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Posts tagged ‘relational wisdom’

How Some People Get Stuck in the Same Toxic Patterns

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

In my work as a clinician, a leadership consultant, and a fellow sojourner, I have found something to be true: in both our personal and professional lives, it is often the exact same issues that can hold us back, or even derail us. Find a control freak at home, and chances are that their co-workers have the same complaints that the spouse has. Or, if someone is an enabler in their love life, they are also a boss who doesn’t confront poor performance. In short, we usually don’t have personal issues vs. work issues. What we really have are “me” issues. And they show up wherever we are.

In both the personal and professional life, there are times when reality dictates that a person must stand up and “end” something. Either its time has passed, its season is over, or worse, continuing it would be destructive in some way. The situation requires someone to:

• Fire an employee who should be fired
• End a dating relationship that is not going to go where they need to go
• Shut down a product line or a business unit
• Get out of social ties and activities whose “season has passed”
• Letting go of a dream that is not going to materialize and moving on
• Leave a job or a career that they know is not right, or is even toxic for them
• End a marriage with repeated unfaithfulness that is not changing
• Admit that something is failing and waving the white flag
• Unplug from toxic friendships or family ties
• Give up on an addict who does not want to change

But too many times, with clear evidence staring them in the face, people find it difficult to pull the trigger. Why is that?

The reasons are varied, but understandable, especially in light of developmental psychology, our understanding of trauma, and cognitive mapping. Some people’s developmental path has not equipped them to stand up and let go of something. For example, if they did not develop what psychologists refer to as secure attachment or emotional object constancy, the separation and loss that ending a relationship triggers for them is too much, so they avoid it. In addition, in their development they may not have been taught the skills to confront situations like these.

Or, if they have had traumatic losses in life, another ending represents a replay of those, and they shy away or frantically try to mend whatever is wrong, way past reason. Or they have internal maps that tell them that ending something is “mean” or will cause someone harm. In any case, fears dominate their functioning, and they find themselves unable to do a “necessary ending.” See if you can relate to any of these fears or inabilities that can cause people to hang on or stay somewhere too long:

• You can’t tell if an ending is actually necessary, or if “it” or “he” is fixable
• Being afraid of the loss and the sadness
• Fearing the confrontation
• Fearing the unknown
• Lacking the skills to execute the ending
• You lack the right words to use
• You fear hurting the person
• You have had too many painful endings in your personal history and don’t want another one
• You’ve blown endings before, and don’t want to repeat it one more time

Probably all of us can relate to something on that list. But even so, here is the issue: endings are necessary. They are an essential part of life. Everything has seasons, and we have to be able to recognize that something’s time has passed and be able to move to the next season. And, everything that is alive requires pruning as well, which is a great metaphor for endings. Gardeners prune a rose bush for three reasons:

1. The bush produces more buds than it can sustain, and some good ones have to go so the best ones can have the resources of the bush
2. There are some branches and buds that are sick and not going to get well
3. There are some that are already dead and are taking up space

So, let’s apply that to life:

1. Over time, you gather more activities, relationships, work, interests, etc. than you can really feed with the best of your time and energy. You have to realize that you cannot go deep with everything, and figure out which ones you are going to invest in.

2. Face it, there are people who you have tried everything with to get them to “get it,” or businesses/strategies where you have also tried everything and there is no reason to keep throwing good money after bad.

3. And, there are people, places and things around which have been dead for a long time, and it is past time to let go.

Therefore, we have a dilemma: life and success require “necessary endings,” and we are afraid to execute them. That equals a conflict worth solving. So, what to do?

Let’s start with a few thoughts:

• Consider how you look at endings in general. Do you perceive them as natural? Do you have a world view that everything has its season and life cycle, or do you think that if something comes to an end it means that “something must be wrong?”
• When you see that you need to let go of something, or a person, what happens inside? What fears emerge? How paralyzing are they? What can you do to address them?
• Have you really thought about the fact that if you don’t do the pruning in that area that is needed, then you won’t get what you ultimately want? For example, if you keep that employee then that department will never perform well? Or if you stay in that dating relationship you will not find the one that fulfills? Play the movie forward a year or two and see if you like the results of not making a decision.
• If you are holding on to hope, what is the basis for that? Is it rational and objective? Or is it just a defense against facing the issue?

