Cheating, infidelity, or having an affair, is the act of being unfaithful to a committed relationship. Partners who engage in extramarital “online” affairs which can have similarly devastating effects on relationships are included here as well. Adultery does not simply happen “out of the blue”, although it may seem that way to the betrayed spouse. It is instead the eventual outcome of a long line of unresolved issues. Similar to an iceberg, the surface above the water is outward and visible, but underneath, there is much more than what is visible to the outside. While an affair is destructive to a relationship, it is a symptom of something much deeper that has been growing for much longer, signifying the end of a painful road. Counseling at this stage is vital if the relationship is going to be saved. And yes, the good news is that even after something as devastating as infidelity, complete restoration is still possible.
My Husband or Wife Had An Affair
Adultery affects one in every 2.7 couples. According to a published report in the Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy, by the time we are 40, approximately 50% of all wives and 60% of all husbands, will have had some degree of extramarital affair. Author and psychologist, Dr. Phil McGraw, further estimates that only 35% of these affected couples will stay together. Despite this gloomy prognosis, there is life after adultery. Studies show that couples who have chosen to tough it out, seeking couples and or individual counseling, have the best chance of staying together.
Why Did My Partner Cheat?
When we commit to exclusivity to our relationship we make a moral and ethical contract to remain faithful. Unfortunately, when we make these promises, the relationship is often still new and the normal stresses of life have yet to take their toll. Then, when this initial honeymoon period is over, (perhaps the bills are mounting, the job is more demanding then ever and child number two is on its way.) We begin to ask ourselves, “What happened?” There is no doubt the relationship dynamics change over time; they have to in order to accommodate the natural progression of family life. The problem arises however, when we forget to adapt to these changes, more specifically, to each other’s needs as they relate to the changing relationship. Contrary to what you may think, adultery is not merely about sex. In fact, sex is often a bonus to the affair. Adultery and betrayal are about emotional connectedness, the feeling of being wanted, needed, understood, and more importantly, heard. To those on the receiving end however, adultery is a selfish betrayal of trust that brings with it devastating consequences.
Surviving An Affair
The betrayal of adultery cuts much deeper than a simple broken vow. Some experts link the experience to that of physical and emotional abuse. Spouses who have been cheated on often suffer from anxiety, poor self-esteem, depression, humiliation, guilt, and a sense that somehow “it was their fault” or they “deserved it”, especially if the cheating continues. The longer the infractions persist, the deeper the couple falls into a recurring cycle. In the case of adultery, most spouses are eventually able to come to terms with the fact that their spouse cheated, not being able to let go of the memory and fear that it may happen again however, is what destroys most relationships. Trust is the foundation of any relationship and once that foundation is destroyed, it is very hard to rebuild unless both parties are willing to surrender to the fact that in reality, they have no control over what the other may or may not do. This comes full circle to the issue of trust, whether it is in your partner, yourself or something bigger than both of you. For most people, it seems easier to walk away from even a long-term relationship than it is to surrender and learn to develop trust again. Even then, you must make this decision for the right reasons. In order for a relationship to survive, both partners have to make personal changes to their way of thinking and being. But what many people in this situation do not realize, is that there is hope and life after adultery, and surprisingly, the potential to have an even stronger relationship than before.
Moving Forward After An Affair
Moving past an affair is no easy task, but if both you and your partner are dedicated to working through the underlying issues through a competent counselor, the relationship has great hope for the future. Many partners can overcome this highest form of betrayal and be even stronger than before, however, it requires a commitment from both partners. Not all relationships make it. Sometimes the cheater may leave altogether, or the betrayed spouse may decide to walk away. Yet whether the betrayer or the betrayed, even if you decide to leave the relationship, you still need to deal with your own emotional scars so you don’t find yourself in a similar relationship. Values-Based counseling provides essential tools in the healing process. While adultery may be a life-altering experience, it doesn’t have to define you or your future choices.
