How to Fix a Broken Relationship

One of the hardest parts about relationships is when they break down. Whether it’s a platonic friendship, or between siblings, parents and their children, neighbors, or between spouses, the heartache that flows from a relationship breakdown is unique among the many hardships we face in life. Human beings are social creatures, it’s part of our make-up as beings made in the image of a relational God.

We delight to connect with others, to know and be known and loved by others. In our relationships, we make ourselves vulnerable, build networks of mutual dependence and build parts of our lives based on those relationships.

The sad thing is that the breakdown of relationships is nothing new, and it’s a reality we will continue to face in our lives. Relationships break down for a variety of reasons, and some of those are things we can control and address, while other things need the balm of time and a refreshed perspective from the other person.

What can you do to fix a broken relationship?

What’s going on?

In some cases, when a relationship breaks down, we know precisely what happened. We may have had the power to prevent or slow down the breakdown, or we may have been completely powerless to stop it. In other situations, you may be at a loss as to what happened.

When that happens, it’s important to take the time and effort to figure out what happened. It may require some conversations with the person with whom you were in the relationship if they are willing to engage with you, but it may also require some introspection.

Whether you do this by journaling or talking with a trusted friend to process what happened, or you spend time with a therapist to do that, understanding what happened matters. If the relationship broke down because in your anger you said or did things you shouldn’t have, you need to address that otherwise it can prevent you from restoring your relationship and can affect other relationships as well.

Part of trying to address a broken relationship is to understand why it broke down in the first place and to do the challenging work that may be needed to change. It may be that in trying to understand what happened, you may uncover a misunderstanding and that gets things back on track.

Sometimes we misspeak, or people mishear us and our intentions, and that can be the cause of the broken relationship. But it’s also possible that the breakdown in the relationship is mostly or entirely our fault and knowing that can empower you by clarifying what needs to happen next.

Apologizing

Sometimes relationships break down because of things we’ve said or done. When we are the cause of pain to someone else, we must apologize, particularly if it was uncalled for. A good friend sometimes causes pain to their companion, but it is well-intentioned.

As the Proverb says, “Friends mean well, even when they hurt you. But when an enemy puts his arm around your shoulder – watch out!” (Proverbs 27:6). Not all truths are pleasant to hear, and we may lose friends because of truth-telling.

It’s important to say here that while the truth may sting and at times people who are unwilling to hear the truth would prefer to cut off those truth-tellers rather than face their issues, one must always be mindful of how the truth is told, and whether it’s our place to do so. Earlier we spoke about doing important soul work to figure out what may have happened to break the relationship. Even if you may have been right in saying what you did, that work is still necessary.

It may be that even if what you said was true, and even if the other person reacted out of anger and fear, you may still need to apologize because of how you said it. You may have overstepped a boundary if you and the person weren’t that close or didn’t have the kind of relationship with room for that.

In other words, it can get complicated, but being willing to examine ourselves and apologize may be a necessary precursor to reestablishing the relationship. This doesn’t mean backtracking and dismissing what was said but acknowledging the pain that may have been caused or boundaries traversed.

In a situation where what you said or did was wrong and hurtful, apologizing is an effective way to get the relationship back on track. The apology must be unambiguous, accepting responsibility for what you did without making excuses or justifying yourself, and stating clearly what you will do differently in the future.

Compromising

In addition to apologizing, it may be that the way to fix a broken relationship is to compromise with the other person. Each of us has our own ideas about how things should be, and that can cause friction in a relationship. Neighbors may have vastly different definitions of what constitutes “noise.”

While one thinks playing drums at 5 am is acceptable and drums are great, their neighbor may strongly disagree. Things can escalate, leading to the breakdown of a relationship.

One way to fix a relationship that’s gone down this way is to compromise. Perhaps you can play your drums later in the day when your neighbor is out, or you can arrange a pair of noise-canceling headphones for your neighbor, or you can play your drums somewhere else altogether.

Each of you, by yielding a little ground, might be able to find a way around the impasse. Acknowledging that each of you has legitimate needs, and then going on to find a way to co-exist, can go a long way toward fixing the relationship.

In each situation, you must be clear in your own mind what things you are and are not willing to compromise on and continue to exercise some empathy. Even for the things on which you’re unwilling to compromise, being empathetic may help you hold the line in a way that doesn’t alienate others.

Putting in the work of rebuilding

When a relationship is broken, both parties may agree that things went wrong, and that the situation needs to be resolved. When things go awry in a relationship, the sense of trust and vulnerability may be broken, and you become a bit more wary of one another. A relationship, even one that the people in it are willing to work at, doesn’t just snap back to what it was before the issue arose.

Working through the fresh questions that arise when things go wrong, doing the work of reconfiguring or reimagining your relationship anew, etc. all take time and effort to put into place. If trust was broken, it takes time to restore. A relationship can be what it once was, or even stronger than before, but it takes putting in the demanding work of rebuilding and listening to one another to get there.

Grieving what was

With God, nothing is irreparably broken. Even the dead things can be brought back to life, and that gives us hope that even broken friendships or marriages can be restored. However, it takes two to do the necessary work to restore a relationship, and you can’t compel someone to work on the relationship if they don’t want to.

In other cases, you may both agree to work on your relationship, but that doesn’t guarantee you will restore things. The relationship may never be what it was, but at least you’ve addressed the issues that broke the relationship and emerged on the other side of it.

Christian Counseling for Relationship Issues

Sometimes, the relationship doesn’t get restored at all as you’d hoped. In any of these situations, it’s appropriate to grieve what was. A broken relationship is a loss that we experience, and it’s important to process that loss. It’s not unheard of for a broken relationship to affect other relationships down the line.

Get the help that you need to process the loss of relationships, particularly the ones that matter most to you. Getting counseling and speaking to a trained specialist may be just the thing you need to deal with a broken relationship, and to gain tools to fix and strengthen your relationships.