Endings are a part of life, and we are actually wired to be able to execute them. But because of trauma, developmental failures and other reasons, we shy away from taking the steps that could open up whole new worlds of development and growth. Take an inventory of the areas of life that may need some pruning, and begin to take the steps that you need to face the fears that are getting in the way. If you do, you might find yourself getting unstuck and entering into a whole new season of life.

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Necessary Endings

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Marriage/Relatonships: Does Love Cover A Multitude Of Sins?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick/AACC

A woman struggling in an emotionally destructive marriage once asked me, “Doesn’t love cover a multitude of sins? (1 Peter 4:8).  She continued, “Who am I to hold my husband’s sin or blindness against him?   The Bible teaches us, ‘It is good for us to overlook an offense’ (Proverbs 19:11).  Shouldn’t I just keep quiet and minister to him, and pray that he will see God’s love in me?”

Many counselors working with those in destructive marriages struggle with this same question.  Jesus makes it clear. We are not to judge or condemn anyone (Matthew 7:1,2).  God instructs all his followers to forbear with and forgive one another.  We know we all fail one another (James 3:2), and we know that Jesus tells a person to take the log out of their own eye before attempting to deal with the speck in someone else’s eye (Matthew 7:3-5). To bring up each and every offense in any relationship would become tiresome indeed.

Love does cover a multitude of sins but not all sins. Paul tells believers that we are to distance ourselves from those who claim to be believers yet live immoral and destructive lives (1 Corinthians 5:11). He instructs us to warn those who are lazy (1 Thessalonians 5:14), and that we ought not participate in unfruitful deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5:11).  Paul also encourages believers to restore someone who is caught in a trespass (Galatians 6:1) and James exhorts us to bring a brother back who has wandered from the truth (James 5:19), When someone deeply offends us, Jesus says we’re to go talk with them so that our relationship can be repaired (Matthew 18:15-17).

Yes, we ought to forgive and forbear, overlooking minor offenses hoping others will do the same for us. And, we are to speak up when someone’s sin is hurting them, hurting others, or hurting us.

Serious and repetitive sin is lethal to any relationship. We would not be loving the destructive person if we kept quiet and colluded with his self-deception or enabled his sin to flourish without any attempt to speak truth into his life  (Ephesians 4:15).  Yes, we are called to be imitators of Christ and live a life of love, however, let’s be careful that as Christian counselors we do not put a heavy burden on someone to do something that God himself does not do.  God is gracious to the saint and unrepentant sinner alike, but he does not have close relationship with both. He says our sins separate us from him (Isaiah 59:2; Jeremiah 5:25).

When someone repeatedly and seriously sins against us and is not willing to look at what he’s done and is not willing to change, it is not possible to have a warm or close relationship.  We’ve at times misrepresented unconditional love to mean unconditional relationship. Jesus’ conversations with the Pharisees are examples of him challenging their self-deception and pride so they would repent and experience true fellowship with him (Matthew 23). He loved them, but they did not enjoy a loving or safe relationship. Jesus never pretended otherwise.  Let’s not encourage our counselees to pretend and placate. Jesus never did.

A marriage or relationship that has no boundaries or conditions is not psychologically healthy nor is it spiritually sound.  It enables a repeatedly destructive spouse to continue to believe the lie that the rules of life don’t apply to him and if he does something hurtful or sinful, he or she shouldn’t have to suffer the relational fallout. That kind of thinking is not biblical, or healthy, or true.  It harms not only their marriage, it harms everyone involved.

For the welfare of the destructive person and his or her marriage, there are times we must take a strong stand.  To act neutral in the matter only enables the person’s self-deception to grow unchallenged. Scripture warns, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper” (Proverbs 28:18).

The destructive person desperately needs to see God’s love, but he or she also desperately needs to see himself more truthfully so that he can wake up and ask God to help him make necessary changes. It’s true that we are all broken and in desperate need of God’s healing grace.  The problem for the destructive person is that he or she has been unwilling to acknowledge his part of the destruction.   She’s been unwilling to confess or take responsibility or get the help she needs to change her destructive ways.  Instead she’s minimized, denied, lied, excused, rationalized, or blamed others.

Confronting someone and/or implementing tough consequences should never be done to scold, shame, condemn, or punish. As Christian counselors we have one purpose—to jolt someone awake with the strong medicine of God’s truth or the reality of tough consequences.  We hope that by doing so, they will come to their senses, turn to God and stop their destructive behaviors for the glory of God, their own welfare, and the restoration of their marriage.

