Effects of Childhood Trauma

We know childhood affects us as adults, but we may be unaware of the extent to which this is true. Childhood trauma, whether you know about it or not, may be impacting you or someone you love in ways you don’t realize. Identifying trauma symptoms and finding healing can make an immense difference in your life today.

Trauma isn’t something we want to spend a lot of time thinking about, but it’s a vital topic to consider, not just for the adults who are affected with post-traumatic stress, but for children who’ve experienced it.

Let’s start by defining what we mean by childhood trauma. The National Child Trauma Stress Network defines it this way: “When a child feels intensely threatened by an event he or she is involved in or witnesses, we call that event a trauma.”

Risk Factors for Childhood Trauma

The Trauma Services Network lists a number of factors that increase the risk for childhood trauma, although they are not established as definitive causes. They are:

  • Disabilities
  • Social isolation (family)
  • Lack of parental understanding of child development or children’s needs
  • Domestic abuse (parents’ history)
  • Poverty
  • Family disorganization/violence
  • Lack of cohesion
  • Substance abuse
  • Young, single non-biological parents
  • Poor parent-child relationships and negative interactions
  • Parental thoughts and emotions supporting maltreatment behaviors
  • Parental stress and distress, including depression or other mental health conditions
  • Community violence

While some of these factors may constitute traumatic experiences, some are not directly traumatic but contribute to an unsafe environment that increases the risk that the child will experience trauma. If, for example, you are a parent of a child with disabilities and you are socially isolated and/or a single parent, you may not be able to change all of those factors, but you can be aware of the risks for trauma and take action to make your child’s environment as safe as possible.

Types of Childhood Trauma

The NCTSN lists several types of trauma that are commonly experienced in childhood:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Early childhood trauma (ages 0-6)
  • Traumatic grief
  • Medical trauma
  • Complex trauma
  • Domestic violence
  • Bullying
  • Community violence
  • Refugee trauma
  • Disasters
  • Terrorism and violence

Look Through Their Eyes is another organization that works to identify, prevent, and heal childhood trauma. Their list of most common childhood trauma includes most of those listed above, as well as:

  • Accidents
  • Chaos or dysfunction in the house (such as domestic violence, parent with a mental illness, substance abuse or incarcerated)
  • Emotional abuse or neglect
  • Separation from a parent or caregiver
  • Stress caused by poverty

From both of these lists, we can see that abuse, neglect, and violence within the family cause traumatic stress for children, and so do wider-scale disasters, war, and terrorism.

So, if a child experiences any of these things, how does it affect them? How do they respond?

The difference between a child’s stress response and an adult’s stress response is that children are still developing. They don’t have the understanding that adults do, and their brain hasn’t finished growing.

This reality means that trauma can have a different impact as the child grows older than it would on an adult who has already reached full cognitive development.

Physical Responses to Trauma

While most people are aware of the “fight or flight” response to frightening events, the “freeze” response is not as well known. “Freeze” is a type of dissociation that means the person perceives the threat to be so severe that neither running nor fighting back is a possibility.

Freezing is the body’s reaction to being flooded with stress. A child, who is smaller and more vulnerable in every way than an adult, may experience the freeze response in a variety of different traumatic situations.

What happens if a child is exposed to trauma over a long period of time? Their trauma response continues, and this unhealthy state of physical stress, with hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol coursing through the body, can lead to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) or C-PTSD (complex PTSD). The American Psychological Association notes that, “Children exposed to chronic and pervasive trauma are especially vulnerable to the impact of subsequent trauma.” (APA)

Regardless of whether the trauma response turns into a full-fledged disorder or not, the stress it causes can make a lasting impact on a child’s development.

How Trauma Affects Development

Researchers have noted that trauma in childhood can actually reduce the size of the brain cortex, which is a significant effect on a child’s physical and mental health and development.

Besser van der Kolk, who wrote the book The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, explains that, “Children’s brains are literally shaped by traumatic experiences, which can lead to problems with anger, addiction, and even criminal activity in adulthood.” In an interview with Side Effects Public Media, he explained:

“The human brain is a social organ that is shaped by experience, and that is shaped in order to respond to the experience that you’re having. So particularly earlier in life, if you’re in a constant state of terror; your brain is shaped to be on alert for danger, and to try to make those terrible feelings go away.

The brain gets very confused. And that leads to problems with excessive anger, excessive shutting down, and doing things like taking drugs to make yourself feel better. These things are almost always the result of having a brain that is set to feel in danger and fear.

As you grow up and get a more stable brain, these early traumatic events can still cause changes that make you hyper-alert to danger, and hypo-alert to the pleasures of everyday life…

If you’re an adult and life’s been good to you, and then something bad happens, that sort of injures a little piece of the whole structure. But toxic stress in childhood from abandonment or chronic violence has pervasive effects on the capacity to pay attention, to learn, to see where other people are coming from, and it really creates havoc with the whole social environment.”

As an adult who experienced childhood trauma, you may have mental health effects, including anxiety or expression, continued PTSD, substance use disorders, problems with relationships, or struggles with self-harm and suicidal ideation. Even if you do not have serious mental health problems, you may struggle with psychological issues. Psychology Today discusses four subtle but real effects of childhood trauma in adulthood:

Creating a false self that we think will be accepted (burying feelings, wearing a mask)

  1. Victimhood thinking (negative self-talk)
  2. Passive-aggressiveness (suppressed anger)
  3. Passivity (buried feelings = buried personhood)

Of course, these things can lead to problems with relationships and difficulty at work and in other areas of your adult life.

Harvard Health has reported on research conducted on adverse childhood experiences, shortened to ACEs, many of which include traumatic experiences, and these experiences have drastic effects on health, and are linked to negative outcomes in adulthood.

The bottom line is, if you have experienced childhood trauma—even if you are unaware of it—you may still be suffering from post-traumatic stress as an adult. And this stress can manifest in a number of ways: physically, mentally, and psychologically.

Child Trauma Symptoms

How can parents, caregivers, or teachers know when a child is exhibiting trauma symptoms, even if they are unaware of the trauma itself?

A child who is experiencing trauma, or has post-traumatic stress, may exhibit signs of clinginess, fear, aggression, and impulsivity, and have difficulty regulating their behavior and emotions. They may become fixated on death and/or safety. They might have trouble eating or sleeping. Other common symptoms are irritability, difficulty focusing, or separation anxiety.

While just one or two of these symptoms may be part of a normal developmental stage for a child, if you know a child who is exhibiting several of these symptoms, it may be time to find out if there is a more serious explanation.

Preventing and Responding to Childhood Trauma

Although it’s not possible to remove all risk factors for childhood trauma, we can work to create safe environments for children, and then educate responsible adults in how to respond in the best way to alleviate the aftereffects of trauma.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network says that resilience is the biggest factor in a positive outcome for childhood trauma, and the biggest factor in resilience is the presence of one consistent caregiver in the child’s life:

“Research on resilience in children demonstrates that an essential protective factor is the reliable presence of a positive, caring, and protective parent or caregiver, who can help shield children against adverse experiences. They can be a consistent resource for their children, encouraging them to talk about their experiences, and they can provide reassurance to their children that the adults in their lives are working to keep them safe.”

The American Psychological Association adds that “The majority of children and adolescents manifest resilience in the aftermath of traumatic experiences. This is especially true of single-incident exposure.”

So, in a way, it’s possible to set children up for success both before and after any traumatic events have occurred. According to the Trauma Survivors Network, the following are protective factors in a child’s life that can help them with trauma and recovery:

  • Supportive family environment
  • Nurturing parenting skills
  • Stable family relationships
  • Household rules and monitoring of the child
  • Parental employment
  • Adequate housing
  • Access to health care and social services
  • Caring adults outside family who can serve as role models or mentors
  • Communities that support parents and take responsibility for preventing abuse

In other words, a child needs a safe environment with adult support. The good news is that if you are a parent or caregiver of a child, you can be that safe person for them, a consistent presence, and you can make a big difference for that child.

What about a child who has already undergone one, or multiple traumatic experiences? There are evidence-based treatment options, including Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with a trauma focus. There is even inpatient treatment if necessary. The Gil Institute recommends trauma-focused integrated play therapy, and there is some evidence that neurofeedback can successfully treat trauma, even in children.

The bottom line is not to hesitate to get a child evaluated for professional treatment. It can make a big difference in the possibility of a positive outcome and trauma healing.

If you are an adult and you think or know that you were traumatized as a child, it’s not too late to get help. You can explore childhood trauma with a licensed counselor or therapist, and work through treatment for those issues.

Revisiting the past can be very painful, and a licensed counselor can help you walk through the process safely and compassionately. Contact our office today to take the first steps towards trauma healing for you or your child.

