Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Lesson from Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou said, "When people show you who they are, believe them the first time." When I first heard this, I just paused. I wasn't sure if I believed that and something about it didn't feel right. My first thought was, "What about all the times that I've unintentionally hurt others and they continued to support me and give me another chance? I thank God for those people!" I want to be a merciful and patient person. I want to give people the benefit of the doubt and always believe the best. I don't want to believe something about a person because of one behavior. I also want to be smarter about good self-care and not routinely become someone else's doormat! Surely there has got to be a good balance in there somewhere.

Every now and again I will have a brief moment of clarity on a tough issue. My understanding of a problem or its solution will show its face like an image emerging in a cloudy crystal ball, then it's gone again. But for that one moment I felt a knowing. This is how many of us gain a new insight or how some of us move into acceptance of an issue as opposed to just being aware of it. I realized this week the truth of Maya Angelou's statement. When people show you who they are, believe them the first time. Take note of the behavior that was just displayed and adjust yourself within that relationship. This does not mean I have to stop believing in the good in the person. This does not mean that I give up on this person. It doesn't mean I become unkind or unforgiving toward them. What it does mean is that I can practice healthy and loving safeguards within that relationship so that I do not have to be hurt in the same way again by this same person! It does mean that I should take note of the other person's behavior and know they are capable of it again. It is good to believe the truth of another person's behavior. I can be respectful to the other person while also believing and knowing their potential for hurtful behavior.

It feels right to be given permission to trust my instincts. When someone shows me unhealthy behavior, my instinct is self-preservation and that is OK. It is not selfish. This is a loving act toward myself. I can love myself without being cruel to other people. In fact, it's really not very loving to the other people to allow them to continue practicing their unhealthy behavior with me time and time again. I see now that I can set a limit with other people simply by putting up some protection around myself! I don't have to go to someone and confront their behavior everytime. Often I can just observe their behavior and establish a boundary around ME. This actually speaks volumes to other people. Thank God for moments of clarity.

Photo above found at:

Friday, November 4, 2011

Detachment: A Pathway to Peace

Detach. What a beautiful, yummy, and yet terrifying word. Here is Webster's definition of detach: "To disconnect: separate: to extricate oneself or withdraw." Detachment is an action often prescribed to us in our 12 step groups or by our therapists or friends. It means to emotionally let go of a situation or the outcome of a situation. Often we need to detach from people, because our remaining connected is poisoning us in some way. Always we detach as an act of love and ultimate respect toward ourselves.

Detachment becomes necessary when my connection to a thing, a person, or a situation is threatening to my sanity, my peace, my integrity, my health, or body. There are people so incredibly toxic that to remain involved with them means constant chaos and pain. Sometimes we may need to detach from a person who we cannot fully exclude from our lives, because they are our child or our boss at work. This type of detachment is a mental and emotional releasing. It is arriving at an emotional place where our own stability no longer hinges on what the other person says or does. We come to a knowing within ourselves that regardless of how the other person behaves, we will not be moved. We will not be flustered, angered, or care more than they do about themselves or their personal affairs. We lovingly lay down the other person's personal responsiblities at their own feet and walk away. We separate our sacred self from the choices of another human being. We detach.

There are situations in our lives that are troublesome and painful, situations which we cannot change despite our best efforts at trying. I am prone to worrying excessively, turning a problem over and over in my mind for a solution. Eventually the time comes when I have to be assertive with myself! I have to tell myself to detach from this situation. It is my responsiblity, after I've done all I know to do, to go to my Higher Power and ask for help. It is good that I lean on my Higher Power in these situations that are larger than me. I pray the Serenity Prayer for courage, wisdom, and serenity and I detach. I extricate my mind from the worry place. I forbid myself from going there. I connect to the resources of my Higher Power and disconnect from believing a situation outside of me holds the power to care for me or keep me happy. Often I must detach several times in one day or perhaps several times in one hour. Nonetheless I detach as often as I need to until I feel my peace begin to return.

Today I am so thankful for the skill of DETACHMENT, and today it feels good. There are times when detachment does not bring immediate relief, particularly the first few instances we detach from a painful person or situation. Laying down responsiblity for things we cannot control can force us to take responsiblity for ourselves in a way we have not been doing. We become more aware of our own feelings, all of them, the good and the bad. Sometimes there is intense grief after we detach from a situation. This is good and signifies moving toward ourselves and a fuller awareness of how we feel and what we need to do for ourselves.

How detachment comes and how it happens is a mystery to me. We do it when we're ready. I love this passage from Melody Beattie's Codependents' Guide to the Twelve Steps: "Love and accept ourselves, as is, no matter what our present circumstances. The answer will come. The solution will come. But not from trying so hard. The answer will come from detachment" (pg. 26). We may do it when we're worn out from trying everything else! We may do it out of anger or frustration. We may do it with tears of grief or even tears of relief, but do it. Just do it. When you know you have lost your very self to someone else's mess or troubles beyond your control. Just detach.

