A goal in the healing process is to replace the core wounds you have been carrying. A core wound is a trauma inflicted on who you believe you are as a person. The core of you signifies who you are in the center of your being. There are three common categories of wounding which are the feelings of being unworthy, inadequate, or unlovable.
When a traumatic event occurs and you are unable to reconcile and process it a core wound develops. For example, if you misspell a word during a spelling bee and everyone laughs at you that is traumatic. If you are unable to say you are worthy regardless of the misspelling and you will do better next time a core belief is created. The belief of being inadequate will follow you throughout your life until this first event is addressed and reconciled.
You hold the collective traumatic experiences and core wounds that developed from those experiences. It is paramount to learn to identify and process those triggers and traumas so you will be able to respond to the world healthily. Learn to reparent yourself by challenging and replacing negative beliefs you have held about yourself.
The words said to you in childhood will become your inner voice. It is up to you to rewire those thoughts with new ones. Do not just live with negative thoughts, challenge, and replace them! You can download CBT thought records online to help you write out and process your thoughts.
The process to challenge a thought is as follows: find what event activated your emotions, uncover the negative automatic thought about the event as it happened, the feelings and behavioral responses from the situation, and what evidence makes your automatic thought true and untrue.
The most important part of challenging your thoughts is to weigh them up against the evidence. More often than not there is not enough evidence to support the way you are feeling. Many times you interpret out of your hurt or core belief about yourself. You do not take time out to put the thought on trial and test it out to see if it stands up. After challenging your thought you will discover a newer and healthier way to feel about yourself and the situation.
When you can challenge your thoughts you are better able to free yourself from frustration and other negative emotions. I will give a personal example below.
Growing up and even into my adulthood I struggled with feelings of inferiority and invisibility. I was unconsciously carrying the weight of inadequacy and found myself continuously being triggered by it. The true gravity of how this influenced me came to a head when I was at a local gas station years back. I was walking into a convenience store one day and the gentlemen in front of me let the door shut behind him, nearly hitting me in the process. I was irate! I was completely flustered and brooding about how rude he was. I had to take a step back and process my emotions and I found where the trigger lied. Once I processed my emotions I understood where the true hurt was coming from.
I utilized the CBT technique below to process what happened. The point of the exercise is not to excuse the behavior but to depersonalize it. I encourage you to use this practical tool to process when you are having an emotional shift. The CBT thought record formula looks like this:
Activating event: The person did not hold the door open for me and it almost hit me in the process.
Evidence that supports the automatic thought: He did not hold the door open for me.
Evidence that does not support the automatic thought: We never made eye contact so I cannot say with confidence he did see me. I was greeted by the clerk when I walked in. I have friends and associates I keep in touch with. Other people acknowledge me. He did not give me a dirty look or seem in an aggravated or aggressive mood towards me. He was moving quickly inside the store.
Newer healthier thought: He was in a rush
Newer healthier emotion: Calm and neutral
The point of this exercise is to externalize what happened to you instead of feeling like you are a flawed person. Many times individuals will feel they did something wrong or there is something innately wrong with them. It is best practice to realize not everything is about you. Sometimes the person is having an issue in their own life and is either projecting onto you or is not cognizant of what they are doing. The more we can rationalize our thoughts the better we can see things for what they truly are.
Circular conversations are very common if you are in a relationship with someone who is a narcissist or has narcissistic traits. Circular conversations are just as it sounds; the conversation goes nowhere and feels like it continually loops around the same point with no resolve. This is a communication strategy employed when a narcissist or toxic person feels offended by what is said or is called to the table for negative behavior. This typically happens when a grievance is brought up and the listener feels too shameful to admit any fault. They begin feeling guilty and imperfect and do not know a healthy way to deal with those emotions. They begin fault-finding as a way to project the negative feelings they feel about themselves onto others.
The receiver is not willing to listen, be accountable, apologize, or change. They are eager to move on from the topic by using any means necessary. They use defensive strategies such as deflecting, making excuses, turning it around on you, calling you sensitive, or apologizing for the sake of moving forward not for the sake of the effect it had on you. Circular conversations also include denial of emotions, minimization, manipulation, and willful forgetting. Furthermore, making excuses and acting like a victim are additional techniques used to deflect. The purpose of victimization is to make the listener feel guilt or feel bad for the speaker. The goal is to get you to excuse the behavior or lay off.When this happens, you may end up going into fix-it mode. You caretake for the hurt of the toxic individual while forgetting or pushing down your own needs. This is unhealthy because it is not your problem to fix.
