Category Archives: Life Coaching – Recovery from Abuse & Trauma

Gaslighting 101: Changing the Subject

rock-cliff-high-tableau-mountain-731140I sometimes become haunted by news stories. Usually stories of injustice and abuse. Of course, I do. They’re close to my home. They touch my heart and remind me of what I clawed my way out of.

It’s not good for me to focus so strongly on negativity. I’d be better off becoming obsessed with meditation. Maybe I should be re-reading a book from my treasure trove of positive thinking books. Yet here I am, with more fodder for my writing. Obsession leaves no room for any other actions.

At any rate, I am consumed by the news detailing the latest public figure accused of sexual harassment/sexual abuse/child molestation. My intense scrutiny comes at the reactions to the people speaking out and telling their stories. I see gaslighting in the reporting and I saw gaslighting in response to my most recent posting, Telling Your Story: Gaslighting and Mystified Oppression.

Gaslighting takes many forms. One is to re-frame the subject. Re-framing is simply a fancy word for changing the subject. In this case, many are attempting to change the discussion from one of abuse into one of politics.

Gaslighting is often fascinating when I can get some distance from the exchange. You can look to logical fallacies as one explanation of gaslighting. Logical fallacies are errors in logic and thinking.

As I go back through the list of logical fallacies, there are so many in the reactions to my writing. And when someone is illogical, there is no discussion. All of these are attempts to change the subject and throw a lot of dust around the issue.

Several men wrote hostile responses in regard to my previous blog post on this subject. They resembled political commentary. Raging about politics, attempting to turn the speak outs from people speaking their truth into leftist politics versus right-wing politics. I explained my position in my return response.

Frankly, this caused some degree of rage in response. Rage is a common comeback to you when you don’t give in to gaslighting. It’s interesting. When one technique didn’t work, was a second and third. Attacking my logic, my politics and then my character. This is what is known as an ad hominem logical fallacy.

People are not communicating. They might respond from something deep inside them. Or they might be attempting to derail you from your side of the conversation. At any rate, they are not responding to reality.

None of which applies to the fact (The FACT) that women and men are speaking out about the wrong done to them by people with some power over them.

Just in case you wondered, speaking out is not political. It’s personal.

Okay, there are some who say the personal is political. If so, this is not red versus blue. One group of people want to keep the world safe for predators to roam. We can call them, the pro-abuse party. And the other side wants to make the world unsafe for predators to roam. We can call them, the anti-abuse party.

And right smack dab in the middle are those who want the space to speak out and tell their truth. Not your truth. Not my truth. Not the truth of the news media. Their personal truth.

All right, I’m being too literal. There are gaslighters who want to protect themselves from the consequences of their behavior. Others want to protect some idea, some prestige, some power or something. Your truth threatens to take something they value away from them. That’s not political, it’s personal.

The second gaslighting response was a legalistic one. It’s still an attempt to re-frame the discussion. Change the subject. “If he did it.” “All claims of harassment/abuse should be investigated.” “And whoever did wrong should be punished.”

There is a threat implicit in this. Here is the threat. If you speak your truth, you will be investigated. And if we can find any fault in your story, you will be punished.

Just so you know, if anyone investigates you long and hard enough, they will find something wrong. None of us are perfect. You might yell at your spouse or fart in the living room. Whatever. Public scrutiny is terrifying.

When I responded to this man’s thoughts, he behaved much like the first man. He became enraged and attacked me. He threw in concepts like “personal responsibility” without context.

Whose responsibility? The victim or the perpetrator. Then he attacked my logic, my motives, my character, my whatevers. Ad hominem. If you have no argument, attack the person. Or create confusion.

People are telling truths that happened years, even decades ago. There is no legal remedy here. No one is going to be arrested, charged, tried and sent to jail. That labels this a bogus argument, meant to derail the conversation.

How can a victim be the responsible party? This too is gaslighting. Blandly talking about abuse as if there is equal blame to excuse the actions of the guilty party. This is called a false equivalence because these two behaviors are not in any way equal.

I’m reminded of another recent news story that I think demonstrates personal responsibility. It’s the story of the air force and the church shooter. The air force failed somehow when the reports on the Texas killer never made it to the federal database. This database might have prevented that gunman from buying a gun. We won’t ever know since people seem to be able to get guns when they really want to.

Instead of gaslighting, excuse-making, or defensive posturing, an air force spokesperson took ownership of this. Admitted a mistake and vowed to find out how it happened. I’ve noticed this topic disappeared from the news. Taking responsibility. The Air Force, in this situation, shows how it’s done.

