Family Life

Co-Dependency

»Posted on Dec 16, 2014 in Family Life, Marriage and Relationships, Personal Growth | 0 comments

codependency

Do you ever find yourself in a pattern of rescuing or taking care of the emotional needs of others? Do you ever feel like it’s up to you to stop them from doing irresponsible or harmful things? Do you find yourself placing a lower priority on your own needs, while being preoccupied with the needs of others?

While this is an issue of boundaries, it’s actually a deeper issue of co-dependency between you and your spouse or friend. This type of relationship is not uncommon when one person struggles with an addiction, an unhealthy habit, or troubling behaviour that the other person tries to help them overcome. Often, one partner may have trouble controlling their impulses or addictions, or simply not show much interest in the partnership. Then the other partner — who is the codependent one — goes all-out to try to “fix” the problem. Continuing to step in to “help” your loved one is a classic pattern of codependency.

Take the time now to be honest with yourself if you find yourself in an unhealthy relationship with someone in your life.  Here are some questions to ask yourself:  Am I finding myself exhausted and frustrated after spending time with a friend, spouse or family member? Do I sometimes feel as if I am working harder than they are to deal with their problems? Am I finding myself stuck in a pattern of doing things for others that deep down, I know isn’t healthy? Do I secretly find my sense of worth and identity in what I do for others? If you answered yes to any of these questions, please watch the video below.  You CAN change.  Freedom is awaiting you!

 

YouTube Preview Image
read more

Stress and Burnout

»Posted on Nov 18, 2014 in Family Life, Mental Health, Personal Growth | 0 comments

stress and burnout

I’m seeing an alarming trend of clients coming into my office: Overworked, overtired, and stressed-out. They come complaining of depression and anxiety symptoms, but when I assess what’s going on in their lives, it sounds a lot like they’re well on the way to burn-out. Stress is becoming one of the number one killers in North America today.  We all know that, I think.  We’ve certainly all heard the warnings and likely most of us know at least one person who died prematurely due to stress-related diseases.  Many of us are now living at an unsustainable pace but we don’t know how to stop.

I have kids as young as 6 coming into my office suffering from stress symptoms.  Families suffer, marriages break down and kids fail out of school because of stress.  Corporations lose billions of dollars each year due to stress-related illnesses.  It costs all of us. So take heed and make some healthy changes before it’s too late.  Not only is this important to your life expectancy, your health and your happiness, but it’s also God-honouring to live a life that is paced according to the way our bodies were designed to live. So what can you do?

 

YouTube Preview Image
read more

Parenting Principles

»Posted on Nov 4, 2014 in Family Life, Parenting | 0 comments

parenting

When I talk to parents about their kids, it often seems like their focus is on external indicators of “right” behaviour. They will ask me for help in changing their kids’ behaviour, or disciplining tips to get them to be well-behaved. I know that they love their kids, but I think they are looking at the wrong things to change.

The truth is how kids turn out is far more dependent on what’s going on inside their hearts than on their outside behaviour. That means that as a parent, my capacity to connect with my kids’ hearts is more important than just the rules I set and how I discipline them. Our job as parents is to ultimately help our kids internalize a sense of security that is rooted in their capacity to love others and receive love from other people. With that sense of attachment and security, our kids will be able to explore, try new challenges, face difficulties, set tough personal goals and become effective influencers of others.

That means that my choice to focus on their emotional needs with empathy, be a safe person for them to come to with their problems, accept how God has wired them with delight, model the love of Jesus Christ for them, and treasure the gifts that they are, is far more powerful than anything I can teach them or discipline them to do.

For more sound parenting principles, watch this video.  And if you have specific questions about your kids, feel free to contact me for more information.

 

YouTube Preview Image
read more

Healthy Boundaries

»Posted on Oct 30, 2014 in Family Life, Marriage and Relationships, Mental Health, Personal Growth | 0 comments

boundaries

One of the biggest issues that crop up time and time again when I work with people is that of boundaries. As Christians, we often confuse the mandate to love others with tolerating all sorts of boundary violations.

Learning to set healthy boundaries is essential for maintaining a positive self-image. It is our way of communicating to others that we have self-respect, and we will not allow others to define us. They are the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual limits we establish to protect ourselves from being manipulated, used, or violated by others. They allow us to separate who we are, and what we think and feel, from the thoughts and feelings of others.

