denied his request saying that he would serve the executive director and me with a subpoena.  Then he became furious when I told him that a subpoena was not good enough.  Within thirty minutes the prosecutor showed up at the hospital with his document in hand accompanied by several squad cars and a SWAT team.

They forced their way into the treatment center, practically running over the 140 pound middle aged executive director.  After a search of all the patients, the suspect was finally found hiding in the cafeteria.  Though successful in his endeavor, the prosecutor was fired several weeks later for his violation of federal and state statutes. Neither the director nor I were charged or arrested in the matter. It took a long time to reestablish therapeutic trust with our patients. To say that I take the seal of confidentiality seriously is a gross understatement.

Many of us who serve people in some kind of counseling relationship have established Best Practices that I would recommend to everyone:

  • Make sure that any confidentiality forms are properly signed, dated and witnessed according to the requirements of the organization you represent.
  • Review the documents thoroughly with the client at least every six months. It is an even better idea to draft a new one if possible.
  • Start every session reminding the client of the confidentiality of information he/she is about to disclose.
  • Make sure that any kind of disclosure transmitted electronically has a statement of confidentiality attached. Below is a sample of such a statement I use in every email. Feel free to copy it.

Confidentiality Notice

This message is intended exclusively for the individual or entity to which it is addressed. This communication may contain information that is proprietary, privileged, confidential, or otherwise legally exempt from disclosure. You are only authorized to read, print, retain, copy or disseminate this message (or any part of it) if you are the named addressee. Please notify the sender immediately either by phone at (your number) or by reply to this e-mail if you have received it in error. Delete all copies of this message if it is not intended for your use.

We All Need Someone in Times of Trouble

Respect for privacy and good confidentiality practices are the basic ingredients of trust which make counseling or other professional relationships work.  Police officers need to be able to turn to Chaplains without worry when they share their vulnerability or grief.  Folks who struggle with addiction have to be able to disclose the things they have done in secret to a trusted therapist knowing that family members will not be told without informed consent.

When we make sure that these policies and procedures are followed to the letter, our clients will feel safe to come to us with the burdens that weigh them down.  Carl Jung went so far as to say that such therapeutic relationships are sacred in nature.  And so they are.  We have been entrusted with the inner lives of those we serve.

Banner Photo by Rafal Jedrzejek on Unsplash

A Little Help From My Friends

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“Enveloped in Your Light, may I be a beacon to those in search of Light. Sheltered in Your Peace, may I offer shelter to those in need of peace. Embraced by Your Presence, so may I be present to others.” ~ Rabbi Rami Shapiro

The life we live contains day and night, light and darkness.  We cannot have one without the other. 

This is no startling revelation.  Most of the time we can make it through the dark times, knowing full well they will pass.  But then there are those times when it seems the light will never shine again.  It feels as if we have dropped into a black hole, suspended in mid-air, and nothing will dispel our sadness and grief.

We become desperate and despondent.  We sink deeper and deeper into hopelessness.  Our eyes strain for some glimmer.  It is then that the one who carries a candle appears.  He comes to our side with words of encouragement and shows us the way to safety.  Soon dawn will come and night gives way to day.

“Give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself.” ~ Desiderius Erasmus

Our responsibility is to become the one who carries light in the darkness.  When we have been rescued, it is our job to become a rescuer.  When we have been saved, we are obligated to bring saving grace.  It is far too easy to dust ourselves off, utter some words of gratitude and run along.

Experiences of great trouble and subsequent redemption are not to be wasted by simply maintaining the status quo.  There is no purpose to having survived and thrived if all we do is carry on.  Plenty of other people are suffering the same things we suffered.  We are called to light another candle and bring it to someone who is crying in the darkness.

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_team_member admin_label=”Robert Kenneth Jones” name=”Robert Kenneth Jones” position=”Columnist” image_url=”https://chaplainusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/robert.jpg” facebook_url=”https://www.facebook.com/KenJonesBoy” linkedin_url=”https://www.linkedin.com/in/robert-kenneth-jones-8861183/” _builder_version=”3.0.101″ saved_tabs=”all” animation=”off” background_layout=”light” global_module=”26968″]

Robert Kenneth Jones is an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse.

In a career spanning over four decades, his work helping people recover from childhood abuse and addiction has earned him the respect of his peers.

His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration and meditation.

Contact Bob Jones on Linkedin

Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast

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