Photos:
“Sitting on the Sidewalk”, Courtesy of Odonata Welnesscenter, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Talk to the Hand”, Courtesy of Vera Arsic, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Hold my hand”, Courtesy of Pixabay.com, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Teamwork”, Courtesy of Fauxels, Pexels.com, CC0 License

Exploring Personality Disorders from a Christian Perspective

Personality disorders are some of the most misunderstood mental health problems that a person can face. Not only is there a stigma to be faced from the general public, but from the psychiatric community as well.

Although attitudes are slowly changing, it has not been that long since newly qualified counselors and psychiatrists were being advised to stay away from people with personality disorders, especially borderline personality disorder (BPD).

An Overview of Personality Disorders

The most recent edition of the Diagnostical and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) considers personality disorders to be:

“enduring patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and oneself that are exhibited in a wide range of social and personal contexts,” and “are inflexible and maladaptive, and cause significant functional impairment or subjective distress.”

Personality disorders cause a range of symptoms that affect a person’s ability to function in their daily life and, contrary to popular opinion, people with personality disorders aren’t being difficult on purpose. A personality disorder isn’t something that a person chooses or decides to have.

There are ten different personality disorders and while their symptoms differ in many ways, there are some symptoms that seem to affect most people with personality disorders to some extent. These include:

  • Mood swings
  • Angry outbursts
  • Poor impulse control
  • Difficulty forming and maintaining friendships
  • Addiction

Up to ten percent of Americans have a personality disorder so these disorders aren’t rare. In fact, if you have 100 people in your church, statistically, ten of those people will have a personality disorder.

Types of Personality Disorders

There are generally three clusters of personality disorders (as described by DSM-5). These are:
Cluster A (odd or eccentric disorders)

  • Paranoid (irrational suspicions and mistrust)
  • Schizoid (lack of interest in social relationships)
  • Schizotypal (odd behavior or thinking)

Cluster B (dramatic, emotional or erratic disorders)

  • Antisocial (lack of empathy and a pattern of criminal activity)
  • Borderline (impulsivity, black and white thinking, self-harm, manipulation)
  • Histrionic (exaggerated emotions, inappropriate behavior)
  • Narcissistic (high levels of jealousy and arrogance, grandiose behavior)

Cluster C (anxious or fearful disorders)

  • Avoidant (social avoidance, social inadequacy)
  • Dependent (psychologically dependent on others)
  • Obsessive-compulsive (rigid conformity to rules, obsessing over details)

Personality disorders are clustered in these ways because there are common traits that people with personality disorders in the same cluster experience. For example:

  • people with personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder (cluster B) may seem to be highly-emotional and attention-seeking,
  • people with paranoid personality disorder or schizotypal personality disorder (cluster A) can bedescribed as suspicious, withdrawn and irrational.

Causes of Personality Disorders

Research has demonstrated that although there may be some genetic predisposition towards developing a personality disorder, in most cases the biggest cause of personality disorders is severe suffering. This may include traumatic experiences, abuse or neglect and in most cases, this is experienced during childhood, when the personality is still developing.

Does the Bible Talk About Personality Disorders?

Since personality disorders weren’t properly recognized until the twentieth century, it may seem impossible for the Bible to contain references to, or mention characters with them. However, Renewal Christian Treatment & Recovery has actually identified a couple of biblical characters who exhibit symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD) and antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).

Specifically, the “stubborn and rebellious son” in Deuteronomy 21:18 shows signs of having ASPD, and Gomer in the book of Hosea exhibits symptoms of BPD.

However, the Association of Biblical Counselors describes personality disorders from a biblical perspective:

The so-called “Personality Disorders” (i.e. paranoid, narcissistic, etc.) are simply descriptions of long-term behavioral, emotional, interpersonal, and thought patterns developed by an individual over a period of time. The Bible clearly articulates the influence of depravity and sin on a person’s behavior, thinking, and feeling. Therefore the influence of the “law of sin” must be a focal point for individuals citing these labels (Eph. 2:3). Following the flesh always leads to further corruption, death, and darkness (Eph. 4:22-24, Rom. 8:5).

Hope for Healing

Dr. David Powlison, of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF), points out that while psychiatry often considers severe personality disorders like borderline personality disorder (BPD) to be virtually untreatable, Christian counselors have a different perspective. Secular therapists may give up on clients with BPD, but Christian counselors can lead people with personality disorders to a deeper relationship with Jesus.

The solution for so-called untreatable personality disorders is to bring Christ to the center, as Powlison explains:

“The people who get this label [Borderline Personality Disorder] are really stuck. These are deep, deep weeds to live your life in. You can also see that the solution, in Christ, (can and does, when genuine) cuts as deep as the problem. Because in BPD you are the center of a world that is wholly misshapen. When Christ becomes the center, the world starts to take on a completely different shape.”

Christian counseling offers a kind of hope for people with personality disorders that secular counseling fails to provide. Where secular counseling regards personality disorders as a fixed problem that can’t be changed, in Christian counseling there’s recognition of the inexplicable power of Christ to completely transform lives.

A Biblical Counseling Approach

Let’s look at a personality disorder from each of the three clusters but from a biblical counseling perspective.

Schizoid Personality Disorder

In psychiatric terms (DSM-5), those suffering from Schizoid Personality Disorder are reclusive, unsociable, loners who find relationships with other people almost impossible. From a biblical perspective, however, at the heart of schizoid personality disorder is self-absorption.

In other words, a person with schizoid personality disorder has made an idol out of themselves and everything in their world centers on themselves. They are cold and unsociable because other people do not matter to them.

This kind of personality disorder can be a challenge even for experienced Christian counselors because there needs to be a radical change in the way that the person thinks and behaves. For a long-lasting change, the sufferer needs to choose to love God more than himself and serve others as Jesus did.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Perhaps one of the most commonly-known personality disorders, Borderline Personality Disorder causes people to feel empty, experience rapid mood swings, and exhibit extremely disordered patterns of attachment. Suicidal threats are frequent, although only 10% of people with BPD will complete suicide.

