Creating Trust in a Relationship

Worth reading! From Off the Web!

“I never dreamed he would cheat on me!” 

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Love may be intoxicating, but trust is what makes it safe. Trust is based on a shared understanding about what each person in the relationship expects of the other.

The wise couple develops an explicit, concrete agreement about what is and is not okay in terms of interactions with, and especially attractions to, people outside their relationship. When they have absolute confidence that the other person will stick with the agreement, they each relax and trust.

Here is How to Negotiate a Healthy Couple Contract:

  • Be Open About Your Expectations
  • Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

Read the rest HERE:

Creating Trust in a Relationship  By Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.

The Effects Of Sexual Abuse

– WORTH READING from Off the Web!

a_losided_gaze_by_imaginaryevfan-d3j8gvt“I was four when my father first molested me,” says Dana (her name, like others in this story, has been changed for the protection of privacy), a 36-year-old program administrator in Berkeley, California. Her face and voice expressionless, she continues: “It started with fondling. He’d bounce me up and down on his lap, or make me play hide-and-seek, and then molest me when he caught me. I got very good at hiding, but it didn’t help. By the time I was 12, he was raping me several times a month.”

Until she was an adult, Dana told no one about this abuse. “My father said, “If you tell, I’ll tell everyone it was all your fault,” she says flatly. “I was sure they would all believe him. My father was a successful businessman; our family looked completely normal from the outside.”

Dana left home when she was 18; she was married at 20. “Joe was the most non-male man I’d ever met,” she recalls with just a hint of a smile. “He created a real sense of safety for me. He was completely passive, easy to control. When I told him about my father, he was very understanding. I thought that being safe for the first time in my life would be enough to make me happy.”

But eight years and two children later, the marriage ended. “I just wasn’t able to be there, emotionally or sexually,” Dana says. “In eight years I think we had sex 15 times. To the day we got divorced, we never had an argument, but we didn’t share much happiness either.” She adds, “You see how I talk about all this, without any feeling? That’s how I coped with being molested: all through my childhood, I was detached, unemotional. My mother tells me she never saw me shed a tear after I was eight years old. Shutting down was the best I could do as a child. But it just didn’t work for me as a wife.”

A 1985 study conducted by the Los Angeles Times concluded that at least 22% of all Americans–27% of all women and 16% of men–have been victims of child sexual abuse. Like Dana, most of these children never told anyone: only 3% of the abuse was ever reported to police or other agencies.

Incestuous abuse is any kind of exploitative sexual contact between relatives that occurred before the victim turned 18 years old, and it accounted for 23% of the abuse victims in the study. 41% were molested by friends or acquaintances; 27% by strangers. Two-thirds of those victimized were girls and 93% of their abusers were men. Not all abuse involves intercourse but the effects are similarly devastating.

The Psychological Effect

Untreated sexual abuse,” says Padma Moyer, MFCC, a San Francisco therapist who works with adults survivors of incest, “is a time bomb. Sometimes it ticks so quietly that even the victim doesn’t hear it. But if it isn’t defused, eventually there’s an explosion.”

The fallout from this explosion was reported in the book, Father-Daughter Incest (Harvard University Press, 1982), by Judith Herman. She found that 65% of adult incest survivors suffered from severe depression; 55% had sexual problems; 35% became promiscuous; 20% became alcoholics and/or drug addicts. For many adults who were molested as children, self-destructive behavior is the only visible clue that abuse has occurred. Selective amnesia is common among survivors, whose memories may be blocked by years of threats to “keep Daddy’s secret–or else,” and by the tendency of the childhood psyche to repress traumatic experiences.

Marriage is the spark that ignites the time bomb within many survivors, says Eugene Porter, MFCC, an Oakland, California therapist who counsels couples in which one or both partners is an incest survivor. “Making the commitment to marriage brings up all the issues connected with the betrayal of being molested: intimacy, trust, sexuality,” concludes Ms. Moyer. “And when marriage is perceived as an obligation to take care of their partners’ sexual needs, it recapitulates their worst childhood experiences–being trapped and unable to say no.”

