Saturday, June 23, 2018

Dr. Michael S Scheeringa on A Parent's Guide to PTSD in Youth

In this interview, Dr. Michael Scheeringa talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by, about his book, They’ll Never Be the Same: A Parent’s Guide to PTSD in Youth.

“Parents, it’s up to you.” ~Dr. Michael Scheeringa

As a young, newly-trained doctor, Michael was interested in preventing child abuse, but found that field to be too ambitious to tackle, so he went into research into the effect of trauma on children - post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in other words. He accumulated a lot of information from his research and clinical work had been spending time speaking about the matter to his colleagues as well as leading training workshops on the matter, but he felt that the word wasn’t going out as quickly as he felt it should. He thus wrote They’ll Never Be the Same in an attempt to let parents and the ordinary person know the symptoms and effects of PTSD on children.

Michael notes that PTSD springs from experiences which children consider to be life-threatening, rather than experiences which are stressful but don’t get up to the intensity of being life-threatening. The events are sudden, unexpected, sheer moments of panic, which can take place during such events as natural disasters, attacks by dogs (for young children), witnessing domestic violence and the like. That said, he agreed that not everybody reacts the same way to the same situation, due to the difference in the way children perceive things, with one child being in a car accident and getting traumatized and another child in the same accident not being traumatized, and he infers the possibility that this could be due to the way each individual’s brain is wired. Michael notes that, where the issue of being separated from parents is concerned, such an event isn’t necessarily life-threatening, although it is stressful, unless it’s done in a very frightening way.

Some of the myths that Michael points out about childhood PTSD are:
  • “Young children don’t remember what happened to them.” This is not true. Children as young as three can suffer from PTSD, and they will remember the traumatic event as they grow older.
  • “Kids grow out of it.” This doesn’t happen, so it is best to get help for the child as soon as possible - immediately, as much as possible, within a month at most.
  • “The parent - particularly the mother - is to blame.” This isn’t the case, and Michael points out that parents - particularly mothers - were blamed for autism in the 1950s, as they were blamed for schizophrenia in the 1960s. Granted, some parents might be using their children to get doctors to doing something which might not be proper or legitimate, and Michael does admit that therapists and clinicians are exposed, during their training, to populations which skew towards such behavior, but he also says that, in his experience, parents don’t lie where their children’s welfare is concerned.
Michael remarks that parents can tell if a child suffers PTSD by seeing a sudden change in a child’s behavior. PTSD is the only psychological disorder which manifests itself immediately, so something like a child being happy and expressive one day and literally withdrawn the next day is a symptom of PTSD. He also notes that there are twenty different diagnostic indicators for PTSD, which fall into three types:
  1. Re-experiencing - nightmares, thoughts that barge in.
  2. Avoidance and numbing - losing interest in things they previously liked.
  3. Increased arousal - difficulty sleeping and concentration, exaggerated startle responses (“jumpy”).
Therapies for PTSD will never enable the child to totally heal. The best that can be done is to enable the child to live with the event, similar to how people would live with diabetes or chronic back pain, for the rest of their life. That said, such therapies will enable those who are successfully treated to live out their live productively.

Michael remarks that psychotherapy is the first line of treatment for PTSD, as it has the best long-lasting effect. There are different types of psychotherapy for PTSD, and one of these, which Michael recommends and uses, is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This is a form of evidence-based treatment, which means that the therapy has been tested in randomized clinical trials and has been shown to work, unlike other therapies which have not been clinically tested at all. CBT consists of twelve to fifteen weekly sessions, with the patient learning new coping strategies at the start of the process, after which they need to start talking about their trauma in a gentle, guided way to enable them to gain mastery of the negative feelings they have about the event. Michael notes that up to 75% of his patients have had success with CBT, and the other 25% need help in addition to CBT, such as through medication.

Michael estimates that 90% of all children with PTSD aren’t so diagnosed, as most clinicians nowadays aren’t trained to recognize PTSD in children. For the moment, it is now up to the parents to seek help for their children by finding their own assessments, such as those on Michael’s website, and then looking around for therapists who can help them out. Some of the questions Michael recommends parents to ask, to find the right kind of therapist, are:
  • Do you use evidence-based therapy?
  • Have you seen a child like mine, with PTSD, before?
  • How many cases have you treated?
  • Have you treated children who are my child’s age?
  • What kind of psychotherapy do you plan to use?
He also says that parents should switch therapists if the therapist they are working with doesn’t seem to be effective.