Photo Above found at:

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Prayer

Refuse to fall down.
If you cannot refuse to fall down,
refuse to stay down.
If you cannot refuse to stay down
lift your heart toward heaven
and like a hungry beggar,
ask that it be filled,
and it will be filled.
You may be pushed down.
You may be kept from rising.
But no one can keep you from lifting
your heart toward heaven — only you.
It is in the middle of misery that
so much becomes clear.
The one who says nothing good came of this,
is not yet listening.

by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

photo above found at:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Follow Me

Why is it that during times of stress that old codependent patterns try to rear their ugly heads? I suppose that our good reasoning gets compromised during times of chronic stress, which leaves us vulnerable to the temptation of codependent patterns. These patterns typically consist of taking the focus off of ourselves and becoming overly focused on what someone else is doing or not doing. It could also include the ceasing of self-care in order to take on more work (which we think is going to make someone else happy) or more worry (because we think we can just solve this problem if we try harder). CODEPENDENT PATTERNS. I can at least say that I more quickly recognize that familiar feeling of "my life has become unmanageable." On the path of recovery I have learned that my own chaotic mind, chaotic relationships, chaotic work, etc. is almost always a result of my attempts to control someone else. When I spend excessive amounts of time doing that, my own personal responsibilities get neglected and, thus, my life becomes unmanageable.

I probably sound like I'm talking from experience because I am REALLY talking from experience! In one of my codependent relapses last week, I got a new understanding about something. I was wondering how in the world Jesus managed a team of 12 disciples? I have a staff of eight at my job, and I sometimes feel as if I'm going to pull my hair out. I know Jesus had moments of frustration with His disciples as well. I am in no way suggesting that I am anything like Jesus or that my work mission reaches anywhere near Jesus's mission while He was on earth. I just thought, if you want to know anything at all about how to be a more effective leader, why don't you see how Jesus did it? The first and most important thing that struck me was how Jesus built his team of disciples. He went through various cities approached various men and said, "Follow me." They either followed or they gave him a sideways glance and mumbled under their breath, "Yeah, sure dude," then went back to their work. I also saw that there were people who came to Jesus and asked how to be a disciple or how to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. He gave them a very direct and plain answer and many of them said something like, "Oh, wow, I didn't know it would require all that. OK, never mind." Then they left never to be heard from again. Jesus didn't get all emotional about it and chase after them saying, "It's really not that bad! You can do it! I'll help you, really, it'll be OK!" Either way, Jesus didn't beg people to do anything. He didn't threaten them. He didn't interview His disciples then choose who He thought would be the best candidates. He didn't try to convince people with long speeches backed up by the latest research stats or manipulate them through an emotional dissertation.

I've done all of the above and probably done all of the above just in the last few weeks. It's exhausting! I would now like to adopt the Follow Me approach. This approach involves saying simply and directly to someone what you would like for them to do, then you walk away and don't stress it. They will either do it or they will blow you off. When people comply with your requests with this type of approach, then you have a real keeper on your hands. There are actually many people who will just do what you ask, because they love you or respect you. We rarely make it to deeper more intimate relationships with these kinds of people, because we're wasting our time cajoling and pleading with the other type of person who really does NOT want to follow.

The second step of the Follow Me approach is in regard to those who do not follow. This approach requires that I do not chase after those who do not respond to a simple request and I do not block the consequences of their not following. I stand back and allow the chips to fall. If someone does not want to follow or comply with what I've asked, then I am no longer responsible for what happens to them after that. I've got to move on. When you live your life this way, you find yourself surrounded by a committed group of people who do not need to be routinely prodded and manipulated. What Jesus wanted from his disciples more than anything else was willingness. What better way to quickly identify that trait than to offer a simple request, "Follow me," then leave it in their hands.

So I'm moving forward now. Getting up out of the codependent ditch, dusting off and strapping on some Jesus sandals-- FOLLOW ME!

Photos above found at:§ion=&q=follow+the+leader#/d2oz6sf

Thursday, August 4, 2011


I do not deal well with CHANGE. I think I've gotten better over the years, as I have come to realize that change is just part of life. Just as soon as I get familiar with one routine, something new comes along to disrupt it. Even good changes can send me into an emotional tailspin. My head is telling me that my entire family was in a comfortable routine for a little too long and it was beginning to foster complacency and boredom. My emotions, however, are screaming, "I don't care! I want to go back to complacency and boredom where it's safe!" Hubby is starting a new job, the kids are going to after-school care for the first time in their lives, my own work and exercise schedule will need to shift as a result, and our finances will need to have major adjustments.

A friend of mine called me the other day and read a portion of The Language o Letting Go by Melodie Beattie. She read to me about the anxiety of being in the "meantime" or the middle phases of change, the waiting periods. When we go on a trip, we have to prepare, then get in the car and travel. There is a distance between one place and another. If I am travelling to a place I know well and have been to before, I may feel very excited during the travel time. If I am travelling to a place I've never been and perhaps anticipate there may be bad experiences awaiting, then the travel time is miserable. My current travel time into this new phase of life has been miserable and it must be because I am anticipating the worst! I had a dream last night that didn't seem to make any sense, but now I get it. I dreamed that I had to travel to the other end of the state and didn't want to have to make the long drive (travelling across TN is beautiful but LONG). In the dream I boarded a new-fangled train system that jets you across the state in the speed of a plane. I saw the familiar scenery speeding past me as I travelled and I was amazed at how quickly I could get there. I believe this dream was a wish-fulfillment dream. I just want to get there now and avoid all this darned travel!

