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Gaslighting 101

In 1944 there was a famous movie released by the name “Gaslight.”  The film is the story of a man who marries a woman after a whirlwind relationship to manipulate her for financial gain.  Throughout the movie, the husband proceeds to do a variety of deceptive things to convince his wife that she is insane to gain control over her and her wealth.  The movie’s theme slowly created the term gaslighting, to describe a type of manipulative behavior that a person uses to try to deceive another out of truth.  Examples of gaslighting actions might include;  Blatant lying, frequent use of denial, projecting, manipulation of things dear to you, flattery, and a plethora of other manipulation tactics.  The individual who is the victim of gaslighting will often find themselves confused sometimes to the point of developing extreme depression and anxiety.  In the following podcast, Sharon Wegman and Ina Gould describe gaslighting, its effects, and strategies to deal with gaslighting.

Gaslighting 101

Addicted to the Addict

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. 

Changing How We Relate to People by Understanding Ourselves

Changing How We Relate to People by Understanding Ourselves

How do you relate with others?  Are you secure? Do you struggle with social anxiety?   Sometimes understanding the truth of how we relate to people is the first step to beginning to make the necessary changes in how we relate to people.  Most people fail to understand that attachment takes place in the first three years of a person’s life, and the individual’s world view is primarily established in the first twelve years of a person’s life.  We have very little control over how we learned to attach to and relate to people, but we do have power over how we change to relate to people. In this podcast, Sharon Wegman and Cait Beiler discuss the basics of Attachment theory which was originated by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth and consider how the therapeutic process can bring change to how we relate to people.

Healthy Sexuality in Marriage

Healthy Sexuality in Marriage

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.

Coping with Holiday Blues- Part One

Coping with Holiday Blues- Part One

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.

The Seven Cardinal Sins of Manipulative Parenting

The Seven Cardinal Sins of Manipulative Parenting

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:

  1. Too much talking, lecturing, and nagging.
  2. Parental tirades and temper tantrums.
  3. Parental tears and guilt trips.
  4. Parental threats of harm to the child.
  5. Inconsistency in the parenting.
  6. Disagreement in front of the children.
  7. Lack of giving to the children.

Emotionally Healthy Dating Relationships

Emotionally Healthy Dating Relationships

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

Manipulation in Relationships

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.

Do You Stink?

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.”

Summer: When the Kids are Home and Moms Go Crazy!

Help With The Feelings of Summer

School summer vacation has an immense undercurrent to it these days.  Below the surface of the joy that the children feel about summer vacation from school, there exists a hint of angst when parents think about children being home in summer.  It is rare though when a parent openly shares their negative feelings of shame and guilt associated with children being home. There is less structure, less mom time, and less money available because food, entertainment, camp, and vacation expenses go up. Moms, in particular, feel more guilt and shame over not being able to be the fantastic mom portrayed in social media. Therefore, they find it difficult to focus on the positive aspects of connecting with their children and find summer to be a struggle. Two conflicting emotions are colliding! However, God desires to empower us in all the losses and negative feelings we experience during this season.  We love our children; however, we may need some assistance in processing our feelings of guilt, shame, inadequacy, and powerlessness that get stirred by the summer break. Join host Sharon Wegman and her guest host Jesukah Beachy (mom of four girls) as they discuss how to bring empowerment to the negative feelings tied to summer break.