Reblog: You Don’t Have to Deal With Toxic Behaviors of Others

by Dr. Henry Cloud

I was doing a seminar one day when a woman asked this question: How do you deal with critical people?”

My first response was, “Why would you want to do that? Dealing with critical people is awful.”

She looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Well … because you have to!”

“I don’t find that to be true,” I said. “Why do you have to?”

She got very circumspect and almost in a whisper so no one could hear, she said, “Because they’re everywhere!”

“Everywhere?” I asked.

“Yes, everywhere.”

“Wow, let’s talk about that.”

And we did, right there in front of a thousand people. I asked her what these critical people were like and where she was finding them, and she began to describe judgmental, critical personalities that she knew in her work, her extended family and in her social circles. In a sense, she was right. They were everywhere – at least in her everywhere. Apparently, she had an uncanny ability to find them, no matter where she was.

It seemed that at her work or any other circle, she would somehow manage to be drawn to the most critical person in the group and become friends with them. After awhile, she would feel like, “all they do is criticize what I am doing and tell me I should be doing it differently.”

What I told her that while it was true that critical people can be found everywhere, it was not true that she had to keep finding them or become best friends with them. But as long as she needed approval of these people – which is impossible to attain – she would always need to find a critical person so that she could live out her lifelong strategy of finally getting one to like her. Good luck.

The observation here is that she needed a critical person to accomplish her goal of getting critical people to finally approve of her. Her “script” required a critical person, so without realizing it, she always looked for one. All she would know was that when she encountered a critical person, she would feel “not good enough” and would begin trying to be good enough in their eyes, exerting lots of effort and continually falling short.

“What do I do?” she asked.

“Easy,” I said. “Just be honest with them, and you’ll never hear from them again.”

“What?” she said.

“Just be honest with them. Tell them something like, ‘Yeah, I can see that you would do it differently, but I like it like this. What’s for lunch?’ ”

Recognize the boundary there?

“But they will keep telling me what is wrong with what I am doing,” she said.

“Probably. So then you just say, ‘Yeah, I understand you feel that way, but that is the way I want to do it. Let’s move on. What’s for lunch?’ ”

In this situation I just described, replace “critical” with a toxic behavior of someone you know. Now think of what you can do for yourself next time you think you have to “deal with” them. Recognize what you’re feeling and honor that. Define the boundary for yourself, and communicate it with the person with whom you have an issue.

For example, “I don’t like it when you treat me like that. If you continue to do so, I will choose not to be around you until you can respect me the same way I respect you.”

That’s a vague statement, but you can define the specific boundary that meets your needs.

Now take a moment to ask yourself: What role am I playing in the situation I find myself in? What am I contributing to this?

Understanding all of this gives you something you can work on. You can work on your tendency to allow toxic people to have that kind of power over you. You can work on staying separate from their opinions and have your own. And most powerfully, you can finally notice that there are other people in your life who don’t exhibit those behaviors.

Please note that if there is an abusive person in your life, the boundaries you set may require a strong support system. It is encouraged that you seek the help of a counselor, a group and/or contact local law enforcement as necessary.

Find the original article here.

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Reblog: How to Help Your Children Through Divorce

by Dr. Gail Gross

There are many affects of divorce on a family – emotional, economic and personal, and children are often the collateral damage. Parents are in so much pain and distress that they are unable to care for the emotional and physical needs of their children. As a result, children are caught in the crossfire, between two emotionally wounded people, who once said, “I do” and for whatever reason now, don’t.

Children, however, have had nothing to say about this decision, and the only place where they feel safe – their home with mother and father – has now been destroyed. All the structures, by which they identified and labeled themselves and their family, no longer exist and, regardless of their age, children can’t really get their minds around the idea that something they considered “forever”, no longer exists. Furthermore, we know today that the impact of divorce on children can be long lasting.

Longitudinal research on children from divorce informs us that trust, commitment and intimacy are more difficult to develop in relationships later in life when they are violated at an early age. Therefore, children of divorce, tend to marry later in life and often have problems choosing a life partner. Also, other delays are evident, as these children can be paralyzed or frozen in their emotions at the very stage of development that existed at the time of divorce – or they can be seen to regress to earlier developmental stages that existed before the divorce. However, this rather bleak scenario does not have to exist.

Out of 100% of the people in our country that have children, only 20% are traditionally married. There are all types of family structures in which children are raised. The important thing to remember is that children need to have their needs met; they need to be nurtured; and they need to be able to count on their parents to be reliable and be there for them. Consequently, parents must step into their adult mode; override their own feelings of incapacity and be there for their children – now. Though marriage fails to survive, the family can still prosper if divorce is a success.

What Parents Should Know About Divorce

Keep Children in the Loop – It is much easier to deal with things we know about. Parents must be open and honest and give age-appropriate information to their children. If you do this, then you can actually lower your children’s anxiety rather than have it be free-floating, looking for a place to reside. Tell your children together and try to promote a united front. This will signal to your children that though the marriage breaks – the family survives, and that parents from henceforth, will become co-parents – loving their children unconditionally no matter what. Keep it simple. Don’t exaggerate or over-react. Children take their cue from their parents. If you show them confidence, they will feel secure in a potentially out-of-control situation. The course is set – steer them through it, with competence.

