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Archive for the ‘Denial’ Category

8 Steps to Break a Cycle of Family Dysfunction

SOURCE:  TIM SANFORD/Boundless

Destructive relationship patterns can get passed down from one generation to the next.

Here’s how you can set a new precedent for your future family.

Boys who witness domestic violence in their own home are three times more likely to become batterers.[1]

Children of alcoholics … are much more likely to perpetuate the cycle of alcoholism in their own lives … they have a four-fold increased risk of becoming alcoholics as adults compared with the general population.[2]

One’s dysfunctional personal behavior becomes a model or example to the next generation, and the cycle can be repeated over and over again.[3]

Most experts believe that children who are raised in abusive homes learn that violence is an effective way to resolve conflicts and problems.[4]

Yeah, that’s what you read on Google. But do destructive, hurtful and dysfunctional relationship patterns really get passed down from one generation to the next?

The answer is simple — YES.

Why?

That answer is simple, too.

In elementary school you learned one plus one equals two. What would you teach a first-grade class if you were the substitute teacher for arithmetic?

One plus one equals two.

That’s what I taught my daughters. But there was no way I was going to teach them anything about microbiology. I don’t know anything about microbiology. Besides, knowing nothing about the subject means I don’t know what I don’t know. A huge part of what keeps destructive behaviors going is individuals who don’t know they’re dysfunctional and don’t know they don’t know. We pass on through words, actions and attitudes — consciously or not — what we know. We can’t pass on what we don’t know.

“(I) …the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of whose who hate me …” (Exodus 20:5, emphasis added). Dysfunction does beget dysfunction.

But that’s not fair.

Right, it’s not fair. Ever since sin invaded the world of humanity, few things in life have been fair. People get hurt when they didn’t do anything to deserve it. People who intentionally hurt others seem to get away with it. The most unfair circumstances occur when helpless children get injured by parents who are supposed to be their protectors.

So yelling at my girlfriend isn’t my fault because that’s what my dad did to me.

Slow down, and be extremely careful. If you blame your father, he could blame his father who could blame his father. We could go all the way back to Noah and blame him. After all, he’s the one who built the ark and saved the human race. If he hadn’t, your father’s father’s father’s father wouldn’t have been born. Nobody would have yelled at anybody. So it’s all Noah’s fault.

Lousy logic and faulty theology, because it’s not an either/or situation. It’s a both/and.

Follow me on this. When your father yelled at you, who did the yelling (the dysfunctional action)?

My father.

That yelling is your father’s fault. He’s the one guilty of yelling at you.

When you yell at your girlfriend, who’s doing the yelling this time?

I guess I am.

This yelling episode is your fault. Your father “dealt you a bad hand” (not fair, true). Still, it’s up to you how you play those cards. The actions that follow are yours. You had no control over your father’s actions toward you. You do have control over whether you repeat the cycle — or not.

Can this cycle truly be broken?

This answer is simple, too: Yes, it can.

Keep reading the Exodus passage quoted above. God follows up the punishment declaration with verse six, “…but (God) showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (emphasis added). Dysfunction begets dysfunction. So, too, function begets function, health begets health, and truth begets truth.

So how do I change?

1. Become aware of your family’s destructive relationship patterns. This is the first step in moving toward healthy functioning. You can’t teach what you don’t know, and you can’t change what you’re not aware of. Awareness is a big first step.

And it’s highly likely you’re not aware. You truly don’t know, so ask around. Seek out individuals who you think are healthy and stable, and ask them what questions are the good questions to ask. You may decide to seek professional therapy to help you see what you aren’t able to see on your own.

2. Take ownership of your own actions, attitudes, beliefs and emotions. Admit, “It’s my problem. I need help. I’m the one needing an attitude adjustment. I may be the one who’s wrong in this situation.” Whether you know all your dysfunctional ways or not, take responsibility for the ones you know.

3. Purposely observe, compare and contrast other families’ interactions with how your family handles similar situations. Have you noticed other family groups who — in your way of thinking — are just plain weird? They don’t overreact to anything it seems. They speak their minds. They listen and actually hear each other. None of this is how your family interacted. That’s what makes it seem so weird to you. What do they do? How do they interact? What do they believe that makes them different and more stable or healthy?