A narcissistic or toxic person is keen on using your emotions against you. A condescending tone and mocking are tools utilized in circular conversations to get you emotional. The point is to frustrate you, get you off your game, and to have you blow up. They will eerily remain calm while they jab at you. They escalate you to the point of your outburst. When you get upset at the comments and escalate, they use your anger against you. They will tell you to calm down or point out how you cannot control yourself.
This is a ploy to change the subject, make it about you, or get you to stop talking.The purpose of all these toxic maneuvers is to avoid dealing with the conflict at hand. You give up on the conversation and leave feeling confused, hopeless, defeated, and frustrated. This result is ultimately the goal. The hope is that you start to feel so defeated and drained you no longer approach conflict. They are free to act how they want without accountability. You begin to think talking about your problems is pointless so you internalize them. You become accustomed to not talking about issues and begin stuffing your feelings to keep the peace. There can only be so much intimacy in a relationship if you cannot openly talk to each other.
A goal is to throw you off your game and not talk about the topic at hand. The person can try to confuse you with semantics and wordplay. They can also poke holes in what you are saying and act like they do not understand your point. If you walk away from a conversation and ponder what in the world happened, you were in a circular conversation. You no longer want to talk and drop the conversation, which is ultimately the goal. Often you walk away from the conversation feeling confused and think you potentially did not see things the right way. Which is a form of gaslighting and manipulation.
When something happens enough times with the same outcome you have learned to become classically conditioned. Therefore, you summarize bringing up issues as a waste of time because they go nowhere. You would rather enjoy the rest of your night so you stuff your feelings and say nothing. Unfortunately, the result is more resentment and frustration. This ends up creating more tension inside of you and for the relationship. This leaves a wedge in the relationship and more unresolved issues to carry. You must learn to navigate the tactics and bring up your needs assertively.
Disengaging from circular conversations
Do not engage in a conversation with a toxic person if you are angry or tensions are high. Make sure to gauge your frustrations throughout the conversation and disengage from the conversation when you reach a threshold. Everyone has a window of tolerance for what they can handle before being triggered. Male sure you keep your conversations below the window of tolerance and ask for a time out when you feel the conversation start to derail or you feel yourself becoming emotionally charged. This technique does not mean you abandon the conversation but respectfully ask for a beak until you can come back at a certain time when you are levelheaded. In addition, you want to point out what is happening assertively.
For example, you can say, “I see our conversation is going in circles. I would like to take a time out. I would like it if we could come back and talk about this when I am calmer in thirty minutes.” This helps you to feel more empowered and in control of your emotions and the situation. You may think what if they do not respect my time out. The time out should have a non-verbal signal or cue for each person to mutually agree upon before conflict. This time out should be taken before either party goes past the window of tolerance. If both parties are still within the window of tolerance the time out will be respected. When you leave a conversation and pick it back up when emotions are settled this starts to place a boundary on your conversations.
In conversation with an individual who talks in circles, it is best practice to know your main point and facts. When the person tries to deflect, bring the conversation back around to the main point. For example, I can see how my leaving the door open can be frustrating, but I want to continue talking about how it felt when I was left at home alone. You can validate the person even further by saying you are willing to talk about the issue they brought up later just not at the moment. Resolve the issue at hand and do not move into caretaking for the issue the person brought up over your issue.
The best tip to eliminate circular conversations is to employ the “No J.A.D.E technique. This acronym comes from Alcoholics Anonymous as a tool to use with toxic people. This mnemonic device is to remember to not Justify, Argue, Defend, or Explain yourself. If you find yourself engaging in any or all of these behaviors you are playing into the pathological dynamic.
We all walk around with a God-shaped hole in our hearts. It is the start of a new year and you may be asking who you are? This could be the year you find your calling, experience purpose, and pursue a life worth living. If you have spent time giving to others it is easy to know what others need yet neglect yourself. This year take time out to discover who you are! Ask yourself some of the questions below to discover you. Have a blessed and wonderful new year!
I blogged a while back about The Sound relationship house. I added more information and wanted to share it below.