Today I make the commitment to enjoy the journey. Nothing bad is happening to me on this journey. It is merely a shift from one place to another. I don't know what the new place is going to look like, but this doesn't mean I have to fear it. God is a God of change. He created the seasons, aging and growth, the shifting weather patterns, and time itself. He is in control of all things... even as they change.

Painting above by:§ion=&q=fast+train#/d28owyi

Monday, June 27, 2011

Out of the Shadow

I've been thinking a lot lately about our "Shadow Selves" and the human tendency to split off the parts of ourselves that we most dislike. I see this all the time with my clients-- not so much in myself, because those unlikeable parts of myself are separated away from consciousness! Carl Jung talked about our Shadow Selves, as the aspects of our personality that we don't want to claim. They are very much there and in daily operation. If we see someone else displaying a feature of our own Shadow Self, we may find ourselves feeling very angry or even disgusted with this person. A strong reaction like this has become my own first clue that I am encountering myself in these people.

I wrote several entries ago about one such Shadow Self, my Know-It-All side. A few weeks after sharing this Shadow Self with the whole world, I began to notice that I wasn't feeling so triggered by a certain person who displayed that trait himself. I realized that bringing my Know-It-All Self out of the shadows made me feel less disdain toward her/the Shadow Self. I shared in that post how the Know-It-All Self came to be and maybe this increased my compassion toward her as well as fellow Know-It-Alls I meet daily!

I often see parents, who encounter in their children, an aspect of their own Shadow Self. This is always difficult for me, because all people have intense reactions to people who display certain shadow traits we find reprehensible or repulsive. It's hard to watch a parent feeling this way toward their own child, yet I know the parent cannot help the way he/she feels. I once worked with a parent that had suffered horrific abuse as a child. She learned to suffer silently under the abuse, behaving as perfectly as possible in order to avoid further abuse. As a child, she learned to disown feelings labeled as "unacceptable" by her abuser-- primarily anger. She was not allowed to demonstrate any sense of outrage or injustice at what was being done to her or she was likely to experience even harsher physical punishment in return. This woman grew up to have a child with serious anger problems. It's probably no accident that the child learned to adopt this particular affect as his primary personality trait. Being an angry kid, however, left his mother feeling very threatened by him and made him unlikeable to her. This, in turn, also triggered her to adopt certain other aspects of her own abuser (i.e., becoming harsh, unjust, overly critical and controlling). This was a complex and unhealthy loop that the mother and child operated within and one that left me feeling very powerless in therapy.

I wasn't trying to zap the power of my Know-It-All shadow self by discussing it openly. That is exactly what seems to have happened, however, and hooray for me! I don't know if the parent I mentioned above would have been thrilled had I suggested she share with the internet world all the ugly aspects of her own angry Shadow Self. What I'm realizing though is that bringing that aspect of herself into consciousness is exactly what she needed-- as painful as it would be to do so. Maybe this could have been done through talking about the angry self, journaling, painting her, or acting it out. Some therapists might have used sandplay, psychodrama, or various other modalities. In our daily lives, we often do the same work without the guidance of a therapist. When we are writing, playing with our children, or creating in various forms, we are dipping our hands into the realm of our own subconscious minds and drawing out forgotten people from those dark places. It is in the birthing of these Shadow People and incorporating them into our conscious selves that we become whole.

Photo above found at:§ion=&q=out+of+the+shadow#/d614by

Friday, June 10, 2011

Kiss Me, You Fool

I have a close friend who is a recovering sex and love addict. She is an older woman (a phrase I use when I mean "older than me") and so dear to me. This woman has about 20 years of recovery under her belt, immense wisdom and humility. She's been nothing short of a gift from God to me and I am grateful to share this universe with her.:-) She doesn't mind my sharing some insight she and I both are gaining as a result of a new relationship she is in.

My friend has not dated for probably about 10-15 years now. I suspect much of this comes from the deep respect she has for sobriety and her own addiction. She is fully aware that returning to addictive relationships could mean death for her. Many of the men she dated or was married to in the past are already dead themselves due to reckless behavior and various addictions of their own. I have encouraged my friend, however, that I do not personally feel that God intends for us to live alone. This doesn't mean we are all meant to be married, however, I feel my friend has much to offer in a relationship and is certainly deserving of much love and admiration. I've encouraged her to remain open to healthy men and when there is an opportunity for a date, she needs to go! Unlike decades ago when she moved desperately from one unhealthy man to another in an attempt to get her love fix, she now has a circle of sober friends who will help hold her accountable. She also has years of healing under her belt and numerous new coping tools. She has taken my fine advice and has been dating someone for 2 months.