4. Do Google searches on:

  • The rules of dysfunctional family systems
  • Family roles or scripts
  • Read up on what it means to be the: Addict, Enabler, Hero, Scapegoat, Clown or the Lost Child. Which one sounds like you?
  • Codependency/enabling
  • Adult attachment pain
  • Adult children of alcoholics — even if there was no alcohol in your house
  • Boundaries in relationships
  • Signs somebody may be manipulating in a relationship

As you read, identify the things that fit your life story. Take notes on ways to change the unhealthy things you learned as a child. Ask yourself:

  • What is healthy in a friendship?
  • What is an accurate way for me to see me?
  • How am I supposed to treat a person of the opposite sex?
  • What is my belief system? How do I think? What do I think?
  • What assumptions do I have, and what perceptions do I cling to so tightly?

5. Evaluate your present relationships. Are they going smoothly and benefiting both parties? Do you know what healthy boundaries are, and do you keep them? How would the other party answer these same questions?

6. Read Proverbs. It identifies many healthy — and unhealthy — ways of living and relating. Ask God to open your eyes and mind to what true and healthy living looks like and what changes you need to make.

Do all these things with the goal of becoming aware of and changing the dysfunctional ways you learned as a child.

7. Practice. Healthy living is learned experientially. Awareness and understanding is your starting place. Now it’s practice, practice, practice. It’s not natural, yet it will be.

With practice comes “trial and error” which means there will be some “errors” in your practicing. That’s normal; it’s OK. This brings us to the last point.

8. Be patient with yourself and others. Patience is one of the functional ways of dealing with the world.

“But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts” (Psalm 103:17, emphasis added).

You’re not condemned to repeat how your parents parented. You don’t have to be a 25-year veteran of healthy living before you pass functional relationship patterns on to the next generation. All you need to be is one step ahead of where they are.

It takes one generation to turn the tide from God’s punishment to one of God’s love being passed down. That’s all — just one. Start here. Start now.

It’s never too late to move from dysfunction to function.

Never.


REFERENCES

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In Denial? Not Me!

SOURCE:  

Helping people who deny their faults

Jane was at her wit’s end as she listened yet again to her husband scolding their son about his less than desirable work habits. The squabbles between the two males in her life were frequent and seemed to be escalating in intensity.

Waiting for the right moment, she spoke diplomatically, “John, I’m concerned about the harshness of your exchanges with Jerome. You actually have a valid message to convey, but when you yell and insult, it creates more problems than it solves. Would you be willing to tone it down and model a more constructive way?”

Lips pursed, John shot back, “I’m not the problem here! That kid has an attitude, and someone needs to teach him that he can’t get away with chronic irresponsibility.”

“I understand the point you’re making about Jerome’s attitude,” Jane replied, “and I’m committed to working with you in that regard. It’s your communication style I’m trying to address. No matter how correct your ideas are, he won’t listen as long as you are belittling.”

“I’m not belittling him. You need to get off my back and show me some support! I’m tired of being made out as the bad guy!” With that, he huffed off into another room, slamming the door behind him as Jane sat silent, nursing a very familiar sinking feeling in her gut.

What was going on with John? Why was it so difficult to hear his wife’s concerns? Clearly he was so emotionally rattled that self-protection had overtaken his persona, and denial was his way of making himself seem less exposed. He felt so threatened by his wife’s attempted guidance that he could not pause to consider her common sense. Even if she had been wrong in what she was saying, how hard would it have been for him to simply reply, “I’ll certainly consider what you’re telling me”?

The number one trait hindering personal improvement is denial. Simply put, no one can grow or mature without first acknowledging the need. Those in denial guarantee that their dark side wins and relationships falter.

People in frequent denial show themselves to be driven by fear. They fear looking foolish. They fear being controlled. They fear losing. They fear being dismissed. But the crazy thing about denial is that when it is in full force, those very fears become true. They look foolish, they are under the control of others, they lose, and they are readily dismissed … every time.