The sound relationship house was created by Dr. John Gottman. The house encompasses all the qualities a healthy relationship should have and maintain. He created the template by studying the relationship patterns and conflict styles of couples during conflicts. Due to his extensive study, he can predict the dissolution of the marriage of a couple with a high percentage of accuracy based on the conflict style of the couple. He found the four unhealthy communication patterns in relationships are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. Contempt is the number one predictor of divorce and relationship termination.
Dr. John Gottman’s sound relationship house gives a picture of what a steady and healthy relationship looks like. The house explains what encompasses the metaphorical foundation, pillars, and steps that go into creating a stable relationship. Seven relational skills build off one another and two pillars which keep the relationship stable. In the visual model of the house trust and commitment represent the pillars of the home. Without these two components, a relationship will be unstable and eventually crumble and fall. If you have built a home before you know that the process takes time, is rewarding, yet has some stress.
I use the house as a therapeutic tool in my counseling practice. This instrument is helpful for couples who frequently engage in arguments, have perpetual issues, poor communication skills, infidelity, parenting conflicts, financial problems, or emotional withdrawal from one or both partners.
Dr. John Gottman points out there are two significant questions people in relationships have for their significant other: “Are you there for me?” and “Am I your number one priority?” Individuals want to be ensured they can count on their partner and no person or thing is more important than them, besides God. A major source of contention in couples occurs when priorities have gotten out of sync. Men tend to put work as a priority while women tend to place kids first. In a healthy relationship, God is first, your spouse/significant other is second, and everything else follows.
In a healthy relationship there must be trust and commitment, the ability to know each other intimately, share fondness and admiration, turn towards each other instead of away, a positive perspective of each other, are capable to manage conflict, can make life dreams come true, and create shared meaning.
Trust and commitment are foundational pillars in every relationship. You want to have security that your partner is not going to leave you or be unfaithful. There is an innate need to want to ensure you will not be rejected or abandoned by your significant other. When you know your partner is committed to the relationship trust is the natural outcome.
You want to know you are each other’s number one priority and you can count on them to be there for you.In a Christian marital relationship, God should be number one and your spouse should be number two. If kids, work, friendships, or family of origin come before the partner or God the relationship is not in its proper order. When things are out of order the natural response is chaos.
Trust is formed when you feel you can be heard and accepted. You believe you have a safe place to be yourself and unguarded. You also can be vulnerable without it being lorded over you. Along with this, you can feel the person has your best interest at heart and not operating out of selfish ambition.
To know each other intimately you must first build love maps. This is a foundational step in building a friendship and knowing each other well. I have met many couples who move so quickly they genuinely do not have a chance to get to know the person on a deeper level. A love map is the ability to know what is going on in the other’s world: their likes, dislikes, what their current stressors are, the names of friends and coworkers, and more.
This may sound very basic and obvious but some couples I see cannot name their partner’s favorite movie, music, or hobby. These couples tend to feel their partner’s world is off-limits and believe secrets are being kept. Unfortunately, they begin to feel like roommates or strangers in the same home. It is vitally important to get to know someone before you begin dating. Getting to know more about and date your partner should be an ongoing process throughout your relationship.
Never stop dating and getting to know your spouse or significant other. A date should not include what needs to get done or updates on the kids, it should be time to intimately connect. This is not a time to be taskmasters, it is time to keep it fresh and do something fun. Frequently in marriage, the spouses feel like they no longer need to try or get to know or pursue their spouse. With this mindset, you are bound to start feeling disconnected and eventually like roommates. Therefore, building a foundation of knowing each other on a deep level and making it a priority to continually check-in is essential in stopping relational drift.
After getting to know your significant other you can begin enjoying more things together. In addition, you become better able to affirm each other due to being more in tune with each other’s emotions and needs. Therefore, you are able to share fondness and admiration. Conflict feels solvable and perpetual problems can be discussed calmly rather than talking in circles, blow-ups, and stuffing feelings. There is increased relational intimacy due to feeling heard, accepted, and understood due to healthy communication skills being developed.