Resources:

  • https://www.nctsn.org/what-is-child-trauma/trauma-types
  • https://www.ecmhc.org/tutorials/trauma/mod2_3.html
  • http://lookthroughtheireyes.org/
  • https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evolution-the-self/201507/trauma-and-the-freeze-response-good-bad-or-both
  • https://www.nctsn.org/what-is-child-trauma/trauma-types/complex-trauma/effects
  • https://www.traumasurvivorsnetwork.org/traumapedias/777
  • https://www.samhsa.gov/child-trauma/recognizing-and-treating-child-traumatic-stress#types
  • https://www.kidsmentalhealthinfo.com/topics/child-trauma/effective-treatments-child-traumatic-stress/
  • http://www.gilinstitute.com/services/treatment/tfipt.php
  • http://www.istss.org/public-resources/what-is-childhood-trauma/effects-of-childhood-trauma.aspx
  • https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/past-trauma-may-haunt-your-future-health
  • https://www.addictionpolicy.org/blog/adverse-childhood-experiences-and-trauma
  • https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mindful-anger/201706/4-ways-childhood-trauma-impacts-adults
  • https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mindful-anger/201804/9-steps-healing-childhood-trauma-adult
  • https://www.apa.org/pi/families/resources/childrenz-trauma-update
  • https://www.sideeffectspublicmedia.org/post/childhood-trauma-leads-brains-wired-fear
  • https://childmind.org/article/signs-trauma-children/

Photos:
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The Hidden Hurt: Signs of Physical and Mental Abuse

The lasting effects of childhood physical and mental abuse can take their toll on adult survivors. Learning to recognize the signs of maltreatment will enable you to step in and assist a child in need. However, children are not only the only targets for abuse. Spouses and elderly parents are often victims of domestic violence.

If you are an adult survivor of abuse, there is hope. You can find treatment to help you cope with the painful memories and negative thoughts.

Signs of Physical Abuse

Although not necessarily easy to spot, physical abuse is prevalent in domestic violence cases. Abuse can take the form of physically hitting, punching, or whipping another person. Other forms include sexual abuse and neglecting or withholding the basic needs of another human being.

Common signs of physical abuse include:

  • Bruises and cuts – Unexplained wounds that the victim probably tries to hide. They may wear clothing that covers their bruises, even during the hottest days of the year.
  • Burns – Small cigarette burns or burn marks from something larger being pressed onto the victim’s skin, such as a kettle. Typically, the victim isn’t even given proper medical care for these burns, resulting in scarring.
  • Frequent sprains or broken bones – Hospitals and emergency care centers will report frequent hospital visits for sprains and broken bones if the wounds cannot
    be explained satisfactorily by the victim (or the victim’s parents or guardians).
  • Concussions – Concussions from hitting or shaking the victim. Infants shaken to control their crying may develop Shaken Baby (Impact) Syndrome, which can lead to seizures, retinal hemorrhage, coma, and death.
  • Bite marks – Bite marks are signs of abuse that show in a pattern. Other items that are used to physically abuse a victim that leave patterns include belts and flyswatters.

Neglecting a person’s basic needs is withholding or not making sure a person has housing with clean living conditions, heat during the cold winter months, food, clothing, and medical care. Neglect also includes leaving a child or elderly (or disabled) adult alone for extended periods of time.

Since children receive bruises and cuts throughout normal childhood adventures, it is critical that you view the child’s entire physical and emotional wellbeing before assuming it is child abuse. If you are in doubt, speak to a licensed professional for confirmation, such as a child’s school counselor or an elderly person’s primary physician.

Signs of Mental Abuse

Signs of mental abuse in both children and adults can be harder to pinpoint. The caregiver may not even be aware that their words and actions are abusive in nature since it is not physical abuse.

Some of the signs of mental abuse include:

  • Withholding affection until the victim does whatever they demand.
  • Isolating the victim from friends and family.
  • Calling the victim names or spiteful pet names.
  • Sarcasm or joking meant to belittle the person or their achievements, dreams, or goals.
  • Yelling and slamming things to intimidate their victim.
  • Threatening the victim or the victim’s loved ones.
  • Keeping a close eye on where their victim is if they are an adult.
  • Controlling all of their adult victim’s finances or withholding money for basic needs.
  • Treating the adult victim like a child including making and canceling plans.
  • Giving commands and expecting them to be followed without question.
  • Ignoring the victim’s attempts at conversation.
  • Gaslighting the victim by pushing their buttons and then denying one has done anything.
  • Turning others against the victim with social manipulation and relational bullying.

Abusers frequently use emotions against their victims. The victim doesn’t know how the abuser will react to anything; they may show rage, love, or indifference. This is another way emotionally abusive parents or spouses can control their victims. When the victim reacts, the abuser may tell others that the victim is crazy or mentally ill.

Children living in a mentally (or physically) abusive home may worry about going home or how their parent is going to react to certain news. This anxiety is beyond the occasional bad report card. The child may become physically ill or develop a headache with the thought of going home.

The child may have learning delays or require the services of a speech-language pathologist. Children and adults under the strain of mental abuse can develop low self-esteem and mental health conditions like depression.

The Effects of Past Abuse

The scars from past abuse are sometimes harder to bring into the light as they are hidden, sometimes deeply, within the person’s psyche.

These wounds from physically or emotionally abusive parents can result in survivors with mental health conditions or adults who are emotionally distant from loved ones.

Some of the more common effects of abuse include:

  • Anxiety – Anxious thoughts can lead to physical ailments like anxiety attacks, sudden panic attacks, high blood pressure, and gastrointestinal distress.
  • Depression – Survivors may experience bouts of deep depression, although they may be unaware of the root cause if the abuse occurred at a very early age. Some survivors develop manic-depressive states, an extreme swing between “high-highs and low-lows.”
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – PTSD can occur in both children and adults. The disorder dredges up the victim’s memories and feelings about the traumatic event with intrusive dreams/nightmares and thoughts. PTSD can also create hallucinatory visions.
  • Trust issues – A victim may not be able to lend trust freely after abuse, especially if the abusive relationship was long term. They may be afraid they are going to lose the love or approval of people, and therefore, appear emotionally distant.
  • Self-destructive behaviors – Eating disorders, self-harm behaviors like cutting or burning, and living a high risk-taking lifestyle are self-destructive behaviors created to numb the pain of the trauma. These survivors are not thriving but trying to control the only thing they can – their bodies.
  • Suicidal thoughts – A survivor may find negative thoughts too much to endure. If you or someone you love is having suicidal thoughts, seek help from a mental health professional or faith-based counselor immediately. Hope and healing are possible.

Often, a survivor of abuse is trying to figure out how to cope with past trauma while moving forward with their life. Talk therapy (also referred to as psychotherapy) and other techniques can help to replace those intrusive memories and beliefs with constructive and positive emotions.

Treatment for Physical and Mental Abuse

Children removed from an abusive relationship can heal from the trauma. A licensed therapist can assist the child through play therapy, art therapy, family therapy, and (depending on the age) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is commonly used with children and adults for a variety of mental health conditions. It is extremely beneficial for survivors dealing with PTSD. The therapy helps to identify the thoughts, memories, and emotions related to the event. Then the patient learns techniques on how to reframe the event and replace those negative thoughts, thus changing the emotions.

When they change how they feel about the memories, their behavior will also change. This can help reverse some of the self-destructive behaviors such as an eating disorder.

Talk therapy is effective in one-on-one sessions with a therapist or in a group therapy setting. These group or family sessions can be held at the therapist’s private office or in a facility. Some facilities offer faith-based counseling services that combine professional mental health resources with the Christian faith. These treatments focus on the healing of the mind and spirit after the trauma.

In these settings, the survivor will learn how to rely on God and prayer as well as psychological techniques to overcome the negative thoughts and memories. Depending on the specific circumstance, the patient’s treatment may focus on forgiveness and grace, not only for the abuser but for the victim.

As a survivor learns how to overcome and move on from a childhood of abuse or adult relationship maltreatment, they will realize that not only will they survive what happened to them in the past, but they will thrive. Although their hurts are hidden many times from the outside world, a victim of abuse should never feel alone. Help is only a phone call away.

Photos:
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Looking for Love: How to Overcome Emotional Affairs

Have you ever heard of the phrase, “Looking for love in all the wrong places”? It’s a phrase we throw around to our peers when we casually talk about a hopeless romantic who may be searching for love in areas where they will not find true love, such as emotional affairs. This idea of true love is what many are searching for.

Think about the following: fame, fortune, popularity, success, power, family, and so forth. Why do we want all these things? We want them because we want to be loved. Maybe we won’t admit it but at the end of the day, we work hard because we are searching for that endless love. There are some interesting proverbs in the Bible that support this.