How Counseling Works After Infidelity
Infidelity is not something that occurs in a vacuum. Counseling address the issues in the relationship that led up to the affair. By the time infidelity occurs, there are many deep issues that have already been present for some time, and in order for healing to come, these issues must be addressed. While it is a serious problem in a relationship, infidelity is a symptom of a cluster of intimacy problems and not the root problem. A competent Couples Counsellor looks to find those issues that brought the relationship to a place where an affair became an option. For couples to rebuild their relationship after adultery, counseling addresses the unmet needs and wants for both individuals. Getting past blame and hurt is a difficult, yet critical step in order for forgiveness and restoration to begin. We look at what is still works in a relationship and build on these components to work towards that forgiveness and restoration. While one person may commit the act of betrayal, adultery counseling is not about placing blame, but rather working towards restoration, forgiveness, and healing. We recognize that adultery creates such a volatile situation, that sometimes healing the relationship is not possible because one or both spouses have already made the decision to end the relationship. In those cases where restoration of the relationship is not possible, we commit ourselves to working with the individual to address feelings of hurt, guilt, insecurities, anxiety, loneliness, and other issues that result from the broken relationship.
When individuals have the opportunity to resolve these experiences they are more able to move forward and prevent this hurt from affecting and hindering future relationships. Often, the individual who has been the victim of an affair is not ready to make the decision to stay or leave the relationship, so seeking help from a counselor for adultery works to identify and resolve emotions of helplessness, loss of control, and hurt. If the couple wants to work through the hurt and betrayal, counseling focuses on communication skills, rebuilding trust, and developing goals for the future to direct the couple providing hope for the future and restored love and intimacy.
Counseling When Children Are Affected By Infidelity
When there are children, we work with the parents to develop a healthy co-parenting relationship that provides for the ongoing developmental needs so the children to have loving and healthy relationships with both their parents. Children who experience the breaking of trust in their family also need the opportunity to voice their feelings. Confusion and self-blame are common reactions from children as they think “I could have been better then mom/dad would not have left”. While the family unit may not be restored, a child’s ability to learn to trust again and develop security in their situation is vital for future development and growth.
In my work as a Christian counselor, I am often exposed to the challenges that arise in a marriage when a couple is not aware of the importance of boundaries, or have not been taught how to implement them in their relationship. Much of the work that I do with couples includes helping them learn to define and establish healthy boundaries. My own knowledge about boundaries has come through some exceptionally challenging experiences, and from things I have learned from a handful people who are much smarter than I. Those from whom I have learned the most include my wife Heidi, the counselor Patrick Means, author of The Boundaries Book, and Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend in their many books on the topic, especially Boundaries.
In this article, I provide an overview of some of the ideas I draw upon most frequently in my role as a counselor. If you are interested in exploring this topic in a deeper way, the two books I referred to in the previous paragraph are a good place to start.
What are Boundaries?
Consider the fence between your yard and your neighbor’s yard. That fence makes the property line very clear. You know where one yard ends and where the next yard begins. Without that fence, you might have to deal with your trash blowing into your neighbor’s yard – or vice-versa. But the fence keeps the junk in the proper place. It tells you that this pile of rubbish is yours and that pile of debris is his.
The fence is not a ten-foot concrete wall that allows no relationship between you and the folks next door. In fact, the fence is permeable and there may even be a gate. You can invite your neighbor to join you in your yard for a BBQ and they can return to their yard when the fellowship is over. Both parties know who they are and where they belong.
So it is with relational boundaries. Boundaries show me where I end and where you begin. Every healthy relationship needs healthy boundaries in order to function properly and to grow effectively. Boundaries allow us to engage in relationships from a place of strength and to share our vitality with another person, rather than sucking life out of them. Our boundaries – or our lack of boundaries – are grounded in the families we grew up in, our current belief systems, our personalities, and our attitudes. Without good boundaries there is no clear delineation between the individuals in a relationship. In the absence of boundaries, each person must look to the other to create his happiness, feel his feelings and find fulfillment.
Examples of Boundaries
As I indicated above, a boundary is anything that helps you to differentiate between yourself and another person. In the rest of this article, I give a few examples of such boundaries:
Skin – Your skin is your most basic boundary. It protects you from harm and it literally holds you together. Your skin can let good things in and it can keep bad things out. Your skin can also be violated. When our skin is violated, we are usually injured in some way. This can happen through sexual or physical abuse, through assault, or through other injury. If someone has invaded the boundary of our skin in our early life, we may end up having a hard time with boundaries later in life.
