For the spouse of someone struggling with addiction (or a number of other problems), it’s important to understand how to best help them. Remember that these things are only effective if you choose to do them. You do not HAVE to! You have options and choices and being a part of their recovery process is completely up to you. If you choose to help them, the following steps will support this process. Please understand, their addiction is not your fault. It’s about them, not you!
First, understand that the problem is their shame or feeling not good enough. Shame manifests through hurtful or harmful behavior out of fear of not being good enough. Unfortunately for them, they won’t even recognize this is what’s happening. Their fear that they aren’t enough is making them avoid any situation (including negative feelings) that reaffirm they aren’t enough. In other words, most of their negative behavior is to avoid the pain of being worthless and unlovable. They are making most of their decisions based on subconscious fears (learn more from Choosing Clarity). This can lead to hurtful and harmful behaviors that seem far removed from their shame but really aren’t. To help them we need to focus on increasing their sense of self-worth to combat the shame (and not just attempt to limit the behaviors that demonstrate their shame). The good news is that we can! The bad news is that we can’t give them something we don’t have.
1. Understand and accept that we are all human beings, not human doings, and our worth and value does not depend on what we do (or how well we do it) or what’s happened to us. This counts for you too! This means that we are all worthy of love, no matter what we’ve done or what we’ve been through. Their hurtful or harmful actions are a reflection of their own perceived value, not actual value.
2. Understand and address your own shame issues and how you feel about yourself. Are you feeling too much pain around their offensive thoughts, attitudes and behaviors? What do you believe their behaviors say about you? Are your beliefs accurate? Are you safe in knowing who you are?
3. Understand that love and trust are two separate things and loving someone does not mean trusting them. It means you will do certain things for them because you love them but you will also keep yourself safe if you don’t trust them, up to and including stepping out of their life.
4. Do your best to increase your own sense of self-worth. This includes journaling, mindfulness, strengthening your relationship to your Higher Power, having values and principles you know and live by, developing and demonstrating loving kindness for yourself, understanding your whole story, working through childhood trauma (EMDR), therapy (self, group), self-help books, etc.
5. Love them! Even if they are hurting you! Identify when they are acting from a place of shame with hurtful thoughts, attitudes, and behavior and invite them to love themselves because you love them. Loving them means you do not criticize, show contempt, or intentionally hurt them because you’re hurting. However, there’s an important disclaimer here: THIS DOES NOT MEAN you allow behavior that puts you at physical risk and it does not mean you trust them when they’re not trustworthy or have sex just because they want to when you don’t feel emotionally close to them. You need to maintain your boundaries and take time and space when they are hurting you. However, you maintain a love for WHO they are, not for what they’re doing, and this is the best way for you to invite them to change. Give them hope that they are more than what they think they are. However, you may still need to step out of their life if their behavior is harmful enough, and that’s okay.
6. Show this love consistently! Talk with them daily about these things (trust discussions, time together) and maintain your love throughout the process knowing you are yourself lovable and can walk away from the relationship at any time. Don’t wait for them to act lovable first. This maintains your integrity and increases your own sense of self-worth.
7. Differentiate hurtful from harmful behavior. Hurtful behavior is behavior that hurts your feelings, while harmful behavior causes more serious harm and requires more immediate attention. Accept that in the process of recovery there will be significant hurtful behavior while you choose to love them and they come to better understand their own worth. However, harmful behavior requires boundaries that may include limits, restrictions, time and space, separation, and divorce.
What can we really do?
1.Pray for them and for the principles of divine intervention in their life:
a.Soften hearts, strength, raise someone up, lead them away or remove the problem
2.Love them! Take your frustrations to the Lord and your love to your child
3.Set an example and demonstrate the things that are important (modeling)
4.Set boundaries (what YOU’RE going to do) and follow through on consequences, up to and including letting them go when necessary
a.ACT model of limit setting
i.Acknowledge the feeling
ii.Communicate the limit
iii.Target the alternative
5.Teach them (to their willingness to be taught)
6.Have more positive interactions than negative!
What not to do if you learn your child is looking at porn:
Additional resources include:
It’s surprising how much of what happens in our life is tied back to our core belief of who we really are. We are constantly making meaning out of what’s happening, from what a loved one says to us to how other people drive in traffic. Unfortunately, this meaning making is often a subconscious process – we think the way we subconsciously believe, and this goes back to whether or not we believe we’re good enough.