The ability to turn towards each other instead of away is an important factor in healthy relationships. Dr. John Gottman states everyone has “bids for attention.” These bids are conscious or unconscious attempts to draw others around you into your inner world. For example, if I stub my toe and I exclaim, “Ouch!” I would be making a bid for attention. I am not saying ouch for my husband to pity me or get his affection; it is simply my reflexive response to pain. However, my husband has the opportunity to accept the bid to join my world or reject it.My husband can accept my bid by turning to me and asking, “Are you okay?” or he can reject it by not acknowledging what has happened and continue scrolling on social media. A telltale sign a relationship is in an unhealthy state occurs when there is so much resentment, distance, and lack of emotional connection each person begins losing touch with what is going on with each other.
When you feel validated, seen, feel like part of your significant other’s world, and can trust your partner it becomes easier to think about your significant other more positively. You view your relationship more positively and can be more open, committed, and safe. You see the good in your partner and give them the benefit of the doubt when a problem arises. There is more grace given because you see them in a positive light.
According to Dr. John Gottman, a healthy relationship should have a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions with each other. Thus, for every one negative interaction, there should be five positive ones that occur. Being able to properly manage conflict has multiple components. The first is being able to accept the influence of your partner. When your partner makes a suggestion it should not be instantly met with shutting it down. It should be taken into consideration and analyzed before giving a response. You should think about what you and your partner have to say has value.
The second major component of healthy conflict resolution is being able to dialogue about perpetual problems instead of getting hung up on them. Since the vast majority of relational problems will remain unresolved it is important to be able to discuss those issues. You can successfully talk about an issue when you can listen without judgment, blame, deflection, problem-solving, or butting in. Furthermore, you can reflect back what was said rather than combatting perceived discrepancies. Because you are listening to hear and understand there is a greater ability to depersonalize what is being said.
A pivotal step in the sound relational house is being able to establish coping skills for yourself as well as having the ability to soothe your partner. To adequately manage your stress levels and negative emotions self-soothing practices should be part of your daily routine. When you can remain calm and neutral the conversation has a greater likelihood of going well. You also keep yourself out of your stress response reaction: fight, flight, freeze, or fawn.
Do you match your partner’s intensity and escalate with them or do you seek to calm things down? Instead of adding fuel to the fire, it is healthy to de-escalate. It is okay to take a purposeful time out and reconvene when each person has had time to cool down. You can set a time to meet back up during the same day to discuss the matter at hand. During the time out you make it a point to cool yourself down rather than hype yourself up by rehashing the argument and digging up the past. This time should be taken to take a step back and bring your blood pressure down. This can be done by going for a walk, reading a book, prayer, and more. It is a good idea to set up a safe word or nonverbal cue to use when things are escalating. Having a nonverbal cue, such as putting your finger on the tip of your nose, can signify a time out is necessary as well.
The final stage for couples is to make life dreams come. With the ability to connect and grow they can plan for the future. Because the relationship has more hope and security they feel more able to build something together. Couples move into this step when they can agree on the roles, rituals, and goals that govern the relationship. They have the skills to support each other’s dreams, goals, and aspirations. The relationship is characterized by believing in each other, supporting each other’s dreams, and are truly there for each other. They do not have competing interests and can create shared meaning due to being on the same page.
The objectives in the relationship line up and are not rejected, competing with each other, or threatening. Healthy communication, conflict resolution, commitment, trust, and distress tolerance has been built. You have a higher sense of purpose and meaning in the relationship because there is hope for the future. There is a deep sense of trust established. Each person is committed to the relationship and a sense of safety is achieved.
Once you create shared meaning it is essential to continually work and improve on the skills you have. Maintaining a healthy relationship takes consistency and continual effort. Think of a relationship like a muscle, you cannot work out just once and expect it to grow. You have to continually work it out, sometimes with added pressure or weight. If you stop working out your muscles they will eventually atrophy. The same goes for your relationship. However, this will not occur if you establish consistent rituals of connection and always prioritize your relationship. When you have created a sound marital house you will be able to better cope with stress, manage issues as they arise, handle conflict, and dialogue about perpetual issues. Do not become complacent when you create shared meaning. Always pursue your partner and make it a point to connect with t and date them to keep the relationship strong.
I wanted to leave you with some scriptures to meditate on. You can repeat them word for word or you can personalize the scripture by placing your name in the scripture. Replace negative thoughts with scripture.
“Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” – Psalm 139:12-14, NIV.