Have a Plan – Structure and consistency offer stability. Children feel secure if they feel that you, their parents, will protect them and have a construct for their future. Restore a normal routine as quickly as possible, including a calendar for visitation and holidays. Practice and rehearse your children in their new living arrangements, including school. This will give your children the confirmation that their parents have put serious thought into what happens to them.

Reassure Your Children – Don’t burden your children with adult decisions and responsibilities. Let them have their childhood.

Do Not Split Your Children in Relation to Your Former Mate – Children bear the genetic inheritance of both parents and consciously or unconsciously, feel their identity wrapped up in mother and father. If you attack their parent, you are in essence attacking your child’s identity – who he or she is, as a person. Children are very loyal and empathetic to their parents. As a result, if you put them in the middle of your divorce, they will bear both, some of the responsibility and guilt for the outcome – successful or not. Don’t ask children to be responsible for things over which they have no control. It can damage them for life.

Be Authentic – Tell the truth to your children – but never speak against their other parent. Children have had their trust shattered, and it is the parent’s role to rebuild that trust for them through positive regard and experience – little by little, day by day. Reconstruct a secure familial model for your children, letting them feel that you can care for them and be counted on to tell the truth – no matter what. Answer questions honestly, keeping in mind age-appropriate information. Parents are required to parent and maintain a sense of self-control.

Put Your Children First – Don’t make them your ally or your agent. Don’t ask them questions about your ex-partner, their living arrangements or dating arrangements. This puts children in a double bind and makes them feel very uncomfortable, as they feel they may be betraying one parent or the other.

Create A Safe Family Environment – The family structure is now different and unfamiliar. Children see their parents fragile, for what may be the first time. Their safe haven – the family as they knew it – is gone. To protect their family – their parents, children often repress their own feelings. Grief is the natural response to loss as well as guilt, anger, and fear. Children blame themselves as they are very egocentric and have the feeling of omnipotence. It is the parent’s role to help their children deal with these feelings so that they don’t have either short-term or long-term injury. Unresolved grief, fear, guilt, and anger, when repressed, can lead to both childhood and adult depression and in the worst case scenario suicide. Children must be encouraged to express their feelings and parents must give them the space in which to do that.

The Empathic Process – The best way to reconnect to your children is to communicate with them often. The best way to communicate with them is to listen to them with empathy. Set a regular time as a family tradition, a ritual, to restore faith in the family’s ability to function securely and be protective. Find a neutral space – the kitchen table, which is the heart of the house and serves very well for family meetings. Make eye contact; listen attentively; touch hands; hold confidences; and never defend positions. This is a place for each child to tell their feelings freely. There are rules for the empathic process – each person gets equal time to talk without interruption; and each child is invested in ideas and solutions. As a result, problem solving can happen because everyone’s feelings are considered. Never discount feelings. Divorce is devastating to the emotional make-up of children and adults. Of course, there will be the expression of injury – including anger, hurt, and blame. The family can take it, because love in a family is unconditional. This is where the parent must rise to the occasion to stay in the adult mode and support by listening, not just hearing, the pain in their family. The consistent family meeting, gives children a chance to reveal their feelings and express them. It also gives parents a chance to check in with their children to see how they feel; see how they are doing.

Never Give False Hope To Children That The Marriage Will Reunite – This only encourages fantasy or magical thinking and delays healing. In a certain way, clear and straight talk with your children gives them an opportunity to transition from one family structure to another by reaching down into their own resource and finding out that they can survive.

Seek Professional Help – Parents must never use their children for friends or counselors. If parents can’t handle their suffering, they should go to either a meaningful person; a person in the clergy; or a counselor or therapist.

Children Who Can’t Move Successfully Through Divorce, Need Therapy – Group therapy; counseling and support groups of children in similar situation are very successful in helping children connect to their feelings. Sometimes dance therapy, art, journaling, help children communicate in ways that are often too difficult to verbalize. A good counselor can guide them through the process.

Create New Family Traditions – Sometimes families reorganize in a way that includes step-parents and step-siblings. Therefore, parents must take the lead and invite children into the process of creating new family rules and new holiday experiences. Remember once again – to parent – to shape the new model by giving freedom within limits. If you invest your children in these decisions, they will be more likely to adapt comfortably. These children may have inherited new parents and new siblings, and no one asked them their opinions – no one gave them a choice. The trauma of divorce is deconstructing and parents can lead the way toward healthy reconstruction.

Creating A New Family Model With New House Rules, Rewards And Consequences Is Very Important To The Success Of This Transformation – Children become very territorial once they have experienced the dissolution of their family and face the establishment of something new. In essence, they are fighting for a place for themselves. This takes love, patience and time. Remember – children need their needs met; they need to be nurtured; and they need to be able to count on their parents to be there for them now.

Recognizing Signs Of Distress – Divorce is a trauma for the emotional well-being of your child. It is important to know your child; to pay attention and see signs of change such as eating, sleeping, activity, school work, social behavior, anxiety, agitation, depression and in the extreme, giving away precious possessions. Children look to their families as a way to define themselves. It is a part of who they are – their identity. It is unthinkable that no matter how bad the family system is, it will actually dissolve. Divorce is so critical to the way that children feel about themselves, think and act, that if not handled well by the adults involved, can lead to a whole host of negative outcomes – not the least of which is childhood suicide. Parents can make all of the difference, but first, it is essential that they stay in their adult and parent. This means they should not burden their children with their problems; don’t take away their children’s childhood by making them responsible for themselves; and don’t make your children your friends and allies.