In biblical terms, a person with BPD has a self-seeking way of life, is prideful, depends on other people instead of on God, and has a sinful view that other people should rearrange their lives to meet the BPD-sufferer’s needs.

In this case, the root issue is that the person with BPD’s identity revolves around their disorder. Therefore, the goal must be to put off this identity and put on their identity in Christ:

Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. – Ephesians 4:22-24

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

It’s important to recognize that Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder is NOT the same as obsessive-compulsive disorder. People with an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder tend to focus so much on details that they achieve very little, don’t have time for friends, and are very self-critical.

In biblical terms, an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is a manifestation of ungodly fear. In Christian counseling, the goal is to change the focus from fear to God, as well as identifying sinful behavior that has resulted from ungodly fear.

Christian Counseling for Personality Disorders

While secular counseling is rarely successful in achieving lasting change, a biblical focus on changing patterns of thinking and behavior so that God is placed at the center of the person’s life is much more effective.

If someone that you care about is struggling with the symptoms of a personality disorder, Christian counseling can be the solution you’ve been searching for. Healing is possible when Jesus truly becomes the center of the world for people with personality disorders. Only He can break the patterns of destructive thoughts and behaviors at the heart of personality disorders.

Sources:

borderlinepersonalitydisorder.org/a-most-misunderstood-illness

David Powlison, “What Hope of Healing Is There for Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder” ccef.org/resources/video/what-hope-healing-there-someone-borderline-personality-disorder renewalchristiancare.com/2013/04/02/does-the-Bible-offer-a-treatment-for-personality-disorders/

Association of Biblical Counselors, “General Personality Disorder Criteria” christiancounseling.com/resources/general-personality-disorder-criteria/

Photos:
“Moods”, Courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Angry Woman”, Courtesy of Liza Summer, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Devotions”, Courtesy of Tima Miroshnichenko, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Prayer”, Courtesy of RODNAE Productions, Pexels.com, CC0 License

Opening New Doors: Developing Interpersonal Communication Skills

Interpersonal communication skills, when strengthened, can help you express your feelings clearly and precisely. You can use these lifelong skills to move further up the career ladder, express yourself to your spouse or children, make new friends, and network with people who can help your cause.

The good news is that most people are not born with good communication skills. It’s a skill you can begin mastering today to effectively and assertively convey what you mean.

The Different Types of Communication

There are several different types of communication, but they all boil down to verbal, nonverbal (actions), written, and visual. These skills also referred to as people skills, can take you far.

Unfortunately, some people find it difficult to communicate with people and allow others to control and manipulate them. By learning it’s okay to speak up (and how to do so constructively), you can develop self-confidence.

The types of communication are:

Verbal – Verbal communication uses spoken language to convey meaning to others.

Nonverbal (actions) – Nonverbal communication includes nodding, shaking your head, and other actions such as crossing your arms over your chest (body language), facial expressions, or slamming doors when angry.

Written – Written communication includes books, letters, emails, newspapers, text messages, and other printed or digital words.

Visual – Visual communication concentrates on the things we can see and understand as an outlet in expressing feelings and thoughts. This includes artwork, graphs, charts, drawings, and pictures.

Some people learn better when several of these types of communication are combined. For example, you might be more comfortable learning new information using written and visual materials. And it might be easier for you to express your thoughts of very detailed, personal matters through written material (a journal) rather than talking (verbal communication) with someone.

Another type of communication frequently forgotten, but possibly the most important skill is active listening. Active listening is trying to not only hear the person but to understand them. This means not losing your focus to distractions or thinking about how you are going to respond to their comments. While active listening, you nod or shake your head, speak when necessary, and show empathy.

Developing Interpersonal Communication Skills

Perhaps you do well with one or two public communication skills but are sorely lacking in the others. You can learn how to develop good communication skills with a little practice. You can begin by implementing a few of the suggestions listed below.

If you are interested in learning more about how to strengthen your communication skills, you can find printed books and eBooks on the subject as well as courses that cover interpersonal and public communication.

How to Develop Active Listening Skills

Developing the ability to actively listen to someone requires you to focus solely on the person speaking. If the person is sharing an emotional story with you, be sure to respond as necessary with kindness and empathy. This is not the time to judge the person in front of you, but to try to understand what they are going through or the instructions they are giving you.

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up on our responses to the other person that we simply stop actively listening. Take your time in your response if you need to. You want the other person to feel important and heard.

How to Develop Verbal Communication Skills

To truly improve your verbal skills, you should expose yourself to a wide range of vocabulary. Read books (both printed and eBooks) in various genres as well as nonfiction. Consider joining a book club to discuss insights on a book to improve critical thinking skills or join a debate team to pick up how to form an argumentative opinion.

Speak precisely and with confidence. It is not necessary to bog down a conversation with five-syllable words as most people will come away from the exchange either intimidated or bored.

If you are nervous about meeting a new acquaintance, approach the person with a kind smile, compliment them, and ask questions. People love to talk about themselves and what is important to them. Start with asking about their family, career, hobbies and interests, and what they want to do with their life. As people confide, they will begin to trust you because you care to know about them.

How to Develop Nonverbal Communication Skills

Whether you realize it or not, you are constantly giving away your thoughts and feelings with body language and facial expressions. For example, crossing your arms over your chest while talking to someone is considered a defensive move for protection. Do you feel threatened by what they are saying? Do you find their comments hurtful?

Strive to be mindful of your facial expressions and posture when you are talking to someone. Smiling and maintaining a relaxed and open posture will translate to others that you are a warm and friendly person with whom they can spend time conversing.

How to Develop Written Communication Skills

The written word surrounds us daily with billboards, newspapers, chat messages, text messages, and emails. How many emails and texts do you send daily? It is important to improve your writing skills, so you convey the correct meaning and induce the appropriate response.

People today have shorter attention spans due to the constant barrage of distractions. Keep your sentences short and cut out any flowery words. Make sure you reread your material for clarity and accuracy. If writing seems awkward to you, try journaling. The act of recording your thoughts and emotions is simply the practice of communicating with yourself.

