Getting Back To It

This is going to be brief. I am putting it back out into the universe that I am going to be getting back to writing and working on this website. Stay tuned.

I am working on banking some content, but also putting out some new stuff here and there. If you haven’t seen it yet, I wrote a new post on Father’s Day touching on grief and fatherhood. If you want to check it out visit my Medium blog. As usual, subscribe to my substack to keep up with the latest plans. Feel free to reach out to me here in my contact section to make requests for content you would like to read about. Look forward to connecting again, soon!

Indefinite Hiatus

I’m going to try and keep this short and sweet. I’ve done a lot of rumbling…and while I have really wanted this blog as a creative outlet so badly, I’m not in the time or place in my life where I can do this the way I would like to. Family responsibilities and family time need to be prioritized, and my private practice has been incredibly busy. I’m really grieving this realization, but also looking forward to finding a better way of finding a restorative practice in this particularly hectic time in life. You can still find me on twitter @brbhealth. Until next time…

Gaming Media on the Rise— Week of 1/2/22

Every week I will be reviewing a reputable news article and engaging with it from a mental health professional standpoint. These will be short posts following a three segment model: 1. The News=short synopsis of article 2. The View= My initial impression of the article, and the news impact in the mental health world 3. The Reflection= Useful ways to engage with this information/applications to caring for our mental health. These posts will be published 8am EST on Mondays!

News= Gaming is quickly taking over as a one of the most popular forms of entertainment. It’s popularity is projected to continue to rise in 2023 with many different companies getting in on the investment. Streaming services, like Netflix, are trying to capitalize on games through their subscription service models. More movies will be coming out based on popular video games like the “Super Mario Bros. Movie”, and some new video game based tv series will be coming out in 2023, like God of War and Assassin’s Creed. Currently, the video game industry is valued at $184 billion dollars. With so much money being involved, there are definitely a lot of regulatory body interests also claiming stake. Lawsuits against large acquisitions have been filed over the past couple of years, and lawsuits related to protections for children buying digital products on freemium games. See this Epic games headline for reference. Also, here is the article that was used for this news update.

This continued stream of resources and content directed towards games is a result of parents, who grew up as gamers, passing down their love and interests to younger generations. Passing down this love has translated to a large population for companies to invest time and money in. So why does this forecasting of these media giants matter in our personal lives?

Photo by Alex Haney on Unsplash

The View= Gaming isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it is continuing to get bigger. The large growth in this media, perhaps, causes more concern for some parents with how to best create structure for our kids as they engage and socialize with this media. As mental health professionals and parents we also realize how gaming is a vehicle for how kids and people socialize, connect, and play with each other. It has been particularly crucial during times of isolation or distance (which the pandemic definitely showed—like with how Among Us took off).

Since the pandemic we have noticed parents offering more leniency for how kids have used screens. This isn’t a concern in of itself, but there has been more parental anxiety as pandemic precautions have been lifted, and other forms of socialization and play have become more accessible. Let’s talk about a good way to gauge this issue, and release ourselves from the struggle of how we judge what is too little or too much screen time with video games. One of our group practice supervisors, Caroline Megargel, at Virginia Family Therapy speaks to mindless and mindful screen time here, which definitely dovetails nicely into what we are going to explore.

The Reflection= As with trying to find balance with any hobby or practice, it can be helpful to name out what the value and cost with the activity is. Gaming is valuable as play, connection, and can be a vehicle to learn frustration tolerance and communication. Some games also a learning based and can be a creative way to contribute to social and academic learning. The cost of gaming often has to do with how much time is being sunk into it, or if it is more isolating and sedentary than connecting and active. The experience of how stressful certain games are can also contribute to how it impacts quality of life.

There is a graphic I like to refer to in situations like these called the Bullseye Worksheet that I learned when getting training in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. This model encourages us to not place judgment on arbitrary time spent doing something (like gaming, or what kind of activities or games we invest in..within developmentally appropriate reason), but focus and understand where the quality of life resides, and where the cost might be. .

On a personal note, I have loved sharing gaming with our now 6 year old. I remember growing up playing old school Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle games and watching the early 90’s show. It’s been so meaningful being able to recreate some of that with my daughter. This gaming has added a lot of value to the both of our lives, but we also put a limit on how often we play, gauged by how frustrated we get, or how our gaming stacks up with the other ways we might want to share and budget time that day. As parents, my wife and I have also appreciated the learning curves we have been engaging in with parental controls with gaming, and setting limits with our daughter. Technology involved in parental controls with gaming drives good conversation between the both of us, and with our daughter on what she can expect and request. These intentional acts are all great ways to keep a fun and expansive form of media safe and meaningful.

