Be a “Stonecatcher”

I recently finished a brilliant book called Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. It is truly a fantastic book about the Equal Justice Initiative and the work this organization has done to try and help those who are poor, wrongly condemned, and mentally ill in the criminal justice system.

Toward the end of the book Stevenson paints a picture of being a “stonecatcher”. It is a partial reference to John 8:3-11 and the story of a woman caught in the act of adultery. In this Biblical story, the Pharisees try to trap Jesus by quoting the Law of Moses which states to stone the woman and asking Jesus what they should do. Jesus’ profound reply is “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” In this story, the people laid down their stones and the woman lived.

However, like you already know, the world we live in does not always go this way.  Which brings up the idea of being a “stonecatcher”. A person who is an advocate. A person who stands up for those who have no voice, or a limited one.

It seems that everywhere we look people are casting their stones of hate and condemnation for this and for that, especially with campaign season upon us. It seems that everyone has a loud opinion [via facebook, twitter, blogs, etc.] of whether or not someone is doing something “right”.

This is more than just a call to consider your own faults and failures before you start casting stones, this is a call to be a stonecatcher. This is a call to stand up for the people who are being treated poorly whether its on Facebook or in the criminal justice system.

Simple (and not so simple) ways to start to achieve this:

  1. Don’t say mean things to people on the internet or in person (I am so sad that I even have to type this)
  2. Write/Email/Call your legislators about the issues that you feel passionate about and feel that people are being mistreated (ex. mental health, criminal justice system, sexual assault)
  3. Considering and potentially becoming a pen-pal to a person who is incarcerated
  4. Become a CASA volunteer. This one is not a “simple” way to achieve things because it is a lot of hard work and takes a significant time commitment.

Be an advocate, be a stonecatcher.

Most importantly, be kind and keep social working.

 

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Don’t Take It Personal

If there is one lesson I have learned both in my work with children as well as any interpersonal relationship is this: DON’T TAKE IT PERSONAL. 

It is amazing how often we take someone’s comments or actions as a direct personal attack. What’s even more amazing is how often we missread those “personal attacks”. 

In all of our personal relationships we have layers and layers of emotional baggage that we interpret different peoples actions or words to us. In my own personal life, being the insightful feeling member of the family, I can say something to my mother (also a counselor) and watch her response. Oftentimes I missread her processing, thinking about what I said, as her disapproval. I wrongly view that as a personal attack on my choice, which leads to an unnecessary argument. 

I would go so far as to say that I bet 8 out of 10 times that you feel (emotionally) personally attacked by someone, it is you misinterpreting their intentions. Most people do not go through their day intentionally hurting people just for the fun of it. Most people are responding out of their own hurt, confusion, stress, or a number of other things. 
Ouch, I know right? Taking responsibility of your feelings sucks. 

But wait, there is a simple solution to this. Well, I say simple, but it is one of the hardest things to actually implement into action. 

Assume the best of people.

Try to always assume that your beloved, your child, your friend is not out to upset you. Try to assume that they have a good intention even when things come off a little too blunt for your taste. Try to think of other alternative stressors behind their choices.

When you assume the best of people, it is easier to say something to your significant other along the lines of “hey, I’m not sure if this was your intention or not, but I was really hurt when you said that.” Or if your boss makes a statement that you considered a little too mean, letting it go easily assuming that they might be stressed about their own deadlines.  

I hope that you can find a way to integrate assuming the best of people into your day to day interactions with this beautiful world. Regardless, remember to be kind and keep social working.

Bucket Filler

Hello Blogosphere, I apologize for the overdue post.

There is a book that is often used in counseling called “How Full is Your Bucket” (That link will take you to Target, I do not get any kickback from your purchase of the book or click on the link, it’s just a helpful link so you know I’m not making it up).

The basis of the book is that nearly everything we do, every person that we interact with either drains us or builds us up. The concept is simple, yet fascinating, but that isn’t the point I want to make in this post.

Everyone will come upon a season (or day or year or decade) where it seems as if everything is draining your bucket. There WILL BE times when your bucket will be draining, and you will feel so lost and confused and unable to even grasp what might even begin to fill your bucket. Whether it is a day or a year, it is best to be prepared, especially with the holiday season sneaking up upon us.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Make a List of What Fills your Bucket!