How to Develop Visual Communication Skills

You can use visual images to communicate with others. Most people remember pictures and videos even if they don’t remember the words they read. You can use visuals to help you remember important things.

For example, a student might draw a diagram, breaking down a difficult topic for a class. Or, a mother might create a chores graph for her children to use to make the daily tasks fun.

If you want to express your beliefs and thoughts to others using social media, you can create videos or pictures. You might find it easier to record and edit a video of you talking than speaking in-person to a group of people.

Social Communication Disorder

A child who cannot seem to express himself with the appropriate verbal and nonverbal cues may be tested by their pediatrician for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). If autism is ruled out, the physician may diagnose the child with Social Communication Disorder (SCD).

Children demonstrating signs of SCD may have trouble responding appropriately to others, misjudging when to take their turn speaking, expressing their feelings verbally, and using language to ask questions and hold conversations.

Children with Social Communication Disorder may also have another mental health condition that requires therapy. Speak with your child’s pediatrician about adding the professional services of a speech-language pathologist, either at school or home. Some states provide programs, such as “Birth to 3,” to help babies and toddlers to overcome speech disorders and delays.

There are things you can do to help your child improve his communication skills. Make reading a priority in your home. Not only will your child enlarge his vocabulary, but he will learn to think critically and form opinions.

When possible, combine written and visual materials to teach your child about important topics. Many children are visual learners and can pick up a subject quicker with images.

Arrange for your child to spend time with other children and help him get started with conversations by asking questions. Once he sees that he has common interests as the other children, it may be easier for him to hold the conversation.

One Final Word

Communication skills are vital in every area of life. Whether you speak to a room full of peers, work behind a desk answering phones and sending emails, or need to assert your self-worth, mastering the skills to effectively communicate will serve you for the rest of your life. It’s a skill that no one can take from you.

Photos:
“Admiring the View”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Phone Call”, Courtesy of Kevin Laminto, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Chatting”, Courtesy of Charles Deluvio, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Happy”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Porn: The World’s Most Powerful Addiction

Many people are praying to God, “HELP ME!” They are screaming inside of themselves for help with their addiction to pornography. Porn is the number one addiction in the world, way more than any drug or vice known to man. It does not take much research to learn that this industry is making hundreds of billions of dollars around the world.

Cell phones and the internet have made it easy for anyone to make a few clicks and be instantly connected with someone else. Pornography also has different channels of enticing many others, for example: collect calls with random call girls, strip clubs, movies, magazines, TikTok, apps, games, etc. Porn is not just on the internet, it is everywhere.

Unfortunately, this industry takes no prisoners and makes a fortune while at it. The porn industry is ruining marriages, getting professionals fired, hurting families’ finances, and destroying people’s faith. To discover what can we do about it we must understand why it is so powerful.

First, it involves other people. The truest form of intimacy is to be completely naked with someone else and spend time with them. Being naked with someone is the greatest form of invitation to connect with them and it produces chemicals in our bodies that create an emotional high.

In Genesis 2:15 the Bible reads “it is not good for man to be alone.” God tells us that we are designed to connect with others. God gave us social relationships to bond. He also gave us families to live with and create beautiful memories in the home. Marriage is, without a doubt, the most intimate relationship in the physical world.

Marriage is a bond where you know your spouse’s greatest strengths but also can see them in their most vulnerable state. That is why many want to be married because they want to cherish those moments with that special someone. Unfortunately, we at times can rely on vices to try to give us this “fix” to somehow replace that type of intimacy.

This is why porn is so addictive. It’s not like a substance with which you don’t have an emotional bond with. If your substance is spilled or broken, you may get mad, but you just go ahead and buy some more. But the emotional bond that you can get with seeing someone else naked and in a vulnerable sex position is bizarrely bonding.

I can speak from a man’s point of view that men who are addicted to porn have a tough time bonding with anyone. While they spend hours involved in their vice, they do not realize that they are losing connection with others.

So, what can we do? Connect with the same gender consistently and constantly. In 2 Samuel 11, you will read the story of King David who took time off from his busy military campaign. He sent his army to go off to battle while he remained in the palace all alone. We know from Genesis that it’s not good for man to be alone.

So having idle time, he goes out wandering and notices a beautiful woman bathing. She is naked and David is struck by that vulnerable connection. What King David should’ve done is go back inside his home and be sexually intimate with Abigail, his wife. They were married in 1 Samuel 25. It’s a wonderful and beautiful love story.

But David is not content over the many years of battle. He is worn down and tired. No one can blame him for taking some time off. However, this move by David was selfish because not only did he have wives, but he also had many concubines. 2 Samuel 5:13 tells us that David had both concubines and wives who bore him sons and daughters. This man was having lots of sex.

Why did he want to sleep with Bathsheba? A conqueror always wants to conquer more – they are never satisfied. They could be satisfied with God, their family, and themselves. But when we are giving ourselves over to our vices, we are communicating that we are unsatisfied. We think we are incomplete – not whole.

David was not completely satisfied. His greed wanted more. This mirrors greatly how individuals get addicted to porn. Fifteen minutes leads to one hour. One hour is not enough and that ends up to multiple hours. Then it turns into an entire day and then sadly to a lifetime. Why do you think people can’t just give it up?

The real reason is that the mind has been trained to be reliant on false images in an emotional way. Emotions are fire and they guide us so powerfully. A nation can change by having empathy for one incident. A nation can go into war because they learned of something that triggered the government.

I once saw a movie called Equilibrium that whose premise was if we had no emotions then there would be no more wars and murder. Maybe so. But who wants to live an emotionless life? Nobody. We all want to be free to live our lives as we want. However, emotions can lead us astray and we must break that cycle.

I mentioned in the earlier two paragraphs that getting help from the same gender is key. In 2 Samuel 12, God sends Nathan, a prophet, to correct David’s way of thinking. Why not send a woman? Or a family member? Remember that David involved his “secret service” and his main generals so who would stand up to this mighty King? A man of God. That’s who.