Min(d)ing The Media Season 1 Episode 1

Min(d)ing The Media is a blog dedicated to exploring the world of all media content, and mindfully mining the psychological and therapeutic gems from said content. I will be exploring different medias and teasing out themes that we can focus in on and maybe learn a little more about what it means to be human. You can expect a wide range of content from many genres of movies, tv shows, anime, comics, podcasts, music, and books. While exploring themes, I will also be giving reviews using a 1-5 dice 🎲 rating scale. Some of these blog posts will also include their own podcast counterpart and additional content. Any extras will be included in links or embedded in the posts themselves, so don’t worry about missing out!

I am kicking of this new blog with with one of its own series, “Never Blue When Watching Bluey”. For each post in this series I am going to be writing on each episode (in chronological order, of course) of Bluey. Not just because our family is obsessed with the show, but because it has some really great content to mine/d for parents and kids, alike! So without further ado, here is the first installment.

Never Blue When Watching Bluey—Episode 1– The Magic Xylophone

Rating: 🎲 🎲 🎲 🎲 (to be fair.. I legitimately give all of these episodes a perfect 5/5 dice in general, but I’m trying to rank them amongst each other).

Synopsis: The first episode of Bluey is “The Magic Xylophone.” We learn so much about the Heeler family jammed into this 8 minute episode. They also teach us some important emotional and social skills. First, a quick synopsis and character review. Bluey, the main protagonist, is a blue colored Blue Heeler, and is the big sister to Bingo, an orange colored Heeler. Bandit is the blue colored Heeler Dad, and Chili is the orange colored Mom Heeler. We notice immediately that this family’s glue is humor and warmth. The episode starts with with some of that humor and warmth as Bandit plays Bluey like a piano on his lap.

Bingo then wants a turn as the piano. Her request foreshadows the tension and theme in the episode…sharing. Bingo doesn’t exactly get her turn, but does get used as a butt bongo when Chili enters the room. A cut scene later Bingo is rifling through the playroom toy bin and finds the titular “Magic Xylophone”. This is the first time we see the Heeler family referring to one of a myriad inside jokes and fantasies that they all share in. The Xylophone has the imaginative power to freeze anyone who it is played towards. The girls terrorize Bandit, who willingly and patiently plays along, with being frozen and dressed up in a lot of ridiculous outfits. Here the tension comes again, as Bingo asks for a turn to do the freezing, but Bluey blows over these requests. Eventually Bingo tells Chili that Bluey isn’t sharing. Chili replies “Bluey, if you won’t take turns with people, they won’t take turns with you.” So against Bluey’s judgment that her sister would get them both frozen (because she is too slow) if she gave her the Xylophone, she shares.

Sure enough, both of the girls get frozen, but not because of Bingo being slow, but because the girls were squabbling over turns. Bluey gets frozen and turned into a garden gnome. Bingo eventually gets the magic Xylophone back, but keeps Bluey frozen to have a heart to heart talk about feeling hurt that she is not being shared with. The last cutscene happens and we see how Bluey responds as a sweet big sister as we see their plans to team up on Bandit come to fruition. Bluey tricks Bandit by pretending she is still frozen so that they can freeze him into a “fountain” on the front yard (ie. Frozen as a statue with a hose squirting in his face). Perfect ending.

Themes: Siblings learning to share and listen, and parental guidance vs direction. 

Parental wisdom for the kids= “Bluey, if you won’t take turns with people, they won’t take turns with you.” Teaching a life lesson rather than refereeing a sibling struggle. As parents we don’t have to just play air traffic control for our kids when squabbles happen. There is time, space, and opportunity to not rescue or delegate for them, but allow them to soak in messages and experience the impact of their decisions. Bandit even contributes to this life lesson parenting approach as he stays fully committed to the bit of the Magic Xylophone. He had many opportunities and choices where he could have shut it down to counsel the girls as he observed some of their conversations, but allowed them to play through and learn together. He continued to allow use of himself as source of tension, and potential unification.

Ultimately, less intervention is usually more.

The Xylophone: The Magic Xylophone is a great symbol that represents the fine line between kids navigating having agency in the world, and experiencing the overwhelm of having too much control and power. This anxiety is mitigated through play and the game itself, but also through how the parents choose to allow the kids to navigate their own structure of sharing. There would have been an impact to Bluey and Bingo’s relationship had this impasse not been resolved. Now a new level of trust has formed as each pup remembers how they share a powerful tool for play, and feel agency in making their own choices with support of their parents. They also feel a sense of mastery as they navigated this impasse successfully. Neither left each other in the game and neither, Chili nor Bandit, had to stop the game.

Recap: Parents—reflect emotions and life lessons, but then get out of the way when things haven’t completely ruptured between siblings during play. Kids—Some of the greatest life lessons in sharing come from pausing things and having a heart to heart with someone about how you feel when you are left out. If this is not being received well, it might be time to get more adult support.

Look forward to sharing the next episode soon!

A Past, Present, and Future Loss

Inspiration: After watching the new Christmas Carol (2022) on Netflix, (highly recommend for Christmas Carol fans) Becky (wife and sometimes site admin) stated “Hey this would be a good blog dealy for you, y’know the three ghosts and grief and stuff.”

