The holiday blues are authentic for many people. When people sing the phrase, “ it’s the most wonderful time of the year,” for many people the words could be changed to “it’s the most triggering time of year,” or “it’s the most depressing time of the year.” In climates where the weather becomes cold, and the sky is more overcast, depression symptoms increase because of the lack of sunlight and less time outdoors. November is typically the month I begin to see more cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.); which is depression symptoms tied to less sunlight exposure in our part of the United States. In some parts of the world, overexposure to sunlight can also result in the same symptomology. In addition to an increase in seasonal depression, many people are triggered by losses that surface during the holidays. When we do not have loving family members with which to spend the holidays or have abusive family members, family conflicts, the death of a loved one, divorce, separation, addiction, infertility, or unhappy feelings about any of our current life situations, depression can arise. The holidays stir things up because of the expectations and images we have been told represent what an ideal holiday looks like. Thank you Hallmark Channel! So how does one deal with all the losses and depression stirred to the surface at once? Many people push it all down during the holidays because they feel too busy to process their emotions, but this creates issues for the physical body which experiences sleep disturbances, increased anxiety, lowered immunity, and a plethora of other physical issues. In this podcast, counselors Sharon Wegman and Cait Beiler begin to discuss “Coping with the Holiday Blues” with strategies for dealing with the stress the holiday blues create for your body. This podcast is part one in the “Coping with the Holiday Blues” series.
How do you feel after someone has manipulated, guilted or shamed you into doing something for them? You do not feel good about yourself. You feel shameful and have poor self-esteem after the matter. To compound matters, how do you feel when you have no choice in a matter, and you are not allowed to share your feelings or say no? You probably feel powerless and violated in addition to feeling guilty, shameful, condemned, and perhaps lacking trust in the other person. Unfortunately, parents in their own feelings of powerlessness sometimes resort to manipulative techniques to get their children to comply with their requests. We have all been there and done that type of behavior in the parenting journey, however, if we grew up with emotionally or verbally abusive behavior, we may not realize when we are being manipulative in our parenting. We desire to empower our children to move toward the design their creator has made them, but we take away some of the fuel they need to achieve their plan when we inadvertently steal some of their emotional strength via manipulative parenting techniques. In the attached podcast, Licensed professional counselor, Sharon Wegman, and counselor Cait Beiler discuss the seven cardinal sins parents can inadvertently do that harm their children. Ephesians 6:4 cautions parents, and our podcast focuses on these provoking behaviors:
- Too much talking, lecturing, and nagging.
- Parental tirades and temper tantrums.
- Parental tears and guilt trips.
- Parental threats of harm to the child.
- Inconsistency in the parenting.
- Disagreement in front of the children.
- Lack of giving to the children.
Characteristics of Successful Parents
Parenting is the toughest job out there. It triggers more emotional reactions than we could ever imagine before walking out the journey of parenting. Each phase of the child’s development triggers different responses from us, but the underlying theme is powerlessness. Am I doing this right? Am I messing up my child with my dysfunction? How can I parent well in the midst of a busy schedule? All these questions are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to parenting while feeling powerless. In the first of a two-part podcast, Sharon Wegman, LPC, and Cait Beiler discuss ten characteristics of successful parents from a counseling point of view.
Included in their discussion are the following 10 Characteristics of Successful Parents;
- Confident in parenting without being severe or authoritarian as the means of asserting their authority.
- Clear and consistent with expectations.
- Treat their children with respect despite how angry and frustrated they are feeling.
- Remain verbally and physically affectionate throughout the teen years.
- Are emotionally accessible to their children.
- Good sense of humor and can laugh at themselves.
- Never punish unfairly and never demean their children by treating them as inferiors.
- Stand their ground on points that matter.
- Seek help from others when they don’t know what to do.
- Seek God for answers, wisdom, and strength for their parenting problems.
From the dawn of time, we have documented stories from the Bible in which people did not know how to help others who were grieving and in emotional and physical pain. There are so many reasons that people are not skilled in helping those in distress. Those reasons can range from their own childhood trauma, lack of seeing it modeled and a plethora of other reasons. However, we are called to be a people who comfort those who mourn and many times our western culture does not know how to do that when pain lasts for longer than a couple of weeks. While the culture of the west is more educated in psychological distress such as depression and anxiety, we are less skilled in grieving with those that are mourning and long-term support of someone struggling for an extended period of time. In this podcast, Sharon Wegman, LPC and Cait Beiler of Wellsprings Solutions, LLC discuss a dozen ways that you can help those that are struggling.
