Archive March 2019

Trigger Me, I Dare You — (Pt. 3)

Triggers Are Opportunities

There is an assumption in society that it’s best to avoid triggers. After all, they can lead to destruction at worst, or extreme discomfort at best. But there are good reasons why triggers, despite their discomfort, can be opportunities in disguise. When a prior traumatic experience is triggered, there is a window of opportunity to deal with it effectively. Often, until triggered, those traumatic and incompletely processed experiences remain so far “backstage” it isn’t possible to effectively process them. With the right tools, a trigger opportunity can bring about a lasting change in a person’s life. Sometimes, the right “tool” is a mental health professional, especially if the triggered experience is deemed to be overwhelming or induces an inclination to do harm to self or others. Often, triggers can be processed on your own, and there are tools available to help.

I will share a private, powerful aspect of my life: I was sexually abused and bullied as a child and sexually assaulted as an adult. Perhaps the worst and most pervasive feeling during these incidents was the feeling of being unable to control the situation. Consequently, as an adult, I have often been triggered by anything that even approximates control. For example, I have seldom been able to comfortably allow someone else to drive a car in which I was a passenger. In fact, I’ve even found flying in a commercial aircraft uncomfortable, not because I feared crashing, but because I was not the pilot! I’ve also found myself triggered when my wife would do anything that even smelled like control. She’s often described these experiences as, “walking on eggshells.” Obviously, this is not a condition that is good for relationships.

Living and working in China, where there is so much control held by government officials in every aspect of life, I have experienced triggers due to this issue of control. With so many trigger opportunities, I’ve been able to use CJEA (Creative Journal Expressive Arts) techniques to gain a better understanding and control of my own emotions during these triggering incidents.

CJEA is a brain-science-based method of creative expression developed by Dr. Lucia Capacchione in the 1970’s when she experienced some difficult health issues. It is currently the method of choice for a growing community of certified practitioners working with organizations within the military, schools, corrections departments, courts, public safety departments, corporations, and with individuals, couples and families. CJEA utilizes the power and unique characteristics of both sides of the brain. This is done by expressing one’s self through movement, drawing, sketching or sculpting combined with writing using both the dominant and non-dominant hand.

One day recently, after experiencing a “control issue” trigger that unleashed emotional and physical symptoms (irritability and sudden intestinal cramping), I seized the opportunity to explore more about my control issues using some simple CJEA techniques. Fortunately, I had my Beijing apartment to myself that day. I placed a blank piece of paper on the table and used my dominant hand (right hand, in my case) to write questions to myself, based on the CJEA training I had received. Then, with various colored pencils, I used my left hand to scribble the answers using either text or drawing.

By doing this, I was able to tap into parts of my brain that seemed resistant to connect to my brain’s speech centers, and therefore were not often utilized when trying to talk over my concerns with my wife or anyone else. These parts of me had held onto emotional content that had not been expressed since I was a child. Metaphorically speaking, this abused child within me had been wandering around just off-stage, making trouble. Now I was giving “him” unprecedented access to say what was on his mind. And he did! He expressed terrible feelings and wanted assurances from me (the adult me) that I would be more conscious of him and his concerns. I offered some heartfelt promises, and immediately felt more peaceful.

If this communication with myself sounds bizarre to you, I assure you that you too have various parts of you. Each part has its own energy level and each part experiences life a little differently. During my extensive training with Dr. Capacchione, one of the most intriguing revelations to me was that we all have specific parts within us, doing specific functions. It isn’t mysterious; it’s simply the way we were all built.   

It wasn’t necessary, at least during this episode, to re-hash and remember all the abuse. If I had noticed the discussion going in that direction, I might have waited for my wife to be present, or at least in another room. No, I simply needed to communicate and negotiate with a childlike part of me about the feelings of being controlled.

From this experience and many like it, I have learned that I am an excellent therapeutic guide for my own mental health. I do not have a pathology and therefore do not need the help of a certified mental health professional. If that should ever become necessary, I wouldn’t hesitate to make use of that additional resource.

There is no reason to live a life full of misery and frustration. When the “Broadway play” that is life seems to be more chaotic than it should be, there is hope.

Chuck and Laraine Chamberlain have been trained and certified in CJEA techniques. For more information about CJEA, click here. For information about Dr. Lucia Capacchione’s books, click here

Laraine Presents Emotional Tools for Forgiveness at Asia Women’s Conference

Laraine received a great deal of positive feedback from women who attended the Asia Women’s Conference in March in Hong Kong. She spoke about Forgiveness: the Pain, the Paralysis, and the Process.

Laraine Chamberlain Presents: Forgiveness–The Pain, The Paralysis, and the Process

One part of the presentation dealt with the idea that each of us has multiple, distinct, yet interrelated areas in which we can develop self-reliance including: Physical, financial, educational, social, spiritual and emotional. Because we do not have the necessary tools, we tend to deal with emotional issues as only a byproduct of strength in another area. For instance, we tend to believe that to strengthen ourselves emotionally, we must pursue spiritual strengths. We read scripture, attend church, and pray in order to help ourselves emotionally.

While it is true there are strong “spillover” benefits of a spiritual life, it is not true that we can rely solely on those benefits for emotional strength. For some reason it is obvious that attending church does not strengthen physical muscles, nor does it take the place of good nutrition. Likewise, it is obvious that going to the gym every day does not supplant religious observance. But when it comes to building emotional strength, we hear advice such as, “Just get out and do more social things.” Or we hear, “Pray more, and read more scriptures.”