Do you know people who use denial? Or more importantly, do you ever go into denial? Admit it. We each hate being exposed as inadequate, and none of us is fond of eating humble pie. So as a matter of self-protection it’s easier to say the problem doesn’t exist, then we cleverly flip the focus back onto the confronter, putting that person into a backpedaling mode.

Let’s begin breaking down this defense mechanism with a major acknowledgment: denial is a colossal waste of emotional and communicational energy. It thrusts the relationship into an adversarial mode that serves no healthy function. Invalidating another’s perceptions removes the possibility of learning anything new or challenging.

When I counsel individuals using denial, there are several themes I emphasize:

  1. Listening is an incredibly rewarding exercise. A person has to train his mind to actually hear the essence of the other’s message. But when he does, he affirms that person as he also opens the possibility of learning. The counselee may be quite surprised to learn how his influence increases when he proactively chooses to hear with no rebuttal. You can also point out that listening is prudent and the Bible says that those who don’t listen before responding are unwise (Prov. 18:2, 13).
  2. Absorbing unflattering feedback requires emotional maturity. Though it may seem counterintuitive to the counselee, a person illustrates inner weakness as he insists upon appearing strong, but he displays inner strength as he shows a willingness to examine his weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:9–10).
  3. All individuals have blind spots relative to their personalities. Hearing separate perceptions increases the potential for diminishing those blind spots. In 1 John 1:8 the Bible warns people who say they have no sin: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” And God encourages us to be diligent in examining ourselves for areas (blind spots) in our lives we need to confess and repent of (Matt. 7:5; 1 Cor. 11:28; 2 Cor. 13:5).
  4. Removing denial diminishes the propensity toward aggressive anger. This kind of anger is built upon the need to build one’s status by tearing down the other’s legitimacy (Eph. 4:29, 31–32; 1 Pet. 2:1–2).
  5. No one ever completes the personal growth plan.
    Humility leads each of us to conclude that just when we think we have life figured out, something happens to remind us of our fallibility. Encourage the counselee that the Bible says we all make mistakes; no one is without fault (Prov. 20:9; Rom. 3:23; James 3:2), yet God still loves us, and that is why He sent Jesus.
  6. The best relationships practice mutual accountability.
    As we lovingly discuss needs, interpretations, and preferences with each other, we form bonds of unity and helpfulness (1 Thess. 5:11; 1 Pet. 3:8).

When you drop denial in favor of careful listening, the worst that could happen is that the information given may not prove helpful. Okay, that’s not so awful. The best that can happen is that we mature and become more capable as loving companions. Who knows, you may even become bold enough to ask a confronter, “Is there anything else you’d like me to consider?”

The Emotional & Relational Cost of Addiction

SOURCE:  Chip Dodd

According to recent statistics gathered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 23.5 million Americans over the age of 12 cast about in daily life addicted to alcohol and/or illegal drugs.

That number does not include the millions of other Americans who are addicted to prescribed medications. Most people began taking prescribed drugs to mediate a physical or mental-emotional problem; then, the drugs became the primary problem, most notably narcotics and anti-anxiety medications. Even more, that 23.5 million people addicted to alcohol and/or illegal drugs does not include the millions of people involved in process-behavioral addictions to sex/pornography, gambling, food, and work. Many other subtler addictions that exact a cost upon society are denied or simply not recognized. They also add significantly to the millions not counted.

Speaking only about the 23.5 million addicts (saying “only” about 23.5 million anything seems absurd to me, but I want to remain specific) impact upon themselves and others, statistics indicate that for every one person addicted to alcohol and/or drugs, 3 to 4 other people in relationship with the addict experience life damaging effects. Any person who is relationally connected with an addict for an extended period of time will suffer some of the characteristics of post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Predominantly family members directly suffer the emotional and relational, if not the physical and financial, impact of addiction. The impact of addiction upon this group centers on trauma, which, at core, suppresses the capacity for emotional and relational development. Think of the impact on children alone.

“Addiction temporarily allows one to avoid the vulnerability and insecurity of depending on others and God for relational fulfillment.”