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Leslie Vernick, M.S.W., is a popular speaker, author, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and relationship coach with a counseling practice in Pennsylvania. She is a best-selling author of seven books, including The Emotionally Destructive Relationship and her most recent, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. Leslie currently serves on the Board of Directors for Lighthouse Network, a Christian mental health outreach ministry. She received her Master of Clinical Social Work degree from the University of Illinois and has taken postgraduate training in biblical counseling and cognitive therapy.

 

How to Deal with Different Types of Difficult People

SOURCE:  Mark Merrill

Recently, a friend introduced me to a new term: EGR.

I’m not sure who coined the term EGR, but it’s used to describe difficult people. It stands for Extra Grace Required because the EGR person tries your patience, tests your social skills, and drains your energy. Everybody has EGRs in their life. And, at times, everybody is an EGR to someone else.

You might be tempted to ask, How can I avoid them? You can’t.

Or How can I fix them? You won’t.

The best question to ask is How can I deal with difficult people well? Why? Because your response is the only thing you can control. So here are some of the difficult types of people we all meet in our daily lives and how to handle them:

The Hammer

There’s a saying about hammers: “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” This person is hard on everything and everyone. Nothing seems to be enough. Their way of dealing with life is very established. Hitting hard has been the answer for them for a very long time.

How to deal with the Hammer:

  • Don’t take it personally. They probably treat almost everyone like they are treating you.
  • It’s tempting to try to ignore this person because of the way they pound on people. Separate the way they communicate from the points they make; otherwise, you might miss some good feedback or information.

The Megaphone

This person makes conversation difficult. They like to talk and often try to talk you into submission, making it hard to get a word in edgewise. This person often sees information as a sign of power or intelligence and is often trying to show their own value or authority through their one-sided conversations.

How to deal with The Megaphone:

  • Start by listening, but don’t let them go on forever. Once you have the point, politely interrupt them. Confirm you heard them correctly by summarizing their points back to them.
  • Keep your comments simple and focused so you don’t encourage more rambling. And if the conversation goes too long, don’t be afraid to politely end the conversation.

The Bubble Buster

This person simply can’t or won’t see anything positive in the world around them. Have a great idea? Their response, “Nope. Won’t work.” Or you give them what you believe is an awesome presentation and all they do is punch holes in it.

How to deal with the Bubble Buster:

  • Understand there is probably some baggage in this person’s life that is coloring their world gray.
  • Be a patient listener. Thank them for their input and critique.
  • Try to turn the conversation into a positive one by asking them to share with you what they do like about the idea, product or presentation.

The Volcano

This person is the unpredictable, volatile ticking time bomb. You’ve probably come across this person. Recently, I was stopped in heavy traffic and I was accidentally blocking a car from getting onto the road I was on. Well, the guy in the car was a classic Volcano as he demonstrated with his horn, his voice, and his…”salute.” You’re never quite sure when or how the Volcano will erupt.

How to deal with The Volcano:

  • Be humble without being a doormat.
  • A gracious response can be disarming to the Volcano, indicating you’re willing to own your own actions.
  • Assert your feelings without responding aggressively which will only make things worse.

The Clam

This person handles stress, conflict or social interaction by going into silent mode. It can be hard to figure out what’s really going on in their mind and heart, much less to interact with them.

How to deal with The Clam:

  • Be careful not to dominate the conversation, even unintentionally. Let them know you want to hear what they’re thinking and feeling when they are ready.
  • Ask open-ended questions that require more than a yes or no answer.
  • Be patient with them; impatience will only encourage more silence. Give them time, especially if a conflict has triggered their silence. Create a safe environment for them to share with you.

The Nitpicker

The Nitpicker is cousin to the Bubble Buster. Like the Bubble Buster, this person is highly critical and seems obsessed with finding mistakes. Nothing is good enough. This person also seeks out and works hard to find every little thing that is wrong with you or what you do. Nothing will stop them from telling you what is wrong with everything.

How to deal with The Nitpicker:

  • Insecurity is often at the root of their criticisms. At times, this person is looking for things to criticize externally to distract them from the negativity they feel about themselves internally.
  • Try to sincerely build them up by pointing out the good you see in them.
  • Avoid being defensive. Defensiveness is oddly affirming to the constant critic.
  • Challenge them by saying, “I think you make some fair points, but I’d also like to know what you see as good and right about this too.”

The Victim

This person is the constant whiner, letting everyone know how their troubles and trials are the result of the actions of others.  It’s hard for them to take responsibility because they don’t do introspection.