Distance – This can be either physical distance or emotional distance. Sometimes we need to take a break and distance ourselves from another person in order to catch our breath, get our feet under us and think about the situation more clearly.When you create emotional or physical distance between yourself and another person, you send a clear message that something has to change. This is especially significant in abusive situations.
Feelings – In relationships with poor boundaries, feelings may be minimized, ignored or denied. Indeed, some feelings will probably not even be allowed. Our feelings can provide information about the state of our relationships. It is important to remember that you own your own feelings and that your partner owns his or her feelings. Both of you are responsible for feeling them, sharing them, interpreting them and deciding what to do about them.
Values – What we value will be expressed by our boundaries. Do you value independence, honesty, health, and intimacy? Do you value the input and opinions of others? Do you place too much – or not enough – value on one of these areas? The answers you give to these and many similar questions will find expression in your boundaries. Boundaries allow you to own your own values and allow others to own theirs.
Choices – Those with poor boundaries have difficulty taking ownership of their own choices. They tend to believe or say that someone else “made them” do it. By saying this, they escape accountability for their own choices. But the reality is that we are in control of all of our own choices and we must live with the consequences of our choices. Boundaries enable us to own our choices and to take responsibility for their consequences. Instead of seeing ourselves as dependent on others, boundaries empower us to make the choices that are best for us.
Christian Counseling Can Help You to Establish Healthy Boundaries
Do you have more questions about the role boundaries play in your own relationship? Have you experienced tension about your feelings, choices, behaviors or values? If either you or your partner are frustrated or confused about the boundaries in your lives, Christian counseling can be a great place to begin to speak about them. I would welcome the opportunity to help you find some answers to your questions.
The Christian counseling process is about redemption and the restoration of the soul. It is grounded in the belief in a personal, living God and in the experience of the abundant life that Jesus came to offer us. I find nothing more exciting than witnessing how this abundant life becomes real in the lives of those with whom I work. You may not feel able to believe that change is possible right now, and that’s OK. But with the help of a good Christian counselor, you (and your spouse) can begin to find the solutions that you are seeking.
You see things in black and white categories. If a situation falls short of perfect, you see it as a total failure. A woman on a diet ate a bigger bowl of ice cream than she intended, and decided that she had completely ruined her diet. She then decided to go ahead and eat the entire carton, instead of brushing off the mistake and moving on.
You see a single negative event, such as a romantic rejection or a criticism from your boss, as a never-ending pattern of defeat by using words such as “always” or “never” when you think about it. A depressed salesman became terribly upset when he failed to meet his quota one month. He told himself that he always misses his quotas, instead of realizing this as one not-so-good month out of many good ones.
You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively, so that your vision of all of reality becomes darkened, like a drop of ink that discolors an entire beaker of water. You receive many positive comments about your presentation to a group of associates at work, but one of them says something mildly critical. You obsess about his reaction for days and ignore all the positive feedback.
Discounting the positive
You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count.” Discounting the positive takes the joy out of life and makes you feel inadequate and unrewarded. If you do a good job, you may tell yourself that it wasn’t good enough or that anyone could have done as well.
Jumping to conclusions
You interpret things negatively when there are no facts to support your conclusion. There are two ways of doing this: Mind reading–Without checking it out, you arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you. For example, you tell yourself, “He didn’t smile and say hi when he passed; he must not like me.” Fortune telling–You predict that things will turn out badly. Before a test you may tell yourself, “I’m really going to blow it. I’ll probably flunk!” Or if you’re depressed you may tell yourself, “I’ll never get better.”
Magnification and Minimization
You exaggerate the importance of problems and shortcomings, or you understate the importance of the positive. A friend arranges a wonderful surprise birthday party for you, but you cannot appreciate or enjoy it because you are so focused on the fact that one of your friends didn’t show up.
You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are. “I feel terrified about flying on airplanes; therefore, it must be very dangerous to fly.” Or “I feel inferior. I must be a second-rate person.” Or “I feel angry, and this proves I’m being treated unfairly.”
