Monday, January 28, 2013

Gun Control: A social Worker's Perspective

Gun Control:  A Social Worker’s Perspective


The issue of gun control has been an on-going situation over the years, but has gained increased attention due to recent events.  Over the past few weeks there has been much attention given to tougher laws, increased mental health screenings and increased security.  I want to take time to address the complicated issue of gun control from one social worker’s perspective and take the discussion on this issue in perhaps a different direction than where it has been going so far. 

I want to point out a myth that this debate has brought out.  A myth that has come out is that mass murders are committed by seriously mentally ill people.  In an article by Michael B. Friedman that appeared in the January 17, 2013 edition of the Huffington Post, Friedman points out that people with mental illness are not likely to be violent and that acts of mass murder are carried out by some who are mentally ill, but these types of acts are also likely to be carried out by those who are not mentally ill.  This is an important point to make because there have been calls for increased attention to those with mental illness.  Does this mean that people who have identified themselves as having issues with mental health have limited rights?  I am not talking about the right for a person with mental health issues to own a gun, but rather are persons with mental health issues going to be labeled violent and have their access limited to the community at large?  This is a question that remains to be addressed in the debate. 

Aside from the issue of mental health and gun use, I want to bring out a deeper discussion of why people may choose to use violence to deal with some situations.  I have pondered this for some time and have wondered how much the role of shame has played in a person’s choice to use violence over other options.  First, I need to define a key difference between shame and guilt.  The word shame is defined per the Social Work Dictionary 5th edition (Baker 2003) as:

A painful feeling of having disgraced or dishonored oneself or those one cares about because of an intentional act, involuntary behavior or circumstance.

Guilt is defined per the Social Work Dictionary 5th edition (Baker 2003) as:  An emotional reaction to the perceptions of having done something wrong, having failed to do something or violating important social norms.

When you look at these two definitions there is an important difference between the two states.  Guilt is an emotional reaction to violating social norms and to put it simply says “I did something bad.”  Shame on the other hand is a much deeper feeling in which a person internalizes feelings of negative self worth.  Basically, shame says “I am a bad person.” 

When I look at the incidents of mass violence and violence in general, I have wondered if the person or persons committing the violence have experienced shame in some way.  My point is that if shame is left unattended and not dealt with, that a person may choose to use violence to deal with the feeling of being wronged or slighted by others.  This choice may not be used for a few incidents, but over time if a person experiences many incidents of being wronged either by others, systems or even by themselves they may feel the only way around these intense feelings is to hurt others to feel vindicated.  The other issue that is related to shame is power or the lack of it.  When a person lacks the power to make changes to deal with the shame they have experienced they may choose violence as a way to achieve power. 

For me the issue of gun control is more than banning guns or not, it is more about looking at why people choose to use violence in the first place.  I believe that when the underlying issues of violence are addressed, you may see a reduction in all violence in general.  I also believe that when a person is given the chance to be heard and they are able to get their story out, it goes a long way to reducing the feelings of shame and guilt that if left unchecked can lead to violence. 

BrenĂ© Brown, Ph.D. has done some excellent work on vulnerability and work on shame.  I have included a link to her work on shame.  She addresses the issue of how shame impacts our lives.  She has focused her work on listening to people’s stories and learning about what pain they have been through as well as what people have done to deal with these intense feelings.  The link is below.

When you get to the site, please click on the “listening to shame” video. 

I have stated this in a previous post on new path notes that I believe it is very important for people of all ages to have a safe place and a safe person in which to share their hurts.  I believe if a person is truly heard the feelings of shame and hurt can be reduced.  I am speaking of all violence types not just those involving guns.  When people start to deal with the feelings that are behind the violence, violence can be reduced.  When people are given the chance to be heard they begin to heal. 
Please remember that there are people out there willing to listen to what is going on in your life.  All you need to is start asking people to listen.  I wish the best to you all!!

© 2013 Mike Arieta MSW, LICSW, LMSW


Monday, December 17, 2012

Dealing with Holiday Stress

December 16, 2012

Dealing with Holiday Stress

Stress is a common and normal part of everyday life.  We experience stress as a result of job, school, family, social and other life events.  Stress in small amounts for a short period of time can be of some help, spurring us on to complete tasks and meet goals.  When stress is prolonged over a long period of time and continuous, stress can cause major issues mentally and physically.  This piece is meant to provide some insight on how to deal with a particularly stressful time of year, the holiday season. 