What a person desires is unfailing love; better to be poor than a liar. – Proverbs 19:22

Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find? – Proverbs 20:6

Unfailing love is what we all want right? That comfort of knowing that your partner or loved one wants to prioritize you and to hold you dearly. We look forward to that warmth and affection with our partners because it makes us feel so special. I remember the first few dates I went with my wife Nicole how easily I had butterflies in my stomach. I couldn’t help it.

My emotions and thoughts just overwhelmed me with this notion that I wanted to be with Nicole and no one else. Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, birthdays, vacations, holidays are all special because we cherish these moments with those we genuinely love.

The flip side to that coin also is that we want a partner who is willing to be tried and true with us. Forgiving one another, being patient, understanding, supplying encouragement and support are all aspects of when things aren’t as blissful. We prefer that our partners work with us during challenging times and not give up on us when we royally mess it up.

So good or bad, we want true love that overrides all situations. Those two proverbs aren’t there by accident. They are there to provide insight into how we think and to bring to the forefront what our mission is. Our mission isn’t to be right, or to amass wealth, or to be famous. The goal is to find the cherished love that is so evasive at times. The question is how are we searching for this love?

2021 will be a year of growth for many of us and I’d dare say that growing in our relationships is a very top priority for many of us. 2020 brought hurt and discouragement for many of us also. Addiction grew, domestic violence went up, many betrayals surfaced because the pandemic of COVID-19 exposed our true natures.

One of those exposures may have been emotional affairs. Some may have caught their partners watching pornography on the internet. Others could have wondered why their finances were disappearing and still others may have been that substance abuse was uncovered. However, emotional affairs may explain why you are reading this article.

Maybe you were the partner that was affected by a spouse who connected with someone online in an inappropriate way. Maybe your partner has a bad habit of being flirtatious with the opposite gender with certain staff at a certain establishment which pains you to see. Despite bringing it up you may get accused of overreacting.

Another possibility is that maybe you or someone who is in an emotional affair and you’re wondering if you’ve gone too far. This article interested you because you are at a crossroads in your relationship, and you may have ventured out of the boundaries in an emotional relationship and now you are contemplating on what you are going to do.

Lastly, you could be a friend of someone who is either a victim or a perpetrator and you want to help them out. I applaud you along with our readers for your noble heart to research and understand ways to help your friends potentially stay together for the long haul. Not sure where you are at in this, but you’ve come to the right place to get some extra resources that can help them lovingly and spiritually.

What’s Wrong with Emotional Affairs?

Why are emotional affairs wrong? I want to tackle this first because some may say “there’s nothing physical so what’s the issue?” Indeed, an emotional relationship may not include any physical involvement but there’s a reason it hurts our partners. When we enter a relationship, we may not show our deal-breakers upfront. So, some partners may think they can enjoy their relationship if there’s nothing physical with someone else.

It’s kind of a taboo thing but nothing that could have enough substance to become a deal-breaker. We may point out that the Bible says that the only three ways out of a marriage are death, adultery, or abandonment. As an evangelist in my church, I can agree with that. However, emotional affairs cause major disruption in your marriage.

Think about it this way, would you want someone to be with you at the altar ready to say, “I do” only to hear them state that they will only be faithful to you “99% of the time”? No one would accept that. We want our partners to genuinely love us 100% of the time. It would be insulting to have dinner with your spouse only for them to be daydreaming of some crush they have.

Emotional relationships are a matter of the heart and that’s what needs to be addressed. Jesus calls this out as “matters of the heart”:

For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person. Mark 7:21-23

Jesus is calling out these physical issues, but he is addressing them from the perspective of the heart. Usually, perpetrators of emotional relationships state that they were reacting to someone else flirting or making advances. The perpetrator needs to understand that those boundaries aren’t to be crossed because something that has no strong boundary needs to be questioned.

We have doors in our home, locks on our windows, alarms for our cars, codes, and passwords to our computers for what reason? It’s to protect what we cherish. We protect what we love. If the boundaries are off, then we invite danger to our most intimate places and Jesus takes the ax to the root by saying that we need to look at our heart.

Adultery doesn’t just happen, it evolves, and these scriptures point out that it started within us. It could be why in the gospel it says that the most important commandment is to love our Lord with all our Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength. God wants all of us. He doesn’t accept partial love.

That expectation makes sense to me because I don’t want my wife to be thinking of some guy who flirted with her at the supermarket earlier that day. If we are having dinner, I want her to be present with me. We all want that. Should that situation arise, my wife has some great women in her life with whom she can be open about that temptation. She can seek input from women who will follow up with her and pray to God for her to be victorious in that area of her life.

The same thing goes for me. If I am tempted, I can call a brother in Christ who can listen and provide me with input so that I can tackle this from the beginning instead of it running ramped in my heart. Remember that these expectations are supposed to be high because we are searching for unfailing love. Our partners deserve to have us be present with them in mind, body, and soul.

Tips for Overcoming Emotional Infidelity

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a solid approach for confronting emotional affairs. A foundational core principle of CBT is that it helps us understand the relationship between our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Anyone who is either a victim or perpetrator of emotional affairs should seek professional help to confront this at once to salvage their relationship.

A trained Cognitive Behavioral Therapist can validate your struggles from the start because they want to listen to your story without judgment. Does this mean that the perpetrator can be validated as well? Absolutely. As professionals, we are not here to take sides. Our goal is to provide you with tools to discover what is going on and work together to move forward in healthier ways.

Most Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) are trained in some form or fashion to provide CBT because it is one of the most widely used approaches for therapy. One of the main reasons it is widely used and accepted is because it deals with problems from the inside and out. Adultery is physical which means in CBT language that it can be labeled as an action.

But how would you go about an emotional affair? Can people just sweep it under the rug? Not with CBT. It can be classified as an emotional issue. The therapist would not just focus on emotions but would help the client process their thoughts behind their emotions and what actions they took.

With CBT it all works together. Not one part is left out. Interestingly, the gospels say that if we are to love the Lord then we need to do it all with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. There is no shortcutting this process.

This approach is excellent for those who have been hurt by emotional infidelity because they feel the pain of being betrayed. They can explore those feelings and realize past trauma tied into the current hurt. The process continues as to what they are thinking and possible actions they can take to empower themselves. This is one of many possible approaches but in my work with hundreds of clients, I can’t think of a better approach.

Here are some tips to overcome emotional affairs based on the CBT approach that would include Thoughts, Emotions, Actions (T.E.A.) dialogue:

Thoughts

What thoughts are we processing? This is crucial to start with because so many times we rush to the evidence (phone, internet, talks, etc.) Once an emotional affair has been discovered, we need to ask both partners what they are thinking. One may think that the relationship is over. But is that true? Many people have different emotions, and they stem from what we think.

We don’t condone the affair, but we must try to listen to what our thought process was like to get to the root, recalling Jesus’ words to focus on the heart. The injured party should also voice insecurities, betrayal, shame, embarrassment, etc. The party who was emotionally unfaithful should be a great listener and confirm their partner’s thought process as well.

Remember this rule, if you do something or feel something, you must have thought of it beforehand. Unfaithfulness of any kind is not to be dismissed as a reaction incident. The mind played a role all along.

Emotions

What are we both feeling? What goes on inside of us internally is something to be appreciated. We love romance, zeal, and passion. Those same emotions can but in two ways because someone who is charismatic could also be a big-time flirt. So, we need to address our emotions and validate them further recognizing that emotions are tools and not weapons.

Validation by all parties, the partners, support, and the therapist are crucial. There is no such thing as crazy emotions. The betrayer should allow ample time for the hurting individual to gather their emotions and join in their mourning. This can be a painstaking process but one that leads to success more times than not.

Actions

The whole story must be told. This may sound unfair to the one who is betrayed but it is paramount that both spouses share their entire story of what happened without judgment. We don’t need to be sentimental with the party who committed the infidelity, but we need to understand what is going on in their hearts.

Sharing your story will cause discomfort but it will help the healing process the more times you share it. Get help and support. You don’t need to tell the world but view it as an opportunity to empower yourself. Recommit yourselves to one another, set up boundaries, and have weekly accountable times with your support system.

In conclusion, I want to say that no flaw is fatal. People who either commit emotional affairs or are betrayed by them can still recover and do well. We can make some terrible mistakes, but the grace of Jesus helps us during those crucial times. These are hurtful times but if we seek help and support there’s no telling of what incredible progress we can make as couples.

Photos:
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How to Deal with Rejection

Most of us can agree that rejection is painful. Whether rejected by a potential spouse, a loved one, or a career maker, the ego takes a hit. Sometimes it is difficult to move past the hurt and carry on with life as we know it. But life does go on, and we can learn how to deal with rejection in a healthy manner that will propel us forward into our future.