Trauma basically means that a person will suffer some form of reaction that requires they hide their vulnerability to emotional expression and relational capacity for intimacy. They develop a distortion, distress, and distrust with their own sense of worth and acceptance of belonging and mattering. More simply put, they believe they have to perform to have worth or acceptance. They have to earn love, and rarely allow themselves truly to trust love when it is given. These characteristics, likewise, reside inside every addict at the core of their own emotional and relational makeup.

These people suffer the compulsion of trying to find a full life without knowing how to risk feeling all that is required to live a vibrant relational life. Symptoms of this core “need” for control can extend into myriad complicating results, such as stress illnesses, anxiety disorders, and depression. Addiction predicts the continuation of the next addiction and/or many other life-stifling consequences. Addiction is, tragically, a form of relationship, a self-cure for pain. It temporarily allows one to avoid the vulnerability and insecurity of depending on others and God for relational fulfillment. These counterfeit cures and fulfillments take control over the emotional vulnerability and insecurity required to live ably and fully in true relationship with others and God.

By multiplying the minimal number of 3 people impacted by addiction times the number of addicts estimated by SAMHSA, that number is 70.5 million people harmed emotionally and relationally by people trapped in their own emotional and relational maelstrom of addiction. By adding the 23.5 million to the 70.5 million, one can see the power of addiction and its devastating consequences. That number is 94 million people suffering emotional and relational distortions, distress, and distrust, all connected to one common denominator of addiction to alcohol and/or drug addiction alone. That number is greatly expanded by all the other addictions and their impact.

“Addiction and its impact is America’s number one internal problem.”

No matter how much we attempt to address our personal, family, community, and national problems without addressing addiction and its impact, we will fail. Addiction and its impact is America’s number one internal problem. Actually, it may be America’s epidemic. Ironically, one of the main characteristics of addiction is denial—will-bound blindness to what is literally, objectively occurring within the addict, and within the people associated with addiction.

We are a nation of people addicted, and a nation of people in denial. It becomes an ongoing repetition of retracing a circle. We cannot see the damage of addiction because of denial, which protects us from the emotional vulnerability of trauma, which exacerbates the “need” for relief from stress, which influences addiction, about which we are in denial. And on it goes.

We must see and feel beyond denial. We must see and feel our way into living with the capacity for full relationship, which requires the vulnerability of receiving and offering love, even the love that does not tolerate the denial of addiction and its impact. Unless we do, we perpetuate the problem.

Our society has four pillars of character and relational development: family, vocation, community, and faith. The four pillars today rest upon the sand foundation of addiction. No matter what we do to shore up the leaning pillars with a thousand different programs, we will crash unless we see and feel our way to a great national awakening of individuals addressing our foundational devastation.

10 Signs You Don’t Handle Change Well

SOURCE:  Pete Scazzero/Outreach Magazine

Why are endings and transitions so poorly handled in our ministries, organizations and teams? Why do we often miss God’s new beginnings, and the new work he is doing?

We miss seeing what is ahead in part because we fail to apply a central theological truth— that death is a necessary prelude to resurrection. To bear long-term fruit for Christ, we need to recognize that some things must die so something new can grow. If we do not embrace this reality, we will tend to dread endings as signs of failure rather than opportunities for something new.

Use the list of statements that follow to briefly assess your approach to endings and new beginnings:

You Know You Don’t Handle Endings and New Beginnings Well When …

1. You can’t stop ruminating about something from the past.

2. You use busyness as an excuse to avoid taking time to grieve endings and losses or to allow for the possibility that you might meet God in the process.

3. You avoid acknowledging the pain of your losses rather than grieving, exploring the reasons behind your sadness and allowing God to work in you through them.

4. You often find yourself angry and frustrated by the grief and pain in life.

5. You escape or medicate the pain of loss through self-destructive behaviors such as overeating, use of pornography, inappropriate relationships, substance abuse, over-engagement with social media or working too much.

6. You struggle with the envy you feel toward those who don’t seem to be hit by the same hardships in life that you experience.

7. You often dream of quitting in order to avoid the pain, disappointments, setbacks and endings that routinely characterize leadership.

8. You are not honest with yourself about the feelings, doubts, and hurts deep beneath the surface of your life.

9. You rarely acknowledge directly that a program or person has outright failed. You avoid that pain by spinning the truth and glossing over the losses, disappointments and struggles.