There are public figures responding in a variety of ways. One deflection is to mention going to treatment. What treatment? For what? Sexual addiction? Alcohol? Drugs? That’s not remorse, that’s cover your ass. It’s not even appropriate to the circumstance. Some admit it and disappear from the story. Many are facing real consequences after years of criminal behavior.

That’s a good thing, even for those public figures I liked. Real consequences maybe mean that fewer people might think it’s okay to act like that.

I hope no one manages to stop the tsunami of people telling their truths. Hearing them gives me a sense of rightness and hope. That there might be fewer new victims if these speak outs continue. And are not shut down, put away, or stopped by gaslighting.

Gaslighting fails here.

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Telling Your Story: Gaslighting and Mystified Oppression

girl-brave-bravery-independence-843076As usual, I listened to the news this morning. I am delighted at the outpouring of people finally feeling free enough to tell their stories. Stories of violation by powerful men.

Talking heads are considering this upside-down and inside-out. Taking as many and varied points of view as it seems they need to to keep the story interesting.

One idea that is absolutely not true is that our world is different now. That any disgusting backlash is new behavior. It’s not.

What is new behavior is the courage of women and men standing tall and speaking out. Denial and blaming the victim are not new at all.

I first encountered the treatment of sexual violation and abuse in 1968. I worked in the Neglect and Abuse Unit of a local juvenile court. I had a five file drawer cabinet full of cases of neglect and abuse. That was one city. Naturally, those files included no new cases. Five drawers. I think all the file cabinets of sexual predation everywhere could fill the Grand Canyon.

Over my time at that job I read every single file. Sexual violation is NOT new.

I began my psychology graduate training in 1977 with a fascinating woman’s study class named “Women and Mental Illness.” There I learned concepts such as gaslighting and mystified oppression. Gaslighting as a concept is now a broadly used idea, but I hear little about mystified oppression.

Gaslighting is a way of convincing people they are crazy by distorting their reality. The idea originally comes from the 1944 Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer film, Gaslight. In it, a man marries a wealthy woman and slowly attempts to drive her crazy by changing the realities of the gaslights in her home along with other diabolical techniques. The driving force is his greed. A desire to possess something that does not belong to him. He is attempting to incapacitate her to meet his own needs. Sound familiar?

Mystified oppression is when the person being harmed inadvertently cooperates with their victimization. People believe the lies they are told. Perpetrators deceive their victims about the harm that will come to them if they resist. They are mystified and confused by the ‘gaslighting’ that tells them who they are and how the world works. One such egregious belief is that no one will believe them.

Unfortunately, in powerful places or positions, sometimes it’s not gaslighting. It’s also real oppression. Society, as we see in the news today, can and often will attack the truth teller. Loss of life lost of position, loss of job and many other punitive actions await people who speak out. Public humiliation. Rejection. And on and on.

This morning’s talking head was bemoaning the state of our culture. That some public officials are saying, “Innocent until proven guilty.” And others are responding with defiance, “We don’t care. We will support/encourage/watch your media/vote for him, anyway.”

The television personality seemed to think supporting the perpetrator was new social behavior. It’s not. Sexual violation is as old as time itself. And protecting the perpetrator is just as old.

What’s new is the way we are thinking about it now.

When I worked on my graduate thesis, I chose to study Adults Abused as Children. I went into the academic research literature and grabbed any article I could find. I wanted a historical view and ideas for therapeutic treatment.

I read journal articles as far back as the 1930’s.

I found much of what I read disgusting. Like creepy disgusting.

Male psychiatrists and psychologists saying things like the little 3-year-old girl was provocative and seduced her perpetrator. Other professionals saying, “Well, it happened, but it’s not so bad.”

Children victimized have troubles concentrating, sleeping, thinking, and functioning. Today we know the extent of the damage. The ACES study conducted by the CDC and Kaiser-Permanente has proven that.

Adults victimized in their adult lives have many of the same struggles.

I read too many academic journal articles describing the results of such victimization as if these results made the victim someone a person to ignore and disregard. Discard. Throwaway children, first victims of abuse. Then victims of the aftermath and the people who were supposed to help them.

There is some great professional work, like the study above by CDC and Kaiser, in the public eye these days. It’s a dramatic change.

Later, in my work as a therapist, I learned from clients that the key to the extent of damage to a child was emotional support and resilience in the family. If a parent believed them, they had fewer problems. If an adult had a terrific set of loving and giving friends following a trauma, they had fewer PTSD symptoms. If they had the support around them to walk through their natural process, their damage was less.