Setup: Grief is our emotional, sensational, and cognitive reaction to loss. The most recognized part of grief is our reaction to something that happened in our past… about something or someone we no longer have. However, the other important parts of grief are just as important to spotlight. We encounter grief in relating to our past losses while being in the present moment, and how we anticipate and feel future potential losses. These parts or “ghosts” are not as clear cut entities as they appear in the Christmas Carol, but for the sake of this process we are going to try to differentiate.

A gallery image of multiple snowy scenes. The first upper left image is entitled “A Past, Present, And Future”. The middle window continues “Grief”. There are three other gallery windows that should be viewed counter clockwise that show images of the referred to ghosts, that mimic the looks of the ghosts in the story “A Christmas Carole.”

The Ghost of Loss Past:

When this ghost visits it shows us our life when that chair wasn’t empty, when we hadn’t been terminated from that job we loved so much, or that time period before losing our innocence. This is a soft spoken nostalgic ghost who has us returning to pain, and illuminates what is important to us in our lives. If we are unable to be with these losses in flexible ways it sometimes feels like we are living in the land of the dead. We are living in our past relationships..our past lives. We are feeling stuck in these losses and hurt. When this happens we can feel a yearning, or resentment that keeps us stuck and immobilized. In the original tale, this is where Scrooge is stuck. He didn’t need the ghost to show him his past…he was living his past. What the ghost actually did for him was allow him to view these experiences without completely being consumed. It allowed him to see the fuller experience of grief, which is not just pain, but also warmth, laughter, and the recognition of choices made. While that recognition is particularly painful, it is also where mobilization lives. We can feel the sting of regret, and also access the agency in choices that we want to hold ourselves accountable to in the now and future…thus comes the other ghosts.

Wisdom to take: A re-examination of who we are (in relation to that loss). A re-affirmation of who we want to be, and how we want to act based on our important losses/values.

Ghost of Loss Present:

When the Ghost of Loss Present visits it points us to what is right in front of us. It is a ghost that begs us to “know our grief better, man.” This is the ghost that catches us right in those moments, and knocks the wind out of us. These might be moments when time might slow down a little bit while doing something because we get hit with a sensation that illuminates the empty chair in the room, where we wish that missed person was sharing this very moment with us, or maybe we even feel like we can hear what that person would be saying in that moment.

This ghost can certainly take up a lot of space in the room when it visits. Sometimes this ghost also feels inviting. We might seek it out in a way because it brings us closer to feeling that connection to what we lost. If we don’t have access to connecting with this ghost, we might feel a sense of complete disconnection to those important people or events in our lives. When we are feeling disconnected, it is not because we are still needing to wait for the Ghost of Loss Present to visit us, rather this experience is often a denial or avoidance of the ghost taking up space in our room when it is already present.

So..being with this present ghost is a good thing, right? We want to be in the present because that is where grounding and intentional action comes in, right? When it comes to mindfulness and value based action, yes, certainly this is important. But all of these ghosts have an important part to play. Present gives us an opportunity to also illuminate a little more of the stage of life and look to how our losses may be shared in community with others. In order to do this we need to get to that psychological flexibility point of not feeling fully enveloped in Present’s large body. We need to be able to be with all of our ghosts.

Wisdom to take: Being with the pain/loss, in the frozen moments in the now, allows for important pockets and opportunities to seize intimacy and community if we can hold it with soft hands.

Ghost of Loss Future:

The Ghost of Loss future is a silent contemplative ghost who often follows quickly after one, or both, of the other ghosts have visited us. It is the ghost of anticipatory grief. It shows us the losses that we project out as we grieve the losses already in front of us. This isn’t just a projection fueled out of anxiety, but a certainty. A silent knowing that nothing gold can stay. If this visitation is just left in a space of hopeless rigidity, we will reject this ghost completely. In this rejection we disconnect from ourselves and from hope. I imagine this as a building of those chains that Marley wore in the Christmas Carol. Those chains are not just forged from immoral deeds done, but from the disconnect of not being able to be with one’s own pain and humanity as we unintentionally drive into the future. A locking away of one’s self. Of course, not being able to access our own pain and humanity makes it easier to dehumanize others..thus making this more of a Marley chained status.

Wisdom to take: Allowing ourselves to project out and see future losses is something that allows us to further formulate how we prioritize our values in the now. What is important about the high stakes of what we may lose? Rather than focusing on preventing/undoing these things, what would happen if we were able to fully live for these things now? What would that look like? What do we want to stand for?

In reality…all of these Ghosts visit within the same time/space. They can feel interchangeable, and are quite the messy crew. What is important about naming these griefs is how they direct us along the timeline of past, present, and future. There is nothing wrong with being pulled in these spaces, and there is much to learn in each. The main issue is when we find ourselves locked away in any of these spaces too long, or if we find ourselves pushing away from them altogether. So if we were to break down your grief(s) into these ghosts…how might that allow you to better conceptualize your processing? Maybe this could help? Also found in my free resources page!

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