In essence, we are either human doings or human beings. In other words, we either believe our worth and value is tied to what we do (or don’t do) or it’s tied to who we are. If tied to what we do, how we look, how we act, or sound, or our bank accounts, etc., we often fail to meet other’s expectations and these feelings of failure can define us. We’ll never measure up to all the expectations we have which means we’re never good enough – not for our spouse, our family, our company, our church, and the list goes on and on. These feelings then loop, reaffirming our faulty belief in our low self-worth by influencing all of our future thoughts and feelings. While we don’t know all of our thoughts in a given day (60,000+!), we do know how we feel. This is the window into our beliefs, whether they are good or bad.
If you spend most of your time not feeling good, challenge your subconscious faulty core beliefs by affirming who you are – as a child of God whose value does not depend on action. You are worth 100% now and forever, the same as the day you were born. Our decisions affect our quality of life, but they do not affect our worth. We are bulletproof. And if we understand this, we are free to choose how to respond to life’s difficulties instead of being forced to numb or escape the pain of not being good enough. But this is a message we’ll need to consistently affirm for it to find root and take hold.
You can make a change – don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself!
Of all the things in life that have a tendency to set our trajectory or path, our ability to respond instead of react when things go south is an important skill. It's been said that all problems can be overcome through discipline. If that's true, learning to discipline our emotions will solve many of our problems.
Unfortunately, we tend to react instead of respond and let our emotions rule our decisions instead of mindfully deciding what we should do. And although this is a long and often difficult process to change our ways of handling difficult circumstances, it all starts rather simply: we need to first understand and realize that we have a CHOICE. We actually have options and can choose what we do! While for many this is rather obvious, you'd be surprised how powerless we often feel, almost as if how we've always acted is our only option for how we will continue to act. This simply isn't true and we need to take our power back.
You and I and everyone, when confronted with anything from spilled milk to addiction triggers, from someone cutting us off in traffic to a loved one ignoring us or rebuffing our advances, GET TO DECIDE how we're going to respond. Between every stimulus and response is a space where we can exercise our right and ability to choose what we're going to do. And while this is only the start of an often long and difficult process of disciplining and managing our emotions, you need to know that it's possible and you CAN DO IT! So make the commitment and roll your sleeves up. It'll be worth every effort : )
Overcoming pornography and masturbation consists of 4 main things: Understanding your true self-worth, removing porn as an option in your life, making new habits and staying productive, and accountability with loved ones. If you find that you’re not able to follow these steps, you won’t succeed. Motivation is often the greatest challenge – how badly do you want a new life?
Understanding your true self-worth
Overcoming addiction means overcoming your fears of not being good enough or life not being good enough. This comes as you understand your own self-worth. Since you don’t know who you are until you know whose you are, this requires an intimate relationship with your Higher Power. He is the one who determines your worth and meets all of your emotional needs, not your spouse or anyone else. This is accomplished through prayer, meditation, study and gratitude.
Removing porn and masturbation as an option
You will only be able to go long periods of time without porn when watching porn and masturbation are no longer options in your life. Those who have this mindset live as if porn didn't exist. You have to be OK with the idea that you will never watch porn again in your life. Ever. Having a journal (accountability) is absolutely crucial as you track your emotions, thoughts, and observations.
Making new habits and staying productive
To break a habit you need to make a habit. Overcoming porn is much deeper than simply quitting certain behavior; it’s about creating a new life. You have to live life on purpose, which means becoming passionate about good things and being engaged in healthy activities. This includes all areas of your life – physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual. You must learn to embrace discomfort and pain with the goal of learning from it. Meditation, relationships, service, and other activities are essential. You must be up and about! By doing this, your weakness becomes your strength and this problem becomes the pathway to a healthier, more compassionate, more understanding life. It will transform you into something higher and better than you could have been without it.
Accountability with loved ones
You need support to get through this and learn what you need to learn. It is fear that says you can do it on your own because you don't want to have to rely or be vulnerable with others. It takes courage that many can't find to truly recover, but love demands the effort. Maintain daily trust discussions about your thoughts and feelings and challenges. And remain completely honest, with faith and confidence that your self-worth is set and unchangeable and you’re safe - you have a place and you will always belong.
Have you wondered about any benefits of what we might call 'mental illness'? Think of your physical body. When you're in pain, it's because something needs attention. It might be as simple as placing your foot in a different spot or seeking medical attention. This is how our physical body takes care of itself.