A man of God will help another man become a man of God. This is key in many support groups dealing with addiction because you can’t have a mixed-gender group talking about porn addiction. It wouldn’t be appropriate. Men wouldn’t feel comfortable describing their fetishes with another woman when an actual woman is staring right at them.

It wouldn’t work. So, a man would need another man to listen, confirm and challenge him as part of his sobriety plan. Same for a woman though. A woman shouldn’t be open to a man about her struggles watching porn online. It wouldn’t be a productive talk. A woman may be best suited to talk to another woman to get help. Don’t get me wrong. It’s wonderful for spouses to support each other in their struggles. But it’s best to leave the heavy lifting to the same gender.

Same-gender help is crucial. David would only have listened to a man who had deeper convictions than him. Earlier in King David’s life, he had such a friend by the name of Jonathan. Jonathan and David had many adventures together as they were more than brothers. The bond these men had was unbreakable only by death. Sadly, Jonathan is killed in battle and David mourns for him.

In 2 Samuel 1:25-26 David states “I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother, you were very dear to me, your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women”. You see that David’s heart is real and open about how close these men were. They were born in battle. The wars and adventures they fought there together helped them respect each other to a point where their bond was so tight that no one could interfere.

Just like David we are all capable of having such deep and rich friendships. It takes a lot of work. It’s not easy to be in battles day in and day out. However, if we decide to join in battle with one another then we can help each other have victories.

What great battle is there like the war with porn addiction? It’s a beast. Humiliating, depressing, sad, and hopeless. Therefore, we need those Jonathans in our lives to help us grieve, process, and seek help to overcome our issues. We cannot overcome porn addiction on its own. We need help and not just any help, but the help from someone who is the same gender that is willing to keep us accountable.

This is challenging because we don’t want to be called to a different standard, so we want to keep those defenses up. However, in my many years as a professional, and can only tell you that the secret to the success of many leaving this addiction behind is simply getting constant and consistent training from someone who has deep convictions on this issue.

Don’t expect to get much help from someone who is struggling with the same thing. They can be an encouragement and support, but the true catalyst will be the one with deep conviction because they’ve proved themselves capable of staying sober. We need to learn from them and follow in their footsteps. That is the way we are going to get out of this pit.

My question to you is, who is your Jonathan in your life? Maybe you’re not the one who’s addicted but you want to help. Are you someone that can help others? If so, set up a support group and invite people to learn. Please feel free to use this as a launching pad to start helping others who are enslaved to this vice.

If you are looking for someone else, find out if there’s a group, a minister, or a mentor who can help your friend out. This issue is not only for men. My wife, who helps counsel and mentor women, has told me that women are falling into this trap as well. My wife doesn’t tell me specifics or mentions names of course but she tells me that she is shocked to learn that many women are also dealing with this.

According to Psychology Today, statistics say that about 45% of women watch pornography with their partner and about 35% percent on their own. The thing with watching porn once though is that with or without a partner, the craving continues, and once is not enough. It is spiritual cancer that destroys men’s and women’s lives all over the world. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that it can be overcome with help – help in form of the same-gender partnering with those people to have victories in their lives. Let’s not look down on men because that won’t help. Let’s also not look down on women for struggling.

Let’s help one another to get to the root of the issue, which is accountability. We need best friends to talk to and be open. That’s the definition of true intimacy. We want to know and be known, so let’s practice it and marvel at the changes we see in their lives. Then they will see no need for fake intimacy when they can experience the real thing. God Bless!

Photos:
“Anguish”, Courtesy of Alex Iby, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Laptop”, Courtesy of Glenn Carstens-Peters, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Weighed Down”, Courtesy of Jon Tyson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Romantic Sunset”, Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

4 Steps to Overcoming the Different Types of Panic Attacks

Imagine waking up at 2:00 a.m. with hundreds of thoughts swirling around in your brain. The thoughts are piercing. It is as if your mind is churning in a blender that will not turn off. It is so loud, almost as if it is jammed in an airhorn that doesn’t stop.

You are thinking about a project you forgot to do, a text message (to a sensitive friend) that you forgot to respond to earlier in the day, and worrisome thoughts on a medical test you are awaiting begin to escalate. Your fingers suddenly become tingly, legs become weak, and your breathing becomes labored.

Imagine preparing to head to a social event, but a million thoughts begin to steal your excitement. Instead of the excitement to get out of the house and mingle with friends, obsessive worry takes over.

You worry about being an awkward conversationalist and about potential societal threats. You worry about what you are wearing and wonder if it is the right attire for the event. Your palms begin to sweat, your breathing becomes more intense, your heart begins to race – why does this keep happening?

If these scenarios sound familiar, you or someone you know may be suffering from one of several different types of panic attacks. A panic attack is an intense feeling of threat or danger. It is the feeling of something terrible coming. Different types of panic attacks can happen regularly or can appear out of nowhere without the person’s realization as to what is causing it.

Sophie is an eighteen-year-old who struggles with social anxiety. Every time she enters a crowded room, she begins looking for the EXIT sign. She imagines all the worst-case scenarios. She plans multiple strategies in case something happens.

What if a fight breaks out? What if she sees an ex-boyfriend? She wonders what everyone thinks of her. Does she have something in her teeth? Are her clothes stylish enough, or are they too “last season”? Will someone think she is a bad Christian because she is beginning to panic?

As her breathing becomes labored, she suddenly gets chills, experiences heart palpitations, and becomes nauseous. Sophie is struggling with social anxiety. She is unsure of how to cope with these feelings, which causes her body to respond in this manner.

Anxiety can have a strong and paralyzing effect on one’s body. It is important to realize if this is happening to you so you can begin to pinpoint the triggers and working through different coping mechanisms.