10. You rarely think about change in your role or position because you dislike change.

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Pete Scazzero is the founder of New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, New York, and the author of two best-selling books: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and The Emotionally Healthy Church. This story was originally posted on Scazzero’s blog at EmotionallyHealthy.org.

It’s Never Too Late for Jesus

SOURCE:  desiringgod.org /Constantine Campbell 

Death is the great enemy, though many of us live in denial of it.

Our culture tries to hide death. We don’t see bodies in the streets, as in some parts of the world. Corpses go straight to the morgue or the funeral home — out of sight and out of mind. Many of us have never seen a dead body. Fewer have witnessed a person actually die. We would rather not think about death, we don’t like to talk about it, and we’d prefer to pretend it won’t happen to us.

But it will happen to us. In fact, in one hundred years from now, everyone reading this will be dead. Does that sound harsh? That’s because it is harsh! But it is also true.

Only as we confront the reality of death will we appreciate the hope of resurrection. There is nothing like death to make us desire resurrection.

John 11 begins with a sick Lazarus. His sisters Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus to come to Bethany (John 11:1–3). But Jesus does not go right away. He delays. In fact, he waits two days — until Lazarus is dead (John 11:4–7, 11, 14) — because he knows exactly what he is about to do.

Grieving with Hope

As soon as Martha heard that Jesus was approaching the village, she went to meet him, while Mary remained seated at the house (John 11:20). This is a little strange, isn’t it? Why does Martha go out to meet Jesus while Mary stays put? Is it simply that Martha is the more active of the two? Is it because she is the one who gets things done, while Mary likes to sit (Luke 10:38–42)? Maybe. Or maybe there is something else going on.

Martha’s words to Jesus must have been hard to hear: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). Given his great power and the signs he has performed already, Martha believed that Jesus could have prevented Lazarus’s death. But what she says next is extraordinary: “But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” (John 11:22). Martha does not know the end of this story, as we do. She has no idea what Jesus is about to do and she does not expect him to raise Lazarus from the dead. And yet she expresses hope even after death has occurred. It is as though she is saying, “I don’t know what you can do now, Jesus, but I have hope that you can do something.”

Jesus immediately comforts Martha by saying, “Your brother will rise again” (John 11:23). He tells her exactly what he plans to do, but Martha misunderstands: “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (John 11:24). While she misses Jesus’s direct meaning, her response is a good one. She expresses hope through theology. Martha holds to the Jewish belief in the resurrection of the dead that will occur on the last day (Daniel 12:1–2; John 5:28–29).

The Resurrection and the Life

Jesus takes Martha’s belief in resurrection at the last day and redirects it toward himself.

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25–26a).

I don’t think Martha understood at that moment what Jesus said. How could Jesus be the resurrection? What does that mean? Why does resurrection occur for those who believe in Jesus? While she may harbor such questions, she responds again with belief when Jesus asks, “Do you believe this?” (John 11:26b). “Yes, Lord,” Martha says, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world” (John 11:27).

But why does Martha respond this way? Jesus says he is the resurrection and the life, and Martha says yes, you are the Christ. What is the connection between the Christ and resurrection? Again Martha shows herself to be a theologian as she seems to understand the connection. In 2 Samuel 7:12–13, the LORD promises David that one of his offspring will rule on the throne that God will establish forever. If this Messiah is to rule forever, then surely he will not be ended by death. Either he will never die, or if he does die, he will not stay dead. There is thus a connection between resurrection and the Messiah, and Martha seems to understand that.

Grieving Without Hope

While Martha exhibits hope through theological insight, Mary’s interaction with Jesus is noticeably different. While Martha immediately went out to meet Jesus, Mary doesn’t go until Martha gets her (John 11:28). Then it is striking that Mary says the exact same thing that her sister said to Jesus: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32).

Mary utters the exact same words as Martha. But do they mean something different? Notice what Mary doesn’t say. She does not follow up this statement the way Martha did, with the words, “But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” (John 11:22). No, Mary just says that Jesus could have prevented Lazarus’s death — period. But now he’s dead, so that’s that. There is no hope expressed.

