By F. Keith Davis
Logan Mingo Area Mental Health
In these economically depressing and demanding times in the southern part of the state, many individuals are anguishing from great personal difficulties, financial losses, and emotional sufferings. Dr. Peter M. Bernstein, the founder and director of the Bernstein Institute for Trauma Treatment, states that those who may have had anxiety problems previously, before the economic slump in the state, may see those issues greatly intensified. He says, “The loss of a job or savings can feel like the last straw.”
In an article, Lessons for Survival in Hard Times, Dr. Bernstein explains that he once endured the collapse of his family’s construction business at a time when he was young and managing the operation. Through a series of unexpected catastrophes, his family lost everything, including their once-thriving operation, their savings, their homes, and their self-worth.
Despite his best efforts, the company and its employees experienced devastating financial losses. Bernstein said the nightmare left him with numerous emotional scars along with feelings of extreme guilt. Yet, from the ashes of that traumatic experience—as difficult as it was—Bernstein eventually came to realize that he would have to rebuild his shattered life. “It became the beginning of a complete change of life,” he explained, noting that it was then that he placed his faith in God, enrolled in school, and believed that He could change things. Bernstein was determined to reinvent himself.
Russell Smith, writing for Psychology Today, once discussed the topic of reinvention. He said it is related to the act of starting over, but it is essentially choosing to entirely change the path of how you respond to the inflexible realities of life. Commitment to reinvention allows, over time, one to change through a step by step … month by month process. However, the beginning nearly always involves a change in attitude. Regarding this topic, Chuck Swindoll, a nationally respected theologian, spoke on the subject: “We cannot change our past … we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have—and that is our attitude.” With such a change of outlook, the next phase in the reinvention process includes a refocus of direction while employing the guts and grit necessary to move forward.
Here are a few of the principles that helped Bernstein and others who have gone through the route of reinvention:
1. Refuse to take on a spirit of fear. Worry or fear are counterproductive actions to your success. Alex Niles, a gifted writer who was once diagnosed with stage IV gastric cancer, gave advice in a recent column: “Clearly fear has a place in our lives, but I wasn’t about to let it control me. No way would I allow it to dictate how I chose to live … By owning my feelings I took the first step toward gaining control over the situation as best as I could.”
2. Accept the reality that has taken place. Even though it is common for individuals to deny things like financial collapse, job loss, or even divorce, Bernstein emphasizes, “Don’t bury your head in the sand.” Instead, accept the truth of the matter, admit how it all transpired, and formulate a reachable strategy for reinventing.
3. Refuse to let fleeting emotions dictate your viewpoint. Feelings, which can fluctuate greatly, are not steady or reliable. Bernstein says don’t let your history define your future. “Don’t be fixated on what has been taken away or lost. Be aware of it, of course, but deal with it and then shift the perspective as quickly as you can,” Bernstein said.
4. Volunteer to help others. If you are hurting, there’s something therapeutic about reaching out to others. It’s likely that many individuals are going through problems that are similar to yours. So, volunteer your time to help others; for instance, donate your time to civic clubs, ministries of the church, hospital auxiliary groups, or other non-profit organizations.
5. Contact the West Virginia Rehabilitation Services and ask what academic or re-training opportunities exist. Their advisor can oftentimes guide you into a new direction.
6. Pray. It can be especially effective. Swindoll said, “Prayer includes praise and thanksgiving, intercession and petition, meditation, and confession. In prayer, [one can] focus fully on God, [and] capture renewed zeal to continue.” He further explains that faith and prayer can help a person gain a broader view of life, and obtain an increased determination to endure.
7. Find help and hope. Dr. Bernstein said, “If wounds and scars from your past are now distorting your life with fear, this is a good time to get help.” For example, seek therapeutic treatment from a licensed counselor at your local mental health agency. Facing financial loss, emotional afflictions, or personal suffering can be trying; and such trials can even lead to periods of anxiety and/or depression. Credentialed therapists are uniquely trained to assist you through the most difficult moments of life. Independent counseling is available using therapeutic models that are proven effective in helping one in the reinvention process.
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For additional information somehow about today’s column, contact the new Logan Mingo Area Mental Health (LMAMH) at (304) 792-7130, where walk-ins are always welcome and intake assessments are available on-site. At LMAMH, counselors, doctors, caseworkers, and other professionals are on duty to help you. Listen for our radio show, Brighter Tomorrows, on WVOW-FM 101.9 at 10 a.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday every month. We want to be the First Choice in mental health services.