Types of Panic Attacks

There are several types of panic attacks:

  • A cued panic attack is one of which you are aware. You may be very aware that you have social anxiety and what situations set your internal alarm off. You may avoid social gatherings altogether because of these unwanted intense feelings.
  • Non-cued panic attacks are those for which you are not prepared. You do not know why you are having them, and you are unsure of how to narrow down what is triggering you so you can stop them from happening. It may be something below the surface of which you are unaware.
  • Agoraphobia is the fear of going into crowded places. You may avoid going to the mall, movie theater, or other crowded and tight spaces because of a fear of not being able to control a social situation or feeling trapped/helpless.
  • Anticipatory anxiety is the fear of having a panic attack. You may avoid situations that you know have previously caused intense feelings of anxiety or panic.

The first step in the process of dealing with and processing your anxiety is to figure out your triggers. What is causing you anxiety? When is it happening? Who is it happening around? Why is it happening?

Steps to Overcome Panic Attacks

If you are struggling with intense feelings of impending danger, it is important to begin narrowing your signs and symptoms down so you can take proactive steps to improve your physical, emotional, and mental health.

Do not be ashamed or embarrassed about what you are feeling.

The first step is to know that you are not alone. Do not feel like you are less-than or falling short. The Bible reminds us that God wants to walk hand-in-hand with us on this journey of life. He does not promise that the road will be easy, but He promises that He will walk alongside us. He will comfort us in times of pain. He will direct us in times of uncertainty.

Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Anxiety may be part of your story, but it does not have to define you. The flames may be burning around you, but they do not have to steal your joy or feelings of hope.

Begin breathing techniques and relaxation exercises.

If you are struggling with panic attacks, begin taking deep breaths when a worrisome thought is consuming you. Download a relaxation breathing app on your phone to have on hand when you begin feeling the onset of panic. Find relaxation exercises and activities that work for you.

Re-channel that negative thought. Speak words of affirmation aloud. Practice yoga, exercise regularly, ensure you are getting adequate sleep and proper nutrition/water intake. To battle the mind, the body also needs proper care and nutrition.

Begin journaling when you have a panic attack.

What were you doing at that moment? What was happening around you? Who was around you? How did you feel? What thoughts began racing through your mind? Journaling will help pinpoint what is causing the panic attack if you are unaware. Journaling may also help you work through and process your thoughts on a deeper level.

Know that your pain will not last forever.

Barbara Haines Howett said, “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was ending, she became a butterfly.” You may have seen a lot of pain in your lifetime. Maybe those closest to you have not been the most encouraging.

You were made for a beautiful purpose and your story is still being written. Perhaps the last few chapters of life have been painful for you, but there is hope on the horizon. Your story can help make a difference in someone else’s life. This setback may be propelling you into something amazing that is right around the corner – and you do not want you to miss it.

Find a strong support system or accountability partner that you can be authentic with. Find someone who will understand and support you when things become heavy.

Hope on the Horizon: Christian Anxiety Counseling

If you are currently struggling with anxiety or panic attacks, Christian counseling for anxiety may be the perfect fit for you. It is a non-judgmental space that wants nothing but hope, joy, and the beautiful unfolding of a new chapter for your life. Today could bring new dawn – scheduling your appointment is the first step to building a stronger and better tomorrow.

Bible Verses for Anxiety

I encourage you to say and pray these aloud when anxiety tries to creep in and steal your sense of peace:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6-7

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.Matthew 6:34

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.Deuteronomy 31:6

I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.Psalm 34:4

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.Proverbs 12:25

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. – Psalm 23:4

A Prayer for the Anxious Heart

Father, right now I pray for the person whose heart is anxious. Lord, I pray that you would intervene. Cover their soul right now. Replace their anxious thoughts with thoughts of hope and positive declarations to ward off this negativity.

Please take away the feelings of panic and replace them with feelings of peace and hope. Please soothe their soul, calm their mind, and let them feel that You are present – now and forevermore. Please work in their heart as only You can. Please remind them that they are not alone.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

Photos:
“Stressed Out”, Courtesy of Alexandre Croussette, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Masking”, Courtesy of Engin Akyurt, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Letting Go of the Stress”, Courtesy of Eli DeFaria, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Free At Last”, Courtesy of Candice Picard, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Unforgiveness and Its Effect on Our Lives

The idea of dishing out our own brand of justice is a tale as old as time, and it finds expression in comic books, movies, books, and in our lives. Some of our favorite pop culture heroes are the vigilantes who serve justice outside the lines of the law.

The Guy Ritchie-directed movie Snatch, starring Brad Pitt and Jason Statham among others, put an interesting definition of the word “nemesis” in the mouth of one of its foul-mouthed characters, a gangster named Bricktop. Bricktop, in one of his many memorable pieces of dialogue, said something like this: “Do you know what nemesis means? A righteous infliction of retribution manifested by an appropriate agent. Personified in this case by . . . me.”

When someone wounds or offends us or the people we love, it is natural for us to want to retaliate, to inflict retribution. Sometimes, we feel like fixing things ourselves will be the best and quickest way to see justice done. Bricktop, for his part, thought himself to be a proper agent of righteous retribution, even though under the circumstances he was far from being righteous.

Set that next to the notion of forgiveness, which doesn’t often sit well with us, especially when we’re deep in our feelings about a situation. Forgive that person who just insulted me, my faith, or my people? Forgive that person who just rudely cut me off in traffic and then had the gall to insult me and my driving?

It’s often difficult enough to forgive our loved ones, but to forgive those we would call our enemies? That seems like a bridge too far. In those moments, it seems to make more sense to follow the way of Bricktop than it does to follow the way of Jesus.

What unforgiveness does to us

Every action we undertake has an impact on our lives. On the other side of that is the reality that whatever our hearts are full of will emerge out of our mouths and into our lives, showing us what’s going on inside of us.

For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good person brings good things out of the good stored up in them, and an evil person brings evil things out of the evil stored up in them.Matthew 12:34-35

Forgiving people is hard. We are concerned, and rightly so, that they will hurt us again, that forgiving them will seem like condoning their behavior, or that forgiving them will allow them to keep doing what they did. It is understandable that faced with the choice between offering forgiveness and withholding it, we often withhold it and live in a state of unforgiveness.

What, though, is the effect of unforgiveness on our lives?