My friend has established a rule for herself that, at first, I didn't quite understand. She has promised herself that she will not kiss this many until and unless they have dated successfully for 3 months. I spoke to her this week and asked, "Have you gotten to smooch yet or not?" She says, "Nope, still no smooching! You'll be the first to know!" She and I discussed what the purpose of this personal contract has been and how in the heck is it even working. She and I are first and foremost shocked that she is dating someone who has not questioned this. She has not told him about her personal promise and he has not attempted to kiss her. They have held hands and demonstrate a romantic interest in one another but neither are anxious to push things too far too soon. I am learning that, by slowing things down in this way, my friend is experiencing many unexpected benefits:

1) Reduced possiblity for fantasy behavior: we all know that sexual feelings can cause you to feel a little crazy in your head and influence you to overlook otherwise unhealthy or inappropriate behavior in a partner. By not taking the relationship to that level that particular temptation is not there and they are able to experience each other at a more "real" and therefore more intimate level than other couples who are hopping into bed within the first few dates. Yes, Honey, BELIEVE it.

2) Reduced tension and anxiety around the sexual aspect of the relationship: by limiting the first kiss, the sexual tensions are held at bay. This allows for the both of them to just stop thinking about it and worrying about it. Instead, do you know what they do? They just go on a date and have fun with each other without worrying about when is the sex gonna happen! Again, they are opened to a truer level of intimacy because of this.

3) Maintaining a personal sense of integrity and safety: for my friend in particular this is very important. This is a big deal to her and very scary. It is exactly this kind of limit that has allowed her to safely date at all. We are also both shocked that she has found this man who is so respectful of it. It's made her realize that it wasn't the man who was always the problem in past relationships-- perhaps she was the one pushing things too quickly sexually and there are actually many men who would be willing to respect her timing and limits. THAT is a true paradigm shift for her and very freeing. Should things not work out in this relationship, she's learned something so important about men-- they can be safe and responsive to your needs when you express them.

I've been with the same man for 17 years and we have 2 children. We're way past the withholding the kiss stage, so walking through this with my friend is so special to me. A part of me gets to learn alongside her. Yeah, recovery!

Photo above found at:

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Good Grief

Hello blogger friends! I realized today that it's been almost a month since I've come around to post, and I don't intend to make that a habit. I need this little piece of internet space to come to and think. I have found myself lately to be a woman of few words. I'm experiencing some very tough times personally and have been silenced by it all. I have enough sense to know that I don't want to speak doubt, discouragment, or anger, and I'm afraid if I open my mouth that is what will come out. Trying to speak anything positive or hopeful has just been too painful... just to be very honest. Thus, I've just been keeping my mouth shut! I feel tonight I need to break the silence with goodness.

I am realizing that having evil very near has made me especially keen to all the good that is near. Tonight I felt immense gratitude for a push mower that works and a yard to mow. I almost wanted to weep at it. I felt such joy cooking hot dogs for my kids, as if I were cooking the finest meal they have ever had. I am grateful to have a front door with a lock, water that runs both cold and hot, a running car, two beautiful happy children, and a home. Last night I slept beside a sweet loyal husband in a bed in a home I love with my children safely nearby. It's summertime and the cicadas have not interrupted a single outdoor activity. I've been given so much and have nothing but gratitude for every wonderful vacation I've experienced with my kids, every fancy schmancy meal my husband and I have treated ourselves to, and all the sweet luxuries of life that many people never experience. If I never experience any of them ever again, I can't complain.

I don't ever want to become too attached to stuff here on this earth. I can't take any of it with me, and one day all I've worked for will either be given to someone else or tossed in the trash. There are, however, things I can leave that can never be stolen or trashed, and God is reminding me to focus more of my time and energy in those areas. I have children who will carry pieces of myself and my husband into the world with them, and I hope to impart good to them. Everyday I encounter hurting people with no sense of hope, people starving for love and in need of healing. You meet them too. We're only given a short time on this earth and it passes so quickly. Let us love one another more passionately, more fully than ever before. Let us give away more of our things and our time to lighten someone else's load. Let us all think a little less about ourselves and a little more about our neighbors. Let us spend less time arguing and complaining and more time speaking words that will build someone up and offer hope. It is my prayer that none of you have to suffer to come to these truths for yourself and I pray that I never forget them either. I want to leave them here as a marker for myself!

Photo above found at:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Ultimate Peace Treaty

I ran across the most wonderful verse and promise about a week ago. Just reading it and marinating in it has been sweet to me: "'no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,' declares the Lord."(Isaiah 54:17)In fact, this entire chapter makes me smile. The prophet Isaiah is delivering a message to the people directly from God, and God really has some good news for them! These people had been struggling and striving in their relationship with the Lord for generations. Finally, after all this turmoil, God is ready for some peace and says, "Though the mountains be shaken and the hills removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed."