Without boundaries and our willingness to communicate those limits directly and honestly with others, it would not be possible to enjoy healthy relationships. Respecting ourselves in this way is honouring the worth that God sees in each one of us. To set personal boundaries means to preserve your God-given identity and integrity, to take responsibility for who you are, and to take control of your life.  So what should you do?

Here’s a short video clip to get you started on setting healthy boundaries!

 

YouTube Preview Image
read more

Handling Relationship Conflicts

»Posted on Oct 28, 2014 in Family Life, Marriage and Relationships | 0 comments

arguing couple 2

A very common question I hear from couples is: My spouse and I keep arguing about the same things over and over. How do we break this impasse?

To learn about some principles that work to break this cycle of conflict, take a look at the video clip included in this blog.  Keep in mind that your focus should be on YOUR part of the conflict, because you only have control over your part. By the way, the principles are also relevant to your other relationships, whether with your kids, family members or friends.

While these principles are helpful for relationship conflicts in general, keep in mind that if there is emotional, verbal or physical abuse that is occurring in your relationship on a regular basis, it is critical that you get the help that you need to protect yourself – and perhaps your kids – and to put a stop to this abuse.  Abuse is never okay.  Ask for a referral from your doctor or pastor for a qualified therapist who can help you stop this very toxic pattern in your life.  Or feel free to contact me for further guidance.  God bless you on your journey to relationship health!

 

YouTube Preview Image

 

read more

Hope and Healing for Relationships

»Posted on Jul 9, 2014 in Family Life, Marriage and Relationships, Personal Growth, The Fully Lived Life | 0 comments

frozen hearts

 

Healthy Relationships: Hope and Healing for the Frozen Heart Syndrome

A few months ago, I was watching the Disney movie Frozen, and it struck me that the characters struggled in many of the same ways that we do too. (Sorry, as a psychologist, one of the hazards of my job is the tendency to interpret everyone, including animated characters!)

One of the main characters is Queen Elsa who has the power to turn everything and everyone into ice. But because this power can cause harm to others, she chooses to protect her loved ones by withdrawing completely to a solitary and cold mountain top where she is going to live on her own for the rest of her life.

There’s a scene on the mountain where she’s singing about how she can finally be herself without fear, that she’ll be fine on her own, that she doesn’t need anyone – that she’s finally free. But there’s also deep sadness underlying her story because she will always on her own. She may be “safe” but she can never experience love and relationship.

Do you know what was underlying her decision to be alone?

FEAR.

In the real world, fear is often what underlies problems in relationships – it’s often why we withdraw but it’s also why we attack in anger and push people away – we want to protect ourselves from pain – we’re afraid of the pain of rejection, abandonment and hurt. Some of the angriest people we know are lonely – but they can’t face the pain of their aloneness so they keep their hearts hard and push people away with their anger – they keep their hearts frozen.

Or some of the most loving and caring people are also lonely; they fill their time with nurturing others but when it comes to their own emotional needs and pain, they bury their hearts. They, too, have frozen hearts because they never expose their own emotional vulnerabilities – they’ve shut down their own needs to focus completely on others – it’s safer that way, right? That way you can guarantee that people will remain in your life, that they will always need you and “love” you for what you do for them.

The Frozen Heart Syndrome

It’s what I call the frozen heart syndrome – not because you’re cold or calculating but because you’ve shut down your heart to protect yourself. If I don’t feel, I won’t hurt; if I don’t love, I won’t lose; if I’m not vulnerable, I won’t be rejected.

But that isn’t the way that God has wired us to live – we are created for mutual and intimate relationships – created for connection to God our Father and with each other. At the end of the movie, Frozen, the moral of the story is that freedom isn’t in solitude or withdrawal but in love – which has the power to heal and save. Don’t you love how biblical Disney movies can sometimes be?

You have been created to love and be loved. You have been created to be in intimate relationships with God and with others. Don’t let fear stop you from embracing this truth and pursuing healing so that you can live the life of true freedom and joy that God intends for you. Yes, relationships can be a source of great pain – I see that daily in my office – but it is also the means by which God teaches you about his love and grace and forgiveness.

Heal your Heart

What do I mean about healing your heart? It means making the effort to reconcile your issues, triggers and unresolved baggage. If you’ve never taken the time to examine how your past experiences and upbringing affect you, I can guarantee you that it’s impacting your life today – and likely not for the best. Beyond examining this, how aware of you of your “hot spots” — the people and experiences that trigger strong, negative emotions in you? And how much time and effort have you put into moving towards healing, forgiveness and resolution?