It seems like Mary did not entertain the idea that Jesus could do anything now that death has come. Death, after all, is the great enemy. Jesus might be able to heal the blind (John 9), turn water into wine (John 2:1–12), and prevent death (John 4:46–54), but no one can do anything about death once death comes. Right?

Mary’s lack of hope in the face of death is understandable. Sure, Jesus is powerful and can do amazing things, but even today no one can do anything about death. With all our advanced science and medicine, the best we can do is delay death. We can put it off a while. But we cannot prevent it from happening in the end. And once it happens, there is nothing we can do about it. The finality of death is clear to all humanity — past and present. Mary accepts this finality and there is no hope.

Jesus Can Always Do Something

Jesus’s response to Mary also contrasts Martha. After Martha expressed hope, Jesus comforted her with the amazing words that Lazarus would rise again and that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. But what is his response to Mary? There is no word of comfort. There is no theological promise. He just says, “Where have you laid him?” (John 11:34).

But it’s also interesting to note Jesus’s nonverbal response to Mary: “When Jesus saw her crying, and the Jews who had come with her crying, he was angry in his spirit and troubled” (John 11:33). Most translations smooth out the phrase, “he was angry,” but this is what the text literally says. It is smoothed out because it is not clear why Jesus is angry. Why is he angry when he sees Mary’s grief?

The usual explanation is that Jesus is angry at the tyranny of death. He is angry to see what death does to relationships and to those left behind. It is awful. It is wrong. This reason for Jesus’s anger makes sense, but there might be another explanation. Could it be that Jesus is angry and troubled because Mary grieves as one without hope? After all, he was not angry in his encounter with Martha, who expressed hope.

In fact, Jesus gets angry a second time (John 11:38), but this is in response to what Mary’s fellow mourners say: “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:37). Ignoring the paragraph break, Jesus’s immediate response is again to become angry. Could it be that he is angry because they too lack hope in the face of death? Yes, the crowd knows Jesus is powerful — he opened the eyes of the blind man — he could have prevented Lazarus’s death. But once death has occurred? Not even Jesus can do anything about that, right?

Wrong.

Neither Martha nor Mary knew that the story would end with a resurrected Lazarus. Mary saw death as the end, and not even Jesus could fix that. But Martha put her theology to work together with a trust that Jesus could always do something.

We should be more like Martha.

When Emotional Attachment Becomes Unhealthy

SOURCE:  JADE MAZARIN/Relevant Magazine

4 ways to let go when you are in a bad relationship.

I’ve had plenty of experiences in my life where I struggled with emotional attachment. Basically, I found my heart invested in someone and unable to let them go, even when I knew I couldn’t be with them. Maybe they weren’t interested, maybe we were no longer together, or maybe I knew that relationship wasn’t God’s plan for me. But regardless of what I knew mentally, I remained emotionally tied to that person.

It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that God called my attention to this tendency in a new way, and equipped me to tackle it head on. I started to understand reasons I stayed attached, even when I was never happy with it—and I got ideas to help me let go.

Why We Keep Holding On

Often, the first question we’re face when we’re attached is, “Why we can’t let go?” We know it’s unhealthy, and it stresses us out, so why can’t we move on? Basically it comes down to this: We’re not sure if we really want to.

Sure, we might feel tired with the situation. We might be mad at ourselves, embarrassed, ashamed and stressed. We can easily assume we want to let go and just can’t.

But the truth is, part of us doesn’t want to—even if we won’t admit it to ourselves.

Our inner self is in competition: Part of us recognizes the pain and the pointlessness of it, and another part of us continues to desperately hold on. That part of us usually clings to this person for multiple reasons: We think this person will meet our desires; we don’t believe we’re worth more; we figure that a little love is better than nothing. or we don’t believe God will bring something better.

We all know that famous verse, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Each of the reasons we hold on to are beliefs that are not true. If these are the core reasons why we stay attached, then each one has to be examined in the light—their truths thoroughly absorbed—in order to no longer hold us down. Each one of these motives can be remedied only as we grasp the reality of the situation and accept it.