My point is this. Denial of sexual violation is not new. Coming out and openly telling your story is. It’s brave and admirable. Sexual predators facing consequences. That’s new.

More recently, I’ve learned that if a physician asked their patients about their childhoods, their physical health improved as much as 35%.

I hope this current speak-out is part of a cultural change that will free women and young men from victimization. If more powerful people publicly pay consequences for their actions, more potential victims could be safer.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful for predators to be punished and victims listened to. They might just heal. Our society might just heal. It’s my fantasy that we could live in a world where there is absolutely no room for sexual predators.

Your feedback is important! Please let me know your thoughts and feelings about this writing.

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Me TOO. And Rape Culture


Me, too. I have my personal stories of abuse, harassment, and rape. Today we call what happened human trafficking.  Most of my life I simply called it abuse.

When I was in graduate school, we were all required to give presentations to our class on our individual projects. My focus of study was treatment for adults abused as children.

This was the 1980’s, and I noticed the limited academic articles. Some of the ones I did find were hideous. Blaming the child. Stating that, “Yes, it happens, but it’s really okay.” That’s rape culture.

I thought a lot about that. I pondered the reactions of people to any discussion of child abuse. The ostrich reaction. That too is rape culture.

So, for my class presentation, I prepared this knock your socks off experience for my fellow students. As future mental health professionals, I wanted to introduce them to the feelings of a child who experienced early abuse. I wanted to reach them. I succeeded.

A woman jumped up, knocked over her chair, and ran out of the room sobbing. I’d gone too far. In today’s society, I’d give a trigger warning.

Now I understand that violence against women is pervasive and has so many incarnations that almost everyone in any group of women will have experienced some form of sexual violence. That is rape culture. A culture where sexual violence is so common it touches almost everyone.

In my mind, there is a continuum of sexual violence. Starting from the inappropriate comment or joke in a group, moving into unwanted hugs and escalating all the way up to rape, serial rape, battery, and sexual murder. There are so many different forms that this behavior is extensive and deep in our culture.

I’m a glorious 72 years of age. I’ve spent my life’s work on issues of childhood trauma, sexual violence, and harassment. Childhood trauma, sexual violence, sexual power games, and harassment are rampant in our society. I think it might be difficult to find someone who has NOT been violated in one of its many forms. Again, rape culture.

I’ve been proud of these women I don’t know who stood up now and told their truth. Their bravery impressed me. And the more women who stood up and spoke their truths, the more hopeful I became. If enough women spoke up, maybe, just maybe, things might change. Maybe our culture would teach our boys it’s not normal to violate women.

Then I read a scathing Facebook post from a man who scorned people like me who wrote “me too” in their status update. My face burned when I read his thought that women were claiming victim status without earning it. OMG, how does one earn something none of us want?

I know he misunderstood the purpose of the ‘me too’ movement. And thought he might be a perpetrator. I passed on that discussion. Although many people attempted to convince him he was wrong. None succeeded.

You cannot imagine my shock at my own reactions when people I like to watch on TV were themselves named. I didn’t want it to be true. Then I remembered Ann Rule’s book about Ted Bundy, The Stranger Beside Me. How he worked at a suicide prevention center. She, a writer of true crime fiction, had no idea he was a predator. All the techniques he used to appear harmless flooded my mind.

Okay, he was a serial killer. The cast on his leg, crutches, and removal of a seat in his harmless-looking VW were extreme. But the underlying reality was that harmless looking people, people we like, the friendly neighborhood whomever can all be predatory animals.

And then, well, then I heard the report on Former President Bush. First, I got angry. Inappropriate angry at the woman. I made up stories and reasons she’d make her accusation. I didn’t vote for either Bush. But I loved him jumping out of an airplane for his 90th birthday.

Then I made up a rationale for his behavior. Made mental excuses for him. POW! I am so mad at myself. Or was until I worked this out.

I remembered everything I’ve studied, seen and experienced. My task as a professional is to self-examine. So I did.

I thought about how often I’ve been in a group laughing at the idea of a ‘dirty old man‘ in a nursing home pinching the nurse’s butt. Chasing women around the facility in his walker.

Group laughter at these images. With a wink and a nod. Because everyone around me thought it was cool to go to the twilight of their lives as a ‘dirty old man‘ Or a ‘dirty old lady‘!

And I got angry. At myself, at you and you and even you. At our society which makes jokes out of sexual violence. Jokes that normalize it and make it seem okay.

