Shame is the most significant behind the scenes motivator of a lot of the counseling topics that come through our office. It is the enemy of your being. It drives addictions, self-image problems, marriage struggles, depression, anxiety, etc. Whatever problem you name, there is an element of shame that may not have caused the root of the problem, but now exists. In this podcast, Sharon Wegman and Cait Beiler discuss Paul Gilbert’s theory of emotional regulation and how shame can make any one of the three elements of emotional regulation (soothing, threat, and drive) encompass the balance we can have without shame.
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When we think about addiction, we may be inclined to view it strictly through the lens of someone who abuses drugs or alcohol. However, if you have ever loved someone with an addiction, then you know that it is not that simple. In fact, those that love someone with an addiction may actually find themselves with an almost “second hand” addiction. I am referring to codependency. Codependency has a diverse spectrum and can be a complex and challenging concept. The form of codependency that will be focused on here is the residual addictive behaviors and emotions that come from loving someone with an addiction – when one becomes addicted to the addict.
To begin, it can be helpful to view addiction as a series of obsessions and compulsions. While we watch our loved one obsess over their substance of choice and have compulsive risky and unhealthy behaviors required to sustain the addiction, we can very easily be sucked into their “obsessive-compulsive” world. Regardless of the title of the relationship, it is natural to want to spare someone we love from hardships. This becomes especially challenging with someone in active addiction, who we might see all but actively seek out hardships through risky behavior and unhealthy decisions. Due to the nature of addiction, these acts of “kindness” once rooted in love can soon switch to compulsive behavior based on fear, confusion, and general powerlessness. Have you found yourself obsessing over where your loved one is or rethink every interaction with them to see if there are any holes in their story? Or maybe questions such as “are they safe”, “are they using”, “who are they with”, “why are they doing this” flood your mind. These obsessive thoughts can lead to compulsive behavior in an attempt to self soothe the obsession and spare ourselves the guilt, shame, or embarrassment that accompanies them. Some examples might be minimizing behavior, providing money as a bailout to a financial pinch, or becoming a detective and constantly investigating your loved one’s belongings, statements, or behaviors.
Because of the chaotic nature of addiction, our emotions are often experienced in extremes, with stress being arguably the most common. When our body feels stress, the brain begins sending out various signals “sounding the alarm” accompanied by a rush of adrenaline. This feeling might be familiar in the way someone’s heart races when their loved one comes home under the influence, or stomach knots or racing thoughts when searching through their belongings, or the way the body might naturally tense at the thought of the loved one. Chronically being in this state of heightened emotion can lead to constantly expecting that “adrenaline hit,” which in turn feeds that “obsessive-compulsive” hunger. We have a thought, it leads to stress, we get that “hit”, we act out on the thought, we validate our thought, we get another “hit”. Those spikes in adrenaline and state of stress become a new normal for the body, and there becomes a normalization of crisis and expectation of chaos. When the addict’s behavior sets the temperature of our daily experience and we enter into a world of chaos, we can very easily lose sight of ourselves and just how irrational our thinking and behaviors have become.
When we speak of recovery, we view this as a holistic process in which those directly affected by a loved one’s addiction must enter into their own recovery journey. It is a process of letting go of perceived control and regaining power over what is controllable. By confronting the expectation of crisis and setting firm boundaries over thoughts and behaviors, we can slowly move out of a world consumed by chaos and regain the safety of mind, decision, and sense of self.
Self Harm is a growing trend amongst pre-teen and teens, and it is a topic that frequently comes up in the world of counseling. Parents, concerned friends, and even the person doing self-harm, often feel confused regarding the behavior. Self-harm touches all people groups, but it manifests itself in different expressions. Unfortunately, many people learn this behavior from their friends or from websites in which there is a pro-injury theme, and yet many parents feel ill-equipped to handle the discovery when they learn of their child’s self-harm. Below are the statistics of self-harm from 2019
- Each year, 1 in 7 seven males and 1-5 females engage in self-harm/injury.
- Ninety percent of the people who engage in self-harm begin in their teen or pre-teen years.
- The average of a teen to begin to self-harm is 13 years old.
- Close to 50 percent of the people who engage in self-harm have experienced abuse in some way.
- Sixty percent of those that self-harm is female.
Self-half harm has become a normalized behavior amongst young adults and teens; however, it is a foreign concept to their parents and grandparents. In this podcast, Cait Beiler and Sharon Wegman explain how self-harm often starts and how it continues and experience healing.