Doing new things can be scary. In fact, most people sit across from me saying that they don’t like change and I tell them, “You are pretty normal. Most people don’t like change.” In fact, most people would venture to say that while they want to change their lives, the changes necessary for change are daunting and overwhelming. It feels more comfortable to do things as we have always done things; however, when we examine the emotional, spiritual, physical, and relational costs of not making changes, the price is much higher than if one never made adjustments.
There is a story in the Bible about what happened to the children of Israel when they arrived at their promised land after being released from slavery and abuses of all kinds. They had lived as victims for generations, and while they saw God’s hand repeatedly rescuing them as they exited their abusive captivity, it was hard for them to visualize being able to take the necessary steps to receive the promised land. Twelve were sent into the area to see what God wanted to give them and, of the twelve, only two were confident that the same God who had rescued them from slavery would enable them to be strong enough to make the changes necessary to access the promised land. You can read about this story in the book of Exodus.
It’s hard to think differently than we have been taught. We are taught how to live by our parents, our grandparents, our teachers in school, friends, our culture, etc., etc.. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that we are making decisions based on things that someone told us repeatedly that weren’t true. The children of Israel had been told lies about their worth in captivity, and so when they were brought to the crossing over point, they could not do it because of their old beliefs about who they were won over what God had been telling them and showing them. God literally had to keep them in a holding pattern for 40 years until all of the old ways of thinking had died and the next generation who had not lived as slaves knew their worth. They saw God as their daily provider and were able to make a choice to make changes.
What about you? Are you looking at crossing over into the promised land and your old thinking is keeping you from making the necessary changes? Where did those thoughts come from? Where did you collect them from in life? Do they match what God says about you? In my own personal experience, each time I come to the threshold of new, I have to invite God into my listening process, or I could easily listen to the old recordings from my past. Rarely do I see how each thing will play out as I make decisions, but as the Bible states, “ the steps of the righteous are ordered by the Lord.” Each new step I take into a new promised land more is revealed and released that I would never have seen until I crossed over. Like Joshua and Caleb (the two of the twelve that knew they could cross over), I need to surround myself with friends who believe the same things so that their thoughts and words can spur me on to new.
Change is hard. Whose beliefs are you listening to today? God is bigger than anything you have to change.
I had a funny dream the other night. In the dream, I was at a hair salon getting a service done to my hair and the price quoted to me kept changing until the time of payment. The price quoted went from $30 to $300, $30,000, and finally $300,000! Obviously, the whole dream was ridiculous, but when I woke myself up from the dream, I thought about our current podcast on Emotionally Healthy Dating Relationships and how small choices can cost us much more than we could ever have imagined.
If you have ever been in an emotionally unhealthy dating relationship or marriage, you understand there are emotional, social, physical, financial and spiritual costs to unhealthy relationships that we never could have comprehended at the time that we agreed to the start relationship. The problem is that we can only know what we have been taught or have seen modeled. Most of the time, we don’t really know our issues or the issues of others until we are fully invested in an intimate relationship with that person. Intimacy with someone seems to pull out the unresolved issues of our childhood. Did we have controlling or abusive parents? Were your parents co-dependent with others? Did our parents give us a voice to say what we thought, felt, or wanted to choose? Were we modeled healthy conflict resolution in our childhood home? Your attachment pattern was established in the first three years of your life and your worldview was formed in the first twelve years of your life. Consequently, we really need to resolve and receiving healing from the wounds of our childhood before we enter into a relationship with someone so they do not affect others. There is hope! You can be restored! You can be healed! Your relationships can be repaired! However, this will involve the uncomfortable process of ripping off the band-aid that covers these childhood wounds and allowing yourself to receive healing and learning new skills and ways of doing things.
Do not be deceived, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you according to Philippians 4:13. In the attached podcast, Sharon Wegman and Cait Beiler discuss eleven different elements that make a relationship emotionally healthy.