We also have a way for our mental or emotional 'body' to take care of itself. Depression, anxiety, remorse of conscience, etc., are healthy indicators of something being wrong, a system out of balance. I am not referring to brain abnormalities or physiological impairment or damage. In an individual without these defects, these indicators are inviting us to place ourselves in a different position. This often means a growth and change process which undoubtedly can be painful. The problem we have is we often want to avoid legitimate suffering. Some claim this is even the root of all mental illness (Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled). Change is a natural process of growth but we often fear leaving our comfort zones or taking responsibility.
So, how should we respond? We exercise faith and acceptance. This means we have the courage to ask tough questions like "What lie am I telling myself that maintains my suffering?" or "What truth am I rejecting" and "What causes me to reject this truth? What's my fear?"
If we do not act and refuse to change than those indicators worsen until they interfere with daily living and create a mental and spiritual atrophy and decay. This creates a numbing effect that takes over our attitude and well-being.
So welcome pain, as it teaches us and creates meaning in our lives. Let's have the courage to face these indicators and look inward to develop ourselves!
The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.
― (Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled)
Parents often ask me what makes their child look at porn or chronically masturbate. The answer isn't as simple as some people think. On one end of the spectrum you have those who suffer from serious trauma that don't feel that they're important or that they matter. Their number one need is focusing on themselves and they believe they are the only ones who can meet this need. This belief can be the result of abuse, neglect, adoption, or other circumstances. For them, feeling good is important because people around them aren't. They have not benefited from having others meet their basic needs to give and receive love at important developmental stages. This is a devastating faulty core belief that takes considerable time and effort to help change.
On the other end of the spectrum are those that come from healthy families who were excited and aroused and learned that porn and masturbation is a kind of "quick fix" when feeling bored, lonely, tired, or disinterested in life around them. It's not necessarily deeper or more serious than that but is very powerful when those feel-good chemicals are released in the brain. Simple exploration with porn and sexuality creates a cycle of guilt and shame that leads to more desire to feel good again. Working with individuals like this means learning new coping skills as we work on helping them understand and meet their primary need of giving and receiving love through relationships.
There are also those who have a combination of factors. Either way, as long as someone has the desire and motivation to make a change and they are willing to be honest, open and willing with others, they can turn their lives around. Remember, this isn't something that can be forced and they have to want it for the right reason or it will lead to chronic frustration. To help someone you love prepare for this kind of change might be simpler than you think. Make them more important than the problem, show unconditional love and be as positive as you can. This kind of environment is the best place to invite and encourage them to consider changing. And remember, there is no worse case-scenario as they are loved by a Heavenly Father who knows them and what they need. Don't act out of desperation!
Helpful Ways to Reduce and Control Stress and Tension
As you read the following suggestions, remember that success will not come from a halfhearted effort, nor will it come overnight. To manage stress successfully, you must take control of your situation and make the needed changes to both your responses to stress and your lifestyle. It will take determination, persistence and time. Some suggestions may help immediately, but if your stress is chronic it may require more attention and/or lifestyle changes. Determine your tolerance level for stress and try to live within these limits. Learn to accept or change stressful and tense situations whenever possible. Remember the first lines of the Serenity Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.
Be realistic -- If you feel overwhelmed by some activities (yours and/or your family's) learn to say no! Eliminate an activity that is not absolutely necessary or ask someone else to help. You may be taking on more responsibility than you can or should handle. If you meet resistance, give reasons why you are making the changes. Be willing to listen to other's suggestions and be ready to negotiate.
Shed the "superman/woman" urge -- No one is perfect, so don't expect perfection from yourself or others. Perfectionism is one of the leading causes of internally induced stress. Ask yourself: What really needs to be done? How much can I really do? Is the deadline realistic? What adjustments can I make? Don't hesitate to ask for help if you need it.
Relax -- Just 10 to 20 minutes of quiet reflection may bring relief from chronic stress as well as increase your tolerance to it. Use the time to listen to music, relax and try to think of pleasant things or nothing at all.
Visualize -- Use your imagination and picture how you can manage a stressful situation more successfully. Whether it's a business presentation or moving to a new place, many people feel visual rehearsals boost self-confidence and enable them to take a more positive approach to a difficult task.