The holiday season tends to be a more stressful time than other times of the year, assuming that the other times of the year are not filed with major life event stressors.  The reason the holidays tend to be a more stressful time of year is due to several factors:


1.     The demands of entertaining or being involved with many events

2.     Financial because of all the demands to purchase gifts especially if a person is on a tight budget

3.     Depression due to the loss of loved ones who would normally share in the holiday events

4.     Feelings of guilt over saying no to many invitations to events

5.     Dealing with feelings of anger or hurt over past wrongs committed against us by family


The list above names just a few reasons we would feel more stress around the holiday times.  It is important to remember that we experience stress all year long, but the holidays tend to be more stressful because all of the stress we feel during the year tends to build up, and the flurry of events that entail the season are all compacted into a very short time.  In other words, too much to do and not enough time to do it.  Here are some ways to lessen the stress of a very hectic season:


1.      Learn to understand what your body is telling you.  When a person feels stress, the body is the indicator of what is going on.  Signs such as headaches, upset stomach, clenching teeth and fatigue can all be signs of the body and mind being under stress.  Learn to recognize what your body is telling you.  These signs may mean you need to back off a bit and take it easy.


2.      Take time for yourself.  This can be easier said than done, but if you make a conscious effort you can take time for yourself.  When people fail to do this, the holidays can overwhelm them and they may not be able to rest mentally and physically.  Make an effort to take breaks in a busy day; remember to breath deep and let it out slow. 


3.     Communicate, communicate, communicate!  If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, talk with others and let them know how you are feeling.  Often, talking with other people is very helpful in stress reduction, as you may find others who share your issues.  You learn that you are not alone in the holiday process.


4.     Exercise.  Along with taking time for you is exercising.  Sometimes, in the middle of the rush, people forget to go for a good walk or take time to stretch.  Exercise is a great way to keep yourself fit and reduce stress.  Exercise can also be done as a fun holiday activity with family and friends after dinner or events.


5.     Do not feel guilty about setting limits.  You know how much you can deal with.  Do not let feelings of guilt let you take on more than you can handle.  Set some limits and say no if need be.  If you do not set some limits on your time, your time will be taken from you and you will not be able to be at your best.


6.     Understand that you may experience feelings of loss, especially if you have lost loved ones who would normally be a part of annual family gatherings.  Understand that it is normal to feel sad at times due to the loss and know that it is important to share your thoughts and feelings about this with others. 


7.     Please, please do not be afraid to seek out professional help if needed.  So many times people feel guilty or ashamed to seek out professional help at this time of year.  Know that it is alright to ask for help, and others have done this in the past.  Asking for help does not mean you are weak or soft; it is healthy to do this.  There are many places to reach out to, like crisis hot lines, shelters and hospitals. 

It is my hope that in this holiday season you are able to reduce your stress and enjoy time with others.  Remember that there is help available for all who need it.

© Mike Arieta 2012

Sunday, November 11, 2012

November 11, 2012

Self-Efficacy:  A Key Building Block to Success

Over the past few weeks, the term of self-efficacy has been on my mind.  This has come from a combination of media attention about kids struggling in school and a continuing education course I am currently taking on the basics of the addiction process.  What has continually come to light for me is the longer people are left to fail, the more likely they are to develop an attitude that they can never succeed in life.  This attitude of failure can be exacerbated by things said or little things that are done to individuals.  I wanted to take time to first define what self-efficacy is and give my thoughts on what will increase it.

 According to the Social Work Dictionary 5th edition 2003, self-efficacy is defined as follows:

A client’s expectations or beliefs in his or her ability to accomplish specified tasks that are needed to reach therapeutic goals.

This means that if a person has an expectation of success or mastery of a given skill, the more likely they will accomplish the task given them.  The opposite would be true if the person experienced repeated failure at a given task.  The main point here is that people do not master tasks overnight, and that success is truly a journey if I may coin a phrase.  The same can be said of failure, that it can be a journey as well.  People who experience long-term failure can develop low self-efficacy; thus, when help is provided, it may take longer for them to develop a sense of accomplishment. 

It is important to understand that, when dealing with people who have experienced long-term failure, they may not respond to well-intentioned intervention or assistance.  The key is to start where the person is at, and to help them achieve small successes and then build on these.  One other important point to make is that people need support when they fail to try again and again.  I believe it is so important to help people find a safe place where they are allowed learn from failure and find small successes. 

I posted last in May of 2012 on life skills 2.0 what I have learned along the way.  I mentioned in that post of the importance of finding a safe place.  I meant that whole-heartedly because a safe place or even a person is where you can go to recharge your spirit and fight on another day.  People will and do experience failure, but they can learn to succeed if given support to do so.

© Mike Arieta, 2012

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Life Skills 101

Life Skills 101

(What I have learned along the way)

Mike Arieta M.S.W, LICSW, LMSW

Lately, there has been a lot of discussion about higher education and what students who are seeking post secondary education should know before making the decision to enter a college or university.  Many young people who are at a cross roads in their lives are wondering what are the best choices to make or what path they should take.  Below is a list of items that are meant to be a guide to making decisions that will impact their lives. 

1.  Know that you will make mistakes and this is OK!!  You will learn from the mistakes you make.  The issue of making mistakes is not to say that you should intentionally make them, but realize when you make a mistake and be willing to accept feedback.  People who experience disorders know the frustration of not completing a task and may give up quickly when a mistake is made.  You have to be willing to be flexible and to keep trying.  When a mistake is made you must be willing to take a step back and evaluate the situation.  Seek out the opinion of a trusted friend or support person and listen to what is said, then make adjustments based on what you learned from the advice you were given and what you learned from previous experiences.

