Calgary Christian Counselling: Why has the COVID-19 crisis made me feel so weird?
We at Henze & Associates have probably been asked a variant of that question a hundred times since the COVID-19 crisis began – by people from all walks of life who are seeking Calgary Christian Counselling.
Some of those clients are already working through the grief counselling or trauma therapy we offer at Henze & Associates Calgary, but most are not. Of late, it’s become one of the most popular issues mental health care providers address – because a substantial segment of the population is feeling just that: Weird.
Over the last little while, I’ve spoken with several Calgary Christian Psychologists or Christian Counsellors on the front lines of mental health care for the COVID-19 pandemic. We were discussing how, as the Covid-19 crisis has continued, those persons taking it seriously seem to be exhibiting a variety of responses to it. But, as the discussion with those psychologists and therapists continued, we realized that those responses generally seemed to fall into three categories:
Trauma Free Individuals:
Those who have never experienced any real trauma are mostly experiencing a strange sense of exhaustion and lethargy that they can not understand. They usually describe as being tired of working from home, pure loneliness or “Zoom fatigue.” But, it’s none of the above. It’s a grieving process based on at least an unconscious awareness that life will likely look very different in the future, and a lack of skill in processing that change.
Severely Traumatized Individuals:
Somewhat ironically, those who have experienced severe trauma in their developmental years are often the calmest. They report finally feeling the world is as chaotic outside as they have always experienced it within themselves – and, thus, are mostly feeling peace and contentment with the time off.
Mildly Traumatized Individuals:
But, it’s the much larger group of those who have experienced only mild trauma (usually seen as insignificant) who are most often experiencing the more intense confusion and distress throughout this time.
These mildly traumatized individuals are the people asking about “weirdness.”
When most of us encounter the concept of “Trauma,” we automatically go to ideas like rape, murder and horrific acts of violence. We think of crimes that result from a person getting what they should not have gotten. It’s only natural that we would think this way. After all, it’s only this sort of dramatic issue that ever makes the evening news.
But, the majority of trauma is in a different and much more invisible category – where people never get what they should have gotten. For example, perhaps they never get the love, the attuned emotional co-regulation, the affirmation and the security of attachment every human being was designed to require. This second kind of trauma is usually quite challenging to see, even in one’s self. After all, how does anyone long for something they never even knew existed?
But, the undeniable fact is, we still do know that something isn’t quite right. Even if we are raised to believe that we don’t need the emotional sustenance we do, well, there’s still some part that isn’t so easily fooled. That true self, deep inside, always knows that we were made for more.
Children experience identity and environment as synonymous with each other. When our needs are not met as we grow up, our only option is to silence those longings. Why? Because an unmet need must be a bad need, and a bad part of the child that deserves to be erased. However, when we silence those needs, we also cut off or exile parts of ourselves – and with those parts, the resources to live, love and relate properly.
And, all of us are VERY poor at keeping those parts of us locked away when things get stressful.
When we deny our needs and exile parts of ourselves, those parts of us stop development at the age we were when we locked them away. The rest continued to grow and develop, but they didn’t. When those parts of us surface, they see the world through the powerless eyes of a child and react with the minimal coping skills of a child.
So, along comes one of the most life-changing and stressful societal shifts of several generations – and then huge race-related protests explode all over the world. Unless you have formal training in microbiology and have studied the immune system in medical school, it likely pushes all of your buttons of childlike helplessness and powerlessness. We are left dependent on experts directing our lives in ways that we have little ability to understand or change. People are no longer even searching for Google’s classic search terms like “Psychologist near me,” or “Therapist near me,” because even those terms have become meaningless in a world where we can no longer leave our homes. We are left struggling with needs for love and connection that are not being well met right now – just as we were when we were children under the care of our parents.