If the abuse hasn’t been resolved, victims blame themselves for the molestation, Mr. Porter says. And the resulting disturbances – depression, anxiety, guilt, low self-esteem–often put a strain on the spouse. “On the one hand the spouse feels the urge to cure the survivor; on the other, there’s a resentment about having to take care of this vulnerable, fragile, often withdrawn partner,” he continues. Survivors often have difficulty forming close emotional relationships and trusting their partners. Many female survivors project the rage they feel toward their fathers onto their husbands.

Mark, 35, a copywriter in Oakland, California and his wife Ellen, 31, an accountant, says: “When Ellen and I first got together she told me she’d been molested by her brother all through her childhood. Neither of us knew at the time how much that would affect our relationship. All I knew was that every time we started feeling close to each other, Ellen would freak out: she’d accuse me of cheating on her; she’d say she knew I was planning to dump her; she’d start threatening to leave me before I could hurt her. Then she’d go into a deep depression,” Mark sighs. “Meanwhile, I was getting hurt, because no matter how I tried, I couldn’t convince her that I loved her. Finally, Ellen started seeing a therapist. Then she figured out that she was afraid to trust me; she thought I’d betray her the way her brother had.” When Ellen first asked Mark to see a therapist with her, mark was resistant. “I thought it was her problem,” he recalls. But eventually Mark agreed and now says that therapy saved their marriage. “She started being able to distinguish me from her brother,” he says, ” so she could interpret our interaction as it was–not as a replay of what he’d done to her. That took the pressure off me. I stopped feeling like it was my job to prove that she was entitled to be loved. We’re a lot more relaxed and loving now.”

Sexual Problems

Sex is a particularly problematic area of marriage for molestation survivors, whose most traumatic memories involve sexual acts.

Jane, a 35-year-old nurse in Oakland, California remembers almost nothing of her childhood years. But she knows that both of her sisters were raped repeatedly by their father, and her own out-of-control behavior and nightmares have convinced her that she, too, was sexually abused. “Before I got married, I’d sleep with anybody,” she says. “But with my husbands, I was totally disinterested in sex.” Sighing deeply, she adds, “I’ve never been able to believe that there’s any reason to make love besides that it’s how men use you. I’ve never had an orgasm. I’ve never been able to say no to a man, and I’ve never felt close or cared for.”

Many incest survivors have “flashbacks” while making love, says Julie Robbins, LCSW, a therapist specializing in child and adult survivors of sexual abuse. Women who had orgasms while being abused as children may punish their bodies for “enjoying” the abuse, becoming non-orgasmic, obese, or anorexic as adults, she says.

Some male survivors suffer impotence, most often under circumstances reminiscent of their molestation. “Men who have been molested, particularly by their mothers,” says Mr. Porter, “experience a tremendous amount of guilt. Society thinks of mothers as sacrosanct, virginal, so the self-blame among these men is acute. Also, mothers who molest often transmit an expectation of fidelity to their victim sons, which distorts male survivors’ view of what fidelity means. One patient of mine thought he was abnormal and deceptive because he occasionally fantasized about women other than his wife. Another was totally compulsive about sex as a reaction to his molestation by his mother, who had been quite insistent that she be his ‘only one.’”

Alcohol and drugs are used to dull sexual responsiveness, a well as the pain of repressed or remembered abuse.

“Until I started therapy last year at the age of 36,” says Laura, a legal secretary in San Mateo, California, “I had no idea why I could never undress in front of my husband, let alone have sex with him, unless I was completely drunk. Or, why I used to get smashed at parties, or whenever there were any strange men around. Now my memories are coming back; I know that my father was messing with me and I know I used drinking to keep myself from realizing why I’ve been so terrified of men all my life. But now I have two problems to deal with: being molested, and being an alcoholic.”