On the subject of studies conducted on brains of people who suffered PTSD, Michael remarks that the present conventional wisdom is that those peoples’ brains have suffered changes due to PTSD but notes that most of this wisdom is based on studies which didn’t have a reference image of the brain prior to PTSD and those images after the event which triggered PTSD took place. He notes that some newer studies, which do use “before and after” imaging, indicate that the brain structure didn’t change before and after the event took place, and that it is likely that some people are more vulnerable to PTSD than others because of the way their brain is structured.

Purchase from Amazon: They’ll Never Be the Same: A Parent’s Guide to PTSD in Youth by Dr. Michael Scheeringa

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Pardeep Singh Kaleka and Arno Michaelis on Forgiveness after Hate

In this interview, Arno Michaelis and Pardeep Singh Kaleka talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by, about their book, The Gift of Our Wounds: A Sikh and a Former White Supremacist Find Forgiveness After Hate.


“Hurt people hurt people.” ~Pardeep Singh Kaleka and Arno Michaelis

Pardeep is a first-generation immigrant, having come from Punjabi, India at the age of six, when his parents wanted a better life and opportunities for themselves and their family. They settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and essentially followed the American dream, and thanks to their parents’ hard work Pardeep and his family were able to go to college, with his brother becoming a teacher and Pardeep, a police officer. He is a Sikh, which is a religion which is concerned with seeing the humanity in others, and Sikhs are expected to be learners.

Arno grew up in Milwaukee, in a good neighborhood, but in an alcoholic household, with his parents struggling. The conflicts led him to lash out at others, and as he grew older, he got stimulated by antisocial, violent acts. He began drinking at the age of sixteen and first got involved with white supremacists while listening to music geared towards that audience. He spent seven years in neo-Nazi hate groups as a leader and street fighter, but he felt an increasing sense of exhaustion and isolation in that time, particularly since the people he was supposed to hate treated him with kindness when he least deserved it. Arno remarked that everything that he did was designed to provoke hostility, hate and fights, but when he was treated with kindness he didn’t know how to react. He eventually decided to leave when he became a single father to a baby girl and one of his friends was killed in a street fight, which made him present to the fact that a lot of his friends were incarcerated, and that if he himself didn’t change, he would wind up like them. He then spent the next seven years healing, then stopped drinking, began writing and founded an online magazine, Life After Hate and now works as a counter-violent extremist consultant.

On August 5, 2012, one of Arno’s former colleagues shot and killed six people in a Sikh temple, one of whom was Pradeep’s father, before being killed himself in a shootout with responding policemen. Pardeep then reached out to connect with Arno a few months after the shooting, and since then, the pair have been working together to break the cycle of hate which breeds more hate and racism.

While Arno doesn’t believe there is an excuse for hate and violence, he remarks that there is always a reason. Whatever the ideology under which the hate and violence blossoms, the common thread is a background of suffering and pain within an individual. Pardeep seconds this, saying that there are a lot of issues related to vulnerability amongst individuals who lean towards extremism and violence.

Irresponsibility is the main source of racism, according to Arno and Pardeep, where it is easier to blame someone else, or another group, as being the source of one’s perceived poor status in life, rather than confront oneself about one’s own behaviors and actions that had brought one to that state. Such blame enables one to disconnect from the reality of one’s life, and Arno notes that white supremacist groups prey upon this mix of frustration, discontent and blame to recruit people, which only accelerates the person’s downfall, rather than enabling them to find ways out of their situation.

Pardeep notes that, in the United States, a lot of judging goes on about people involved in white supremacist groups, which keeps people from recognizing the pain and historical trauma of such ideologies. A more mindful culture, according to him, is necessary to solve the concern, rather than demonizing the people, as there is no way out for the person once that is done. Rejection, real or perceived, is the trigger for violence in a lot of mass shootings, according to Pardeep, and Arno remarks that violence is also an attempt to find control something in their life when everything else isn’t in control. He then adds that he and Pardeep, as part of their work, help people to see that controlling the lens through which they view the world, be it for evil or for good, is a powerful thing. Arno also notes that responding to antisocial behavior with compassion, rather than aggression and vengeance, breaks the cycle of violence, without accepting such behavior as normal.

Pardeep notes that the interplay of factors in racism is complex, as it exists in history and society as well as individuals. Resolving the concern, he says, requires that society become a solution-focused one, rather than the judgemental, blaming one that it presently is. Arno remarks that one thing people can do is to see oneself in others, particularly when those other people do harm.

To those who are deeply involved in racist ideologies, Arno would ask them if they know someone of their race who could make better decisions in their life and if they know someone of another race who is hard-working and likeable. To those who are on the receiving end of a hate crime, Pardeep would like them to know that pain, however painful, has a purpose with regard to one’s life journey.