In the final analysis, children have two parents and their very identity is wrapped up in both. Seek professional help if you need support, but do not use your children as counselors; don’t make your children your agents; don’t ask them uncomfortable questions about their other parent; and don’t put them on the spot in a double bind. This kind of splitting can only lead to feelings of disloyalty and guilt.

Create a safe space for your children where you can communicate with empathy and listen. Check in with them on a regular basis; find out how they are doing; how they feel. It is important to know that your children want to be normal and the same as everyone else. Therefore, honor their feelings; confirm their feelings of hurt and pain and invest them in the discovery of options to help them find their own resource for survival. Return your children to a normal routine as quickly as possible, and remember to participate in the solution – don’t be the problem.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: How to Help Kids Manage Anger

by Signe Whitson L.S.W.

As a school counselor, one of the most frequently asked category of questions I receive centers around ‘how do I handle my child’s anger?’  The question is almost always spoken by parents in a voice burdened with shame and embarrassment—as if anger in childhoodwas a bad thing or that any ‘good’ parent would know how to keep their kids perpetually happy.  Neither could be further from the reality of human nature and no adult need berate themselves for the fact that their children act like human beings.

To reassure caregivers that their questions about how to handle anger in children are valid and that they are not alone (by a long shot) in feeling weighed down by the challenge, here are my responses to a few of the most frequently asked questions about helping kids handle anger:

IS ANGER BAD OR HARMFUL TO A CHILD?

Anger is a basic, primal, spontaneous, but temporary neurophysiological feeling.  It is usually triggered by some sort of frustration and often perceived as an unpleasant state.  Anger is real and it is powerful—but it needn’t be feared, denied, or considered bad in and of itself.  Bearing in mind that all living creatures experience frustration, it follows that the feeling of anger is completely normal and natural.  It’s what we do with our anger that counts.  When anger is dealt with in healthy, constructive ways, there’s nothing bad or harmful about it.  However, too often we find that young people express anger in destructive ways that are harmful to friendships, parent-child interactions, student-teacher relationships, and even to long-term health.

DO ADULT ANGER PROBLEMS ALWAYS START FROM CHILDHOOD?

Problems expressing anger in healthy ways often trace their roots to childhood.  Some young people learn from the adults in their lives that aggression—whether it be yelling, name-calling, shaming, or actual violence—is the go-to strategy for expressing anger.  They may be taught that their momentary feelings are more important than the rights of others and that they are free to act out their feelings on others, no matter what the impact.

Then, there are other very different childhood experiences that are marked by impossible standards of perfection.  In these homes, kids often get the message that “anger is bad” and that “good kids don’t let anyone know that they are angry.”  Young people growing up in this kind of emotionally-restricted environment learn from an early age to hide or deny their natural feelings.  Even though suppressing anger may appear far more civil than outright name-calling or aggression, kids who are forced to mask their anger can suffer a great deal as adults, as they turn their anger inward and experience depression, or engage in passive aggressive behaviors to hurt others in hidden ways.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A HEALTHY SPELL OF ANGER AND SOMETHING THAT’S A PROBLEM?

Healthy anger is marked by assertive communication.  In a healthy spell of anger, a young person can (and will!) honestly, directly and clearly tell someone else what happened that bothered them and make a specific request for that behavior to change or for amends to be made.  In some situations, this kind of communication is not an option and so a young person may make a conscious decision to distance themselves from the anger source or to “let go” of their angry feelings.  For example, in a school setting, students often don’t have the social power to be able to be 100% honest and assertive with a teacher they believe has treated them unfairly.  Making a choice to pick their battles and let a minor injustice go is a mature, emotionally-measured, and solution-focused way to make a bad situation bearable.

Problematic anger happens when an angry young person violates the rights of others through some sort of physical aggression, verbal outburst, or backhanded means of revenge.  Problematic anger is all about getting back at someone else and hurting them, while constructive anger is about solving a problem.

HOW CAN I HELP A CHILD WHO HAS ANGER ISSUES?

Any person at any age can learn that they have choices when it comes to how to express anger.  The good news is that just as aggression is a learned behavioral choice for expressing anger, so is assertiveness.  This knowledge is power.  When young people realize that their choices are bringing them results that they don’t want—scoldings, time outs, loss of privileges, restrictions on free time—they are often eager to learn better choices and strategies for expressing their angry feelings.

Physical strategies such as engaging in sports, exercise, mindfulness, and yoga are proven effective in helping young people learn to calm their brains and gain greater control over their choices in healthy behaviors.

As a mental health professional and school counselor, I encourage all schools to incorporate emotion management skills as part of the regular curriculum.  Since we know that emotional well-being is a pre-requisite for academic success, it only makes sense that schools make so-called “soft” skills such as problem-solving, conflict resolution, and assertive communication a part of their regular skills curriculum.  Prevention is our very best bet for helping young people solve their anger issues before they become lifelong patterns.