The reality then becomes that it’s okay for poor old maybe senile former President Bush to grab women’s butts. Okay for the men who do these things. Not so okay for the women who are on the receiving end.

And that, my friends, is rape culture.

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Holiday Self-Care Tips

This page of self-care tips is for everyone who finds Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day an unhappy experience. I looked for quotes that go against what most people say and think about the holiday season.

I wrote these to help you pick those strategies that seem most suitable to you. If you think you need help developing your self-care tips, consider my Online Holiday Art Coaching Group.

Most of my life’s work has been spent with people who experienced abuse, trauma, grief and tragedy. I worry that someone with unhappy, abusive, and traumatic histories might feel isolated and alone during the holidays.

Watch this space. I’ll be adding a self-care tip daily. There are 2 other holiday pages: Quotes and Holiday Myths.


You find your truth by asking yourself questions and listening to your thoughts and feelings. Part of this is what you’ve experienced. In this case, we’re talking about trauma, tragedy, grief, abuse, and harassment. These events and what you have experienced. It might surprise you to realize that the way you think and feel is normal for someone who has experienced events like yours.

There is more to your truth. Your truths also involve what you believe, need, want and think. These are often private thoughts that you don’t share with others.

Knowing your truths is one way you can make self-enhancing holiday plans.


This one takes a bit of practice. You do have to go up against your own inner rules about your feelings. You might also need to go against the feelings rules of everyone else around you.

Like I wrote above, your feelings are normal given your history. If you acknowledge your feelings, you can make plans that are more suitable to you.


Most people with painful histories judge themselves as bad and wrong for existing. I usually call this the “wrong rule.” It goes like this. I’m too fat, too thin, too tall, too short, too loud, too silent. If I think it, feel it, want it, need it, I’m wrong. And the wrong rule is simply by itself—wrong.

Instead, you want to turn this thought behavior on it’s head. Instead of judging yourself around the holiday season, find ways to make yourself right. Then find ways to self-soothe and comfort.

This one is easier than it sounds. You can pick any small are large thing you think, are or do and deliberately to yourself give yourself credit for it. When I began using this tool, I started very small. Every day, I praised myself for washing my face and brushing my teeth. There are many ways to expand this. But first you need to develop it as a habit.


So many people who have experienced abuse, neglect, abandonment, trauma, and harassment just take the blame on themselves. It’s an easy mental trick. You, probably unconsciously, think “If I’m at fault, I can change this!”

Since we cannot control other people abuse and all the rest above have never been your fault.

This requires a lot of self-talk.


For the upcoming holidays, you can listen to your wants, needs, and desires. It might take determination, but you can decide to ask yourself what you would like your holiday to be like. And then plan it just for you.

There are so many choices. Some of the possible choices will be posted here in the near future. The range is from ignoring the holidays completely to planning a holiday that matches your wants, needs and desires.


Okay, okay, I know the stores are full of holloween candy! The television is advertising halloween scary movies. And right now, halloween is everywhere. In a few weeks, Thanksgiving will be imposed upon you in advertising, on television, at work and throughout your friendships. You can tune it out. Make alternate plans for yourself. Politely say, “no” to invitations. “Thank you, but I cannot” is a simple example.


There is no right way to celebrate or not celebrate holidays. It’s a matter of finding out what is best for you. Some people find service allows them to turn their misery into moments of blessings. Others find it does the opposite.

Ask yourself what Y O U R needs are. You can ponder all of these ideas and pick the ones that are best for you.


If you belong to a church, are comfortable in church, one way to spend the holidays is to involve yourself with the church of your choice.

Your feedback is important! If you have holiday quotes that are meaningful to you, please add them to the “Leave a Reply” box at the bottom of the page.

If you wish to say more, e-mail me at or by using the contact me box below.

If you like my writing and are interested in applying some of these ideas, subscribe to my newsletter.

email:                                         Telephone: (615) 464-3791


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©2016-17 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.                    Privacy Policy



Holiday Myths Held by People with Trauma

This page of holiday myths is for everyone who finds Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day an unhappy experience. I listed this series of false beliefs about the holidays because false beliefs tend to act as self-judgment. They often end up as an abusive stick to criticize yourself with as you try to live through a difficult time.

Most of my life’s work has been spent with people who experienced abuse, trauma, grief and tragedy. I worry that someone with unhappy, abusive, and traumatic histories might feel isolated and alone during the holidays.