It creates a barrier between us and God

In our own lives, we make many, many mistakes. We are repeat offenders in God’s books, and we find ourselves often at the throne of grace asking God for forgiveness. In the prayer he taught his followers, Jesus taught them to ask God for forgiveness even as they pray for daily bread (Matthew 6:9-15).

If we know ourselves well and are honest, we should acknowledge that we need forgiveness from God and other people often. God is gracious and freely forgives us, casting our sins away from us as far as the east is from the west.

The challenging part for us is that God asks us to extend forgiveness to others in the same way that he forgives us. What we have received, we are to pass on and bless others with.

So, that prayer for forgiveness that Jesus taught his followers goes, “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…” and he closes off the conversation by saying, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:11-12, 14-15).

When we withhold forgiveness from other people and live in a state of unforgiveness, it brings a challenge to our relationship with God. As one interpretation of these verses puts it, “In prayer, there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part”.

We exist in a complex web of relationships. God cares about what happens between us and our neighbors, and we can’t isolate or insulate our relationship with them from our relationship with God. The new life God gives us enables us to live in harmony with others and empowers us to do the impossible, like forgiving people.

It’s bad for your health

Forgiveness is connected to massive health benefits. Johns Hopkins Medicine notes that “Studies have found that the act of forgiveness can reap huge rewards for your health, lowering the risk of a heart attack; improving cholesterol levels and sleep; and reducing pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety, depression, and stress. And research points to an increase in the forgiveness-health connection as you age.”

“There is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed,” says Karen Swartz, M.D., director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in many changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and immune response.

Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease, and diabetes, among other conditions. Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.”

Living in unforgiveness and holding on to negative feelings about other people is bad for your health.

It robs us of the freedom God intends

One of the gifts that God has given people in Jesus is freedom. That freedom takes shape in different ways, but one of the surprising ways is that we are freed from our old selves, which were prone to feelings such as “bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander” (Ephesians 4:31). These are part of the old way of life.

That doesn’t mean that no situation will arise where we feel those things. Living out the life of God in us means that we give less and less room to those negative emotions, and learn more and more to “be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven [us]” (Ephesians 4:32).

Feeling angry toward someone as a result of unforgiveness can be so draining. As we’ve already pointed out, unforgiveness includes a heavy physical burden to carrying those emotions all day. Feeling anger and resentment toward other people also just wears down your soul and robs you of your joy. Have you ever noticed what happens when you’re in a good mood, and a person you have something against walks in the room?

All your energy gets taken away from the happiness you were feeling and is redirected toward avoiding that person’s gaze or just wanting to get out of there as quickly as possible. That’s a burden. Rather than carry that, God’s people can be sure that God will take up our cause and do what is right at the right time, so we don’t have to burden ourselves with holding onto our anger and wanting revenge (Romans 12:14-21).

It affects relationships and causes us to miss what God is doing

The story of the lost son in Luke 15 is a remarkable one about people finding a way back from a very dark place. The younger son in the story is wayward, and he squanders the family wealth on alcohol, parties, and fast living. He brings shame to his father and the family. The older son stayed home all the while, faithfully working the fields.

When the younger brother ran out of money and lost his friends, he thought to come home and restore some semblance of a relationship with his father. The wayward younger brother in the story stood for the tax collectors and sinners that Jesus was welcoming and eating with.

The older brother, standing for the religious leaders, angrily stood far off from the wayward brother, and would not extend forgiveness, welcome, or rejoice when the generous father had welcomed the wayward son home.

Was the wayward son wrong in what he had done? Yes, very much so. Is it natural and normal to feel offended, much like the older brother did in these circumstances? Yes. But in that story, Jesus was trying to show that the joy of welcoming back a wayward brother who has repented ought to overtake our offense at what they did.

The Pharisees were unwilling to welcome the tax collectors and sinners even when God in Jesus was welcoming them into the Kingdom. Choosing to forgive isn’t easy, but living in unforgiveness made them, and it can make us, miss out on what God is doing.

Photos:
“Love At All Costs”, Courtesy of Gus Moretta, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Let It Go”, Courtesy of Brett Jordan, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Please Forgive Me”, Courtesy of Brett Jordan, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Forgiveness”, Courtesy of Felix Koutchinski, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Mental Warfare: How to Overcome Psychological Trauma

Bad things happen to good people all the time. Sadly, it seems like in today’s age this is happening more and more often. Has anyone told you that you are a good person lately? Please be assured that you are. The fact that you are reading this piece is because you are trying to battle the mental warfare of psychological trauma.

I can hear you on the other side asking, “Why me?” and “Why am I experiencing this?” And I’m with you on this one. Why you? No one deserves to be mistreated or abused in any way, especially mentally.

You were created to be in God’s image according to Genesis 1:26-28. Think about how we would describe God…Powerful? All-knowing? Loving? These are some of the first attributes that come to mind when would describe him. Well, if we are made in His image, shouldn’t we show similar characteristics?

You may respond “But I’m not God” and that’s true. None of us are God. We are however made in God’s image. If the Scriptures are still true, then we all must look in the mirror and wonder why we sell ourselves short. This is the truth, but we entertain the lies more often. That’s the true challenge in my honest opinion.

The biggest challenge for us is to reframe our thinking so that we don’t believe those distorted thoughts. There’s an incredible passage in Romans 12:2 “we are transformed by renewing our minds”. It blows my mind that we can alter our thinking! Yes, you can alter the way you think which will then change you from the inside out. For us to change our thinking we must do some work and train ourselves so that we can have a renewed focus.

Jesus went through a traumatic experience in his life, and it was recorded in Matthew 14. In the middle of this gospel, his cousin, John the Baptist is tragically beheaded by an evil ruler at the time: “John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.” In verse 13, the Scripture says, “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.”

The verse says that Jesus takes time to be alone and the verse stops right there. I love that the Bible leaves it to our imagination on what happened. Take time to read that verse and put yourself in his shoes. What would you be doing? The Bible doesn’t make it easy for us to read what Jesus did, but the word of God allows us to ponder what he may have been doing.