How to Deal with Rejection

Some people can experience a painful rejection and yet find it in themselves to regroup and try again to reach their goal. However, others have trouble once rejection has taken root, especially if they have heard the word “no” constantly. Why are some people resilient after rejection and others are not?

Resilience after a rejection is not a trait only some people are blessed with. Dealing with rejection is a behavior that you can learn. It is how you identify and analyze your thoughts and emotions after rejection. It is learning how to use that hurt to mold and create your purpose by shifting your perspective.

Learning how to deal with rejection is not easy. Being slighted by someone stings and according to studies using MRI scans, the brain responds similarly to physical pain and the pain from rejection. Unfortunately, with social media only a swipe away, more and more people are experiencing rejection on a frequent basis, but there are things you can do to help build your resiliency and bounce back to reach your goals.

Remember Who You Are

When the world rejects you, it’s easy to forget who you are and whose you are. Jesus said, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19). No one wants to be hated, disliked, snubbed, or rejected. Yet, Jesus prepared us for how the world reacts to people.

Most of the time, it’s not that people are meaning to slight you. It may be that they are in a hurry or have important matters on their mind and simply forgot to speak or acknowledge your presence. They may feel overwhelmed at work and take a quick break to scroll social media and inadvertently skip “liking” your post. Or, perhaps they are trying to manage all the small details for a social gathering and forget to personally invite you.

Of course, there are situations where you are outright rejected – a potential spouse or clique at school or work. This is the time that you need to remember that God created you and loves you just as you are. You don’t have to prove your worth to Him. You are already a part of His eternal kingdom. “And this is the promise that He has promised us – eternal life.” (1 John 2:25).

In Him, you are whole, eternal, and perfected in every way. It doesn’t really matter what other people think. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.” (John 15:18).

Give Yourself Grace

Rejection is hard enough without the inner voice chiming in and over-analyzing situations. We can tear apart a conversation or something as simple as a look from across a room. The thoughts that form can take on an ugly personality – attacking with negative self-talk. Some of this inner voice originated when we were children through experiences that left an imprint.

More of the inner voice stems from adult experiences that seem to confirm what the childhood inner voice already demands. Have you heard any of these thoughts from your inner voice?

  • You can’t please them because you will never be good enough.
  • No one will ever love you.
  • You’re not meant to do great things.
  • No matter how hard you try, people will never like you.
  • You’re not smart/pretty/clever/wealthy/talented enough.
  • Why even try? You will only fail.

These are harsh statements living in your head and it’s time to put a stop to them. It’s time to give yourself grace. Why should we listen to that negative inner voice say things to us that we would never say to another human being? Even if these are comments you heard from someone in your past that doesn’t mean you have to talk to yourself that way now. Don’t believe these lies. Be kind to yourself.

It’s Okay to Feel the Pain

Keeping the pain from rejection bottled up inside however is unhealthy and can lead to other long-term problems. You can feel the hurt, just don’t get lost in it. You don’t want the emotions to override your controlled behavior. Under the initial sadness, anger, or resentment of rejection is the hurt that needs to be addressed.

In some people, especially those who have faced rejection multiple times, the pain is too much. These people feel the pain, but they can’t seem to separate themselves from the hurt. This can lead to anxiety and depression.

If you think you are having trouble moving past rejection, consider seeking help from a professional therapist. Using a combination of talk therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a therapist can teach you techniques to move past the pain and shift your perspective.

Feeling the pain can bolster you to higher goals. Celebrities, business executives, CEOs, among others have told stories of being rejected only to reemerge stronger than before. The rejection was actually a blessing and opportunity in disguise. However, these successful people would never have realized that if they hadn’t first embraced the rejection and acknowledged the hurt.

Avoid Dwelling on the Situation

As we recall the painful scenario, we tend to dwell on the pain which gives permission for the inner voice to give its opinion. Slowly we chip away at our own self-confidence. We begin to doubt our ability, talent, skills, worth, appearance, and other things that are important to us. We become our own worst enemy. We manage to twist the truth to fit into new belief molds that are not necessarily true.

Allowing a situation to take the forefront in your mind can also exacerbate the pain and emotions toward the person or people involved. Anger, bitterness, and resentment can grow exponentially. The problem with allowing these emotions to grow is that they end up hurting you.

You are probably not in a place where you can readily forgive the other person just yet for hurting you but holding onto the pain only keeps you from moving forward. “Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath.” (Ephesians 4:26). As a child of God, you have more important things to think about.

When Your Hurt Can Help Others

Not all rejection is personal. Yet, rejection can also serve a purpose in God’s plan for your life. Consider the heroes from the Bible. For example, Moses was rejected by his Hebrew brethren which led to his running away until God called him to return to help His people. Joseph was rejected by his brothers and falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife until God moved him into a position that others may not have thought he was worthy to hold.

The rejection you recently faced may have a purpose to it that you aren’t aware of yet. Sometimes in order to get our attention or to steer us back on track, God will use rejection. Ask Him what the purpose of this hurt is and to reveal your purpose.

As seen countless times in the Bible, God doesn’t use someone for something great without first testing them thoroughly. Perhaps what seems like rejection is really part of a test to make you stronger, more resilient, and better prepared for the future.

Your story could one day inspire another person, maybe the entire world. If you need help dealing with the rejection so you can get back to fulfilling your purpose, seek help from a Christian counselor who can point you not only to techniques that work but also to biblical truth about yourself as someone God created in His own image.

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Emotional Withdrawal Symptoms and How to Recover

Do you feel like taking a step back when things get tough in your life? If so, you may be using emotional withdrawal as a defense. This is a common situation, but it can lead to other problems if not addressed.

Withdrawal is a coping mechanism for pain. It’s a self-protective measure a person uses to keep from getting hurt again. However, when withdrawal is used over long periods or repeated, it can cause further relational decay.

Reasons for Withdrawal

The reasons for withdrawing can be myriad in number. They can be due to either real or perceived threats to one’s mental, physical, or emotional safety. Here are several common examples of why people may withdraw.

  • A boy is bullied at school and withdraws from all social contact with peers.
  • A young girl is sexually abused by an uncle and withdraws from all males in her family.
  • A wife withdraws from her husband after he has an affair with a coworker.
  • A young woman experiences spiritual abuse at church and refuses to attend organized services again.
  • A man is treated poorly by his boss and withdraws from social contact with other coworkers.
  • A divorced father withdraws from his children.
  • An elderly mother refuses to see her adult children.

Shame is often a root of withdrawal. In each example above, the people may partially blame themselves for the mistreatment they received. They may even feel like they deserve poor treatment, due to a damaged self-image. Shame can hold us down and keep us from living the life God intended for us to live.

Real guilt may also be involved in withdrawal situations. While shame is attached to false guilt, real guilt is attached to something we did to hurt others. The divorced father may feel guilty for turning his children’s lives upside down. The elderly mother may feel guilty for prioritizing her career over her children when they were young.

Anger is often a reason for withdrawal. The bullied boy is understandably angry at the bully. Likewise, it’s reasonable for the wife to be angry about her husband’s affair, and the teen girl to be angry over the breakup. Anger is a normal, even healthy, reaction to unwanted changes. But when it is not handled properly, it can cause a person to withdraw.

Fear can be attached to reasons for withdrawal. Many people who withdraw live in dread of getting hurt so badly again. Though the real threat of danger may have passed, the trauma from the original incident runs deep. The fear of getting hurt again can drive the urge to withdraw.

No matter the reason for your withdrawal, a caring Christian counselor can help you deal with it. In many cases, talk therapy is highly effective for handling withdrawal and moving toward healing. Your counselor will be able to help identify the reason for your withdrawal and get you past it.

Signs of Withdrawal

The signs of withdrawal run parallel to the signs for the underlying feelings of shame, guilt, anger, and fear. Here are some signs you may notice if you are withdrawing from others.

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • One-word answers
  • Silent treatment
  • Leaving the room when someone enters
  • Fear of returning to where the original incidents occurred
  • Spending much more time alone than usual
  • Not responding to texts, emails or calls

Withdrawal can lead to intense loneliness, and untended loneliness can lead to depression, which can have major risks. These are the signs of depression to watch for:

  • Bouts of tearfulness
  • Feelings of inappropriate or excessive guilt
  • Irritation or uncharacteristically short temper
  • Lack of concentration
  • Loss of energy even with normal daily activities
  • Loss of pleasure or interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Memory problems
  • Negative impact on work
  • No longer attending normal social engagements
  • Restlessness or pacing
  • Significant increase or decrease in appetite
  • Sleeping too much or experiencing insomnia
  • Slow movements or slowed, quiet speech
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Recurring thoughts about death, dying, and suicide

If you have at least three of these symptoms for more than two weeks in a row, it’s important to meet with a counselor. In counseling, you’ll receive the help you need to overcome your depression and start connecting with safe people again.