For those who have experienced excellent parenting, there is generally an ability to trust that those medical professionals who have taken the helm in this pandemic have their best interests at heart when those buttons are pushed. It’s never fun to be out of control, of course. But, because their childhood experiences of powerlessness proved to be safe and life-giving, they now find it easy to trust and not end up in paranoia or conspiracy theories.
But, for those of us who experienced less than optimal parenting and attachment in our childhoods, that loss of control awakens all of those parts that we denied and exiled. It also stimulates all of the childhood emotions and immature responses attached to those parts. They come rushing back into the core of our being. Sometimes they take over with such a force that we wonder who we even are anymore, or how we could believe the irrational and paranoid theories we sometimes do.
And, our emotional world suddenly crumbles, and everything feels, well, weird.
We first seek to find ways to continue to suppress our hearts and just wait out this crisis. Health Canada is reporting a sharp increase in the number of people suddenly consuming remarkable amounts of marijuana and alcohol. Counselling services are overwhelmed and people are flocking to their family physicians to acquire prescriptions for various psychoactive medications and antidepressants as well. The Calgary Drop-In Centre recently made the press after a 300% uptick in overdoses. Our Calgary Counselling Centre staff are seeing so many people literally taking their lives in their own hands to avoid those emotions being triggered.
Those substances do somewhat help and can have their place, but they only delay things until later and do nothing to fix the real problem. Because the real problem is that parts of us have never been allowed to grow up.
We know waiting out this crisis isn’t likely to work. But we go there anyway, because of how much we fear that process of growing up. We fear the stress of the risks we will face today, and we especially fear awakening the pain of our buried childhood longings. (After all, if they hurt too much to face back then, how much worse will they be today?)
Additionally, most people are grimly aware of how little modern psychology does to heal trauma – mostly teaching people how to live with the effects of trauma. Even more of the general public is very aware of how painful standard exposure-based therapies can be, and impermanent the results often are. This entire area of psychology gets ruthlessly mocked in popular media – and for good reasons.
If you put all that together, it’s no wonder so many people prefer to smoke a joint.
But, it doesn’t need to be that way.
If you have looked the distress playing out within yourself during this COVID-19 season and said, “Something is just not right here,” then read on. It’s time to discover how things can be so very different, without drugs.
This entire article is founded in the theory and practice of one of only two types of trauma therapy that actually heal trauma: Internal Family Systems Therapy. Internal Family Systems Therapy was developed over twenty-five years ago by Dr. Richard Schwartz. It now has over four hundred thousand practitioners worldwide and is the logical foundation for Pixar’s hit movie: Inside Out.
Internal Family Systems Therapy is a school of therapy that helps you master your mind’s inner workings and teaches you how to heal yourself. Instead of retraumatizing you until you cease to react to your memories, it shows you how to find those exiled parts of yourself and safely explore your past. You will learn how to bring those hidden parts of yourself into safety, remove the burdensome falsehoods they carry and become a fully integrated and adult whole.
And, at Henze Associates we do it gently and with little stress, keeping people fully connected to themselves and their bodies. Christian counselling online and in-office happens without distracting tapping, gimmicks, flashing light bars, vibrating eggs, or repeatedly forcing people to relive their trauma.
Best of all, you keep ALL of the control, so you own the skills to heal yourself by the end. You can use these trauma-focused Christian Counselling Techniques to heal future pain, teach them to your children or others that you love and not remain in therapy forever.
As distressing as the entire COVID-19 experience may have been, perhaps that pervasive sense of weirdness is one of the best gifts you ever received. If you cease regarding it as the enemy, start to listen to it and reach out for some of the best counselling Calgary has to offer, that inner turmoil can lead you to take one of the most profound and life-giving steps possible.
So, if you’re tired of band-aid solutions that merely help you live with the effects of your past and sick of feeling shattered and broken inside, then reach out for Calgary Christian Counselling today. Our experienced psychological professionals offer many different types of Christian Counseling and are fully available to walk with you as you transform your life into what it always should have been!