GuBei You Say? A Chinese “Water Town”

GuBei You Say? A Chinese “Water Town”

Key to images above:

  1. Water Town scene
  2. Water Town scene
  3. Odd figure outside a pub and pizza place in GuBei
  4. “Foreign” teachers from CFAU on our excursion to GuBei, including Chinese Opera Stars
  5. When you see a giraffe leaning against a wall, you just gotta follow suit, right?
  6. Where they dye cloth
  7. Where they dye cloth, and two mysterious creatures hiding in the cloth.
  8. More cloth
  9. Marcus Freitas (from Brazil), Ruth Ann Martin (South Africa), Cory (from Utah) all teaching here at CFAU
  10. A rare scene of outrageous affection
  11. Where they make the wine
  12. Where they make the wine (we tried to let them down easy that “no, we don’t even want a sample.”
  13. Scene within the GuBei town.

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.

Trigger Me–I Dare You (Pt. 2)

The Politics of Triggers

“Trigger Warning” has become a common expression in modern media. A trigger warning is simply a warning that what comes next might cause someone who suffers from prior trauma to remember or relive their experience. On the face of it, it is a sensitive and welcome acknowledgement that painful conditions such as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) are real and prevalent.

However, the use of such warnings and the thought process behind it have become part of the country’s divisive political discussion. The extreme elements of one faction seem bent on bludgeoning the other side into submission by placing nearly every normal human behavior in the category of a “trigger.” For this group of people, saying a pronoun, asking for a date, opening the door for someone, wearing a certain hat, flying a flag, or singing a Christmas song have all become triggers that any caring human being should refrain from doing.

Meanwhile, extremists from the other political faction are attempting to shame the “overly sensitive” victims of trauma and violence by calling them names like “snowflake,” hinting at their extreme fragility. Rhetoric from this group commonly minimizes and denies what may be real, debilitating trauma felt by many innocent people.  

Both sides have valid points, and both sides should work to reign in their most extreme elements. Yes, it is true that anything–literally anything can become a trigger to someone who has experienced trauma. Society should be sensitive to this. But it is not productive or sane to ban benign human behavior in an attempt to guarantee no one will ever be triggered.

Some speech and behaviors, in and of themselves, are violent, degrading and inappropriate. Common sense and conscience tell us what is included in this category. Members of a civilized society have an obligation to avoid such expressions. But all other speech and behaviors, even those that can be triggering, should be processed internally by those who feel inclined to be offended or triggered. It is incumbent on the offended person to learn coping skills. Any other configuration of accountability could be destructive in our society.  

Look for Part 3 in this series: “Triggers are Opportunities.” If you have experienced triggers in your life, learn how to take advantage of them to bring more growth and healing.       

Why Do the Chinese Butt in Line?

My wife and I recently stood in line at an American-style fast-food burger shop in Beijing. When it was finally our turn, we reached for the laminated menu card near the cash register and started looking at the menu options. Out of nowhere, a young man pushed forward, grabbed the menu out of our hands, and started giving his order to the cashier. That’s when I reached over, quickly slipped the card out of his hands and blocked his view of the cashier with my body while we proceeded to order.  

This wasn’t the first time we had encountered this kind of behavior during our stay in China. In fact, over the 18 months since arriving in Beijing from America, we’ve seen it nearly every day in various situations and venues–from train ticket queues to subways to grocery stores to airplanes. Everywhere we’ve turned, we’ve noticed locals who do not seem to accept or honor the concept of “wait your turn.”

We enjoy talking about cultural differences with our Chinese friends. One friend, a medical doctor, heard me lament about this encounter. He thought for a moment, then proposed a possible explanation. Recent research into an emerging field called “epigenetics” indicates that animals and human beings may pass along ancestral memories via their genes. In short, our behaviors, attitudes and preferences may be greatly influenced by environmental factors suffered by our ancestors. He postulated that trauma from serious famine in China’s past may now be to blame for an unreasonable feeling of urgency, pushing a person to skip ahead of others in line to be the first served.

I believe that whatever experiences we’ve had, or whatever traumas our progenitors may have suffered, we do have the ability and responsibility to overcome our own programming to act in ways socially acceptable in the current environment. We cannot blame our genes for bad behavior. However, the doctor’s explanation has caused me to re-think my own responses to these behaviors. Instead of reacting with irritation, I am now more likely to feel compassion for those whose genes might nudge them to move ahead of me in line. If echoes of China’s past whisper to the person behind me that he is starving, I may see his behavior differently and choose to respond accordingly.

Trigger Me — I Dare You (Pt. 1)

Are triggers real? What do they mean and how do they work? Why are political factions discussing triggers? How can I deal with my triggers?

Man experiencing a trigger

Part One—The Power and Scope of Your Subconscious

Picture a cruise ship.

If you successfully pictured a cruise ship just now, ask yourself where that image came from. Where was that mental image 30 seconds ago? If you’ve taken a cruise, then surely your own memories were involved when you conjured up an image. If you have never taken a cruise, then you’ve likely seen pictures of cruise ships, or recall seeing “Titanic” or “The Love Boat” or some other program about a cruise ship.