You tell yourself that things should be the way you hoped or expected them to be. You have rigid rules that you think should apply no matter what the circumstances. “Should” statements that are directed against you lead to guilt and frustration: After playing a difficult piece on the piano, a gifted pianist told herself, “I should have played that better!” This made her feel so disgusted that she quit practicing for several days. “Should” statements that are directed against other people or the world in general lead to anger and frustration: “He shouldn’t be so stubborn and argumentative.”
You explain behaviors or events merely by naming them. Rather than describing the specific behavior, you assign a label to someone or yourself that puts them in absolute and unchangeable terms. Labels are useless abstractions that lead to anger, anxiety, frustration, and low self-esteem. Instead of saying “I made a mistake at work today.” you tell yourself: “I’m a loser,” or “a fool,” or “a failure.” You may also label others. When someone does something that rubs you the wrong way, you may tell yourself: “He’s a jerk.” Then you feel that the problem is with that person’s “character” or “essence” instead of with their thinking or behavior. You see them as totally bad. This makes you feel hostile and hopeless about improving things and leaves little room for constructive communication.
Personalization and blame
You hold yourself personally responsible for an event that isn’t entirely under your control. When a woman received a note that her child was having difficulties at school, she told herself, “This shows what a bad mother I am,” instead of trying to pinpoint the actual cause of the problem so that she could be helpful to her child. Personalization leads to guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy. Some people do the opposite. They blame other people or their circumstances for their problems, and they overlook ways that they might be contributing to the problem: “The reason I got a speeding ticket is because that cop was a jerk!” Accepting responsibility appropriately allows us to improve ourselves.
Excerpts from The Disease to Please (Harriet B. Braiker) Additional annotations by Molly Pierce, MA, LPC, NCC
Has anyone ever told you that you’re a people-pleaser? Don’t be so flattered…it’s not really a compliment. It feels better to view people-pleasing as an admirable attribute, rather than look at it for what it truly is: a serious psychological problem.
In actuality, the “disease to please” is a compulsive — even addictive — behavior pattern in which you feel controlled by your need to please others, and addicted to their approval. At the same time, you feel out of control over the pressures and demands on your life that these needs have created.
The Disease to Please is comprised of three components: (1) People-Pleasing Mindsets, or distorted ways of thinking; (2) People-Pleasing Habits, or compulsive behaviors; and (3) People-Pleasing Feelings, or fearful emotions.
People-Pleasing Mindset If you fall into this category, your behavior is driven by a fixed thought that you need and must strive for everyone to like you. You measure your self-esteem and define your identity by how much you do for others whose needs, you insist, must come before your own. You believe that being nice will protect you from rejection and other hurtful treatment from others. You impose demanding rules, harsh criticism, and perfectionist expectations on yourself in an attempt to gain universal acceptance from others.
People-Pleasing Habits If you fall into this group, you are driven to take care of others’ needs at the expense of your own. You do too much, too often for others, almost never say “no,” rarely delegate, and inevitably become overcommitted and spread too thin. And, while these self-defeating, stress-producing patterns take their toll on your health and closest relationships, they maintain a firm grip on your behavior because they are driven by your excessive, even addictive, need for everyone’s approval.
People-Pleasing Feelings Under this category, your behavior is primarily caused by the avoidance of frightening and uncomfortable feelings. You will recognize the high anxiety that merely the anticipation or possibility of any angry confrontation with others evokes. (All you conflict avoiders out there — this is you!) Your people-pleasing behaviors are primarily an avoidance tactic intended to protect you from your fears of anger, conflict, and confrontation. These fears don’t actually diminish; they intensify as long as the avoidance pattern persists! (Long story short: you have to face your fears in order to overcome them). Because you avoid difficult emotions, you never allow yourself to learn how to effectively manage conflict or how to appropriately deal with anger. As a consequence, you relinquish control too easily to those who would dominate you through intimidation and manipulation.
Living a life of people-pleasing is not the way to go. Your self-esteem takes a massive toll. Your identity and sense of self-worth is all tied up in how much you do for others and how successful you are at pleasing them. It causes your relationships to lose their authenticity; If your niceness prevents you from telling others what is making you unhappy, angry, upset, or disappointed — or from hearing their complaints — there is little chance of fixing what has gone wrong.