If you didn’t catch it, the word is reframing our mind right there. God wants us to think. I don’t like thinking too much myself, but I know that this mental warfare is a real thing. It’s easier for us to veg out in front of the television. It’s simple to move on to the next thing and try to forget our past hurt.

But we need to see the example of Jesus and how he took the time to think. Reframing our mindset will help us to change our pattern of thinking into a healthier approach to life. That’s the decision we must make today – the decision to reframe the way we think.

Jesus doesn’t stop there. We continue reading on in Matthew 14:15 that after his time of mourning and praying, Jesus meets with a crowd and he is moved to compassion when he sees the needs of the people. “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”

The word “compassion” in Greek means for your “innermost part to be moved”. Though Jesus is sad about losing a loved one, in one night He pulls himself together enough to start helping others the next day. He didn’t take a shortcut nor was he absent from feeling pain. Jesus suffered and knew how to deal with it. He took the night to pray, process, and grieve.

He did not stop there though. Many others would have but not him. He allowed his heart and mind to start thinking about others and how he could help. Have you ever heard of the phrase “Hurt people, hurt people”? I’m here to tell you that Jesus’ case, “hurt people, help people.”

This compassion started on the inside and was a catalyst for Jesus to help others. This empowerment helped Jesus overcome his grief. I don’t think it resolved everything for Jesus at that time, but it was enough for him to get through the day.

Let’s shift the focus to you. How are you doing with your thought patterns? Are you feeling overwhelmed and faint with hopelessness? People have indeed hurt us, and we need to process that. So, the question remains, who are we talking to? How are we going to get help? Are we going to remain in this rut or are we going to do something about it?

It’s time for us to take back our minds and not lend them to these negative thoughts from our past to control us. Some forms of psychological trauma include verbal abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, racism, etc. These leave an imprint in our minds that is hard to forget.

There are many more, but these are some that stand out in 2021. Some may more emotional than others, and others may be more physical than others. Whether something physical happened or not is not the point. The point is that if it degrades our minds, then you can bet it is probably a form of psychological trauma that has shaped our brains.

Our minds are so powerful that if you think long and hard enough you may be able to convince your body to the point of having somatic symptoms. These symptoms will break your body down. Instead of using it to break us down, let us use our minds to build us up as we move forward. Our minds can fight these demons away so that we can be free.

Jesus was no stranger to mental suffering. He was accused and abused by those who hated him, but his mind was free to the point that it helped him overcome all those obstacles. Jesus set an example of how to deal with mental and emotional pain. He wasn’t physically suffering but he suffered for the loss he had. We must act and take small steps so that we can also succeed.

In the rest of chapter 14 in the gospel of Matthew, we see three examples of something important to which we should pay attention. Jesus feeds 5,000 families with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. He then works with Peter to walk on water which must’ve been a remarkable sight. Peter doesn’t last long on the water but before he falls Jesus states that he had little faith.

The fact that Peter walked on water with little faith is something mind-blowing to me because I would think you would need a stratosphere type of faith. Not so with Jesus, however. Even when we doubt and take some steps, he can make us “walk on water.” Lastly, when Jesus lands at his next destination, many people approach him and touch the edge of his cloak to get healed.

What surprises me is that the people didn’t have to even touch him physically! They didn’t have to hold his hand; they didn’t need to hug him or have him touch their foreheads to show some form of connection. They must’ve had so much reverence for him that in those times that wasn’t considered permissible – perhaps because it would’ve been disrespectful.

Even so, many barely grabbed a part of his cloak and were healed because of their small faith. I’m sure by now you can figure it out. The constant denominator in these three examples is that we only need to have small faith for God to work. Many times, we feel we need to be perfectly healed to live life, or that we must “get over” something to function.

The way I read it, this seems contrary to widely held belief. Jesus was hurt and was able to serve others despite his mental and emotional pain. We can do the same. Despite the hurt, we can help others. What small step of faith can you take today? We can call someone and ask for help. We can start journaling. We can set up a therapy appointment. We can go to the beach to pray.

We don’t have to do something enormous. We don’t need to recover before helping even fully someone else out. Do you think Jesus was one hundred percent resolved after his cousin was murdered? I don’t think so. But what he did was profound. He was able to serve as he was healing himself. Your faith doesn’t have to something astronomical. It doesn’t have to be out of this world. It can be something small.

If we do a tiny bit every day, we can take major leaps in our lives. This is how you and I can overcome our mental warfare. We can overcome our psychological trauma. We see the example of Jesus and it makes sense! So, if it’s good enough for Jesus then it should be good enough for us. Decide to something small today and get help. You will be victorious. I leave you with this Scripture to inspire you:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.Philippians 4:4-9

Christian Counseling for Psychological Trauma

If you would like additional help and support regarding how to overcome psychological trauma, I invite you to contact me or one of the other counselors in the counselor directory to schedule an appointment. It would be my honor to serve you in this capacity.

Photos:
“Caged”, Courtesy of Christopher Windus, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Drowning”, Courtesy of Nikko Macaspac, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Disequilibrium”, Courtesy of Joshua Fuller, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Walking Down the Road”, Courtesy of Emma Simpson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

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:
“Tidal Pool”, Courtesy of Micaela Parente, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Rocky Shore”, Courtesy of Zachary Staines, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Waves”, Courtesy of Michael Baldovinos, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Rocks in the Water”, Courtesy of Joshua Humpfer, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

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:
“Blue Door”, Courtesy of APOLLO, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Brown Door”, Courtesy of Beto Galetto, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Blue Door”, Courtesy of Vincent Wright, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Brown Door”, Courtesy of Alberto Gasco, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

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:
“Admiring the View”, Courtesy of Paola Chaaya, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “God is Love”, Courtesy of Hassan Saleh, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Watching the Bay”, Courtesy of Charlie Foster, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Just Married”, Courtesy of Desiree Fawn, Unsplash.com, CC0 License