Take one thing at a time -- For people under tension or stress, an ordinary workload can sometimes seem unbearable. The best way to cope with this feeling of being overwhelmed is to take one task at a time. Pick one urgent task and work on it. Once you accomplish that task, choose the next one. The positive feeling of "checking off" work is very satisfying. It will motivate you to keep going.
Exercise -- Regular exercise is a popular way to relieve stress. Twenty to 30 minutes of physical activity each day benefits both the body and the mind.
Hobbies -- Take a break from your worries by doing something you enjoy. Whether your interests include gardening, painting, fishing, etc schedule time to indulge yourself.
Healthy lifestyle -- Get regular checkups. Know the general condition of your vital signs (blood pressure, etc) even if you have no symptoms. Good nutrition also makes a difference. Limit intake of caffeine and alcohol (alcohol actually disturbs, not helps, regular sleep patterns), get adequate rest, exercise, and balance work and play.
Share your feelings -- A phone call to a friend lets you know that you are not the only one having a bad day, dealing with a sick child, or working in a busy office. Stay in touch with friends and family. Let them provide love, support, and guidance. Don't try to cope alone. Perhaps it's time to consider hiring a Stress Management Coach!
Give in occasionally -- Be flexible! If you find you are meeting constant opposition in either your personal or professional life, rethink your position or strategy. Arguing only intensifies stressful feelings. If you know you are right, stand your ground, but do so calmly and rationally. Make allowances for other's opinions and be prepared to compromise. If you are willing to give in, others may meet you halfway. Not only will you reduce your stress, you may find better solutions to your problems.
Go easy with criticism -- You may expect too much of yourself and others. Try not to feel frustrated, let down, disappointed, even "trapped" when another person does not measure up. The "other person" may be a wife, a husband, or child whom you are trying to change to suit yourself. Remember, everyone is unique, and has his or her own virtues, shortcomings, and right to develop as an individual.
Deal with problems promptly -- Don't let things build up until they become a crisis. Whenever possible, resolve family, financial and legal issues before you go off to work. Having too much on your mind will affect your ability to concentrate on your job and make you more accident /mistake prone.
Compiled and edited by Sherry Cardinal, LCSW, taken from http://www.criticalincidentstress.com/stress_proofing_your_life
There is a renewal of our lives (our purpose, our hope and motivation) when we understand who we really are. This is not an easy process as we’ve learned from a young age that we need to do certain things to be accepted. This is especially true if our primary caregivers abused or neglected us or we felt rejected and abandoned. One of the hardest things for us to really believe is that we are human beings and not human doings. Our worth comes from WHO we are and not what we’re DOING or what we’ve DONE. And we ultimately don’t know WHO we are until we know WHOSE we are. As children of God, our worth and value is already set which makes us bulletproof. If we have the certain knowledge that we can’t be less than or not good enough than we are safe to be honest, to be vulnerable, and to really understand others. This confidence in how our story ends gives purpose to our lives. The truth really will set us free!
Of course, accomplishing this is easier said than done, but once we engage in consistently positive and honest thoughts and actions we’ll come to know our real selves. This is only accomplished when we spend time with sources of unconditional love, and for many people this disqualifies other people based on past experiences. It’s our Higher Power that is the best source of this love and the more time we spend in His presence by our thoughts and actions the more we’ll come to understand our own self-worth.
Get started on this process and your life will be renewed!
We are often unaware of how our deep-seeded beliefs affect our everyday, present feelings. If as a child, for example, your mother told you not to go outside without any clothes on, you might have interpreted that to mean that something is wrong with your body. As children we receive hundreds of messages like this growing up! It's no wonder that we often feel not good enough and believe we may not be lovable unless we're somehow perfect.
This belief then settled into your subconscious where it quietly and subtly affects your present-moment thoughts. While you don't consciously think "I'm not good enough", you do approach a situation with a filter that interprets what happens. Remember, we don't see the world as it is, but as we are. So we let messages that conform to this belief through our filter and reject messages that don't conform. If someone is upset at us, we may default to feeling less than. If, however, someone loves us and supports us, we may reject that and stay isolated from them.
Understanding our deep-seeded beliefs are necessary to change them. But the good news is, that we can! Our brains are extremely adaptable and do a wonderful job of conforming to what we consistently think about. Hence the importance of 1) being aware of our beliefs and thoughts and 2) taking consistent steps to change them.
Get started on this process and you'll see life transform!
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