Here are some keys for letting go of unhealthy attachments:

1. See Things as They Are

This happens first and foremost by seeing the relationship as it really is. This means recognizing its limitations. It means willingly facing the truth.

Maya Angelou once said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” Sometimes we have blinders on to what’s in front of us. We may cling to the belief someone will change, or that the situation is better than it really is. When we’re attached, we have to consciously take off the rose-colored glasses every time we automatically put them back on.

Once we see clearly, we are invited to accept what we see, rather than trying to change it. We can relax our grasp, and rest from efforts that don’t work. We can choose to relinquish control, surrendering our need to make things different from what they are.

2. Realize What You Want Isn’t Here

While accepting things as they are, we have to tell ourselves that what we’re looking for isn’t found here.

We all want love. We also want peace and true joy. Those are our deepest desires. But in unhealthy emotional attachments, we are not at rest. We do not feel contentment and stability. The joy we have is flimsy and minimal—mixed with unpredictable anxiety or pain. Any love we experience is empty and practically cancelled out with the frustration we feel inside.

The idea that what we’re looking for isn’t found here is one we have to process internally. Only when we really, truly believe this attachment is only hurtful, will we no longer be interested in it.

3. Shift the Focus to Yourself

Attachment causes us to center our mental world around the person we are not meant to be with. Detaching involves making plans for our own life and asking ourselves honestly How am I doing? What can I do for myself? It means shifting out attention from what this person is or isn’t doing, how they may or may not feel, and putting it on yourself.

If you find you need healing, you need comfort, then you should put yourself in the place to get it. Ask yourself what freedom you need to start feeling better, and decide to move into it.

We also need to turn our attention to our potential, and how God sees us. Maybe we’ve been so worn down in thinking of the other person that we forgot how God values and cherishes us. It’s time to get that back.

God wants you to see His unconditional heart for you. He also wants you to treat yourself with the value He ascribed to you when He gave His life for you.

4. Truly Consider God’s Role

It’s important to remember we’re not alone in this. We’ve got a Father, literally right by our sides, who “gets” it—why we feel how we do, and what more there is for us. Not only is He by our side, He really is in control. It’s not arbitrary that we’re not with this person. We didn’t mess things up, nor did we miss His perfect will. He’s got a reason for the way things are.

Letting Go for Good

Fundamentally, letting go of attachment begins with a deliberate decision to do so. Every time you waver in that decision, remind yourself to do the above actions. You can also get around friends or family who will give you an objective view of the situation and help you think clearly.

You are not alone in this. Unhealthy attachment is one of the most common issues we have to face. The roller-coaster of emotions you experience is typical as well. On Monday, you might be fueled with anger and ready to let go, then Wednesday you sob with the desire to reach out to this person. Saturday you may call him or her, while Sunday you completely regret it.

That’s normal. And you won’t stay in that place. As time passes, these feelings will spread further out. The entire season is temporary. And you will in fact, get through it.

Celebrate every moment you feel a little freer, every action you take that focuses on your well-being. Let yourself cry if grief rises up within you. Just come back to remembering why you’re letting go in the first place. Recognize that while it feels awful now, it will truly get easier. And it’s OK when you fall back, as long as you decide to keep moving forward. Be kind to yourself. Be patient with yourself—just as God is.

Q&A: My Wife Say’s I’m Controlling? Is She Right?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question: My wife says I’m manipulative and controlling. I don’t think I am. Let me give you an example. We have been separated for about a year, but recently we were out to dinner. While we were sitting there, she was friendly to some other patrons (policemen who she knew). She wasn’t flirting but I felt slighted and insulted that she was ignoring me. I told her how I felt and she accused me of being controlling. Is that true? I don’t see it?

Answer: First, let me applaud you for even asking the question. Most people when given that kind of feedback totally ignore or discount it. The fact that you are asking the question suggests that you might be open to the possibility that it’s true, even if you don’t see it.

Manipulating and controlling behavior are often subtle and hard to prove in the moment. They become much more obvious over time. If we just take this one incident, you might find it difficult to see your behavior as controlling. 

I think most people feel a little uncomfortable when they are out to eat with someone and that person has an extended conversation with someone else and does not include us, whether it is in person or on a cell phone or even texting.