If the ship you brought up in your mind was not in your conscious thought immediately prior to reading this article, then you have just experienced a powerful proof that you have a subconscious mind. How much of your mental “storage” is taken up by your subconscious? Imagine a large balance scale, with the weight of all your conscious thoughts on one side and all your subconscious or unconscious content on the other side. Which way would the scale lean?

Can you see that the amount of content in your subconscious mind far outweighs that of your conscious thoughts? You have a very comprehensive, emotion-filled subconscious “world” within you. Your entire history of memories, experiences, perceptions and beliefs resides largely in your subconscious, not in your conscious thoughts.

Your mental life is really divided into two different realms—on-stage and off-stage. Living and thinking is like producing a Broadway play. Most of the scenery, props and actors are off-stage waiting for their cues to perform. At any given moment, only a small percentage of the staff is on-stage reciting lines and interacting with the environment. Occasionally, an actor on stage says or does something to prompt another actor to enter “stage left.” The new actor might bring additional props or baggage from backstage with him. The new actor then recites his lines and acts out his part. Sometimes, an actor says or does something to prompt an entire change of scenery.    

How do you access this hidden, powerful dimension within? Or metaphorically speaking, how do you prompt someone or something to emerge from backstage? In your conscious, everyday world there are certain objects, words, thoughts, people, music, smells, feelings and sounds that act as little cues or “triggers” to bring things forward from backstage. This might sound mysterious, but it is the mechanism upon which the entire skill of reading is based. We train young children to associate a visual, conscious symbol (letters and words) with something in their subconscious mind. Because you are trained in that skill, when I wrote the words, “Cruise Ship” above, you opened a doorway to your subconscious. You could say that by simply writing the words, “Cruise Ship,” I “triggered” you into bringing thoughts of a cruise ship into consciousness.

A trigger is simply a stimulus leading to a doorway or portal into an internal dimension of subconscious content. When triggered, long-lost thoughts and feelings emerge to interact with your current environment. When summoned, portions of your subconscious world ideally come to the forefront–on stage to offer up the lines you need in your daily story of life. However, when those backstage characters represent trauma, shame, pain or grief, something often prevents them from coming all the way on stage. Instead, they can muck around behind the scenery, creating chaos just out of sight. The audience might hear noises or see onstage props being knocked around from behind. They might wonder what is happening to the play.

In our lives, triggered negative emotions and thoughts can cause chaos, taking over our lives as they sit just beneath the surface causing disease, anger, depression, or other problems. And because we are just as much a part of the audience as anyone else, and don’t understand what is happening, we feel blindsided by strong, chaotic feelings that seemingly come out of nowhere.

[Stay tuned on this blog for Parts two and three. You will have a better understanding of triggers and learn ways to turn triggers into opportunities for growth.]

Laraine and the Dumpling Gang

China Foreign Affairs University sponsored a gala the week before Christmas. They correctly surmised that some of the “foreign experts” on campus would want to learn how to make Chinese dumplings.

Laraine (second from left) enjoys some quality dumpling time with Ruth Ann Martin (3rd from left, from South Africa), Shelly (4th from left, CFAU administrator and Communist Party liaison) and Lynn (2nd from right, CFAU administrator). They are joined by some expert dumpling makers on the ends.
Ruth Ann is a natural dumpling maker
The finished product! YUM!

Is Christmas Gift Giving a Mistake?

Christmas Gifts

The spirit of giving is a beautiful part of Christmas. But when families have so many things gathering dust in their closets, the “wonder and awe” that is such a big part of the Christmas spirit can suffer. In their yet-to-be-published book, “Surviving by a Thread: Finding Joy, Abundance and Resilience in a Turbulent World,” the Chamberlains identify a survival “thread” called “Give Up and Let Go.”

Learning to give up and let go is critical to the flow of abundance in our lives. This is no more evident than at Christmastime. In the book, Jeremy recalls an unusual discussion with a young mother:

“I remember coming across someone else who seemed pretty conscious of this ‘letting go’ thing. It was the mother of a family I met once. They were getting ready for Christmas. There were several small children and their Christmas tree was surrounded by many wrapped gifts. But at the same time, they still had a good number of toys and games left over from the last Christmas in their children’s rooms. When I talked to the mother, she said something I’ve never forgotten.”

“What did she say?” Laraine asked.

“She said, ‘We love this time of year because it’s a perfect time to sort through the toys and games from years past and get rid of those that are unusable or seldom used. Our children have learned to give away or throw away their old toys at least one time every year.’ . . .

If we could help our children shift their mindsets away from accumulation towards the direction of abundance, which includes the concept of “flow,” we would be teaching them a valuable lesson. They would appreciate their toys a little more, learn to experience the joy of giving, and avoid the bad energy that comes with too much clutter.  

There is certainly nothing wrong with gift-giving at Christmas. But by taking a few subtle steps in the direction of abundant thinking, we can make the giving more positive and meaningful.