Emotional Withdrawal Symptoms

Emotional withdrawal symptoms can last for a few weeks after a trigger incident. If not handled right away, these symptoms can persist for months or even years. You need help to deal with these symptoms, so they don’t exact a heavy toll on your physical and mental well-being.

If you’ve had any of the following symptoms for more than two weeks in a row, it’s time to get help.

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Intense loneliness
  • Irrational fears
  • Not leaving your home

No one can successfully navigate these problems on their own. We can help you discover the roots of your withdrawal so you can eliminate these symptoms. If you are not making progress on your own, a consultation with a professional can give you a new perspective plus practical tips for recovering.

Recovering from Emotional Withdrawal

To recover from emotional withdrawal, you not only need to deal with the roots of the problem but find new ways of relating to others. A counselor can help you find the solutions, plus role-play improved relationship dynamics. Let’s look at the examples above to see how these people were able to move past withdrawal.

  • The boy who was bullied gains some boundary-setting skills with his counselor. He learns to view his classmates as not “all bad” any longer. By taking a few calculated risks, practiced with his counselor, he connects with one child in the class and begins building a friendship.
  • As the young girl receives counseling, she learns to grieve her losses and heal from the trauma. Her counselor helps her see that while her uncle made very poor choices that hurt her, other males in her family have been consistently loving and kind. She begins taking baby steps toward a closer relationship with her father.
  • The wife attends her own counseling sessions in addition to marriage counseling sessions with her husband. As they work to repair and restore their marriage, the wife works on her own tendency to use the silent treatment when she’s hurting. By overcoming that relationship problem, she learns to stay connected to her husband even when they experience conflict.
  • The young woman who was spiritually abused walks through the grieving process with her counselor. In her counseling sessions, she learns what personality traits attracted her to the abusive church, and how to overcome those weaknesses. She begins testing out other churches with her friends, not committing to any but keeping her eyes open.
  • Through counseling, the man decides he needs to quit this job, mourn the losses, and build up his emotional strength to start a new job. When he finds a new job, he’s better prepared to build connections with coworkers from the start.
  • The divorced father deals with his guilt and shame in the counselor’s office. There, he discovers that he still has great worth in God’s eyes and finds the courage to rebuild the relationships with his children.
  • The elderly mother talks with a counselor about her past. Though she cannot go back and change anything that happened, she learns that a sincere apology goes a long way toward building bridges. She practices that conversation with her counselor and hopes that her later years will be the best ones yet.

If you are suffering from emotional withdrawal, you can find the same hope and healing as in the examples above. A compassionate Christian counselor is waiting to help. Give us a call today at Seattle Christian Counseling to set up a meeting.

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Overcoming Social Anxiety

Many people struggle with the fear of public speaking or performance anxiety in public. But when this fear becomes pervasive and drives you to avoid even neutral, everyday social situations, you may be suffering from Social Anxiety Disorder, otherwise known as SAD or social phobia.

SAD is the official psychological diagnosis for social anxiety so intense that it disrupts your daily life and functioning. Not everyone with social anxiety has a mental health disorder, but whether or not your anxiety has prevented you from functioning, it has probably caused you significant distress.

The DSM-IV defines social phobia as: “A marked and persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others. The individual fears that he or she will act in a way (or show anxiety symptoms) that will be humiliating or embarrassing” (APA, 1994, p. 416).

According to experts, “the distinctive characteristic of individuals with social phobia is fear of scrutiny by others.”

In 2013, the DSM-V was published, with this updated characteristic of Social Anxiety Disorder: it lasts for six months or more. At that point, it qualifies for diagnosis as a disorder.

Social anxiety is a common fear, affecting around 7% of Americans (and up to 12% will experience it at some point during their lifetime). But just because it is relatively common doesn’t make it less isolating. When you struggle with social anxiety, you might think no one else feels this way, and this sense of isolation can increase your anxiety.

If you have a social phobia, you’re aware of your anxiety and how it interferes with your functioning, but you might feel powerless to stop your physiological symptoms when you are in a given social setting. Your fear of physical symptoms can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, causing more involuntary physical symptoms.

Sometimes this condition may seem to go away for awhile, but it flares up under stress, or when it’s no longer possible to avoid a triggering situation. If that is the case, you may think you don’t need to seek treatment for the anxiety, but fast forward several months or a few years. You’re going through a lot of life stressors, and suddenly you find that your social anxiety has driven you to avoidance and you’ve become isolated.

This situation can wreak havoc on your mental health, so it’s important to seek social anxiety therapy as soon as possible so the anxiety doesn’t become unmanageable. Keep reading to learn some of the most common signs of Social Anxiety Disorder, and to find out what you can do for social anxiety treatment if you think you may suffer from this mental health condition.Symptoms and Signs of Social Anxiety

As mentioned above, adults with social anxiety are usually aware that their level of fear in social situations is unusually high. This awareness doesn’t make the problem go away, though. And, even if you’re aware of your fear, you might not recognize all of the symptoms.

Here are some of the most common signs of SAD:

Emotional and Behavioral Symptoms

According to Mayo Clinic, these symptoms include:

  • Fear of being judged in social situations.
  • Fear of having to talk to or interact with strangers.
  • Fear of embarrassing yourself in public or around other people.
  • Avoidance of the situations you fear.
  • Avoidance of talking to people.
  • Overanalyzing your performance after a social situation.

Physical Symptoms

Mayo Clinic also describes the physical symptoms that accompany social anxiety:

  • Blushing
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Breathlessness
  • Upset stomach

If you suffer from social anxiety, you know that these physical symptoms make it more difficult to successfully navigate social situations, which in turn makes your fear worse. That’s why having social phobia can make you feel trapped. Facing your fears means having to go through those symptoms again, and that can make it seem like overcoming your anxiety is impossible.

Causes

Experts aren’t completely sure what leads to the development of social phobias. Some studies have suggested that genetics play a role, or that your environment may have something to do with it. For example, if one or both of your parents were anxious in social situations, you may have inadvertently internalized this anxiety, and then it manifested in you as you got older.

Or maybe you grew up with parents who were controlling or overprotective. If children are not allowed to naturally develop independence, they may internalize the message that they are not capable of successfully navigating the world on their own. If children are overly dependent due to being overly protected, they may develop social anxiety because they don’t have the necessary skills to navigate social situations – or they just don’t have the confidence.

This isn’t to say that parents are to blame when a child or teenager develops social anxiety; in some cases, it may just be that their personality makes them naturally shy and withdrawing, and then their social anxiety was triggered by an embarrassing or stressful situation (or a series of them).

Someone who has a lot of risk factors or is temperamentally prone to developing social anxiety may be triggered by an event or series of events, or new demands placed upon them, and find themselves with Social Anxiety Disorder.

Studies have also found a link between an overactive amygdala, which is the fear center of the brain, and social anxiety. And, we know that social anxiety often presents along with other anxiety disorders, major depressive disorder, or substance use.

Therapy Options

Regardless of the root cause of your phobia, or your specific symptoms, social anxiety can be distressing and debilitating. It strongly impacts daily life and functioning, making it difficult to have a successful career and social life. The more you experience fear, the more you avoid situations that provoke your fear, and the more fearful you become.

The sooner you seek social anxiety treatment, the better. If you catch it early, you have a much better chance of overcoming social anxiety than if you have given it years to become cemented in your brain. However, even if you have suffered from this condition for many years, there is still hope for overcoming social anxiety. Here are some social anxiety therapy options.

Journaling

This first suggestion is one you can try right now, even before you are able to get an appointment with a professional. When it comes to any form of anxiety, writing can be an incredibly effective and free form of therapy. This is not to say that journaling should be used as a substitute for professional help, but you can use it in conjunction with other forms of therapy.

Expressive or therapeutic writing is connected to better mental and physical health, and it has even been shown to lower social anxiety levels over time in subjects who wrote about a stressful public speaking event.

If you want to try journaling, try setting a timer and writing for five minutes, then examine what you wrote and try to write about it from a different perspective. You can also write down a simple step to take to improve your situation.

When you can write down what you’re struggling with, reframe it from a different perspective, and imagine a possibility for handling it, this process can help your brain deal with your fears and begin to take a step towards overcoming your challenges.

Learning Healthy Coping Strategies

When you are struggling with this issue, learning some techniques for coping can make a big difference in your daily functioning. A counselor can help you learn specific techniques and make a plan for implementing them in your everyday life.