I've had struggles with people and that's no fun, but I've had struggles with God and that is REALLY no fun. It brings me great comfort to just receive the promise that He's not mad at me and, in fact, has signed a peace treaty for eternity! Regardless of what I do, where I go, what I say or feel, the peace treaty remains intact. This is the first promise of this text, but it doesn't stop there. God tells the people that, because of the peace covenant, he will not abandon them AND if they are attacked by any enemies it will not be His doing. He doesn't promise they won't be attacked, He just says the attack won't come from Him.

I believe God knew that many people would not exactly feel comfort from this particular promise. I mean, why not just keep me from being attacked by anybody, right? Can't you do that, God? He was prepared to answer me and the many people who think like me. God answers this with "See, it is I who created the blacksmith who fans the coal into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who have created the destroyer to work havoc." God creates the people, but He really has little control over them at that point. They're free to go do their own creating, whether for good or evil, it's their own choice.

Here's the really good part! Let the blacksmith forge his weapons and plan to use them on me. Go build your weapons, forge an entire arsenal of weapons to use on me! Guess what, they are ineffective against me. You can plan any attack you want, but the attacks of others do not prevail against me. HA HA! Furthermore, make your accusations against me. They get refuted, each and every one of them everytime. It's my heritage as a servant of the Lord. What a wonderful and comforting promise, and I am finding it to be true. As false accusations are made and attacks launched, I rest in the comfort that I have a peace treaty with God and He is my ally in all battles lifting up a supernatural shield that thwarts all intended harm.

It is very easy and natural for me to "get my back up" when people try to suggest something about me that isn't true. I struggle with having a little bit of an "attitude" and a quick temper. Before I've even had time to think about a situation, a sassy comment has already escaped my lips. Because of this tendancy to run my mouth, I've also had to become very adept at apologies. For a hothead like me, I am quieted by the promise from God that the ultimate peace, peace between me and Him, is already established, and any attacks or accusations from people will not prevail. So, chill. :-)

Photo above found at:

Friday, April 1, 2011


In the middle of this tight contraction of time
where I am squeezed between hard and impossible, here
I take a deep breath lying on the stone that
some wish were my coffin and
I breathe
deep solemn redeeming breaths that
I live despite you
despite evil black as the underworld encapsulated
in a palm, I breathe
despite generations of heavy earth lying over me
I consider it brilliant
the changes it draws from me in crushing blows.
I breathe despite loneliness
despite drudgery and commotion
I am alive
here amidst the pounding pummels
lifting my chin and
swinging back.

I’ll admit
sometimes I wish you knew about
my own black storms
the howling, the deep of the cut
the vastness of the hole
I hold
the fine sweet slice of soul
left lying open
I get it
it’s not for you to know
I’ve learned to celebrate the solitude
in suffering
since I’m coming out of it now
one fine day at a time
Sweet Jesus!
Look at me now.

By Melissa Greene
photo above found at:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

To Every Thing There Is a Season

We have had a rough winter here in the Nashville area with a record number of snow days. In fact, many schools in this area have gone over their designated number of snow days, requiring students to extend their school year. Our first snow occurred in December, which is unheard of, and the wintry precipitation did not stop until into February. We're pretty spoiled in this area with the warm weather. It tends to stay fairly mild here throughout the year. It's not unheard of to have little to no snow at all in the winter. So, for us to get really SICK of snow tells you that it was a lot. Despite the harsh winter and all the previous years of bitter cold, I can say I have never had a therapy client come into my office complaining of despair due to snow, ice, or cold. Yes, sometimes we may feel our mood negatively and temporarily affected on a gray day, but I'm saying I have never seen anyone go into despair over bad weather. Why is that? Why did we Nashvillians not begin to wail and moan in utter hopelessness over the extremely cold and harsh winter we suffered? Because we know it ends! Winter always ends and spring always comes! It is inevitable. We've seen it happen year after year-- the sunshine emerges and the snow melts. Like clockwork spring always comes.

In Ecclesiastes we are told that to EVERYTHING there is a season. This means there is a season for depression, anger, grief, loneliness, and a host of other painful experiences. These things have their season then they end. They always end because we are promised they will end. They are confined to a season. I know that I begin to experience despair and hopelessness in the midst of a painful experience, when I convince myself that "this will never end! I cannot handle it any longer and it will never end!" I don't despair over winter, so why should I despair over other unpleasant experiences? This too shall pass.

Ecclesiastes 3

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Photo above found at:§ion=&q=seasons#/djz251

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Miss Smarty Pants

When I was around 9 years old, my parents divorced. As an adult I can see how this divorce was inevitable and necessary. Children, however, do not have adult logic and coping skills. Children believe things that are not true and sometimes believe things that are downright magical or fanciful. Children also tend to believe that the world revolves around them, thus other people's choices must be because of something the child has done. My child reasoning came up with the bright idea that my Dad left because I was not special in any way. Some children might have blamed themselves in various other ways, telling themselves, "I'm not a good girl, so Dad left," or "I argued with Dad last week, so he left," etc., etc. For me, I just felt PLAIN and therefore unlovable. I remember when school let out that spring, at the completion of fourth grade, I made the decision that one thing I had going for me was that I was pretty smart. I didn't consider myself particularly pretty, social, or talented in any way, but darn it, I could learn anything! So, I resolved to become the SMARTEST and this is what would make me special. My parents had ordered a set of encyclopedia books for me, and that summer I set out to begin reading and committing to memory the entire set. Oh, Dear...