And finally, timing is everything when it comes to helping a young person who expresses their anger in destructive ways.  Telling a person that they have “anger issues” during a fit of rage is pretty much guaranteed to worsen the problem.  The child’s emotional brain is dominating their actions and they are not able to effectively access the logical, thinking part of their brain that allows them to make good choices.  For a young person to truly understand that their way of expressing anger is a problem for them (and for those around them!), they have to be calm enough to be able to clearly comprehend the costs of their destructive anger expression.   Helping a child learn how to thoroughly calm down from a bout of anger is one of the most valuable skills an adult can teach.  Listening (read: not talking) while a young person puts their feelings into words after (and only after) they have calmed down is a lasting way to help kids learn to understand and manage their angry feelings.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: The ABC’s of Emotions

By Kelly Graves 

Have you ever felt so angry that every time you think back on it you’re angry again? Or experienced fear that never really went away? Stubborn emotions can feel like rocks lodged in your gut. But no matter how heavy they feel, emotions are not fixed or permanent. Like a weather system moving across a landscape, our emotional world might be cloudy for days—it might even experience a sudden volcanic eruption—but  they inevitably transform. In this interview from 10% Happier, mindfulness teacher Oren J. Sofer explores how to harness awareness and transform emotional intensity into wisdom.

The ABCs of Emotions

“A” is for Awareness

The first step is to be aware. Ask yourself: How am I feeling right now? Simply answering this question names the experience and creates a jumping-off point for a workable relationship with the emotion. Labeling an emotional state organizes the chaos in the mind so you can begin to notice and work with it more effectively. Cultivating awareness helps form the habit of acknowledging when an emotion has taken center stage, and naming the emotion provides space to work more skillfully with its drama.

“B” is for Balance

As your awareness grows, you’ll likely notice more often how difficult it is to stay balanced in the throes of emotional intensity—this is normal.  Balance does not mean never being knocked off kilter. It means being okay with the internal rollercoaster and having a willingness to go along for the ride. Pushing away unpleasantness or desperately clawing for a better experience actually feeds the power an emotion has. Instead, try to stay with the emotion. Notice what it feels like in that moment without trying to change it. Taking this balanced stance builds confidence in your ability to remain in any experience and have the endurance to witness emotions as they ebb and flow.

Pushing away unpleasantness or desperately clawing for a better experience actually feeds the power an emotion has.

“C” is for Curiosity and Care

Next, dig deeper and investigate the emotion. Be curious how it feels in the body. Does it feel tingly? Or hot? Where is the emotion most intense? Dropping out of your stories and into your bodily sensations deprives the emotion of reinforcement from thoughts, and eventually it will lose momentum. Curiosity also can reveal when an emotion has become too intense. At this point, it is important to take care of yourself by stepping back until you feel ready to return to your practice. Knowing when you need to exercise care is an important skill when working with emotional intensity in a way that is compassionate toward yourself.

“S” is for Support

When emotions reach a certain threshold where they are too intense to work with productively, tap into your support network. Support can come from friends, family, healthy habits, or resources available to you. Support can also come from inner states of mind, like cultivating self-compassion, loving-kindness, patience, and gratitude. Utilize your external and internal support networks when emotions become too overwhelming. Feeling connected during times of emotional turbulence will help you take better care of your well being and gently work with turning intensity into wisdom.

Find the original post here.

Reblog: 5 Reasons Why an Alcoholic Cannot Love

By  Toshia Humphries

As a spiritual life coach and counselor, I have worked with many clients who are romantically involved with or identify as an Adult Child of an Alcoholic. For the most part, they all have the same experience, feeling unloved or “not loved in an ideal way.”

The latter statement is typically a cover story for the real one; a way to stay in denial about the overwhelming sense of loss and grief over the familial or romantic relationship that either died or never existed. It downplays the fact that, regardless of whether or not they were told they were loved or given basic necessities, they did not feel a genuine connection, emotional intimacy or closeness of any kind. In other words, they did not ever experience love in action.

Here’s the real reason why alcoholics have a difficult time reciprocating.

1. They are codependent. Codependency is not love. In fact, it is based on dysfunctional needs and a lack of love or respect for self in the same way active alcoholism is. In a codependent relationship, the significant other or family member is treated as a means to an end (a hostage or a drug), rather than a feeling, thinking human being. Even if the word love may be thrown around a lot, it is typically used as a tool for manipulation or victimization, and therefore feels more like a weapon than a term of endearment. As this dynamic continues, it is likely that active alcoholics will never leave the relationship, but they’ll also never truly be there. Moreover, if given the choice, they’ll never let you go. Hence, the saying, “Alcoholics don’t have relationships; they take hostages.”

2. They don’t love themselves. It has been said that active addiction is an act of turning against oneself, and it is in recovery that an individual learns how to love. In essence, recovery is a movement away from ego and toward love of self and others. Given the fact that the relationship an active alcoholic has with themselves is the one in which they are most abusive and negligent – physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually – it is very clear there is a complete lack of self-love. Additionally, that abuse and neglect inflicted upon self is projected onto and reflected in other relationships. As such, they are abusive and negligent in all relationships; romantic, platonic, professional and familial.3.

3. They are emotionally unavailable. Because any active addict uses substances to numb, escape or avoid pain, they are typically void of any emotional cues. More to the point, they avoid situations or conversations (intimate ones) that might trigger unwanted emotional responses. Additionally, because active addiction is a disconnection from self and therefore they are not in touch with their own emotional or spiritual needs, they cannot connect to those needs in others. In other words, where love is an easy enough word to say, it requires a movement away from ego and fear to truly offer and fully accept. Active alcoholics are in a constant state of ego and fear; the bricks and mortar that make a very substantial wall which impedes emotional availability.