Manipulation in relationships is pervasive in all relationships in life. Be it our relationships with our significant other, our child or with a friend, most people resort to some form of manipulation in the course of their life to get what they want without having to be vulnerable and state exact needs. We fear vulnerability because of the fear of rejection and abandonment; denial of our needs feels much more hurtful than that of getting our needs met through manipulation. When one person wants another person to do something, our human nature can readily resort to some type of manipulative words or behaviors to get what we desire in the situation. Transversely, when someone is trying to get us to do something that we do not want to do, our human nature can quickly resort to passive manipulation as our way of maintaining power and saying no without being rejected. Think of the child who is told no to a request for a piece of candy. The child does not yet have control of their impulses, and so they may start whining for the candy or throw a fit of rage to try to manipulate the adult to give them what they request. If the child is given the candy as a result of their manipulation, they are likely to quickly learn at an early age that they can manipulate people to get what they what they want. We learn manipulative tactics at an early age from observing the ways of our parents, and we slowly start incorporating manipulative ways into how we live. Some of the manipulation tactics are very visible, and some are more covert in their expression, but none of the tactics builds safety in relationships. Children will not feel safe and secure with parents who manipulate them, our significant relationships will not grow where manipulation is present, and our friendships will be stunted in growth under the absence of vulnerability and the presence of manipulation. Manipulation twists relationships into something that cannot thrive because of the poisons of hurtful words of behaviors can stunt the growth of a relationship, cause abnormalities to develop and in some cases cause the relationship to die. If we want our relationships to thrive, we are going to need to work hard at not only eliminating manipulative behaviors and words and become more vulnerable in our expression of our needs and feelings. In the attached podcast, Sharon Wegman and Cait Beiler discuss the continuum of manipulative words and actions including; Isolating, withholding, minimizing, accusation, deceit, coercion, demeaning, criticism, rage, and threatening amongst other behaviors.
“Thou shalt not steal from others” means much more than just not stealing physical property. I came to this realization when I read a portion of “The Practical Bible” by Dennis Prager. People typically speak about the 8th commandment “Do not steal.” strictly from the viewpoint of physical theft. Yet, in the Hebrew translations of the word, stealing is used in a much broader context where it refers to the of stealing of another person’s mind. In my counseling practice, I see and hear the effects of robbery related to the soul and spirit. Some people have been robbed of trust. Others were manipulated into believing a lie about another person or idea. In addition, many people have had their dignity stolen by another person through humiliating emotional, verbal or physical abuse. If we think of stealing using this broader definition, we see that many people are struggling with crippling issues because their personal dignity has been stolen.
If we think about how to prevent the robbery of physical property, it will give us clues about how to prevent the robbery of our soul and spirit. So how does one prevent the robbery in a home? Many people do not know how to protect themselves physically or emotionally because of what they were forced to endure in their childhood. Consequently, they do not know how to protect themselves emotionally as an adult. The following is a short list of theft protection methods for our soul and emotions:
1. Be careful who you invite into your home. We don’t allow strangers into our home without knowing who they are and whether they are safe. Hence, we do not allow strangers to know the more intimate details of our life until they have earned our trust. Vulnerability and intimacy are earned. It is not a right of those who try to enter our lives. If you grew up in a home where your parents demanded things of you that were inappropriate, you might not know how to set boundaries with new people or demanding people.
2. We look for evidence of actions that proves a person is who they say they are to us. What is their identifying information? Are their words and actions in agreement? Anybody can spin words to create the right impression but their actions reveal who they really are regardless of the spin. If we grew up in homes where parents said all the right things but acted hypocritically, we might be easily confused because we were forced to trust hypocritical parents.
3. We let safe people in our lives know when we will be away so that they can watch for things that might be out of the ordinary. We need the people around us to be part of our safety net so they can report suspicious behavior to us or to the proper authorities. We need to lean into the protection of a caring community that can see past our blind spots. Sometimes we grew up in isolated families where this was absent. Therefore, it feels uncomfortable to allow others into our lives. However, the truth is that the safest place to be is with safe people.
4. We invite our beloved guard dog friend to take a position of protection in our lives and to alert us when something concerning is happening. Sure, they might alert bark at a lot of things, but in the end, they will alert us when something is off. Who is that nurturing person who protects you? We may need to invite them to be more of a protector to us than we are currently allowing them to be in our life.
5. We have fences, locks, and security systems that keep our property from being vandalized and we keep them in proper working order. If there is a door that doesn’t lock, we figure out how to repair that lock or replace that lock. Are there things or issues in your life that keep allowing destructive influences into your life? If so, you need to address these issues differently so that you can live in a safe environment.
God does not want you to be a victim of theft any more than you do. The reality is that He created the ten commandments for his people to live by so they would be safe and protected. He clearly stated this commandment as the only open-ended commandment by which we were to live by. Therefore, do not steal. Do not steal dignity. Do not steal trust. Do not steal joy. Do not steal freedom. Do not steal a reputation. Do not steal property. Do not steal.