Breaking the Cycle

Perhaps the most devastating effect of childhood sexual abuse is that it has proven to be a key link in the multigenerational chain of emotional, physical, and sexual violence. Parents United, the nationwide incest treatment agency in San Jose, California reports that 80% of the sexually abusive parents, and 60% of the physically abusive parents they treat, were themselves molested as children. And, it is highly likely that children of untreated survivors of molestation will also be abused, both in and outside of their families. Eighty percent of the molested children treated at Parents United have mothers who were sexually abused.

How can adults who have suffered the anguish of childhood sexual abuse do the same thing to other children that was done to them?

Some molesters have sex with children because low self-esteem (due to self-blame for their childhood molestation) convinces them that no adult will willingly have sex with them.

Many women who were abused perpetuate the cycle – not necessarily by molesting their children, but by putting them at risk. “If a female survivor’s feelings and memories remain unconscious,” says Ms. Moyer ,”and she doesn’t examine the family dynamic in which she grew up, she may choose a husband like her perpetrator, and create a family like her own family. In that way, she may inadvertently lay the groundwork for her children to be abused.”

The tragic repercussions of multigenerational abuse can be prevented. In the past 10 years, researchers and therapists across the country have developed specialized treatment techniques that can help to heal the wounds of childhood sexual abuse, and thereby lessen its impact on future generations. “When people deal with what happened to them, and the pain of it,” says Ms. Moyer, “they’re much less likely to re-enact it.”

Therapy

Mr. Porter advises survivors of sexual abuse who are considering marriage and/or child rearing to tell their partners that they’ve been molested before proceeding. Therapy for one or both partners, and relationship counseling is recommended. “In my experience,” he says, “most women tell their fiancées; most men don’t. But the first step toward establishing healthy family is establishing honesty within the couple. Often the safest way to disclose is to come in as a couple and work it through together in the safety of a therapist’s office.”

What can a couple expect from the therapeutic process? The “disclosure phase,” Mr. Porter says – the breaking of the secret – often precipitates a good deal of stress in the relationship. The survivor worries about being rejected; the spouse feels confused and disoriented, wondering how he or she should feel, should treat their partner, etc. And, while feeling bad for the partner, they may also feel anger–a “why didn’t you tell me?” reaction. Therapy can help navigate these complex responses.

Spouses of survivors who must have ongoing relationships with their abusers often experience a range of intense emotions. “The first time I met Ellen’s brother,” says Mark, “I wanted to murder him…slowly and painfully. It was the strangest feeling to realize that this man was not only the person who had hurt the woman I love, this was also a man who had sex with my wife. Neither Ellen nor I could stand to be around him. First we stopped going to family gatherings; then we moved to California, partly to get away from him.” Ms. Moyer says that the relationship between an incest survivor and the person who molested her is usually either non-existent or problematic. “Survivors whose offenders are still living,” she says, “have a variety of ways of coping with that relationship. Many simply cut off contact. Many have minimal contact.”

Ms. Moyer states that counseling offers other great benefits. “It’s a stressful thing to go through,” she says, ” but it can also be a time of building a bridge of intimacy that can bring incredible love and solidarity.”

Dana began therapy shortly after her divorce in 1980, to work through the aftermath of the abuse she suffered from her father. A few years later, she was married for a second time. “This time around, marriage is really working for me!” she asserts.

“And I can safely say that being in therapy made all the difference. It’s been very painful, but worth every teardrop. For the first time, I went beyond knowing in my head that the incest happened – I connected with my feelings about it. Now, I don’t’ retreat emotionally the way I used to. I’ve learned to say no, and strangely enough, that’s helped me to become more sexual. I used to just do it and not be there, but now I’m able to acknowledge I’m a sexual person.”

But the greatest reward of the healing process she has gone through, Dana says, is watching her two children grow up happy and healthy. “I’ve taught them they have control.”