2.  Know and understand the system you are working with.  Think of this as a library.  A library is a big place and has tons of good information, but you need to know how to find that information.  You need to go to the catalog or resource person in the library to help you find where the book is.  If you are working or going to school you need to know where to go or who to ask when you need information about how to do your job or what class to take.  School or work can be a big place and you can get lost when you don’t have good information to complete your task. 

3.  Develop a good support system of family, friends, teachers and others who will encourage and guide you as you strive to meet your goals.  Find a safe place where you can go to be yourself, laugh, cry and have fun.  This place may be a church, club or classroom.  Surround yourself with people in these places who know and understand you.   

4.  Know yourself. Knowing yourself means you have a good idea of what your strengths and weaknesses are.  Knowing yourself also means you understand what your disability or diagnosis is and how to explain this to others.  When you can explain what your disability is to others they get to understand you.  They get to understand why you do a task differently than others or take more time to complete a task.  When you understand what your disability is, you also need to know what kind of accommodations you need to help you be successful on the job or at school.  Think of yourself as an educator or ambassador.  The more you know about yourself, the more you can advocate for yourself to be successful. Knowing yourself also means that you are comfortable with who you are as a person.  This may take time to develop, but you must like who you are as a person.  This may take time to learn, but the more you can accept all of yourself and the more comfortable you are with who you are, then and only then can others be comfortable around you.

5.  Ask for help.  Remember, if you don’t ask, no one will know what you need. 

6.  Do not be afraid to try and if you fail try again.  Please know that others have experienced many of the same difficulties and failed but, they learned from their mistakes and succeeded over time.

Quotes to help you keep going when you fail: 

“Success is not final and failure is not fatal…it’s the courage to continue that counts.”   - Winston Churchill

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we

fail.“ - Ralph Waldo Emerson

7.  Be committed to what you start. If it takes you longer to figure something out or get something done, that’s ok.  Just finish what you start. 

8.  Learn to laugh at yourself and embrace what makes you different. Those differences are a part of you.

9.  Plan for the future.  This means if you plan on going on to a better job or other schooling you need to know how to access information to help you complete your future goals.  Learn to speak up and advocate for yourself.  You can learn how to do this by sitting in on the parent/teacher conferences about your progress.  You learn what is being said about you and the teachers get to know who you are.  You can learn how to advocate for yourself by speaking up in these meetings.  If you don’t understand         something that is being said, ask questions so that you do understand.  You need to know if the information that is presented about you is accurate and correct.  You want to advocate for yourself, so that you can assist in the planning of your life.      

Planning for the future also means thinking BIG, but starting small.  If you have a goal to get a job or complete school, you don’t become president of the company or graduate overnight. You become president of the company by starting at the bottom and learning each job.  You graduate after taking the needed classes or completing the needed training.  Each success is a stepping stone to your ultimate goal.  Have a goal in mind, but work with your teachers to develop a plan on how to reach the goal you set for yourself.  

Further notes on looking at college or training programs

1.       When looking at a college or training program, be sure to compare costs and look at more than one program.  Costs are different and you have to look at both the direct costs (tuition and fees) and the indirect costs (travel, living on or off campus, food and entertainment).  You can get the direct costs information from the college or training program.  You can also find some of the indirect costs from the college or training program, but you may want to speak with former students and find out what they have paid for their living costs.  These are also very good questions to ask the college or program representative as well.

2.      Do research on the degree or certification you want to obtain.  Look at the potential income that the training will help you obtain and what you will need to pay back such as loans or other financing options.

3.      When doing a campus visit, schedule meetings with both the admissions and financial aid offices.  Sit down with the admissions office and discuss what is needed to get into the program and what is needed to graduate.  Sit down with the financial aid office and find out the costs of the program and what options are available to assist in paying for the program. 

4.      Look at the environment that surrounds the college or program you are looking at.  This not only means looking at the physical location, buildings and grounds, but also looking at how you fit within the program.  Talk to other students in the program and find out what they think of the program and their future prospects. 

These additional four points are a good starting place for you when looking at further education.  Again, pursuing further education is a big step and can be helpful in transitioning into the working world.  Hopefully as you look at your plans you ask questions and find the right fit for you and your future. 


Copyright 2012 Mike Arieta MSW, LICSW, LMSW

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Kind words

I am reminded each day how important it is to use kind words when interacting with people.  Words have power and they can hurt or help others. 

Since I work with people as my chosen career, I tend to watch people interacting.  I notice when people use harsh words with each other and how those words can make a person's day or make the day not so bright.  Harsh words can escalate negative attitudes in others and break down trust.  Kind words can invite others to be more open and willing to work with you.  I have a picture located on my desktop of a hand with Proverbs 15:1 listed.  The verse says "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." NIV. 

This statement stands out to me and reminds me each day that I need to check my attitude and choose words that will help others rather then turn them away. Kind Words