Make a list of the people and things that bring you joy, make you feel loved and cared for. I would suggest that you make this list when you are feeling in a good place, before you are completely drained. It is not necessary, but will make things a lot easier. Make it simple things like clean sheets, a warm bath, listening to your favorite song, having a phone call with your best friend, eating a brownie, etc. Actually write these things down, try to come up with 10 or so things on your list. Try to add as many things as you can. Keep the list in a special, safe place.

2.  Make it a Habit

Make one or two of these things on your list a habit that you practice daily or weekly in your life. When your energy is low, the motivation to start a bucket filler activity might sound daunting. However, if it something that you already have in your set routine, it will be easier maintain consistency.

3.  Notice Your Bucket

Pay attention to your body, heart, and soul. Often times your bucket is not instantly drained (though tragedy does sometimes cause this). Notice when your energy is being zapped, and make an effort to do more activities or interact with more people who fill you up with life and joy, before you get to a dangerously low point.

4.  Tell Someone

This is probably the most important part of this. Tell someone when you feel your bucket getting drained. Tell someone you trust. Maybe this means having a conversation with a close friend, or maybe this could mean seeking out professional help. Tell someone.

As you make your own list of things that fill your bucket, remember to be kind and keep social working!

Do I Stay or Do I Go?

There comes a point in everyone’s life when things aren’t going the way you want them to. Whether you are plagued with pessimism, anxiety, fear, or the grumpies (lets be real with each other, you and I both know it happens), there are times in your life were you are faced with a decision: STAY (with your current choices, job, feelings, etc.) or GO (change your current environment, feelings, job, work, school, etc.)

There is a therapy to which I am slightly partial to that is called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) which places an emphasis on accepting the difficulties you are facing and choosing either to let things stay the same or do something to change it. For more information, check out this amazing article and the below helpful video.

So you may be thinking, what is the point of this blog?

Well, the point is: when you are facing a difficulty, fear, anxiety, anger, frustration, etc., STOP. Take a deep breath, and feel that feeling.

Accept the feeling for exactly what it is. Notice your body, your thoughts, your emotions.
Ask yourself “Am I okay with the way that things are, or do I want them to change?
Act. Whatever choice you made, whether to stay or to go, act upon that decision.

Hope this helps and encourages your soul, like it has mine.

Be kind, and keep social working.

Apologies Dont Solve Problems

How often do you find yourself saying “I’m sorry” throughout the day? If you are anything like me, it is a sentiment that escapes from your mouth before you even process what has just happened.

Apologies in our culture have lost their meaning. “I’m sorry” literally means nothing to most people. BUT WHY?

Apologies don’t solve problems.

In my work with children, whether it be in play therapy, social skills groups, or nannying; I will never force a child to apologize. More than that, I will not let a child use “I’m sorry” as a way to escape responsibility for their choices. I realize that this is somewhat absurd, which begs the question how do we solve problems and fix mistakes?

  1. Take Ownership
    ” I made a mistake when I….”
    “That was wrong because…”
    “I shouldn’t have said that because…”
  2. Future Actions
    “Next time, I will choose to walk away”
    “I will try to … instead.”
  3. Ask Forgiveness
    “Will you forgive me?”
    “What can I do to make things right?”

So the next time you find yourself or the children around you trying to escape from the situation under the ease of an “I’m sorry”, I urge you to consider this: Apologies, in and of themselves, do not solve problems. However, the above set of instructions will help you solve problems AND convey a level of respect to the person you wronged.

Be kind and keep social working.

But wait, I have to do that too?

I was at a networking event with one of our graduate level Practicum Students this week. Like with most networking events, it involved actually talking to other people.

I turned to her and said, “Alright, you take the lead on this next one.” She turned to me with fear and panic in her eyes at the thought of having to hold a conversation with a stranger.

WE TEACH SOCIAL SKILLS FOR A LIVING, Y’ALL.

Of course, we realized the irony instantly and laughed it off. Every week, I sit down and talk to kids about how to interact with others, how to look for expectations, and how to meet them. The skills that I teach each week in a therapy group are skills that I also need to utilize in my own life. But really, how often do we as professionals, parents, friends give advice that we never take ourselves?

So here is the best advice I could give you today:

Take your own advice.

Most importantly, be kind and keep socialworkin.

Control

For as long as I can remember, I have fought to have control over… everything and anything. (Sound familiar, anyone?)  The funny thing about searching for control is it causes a whole lot more anxiety than peace.

I am not alone in this. I know I am not alone in this because I see it nearly everyday at work and in the real lives of people around me. I see the need to control destroy people’s lives, slowly but surely.