There is a different kind of math that we as therapists use when we meet people. I refer to it as therapy math. It is different because we are assessing people based on their family mental health history, traumas, life experiences, childhood communication patterns, and a number of other assessment tools. These different factors help create a detailed picture of the person sitting across from us in the therapy room. Rarely is there a simple reason that explains why the person makes the choices they do. Most of the time, the emotional math equation that defines the person is more involved than a simple equation such as 1 + 1 = 2. In most situations, we are trying to discover the algebraic equation that brought us to our present day sum and identifying the unknown factors can sometimes be confusing.
Our western culture tends to process information from surface observations and then constructs a scientific math equation. However, there can be other unknown factors in the equation that are not easy to identify that also play a role. For example, we might look at a person who is overweight and perceive them to be lazy. However, we haven’t taken the time to discover the reasons a person struggles with their weight. It could be a thyroid or other hormonal imbalance problem that continues to fluctuate, verbal abuse a person endured as a child over their weight, poverty that prevents them from buying healthy food, or sexual or physical abuse in their youth that makes them want to hide their body or a myriad of other reasons. There is a multitude of factors that can cause a problem and part of the healing process is uncovering the root that keeps the person stuck in the behavior they find to be uncomfortable, whatever that may be.
Our western rational thinking has also invaded how the American Christian church interacts with mental health issues. As a therapist, I hear people repeatedly misapply biblical principles to mental health issues that need other solutions to find freedom. For example, I might have a very depressed or anxious individual come into my office who is living in an abusive environment. They might think they need to pray harder or work harder at submitting to their spouse or must read their Bible more. In actuality, they need to start using some personal boundaries to restrict the evil behavior being perpetrated against them so they feel less depression and anxiety. It is essential the western church start understanding that psychotherapy can help and empower people to live more free and full lives. Understanding the therapeutic math equation that keeps people from moving forward with others (and even with God) is the first step to gaining freedom. In the attached podcast Sharon Wegman and Cait Beiler discuss this topic of mental health and the church. Expand your therapeutic math skills to understand people in more profound and compassionate ways.
Do You Stink?
Recently the power went out in the building where I work and I wound up having to do three counseling sessions via candlelight that night. The candle lighting was subtle, however, the fumes from the five different candles were so overwhelming that they overpowered my sense of smell. I was so overcome by the fumes to the point that I questioned whether I was high by the end of the evening. One scent may have been tolerable over the course of three hours, but five different scents were toxic. I had that smell burned into my olfactory sense for days!
Since that evening, I have been thinking of the aroma that I and others emit. We know we can be overpowered by someone’s bad breath or body odor, but we can also be overpowered by someone’s “emotional” smell. Sometimes the emotional aroma is so powerful that it can affect those with whom we share life. How do we “emotionally smell” to others? I tell my family when they are emitting unpleasant physical smells so that they have the opportunity to do something about their aroma. The truth is that unless you are middle school boy who finds terrible smells amusing because you can annoy others, most people do not want to smell unpleasant to others.
I remember the days of my perfectionism when it came to entertaining people in our home. Nobody in our home except our guests experienced the event with great joy because the aroma of tension, anger, and anxiety filled our house before our guests arrived. I needed things to be perfect! My family was forced to take in my unresolved emotional issues of perfectionism and they had to experience the unpleasant aroma I was producing. Fast forward twenty plus years, and I and my family are in a much different place. I have empowered them to tell me their feelings when my behavior aroma is negatively impacting them.
Here are the steps you need to take to create a more pleasing aroma in your relationships:
1. Talk about and use vulnerable feeling words within your home. This will enable your children to learn the language of feelings at a young age. Then, they can openly talk about the unpleasant things they are experiencing from you instead of acting out their emotions.
2. Permit your family and friends to let you know when you stink.
3. Take the feedback given to you and ask yourself if there is a way you can be a more pleasing aroma. You may need to work on your issues to eliminate those unpleasant emotional aromas!
4. Don’t make excuses for the way you smell by blaming it on others or by focusing on someone else’s smell. If you want to be a pleasing aroma, you need to work on your own scent.
5. If someone else stinks, you have a choice of how much you allow their unpleasant aroma to affect you. If you walk in relationship with them, you are responsible for telling them about their offensive aroma. However, it is not your job to convince them of their smell or tell them what to do with it. You only have to choose how close you sit to them.
God calls us to be a pleasing aroma. He says in Ephesians 5:1-2 “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”