Conference attendees take notes during Laraine’s presentation

There is good reason for this kind of advice–the world is largely unaware of specific exercises to boost emotional health. Laraine and Chuck have been certified in an approach called “CJEA” or Creative Journal Expressive Arts. Among other things, CJEA is a brain-science based method of enhancing emotional awareness and strength.

When confronted with the very spiritual need to forgive someone, it is helpful to understand that forgiveness is both a spiritual AND an emotional need. Consequently, there are specific emotional exercises that can be used to help someone going through a forgiveness process. In her presentation, Laraine recalled a fairly recent experience in which missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints asked her to join with them in a discussion with someone who was considering baptism. As the discussion progressed, the woman seemed to hit an emotional roadblock and could not consider baptism until she had forgiven her husband. Laraine guided the woman through some emotional exercises that left her sobbing, but noticeably relieved and ready to continue her spiritual life.

Laraine taught a simple exercise on paper to show the women how easy, yet how powerful emotional exercises can be

When we have the right tools, we are free to go where we’ve never been before. But, as Laraine pointed out, the tools are so simple–almost too simple–and because of the “simpleness of the way,” many people don’t bother to do them, even when they know about them. By using simple spiritual and emotional tools, we can more easily forgive and continue a healthier path in life.

Chuck and Laraine Back for a Hong Kong Visit

Laraine presented at the Asia Women’s Conference in Hong Kong. Because Chuck is absolutely nuts about Hong Kong, he could not be left behind. Between sessions of the conference, Chuck and Laraine renewed friendships. It was a truly relaxing and enjoyable trip. Unfortunately, due to some technical issues, not all of their visits were captured in pictures.

No trip to Hong Kong would be complete without a visit with Diana from the tiny fishing village–Tai O Village. Here we had lunch with her and her husband, Albert, while she described the rebuilding efforts following last year’s horrible typhoon. She basically lost her home and had to rebuild it, a little higher this time.
Chuck, Albert, Diana, Laraine
Our dear friend, Annie Wong, is now Public Affairs Director for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Asia. We are excited about the job she’s doing. What a strength and wealth of experience she brings!
Some of the attendees at the Asia Women’s Conference, 2019. Theme: “In His strength we can do all things.”
How cool is that! We got to touch base again with the Filipinas in Hong Kong
Not all change is good. Here, we came across our favorite hamburger joint, “Big Bite” that used to serve Canadian cuisine. Now, it’s closed down as they replace it with something else. Chuck’s face shows the depth of his hunger for a Canadian hamburger.
The Beijing Connection. These women are all currently living in Beijing or have recently lived in Beijing. (L to R: Isabelle Berrios, Janet Steele, Leah Reid, Laraine Chamberlain, Jana Ewing, Sharae Forsyth, Robyn Bergstrom)
Former member of Hong Kong’s Public Affairs committee, Esther Lau (now Esther Yip). Esther was a sweetheart as she helped us “learn the ropes” when we came to Hong Kong as Public Affairs Specialists. She is due to deliver a baby any time now!!
Dear friend, Cora Wong (Pollard)

Mexican lunch with the Pollards in Wanchai. Great friendships are priceless!

Is it Okay Michael Irvin is “Terrified”?

March 27, 2019–Today it was announced that former All-Pro Dallas Cowboys wide receiver, Michael Irvin, was in the hospital over the weekend, undergoing tests for throat cancer. His results are not yet in, but what he posted on Instagram is a raw, honest appraisal of his emotional state. Because so many of us believe certain emotions are “off limits” to us (anger, fear, disgust, sadness, etc.), it is refreshing to note the experience of a man whose core values include controlling fear.

His own Instagram post paints a frightening picture:

Michael Irvin receives the ball

Michaelirvin88 Spent Sun & Mon in LA at UCLA medical Health (Ronald Reagan Hospital) doing health test. I would not usually do this but this I need to share. Growing up in the ghetto of Ft Lauderdale the one thing you have to conquer to get out is FEAR. I did! As a football player the no fear gift served me well as a blessing and an asset on the field but sometimes off the field it’s been a curse and a liability. This past football season after the @dallascowboys beat the @Saints I was so elated and hyped I lost my voice and the problem persisted for almost 2months. After visiting some of the best throat Doctors they thought it to be wise to take a deeper look at the situation. So we schedule and performed a throat biopsy. To give background I share with you that I lost my father at the young age of 51. He had throat cancer. This daemon has chased and vexed me deep in my spirit all my life. So saying I am afraid this time is a big big understatement. I AM TERRIFIED! My Faith tells me whenever you face great fear you go to your greatness power. Mine is God. I am asking all who will. Could you please send up a prayer to help my family and I deal with whatever the results may be? Thanks for your thoughts and prayers in advance. I will continue to pray for your fam’s protection and prosperity as well. May God Bless us all.

When we deny or minimize our true feelings, we often create an undercurrent of emotions that seeks expression in harmful behaviors and illnesses. When we express those feelings in appropriate ways, even in a personal journal or, in this case, Instagram post, we can deal directly with the difficult emotion. In addition, we are more likely to have the support of loving friends and family when we need it.

So often, we hear disturbing news of NFL players who have allowed their emotions to get out of control, resulting in domestic violence or even unnecessary violence on the field. My hat is off to Michael Irvin. In this situation, he was in touch with himself enough to recognize extreme fear, and honest enough to express it to family, friends, and even the general public. Whatever you may think of Michael Irvin, his political views, reputation, or past behavior, at least in this situation he has shown a remarkable strength of character. May God bless you and your family, Mr. Irvin, as you face this difficult time.

Charles J. Chamberlain is co-founder of Chamberlain Leadership Group, a company focused on developing productive relationships and health through emotional literacy and wellness. Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved. He owns no rights to the photo.