“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” – Psalm 31:24, NIV.
“So we say with confidence: The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” – Hebrews 13:6, NIV.
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” – Psalm 147: 3, NIV.
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” – 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, NIV.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28, NIV.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” – Galatians 5: 22-23, NIV.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” – Ephesians 4:2, NIV.
“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” – Proverbs 31: 25-29, NIV.
“He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.” – Psalm 18:33, ESV.
“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” – 2 Timothy 1:7, NIV.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9, NIV.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” – Hebrews 12:1, NIV.
“You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.” – Song of Solomon, ESV.
In order to know what a healthy relationship constitutes we have to know what it means to be a healthy adult. There are so many broken people walking around trying to make themselves whole by being in a relationship. Healthy adults can feel good about who they are as people. They are able to feel satisfaction in the things they are doing. With this satisfaction comes giving their all to the cause. A scripture I hold near to my heart is Colossians 3:23. “And whatsoever youdo, do it heartily, as totheLord, and not unto men; American King James Version And whatever youdo, do it heartily, astotheLord, and not to men”. I try and make sure that no matter what I do I am putting my best foot forward with no slack. Along with doing their best they are able to enjoy common, everyday things. They are okay without having excitement and chaos, and can be okay in the still and mindful moments. They are able to be mindful of right now without judgment and not focusing too heavily in the past or present. Along with this, they are able to plan for the future and not fear it because it is unknown. They are able to set realistic goals instead of self-sabotaging and setting themselves up for failure. They are able to honor themselves and make decisions by themselves. A healthy adult knows enough about who they are and what they want that they do not need the affirmation of another to take steps. They have positive coping skills set up and use them when needed. In this they are not overcome by their own emotions. They have distress tolerance and emotional regulation skills for depression, anxiety, anger, guilt, jealousy, and love. When disappointments come they are able to overcome them and move through it rather than getting stuck. With these skills you feel you are adequate to solve your problems. These are just some of the characteristics of a healthy adult. Being healthy does not come overnight. The journey is a process that will come with highs and lows. However, as long as you are progressing that is what you should hold onto. Do not reach for perfection, try and grow every single day.
It takes time to become a healthy adult. What are you doing to become the best version of yourself?
It seems like with each passing day there is something new happening. Murder wasp, bats, toilet paper shortages, safer-at-home, mask wearing, sanitize groceries, home school your kids, restaurants opening up, and more. Life can feel so out of control when our comfort is taken away from us. We also feel out of sorts when our structure is turned upside down. In this time we have learned what is really important and we have to be with our families and our thoughts more than we ever had. For some this has been good, but unfortunately for others it has been a harrowing experience.
Some introverts are rejoicing while some extroverts are slowly slipping into a depression. The one thing that everyone has in common is that no matter your gender, race, creed, sexual orientation, religion, or economic status, we all have been affected in some way. We all have had to learn to adjust to a new normal. Social distance, paranoia when someone coughs or sneezes, washing your hands for the 20th time today, waiting in a line to get into the grocery store and so on. All of these habits are everchanging and seem to be becoming our new normal. The thing about new normals is that we have to learn to adjust and adapt to them. Many people have a hard time with change and this change is a big one. To top it off if you already suffer from any kind of anxiety or depression it just feels like one more thing to have to fight through. Do not be alarmed if you are not adjusting well and you have started to feel anxious or depressed. This is a common adverse reaction to adjustment.
The biggest adjustment we all have to face is the future. To those who had a 5, and 10 year plan we have been stripped to the Biblical principal of leaving tomorrow for tomorrow because it has enough worries of its own. With everything so grey it is hard to see the future and fathom what that will look like. All I know is that today may look bleak but there is always hope in Jesus and His grace is new every morning. When everthing seems like it is slipping through your fingers we can rest assured that God has us in the palm of His hands and that is s a safe place to be. What is the purpose in this time for you? Having things taken away helps to put into perspective what is really important. I pray in this time you can be able to journal your thoughts, let go of control, and surrender to Christ. Sometimes the greatest thing about being or feeling like you are at rock bottom is the only place you can look is up. I implore you to look up to your Heavenly Father in this time. Stop trying to do everything yourself, silence the noise around you, and listen to the still small voice that says, “I am with you”. I want to leave you with the lyrics to the popular Christian song Waymaker by Leeland.