Thus began my lifelong agenda of becoming a real know-it-all. In retrospect, I know I was a pretty smart kid, but so were alot of my friends. There was nothing really all that special about my good grades, but I had convinced myself it was the one thing that kept me special and therefore forever safe from abandonment.

The reason I'm sharing all of this with you is because I am realizng this is the wound that is being triggered by Mr. A, referenced in my last post. As the universe would have it, I have been put into a relationship with another know-it-all just like me. Great! (insert sarcasm here) There is only room for one know-it-all per office, home, or school, etc. When two know-it-alls disagree, uh-oh, someone has to back off and admit, I don't know everything, you do. That is just not happening! It's really almost laughable but the wound is very real, because here is the problem: if you take away my smart status, then my wound says you just took away the one thing that makes me special, and now I am vulnerable to abandonment.

I am very grateful to have this wound and the lie of it exposed. I am actually becoming grateful for every instance when Mr. A tells me something I already know and I'm tempted to say, "Yes, I already know that." When I walk away from this triggering instance, I have truth on my side, and the truth can be applied like a healing balm. These are the sweet and wonderful truths that I know:
1. I am not the smartest person around, nor do I need to be. God uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise!
2. I am special and unique regardless of my IQ or book smarts. There is no one else on this planet exactly like me.
3. I can never be abandoned ever again, because I am an adult now. Adults can't be abandoned, because adults are self-sufficient (in the survival sense). Only children can truly be abandoned.
4. I am powerless over other people and trying to control other people only makes my own life unmanageable. I have a Higher Power who can restore me to sanity and daily meet my needs, as long as I daily turn the care of myself over to Him.

I share this personal story with great humility and with the hope that someone reads a part of themselves here. May the truth set us free!

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Reflection vs. Reaction

I will offer a little self-disclosure here. Actually, I think I offer quite a bit of self-disclosure here on these pages, but anyway... I want to share a recent insight I've had. I will change the names and circumstances to protect the privacy of dear others.

I am presently in a relationship with someone where I am experiencing much tension, and this has been ongoing for some time. I also get the sense that I am actually having more anxiety and anger in this relationship than the other person, who we'll call Mr. A. This man, Mr. A, really triggers me. In fact, I sometimes find myself so annoyed by him that I uncharacteristically snap on him, become rude, and have even gotten angry enough to stomp away. Essentially, I throw a little tantrum because I get so ticked off. Just to clarify, I don't typically act like this in relationships! I'm actually known by friends and family for remaining level-headed, avoiding confrontation, and very rarely exhibting anger (even when it is probably warranted). Something about Mr. A really gets my goat, however, and I have no problem getting angry... and quick. Afterward, I always feel guilty, embarrassed at my juvenile behavior, and even more angry at him that he MADE me act that way.

It would be really easy for me to type on and on about all the horrible things this person does and how my anger toward him is justified. I could rant and rave about the rightness of my frustration and how things would be much better if he would just change. What I'm finally understanding, after a significant amount of time with Mr. A, is that he is not real likely to change. What I am now motivated to do (after many months of tension and conflict) is to examine myself.

Mr. A does seem to irritate other people as well and we have mutual friends who have commented on this. None of them, however, seem to get triggered quite as intensely as I do. What I now want to try is REFLECTION rather than REACTION. I have gotten so angry with him at times that my reaction was quick and surprised me. Sometimes I've said something very scathing, scoffed loudly at him, and various other things that surprised me. Sudden reactions. What I would like to try is to stop myself before I get to this point and take a time out. I'm not sure how I'm going to get the time-out. Most likely I'll just say, "Excuse me for just a minute, I just remembered something important I need to take care of," or I might try, "Let me take a few minutes to think on that and I'll get back with you." If you hear me saying that to you this week... well, sorry. It's better than getting hostile and sarcastic, right?

Once I get space and step away, I want to REFLECT. My reflection is what I see when I look into the mirror. I will see me staring back at me! I don't actually intend to go look into a mirror, but maybe I can examine what I am seeing within me at that moment. What am I feeling? What does this feeling remind me of? What earlier times in my life did someone make me feel this way and what was the outcome? Are those past events somehow affecting my present interaction? Most likely, yes. My reaction is so intense, it suggests that a relationship template is being triggered. This is a template that got solidified within me over time after a repeated interaction with someone very close to me. For example, some of us learn at a young age that if you show anger in your home, you are shunned and shamed by a parent, so you learn to stop exhibiting signs of anger and feel shame instead. Later in life, when we encounter someone who wakes up the "shaming parent" template inside us, we automatically and unconsciously slip into the role of shamed child who denies anger. Then we wonder why we feel so crappy every time we're with that person!