It is my hope that you challenge these beliefs or at the very least remind yourself that they are false. In the Holiday Art Coaching Group we will be talking about tools to use for this.

Watch this space. I’ll be adding a myth daily. There are 2 other holiday pages: Quotes and Self-Care Tips.

Holiday Myth 1

This is a myth that you can walk into a space that reminds you of unhappy memories and just block it out. Not only is that not good for you, it hurts more.

I remember the first year of holidays after my late husband died. As I lived the year’s cycle of holidays, I was hit with such grief.

Instead of blocking the memories and feelings, think about them. Think about what you need. Then find a way to give it to yourself.

Holiday Myth 2

I’m not sure this is true for anyone anywhere. It’s harder for people whose life experience tells them that holidays can be tragic, painful, and scary.

I’m probably repeating myself over and over, but no one nowhere eliminate unhappy feelings.

Accepting your feelings and comforting yourself is key.


I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing this was actually true. But you cannot. This is especially painful during holidays. Instead, if you can remind yourself you are normal, this will be a tiny bit easier.

Instead, if you can remind yourself you are normal, this will be a tiny bit easier.


The cruelty of this belief is that people really try to get into the swing of things no matter what has happened to them. And because it’s impossible to do without some deliberately acquired  skills and actions, they fail. Then their inner critique makes lots of noise. In coaching we call this self-criticism, gremlins. This myth gives your inner gremlins lots of permission.



This probably is self-evident. No one always loves everything. The oppressiveness of this belief is that it can leave you feeling out of step.

Even worse, you might falsely believe that if you cannot love the holidays, you deserve to be unhappy. In this way, people deny themselves the comfort they need.

I remember the Easter I was chased and attacked by a gang of roudy boys. They hit me with bricks and threw me down in the mud. I think, at ten years old, I was most offended by the fact they ruined my beautiful lavender organza dress.

I find Easter uncomfortable. The candy is problematic for me. I get to comfort myself and make regular plans for how I will cope with this holiday.

Your get to do the same for yourself.


If you have a chronic illness and research does show that early childhood trauma increases lifetime illness, then you might hope this belief is true.

Chronic illness has it’s own special considerations. Self-care, pacing, and realistic expectations are all part of living day-to-day with chronic illness. Unfortunately, not everyone in your life will have reasonable expectations of you. This requires much self-honesty and assertiveness. And that is difficult.

Your solutions begin with gaining your own realistic expectations of yourself during the holidays.


Again, if you live with chronic illness or have multiple demands upon you, this myth can be brutal. I live with chronic illness and find it difficult to do everything my mind can think of. Sometimes I visualize a fancy holiday party with foods, decorations, and such. Or making a creative costume for myself and my husband. Instead, I have to stay within my energy envelope. I only have so many energy marbles in my jar before I ‘lose my marbles’ to my chronic medical conditions.


When I wrote this one, I thought, “Well, that’s rediculous!” Then I remembered how many times I tried to please everyone in my life. It’s quite difficult to challenge this one, because the people who want you to please them will argue about it. It might help to realize that the only person who can change this burden on you is you.


I’m not certain I can write anything wise about this. I do remember years I’ve thought, “it’s okay, it’s the holidays” while I ruined whatever healthy eating plan I was following.

Your feedback is important! If you have holiday quotes that are meaningful to you, please add them to the “Leave a Reply” box at the bottom of the page.

If you wish to say more, e-mail me at or by using the contact me box below.

If you like my writing and are interested in applying some of these ideas, subscribe to my newsletter.

email:                                         Telephone: (615) 464-3791


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©2016-17 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.                    Privacy Policy



Online Art Coaching Group To Create New Holiday Memories

hot air balloons at sunset colemanlifecoaching.comCreate new holiday memories! Make new friends in the comfort of your own home. Use art projects to develop holiday plans that please you. Be supported and encouraged. Become true to yourself before and during the holiday season

Coaching Not Therapy

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  • Take action
  • Create new memories

Art Coaching

  • Create your vision
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  • Meets weekly
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  • Starts Saturday 11/4/17
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Read my blog on Holidays for Adults with Unhappy Holiday Memories

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Holidays for Adults with Unhappy Holiday Memories

hot air balloons at sunset

Self-Care to Reduce Holiday Stress

Yesterday I went to physical therapy. Yes, physical therapy. AGAIN.

There were beautiful huge pumpkins decorating the waiting room. One on each side of the door. Today is a day in the last week of September.

Halloween is at the end of next month!