4. They seem to love the bottle more. The key word here (of course) is seem. We all know, alcoholics don’t truly love the bottle. Again, it’s more like a codependent relationship with the bottle in which they cannot leave but it kills them to stay. Still, the bottle does become like a mistress in a marriage and a priority over family, friends and other responsibilities, as well as self. Even with regard to functioning alcoholics who manage to maintain a successful career, alcohol is the first to receive their attention any moment they are free to give it. It is their most prized and protected relationship. And, for the record, the latter explains the level of defensiveness encountered when anyone speaks against or threatens it.

5. They have “King Baby Syndrome.” Active alcoholics are self-centered and egotistical to the point of being easily labeled narcissistic. Even though there is no real love for themselves, they do demand all the attention via victimization, manipulation and dramatic antics. Therefore the world must revolve around them. Additionally, they are impulsive and want instant gratification. As such, they don’t play the tape the whole way through, which is another way of saying that they don’t think about the consequences of their actions and how they will impact others or the future. Learning how to love again or for the first time takes work, and it takes more than merely getting sober. Personal growth, healing and spiritual reconnection are all a necessary part of the process. They are expressions of love in action toward self, and the journey forward is about learning to love you.

Find the original article here on Sober Recovery.

 

Reblog: What Does a Cure to Addiction Look Like?

by Dr. Henry Cloud

If you’ve turned on the news, or perhaps if you’ve scrolled through your social media feeds, you’ve seen stories related to the opioid crisis currently going on in this country. In some cases, maybe you’ve lost a friend or a loved one to an overdose, or you’re in a codependent relationship with someone who’s an addict.

What some may not understand about addiction is complex, and its intricacies are sometimes difficult to explain, but what we do know is that addiction is a compulsive physiological need for something: in other words, something that someone needs to survive. People are usually addicted to a specific substance, such as alcohol, heroin, pills, or food. But people can also feel addicted to activities, such as sex, gambling, work, destructive relationships, religiosity, achievement, and materialism. These substances and activities never satisfy, however, because they don’t deal with the real problem. We don’t really need alcohol, street drugs, or sex. We can live very well without these things.

However, we really do need relationship, and we cannot live very well without it. We have already seen what happens when it’s absent. With addiction, a real need is getting a false solution based on deceitful desires.

Curing addictions requires a return to sensitivity and humility. Addicted people must admit their powerlessness and their need for others, as well as soften their heart toward those they have injured and realized their deceitful desires. They are substitutes for some other need of the real self. An essential step in the healing of addictions is finding out the real need being masked by the deceitful desire. One of these real needs is attachment and bonding to others.

Emotionally isolated people can’t get relationship, so they go for something else. They convince themselves that they want food, the sex, or the pills, and they order their whole life around it. But they really need their emptiness to be filled up with loving feelings and connections with other people.

When the inner hunger for relationship is filled with love, then the driving force behind many addictions goes away. Not all addictions come from isolation, but many do. If someone cannot bond with another person, they will bond with a prostitute’s body, a bottle, a half-gallon of ice cream, all the while going relationally hungry inside.

One client I had who struggled with food addiction put it this way. “I remember the first time I chose to call someone instead of eat. I could feel the strong pull toward the refrigerator, but I interpreted that as a pull toward love. So I called someone from my support group. After going over to her house and feeling some real affection, some warmth, I wasn’t hungry anymore. Since that time, I’ve learned to do that more. I’m finding out it’s not really food I want at those times. It’s love.”

Find the original article here.

Reblog: Moving Forward

by Melodie Beattie

August 23, 2017

Much as we would like, we cannot bring everyone with us on this journey called recovery. We are not being disloyal by allowing ourselves to move forward. We don’t have to wait for those we love to decide to change as well.

Sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to grow, even though the people we love are not ready to change. We may even need to leave people behind in their dysfunction or suffering because we cannot recover for them. We don’t need to suffer with them.

It doesn’t help.

It doesn’t help for us to stay stuck just because someone we love is stuck. The potential for helping others is far greater when we detach, work on ourselves, and stop trying to force others to change with us.

Changing ourselves, allowing ourselves to grow while others seek their own path, is how we have the most beneficial impact on people we love. We’re accountable for ourselves. They’re accountable for themselves. We let them go, and let ourselves grow.

Today, I will affirm that it is my right to grow and change, even though someone I love may not be growing and changing alongside me.

Find the original post here.

Reblog: How to Respond When Others Reject Your Boundaries

by Dr. Henry Cloud

Usually the quiet one in her group, Heather spoke up. The topic of discussion was “conflict resolution,” and she couldn’t be silent another second. “I know how to present facts and arguments about my opinion in a caring way. But my husband will walk out on me if I start disagreeing! Now what do I do?”

Heather’s problem is shared by many. She genuinely believes in boundaries, but she is terrified of their consequences.

Is it possible that others will become angry at our boundaries and attack or withdraw from us? Absolutely. We were never the power or the right to control how others respond to our no. Some will welcome it; some will hate it.

We can’t manipulate people into swallowing our boundaries by sugarcoating them. Boundaries are a “litmus test” for the quality of our relationships. Those people in our lives who can respect our boundaries will love our wills, our opinions, our separateness. Those who can’t respect our boundaries are telling us that they don’t love our “no.” They only love our “yes,” our compliance.