I believe that if I REFLECT rather than REACT, I am going to learn some very valuable things about myself. I hope to gain some insight about what type of issue is being triggered. I also hope that I can begin to practice some new ways of dealing with Mr. A rather than the usual red-headed tyrrant routine I've been pulling. I'm not real happy with that act lately. I doubt he is either! Almost makes me feel sorry for the poor guy... just almost but not really. :-)

I'll keep you posted on what exciting traumas I dredge up within myself!

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Therapy? For Me?

There are many commonly held misconceptions about therapy that I'd really like to de-bunk, but I'm going to focus on the top 4 I hear most often. Put on your big girl panties and your big boy undies, if you plan to proceed:-)

1. Therapy is only for crazy people: This has to be THE most common misconception/untruth about therapy and is most often spoken by someone who really needs therapy. First of all, what do you mean by crazy? Aren't we all just a little crazy? There is no shame in going to a therapist for help or support. If you had a disease like diabetes, you would take your medication and go to your doctor appointments without shame. Similarly, if you have experienced unforeseen events in life that have crippled you emotionally, it is good to seek the help of a therapist. It is good to take care of yourself and be seen by a professional who is trained and experienced in walking people through their hard times. Many people are blessed with genetics that predispose them to mood disorders. Then life comes along and brings out the symptoms. We go to therapy because we cannot overcome and deal with much of our emotional baggage all on our own. A good therapist is mindful of the interplay happening between the two of you and is aware that it is this interplay that is essential in you getting better! Relationship is key to healing! I personally believe therapy is especially important if you are a therapist yourself. My mind and my psyche are my primary work tools and I want them to be clear and healthy. Otherwise, I'm bringing my own dysfunctional patterns, beliefs, and feelings into the therapy relationship and acting it out with my clients-- not good. And, yes, you are doing that if you are a therapist. You are human after all, not perfect! Remember, I did warn you to put on your big girl and big boy undies. :-)

2. I don't need therapy, I just take medicine for that: I hear so many people say this. There are many wonderful medications designed to treat mental illness. I am very glad for this. In fact, I hope and pray for even more effective medications to come on the market all the time. We are in need of medications to treat biochemical imbalances that can lead to depression, psychosis, and anxiety. I also see many clients for whom the medications are absolutely an essential part of their treatment, and I know they would experience severe regression without the meds. BUT (and you knew the BUT was coming) medication ONLY is nothing more than a good start for most people. It's highly unlikely that you are going to find a medication that is going to cure it all. I see clients who find a good medication that stops their anxiety attacks all together-- GREAT! These clients feel they are better now and no longer in need of therapy. They then go on to experience one dysfunctional relationship after another, spend themselves into great debt again and again, have constant conflict with co-workers or family, etc., etc. In my own experience as a therapist, I have never seen a client who experienced anxiety in a vacuum. This is to say, they are experiencing crippling anxiety for no apparent reason, with no history of trauma, or family dysfunction that hard-wired their brain to respond in this way. I am not saying these types of people don't exist. I'm just saying that in 10 years of doing therapy, I've personally never seen it! It is possible to live without potentially addictive medications and learn to manage anxiety. Let your medication serve as a springboard that allows you to participate in therapy at an even deeper level. Remain open to the fact that there are characterological and interpersonal issues impacting your life that medication will never resolve. If you're waiting on the right medicine to come along that will finally make you feel better, you might be waiting for a long time. Medication combined with talk therapy will get you there!

3. A good therapist will be able to fix me: Many people come to therapy believing that I hold the solutions to their problems. They believe I will give them a magical answer and POOF, things will be great. They are often sorely disappointed when I have to tell them, "Sorry, my magic wand is in the shop." Certainly, there are people who need information. There are many clients who need to know more about their diagnosis. They may need to know more about the common effects of childhood sexual abuse or being the child of an alcoholic parent. This information alone can be very healing and give a person direction in how they think about themselves and the world. There are times too, when a client simply needs guidance and it is good for a therapist to provide it. Most of the time, however, my role is NOT to sit with you for an hour telling what you what you should be doing if you want to feel better. If you have a therapist who does that with you, how good does that feel? I want to encourage clients to explore themselves, dig deep inside the stuff of themselves. Together we sort through the trash, how did the trash get there, what can we do with it, what part am I playing in all the drama that goes on in my life? Good therapy also means working patiently through the ups and downs of the therapeutic relationship. Therapy means for many people that they experience warmth and a non-judgmental attitude from another person, maybe for the first time in their lives. That goes a lot farther than a therapeutic lecture. Therapy is a process of you learning about yourself, being courageous and honest about yourself, and actively working toward change.

4. I don't have time for therapy: Honey, you don't have the time to skip it. For people who are experiencing extreme stress, anxiety, chronic conflict with others, depression, addictions, and various other dysfunctional patterns, you cannot afford to continue another day without gaining some therapeutic insight. Each day that you continue on in your life engaging in the same dysfunctional patterns, experiencing the same negative and unhelpful thoughts, going deeper into dangerous depression and addiction, you make it much harder to ever extract yourself from it. You're also very likely creating further damage within your relationships that will have to be addressed and healed later as well as re-creating dysfunctional patterns in your life that you are probably unaware you are even re-creating. Good therapy cannot be postponed. It is too essential to put off until you have more time, because life will catch up with you eventually. When life and our own brokenness forces us into therapy... well, that's just no fun. Make the time now.

