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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.

Is Your Recovery a “White Knuckle” Recovery or a Freedom Recovery?

Is Your Recovery a “White Knuckle” Recovery or a Freedom Recovery?

When I was five years old, my parents took our family on a day trip to an amusement park outside of Philadelphia. I begged my parents to ride the wooden roller coaster at the park only to discover that it was a traumatic experience that would linger with me for many years.  The amusement park did not have height restrictions, seat belts or other safety precautions back then. They should have had those safeguards though because my mother fought to keep me from falling out of the ride!  Many years later, I can still remember the trauma of being unable to hold onto the safety bar and bouncing around the car only to feel as if at any second I would fall out.  That experience stayed with me and I was unwilling to try anything adventurous at amusement parks for many years after that.  Finally, a friend convinced me to try the roller coaster again when I was 14 and I discovered I enjoyed the adrenaline rush! After that, I tried anything and everything until I hit the age when motion sickness became the norm.
I share this story as a means of explaining recovery.  Sometimes, you can hold on really tight to recovery and the sheer exhaustion of holding onto recovery causes us to tire and release our grip. Then, we bounce all over the place in times of high stress. I call this kind of recovery “White Knuckle” Recovery.  I am holding on to my recovery so tightly because I have not grown emotionally to the point that I have the strength to hold on the emotional safety bar with ease while I ride the hills and curves of stress.  Many times people are white-knuckling their recovery to please a person who is also riding through life with them. They hold on to the safety bar of recovery so tightly that they eventually lose strength, let go, and give up again.  There is a constant cycle of holding onto the safety bar of recovery only to eventually cycle out of recovery when the going gets rough. It can be a vicious cycle. The person holding on tightly to the safety bar of recovery is emotionally weak because they have not worked to strengthen their emotional muscle energy.  True recovery comes when people do a variety of activities to make sure they can hold on to their recovery. These activities include :
1.  Working on the issues of their childhood that cause them to lose their grip.
2.  Growing in their understanding of the truth about themselves and replacing childhood beliefs with adult beliefs.  Just like we grow physically, people will grow emotionally when they focus on self-growth.
3.  Feeding on a steady diet of emotional and spiritual truth. This is the food that enables a person to have the strength to withstand the speed and stress of the ride of life.

We are not promised a life without struggle. However, we are promised that truth will bring freedom, that love can replace fear, and that letting go of childish ways can enable us to ride through life in a freedom that helps us intuitively know what to do when we encounter difficult stress.  Are you “white knuckling” your recovery or are you taking the steps to enable yourself to make stronger decisions and ride in freedom?  Believe it or not, you can enjoy the ride when you take the steps to no longer ride as a child.

I Corinthians 13: 8-13 ( NIV)
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now, we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

You Cannot be Knocked Over Easily When Your Water Bottle is Full

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

⚪Other ______________________________________________

 

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)

Addicted to Abuse?

Addicted to Abuse?

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!

Creating Community can Lead to Untold Treasures

The other night I had a dream about something that I frequently try to share with people in my counseling office.  The concept that we talk about is the power of sharing community with others.  In the dream, I went shopping with a group of friends that I pray with on a daily basis via a group texting application on my phone.   In my dream, we went treasure hunting to a store, and each of us found and bought a treasure that would be personally meaningful to us.  I woke up thinking to myself that the dream was such a great analogy about life.  We are more likely to find treasures, and be able to hold onto treasures, when we lean into the strength of those we walk with in life who are mutually giving.  I can only hold so much weight in my hands if I’m just using my hands but if I have other people coming alongside me, the weight of what I can carry is significantly larger.   Finding a community that you can lean into can many times be a complicated process and it is important to find people who are mutually giving and caring.  It’s so important that you examine how the persons you bring into your life interact with others so you can understand if they are selfless or selfish.  Despite the difficulty in finding community, I see the difference in the lives of individuals who can lean on a community when they’re going through a hard time or when they’re understanding and moving into grasping a hold of their vision.   Treasures are waiting to be released to people who choose to walk with others.

 

Hebrews 10:24-25

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.