Under the surface of your selfless niceness, resentment and frustration will begin to boil and churn, threatening to eventually erupt in open hostility and uncontrolled anger. It takes a physical toll, as well. It may come out in the form of migraine or tension headaches, back pain, stomach pain, high blood pressure, or any of a host of other stress-related symptoms. You will eventually hit the proverbial wall with your energy exhausted and you’ll want to give up, not knowing what else to do. In the end, your trusty habits of people-pleasing will fail you. So save yourself the trouble, and don’t spend your whole life living hostage to its ways.
In all the world, there is no one else exactly like me.
There are persons who have some parts like me, but no one adds up exactly like me. Therefore, everything that comes out of me is authentically mine because I alone chose it.
I own everything about me – my body, including everything it does; my mind, including all its thoughts and ideas; my eyes, including the images of all they behold; my feelings, whatever they may be – anger, joy, frustration, love, disappointment, excitement; my mouth, and all the words that come out of it, polite, sweet or rough, correct or incorrect; my voice, loud of soft; and all my actions, whether they be to others or to myself.
I own my fantasies, my dreams, my hopes, my fears.
I own all my triumphs and successes, all my failures and mistakes.
Because I own all of me, I can become intimately acquainted with me. By doing so I can love me and be friendly with me in all my parts. I can then make it possible for all of me to work in my best interests.
I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me, and other aspects that I do not know. But as long as I am friendly and loving to myself, I can courageously and hopefully look for the solutions to the puzzles and for ways to find out more about me.
However I look and sound, whatever I say and do, and whatever I think and feel at a given moment in time is me. This is authentic and represents where I am at that moment in time.
When I review later how I looked and sounded, what I said and did, and how I thought and felt, some parts may turn out to be unfitting. I can discard that which is unfitting, and keep that which proved fitting, and invent something new for that which I discarded.
I can see, hear, feel, think, and do. I have the tools to survive, to be close to others, to be productive, and to make sense and order out of the world of people and things outside of me.
Many couples find that a reoccurring trouble spot in their relationship is based in their difficulty managing how they react toward each other emotionally. These reactions may create various upset feeling and lead to disagreement and arguments. As time goes on and the same misunderstanding and confusion persists, the reactions and arguments become repetitious and predictable. It’s like a dance that the couple engages in over and over again, despite their best intentions. In time, layers of hurts and resentments build up, throwing the security and intimacy of the relationship into a shambles.
We all come into intimate relationships with our own personal ‘puzzle’ of emotional reactions and related behaviors. Our puzzle was put together in our growing up years through the experiences we had in the emotional dynamics of our families – our first intimate relationships – and how we each as individuals learned to cope with them. We also interpreted our experiences in our own personal way and developed subconscious attitudes and expectations regarding relationships with others – more pieces of the puzzle. Most of this happened by the time we were six or seven years old. In the following years we viewed and managed life through our learned perceptions and interpretations, and reinforce and confirm for our self our initial understanding of ourselves with others.
To make the puzzle even more interesting, we usually think our way of perceiving and reacting is ‘normal’ or ‘right’, rather than just our own. We enter our adult intimate relationships often mindless of how significant our individual histories are. The pieces or the puzzles begin to show up as we get closer to our partner and thus more emotionally vulnerable. Depending on the intricacies of our puzzle, we may find that without strong communication shills, the ability to maintain our respect for each other when arguments ensue, and the desire and willingness to work through and understand these differences, the relationship will likely not grow and flourish, stricken by our self made ‘baggage’ of the past.
If you and your partner have a repetitious dance that leads you through reactive behaviors and unresolved arguments and leaves you hurt and misunderstood, you may find seeking help through Marriage/Couples Counseling can help you unravel your mutual puzzles and learn the skills to create a healthy and vibrant relationship. Please call for a consultation to explore these possibilities.
Disasters are often unexpected, sudden, and overwhelming. In some cases, there are no outwardly visible signs of physical injury, but there is nonetheless a serious emotional toll. It is common for people who have experienced traumatic situations to have very strong emotional reactions. Understanding normal responses to these abnormal events can aid you in coping effectively with your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, and help you along the path to recovery.
What happens to people after a disaster or other traumatic event?
Shock and denial are typical responses to traumatic events and disasters, especially shortly after the event. Both shock and denial are normal protective reactions.