Rant ended. :-)

Monday, February 28, 2011


I've just had a huge revelation today. I realize I've been duped for a long time, and I'm only now seeing the trap that has been snaring me for years. I only get bitter, frustrated, and anxious when I believe a particular stressor I'm facing is neverending. If I just remember that they don't last... nothing lasts forever... I can weather anything. I can handle anything because my God will show up right on time, and I don't mind waiting. I don't mind waiting, however long it takes, because I'm waiting on the Lord!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Keep Your Head Up

Some truths are so simple and so widely shared that they've just become trite. It's easy for me to tell someone in deep pain, "Keep your head up!" I'll be very honest, one supposedly "encouraging" phrase that I hate to have given to me during a difficult time is, "God never puts on us more than we can bear." Well, maybe I don't want to bear it! Maybe this time He messed up, because I can't do it! I've told the Lord before, "Really, God, maybe you think I can handle this and take on more, but I'm telling you I can't!" During especially difficult times, painful, heart-wrenching, and discouraging times... I don't want trite words of encouragement. What I want is rescue. I want to be taken out of this pain. I want the offender to stop offending or the hurt to be healed... and now please.

Nonetheless, it is not always in our best interest to be rescued or healed right away. Sometimes we pray for very sick friends and family only to watch them lose their battles and die. Sometimes we pray for answers or wisdom and hear nothing. Sometimes we do the right thing, make the right choices, and give all to someone who turns around and stabs us right in the back. Essentially, there are moments in our lives, when we must remain in the pain. There may be situations where there is just not an exit out of it right now. If you don't have a simple truth to turn to in those situations, you may not survive it.

This week I experienced a deep betrayal and have been very confused by it. I've prayed for this to end. I've prayed for some wisdom to overcome it and nothing is changing. In fact, it seems like each time I pray, the heat gets turned up and the situation gets worse. While praying this week, God put this verse on my heart, "I lift up my eyes to the hills-- where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." This was my honest and angry reply, "I know that, God! I've prayed for help again and again and things only get worse! I don't want a cute and trite Bible verse! I want help!" And so it has continued for days-- the discouragement and anger.

This morning at church, our pastor spoke about being discouraged. He preached from Exodus about the children of Israel, who became beaten down after years of being held as slaves. When help finally did come for them, many of them were too discouraged to believe it or move toward the help. Because their heads were hanging low, they missed exits and opportunities. In the midst of this sermon, the pastor says, "Lift your eyes up to the hills! Where does your help come from? Your help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth! When you get discouraged, you miss the help when it finally comes!"

In the midst of my pain, my stubbornness in wanting only rescue led me to discouragement when it didn't come. What I do have is the promise of my Higher Power that help will come. It is the simplicity of this promise and its truth that will keep my eyes raised to the hills. I wanted to share this story here, because I know there are so many of you in a similar place. You don't have the answers you want right now. You don't have the help you need right now. What we do have, however, are truths-- pure and simple truths. Cling to those and know they will get you through. That's your simple encouragement for the day. It's all I've got, "Keep looking up."

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Love Circle

I don't mean to sound religious or "out there," when I say that sometimes I hear God speak to me. When I have this experience, it's not like an audible voice from somewhere outside of me. For me, I do hear a voice that actually seems to come from within me, yet I feel it is definitely NOT me. This is confirmed for me through the fact that this voice usually says something that I would never say in a million years. Sometimes the voice brings up a person or situation that I was not presently thinking about but needed to. I guess I could also describe this as suddenly having a knowing from within me and perhaps it's my own mind that then puts it into words. Not real sure, so I usually just explain it as God spoke to me.

I had one of these experiences the other day while I was working out at the gym. I've been on a health kick for about 6 months now and am really seeing the benefits in my body. I am enjoying my exercise time and truly beginning to honor it as my special time just for me. While lifting weights the other day, I felt God happy within me and He said, "That's good. I need you to be strong, so I can expand your Love Circle." That made me smile, because I had never thought of love that way. There are people in my life, within my Circle of Love, for whom I am responsible for loving. It is my job to love my husband and my children. I consider it my responsibility to love my parents and other family members. I love my closest friends, and when I love you, I make myself available to you. I sacrifice for you. I make time for you and consider your feelings and needs.

It is very exhausting loving other people. I get replenished through my quiet time with God and allowing others to love me back. It really takes a toll on one's body to fully love other people well! I am limited by time, resources, and the strength of my physical body in how much I can love. Thankfully, God doesn't have such limitations. When God spoke to me the other day, I understood and respected that my body can only give so much, particularly as I'm getting older and wear out a little quicker. I look forward to having the Love Circle expanded and am grateful to God for a healthy body with which to do it!

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