Working through this issue makes it possible to make conscious choices and to break old patterns. Says Ms. Moyer: “People who work to heal from child sexual abuse are changing the legacies of future generations.”

Edited for readability from:  meredithmaran.com/mag_bride_abused.htm

Meredith Maran is the author of many books including My Lie: A True Story of False Memory. She’s on twitter @meredithmaran

What is Codependency?

When I heard the term for the first time, I thought it was a good thing – like cooperation, co-ops, and interdependency. But in the field of psychology, it actually refers to a style of living that is not so good. According to Melody Beatty, who wrote “Codependent No More”:

“It’s a condition that develops as a result of an individual’s prolonged exposure to, and practice of, a set of oppressive rules which prevent the open expression of feelings as well as the direct discussion of personal and interpersonal problems.”

Codependents’ have low self worth and look for something outside themselves to make them feel “Okay”.  Some try to feel better through alcohol or drugs while others’ may become obsessed with other people’s problems.

Codependency develops at home. It’s a strategy for survival in an environment where someone else’s needs were seen as more important than yours. If a parent was mentally or physically ill, or someone was raging around and threatening your safety, or any other extreme personality, you might have learned  to always be focused on other’s needs, never even knowing your own needs.

I think codependency happens when a person believes their worth is about function and not about existence.

Let me explain.

We learn to care about ourselves and others’ based on two kinds of love, modeled for us through our caretakers. One – usually considered “masculine” – comes about from feedback that we do things well. The other – usually considered “feminine” – is created from knowing we are lovable because we exist.

In dysfunctional homes, our self worth cannot be confirmed.

Members of these families tend to believe the problems around them are their fault, thus becoming obsessed with trying to fix things that are, frankly, beyond their control.

You can also become codependent if your home environment doesn’t nourish your spirit. Parents that fail to compliment you, that are neglectful, or do not provide proper supervision to help you feel safe, can lead a young person to doubt their worth or ability to manage life.

They learn to seek “worthiness” through sources outside themselves.

Like drugs.

Like alcohol.

Like approval.

Like being perfect.

I became codependent with my family. I became codependent with alcohol. I had many traumatic events that you might understand, even forgive. But the bottom line is… I thought “I” wasn’t enough to manage these things. So I drank – a lot. I justified it because I had my “boundaries”: never before 6pm,  when I had my kids (I’d recently divorced), and never when I worked.

But my life, subtly, became controlled by my need for the substance. I’d always know how long I had to wait before I could imbibe; I’d calculate if I had “enough” for … whatever. I became convinced that everything good about me was because of who I became when I drank.

I was so, so, so very wrong.

Find a counselor if you doubt your worth, if you have a history of “bad” relationships, if you can’t sleep well because of worries outside your control.

“You are responsible for helping yourself see the light and for setting yourself straight. If you can’t get peaceful about a decision, let it go. It’s not time to make it yet. Wait until your mind is consistent and your emotions are calm. Slow down. You don’t have to feel so frightened. You don’t have to feel so frantic. Keep things in perspective. Make life easier for you.” ~Melody Beatty

 

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A Relaxation Exercise

Self Help TidBits

Five-Finger Relaxation Technique

This technique is great for lessening anxiety and building confidence. It only takes a few minutes to learn, and is actually very powerful.

To begin, get in a relaxed position, close your eyes, breathe slowly and deeply.

  1. Inhale, and as you exhale, touch your thumb to your index finger. Recall a time when your body felt a healthy fatigue, like how you felt sinking into a chair after a day of hiking, or just stepping out of a hot tub. Breathe deeply and try to feel the heaviness of your muscles.
  2. Next, touch your thumb to your middle finger and think of a time when you had a loving experience – when you felt a strong sense of closeness or connection with another, like a long embrace.  Feel the sensations of warmth and love moving through you.
  3. Now, touch your thumb to your ring finger and recall the nicest compliment you ever received. Listen. Take it in. You might want to imagine thanking this person… Accepting the compliment demonstrates your high regard for this person.
  4.  Finally, touch your thumb to your little finger. As you do, reflect on the most beautiful place you have ever been. Let yourself soak in the environment – the colors, light, breeze, sounds, texture and smells. Allow yourself to stay in this place for a while.