A few of the coping strategies you can try include:

  • Naming your anxiety
  • Recognizing that it’s irrational
  • Practicing deep breathing
  • Focusing on what you can notice with your senses (colors, textures, objects in the room)
  • Accepting your discomfort

These strategies may not be possible to implement immediately, but they are something to work toward, especially with a therapist.

Christian Counseling for Social Anxiety

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, also known as CBT, can include exposure therapy, in which your counselor helps you face the situations you fear. Your counselor can help you set specific goals for each time you are exposed to a situation you fear – for example, trying to talk to one new person at a social event.

Medication is sometimes prescribed for social anxiety, but it depends on whether your anxiety is generalized or not.

Social anxiety can feel paralyzing, but you don’t have to let it take over your life. Treatment for this condition is very effective and can start you on the journey toward overcoming your struggles today. Christian counseling provides a safe setting for you to discuss your challenges in a judgment-free and compassionate atmosphere.

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What is the Christian Perspective on the Law of Attraction?

Ever since the publication of the 2006 book The Secret and the 2007 movie of the same name, the law of attraction has circulated in our pop culture vernacular. Oprah Winfrey, Jim Carrey, and other celebrities are adherents of this movement. You might not even realize the roots of the movement, but maybe you’ve heard people talking about positive vibes, manifesting what you want, and other similar buzzwords or phrases.

If you’re interested in self-help or self-development, you might have noticed popular social media figures promoting law of attraction concepts. For example, YouTuber Lavendaire, who has a million subscribers, wrote this on her blog:

All realities begin in the mind: your beliefs become thoughts, thoughts become words, words become actions, and actions become reality. As you take action towards your dream, the universe will conspire to help you achieve it.

What exactly is this philosophy? Where does it come from? Is it compatible with a Christian worldview? Let’s talk about the background of the law of attraction and compare it with Scripture, and consider how we as Christians can think about this philosophy.

What is the Law of Attraction (LOA)?

The law of attraction is based on the New Thought movement, which began in the early 1800s in the United States under the teachings of Phineas Quimby. Quimby believed in mind healing and practiced hypnotism. Throughout the 1800s, Quimby’s ideas gained popularity, and in the early 1900s, the New Thought Alliance was formed, based on the idea that your mind creates your reality.

In 2006, Australian author Rhonda Byrne published the book and created the documentary called The Secret, and these ideas subsequently went viral. Dr. Neil Farber, writing for Psychology Today, summarizes the law of attraction:

The law of attraction (LOA) is the belief that the universe creates and provides for you that which your thoughts are focused on. It is believed by many to be a universal law by which ‘Like always attracts like.’ The results of positive thoughts are always positive consequences. The same holds true for negative thoughts, always leading to bad outcomes.

In other words, you focus on your desired outcome, and the universe will give you what you want. Your thoughts become your reality, and even more so, your feelings become your reality. The more you focus on health and prosperity, the more healthy and prosperous you’ll become. The more you focus on sickness, negativity, and poverty, the more sick and unhealthy you’ll become.

Of course, this concept is attractive! It offers us a sense of control. Who wouldn’t want to be healthy and wealthy? But is this belief based on science and evidence, or is it pseudoscience? And more importantly, does this concept align with Scripture, or is it based solely on humanistic or New Age teachings?

LOA ideas include many concepts you may have heard in passing, including visualization, positive vibes, manifesting, mind over body, source energy, and more. This article will address some of those specific concepts and compare them to the truth of Scripture.

The LOA sucks people in by convincing them that they can receive their truest desires if they:

  •     Believe hard enough,
  •     Visualize clearly enough,
  •     Put out enough positive energy,

These ideas hold a kernel of truth. Positive thinking can, to a certain extent, improve your mental and physical health. Optimism is one key to resilience. Treating other people well and being a happy, upbeat person tends to have a ripple effect on those around you. In the book of Proverbs, we often see that wisdom is its own reward (e.g. Proverbs 8:18, 9:12, 22:4).

However, LOA ideas represent a perversion of these truths. You can’t trust the universe to bless you just because you’re putting out positive vibes. Indeed, because the universe is a created thing, it has no power at all to either bless or to curse – that power belongs to God, alone. In the end, this belief is just another futile attempt to manifest happiness and prosperity through one’s own efforts.

Criticism of the LOA

Scientists, psychologists, and other experts claim the law of attraction is pseudoscience, yet its ideas are still wildly popular and gaining traction. Writing for How Stuff Works, Nathan Chandler says:

But Byrne’s ‘secret’ is not really a secret. For centuries, both philosophers and con men have leveraged the LOA and its ilk both to buoy the spirits of the downtrodden and in some cases bilk vulnerable targets out of their cash.

Certain aspects of positive thinking can create a self-fulfilling prophecy. You decide to be positive, so your happiness attracts people to you, leading to improved relationships, career progress, etc.

Ultimately though, the law of attraction requires belief in order to “know” if it works or not, which is why it can suck you in. You place your faith in attracting positivity, but you have to be fully invested – mentally and emotionally – to see if it “works” for you.

And if it doesn’t work? Well, instead of acknowledging their ideology is false, LOA proponents will claim that you didn’t put out enough positive vibes:

If you are focused on the belief ‘The Law of Attraction isn’t working for me’ then you dramatically increase the chances that the Law of Attraction won’t work. This is because you are focused on the concept of lack, which attracts yet more lack into your life.Katherine Hurst

The Bible and the Secret Law of Attraction

Let’s compare some of the most popular concepts from the law of attraction with relevant Scripture passages:

Cognitive reframing and creative visualization.

The law of attraction requires that you reframe your thoughts from negative to positive, and visualize what you want to achieve. There is a scientific basis for visualizing an action before performing it, and how that makes you more likely to succeed. This is different from visualizing yourself winning the lottery, however.

The Bible teaches us to reframe our thoughts according to God’s Word (Romans 12:1-2). It also teaches us that we can trust and rely on God to take care of us (Proverbs 3:5). We don’t have to rely on putting out the right energy into the universe. The Bible tells us that God wants us to rely on Him, and He will work all things together for our good (Romans 8:28).

Positive vs. negative and like attracts like.

Again, there is a kernel of truth here. Science shows us that positivity improves mental and physical health. Common sense tells us that happy, healthy people tend to have more stable and functional lives.

But this doesn’t mean that your mind creates your reality. While God’s word teaches us to set our minds on things above (Colossians 3:2) and that we will reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7), it also teaches us that we’ll have trouble in this world (John 16:33) and that we must overcome evil with good (Romans 12:1).

Mind over body.

LOA proponents teach that you can overcome sickness and poverty, etc. if you let your mind conquer your body. But God’s Word teaches that he is the Creator, who is sovereign over his creation (Colossians 1:16).

If you’ve ever had the stomach flu, you know that all the positive thinking in the world isn’t going to get you out of it. You can’t manifest a cure for cancer (or coronavirus). Instead, we must turn to God the Creator and trust him in both good times and bad.

Source energy.

We don’t all come from the source energy of the universe, as The Secret Claims. We were made by God, and he is a being whom it is possible to know.

Manifesting.

Some adherents of the Law of Attraction claim Bible verses to support their beliefs (e.g., “with God all things are possible”). The prosperity gospel and Word of Faith movements teach similar concepts: if you believe in God’s Word, you will have a good life with many blessings; if you “speak truth” from God’s Word, you will attain material benefits and wealth.

The Secret claims that we are all divine and have one consciousness. If we just tap into the source energy, meditate, and put out positive vibrations, we will attract wealth and happiness.

These concepts are not in line with Scripture or science. They provide a false sense of control, as well as the temporary benefits that you can derive from optimism and healthy positivity. The shreds of truth can suck you in. We don’t manifest our reality. We simply take action, as human beings whom God created.

The law of attraction is not the same as the Bible. Here’s what Christians should do instead to improve our lives: live by faith, walk in obedience, and trust God. God is pleased by our childlike faith, rather than our hope that the universe will manifest wealth for us.

If you are struggling with hope and want to experience the mental health benefits of optimism and positivity, grounded in a biblical worldview, don’t hesitate to contact our office to set up your first appointment for Christian counseling.

Resources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-blame-game/201609/the-truth-about-the-law-attraction

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/boundless/201706/the-law-attraction

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_attraction_(New_Thought)

https://www.britannica.com/event/New-Thought

https://people.howstuffworks.com/law-of-attraction.htm

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-science-of-visualizat_b_171340

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The Grieving Process: Reaching Acceptance in the Midst of Grief

There is great freedom in reaching acceptance. But it does not come without a cost. Typically, you must go through a grieving process to reach acceptance. Going through this journey can be difficult, but the rewards outweigh the costs.