So today I am posting a tool that has helped both me and clients create a picture of the things that we can control versus the things that we can’t. This chart (with the things I cannot control changing daily) often reveals how much energy we place in trying to control things that we really have no control over.

I have seen the tool floating around Pinterest, but the source I obtained it from is this fellow blogger. In the original source, it is very basic things where as mine are more detailed. Regardless of how detailed you get in your own project, it will provide some great insight.

If you happen to be a counselor or parent, this is a GREAT tool to help teach your child or teen responsibility for their actions within a changing environment!

Things i cant control

The most important piece of advice you could take from this blog is to let go of the things you can’t control, and give your energy to contributing in a positive and healthy way to the things you can control.

I’m busy.

I’ve been busy.

It’s a common phrase with many variations. We use it, we accept, in fact, as a society, we practically worship it. It seems that we are all consumed with filling, either intentionally or not, every hour of our day with….stuff. In fact, I wanted to use it as an excuse as to why it has been awhile since I posted a blog. We use it as an excuse when we realize our priorities are out of wack.

How we spend our time shows us our hearts. Our time spent shows us our priorities, yes. But more than that, I believe it shows us our fears and insecurities. 

Say you get 8 hours of sleep at night, that leaves you with 976 minutes that you are awake.  How many of those moments do you spend in the quiet? With no one else but your own heart?

Call it reflection, call it meditation, call it prayer. Whatever it’s name, our souls thrive on it. Meditation is often used alongside therapies (specifically cognitive behavioral therapy and it’s variations) to reduce symptoms from anxiety to physical pain.  In meditation, one focuses on their breathing, grounding themselves in the earth (which is therapy speak for noticing your body as it is touching the earth), breathing in and out, away from destractions of the world. Reflection and prayer delve into an introspection of owns own thoughts and heart alongside the breathing. 

We are so afraid of…ourselves. We are afraid of our deepest insecurities, we are afraid of not being enough, we are afraid of being uncomfortable, we afraid of being weak, we are afraid of not being in control. To fight those fears, we turn to being busy.

I challenge you to spend 10 of your 976 minutes awake to sit in a quiet place and reflect. Be vulnerable, take the risk of not being busy. Take the chance of getting to know yourself a little bit better. 

Ready Stance

In the groups that I run at United Through HOPE, we talk a lot about being in “Ready Stance”. Usually, we use this term in reference to being ready to catch a ball or ready to move quickly. If the group members are not in ready stance, they will oftentimes get smacked in the head with a ball or things move right past them as they stand still, nearly frozen to what is around them.

However, I often think how this applies to all areas of life. When you aren’t in ready stance for life, you will either feel like life has smacked you right in the face or as if it is passing right by you without your control or consent.

Are you in Ready Stance for what life is going to throw at you?

Here are some simple tips to help you step into ready stance for life’s often surprising twists and turns:

  1. Breathe
    I know, it is an overused concept; yet, it is one of the best things you can do when faced with a stressful or upsetting event. Take a deep breathe in through your nose for 4 counts, then release slowly through your mouth. This will help clear your mind of obsessive thoughts so that you can focus on what is in front of you.
  2. Put Your Hands Out
    Stay with me and this metaphor for a little bit. Much like you stick your hands out to catch a ball, have your hands ready to grab at life’s opportunities. Often times, changes can be good if you are ready and willing to go after new opportunities as they arrive!
  3. Make a Decision QUICKLY
    In many situations, a quick and wrong decision is better than no decision or even a right decision that you have taken too long to make (Credit to my businessman of a father for this grand advice). However, it is IMPORTANT that when you realize it is a wrong decision, own it, fix it, and move on.

Being in ready stance all the time is hard whether you are a kid in a games group or an adult in the real world. Remember to always be kind to yourself even when you miss the ball; but also remember to fix your mistakes when you can.

Let me know your thoughts on how you get in ready stance for life, I would love to hear them!

Until next time,
Andrea Mason, LMSW

Social Working

Hello World,

This blog is for you. You, who is struggling to make it. You, who has it all together. You, a parent who cares more about your children than you do your own health. You, who strives to be the best friend to everyone around you. You, who wants to give up and sleep forever. You, who is transitioning to a whole new life.

This blog will tackle big heart issues and seemingly small situations. It will contain helpful links and tips to foster your own healing and growth.

Most of all, I hope that this blog will touch you, inspire you, and make you smile.

Yes, I am a Social Worker, but first, I am a writer and a dreamer.

Together, hand in hand, let’s start Social Working.