Brought to you by Del Ray Psych
Story by Amy Bengal, EDS, LPC, Military Spouse
"While suffering is inevitable and universal, we can always choose how we respond.” - Edith Eger
As a military spouse and clinician, I’ve recognized over the years how mental health resiliency skills are emphasized and inherent among military families. For me, these skills emerged as I learned to adapt to military life while pursuing a career in mental health. My hope is that individuals will feel inspired to intentionally implement the following skills to augment the power of choice.
“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” - Jon Kabat-Zinn
By increasing awareness of how we respond to the all-too-common military demands, we begin to notice how our internal experiences of external circumstances impact our overall wellbeing. A seemingly adopted skill I’ve recognized in many military spouses, including myself, is the power to focus on the present moment. Present, non-judgmental awareness allows us the opportunity to avoid otherwise uncomfortable experiences of anxiety, fear and frustration at events that may occur in the future. Practicing mindfulness preserves energy by dissipating threat responses from catastrophic anticipation of an event or outcome that has not yet transpired. This energy is essential to our ability to plan and implement solutions when the need arises.
“Radical acceptance rests on letting go of the illusion of control and a willingness to notice and accept things as they are right now, without judging.”
- Marsha Linehan
In addition to practicing mindfulness, military families demonstrate acceptance of circumstances outside their control. Military families tend to accept and tolerate disruption of career goals or children's education, lonely holidays and the loss of shared pivotal moments (including pregnancies and the birth of children during deployments) and continuously bid farewell to connections and community. These losses are a constant reminder of the reality of our experiences and what little control we have over them. Radical acceptance is not helplessness nor hopelessness; rather it’s recognizing that suffering is unavoidable and that resistance to suffering only creates more suffering. Acceptance is the only viable option that supports us in tolerating distress through implementing problem-solving skills like productive planning, recognition of strengths by remembering one’s success in managing past adversities and tapping into additional resources or community. In practicing these skills, military families often develop a great sense of flexibility, resiliency and some great stories.
“Frustration at not having things exactly as we want is often accompanied by an irrational, but pervasive sense of isolation.” - Kristin Neff
In her research, Kristin Neff reminds us that the word "compassion" means “to suffer with.” She differentiates self-pity, which contributes to insecurities, feeling insufficient and isolation, with compassion through the recognition of common humanity. Military communities have an incredible opportunity to implement compassion through shared experiences and universality. The courage to build such relationships, accompanied by the acceptance to repeatedly say farewell, is a shared experience for military families.
“We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.” - Brene Brown
In her book, Rising Strong, Brene Brown defines vulnerability as “having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome.” Military families know vulnerability. They welcome it in order to build supportive relationships and create a sense of belonging. Vulnerability is the key to fostering connections that inevitably remind us to practice radical acceptance as a community, to use humor and creativity in efforts to make the difficulties that accompany military life just a little more tolerable and to offer validation, empathy and resources compassionately.
MEET AMY BEGNAL, EDS, LPC
Amy Begnal, EdS, is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Del Ray Psych & Wellness, LLC. She has a strong desire to work with individuals, families or couples who strive to experience an increased satisfaction in their relationships with themselves or with others. Amy offers a gentle and non-judgmental therapeutic. Amy is dedicated to altruistic efforts including supporting military families, homeless outreach, domestic abuse advocacy and animal welfare. Additionally, she is a mother and a wife who enjoys exploring the outdoors, traveling, engaging in physical activity and seeking opportunities for personal growth.
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