*2019 APA statistics
Co-dependency was a word that was coined by people working in the field of addictions to describe the behavior of members of an addict’s family that enabled the addict to continue with addict choices. However, in the world of counseling, we have taken over the term to describe the behaviors of individuals who carry things for others that are not their responsibility. This could look like several things. Sometimes people can have an unhealthy need for people to make them feel better. For example, if someone struggles with anxiety, they might be dependent on another individual to make them feel peaceful. This relationship struggle can cause people to control others so they don’t feel upset or it could cause people to become “people pleasers” to keep themselves or others from feeling off emotionally. People tell me all the time that they feel like they have to carry the problems or tasks of others so that they don’t feel anxious. The crux of all co-dependency is that I carry something for someone so that I don’t have to feel _________(fill in the blank) or so that the other person doesn’t have to feel __________(fill in the blank). However, what we all need to understand is that feeling uncomfortable feelings is part of our emotional growth to wholeness; for self and others. Whether it is our children, friends, co-workers or other family members, if we don’t feel the uncomfortable feelings of our choices, we are likely to not change. In this podcast, Cait Beiler and Sharon Wegman discuss what codependency can look like in our everyday life.
The trend and comfort of going to counseling has only developed popularity within the past decade or so. This is a good thing, but as a therapist, I still encounter the negative views or “cliches” people see in counseling. As a culture, we are just now starting to come out of the perspective that going to counseling somehow means “you’re crazy” or “there’s something wrong with you.” In reality, we all go through hard things, and the point is we need support and safe places to process these experiences to stay healthy and receive healing. In this podcast, Sharon and I discuss the different reasons why someone might want to go to counseling and how counseling can aide and support that person in their process of healing. It is possible that as you have gotten older, you have become more increasingly aware of negative patterns you have picked up over time from your childhood. Going to counseling can help you unravel some of these patterns and find new ways to think and see things rather than being stuck in our childhood self. Another reason people might come to counseling is to find help and a safe space to process various types of trauma that have happened to them. Such trauma might include; multiple types of abuse, divorce, poverty, domestic violence, etc. Talking to a counselor can free up some of the weight and struggle you carry from these memories, as well as helping you find healthy ways to cope with your past. Lastly, you might find yourself needing to go to counseling because you have experienced the death of someone close to you. Grief counseling is a massive piece of working through a loss and the grief cycle in a very vulnerable time.
All in all, counseling is helpful for any season of life, sometimes as people, we need someone to sit and process with us in a place that feels safe and gives us permission to explore and experience our emotions. A therapist is simply a person whose job is to support and help you work out your feelings and your needs. Therapists are not afraid of the ugly feelings, so you have permission in a counseling office to be your authentic self. A counseling office is a place concerning no judgments or expectations over us, and for most of us, that in itself can be a very healing process.
It’s common for people sitting across from me in the counseling office to talk about their inability to feel safe or connected to God. Their walk with God seems very distant or is plagued with feels of guilt and shame. Some people are pretty clear that they want no part of God because of how God was presented to them by authority figures. They are clear that God represents pain and they want no part of him because of the way he has been described to them. An essential piece of developing an excellent spiritual walk involves understanding how our childhood attachment issues with authority figures impact our current spiritual struggles. In the attached podcast, Sharon Wegman and Cait Beiler discuss how childhood issues can affect our spiritual walk.
By Cait Beiler
“Because sex isn’t properly introduced to us as a gift from God, an act of worship, and a holy binding act that should be celebrated in the right context, we know sex as something as scandalous and devious and guilt-carrying to desire.” – Moh Iso
Yup, that’s right you read the title correctly. This blog post and podcast is all about sex. If you are someone who instantly felt negative feelings surrounding this topic, this blog post and podcast are precisely for you. We currently live in a constant sexually stimulated culture. The problem is as a society we have done a collectively poor job of talking about sex in the ways it needs to be addressed. This taboo mentality we have over sex has especially affected Christian culture. Not talking about such an important topic promotes negative feelings of shame, guilt, and embarrassment around sexuality. Lack of knowledge and discussion around the subject of sex lead us into an empty, unfulfilling sex life. We believe that God made sex to be a gift, but somewhere along the line between shame around the topic and religious distortion, we have forgotten the beautiful gift that sex is. Sex was never meant to be about control or power, but rather a means to experience intimacy on a multifaceted level, and Holy Spirit filled. This intimacy is intended to be healthy and fulfilling for each partner in the relationship. Common myths need to be dispelled in the fantastical world of pornography and sex. Researchers and professionals around the world are beginning to report the detrimental effects that pornography has an over-sexualized society leads to for people. Make your sex life healthy again, start by talking to someone about it, and don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for some help!
In this podcast, Cait Beiler and Sharon Wegman discuss the aspects of unhealthy sexuality in the marriage and how to correct this for a better connection.