Shock is a sudden and often intense disturbance of your emotional state that may leave you feeling stunned or dazed. Denial involves your not acknowledging that something very stressful has happened, or not experiencing fully the intensity of the event. You may temporarily feel numb or disconnected from life.
As the initial shock subsides, reactions vary from one person to another. The following, however, are normal responses to a traumatic event:
– Feelings become intense and sometimes are unpredictable. You may become more irritable than usual, and your mood may change back and forth dramatically. You might be especially anxious or nervous, or even become depressed.
– Thoughts and behavior patterns are affected by the trauma. You might have repeated and vivid memories of the event. These flashbacks may occur for no apparent reason and may lead to physical reactions such as rapid heart beat or sweating. You may find it difficult to concentrate or make decisions, or become more easily confused. Sleep and eating patterns also may be disrupted.
– Recurring emotional reactions are common. Anniversaries of the event, such as at one month or one year, can trigger upsetting memories of the traumatic experience. These ‘triggers’ may be accompanied by fears that the stressful event will be repeated.
– Interpersonal relationships often become strained. Greater conflict, such as more frequent arguments with family members and coworkers, is common. On the other hand, you might become withdrawn and isolated and avoid your usual activities.
– Physical symptoms may accompany the extreme stress. For example, headaches, nausea and chest pain may result and may require medical attention. Pre-existing medical conditions may worsen due to the stress.
How do people respond differently over time?
It is important for you to realize that there is not one ‘standard’ pattern of reaction to the extreme stress of traumatic experiences. Some people respond immediately, while others have delayed reactions – sometimes months or even years later. Some have adverse effects for a long period of time, while others recover rather quickly.
And reactions can change over time. Some who have suffered from trauma are energized initially by the event to help them with the challenge of coping, only to later become discouraged or depressed.
A number of factors tend to affect the length of time required for recovery, including:
– The degree of intensity and loss. Events that last longer and pose a greater threat, and where loss of life or substantial loss of property is involved, often take longer to resolve.
– A person’s general ability to cope with emotionally challenging situations. Individuals who have handled other difficult, stressful circumstances well may find it easier to cope with the trauma.
– Other stressful events preceding the traumatic experience. Individuals faced with other emotionally challenging situations, such as serious health problems or family-related difficulties, may have more intense reactions to the new stressful event and need more time to recover.
How should I help myself and my family?
There are a number of steps you can take to help restore emotional well being and a sense of control following a disaster or other traumatic experience, including the following:
– Give yourself time to heal. Anticipate that this will be a difficult time in your life. Allow yourself to mourn the losses you have experienced. Try to be patient with changes in your emotional state.
– Ask for support from people who care about you and who will listen and empathize with your situation. But keep in mind that your typical support system may be weakened if those who are close to you also have experienced or witnessed the trauma.
– Communicate your experience in whatever ways feel comfortable to you – such as by talking with family or close friends, or keeping a diary.
– Find out about local support groups that often are available such as for those who have suffered from natural disasters, or for women who are victims of rape. These can be especially helpful for people with limited personal support systems.
– Try to find groups led by appropriately trained and experienced professionals. Group discussion can help people realize that other individuals in the same circumstances often have similar reactions and emotions.
– Engage in healthy behaviors to enhance your ability to cope with excessive stress. Eat well-balanced meals and get plenty of rest. If you experience ongoing difficulties with sleep, you may be able to find some relief through relaxation techniques. Avoid alcohol and drugs.
– Establish or reestablish routines such as eating meals at regular times and following an exercise program. Take some time off from the demands of daily life by pursuing hobbies or other enjoyable activities.
– Avoid major life decisions such as switching careers or jobs if possible because these activities tend to be highly stressful.
When should I seek professional help?
Some people are able to cope effectively with the emotional and physical demands brought about by traumatic events by using their own support systems. It is not unusual, however, to find that serious problems persist and continue to interfere with daily living. For example, some may feel overwhelming nervousness or lingering sadness that adversely affects job performance and interpersonal relationships.
Individuals with prolonged reactions that disrupt their daily functioning should consult with a trained and experienced mental health professional. Psychologists and other appropriate mental health providers help educate people about normal responses to extreme stress. These professionals work with individuals affected by trauma to help them find constructive ways of dealing with the emotional impact.