“Even when I don’t see it, You’re working.”
“Even when I don’t feel it, You’re working.”
“You never stop, You never stop working.” “You never stop, You never stop working.”
It is 2020! It is a new year as well as a new decade. I saw a slogan for the new year that had to do with having 20/20 vision that caught my eye (no pun intended). The meaning of vision is the clarity or sharpness of what you see. The caveat of having 20/20 vision is that it does not necessarily mean you have perfect vision. 20/20 vision only indicates the sharpness or clarity of vision at a distance.
I think this description fits in greatly with the new year and new goals and visions that come along with the start of a new year. Something that a local Pastor says frequently is our aim should be, “progress not perfection.” We do not have to be perfect in our process. Do you find yourself getting caught in a constant loop of not feeling good enough or that you have failed in your vision? Take each step and acknowledge and be grateful for steps taken. If you hyperfocus so much on the end goal you lack the present mind for today. Be mindful each day by having a focus on the present without judgment. Take a moment each day to appreciate how far you have come. Make a commitment to achieve daily goals that will lead you to your vision coming to pass.
I love the metaphor of having 20/20 vision. However, today I am not going to speak on what you see because I am not an optometrist. My goal is to empower and inspire you for this new year. I what you to think of vision as what you see when you close your eyes rather than when your eyes are open. Close your eyes for a moment. What do you envision for your future? That is your vision.
That same local pastor I spoke of earlier taught on how vision is “what you see when your eyes are closed”. That struck me so powerfully. Our thoughts are so powerful. In vision you are not frustrated with how you see yourself now. You can see yourself for what you want to be in you future. What does that mean for you? Are you a more present father? A less resentful wife? Able to control your worry and frustration more effectively? For 2020 commit to seeing yourself more clearly this year. Commit to maintaining and meditating on positive thoughts about yourself. Commit to write down your vision and make it plain. Studies have shown that those who write down their vision are 1000x more likely to possess the vision. Make this year the year that you don’t let fear, excuses or the opinion of others get in your way.
As you find yourself going to your vision board and contemplating what you are wanting for 2020 be sure to find your vision and define your goals to get to that vision. More often than not vision and goals are used interchangeably. Vision is what you see when you close your eyes, the end goal with an unknown path. Goals help you to put down a path that leads you to achieving your vision. These are milestones that help to quantify progress. In your process of goal setting remember the goal is not perfection but progress.
Make 2020 a year of mindfulness. Make the decade one of new vision, goals, and achievements. I pray that you have an immensely blessed 2020 and a wonderful start to this new decade. Be grateful of every step, encourage yourself, challenge yourself, and know that God created you with a purpose and on purpose!
Many people struggle with being to adequately manage their frustrations and negative emotions. In our society today we have been classified as having the most stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues than any other time period in history. There are more children being diagnosed with anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and ADHD than ever before? With the increased pressure of social media and other inputs that have to battled that were not present before comes the need to be able to better cope. Having a toolkit of healthy coping skills and being able to regulate yourself are the highest predictor of success for fighting of mental health issues.
Self-regulation is the ability to monitor and control behavior, emotions, or thoughts; and alter them in accordance with the demands of the situation. This happens when you can do three things: you are able to stop your first initial reaction and respond instead, persist during a task even if it is unenjoyable, and resist unnecessary stimuli. Consequently, self-regulation skills develop over time and can be inhibited based on life events. Trauma is a hinderance to self-regulation especially if occurs during childhood. When a traumatic experience happens, the natural response is to become more hypervigilant. When you are more hypervigilant it becomes more difficult to managing what is perceived to be a stressful stimulus. When stressful stimuli are present it is hard to process and engage with it appropriately due to the lack of emotional regulation skills. When you are hypervigilant you are more likely to have inappropriate emotional and behavioral reactions to external and internal stimuli.
