Monthly Archives: February 2014

017 – Balancing Criticism and Encouragement: Finding the Right Ratio



Stuart Miles -

Stuart Miles –

The benefits of encouragement and the need for criticism.  It is easy task to balance negative reactions and positive actions toward our family, friends, coworkers and especially those facing a difficult recovery.

Our relationships would benefit from more positive and encouraging interactions.  This also seems to be true when dealing the Post-Traumatic Stress.  Our minds tend to already be drawn to the negative.  We often already know how we are messing up.  However, sometimes we need to hear it anyway.

What ratio of negative to positive is best?  In this episode we explore this complex subject.

Build off the positive.  Even if it is difficult to find the positive, keep looking until you find the positive.

It starts with our own attitude of gratitude.  How critical are you of your own thoughts, words and actions?  We need to show ourselves grace.

Some Other Resources:

When it come to the need for change, do you respond better to criticism or encouragement?

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Beyond the limits! Jason’s story…

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Doctors, professional books, and even those close to us will sometimes unintentionally place a limit on our potential.  They may be well intended.  Sometimes they are correct.   There are things that we may need to accept.

But …  That is not for others to determine on their own!  Consider Jason’s story.  The VA was willing to sustain him in an institution.  When he decided to go home with his parents their books determined that he was as recovered as he could be and cut off the rehab resources.

Jason, however, was still progressing.  So his family continues to pay for rehab services out of pocket.  The VA was willing to spend huge amounts on institutionalizing him but not to pay a much less amount for continued rehab services.

We understand that some people stop progressing in their rehabilitation and there needs to be checks and balances.  But a formula should not be the determining factor.  We are all unique and have unique situations.

Are you facing a physical injury, Post-Traumatic Stress, relationship issues, work problems or you are being told that it cannot be done?  Don’t accept that on face value.  Don’t blindly rely on the formula.

Be wise and listen to the counsel of others.  There are some limits we may have to accept; but not without a fight.  Not without first thinking outside the box!

Watch Jason’s story as captured by the Wounded Warrior Project

5 Tips for Everyday Encouragement


Encouragement Button Red

You can possess all the necessary knowledge of how to accomplish a task and not follow through to completion.  Even with the right knowledge we often need is some encouragement.  Sometimes we need just a little and other times we need a whole lot.

We may hold the need for encouragement in common.  However, each of us responds differently to different kinds of encouragement.  Different circumstances, such as training, family, or work can call for different kinds of encouragement.  Words, gifts, awards, smiles, quality time, express gratitude and confidence are just a few tools we can use to encourage others.

Perhaps I can speak best from my own experience.  What have I found most encouraging over the years? [NOTE: I am not real comfortable sharing this kind of info in such a public space.]

Truthful, sincere acknowledgment of something I have done or said that has made a difference.

For me it is important that the words, award or whatever the acknowledgement, must be objectively truthful.  Platitudes or untrue statements do little to nothing to encourage me.

We should try and understand how those in our own lives receive and respond to encouragement.  A few encouragement suggestions:

  1. Experiment – What encourages you may not encourage someone else.
  2. Smile more often.
  3. Listen.  Really listen.
  4. Give thanks – expressed in words, deeds, and acknowledgement.  Be specific!  Even when the outcome is not what you or they may desire, give thanks for their quality efforts.
  5. Express your confidence in someone’s ability to accomplish whatever they are facing.  Sincerity is key!

Perhaps our expression of gratitude goes along with encouraging others.  What do you think?  What encourages you? (Leave a comment–link is on the top of the post.)

Further reading:
“The Quiet Power of Encouragement”

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016 – Six Things YOU can do to help someone dealing with PTSD


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You can make a difference!  You do not have to be a doctor, psychologist, clergy or other professional to make a difference in the life of someone with PTSD.

We are not helpless when it come to helping ourselves of helping others dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  We do not have to face our own PTSD alone and we do not have to face the PTSD of our loved one alone.

Below is a brief list of things that I have found helpful in dealing with PTSD in my own life and helping others in my role as a Chaplain, Pastor and a friend.

1. Educate yourself

Useful Books:    (share what books have help you in our comments section)

  • On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, Loren W. Christenson
  • Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character, Jonathan Shay
  • War and the Soul, Edward Tick
  • After the Trauma the Battle Begins, Nigel W.D. Mumford

A few web resources:

2. Accept this reality
3. Have reasonable expectation of both them and yourself
4. Establish boundaries (physical abuse is always over the line)
5. Be willing and prepared to listen. (Know your limits: boundaries and expectations)
6. Be willing and prepared to join them in their journey. 

Some Other Lists:

 Question of the Week: What books/resources have you found helpful?

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Is it possible to “love your neighbor as yourself”?

No matter what we have experience is it reasonable or possible to “love your neighbor in the same way you love yourself”?  It would be easy to think those who said these things, Jesus Christ and St. Paul, had easy and tragedy free lives.  Not so.  Both Jesus and Paul receive brutal treatment during their lives and died at the hands of others.