So what does Heather, whose husband is an avowed “boundary buster,” do? Will her husband carry out his threat to walk out on her? She can’t control his response. But if the only thing keeping Heather’s husband home is her total compliance, is this a marriage at all? And how will problems ever be addressed when she and he avoid them?

Setting limits has to do with telling the truth. First, there is the person who welcomes your boundaries. Who accepts them. Who listens to them. Who says, “I’m glad you have a separate opinion. It makes me a better person.” This person is called wise.

The second type hates limits. Resents your difference. Tries to manipulate you into giving up your treasures. Try our “litmus test” experiment with your significant relationships. Tell them “no” in some area. You’ll either come out with increased intimacy — or learn that there was very little to begin with.

Do Heather’s boundaries with her husband condemn her to a life of isolation? Absolutely not. If telling the truth causes someone to leave you, this gives you the chance to reach out to a counselor or a support group.

In no way am I advocating divorce. The point is that you can’t make anyone stay with or love you. Ultimately that is up to your partner. Sometimes setting boundaries clarifies that you were left a long time ago, in every way, perhaps, except physically. Often, when a crisis like this occurs, it helps the struggling couple reconcile and remake their marriage healthier. The problem was raised, and now can be addressed.

But a word of caution: the boundary-less spouse who develops limits begins changing in the marriage. There are more disagreements. There are more conflicts over values, schedules, money, kids, and sex. Quite often, however, the limits help the out-of-control spouse begin to experience the necessary pain that can motivate him or her to take more responsibility in the marriage. Many marriages are strengthened after boundaries are set because the spouse begins to miss the relationship.

Will some people abandon or attack us for having boundaries? Yes. But, it’s better to learn about their character and take steps to fix the problem than never to know in the first place.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: Don’t Marry Your Future Ex-Husband

by Harriet Lerner PhD

Choosing a life partner is one of the most important decisions we’ll ever make, so chose wisely.

First, consider the top five reasons that wise women sometimes make foolish choices.

1. Timing.  We’re most prone to fall mindlessly in love at difficult emotional junctures—on the heels of a breakup, divorce, or death of a family member, for example.

2. Steamy starts. The rush of romance and sexual attraction can act like a drug, and blur our capacity for clear thinking.  When we get obsessed with a guy we confuse intensity with intimacy.  In fact, intensity blocks us from taking an objective look at our partner, ourselves, and the relationship.

3. Idealization. We’re convinced he’s so brilliant and special, that we put him above us.  Perhaps he has a gift we don’t possess, for example he can fix your computer,  has a photographic memory, and can conjugate Latin verbs.  Discerning his strengths and weaknesses is part of knowing him better, but an idealized view leads us to undervalue our own worth and ignore his shortcomings. We’ll make excuses for negative traits, qualities and behaviors because he’s “so brilliant.”

4.  Desperation and fear. Your two best friends just got married, you’re about to turn forty, and someone reminds you that your biological clock is ticking.Your anxious brainwakes you at 3:00 in the morning with scary pictures of your future without a mate. Fear has never helped anybody make good choices. It leads to clinging when we should be walking.

5.  Lack of Self-Focus:  You’re looking for someone to fill up your empty bucket, give you some kind of direction, or provide meaning in your life.  Poor choices happen when we’re not putting our primary energy into having our own life plan and figuring out how to live our own life (not someone else’s) as well as possible.

Here are six tips to give you the best chance of making wise choices.

*Slow things down and get to know him as well as possible.   

*Don’t insulate your relationship with him from other important relationships, even if he says he wants to spend time only with you.  You won’t really know him if you don’t make sure to observe him among both your friends and family and his.

*Keep your primary focus on your own goals and life plan, which will put you on firmest footing whatever happens with a particular guy.

*Don’t silence your voice or avoid conflict in order to preserve relationship harmony. Get out sooner rather than later if there is a big red flag waving in your face. 

*Don’t count on the quality of your love or nagging to create things in the future that aren’t there to begin with.

 *Never forget that there are many possibilities for intimacy and connection other than pairing up.

find original article here.

Reblog: Why You Don’t Need Your Parents’ Approval as an Adult

By Dr. Henry Cloud

Ben was 30 years old when I met him. He came into my office burdened by the opinions of what his parents thought of his life choices. It sounds crass on the surface, but one of the first things I told him to do was to “grow up and get a life.” But the problem with this common phrase is that there is great difficulty in the process, so let’s look at both sides: growing up and getting a life.

Your symptom, feeling like you give too much weight to your parents’ opinion, is a sign that some growing up has not happened. And while you feel like you always have to honor your parents, you don’t always have to obey them. If you’re still in the child position, then that is getting in the way of how you were meant to live your life. So, we have to look at two reasons for still remaining in the child position: not growing up, and not having a life.

Some people stay in the child position with parents because they are either unable to “grow up,” or they are unwilling. Inability to get out of the child role and still want parental approval involves the process of needing something from your parents that you did not get. When there is something you are still looking for like love, acceptance, approval, validation or other ingredients that parents are supposed to give children to prepare them to be adults; you can be stuck waiting for them to finally grant you what you never had. You never really leave and become an adult because you are still waiting for “something.”

The truth is if it hasn’t happened by now, they are probably not able to give you what you want anyway. You have to get those things from the people you surrounded yourself with. If you are still waiting for your parents to give you something they cannot give, then it is time to grieve that and get on with growing up.