The holidays are coming! Thanksgiving movies are being advertised on television. Christmas music will soon be playing everywhere. Homes, schools, and offices are decorating.

Beautiful mouthwatering candy and cookies are tempting the most patient dieter. “Tis the season to be jolly”. Or is it?

This brings up memories. Happy memories or unhappy ones. Everyone experiences holiday stress. Yet people with unhappy childhoods experience sometimes massive holiday stress.

This blog is for you. I’m writing for each and every one of you whose childhood memories are unhappy ones.

I wish to discuss a myth. This fable suggests that all you need to do is let go. Let go of bad memories. Just decide to forget about it.

That’s not the case. People say, “Just go laugh and play; you’ll feel better.

Or “Enjoy the moment.”

“Forget the past.”

These false ideas make your holidays more difficult. Stressful.

People expect child abuse to be over when you grow up. You are expected to pick up with grit and a smile. Then carry on from the most stressful memories.

You were invisible before, but now you don’t exist. People expect you to disappear into the mainstream of society and have no problems with life at all.

People assume you will just deal with it all the time, but the pressure on you is worse around the holidays. All around you are expressions of happiness and joy.

Movies, music, stores, and other people are expressing happy feelings. You place expectations on yourself and create more holiday stress. You tell yourself; “be jolly.

Happiness is an expectation and a pressure on you. Instead, you feel like Scrooge. More stress.

When you laugh and play, you feel your innermost feelings. For a person with a happy fulfilling personal history, this is wonderful. You’ll remember Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Easter and other family holidays past with fond and pleasant memories.

Sure, you have had problems in your life; but the overall picture of your personal history is mellow. You’ll remember smells, sounds, and people with warmth, joy, and feelings of anticipation.

If you grew up in a dysfunctional household, holidays were more likely to be chaotic. You lived holiday stress.

All days were chaotic, but the holidays were worse.

Many people have memories of dad or mom drunk and violent or weepy or sloppy sentimental. There are memories of dire poverty with no food or heat or furniture. Your parents might have traded your Christmas presents for drugs. Or you were beaten senseless by your drunken parent or molested by that weird Uncle So and So.

Christmas and other holidays bring up feelings and memories from the most painful events of your life.

Here are some suggestions to help you take care of yourself.

  • Tell yourself your truths.

What truths? You might ask. Your truths are those thoughts and feelings you have in the privacy of your own mind. Your truth is what happened to you in your lifetime.

Your truth consists of your beliefs, needs, wants, and ideas. You probably don’t voice them. You might not even allow yourself to acknowledge them. However, you do hear them.

If you allow yourself to know your truths, you will be able to make a holiday plan that fits your needs. You can make good decisions based on who you are, what you have been through and what exactly you need from yourself.

  • Allow yourself to feel how you feel.

Tell yourself that you are normal to feel the way you feel. Acknowledge that you have a right to feel exactly as you feel about these holidays. Remind yourself that anyone with your specific history would feel exactly as you do.

  • Try to find ways to give your approval to yourself.

Make yourself right for who you are instead of wrong. If it is normal for you to feel painful feelings during the holidays, you don’t have to pretend to be jolly. If you don’t have to pretend to be jolly, you can find healthy ways to comfort yourself.

  • Ask yourself what kind of Holiday you would like.

As an adult, you can do for yourself what you could not do in childhood. You have a wide range of options to choose from.

  • You can give yourself a traditional holiday.
  • You can ignore the holidays altogether.
  • You can spend your holidays in service to others.
  • You could spend your holiday with a church of your choice.
  • There is no correct way of having holidays.
  • You can look at all the different aspects of each celebration; then pick and choose the activities that suit you.
  • The point here is to listen to yourself.
  • Take care of yourself based on your truth, your feelings and what you want.

Decide to parent yourself. Comfort yourself with what you need.

Keep yourself safe from harm. Be kind to yourself. This may be the most difficult step in self-care.

  • Whenever you make any change in your behavior, you will run into resistance.

Resistance is sneaky. Sometimes it’s just a sense of irritation. Other times, it’s a nightmare. I often feel sick when getting ready to do something difficult. Resistance is within yourself and also from other people. This too is normal.

Accept that you will fight yourself when taking care of you. And, then proceed to do just that. Fight yourself to take care of you.

  • Taking care of yourself is a long learning process.

All that is required is that you make an attempt. Each effort, each trial for self-care is progress. Your attempts will help you relieve your holiday stress. You can create new memories for yourself. Memories that suit you and meet your needs.

Best wishes to you. Stay safe!