What does it mean to “love your neighbor”?

The word used for “love” in these passages is “agape”.  This Greek word for love is not tied to the emotions or good feelings we usually associate with our idea of love.  Loving someone in this understanding is doing what is right on their behalf.  This kind of love may include, but goes beyond, feelings. (Biblical Greek used 4 different words to express different aspects or kinds of love.)

Who are these neighbors we are supposed to love as ourselves?

Family, those next-door, coworkers, employer, boss, cashier, sales reps, and etc. are all neighbors.  This includes people on the other side of the world.  It includes those on the other side of the political spectrum.  And, yes, it includes people of different beliefs.

How do we know if we are loving our neighbor as ourselves?

What about the neighbor who has the continually barking dog, loud music, or some other near perpetual annoyance?  Does loving your neighbor mean you tolerate the annoyance?  Perhaps not.  Avoiding issues is not necessarily love.  Simply dismissing annoyances or offenses may be an appropriate demonstration of love; but it may also be a hindrance to relationships and growth.  How we address the issue demonstrates the love.  In fact, avoidance can lead to more intense future conflict.

Our spouse, children, employer, customers, and next-door neighbors all provide numerous “opportunities” to demonstrate love.  They also help expose the shortcomings in our ability to walk in this kind of love.  Those that have hurt us in the worst ways put this to the greatest test.

This seems too hard.  It seems impossible!

The Good News is that we do not have to do this on our own.  In fact, I am convinced that I cannot do this on my own.  For me, as a Christian, it is the work of God—through His Son—in my live that makes this a possibility.

Falling short in our own lives can help keep us humble in our dealings with others.  It also serves as a reminder for our need for God’s grace and the need to allow God to work on and change our own hearts and minds.

[NOTE: What loving your neighbor does NOT mean:

It does not mean you should let people abuse you.  It does not mean that you cannot defend yourself from violence.  The choices of others, such as in combat or fighting off an assault, will sometimes put us in difficult circumstances that demonstrate our own dependence on God’s grace.  However, when those brief, but life changing moments, have passed we are faced again with the opportunity to love (agape)—even our enemies.]

This idea can be particularly difficult for those of us who have experienced deep hurts or tragedies.  Yet we are not left alone.  We do not have to figure it all out on our own.

I do not always fulfill the command to love my neighbor as myself.  However, working together with God this is becoming more real in my daily life.  As I grow in this area I find new joy and peace no matter what circumstances I am facing.

Some of the factors that are impacting my life in this area: my relationship with God through Jesus Christ, the Holy Bible (Scripture), fellow Christians to challenge and encourage my spiritual growth, and all who continually provide opportunities for me to grow.

What, or who, is helping you grow in your ability to “love your neighbor as yourself”?

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015 – Restoring Reason During Anger


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Are you ready to take back control?

 Anger, Stress, Anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress response can all involve the Fight/Flight response.  We do not have to let this response take, or keep, control of our actions.

 In this episode we will discuss:

  • Physical manifestation (symptoms) of acute “stress” and escalating anger.
  • The Autonomic Nervous System (ANA or aka. involuntary nervous system): responsible for heart rate, respiratory rate, digestion, perspiration, urination and much more.
  • Heart Rate: An accelerated heart rate due to stress indicates other physical changes are taking place as well.

Condition: (base on heart rate beats per minute -bpm)

  • White: 60-80 bpm (at rest)
  • Yellow: 80-114 bpm
  • Red: 115-145 bpm (optimal performance level for combat and survival)
  • Gray: 146-174 bpm
  • Black: 175 bpm (significant ruduction in cognitive (thinking) ability)
  • [Chart and further discussion available at:]
  • Affect of stress, anger, anxiety on the brain
  • Controlled breathing = direct way to impact the Autonomic Nervous System!
  • Tactical Breathing: (starting at 12:48): A pattern of 4s

Featured Resource: On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in Ware and Peace by Dave Grossman and Loren Christenson

On Combat Book Cover

014 – 3 Practical Steps to Gaining Control Over Anger


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Last week in “Anger!!! What Lies Beneath” we discussed the fuel underneath anger.  It seems to be largely connected to fear and its friends: shame, guilt, etc.  This week we continue on our path toward growth and victory.

Out of control anger does not only affect our relationship; but it also physically affects our hearts—and a lot more of our bodies.  So how do we START to deal with problematic anger?

1. The R and E of RESTORE

Recognize and Evaluate:

But there is more to it R and E.  We can learn to detect the sings in our bodies as we start to escalate.  We can learn to identify the thinking patterns that start to lead us down the road toward rage.

(See Episodes 002 RESTORE and 003 Recognize)

2. Physically Prepare: Sleep, Eat and Exercise


What happens when you do not get enough sleep?  For starters: increased depression and moodiness.  Your brain goes through a rest process when you sleep.  While sleeping the electrical and chemical makeup of the brain changes.  This is apparently necessary for proper function while you are awake.  Without proper sleep we are also likely to gain weight, have trouble learning, focusing and remembering.