Now gently bring yourself back to where you are. Remind yourself that you can awaken this experience any time throughout your day by touching each finger, saying:

5-finger relaxation

5-finger relaxation

 

More TidBits – Therapy self-help

 

SELF WORTH

I was recently skimming old journals of mine when I found an entry that made me do a double-take.

… because I doubted my worth, I never sought a partner who, on paper, might appear my equal. I sought men who I ‘felt’ for; whom I could ‘help’ with my compassionate heart…”

In other words, people I was (thought I was) superior to.

You can hate me for saying it– out loud, but I’m doing it anyway – because I think a lot of people out there do the same. We are drawn to safety (“inferior“); We are confident in our role (“fixer”); We like feeling “in control”.

I was in therapy at the time. I was in my mid-20s – a naive believer that “love could conquer all!”

My therapist said, “but at what cost?”

I remember being stunned. Because HE WAS RIGHT! How much of my true self had I sacrificed for the sake of this unchallenged belief??

I had to challenge my own “instincts” – after all, they were based on “safety”, not reality.

In reality, I had a master’s degree (no financial help from family). I had overcome many major challenges: I refused to be a victim of my childhood – from learning disabilities, abuse from my stepfather; to an unloving, absent mother.

I was, in actuality… AWESOME!

I learned to view my anxiety as a burden instead of ‘good instincts’. I learned to re-interpret it as a faulty warning system, and to dive in, instead of running.

30 years later, I thank my therapist for challenging me with such perfect timing.

It’s an art.

Get a good therapist.

It makes a difference.

 

Snuggling With the Demons

(It’s good to re-cycle! …Even old articles :)

demonsnuggles

In order to truly reach our potential as unique human beings, we must face our Demons – those parts of Self that don’t feel very respectable; the parts you’d like to disown; those aspects you do not want to accept about yourself.

Carl Jung coined the term “The shadow” to describe our demons. It’s the unconscious composite of self that has been repressed, suppressed or disowned. Our shadow often has both positive and negative aspects. For instance, the shadow of someone who identifies with self as being kind may not be able to see when he or she is being harsh or unpleasant. And a person’s shadow can have hidden positive qualities that have been repressed. The shadow of a person who perceives himself to be unfeeling may not see that he or she can also be tender. Jung described the unconscious is an active part of the normal human psyche, and that “neurosis results from a disharmony between the individual’s unconsciousness and the higher Self”.

The first task on the path to your potential happens when you become aware of your inner states of being – your motives, emotional reactions, and patterns of thought – as you experience the world around you. If you look into your own life, you will notice that your beliefs and expectations, many of them formed in early childhood, skew your experience of reality. And the effects of cultural, historical, and environmental influences may be beyond our individual ability to control. But many of those influences can be challenged. It begins with awareness.

Becoming aware is enormously important in freeing you from these patterns, but awareness will not, by itself, remove them altogether. At the level of daily living, these insights do not “fix” the old patterned emotional tendencies. You still have the same difficulties in your relationships, the same tendency to confirm what you think you already know, and drudge on, wishing it would all change.

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

~Albert Einstein

Only by learning to investigate and integrate our unconscious patterns of thinking and feeling can we become whole and end our imprisoned patterns that cause most of our suffering. We must stop pushing away moments of discomfort, but instead welcome them as opportunities to see into and eventually through the unexamined aspects of self that have been driving us.

Making the unconscious conscious is a radical kind of responsibility for the self, and the only true path to freedom and authenticity.