Arno notes that, as human beings, it’s in our nature that we find what we seek, so those who find reasons to be hateful and outraged will find such, while those who seek inspiration will find it. This is something which Pardeep calls a “choice bias,” and whatever one chooses to invest in gives greater weight to one’s own beliefs.

Purchase from Amazon: The Gift of Our Wounds: A Sikh and a Former White Supremacist Find Forgiveness After Hate by Pardeep Singh Kaleka and Arno Michaelis

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Danny Kofke: How to Be Wealthy on a Teacher's Salary (Even if You're Not a Teacher)

In this interview, Danny Kofke talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by, about his book, The Wealthy Teacher: Lessons For Prospering On A School Teacher’s Salary.

“It’s really easy to spend money without thinking about it.” ~Danny Kofke

The Wealthy Teacher is actually Danny’s fourth book, all of which deal with creating financial freedom for oneself based on his own experiences of doing so on a teacher’s salary. His methods have resulted in his presently being debt-free and have enabled his wife to be a stay-at-home mom for nine years, with the family living on his salary alone. The Wealthy Teacher is intended to make the reader look at one’s overall financial picture and take the exact steps needed to create financial success - the kind which, Danny explains, would enable someone to leave one’s employment if one dislikes the situation there.

Danny’s childhood environment was a happy one, despite his family not being well-to-do, and it was then that he noticed that those among his friends who had a lot materially weren’t happy - something he continued to notice amongst adults as he got older. When he married, he agreed with his wife that she should be a stay-at-home mom and look after the children for a few years, which meant that they needed to get their financial plan straight for the next several years, one which would keep them out of debt.

Where a teacher’s salary is concerned, Danny notes that, over time, a teacher’s salary is a decent amount, but salaries are low for beginning teachers, which presents a challenge at a time when one is establishing one’s life and career. Danny notes that the low pay is particularly challenging to today’s teachers, as they also have to deal with the home life issues of students and that, even before they start working, teachers already have to deal with student loans.

Where the average American is concerned, Danny recalls a survey recently conducted which showed that around 70% of all Americans would need to borrow money to cover a $400 emergency. For his part, Danny has a one-year emergency fund and a retirement account as well as having no debt, and more importantly he and his family live wealthy lives.

Debt is “90% behavior,” according to Danny, pointing out that income and outflow is 8th-grade math. It’s easy for people to spend money to make themselves feel good when they feel unhappy, and Danny points out that that the feeling of “good” doesn’t last long while having an impact on their future financial standing. He also points out that people get into trouble when they spend more than they earn, citing a survey done by a sports magazine which noted that several NBA players file for bankruptcy five years after retirement.

Danny notes that people not only need to have short-term and long-term goals financially, but also need to know the why behind those goals. The example he gives is of wanting to have enough in retirement to enjoy outings with his grandchildren, which keeps him from buying a brand new car and placing what would have been his monthly payment money for the car into his retirement fund.

The Wealthy Teacher includes things to do to get people on the path to financial freedom, starting with setting goals and knowing why, after which he goes over such things as having proper insurance and getting a will. He also goes into saving an amount for expenses and having an emergency fund, then about getting out of debt, which he notes is essentially money one owes before one even gets a job. Danny points out that life and consequent expenses happen, and that having a financial margin available turns a catastrophe into a mere inconvenience. He also then notes about investing for retirement and then paying off one’s mortgage, finishing off with being financially free.

Danny notes that the concept of “wealth” is subjective, as being wealthy is what one makes of it, and his definition of wealth is having the freedom to pursue what one is passionate about. He gave the example of being able to travel around Europe during his two-year stay in Poland with his wife while still being able to save up money for the inevitable return to the United States, which meant that neither of them felt deprived of the experience of living overseas. Danny noted that they were able to save because they paid themselves first by putting aside, as soon as they got their paychecks, a fixed amount of money for their future needs, which gave them some $20,000 to start off their life in the United States. This practice is the reverse of how most people operate, in that the latter pay off their expenses first and then enjoy what’s left.

Danny’s basic advice to people, particularly those starting out in life, is to keep track of their expenses, to know where, exactly, their money goes. He and his wife did just that for a month, shortly after they got married, and the figures they came up with helped them set up their monthly budget. Danny notes that most people have an outflow problem, rather than an income problem. He also points out that a lot of people don’t take advantages of the opportunities offered them because they literally can’t afford to, and gave the example of his becoming an author because he could afford to take advantage of that particular opportunity, which has consequently enriched his life in many ways.

Purchase from Amazon: The Wealthy Teacher: Lessons For Prospering On A School Teacher’s Salary by Danny Kofke