[CDC Sleep Report; Effects of the Lack of Sleep; Anger and Heart Disease]

A few things about PTSD that can add extra complication to the sleeping problem. 

Hypervigilance (always on guard) can make it difficult to fall asleep.  For some, they are easily awoken by sounds.

Nightmares: These can interfere with sleep on many levels: (a) wake you out of sleep; (b) keep you from falling back to sleep; (c) interfere with the quality of sleep.  Even if it does not wake you out of sleep the thrashing screaming and sweating can interfere with the quality of sleep.

What can I do to get a better night sleep?

  • Exercise – 5 to 6 hours before attempting to sleep.  20 min of intensive activity (Talk with your Doctor before starting an exercise plan) [Exercise and Sleep]
  • Get rid of the electronics/TV watch from the bedroom
  • Exposure to outdoor (bright) light in the morning

Eat:  Ok, we constantly being told how we need to eat a balance and healthy diet.  Well, it is true.  But there is too much to really get into this topic here – although I mention a couple of things that you may find useful in the show.

“But caffeine doesn’t keep me awake.”  I hear this a lot!  Studies show that it does interfere with the quality of sleep.  In other words, even when you sleep it decreases the quality of sleep.  Suggestion: don’t drink caffeine after lunch and only a couple cups of caffeinated coffee or tea in the morning.

[Effects of caffeine on sleep]

3. Practice Tactical Breathing

Say what?  Yes, you can significantly change your body and mind by learning and practicing a breathing technique known as “Tactical Breathing”.

When the body is in the fight-flight response the blood flow decreases to the reasoning center of the brain and increases to the mid-brain focused on preserving your life.  Researchers have developed a breathing technique that has proven useful to people in tactical situations to help them lower their heart rate and help reestablish more control.

It is not difficult but it takes practice.  Like with most skills used during a crisis mode we need to first practice them when we are not in a crisis mode.

Question: What helps you deal with anger?

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How can we successfully deal with angry people?

So, you are not a hot head.  But you have to deal with one or two or three.  Below are some ideas to consider when dealing with outwardly angry people—note: we will have to talk about the quiet angry types in another post.

[Most important: your safety!  If the angry person becomes abusive (or you believe it is heading in that direction) you should remove yourself from the situation and seek appropriate help.  What we are discussing here is anger that does not result in abuse.]

Anger usually comes from some insecurity, fear, guilt, sense of inadequacy, etc.:

Understanding this can help us to NOT internalize the other person’s expression of anger.  When we internalize someone else’s anger we tend to get defensive—at least this is true for me.  When we get defensive we can get side tracked from the real issues at hand.

Expectations: Do you have unrealistic expectations about the reasonableness of the angry person?

It is unreasonable to expect a person in the passion of anger to be completely reasonable.  The biology of anger does not support it.  The more angry the individual the less the reasoning center of the brain can operate.  The blood flow actually decreases to the reasoning center (pre-frontal cortex—the part behind your forehead).  Instead the body/brain puts its resources in to the fight/flight response.

Anger, fear, anxiety and alike all have a similar physiological response.  It is important that this balance be restored before attempting to engage in a reasonable discussion.  Justifying our actions—even if we are in the right—accomplishes nothing in the heat of the moment.

Post-traumatic stress responses can involve anger outbursts.  PTSD is not a means for excusing inappropriate actions.  However, it can be helpful to keep in mind that the stress and anxiety that accompany PTSD can help contribute to a shorter fuse.

Diffuse before Engaging:                 

In the heat of anger (our own or that of another) our goal should be to diffuse the situation before attempting to solve the problem(s) surrounding the event.  Time is an important ingredient in this mix.  People’s bodies need time to work out the rush of hormones that accompanies anger and the fight/flight response.

It may not be helpful to declare an official “time-out”.  However, some kind of separation in time and space should be considered.

It is important that the individuals involved reengage the issues when all have had an opportunity to cool down.  If we are not careful time and space can lead to avoidance and the underlying problems will never get resolved.

Get someone else involved:

I don’t mean that you should drag someone else into the middle of the argument.  Rather, when a relative calm has set in, invite someone to help mediate the discussion.  This person should be perceived by all involved as being relatively neutral.

Addressing their anger issue:

Yelling back, “You have anger issues!” In the middle of their outburst is not likely to be helpful. (I know, I have tried it.)  When all is calm it may be possible to discuss your concern for how they are handling anger.

However, in order to be able to successfully deliver this message, it helps if you actually care.  I have not found many people ready to accept a “critical” message from someone who does not care.  If that is the case, then try and find someone who does care to deliver the message of concern.

This is by no means a complete list of things to help deal with angry people.  What ideas or strategies have helped you deal with angry people? (Please share your thoughts in the comments section.)

Check out the first part of our podcast series on anger: “Anger!!! What Lies Beneath

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