“Each time we bring the light of awareness into the corners of our psyche, it is like turning on the light in a dark room. As we get accustomed to the feelings, we find we can leave the light on. The monsters and dragons reveal themselves to be shadows. Then we don’t have to do anything to get rid of them. It’s as if they were never even there.” ~ Sally Kempton

Our supposed demons have their own gifts and challenges. But the perfect way to tame each of them is by learning to understand them, appreciate their message, and give them the simple things they need. As soon as these parts of self feel understood,  they tend to no longer threaten us. They become assets instead of liabilities.

Psychotherapy can help you learn to transform these unconscious energies into snuggly beasts. I haven’t met a client who didn’t love themselves more after meeting their demons with understanding. Maybe a therapist can help you, too.

The First Task of Life: Survival and Our Quest to Be Loved

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The First Task of Life – to Be Loved

Love is the most compelling force for our species – not survival. Babies do not survive without love. Food, shelter and food are not enough. Children actively seek a love-bond with their caregivers and there is nothing more frightening to us as children than the possibility that we would not be loved or accepted by significant persons in our lives. We know we need it to survive and our sense of physical safety is intrinsically linked to our sense of emotional safety. These emotional drives shape most behaviors and are associated with our core fears of rejection, inadequacy or abandonment.

Built-in Safety – Early “Survival-Love Maps”

Born with a burning curiosity, we yearn to know everything there is to know about ourselves and about our world. Learning is one of our key attributes of human beings and a healthy brain is almost always in “learning mode”. We are wired to struggle, to learn, and to engage in processes that make us feel vulnerable, and yet, expand our capacity to grow.

Our first learning, however, was through mirroring our parents. Messages about what they needed from us, whom they thought we were, and what they thought the world was like, were etched in our brains and formed our first sense of self. If our parents were scared and insecure, upset or anxious, regardless whether their anxiety was directed at us or some other person or event, it activated our own survival response. We “knew”, without concepts, that there was danger. We learned to feel the same, thus forming a set of instructions or “rules” that can endure throughout life (Dr. Daniel Siegel). .

These early survival-love maps allowed us as children to subconsciously distort our responses to the environment to feel the level of emotional safety we needed. Subconsciously, we “decided” or “learned” certain rules that best ensured we would receive some measure of “good feelings.”

But by the time we reach adulthood, this map has outlived its usefulness to us. No longer the solution, it becomes part of the problem instead.

Unless we break free of our automatic responses to these early survival rules, we are destined to live an unfulfilled life. These love-maps can block the ability to form healthy intimacy and relationship bonds in adulthood.

Signs of an Ineffective Love-Map

  • Do you have a hard time connecting inwardly to get to know yourself and others intimately?
  • Are you dependent on others to love and value you – before you have learned to love and value yourself?
  • Do you rely on sources outside of yourself to feel normal? For safety, strength and happiness?
  • Is it hard to remain calm, confident, and centered when you feel stressed or triggered?
  • Do you feel more vulnerable than you actually are?
  • Do you find it difficult to identify what you are feeling? To know what you want?
  • Do you often act as though other people’s needs are more important than your own?

 Life is not about the destination; it’s about the process.

It has never been about getting our parents and others to unconditionally love us. Rather, it’s about the lessons, and what we learn about ourselves and life along the way. As an adult, who you want to put in charge of the power you have to make life-shaping choices? Will it be you as a conscious agent and choice maker of your life – or your subconscious survival-love map?

Here’s the good news. Human beings are resilient – the human brain has the capacity, known as neuroplasticity, to heal and change the limiting reactions created earlier to cope with life.

Part of the Work of Change could include:

  • Begins with a life long commitment to choose to live authentically and honestly in relation to self and others.
  • Involves understanding how our brain works, and the power of our thoughts and emotions in shaping behaviors.
  • Requires courage to become more aware, present and reflective of our mind and body, our inner experience and of life around us.
  • Involves a willingness to face our fears and transform them into courage.

 

Adapted from an article by:  Athena Staik, Ph.D.

The First Task of Life? Survival and Our Quest to Be Loved | Neuroscience and Relationships.