Do you have thoughts about how you can reduce your upcoming holiday stress?

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Your Name Is Not Hurricane: Help Children Cope with the Experience.

river-2576847_1920Hurricanes Are Horrible but You Aren’t.

I was not in the hurricane zone. I watched it on television. I have experienced my own severe trauma. And spent countless hours with children who experienced a variety of traumas.

With all the drama on television regarding the current storms, it’s easy for people to assume that you, your family, and your children will be damaged forever by this experience. That’s not true.

Admittedly, it’s awful to be in a situation where you fear for your life. And terrible to be displaced, depending upon others for your basic needs. Everything people have experienced in these current hurricanes is horrific, but doesn’t have to forever damage them and ruin their lives.

You Can Become Resilient and Help You Child Do the Same.

Resilience means you bounce back, adapt or adjust to whatever comes. You can nurture resilience in your child.

Many people say something like “I can’t do that! I’m not strong enough.” They think people who overcome the worst tragedies are somehow different from them. But that’s not true.

It’s a myth that overcomers have special qualities. They’re not special. And they don’t have unique qualities.

They are just like you or I.

Resilient Behaviors

What they do is also ordinary. You see these behaviors every day. People create social support systems that meet their basic emotional and physical needs. Resilient people develop habits that allow them to roll with the punches and come out on top. Children become resilient when they connect to adults who care for them, listen to them, teach them to manage difficult feelings, and love them.

A Hurricane Doesn’t Have to Cause PTSD

People assume that because you’ve had a horrific experience, the trauma damages you. They believe you are tainted, or forever marked by the experience. I wrote about adult trauma in my article, Trauma Wellness

Your child doesn’t have to be damaged either. It’s a big experience. And it requires a great deal out of everyone. But it doesn’t have to ruin the rest of your life or the life of your child.

Yes, This Is Difficult and Painful for You.

Parents who tend to their children in a trauma or tragedy do double and maybe even quadruple duty. You have so many pressing life problems to solve. Then you have to tend to your own painful feelings. You turn around and see your child’s feelings. Their feelings make you more aware of your own. Your child needs your help.

Try to accept that it’s natural for your child’s feelings to be uncomfortable to you. Know that your children’s play may upset you. It can and probably will remind you of your experiences in the hurricane.

Your child may lose newly developed skills. For example, if your toddler was toilet trained, they might need diapers again. This needs patience. Those skills will come back.

One of the most difficult things to do is to allow your child the space to explore their own unique return to normal. To try new or old behavior and experiences. Try to offer support without overprotection or restriction.

Children Express Themselves Through Art and Play.

It is normal for a child to create games, pictures and stories about a hurricane. Be prepared to talk to your child about the hurricane. There are inexpensive books you can read to them, games you can play, and art work you can do together. If you have no books or electricity, you can make up stories. Just make sure that the endings of each story carry a positive message of everyone survives and thrives. Try to include feelings they have and how they managed those feelings. Also consider stories that show how children solved the hurricane problems.

It might take creativity to discover art materials. They are all around you. Some people work their art with “found materials.” Found materials include anything in the world around you. Leaves, rocks, grass, sticks, beads, and even water can be a vehicle for art.

The art doesn’t have to be permanent. You don’t need glue, paper or pencils. Found objects can create a story on the floor of a shelter for you and your child to talk about. Then your child can keep the objects or throw them away.

All these activities will help you communicate with your child.

Children Need to Feel Safe in the World Again.

This, too, can be difficult for you. A hurricane seems to take away your safety. It’s unpredictable and uncontrollable. Here, too, you are doing double duty. You will need to seek a way to think about how to feel safe again yourself. You’ll find your own solution to this as your work out your feelings.

Your child will be working on the same issues. They could become clingy, refuse to let you out of their sight, or have trouble sleeping. They might cry a lot.

One way to help your child is to reassure them you’re still present. You are still you. You love them every bit as much as you always did. Point out all the things that are going right in your lives. You might have to stretch yourself to do this. But everyone has some good things at any point in time.

Children Need Emotion Skills.

You can help them learn to soothe themselves when agitated, angry or afraid. Ongoing conversations with your child about the hurricane and all the life problems can help them learn from you. Use the language of emotion. Naming your emotions and theirs teaches your child the words they need for themselves.

By your actions, you can teach self-soothing, problem solving, and coping strategies. With interaction, you can teach your child the names of their feelings and all of the skills they need to master the hurricane experience. This gives them a greater sense of control over those out-of-control feelings and their lives.