So the only way we can truly answer this question is to examine your patterns over time, especially in relation to your interactions with your spouse. As you do this, you may begin to see a pattern of manipulative and controlling behaviors emerge.

Most people who use these kinds of behaviors don’t usually recognize them as wrong or harmful, it’s just the way they have learned to cope with uncomfortable or painful emotions or ways they’ve learned to get their own way or what they want from others. Underneath these dysfunctional behaviors are usually attitudes of entitlement as well as unrealistic expectations of how others should be or how they should treat you.

For example, perhaps you felt insulted at the restaurant because you believed that you were entitled to your wife’s undivided attention and anything less than that meant that she wasn’t interested in you or your conversations. Ask yourself were you attempting to control her friendliness with others by making her feel guilty about “slighting” you.

Or you may believe, “A wife should never talk with other men, even as friends. If she does, that means she doesn’t love me or I’m not most important.” Again your response to her indicates that you had some expectations of her to give you her undivided attention the entire time you were together. You didn’t say how long she was engaged with the policeman, but was it extensive or just a few minutes?

Here are other ways people manipulate and control others. Read through the list. Perhaps you will recognize using these methods to get your way.

Argue: You don’t take no for an answer but rather continue to make your point over and over again until she wears down and finally agrees with you. The underlying message is it’s not okay for her to disagree or have her own opinion.

Begging: “Please? Please? Pleeeeeeeeeeeeease? Continuing to ask, beg and plead until she changes her mind. The underlying message is she is not allowed to say no.

Bargaining: “If you do this, then I’ll give you….. A bribe to get her to do or not do what you want. You use favors as a means to manipulate her into doing something that she would not have wanted to do otherwise.

Guilt Trips: You might say, “You’re not following God or you’re being an unsubmissive wife or God hates divorce or if you really loved me or our children you would…..” The message here is that if she doesn’t do what you think she should do, God will be upset with her or you won’t be able to handle it or she is not a good/godly person.

Micromanaging: This is usually in the areas of time and money where one person makes the other person feel like a subordinate employee or child. She is not allowed to make her own decisions or handle her own life without asking your permission.

Misquoting or Twisting: “You said……” when in reality the person didn’t say it that way but you twist what they said to suit your own purposes. For example, “You said we were going to get back together soon, when what she really said was, “I don’t know if we can get back together soon.”

Playing Holy Spirit: We are all tempted to do this when confronting someone with his or her sin. But it is not our job to convict or change someone else’s behavior to line up to what we think it should be. When we see someone caught in a sin or trespass, we can try to restore such a one in a spirit of humility and gentleness (Galatians 6:1) but if we try to hold someone accountable to a change that they have not initiated, we are attempting to play God in his or her life.

Promises: I will do anything, just ……… Whether or not you keep your promise is irrelevant. You use a promise to get her to do something you want her to do.

Punishing actions: Using physical, sexual, economic, or verbal pressure, abuse or tactics to punish her for not doing what you think she should do. You might stop paying the bills, close the bank account, curse at her, call her names, accuse her of things, tell friends and neighbors untrue things about her to teach her a lesson for not doing what you want her to do. You feel justified because she did something “wrong” and won’t change or stop or admit she was wrong.

Irritation or Silence: I am so bothered or angry that you won’t do what I want that I won’t speak with you or treat you kindly until you change and do what I want.

Threats: Threatening to leave, to hurt one’s self or others, to hurt something she loves like her pet, her parents, her children, her stuff if she doesn’t do what you want her to do.

Some of these patterns overlap and many are used in conjunction to try to get another person to do something we think they should do or to stop doing something that we don’t want them to do. When we do that we try to control their behavior and often their thinking. That is not our role or responsibility and when you do this you will not have the intimacy or love you desire.

If you see yourself in these examples, that’s a good start but it usually doesn’t result in permanent changes unless you invite your wife and others to tell you when you fall back into them. Then it is your responsibility to learn how to tolerate the uncomfortable emotions that you may feel when she disagrees with you, doesn’t want to do what you want her to do or wants to do something different, in a mature way.

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