The Stages of Grief

There are five well-known stages of grief, and acceptance is the last one. To reach acceptance, you will go through the other steps of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression first, though grief does not always run in a straight line through these stages. You may jump back and forth between them (and some may not occur at all) before finally reaching acceptance.

Grief is not always related to physical death. It can be the death of a dream or the death of a life stage that you enjoyed. A new mother of a special needs baby may need to give up dreams for her child and the future she expected.

A recently retired man may need to grieve the loss of his livelihood and sense of identity. Both people will need to go through the stages of grief to reach acceptance in their new situations. When they take on that challenge, they can be greatly blessed on the other side.

An Example of Reaching Acceptance in the Grieving Process

Let’s look at an example of how the grieving process might play out in one woman’s life. Diane and Paul are recent empty nesters. They have raised three children together. Paul has spent the last ten years in a recovery program, overcoming his alcohol addiction that affected most of their 30-year marriage. They are looking forward to celebrating a new, happier future together.

However, Paul’s decades of drinking took a toll on his internal organs. Only two years into their empty nest journey of traveling and enjoying time with friends, Paul is diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer. He chooses to be put on hospice care rather than endure chemotherapy and radiation. After three months of hospice, Paul passes away, and Diane is left a grieving widow.

Two months after the funeral, everyone has gone back to their regular lives, except Diane. She has felt numb, telling everyone she is fine. But her anger at the slightest provocations, as when she is driving, shocks her. Diane feels withdrawn, sullen, and miserable. Finally, she reaches out for help at church. Her pastor suggests that she meet with a Christian counselor to deal with her grief.

Diane’s counselor helps her review her marriage, along with all the hopes and dreams she had to give up due to Paul’s addiction. Diane struggles with feeling like she was partially responsible for Paul’s declining health. If only she had confronted him sooner, helped him eat healthier, and more.

Her counselor helps her see that she is going through the bargaining stage, which is normal and healthy. Diane is moving past anger into bargaining, which leads to deep sadness. At this point, she joins a grief support group at church, where she connects with other widows. For the first time since Paul’s death, she feels a spark of hope despite her depressed feelings.

With the passing of holidays and anniversary dates, Diane’s grief stages of anger, denial, bargaining, and sadness resurface. But she sticks with her counseling appointments and support group meetings to weather the changes. She also stays in touch with her children and takes up sewing, an enjoyable hobby she put on hold when her children were growing up.

Diane joins a quilting guild to connect with other quilters. The guild’s show-and-tell meeting is a highlight of her month, and she gains satisfaction from working on small sewing projects throughout the week.

On their wedding anniversary three years after Paul died, Diane visits his burial site with a much lighter heart. She still feels sad, but she is no longer consumed by grief. She thanks God for all the goodness Paul brought to her life. As she drives away, she praises God for bringing her to a place of acceptance.

Your story of grief and acceptance may not look exactly like Diane’s story. But you will likely have to overcome several challenges to reach acceptance, just like Diane. Here are more types of acceptance you can attain with God’s help.

Contentment with God’s Plan

The Bible says that God’s ways are not our ways, and his thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). You may need to grieve about what God allowed to happen in order to reach acceptance. Once you go through the grieving process with God, you can gain contentment despite your challenging circumstances.

For example, you may not naturally like a certain aspect of your physical body or personality. However, with God’s help, you can reach self-acceptance by grieving what you wish you would have been given and accepting what God gave you. Meditating on Psalm 139 can help you understand your great worth in God’s eyes, just as you are.

Social acceptance is another common struggle that many people face. You may not feel accepted by your peers, your family, your coworkers, or other groups. If you have faced rejection, betrayal, or exclusion, you may struggle with a strong desire for social acceptance.

Rather than striving to win the approval of others, you can work on your relationship with God. When you put more trust in him than people, along with grieving what may not be possible in your relationships, you can find the peace and acceptance you seek.

Conditional acceptance is a compromise. It means that you are willing to accept one aspect of a situation but not another. For example, a newly divorced man may grieve the fact that he needs to move in with his parents while he financially recovers.

But he reaches for acceptance by setting a 24-month deadline to move out on his own again. During that period, he will receive the counseling support he needs to rebuild his spiritual and emotional reserves.

Contentment with God’s plan usually means giving up something we deeply desire. God wants us to be honest about this. The longer you deny what you wanted, the less spiritual growth you can experience.

You may get stuck in one of the stages of grief if you don’t make acceptance and contentment your ultimate goal. However, getting stuck in a grief stage is a common problem. You can reach out for help if acceptance always seems outside your reach.

Finding Acceptance in the Grieving Process

The day you find acceptance is the day you step into the new life God has for you. But you may need help reaching acceptance. The grieving process is difficult and painful, and it may last much longer than you expected. A caring Christian counselor can help you walk through the stages of grief and find acceptance.

Often, what you are grieving about now may be related to older grief. As we can see in Diane’s story, she wasn’t only grieving Paul’s death, but also the toll that his addiction took on their marriage. She needed to work through both problems before she reached acceptance. You may also need help dealing with deeper issues from your past while you cycle through all the grief stages.

When you enlist the help of a Christian counselor in your grief journey, you have true hope of reaching acceptance. Your counselor will listen with compassion, ask thoughtful questions, and offer guidance for making new choices. By connecting with other support groups, as Diane did, you can have even greater hope of reaching the acceptance stage of the grieving process.

The team of counselors at our office is trained in walking you through all the stages of grief. No matter what life situation you are facing, you can find the hope and healing you are seeking by reaching out to us. Give us a call today, and we’ll help you reach out for acceptance.

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The Fear of Abandonment: Getting the Help You Need for Abandonment Issues

The fear of abandonment can create lasting problems from childhood long into adulthood. Adults with abandonment issues may sabotage, consciously or subconsciously, personal relationships with others. This can take the form of pushing a partner away after a period of time to keep that person from eventually leaving first.

For example, a man with abandonment issues may leave his wife of ten years for another woman for fear that his wife would have eventually left him. Before the marriage ended, he may have emotionally pushed her away. In another five or ten years, he may repeat the behavior with his second wife due to his fear that she too will someday leave him.

Although these issues can stem from childhood neglect, abuse, or trauma, adults can develop a fear of abandonment as a result of traumatic experiences later in life.

Abandonment During Childhood

It is common for children to become teary-eyed and sad when their parent leaves them at daycare. A child may cry when their guardian leaves them in the church nursery for an hour or two while the adult worships in the sanctuary. However, children with healthy emotions will move on and play with toys after a while. Or, if they are new to daycare, they will adjust within a week or so of consistent attendance.

Children with emotional abandonment issues, on the other hand, may panic at the thought of the guardian leaving them. The child might develop a severe case of anxiety or refuse to sleep alone. Sometimes this behavior is due to the fear of being left alone. Other times, it is the result of a child having been abandoned.

Abandonment can come in many forms. The parent may physically leave, such as when one parent leaves indefinitely due to divorce or death. Or, it might be from emotional abandonment as when the parent refuses to meet the child’s basic needs for love, attention, and nurturing.

If the child comes from a poor family where the basics of food, running water, power, and heat are not provided consistently, the child may associate that with a lack of love. Loving parents try to provide for their children’s basic needs, and on some level, children instinctively know this.

However, it is not only children from low-income households at risk. Influential families can raise their children without meeting their emotional needs. Children who feel that their parents or guardians are withholding love and attention may develop abandonment issues.

Abused or neglected children from all social-economic backgrounds are at a higher risk of developing a fear of abandonment. These feelings of rejection can shape a child’s mind and their self-belief. This can lead to issues later in life as they try to manage personal relationships.

A child’s mind also perceives events differently than an adult would. A child might conclude that a parent leaving the family permanently due to divorce is because the parent no longer wanted the child in their life. They may believe that the parent felt their life would be easier (or happier, richer, etc.) without the child present. The child may begin to show signs of separation anxiety with the remaining parent.

Separation anxiety is common in children for whom one parent is gone due to death. The loss may have been forthcoming, such as a long illness, or sudden, like a tragic accident. The loss is still deep in either case. Some children suddenly become hyper-aware of the remaining parent’s presence and are afraid of losing them. Other children may feel a sense of betrayal, especially if the living parent is domineering, abusive, or emotionally distant.

During the aftermath of a parent’s death, the surviving parent must cope with their own emotions. Sometimes this means that they wind up neglecting their child’s emotional needs. This isn’t necessarily done on purpose; both child and parent are hurt.

If you are the parent or guardian of a child with abandonment issues, let the child know you are open to hearing how they feel. If it is your own child, they may feel awkward or afraid that they might hurt your feelings. Assure them that you will not overreact. Allow them to express their fears.