The next part, “to get a life,” involves taking control of your actions and your feelings, because you were created to have a fulfilling life that belongs to you and only you. If your parents still have that much power, then you are in the child position, still dreaming of one day having a life instead of getting one. Children dream of what they will one day be or do, and adults go for it.

The hard work is this – stepping out of the security of the child position, (where the biggest risk one ever faces is the disapproval of other mere mortals) – and into the risk of living life as it has been given you (where bigger things are at stake than someone’s approval). At stake is the ultimate wager – will what you do with your talents, abilities, opportunities and resources mean more to you than what your parents think?

find the original post here.

Reblog: Why Sadness Needs to be Honored and Processed Respectfully

by Dr. Henry Cloud

Sadness is our next basic emotion, for it tells us about hurt and loss. We live in a world where we get hurt and lose things. We need it to help us grieve and let go. If we repress and deny sadness, there is inevitable depression. Unresolved sadness always leads to depression and often other symptoms.

Sadness is always the way to joy, because sadness says that there is a hurt of some kind that needs to be processed, and usually it involves a loss.

When people deny their sad feelings, they “harden” the heart, and that is to lose touch with tender grace-giving aspects of who they are. They become unable to love and be tender, and to feel grief over their wrongdoings. This state leads then to become insensitive persons. In addition, it leads to all sort of symptoms – depressions, physiological problems, substance abuse, eating disorders, and the inability to get close to others.

Here’s a story:

Susan was in her mid-twenties when she began to have panic attacks. She would wake up in the middle of the night fearing that she was dying. If she saw anything on television about death or heard about death in any way, she ceased to function. The panic and dread of death overwhelmed her. She was referred to me when the panic rendered her unable to work.

“I feel ashamed that I am so afraid to die,” she said in the first meeting. I will never forget the confusion and hopelessness that she showed over the problem, she didn’t know what to do.

She had grown up very isolated in her family, with the exception of feeling some love from her sister, who was a few years older than she was. Her parents were non-relational people. When Susan was fifteen, she got up one morning and tried to get her sister out of bed, to no avail. Her sister had died during the night.

Understandably, her grief was enormous. But her father told the family that day, “There will be no more discussion of this. We must all be strong. Let’s forget the past and move on.” That was the way the death was handled.

As it turned out, Susan had many unresolved grief feelings about her sister. She was very sad that she was gone, and because she didn’t work through the grief, she still had a very deep wish to be with her sister, her only source of love. The wish was registering in her conscious mind as a fear; in reality, it was what she wanted, to be with her sister.

We began to talk about that loss, and she went into the long-awaited sadness and grief. She was able to talk out all of the feeling she had been denying for so many years. Over a period of months, she went through a normal grief cycle, letting go of her sister. That should have happened when she was fifteen, but because the family had a rule against sadness and weakness, it was delayed.

She lost her fear of dying as well as the vague depression she had experienced off and on for years. She also regained some loving parts of herself. The loving part that was sad and buried, away from time, was again available to get to grow and nurture. In addition, her sexual feelings returned, which she had not been able to feel either.

Whenever trauma is not worked through, the development stage present at that age gets affected. In her teens, it was love and sexuality. By processing her pain, she regained herself. There was joy after sadness.

When we lose our ability to feel sad, we lose our tenderness. It is a major aspect of the ourselves that must be protected at all costs. If we can’t feel sad, we get coldhearted.

Sadness does not equal weakness. Rather, processing sadness leads to strength.

find the original article here.

Reblog: When is it Time to Leave Your Addicted Partner?

by Sharon Martin, LCSW

Deciding whether to end a relationship is a big decision. In fact, it’s one of the things I see people struggle with the most as a therapist.

For a codependent, the decision to leave an addicted partner is especially hard.

You’ve tried and tried, but things don’t ever seem to get better (or at least not for long).

You’re low on self-esteem.

You’ve devoted mountains of time to taking care of and trying to fix your partner.

However, despite the conflicts and disconnection, you love and care about your partner.

You wonder what will happen to your partner if you’re not around to help.

And what will you do without someone to take care of?

Leaving feels like a failure.

Things to consider when deciding to leave a relationship with an addict:

  • Is your relationship abusive? Abuse isn’t just about whether your partner beats the sh** out of your every time he gets wasted. It’s also the occasional shove or grabbing your arm. It’s forcing you to have sex or perform particular sexual acts when you don’t want to. It’s telling you you’re worthless or you’ll be alone forever if you leave. It’s threats to harm you or your kids. It’s blaming you and making you feel “crazy”.
  • What will happen if things continue on their current trajectory? I know you can’t predict the future, so the past is our best gauge for what’s to come. Have things gotten worse over time? Does your partner use more frequently or larger quantities? Do new problems continue to stack up?
  • How is this relationship affecting your kids? Are your kids really better off with you staying together? Perhaps their standard of living is higher in a two parent household, but don’t fool yourself into believing your kids don’t know what’s going on. Kids are very aware of arguments, abuse, or Mom being too drunk to drive; even babies can sense tension and conflict.
  • Is this an equal partnership? Marriage may not be 50-50 all the time, but it should even out to a reasonably equitable partnership over time. Are you carrying the bulk of the work and responsibility? Can you confide in your partner and feel supported? Are you appreciated and valued?
  • Is your partner invested in change? Remember the old saying, “Nothing changes if nothing changes”? Well, that’s the truth. Change takes sustained effort. Has your partner shown you that she is going to work at recovery day after or day or does she repeatedly quit programs, relapse, and make excuses?
  • What does it cost you to stay? Is staying eroding your self-esteem, your mental health, your physical health, your sense of peace and well-being? What else are you giving up in this relationship – your friends, goals, career advancement?
  • How long are you willing to wait? Change is hard and scary. It’s always easier to do the same thing rather than change even when you know the current situation is toxic. There’s a strong desire to hang in there thinking your partner will eventually change. You can’t rely on empty promises to change, you need hard cold facts. The truth is that even if there’s no evidence of change right now, your partner may eventually find long-term sobriety and recovery, but how long are you willing to wait? Six months? A year? Five years? 10 years? This is your life, too. What else are you missing out on while you’re waiting for your partner to change? You’ve put your life on pause. You deserve to live a fulfilling life with a partner that meets your needs.
  • Is your life unmanageable? Instead of waiting for your partner to hit bottom, consider whether you’ve hit your bottom. Do you want to live like this anymore? Are you sick and tired or being sick and tired?

Answering these questions will only be helpful if you can take an honest look at yourself and your partner. The sneaky thing about denial is that you don’t even know it’s there. Sometimes you need someone outside the situation to give you unbiased feedback.

It’s time to seriously consider leaving, if your addicted partner:

  • Hurts you physically, emotionally, mentally, or sexually.
  • Puts you down; calls you derogatory names.
  • Doesn’t take responsibility for mistakes; blames you for everything.
  • Apologizes, but continues to hurt you in the same way.
  • Refuses to go to therapy or treatment.
  • Denies problems.
  • Tells you that you’re “crazy”.
  • Lies, cheats, steals, or other dishonest and unethical behavior.
  • Controls where you go, who you see, what you wear, or your access to money.

Deciding to stay

I’m actually not suggesting that everyone should leave their addicted partner. There are also times when a couple can recover from addiction and codependency together. I believe that in order for this to be possible, two primary things need to happen:

  1. Both you and your partner must be committed to recovery and participate regularly in recovery activities (in-patient or out-patient substance abuse treatment, psychotherapy, group counseling, 12-step or other self-help groups).
  2. Abusive behavior ceases completely. I can never advocate that you stay in a relationship where you’re being hurt physically, sexually, or emotionally. You deserve better.

I know from my personal and professional experience that relationships can survive addiction and become healthy. But I also know that codependents often stick around long after change is likely. Please remember that you didn’t cause your loved one’s addiction and you can’t fix it. It’s not about whether she loves you enough to quit or about what you did wrong or what else you can try. Sometimes you need to save yourself before you go down with the sinking ship.

When I was at this crossroads, going to therapy was a lifesaver that re-centered me and helped me find acceptance. I can’t possibly know what you should do in your particular situation. If anything in this article spoke to you, I strongly suggest you get some support as you wrestle with these questions and try to see your life realistically.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: Why Your ‘Friend’ may not be a Safe Person for You

by Henry Cloud

I received a message from an answering service one evening, and it told me that one of my clients was suicidal. I called Theresa on the phone. She was distraught.

“Tell me what happened,” I said.

“It’s not going to work, “ Theresa replied, sobbing.

“What isn’t going to work?”

“Telling other people about my problems,” she said. “I was talking to one of my friends tonight and told them about my depression and the problems with my boyfriend, and she really came down on me for being depressed and all the other stuff that’s been going on.”

“What was said?”

“Well, she said that I shouldn’t feel the way that I do, and that if I was still having all these problems, then I was filled with too much negativity and that I bring everything on myself. I’ve tried all this ‘safe relationship’ stuff, and I’ve shared my feelings, and it just doesn’t work.”

“What if I told you that you still haven’t found safe relationships?”

“What do you mean? This is supposed to be my friend. I’ve known her for a long time.”

“Well, a ‘friend’ isn’t always safe,” I told her. “Safe is defined by helpful, and it doesn’t sound like tonight was too helpful.”

“How do you know what a helpful relationship looks like?” she asked.

“That’s a good question,” I said. “Let’s talk about that.

We value friendship. We believe that friendship is one of the most powerful tools we have in our lives to change and heal character. In relationships with others, we are healed, and our character is changed. We know several people who have developed a support system of restorative friendships that have been of enormous help.

Friends give us what we need in the areas of acceptance, support, discipline, modeling and a host of other relational ingredients that provide change. But in picking good friendships that produce growth, several qualities are important:

  • Acceptance and grace
  • Mutual struggles, although they don’t have to be the same ones
  • Loving connection
  • Both parties need other support systems as well to avoid the same kind of toxic dependency on each other that led to the problems
  • Familiarity with the growth process where both parties have “entered in” and have some knowledge of the process so as to avoid the blind leading the blind
  • Mutual interest and chemistry, a genuine liking
  • An absence of keeping score
  • Honest and realistic
  • An absence of controlling behavior

Friendships of this kind are an absolute must for our personal growth. There are many good people out there, and to find them, make sure that you use discernment, wisdom and information to trust your experience with others. If someone is destructive or toxic, be careful. Keep looking and seeking until you find safe people, those who will give you all the benefits that are in store for your future.

Find the original post here.