How to deal with The Victim:

  • Set boundaries. It’s not wrong to hear them out, but enabling their constant complaining by listening without boundaries hurts both of you.
  • Keep reaffirming your concern and care for them, but don’t try to appease the complaining. Like a child that whines to get what they want, if you give this person what they want all the time, you only encourage them to do it more.
  • Ask them, “What can you do to make the situation better?” This may change their focus from blaming everything on others to thinking about the role they’ve played in the situation and what they can do about it.

Q&A: How Will I Know If I’m Ready To Date Again?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question:  My abusive husband left me 2 years ago, and I am so grateful that God took him out of my life after 27 years of trying so hard to make a one-sided marriage work. I have read 3 of your books, and feel like I am thriving. My question is how will I know if I am ready to date again?

At first I felt I would never want to date or marry again. I am so happy, blessed and content, but also feel that God made marriage, and it could be a great blessing to actually be in a good marriage. I have so many wonderful friends and feel so close to the Lord. In some ways, I just want to stay in my safe bubble. But maybe God wants me to grow and learn and have a “do over.”

Can you give us some pointers if we have been freed from an emotionally destructive marriage? Is there a way to know if one is ready to try again? Are there some tips, timeframes and pitfalls you could give us? Thanks for all you do to help those of us who want to grow and be free in Christ.

Answer: Your question is a good one. Many professionals recommend giving yourself a year of healing for every five years of marriage. Therefore, in your situation, they would recommend five years of staying single before marrying again.

However that does not mean that you cannot date during those five years. Let’s look at the seven indicators that show you are ready to take the plunge into the dating world.

1. Do you have a good sense of yourself? Your strengths? Your weaknesses? Your good parts and not so good parts? This is crucial work you must do for your own emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. You want to enter this new relationship as yourself and not as what you think this other person wants you to be.

Some women do not do the hard work to know themselves. Others are insecure or afraid to be themselves because they fear rejection. Rejection is painful, but far less painful than a second emotionally destructive marriage and/or divorce. If you live out of your false self, or you are constantly worrying about your image, you have more internal work to do before you are ready to date.

2. Do you recognize your own personal blind spots (such as being swept up by charm rather than looking for character qualities, or being nice to your own detriment)? Are you aware of what still trips you up in relationships such as a strong need for approval, a fear of conflict, people pleasing, and/or over-functioning? Are you working on changing these things?

3. Are you able to speak up for yourself? Can you say, “No, I don’t like R rated movies”, or “I’m a city girl and would never want to live in a rural area.” Are you able to give someone constructive feedback like, “I feel scared when you drive fast in the snow” or “Please don’t talk with me that way, that makes me uncomfortable.”

4. Do you have personal boundaries and are you able to state them with the current relationships you have? If not, start working on having healthier friendships with the people you are in relationship with before you open yourself up to dating. What are you prepared to do if they refuse to respect your boundaries or pressure you to loosen them? Have you already shown you are capable of doing that in your current relationships?

5. Have you made a list of the qualities you are looking for in a potential partner as well as your deal breakers? Do you know your own top core values and are you living by them in your current status as a single woman?

As a Christian, we want to be God-centered women not man-centered or self-centered women.   In order to have a good marriage, people look for partners with compatible values not necessarily compatible likes and dislikes or even personalities.

You know the old saying – opposites attract and that’s true. But you don’t want opposite values in a marriage. For example, if you value close family ties and he values being independent and free to travel all over the world as you get older, there may be a lot of conflict because your core values do not line up. Or if you value God and biblical truth and he does not, (or says he does but doesn’t live it) then marriages don’t do well.

6. If you have underage children, (or he does) have you thought through when you will bring them into your relationship? For example, I usually tell people that when you are casually dating someone, children should not be involved. That makes it tricky when you have visitation every other weekend and you can’t spend time together. But children of broken homes have their own issues with their parents dating and they don’t need to get emotionally invested in someone before there is a true commitment of a long-term relationship.

7. Do you have a core group of good friends or family that you trust to help you “see” whether or not this person is a good potential life partner for you? Are you willing to allow them to give you feedback on some of the red flags they may see that you don’t?

These seven criteria may seem rather tough to live up to but they will protect you from making a huge mistake. When we were young and in love, most of us didn’t really think through these things. But when you’ve already lived through 27 years of a destructive marriage, the last thing you want to do is walk into another relationship with your eyes closed.

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