Within the chaos of hurricane aftermath, create a specific time and space to communicate about the hurricane and their feelings. Talk to them about the hurricane and make sure you hear them. This leaves a child more grounded and centered. It’s the same for adults. Everyone needs to be heard. It’s one of the greatest needs humans have.

Find a way for your child to express their feelings that fits the circumstances around them. Help them learn to cope with those feelings. Lead them in solving the problems that bring out those feelings.

Books and books have been written on subjects like this. This is a short article summarizing a few ideas.

You can view the references I used to write this here.

If you would like coaching on how to help your child, contact me.

Telephone: (615) 464-3791

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©2017 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D. All rights reserved.



The Only Way Out Is Through!


Abuse-Proofing Your Children: Adult Predators

children-817365_1280Early in my graduate training, I stumbled over some great information and advice in my studies on all aspects of trauma and child abuse. One author wrote that parents should tell your children the following. “If someone tells you not to tell your parents, they are not your friend. Come and tell me right away!

So I did. And he did.

There was an older grandfather in the neighborhood who was showing the boys pornography. My studies taught me that this is a clue. An early strategy pedophiles often use to seduce young children.

I praised my son for trusting me. The solution was easy. My child could play with that other child at our house.

Here’s another example. A local school district offered a child abuse prevention program in all of their elementary schools. Not too long afterward, a youth leader attempted to molest several young children at a sleep-away camp. They did what they were taught. They all said “no.” Then repeated their “NO” more loudly in the face of increased pressure from the predator.

These kids understood what to do. The children realized they’d be believed. They also learned they could stand up to an adult who wanted to invade their space. They believed they would not be punished for refusing to follow an adult’s wrong directions.

They told their parents when they arrived home. Their parents believed them, then reported the pedophile to their local police department.

These children were not molested or traumatized. Instead, the predator went to jail. This is a successful example of abuse proofing children.

People think any and all abuse attempts will damage their children. It’s not true. Abuse proofing your child prevents the abuse. It also prevents the damage.

Here is what you need to know to abuse proof your own child.

  • Abusers can be strangers AND people you know.

As loving parents, we fear the stranger who could harm our children. However, according to the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information, most abused children are abused by someone they know.

  • Child molesters and abusers look for opportunity.

This means they plant themselves where children are available. Predators go out of their way to ingratiate themselves with the parents of their child victims. Often they worked very hard to win YOUR trust. Don’t give it to them. You’ll see this by instinct. Trust that instinct.

  • Children own their private spaces just like adults.

A pedophile will make slow, yet deliberate and inappropriate attempts to invade the private spaces of their potential child victim. Teach them their right to their physical space.

  • A child’s sense of personal space and privacy changes as he or she ages.

A young child learns about good touches and bad touches. They might learn about the private parts of their body that no one is supposed to touch. As they grow, they might learn about self-expression with the right to their own ideas, thoughts and feelings.

  • Children sense violation the same as adults do.

As adults, you can understand that uncomfortable feeling you experience when someone stands too close to you, asks too many personal questions or actually takes something out of your purse or off your desk. As adults, you can learn to speak up.

  • This rule is a little more complicated for children. They live with less control over their lives than adults.

So, you might want to begin protecting your child by telling him or her to tell you if another person makes them uncomfortable.

  • Children need “NO” type words you, as parents, can accept.

Loving parents want their children to do well in life, develop friends, and be successful in school. Most parents hope to raise children that learn manners and proper behavior. Find a way within your family values for your child to say “NO” to the earliest invasion of a human predator.

  • Develop your own balance between teaching your children proper behavior and teaching your children self-protection.

This is where intuition, values, good judgment and parenting skills are vitally important. You have your home rules along with your religious and moral values. You, as parent, can use your beliefs as your guide to teaching your child how to express themselves.

  • Children need to tell someone about this violation.

Predators are difficult enough for adults to handle! Since children have fewer skills to handle predators, they need adult assistance. They have to be able to tell you.

  • They need you to hear them when they tell you.

This is probably the most painful and difficult part. Not “Auntie Nameless” or “Uncle So and So”!

  • Children should keep telling trusted adults until an adult hears them.

Teach your children to come to you. As you do, teach them to get help for themselves wherever they are and whenever they need help.

Children learn very fast when you talk directly and listen to them about the things that bother them. Try it! You’ll be glad you did.

Feel free to dialogue by using the reply form below.

Contact me for parent coaching to abuse proof your child.


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

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©2016-17 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.