If you are worried about the child’s emotional health, seek professional help. You can speak to your child’s pediatrician or school counselor. Sometimes the act of sharing their fears and having someone reaffirm that they are wanted and loved can place a child in a better mental state. Your child’s doctor may refer you to a therapist if the anxiety from the fear of abandonment is extreme.

Abandonment Issues in Adults

Adults are at a higher risk for developing abandonment issues if they experience a traumatic event. This can include sexual assault, domestic violence or abuse, the end of a relationship, or another high-stress situation. It is not only the fear of physical abandonment or neglect but of emotional abandonment as well; the feeling of the other partner pulling away and leaving the person unloved and rejected.

These adults may leave relationships to keep from getting hurt. This fear of intimacy can also result in shallow relationships. The person wants a deeply committed relationship but is terrified of someone they love eventually leaving them. The hurt they will feel at the dissolution of the relationship (not on their own terms) is an emotion they need to avoid at all costs.

This person may sabotage their relationship by becoming emotionally distant, verbally abusive, or indifferent to their partner. They may engage in extramarital affairs or choose work over family life. They may start arguments and contradict their spouse when the spouse tries to confirm that they would never leave the marriage.

The adult with abandonment issues may accuse their spouse of infidelity or some other betrayal. Furthermore, to widen the emotional gap, they may tell others about this alleged betrayal, so that no one will blame them for leaving the spouse.

The behavior from the fear of abandonment causes a reaction from those involved. Unfortunately, the adult with these issues may get a sense of satisfaction from these reactions and the attention they garner and cycle through the behavior again. To the outside world, these people appear full of drama and consistently in new relationships. However, the truth is that the person is hurting with an emotional need that is still unmet.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, fear of abandonment can cause a person in a bad relationship to stay longer. The fear of loneliness outweighs the fear of staying in the relationship. Even if their partner is emotionally or physically abusive, the person with abandonment issues cannot break free for long. This “stuck” feeling can lead to additional mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Getting the Help You Need

If you recognize the symptoms of abandonment issues in your own life, seek the help of a licensed mental health care professional. Your primary physician can refer you to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or counseling center near you.

A faith-based counseling facility can help you overcome the fear of abandonment while reassuring you that there is One who will never abandon you. By relying on your faith in God, you can resist the urge to ruin and flee a loving relationship. You will find the necessary courage to leave an abusive relationship that does not adhere to your Christian values that love is patient and kind, not jealous, boastful, or proud (1 Corinthians 13:4).

A common treatment for emotional abandonment and the fears that accompany it is psychotherapy. This includes talk therapy which can be done in an individual setting with the therapist or in couple’s sessions.

The therapist will help you to identify the thoughts and emotions that accompany these issues and change your responses. It will take time to learn to react with the new behavioral patterns, but this is something you can do. It is not only for you but for the future of your relationship.

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Overcoming Passivity: Practical Tips to Become an Assertive Person

Passivity is a common relationship issue that creates many other problems. On the surface, it can seem “safe” compared to acting in bold, aggressive ways. However, in the long run, it is costly to your mental, emotional, social and spiritual health. When you learn the truth about passivity, you can overcome it and begin living the abundant life God intends for you.

Definition of Passivity

The APA Dictionary of Psychology defines passivity as “a form of adaptation, or maladaptation, in which the individual adopts a pattern of submissiveness, dependence, and retreat into inaction.”

A passive life is not pleasing to God. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV). In God we have an abundant life, not a life lived on another person’s terms. God wants us to fully depend on him, not on people or their opinions of us. When we actively surrender to God instead of living in passivity, we can experience the freedom and fullness he intends for us.

Examples of Passivity

We are all born as helpless infants, completely dependent on others to fulfill our needs for survival and growth. This infant stage lasts a little over a year. Then a child begins to separate from his or her mother or caretaker to start to become independent. This is a normal developmental stage that God intended for us to go through to become fully functioning adults.

However, many people may be the age of adults, yet still emotionally functioning in overly dependent ways. This dependence stunts their growth and creates many problems in relationships, schools, workplaces, and churches. A passive person cannot contain his or her passivity; its negative effects always spill over onto others.

There are many ways people can act passively in ways that cost them. Here are several examples to consider.

  • A child in elementary school fails to stand up to a bully’s torment, then suffers emotional trauma.
  • A young woman stays in a relationship with an emotionally abusive boyfriend because she is afraid of his angry outbursts and worries that no one else will want to date her. As a result, she suffers from anxiety and depression.
  • A mother and father allow their unemployed, 20-something son to live rent-free in their home and don’t have a plan for encouraging him to get his own place. The situation causes tension and financial stress for the parents.
  • A man is unfairly burdened with work projects by a domineering boss. When he is passed over for promotion, he develops an ulcer.
  • An elderly mother is homebound. Her oldest son is her financial caregiver. She suspects that he may be mishandling her funds but feels helpless to confront the situation.
  • A wife turns a blind eye to her husband’s extramarital affairs. She stays in the marriage for the sake of their kids, but her resentment and heartache silently grow.

When you look at these examples, you can see how each person’s passivity costs them. However, if you are acting passively in a situation, it can be hard to see it yourself. A caring Christian counselor can help you see where you are being passive and how you can overcome your passive tendencies.

Examples from the Bible

We can look to the Bible for examples of how passivity cost people tremendous amounts of heartache and loss. One clear example is Jacob, son of Isaac and Rebekah, as we read in Genesis 25-28. Though his brother Esau was the heir to their father’s inheritance, Jacob passively allowed his mother to manipulate the situation so he would receive the blessing.

Jacob had many chances to stand up for what was right. He could have stopped at cooking the stew of wild game, wearing Esau’s clothing, and tricking his father. As he passively followed his mother’s directions, he received what he wanted in the short term – his father’s blessing.

But for the next several decades, fear and strife haunted him. He could not live in peace due to his passivity, and he eventually put his whole family in danger because of it (see Genesis 32).

Another example of passivity is the man who laid by the pool of Bethesda, as recorded in John 5. He had been physically paralyzed for 38 years and waited every day for someone to carry him into the healing waters. When Jesus saw him, he addressed the man’s emotional and spiritual passivity rather than his physical passivity.

Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6). For the man to receive healing, he had to become active by picking up his mat and walking. In his activity, not his passivity, Jesus healed him (John 5:8-15).

We can learn from these two stories that passivity is costly. Both Jacob and the disabled man were emotionally stunted. Their passivity blocked a deeper relationship with others and with God. Only God could deliver them from their passivity, and when he did, newness of life became possible.

The Costs of Passivity

Passivity can cost you on a mental level. When you hand over control to others, they can manipulate you. You may suffer from their attempts to blame, deny, gaslight, and abuse you.

Emotionally, passivity can exact a heavy toll. You may feel weak and insecure, lacking confidence in your ability to take charge of your life. Passivity can cause anxiety, depression, anger, and other emotional disturbances.

A passive life has social costs as well. People tend to take advantage of those who send out passive signals. Your relationships may feel one-sided like they revolve around the other person. You may feel left out, betrayed, and used.

Spiritual passivity is a blockade to a deeper relationship with God. He wants you to live a life of confidence in him, rather than an unhealthy dependence on others. If you are passive in your faith, you are missing out on God’s best for your life.

How to Become a More Assertive Person

Fortunately, there is help for passive individuals. You don’t have to stay stuck in passivity. A compassionate Christian counselor can help you put passivity aside and choose assertiveness instead.

When you are assertive, you act in a way that respects yourself and others. You speak up for the truth because you believe that your self-worth is valuable. Assertiveness is not aggressive; it is firm yet loving.

To become an assertive person, you need direction, practice, and support. Your counselor will first help you deal with the roots of passive behaviors. Next, you will learn techniques for acting assertively by role-playing. With support from your counselor and others, you will be able to successfully and assertively set boundaries.

Let’s look at assertive responses in the six previous examples.

  • After role-playing with his parents and counselor, the child learns to confront the bully and enlist help from peers and teachers.
  • The young woman courageously breaks off the relationship with her boyfriend after several therapy sessions. She also becomes more active in the singles group at her church and decides to take a break from dating while she works on developing healthy boundaries.
  • The parents come up with a 60-day plan for holding their son accountable for finding a job and his own place. They work with a counselor to form talking points for a loving confrontation.
  • The man begins a job search for a position that is more independent. He joins a men’s small group to find accountability and support and attends bi-monthly counseling appointments.
  • The elderly woman shares concerns with her counselor, who points her toward further help from social services and an attorney.
  • After being coached by a counselor, a wife tells her husband to get professional help for his sexual addiction, so their marriage has hope of being salvaged.

Learning assertiveness is not easy after years of taking a passive stance. If you’re ready to overcome passivity to embrace the abundant life God has in store for you, feel free to contact me or one of the other counselors in the counselor directory.

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