One truth that is clearly outlined in the Bible: God created us to be in relationship: with himself and with others; God DESIRES intimacy with us and he’s also given us other intimate relationships to help fill our hearts and our longings for love and connection. When these relationships sour, our sense of well-being can sour as well; filled with hurt and maybe with rejection and aloneness as well, we pull inward to protect our hearts. Distancing begins to happen – we begin to fill our emptiness with other things like work, entertainment, addictions – temporary satisfaction that soon becomes emptiness again.

But know that the persistent human need that is built into all of us is for someone to love us – our need for relationship is even more powerful than our need for food. The interesting thing about relationships is that we interpret what happens and how others respond to us by our early childhood experiences and the conclusions we made based on those experiences.

Part of understanding our past relationships isn’t to blame our parents (many times, they really did the best they could with the tools they had) or to feel bitterness over things we cannot change, but to understand WHY we respond the way we do to today’s relationships. Facing your past isn’t about blaming your family but about taking control of your present and future.

It’s very common when we encounter difficulties in our current relationships to get angry at those people in our lives and to blame their failure to love us as we need to be loved – it’s true, they likely play a role in our relationship dysfunction. But more importantly, our difficulties are also shaped by our response and what’s going on INSIDE of us – the good news about this is that we have control over this and can make healthy changes, whereas we can’t make others love us more or better.

Your Relationships can Change for the Better

As you understand more about yourself and your relational style, you can make the conscious choice to stop responding the old way; you can also track your “hot buttons” and chose to stop those patterns. But it takes awareness first, then a willingness to change, then allowing God to give you the capacity to change. Without that awareness and conscious decision to change, we will continue to repeat the same cycles of hurt for the rest of our lives.

The good news is our early attachment experiences don’t have to sentence us to lifelong relationship difficulties. With God’s help, we can overcome the self-defeating patterns of our relationship struggles. People raised with a pattern of abuse or abandonment may start to see why they’ve struggled in relationships for years, which may trigger pain.

But if you feel any connection between this and what you’ve been experiencing, I urge you to pursue compassionate Christian counselling. Attachment injuries often requires the safety of a therapeutic relationship to resolve and heal. Deep wounds are not something spouses can fully help with, or even close friends. While your loved ones can play a very important role in your healing, attachment injuries create insecurities that can push loved ones away and demand too much from them which only exacerbate insecurities about rejection.

Time with God is essential to healing, yet often the tangible warmth and care of a listening ear with wisdom and encouragement can help us experience God’s love. One of my personal mandates as a caregiver is that I represent tangible love to others so they can deeply experience it and begin to internalize it.

In therapy, often for the first time, clients are able to begin changing over time, little by little, through a healthy relationship with their therapist. They begin to heal and develop the emotional capacity (and re-wire their neural pathways) to connect well to others. Research bears this out with the science that’s rooted in God’s complete design. Whether you choose counselling or not, opening our hearts to others and sharing our painful secrets and wounds with one another is vital.

God is Love-Crazed for You

If God’s words of his love for you don’t feel real to you, consider whether you have allowed the hurtful experiences in your life to dictate your loveworthiness. I know I have. Do you see yourself as a reject or a misfit? Do you see yourself as unlovable?

If there’s pain in your heart as you hear my words, consider whether that pain has attached itself to you through wrong conclusions you have made about yourself. When you feel rejected or unworthy of love, you must be careful not to take on these misbeliefs as part of who you are. God never intends us to suffer because of believing lies. He is a God of Truth. Therefore you must see these pains as false, so that they don’t paralyze you or prevent you from loving and being loved.

God is love-crazed for YOU. He created you to love and be loved. You. And me. That is your destiny and your identity, regardless of how life may have tried to convince you otherwise. Fight for this truth. It’s almost impossible for us to anchor ourselves in the truth of our identity as our Father’s Beloved, especially given the competing din and lies we hear in the messy, painful and broken pieces of our lives.

Stop right now and listen to the words of your Father: You are My Beloved Stop right now in the middle of the busyness of your life; put aside all of your neuroses, self-doubts, self-rejection and anxieties. Pause long enough to listen to the words of your Father: You are My Beloved.

Let this truth be the source of your healing and the key to all your healthy relationships.

 

read more
Page 1 of 812345...Last »