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Monday, March 18, 2013

Motivational Mondays: Why Shrinks Must Help Shrink Gun Violence

Thought for the Day: I have spent my entire adult life working as a clinical psychologist changing lives & helping make a difference in the world. A few years ago, I decided that I needed to help more people by writing a self help book that would teach techniques I developed to help people accomplish their dreams. Little did I know that this decision would lead to my involvement in nonpartisan political activism & travel to Washington DC to advocate for sensible changes in gun control laws. Here's a brief description of my transformation into what Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense called an accidental activist. It also helps explain why I believe that therapists should become "Shrinks 4 Shrinking Gun Violence." This post will be longer than most & will lead to some additional posts this week to cover all that I experienced & learned in DC, so please stay tuned.

Intentionally,  I always kept my personal opinions & political views to my self & out of the realm of therapy. My role has been to help clients discover their own solutions regardless of their beliefs or political persuasion. I teach people to resolve conflicts & deal with emotions, including anger, in healthy ways. As I have become involved in book promotion & supporting nonprofit organizations using social media, I have become more vocal online.

Those of you who have been following me on twitter (@WakeUpDreamNow), facebook (facebook.com/TheWakeUpAndDreamChallenge) & here on my blog, know that I have been speaking up about bullying in general & as symptomatic of our society & more recently about gun violence. This has occurred due to my expertise from working with trauma victims. The Sandy Hook tragedy led to several blog posts, radio appearances, writing a free downloadable e-book, When Bad Things Happen to Children with my daughter, & attending a march in Hartford on Valentine's Day 2013. Therefore, when I learned that Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense was organizing a day in DC, "Moms Take the Hill, March 13. 2013," & that they would make appointments for all participants with their senators & congressmen, I felt I had a responsibility to make the trip & let my voice be heard in DC.

The Friday before the event I listened to a live phone orientation.  In the orientation, they encouraged all participants to be prepared to tell their story: Why did you sign up to come to DC? What changes do you hope to see in gun control? They did not expect me to be an expert on the legislative process going on in DC, just to voice my thoughts on why change is needed & any ideas that I have about what will help.

Here's what I was prepared to tell my elected representatives: I am a mother, grandmother, psychologist, & author. I am here for my children, grandchildren & the tens to hundreds of thousands of clients & readers that I have helped & will continue to help deal with death, trauma, bullying & life challenges. I have dedicated my life to helping people find solutions to their problems & reach for their dreams & I fear that children's & adults lives & dreams are being destroyed with each additional violent tragedy.

I am here out of concern for the American society that is being traumatized by gun violence daily & at times becoming numb to the consequences. I am not only concerned for the children who witnessed the event or the families who lost a loved one from gun violence who will work throughout their lives to cope with these senseless tragedies, but I am also worried about the children who witnessed the traumatic events on TV across the country who feel helpless & are scared that harm will come to them, too.

I am here for the young adults who said to me cavalierly in the days following Sandy Hook, that they were "fine," since they, "have lived through Columbine & 9/11 & are used to tragedies." When I asked them about what it was like for them when they experienced those events as children, they began to cry. As they felt the pain they had buried for years, they admitted to themselves & me that they simply were trying not to let their feelings get to them. I am here for the adults in their 30's who said, "I am fine, I don't have any children, but my mother in California is a retired teacher has been crying all week. How can I help her?" I am here for the women who came to work in Stamford & across the nation after Sandy Hook, who could not stop crying even though they did not know anyone personally who was harmed by the tragedy. They did not understand why the events are still impacting them so heavily. I know how to help people work on these emotions, but I & all my colleagues across the nation do not have the resources to reach a nation traumatized by multiple traumatic events. Together, we must find ways to reduce the violence in our nation.

I am here because, although I am trained to help people deal with trauma & will continue to do so, I see the insidious rise in tragedies due to gun violence as something that is preventible. We cannot stop hurricanes from happening, but we can prepare people to take better precautions & protect themselves better. We may not be able to stop all gun violence, but we can try to reduce it by advocating for more sensible laws. As healers psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists & other people in the field of mental health, if we allow ourselves to become numb, feel helpless to stop the violence & fail to speak up, we are shirking our duty to advocate for the mental health of our society.

Before I left home, I made copies of my e-book, a few of my blog posts, including the comments that people posted on this blog & on facebook stating what they wanted the leaders in DC to know about their feelings about gun laws. I also spent time with my grandchildren in Boston making paper doll chains. The 8 dolls in each chain represent 8 children who are killed every day in the USA from gun violence. I knew that I would have 4 meetings with senators & congressmen in DC. I also knew that I would be attending a press conference in which Dianne Feinstein was one of the slated speakers. Over the week, I will add a additional posts to my Tuesday's Psychological Trivia & in place of What If? Wednesdays to tell you about what I learned in DC, my experiences there & some common sense solutions that I hope our nation will begin to implement. Please share your thoughts & feelings & come back to hear more of what you can do to help shrink the gun violence in our nation.


Dr. Lavi, with Moms Demand Action with Senators Blumenthal & Murphy

Here's a preview of one of my visits with Connecticut Senators Blumenthal &  Murphy with the paper dolls we gave to them to symbolize why we must take action.

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