With children, continual and aggressive emotional outbursts, serious problems at school, preoccupation with the traumatic event, continued and extreme withdrawal, and other signs of intense anxiety or emotional difficulties all point to the need for professional assistance. A qualified mental health professional can help such children and their parents understand and deal with thoughts, feelings and behaviors that result from trauma.
I believe one of our biggest stumbling blocks to a sense of peace is agreeing to do things we really don’t want to do. The good news with this problem is we have all the power and control to change it.
I can’t count the times in my life when someone would ask me if I would take on a task that I really really REALLY didn’t want to do. “Jondra, we need someone to cook 200 pounds of pasta and sauce (I’m exaggerating, of course) for the event next week…and we all LOVE your pasta. So, would you do that?” (Notice the compliment? Just a little added touch to make it harder to say no. Very clever.)
Without skipping a beat or taking a breath, my response pours out of my mouth: “Sure! I’d be happy to!” The second those words leave my lips I am regretting it and beating myself up for not being able to say what I really want to say.
I got tired of feeling frustrated and resentful and decided to impose the 24- hour rule on myself until I was able to think on my feet and say “no”
The 24-hour rule goes like this: When someone asks you to do something…pause…take a breath….and tell the person something like, “That sounds good, but I can’t give you a yes or no right now. What I can do is call you tomorrow when I know for sure if I can do it or not.”
Most requests are not in need of immediate responses, despite what the requester may say, and you may have to repeat yourself a few times. But that’s ok. People are simply used to you always saying yes.
Of course, there will be those things that need immediate answers, but even if that is the case, just the time it takes to say you need 24 hours, may be the delay you need to give the answer you really want to give.
A few days ago while visiting family, our 8- and 11-year old great nieces were doing homework and soon began fighting over a sparkly pencil. The older niece declared that her plain pencil was boring and demanded that her sister give her the pretty one. A heated debate, punch in the back and dramatic tears later, the problem was solved when I found a second sparkly pencil. Now they each had their own. I felt pretty good about salvaging the crisis only to hear the girls gearing up for the next round over who wants the pink sparkly pencil vs. the red one.
About a half hour later, our 2- and 4-year old great nephews arrived home from day care. Their tantrums began over who got the McQueen vs. the Thomas the Train sippy cups for their snack time.
And so it continues. These frequent childhood dilemmas become teaching moments about sharing, respect for others during conflict and problem-solving.
You’d think by adulthood, people would have learned these life lessons. Sadly, we often see this type of sibling rivalry morph into divorce rivalry during mediations. Now emotional arguments center on decisions like who gets the dog, the hutch, the vacation home and more.
The conflict isn’t about “the stuff.” More often it’s about getting one’s way, hurting the other spouse, a memory connected to the item. It takes a skillful, insightful divorce mediator to peel back the emotional onion and get to the core of the problem so that the childhood concepts of sharing, respect and problem solving can be addressed.
“Somatic anxiety” is the name for the physical, as opposed to mental or emotional manifestations of anxiety. Anxiety can be marked by somatic or cognitive symptoms, or both types of symptoms may be present. Examples of somatic symptoms include:
•Increased heart rate
This is not an exhaustive list by any means, and the reality is that in some cases the anxiety can cause symptoms that are incredibly unusual, such as nerve symptoms, trouble swallowing, feelings of lumps, unusual pains, and more. Anxiety can have such an intense effect on the body, sometimes the symptoms themselves become issues that create further anxiety.
Treating anxiety based on whether the symptoms experienced are primarily somatic or cognitive has been shown to have beneficial effects. Treating somatic anxiety symptoms can be difficult, and often involves a comprehensive strategy that focuses on what it’s like to live with anxiety symptoms. But even small changes can make a big difference in your somatic symptoms. Some examples of ways to treat somatic anxiety are:
•Getting a massage
•Gentle exercise (like yoga)
•Relaxing bath or shower
•Healthy sleeping habits
While treating somatic symptoms would only be the first step in reducing anxiety, its an important one, because if you can decrease your physical symptoms even a small amount you may find that your overall anxiety levels become easier to control.
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