You Cannot be Knocked Over Easily When Your Water Bottle is Full
I am not sure if anyone ever told you that you were a water bottle, but you are. When your water bottle is full, it cannot be tipped over easily; however, when your water bottle is empty, you will be more readily knocked down physically, emotionally, and spiritually. When you are born your body is about 78% water, and by the time you are an adult, men need their body to have a water hydration level of 50-60% and women need their water hydration levels to be 45-60%. Water runs all of the systems of our physical body including our brain, and we need to take in water to keep our systems running in a healthy manner. This is a good correlation to keeping yourself hydrated spiritually and emotionally; if you’re not hydrating yourself in these way, then when troubles come, you will be knocked to the ground easily. When you are hydrating yourself emotionally and spiritually, you will make better choices in the care of self and others, but when you are not…well, the consequences are apparent. I believe that from the moment you are born, you have needs and longings that are hardwired into you from your very creation. From the moment a baby is born they are crying to have their physical and emotional longings fulfilled, but somewhere along the way, we learn to suppress those longings and we use addictions and control of various things as a means of suppressing those longings. However, no person can fulfill all the longings of another, and thus we have a puzzle of how to let in our spiritual creator and other safe humans to take care of these longings. Proverbs 13:19 states that a longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but most people who have no idea what they have natural longings for because they have been suppressing those longings for so long. When your needs and longings have received the emotional and spiritual water they need to to be healthy, you will make better emotional and spiritual choices and will be less likely to medicate or control things in life. What do you need today to fill your water bottle? Here is my general list of emotional and spiritual elements people needs. What would you add to the list?
⚪Healthy Touch like a safe hug, a comforting hold, holding hands, snuggling
⚪To be heard- talking with someone who listens so I feel valued and heard
⚪Affirmation – need to hear something good about myself
⚪Joy – a good laugh, doing something I love, being with people who are joyful, having a spiritual experience, singing
⚪A need to create – art, music, dance, write, decorate, cleaning, organizing, building, fixing.
⚪Peace – quiet, alone time, a nap, a bath, etc.
⚪Beauty – Outdoors time, beautiful things, color
⚪Passion – something to get excited about, vision, new experience, new knowledge
⚪To feel useful- to feel like I am making a positive impact on my world
You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus. Our God and Father abound in glory that just pours out into eternity. Phil. 4:20 (MSG)
People ask me all the time how they keep winding up in relationships where there is abuse. They hate the concept of abuse and feel frustrated to find themselves again in this situation and yet, they feel drawn to it. In the world of counseling, we call this hard to explain “addiction” trauma bonding. Trauma bonding comes from people walking through typical stages of bonding with people, but if their bonding in their childhood was bonding mixed with abuse, abuse is normalized in a relationship. So how does one change a cycle established in their childhood when bonding was combined with abuse? We need to change our belief systems. Let me share my own story as an example of how you change your belief system about abuse in relationships. As a child, my mother would leave my brother and me with my mentally ill grandmother as a form of childcare. I think her belief was that as long as my grandfather was present nothing bad was going to happen. However, there was frequent abuse that occurred inside the house while my grandfather was outside working on projects. My grandmother had very high perfectionistic beliefs, and those perfectionistic standards were impossible for a child under the age of 8 to maintain. Hence I would be beaten for making mistakes – mistakes such as not cuffing my socks correctly or standing too close to the door of a room I was not allowed to would result in a beating. I was forced to make perfectionism my standard and shame had to become my means of punishment for myself. If someone shamed me for not being perfect, I learned to completely embrace their shame as a means of striving for greater perfection. The shame would push me to higher standards of behavior and higher standards of interaction with people and tasks. It was an exhausting and anxiety-provoking endeavor that would end each time perfection was achieved, or shame was given by myself or others. It was when I began targeting the belief system that held this behavior in the place that I was able to change how I interacted with others and what I allowed from others. Somewhere along the line I had learned I deserved to be punished and humiliated when I made mistakes and understanding the beliefs that kept that behavior in place, I was able to renew my mind. So what is your addiction? What are the beliefs that hold your addiction in place? What are you doing to change that in your own life? For me, it was a combination of surrounding myself with truth via people, a personal therapist, reading articles on topics related to my beliefs, and spiritually trying to come to understand how God perceived me. Today, I am able to stop disrespectful or shaming conversations by telling the person speaking to me they need to stop or I will end the conversation. I am able to feel the physical feeling of shame or disrespect and I ask people to change how they are communicating or the conversation is over. It took a concerted effort on my part to not use perfectionism as an addiction, but I’m happy to say today that there are times I wish I were a little more anal than I currently am because mistakes are common and now acceptable in my world. I extend love and forgiveness to myself when I make mistakes because I’ve changed the way I think about myself and what is accurate and godly in judging how other people interact with me. I am now able to state I no longer am addicted to shame, and I’m proud of it!