Self-regulation is linked to social, sensory, and cognitive factors. We learn ways to act from our social environment, those around us. Our family of origin has a large role in the way we regulate our own emotions. If anger outburst are modeled the child will model back what they have seen. Furthermore, as an infant if the needs of a child are met by the caregiver, they are better able to learn how to soothe themselves. If the needs of an infant are neglected or chaotically attended to then the child learns the world is a scary place and due to age are unable to regulate themselves. The chaotic pattern leads to having more of a chaotic pattern of regulating themselves in adulthood. Our thoughts are high predictors if we are coping adequately or not. We must be able to think about what we are thinking about and rationalize if our thought is true helpful or suitable for the given situation. This leads to being better equipped to respond appropriately to internal and external stimuli. When the caregiver tends to needs chaotically you have uncertainty about the reliability of others. When in a healthy environment a child can move from depending on other for emotional and behavioral regulation to being able to manage themselves.
The presentation of poor self-regulation can be characterized externally by outbursts of emotions such as anger, aggression, selfishness, and oppositional defiance. The internal expression of poor emotional regulation can come in the form of anxiety, codependency, depression, fear, isolation, and social withdrawal. Decision making and self-regulation can be clouded when certain variables are coupled together. The HALT acronym in helpful in discerning if you will have more issue in self-regulation. When you are hungry, angry, lonely, and/or tired your emotional and behavior responses will be skewed. It will be harder to be in control of your responses and will lead to more reactions if you are experiencing one or more of the variables above. When you are hungry you do not have the nutritional needs for the brain to function and process at its highest potential. When you become angry your brain starts to operate more from a fight or flight reaction that is dangerous when coupled with hypervigilance. When you are lonely you are more apt to feel vulnerable and needy and reach for things that may not be healthy in the moment. When you are feeling tired you have not been taking care of your body which means you can be drained physically, mentally, and emotionally. All these variable point to not being able to adequately regulate yourself. These are four emotional and physical states that if not coped with adequately can lead to discomfort and poor self-regulation. Hunger can be physical or emotional in nature so it is important to check in on which desire is to be fulfilled. Emotional hunger can be a need for a sense of companionship or community, comfort, understanding, or attention. Anger has to be expressed constructively instead of exploding or imploding. When anger is left undealt with it can take the form of bitterness and resentment which can lead to depression and other negative outcomes. When depressed comes more isolation and loneliness. When you are lonely it may be harder to reach out for others or feel easier to stay to yourself. When you are tired is becomes easier to become more emotionally flooded which leads to stonewalling. When you stonewall your body literally can take on no further stimuli so it shuts everything out which is detrimental to relationships and communication.
Poor self-regulation can lead to problems in multiple areas of your life such as maintaining positive relationships, understanding your own feelings or the feelings of others, poor impulse control, the completion of task, and activities of daily living. When behavioral and emotional difficulties are present for an extended period across multiple setting, mental health issues may be present. Having the ability to self-regulate helps to decrease the ongoing impact of stress. The inability to cope with stress is a contributing factor to mental health issues. If you find that you frequently have difficulties regulating yourself it may be necessary to seek out professional help to establish coping skills, problem solving tools, and healthy way to regulate behaviors, thoughts, and emotions. Counseling is a great way to develop healthier relationships, coping skills, thoughts, and emotions.
What is a sound relationship house you may ask? The sound relationship house is a picture of the qualities that encompass a healthy relationship. The main issue I see in couples is the blending of culture of origin. For example, one person was raised in an open family and the other was raised in a closed family. When the two come together the opposites attract, but eventually the differences can seem like they are attacking one another. In the sound relationship house, you will learn the keys to conflict management and a healthy relationship.
The sound relationship house was created by Dr. John Gottman to assist in counseling. Dr. John Gottman is a marriage scientist who has studied relationship patterns and can predict dissolution of a marriage with a high percentage of accuracy based off conflict style. Dr. John Gottman has a helpful tool called the sound relationship house that gives a picture of what a steady and healthy relationship looks like. The sound relationship house is a great metaphor because there are 7 levels that encompass the house that build off one another. If you have built a home before you know that the process takes time, is rewarding, but has some stress.
I use the sound marital house as a technique in my counseling practice. The basis of the sound relationship house is to explain the core foundation, walls, and levels that create a stable relationship. Dr. John Gottman made a visualization of the house by putting trust and commitment on the sides or the walls. Without trust and commitment, the house will fall. The main questions people ask in relationship are, “I am your number one priority” and “will you be there for me?” There are seven levels of the sound relationship house that I will expound upon today: build love maps, share fondness and admiration, turn towards instead of away, the positive perspective, manage conflict, make life dreams come true, create shared meaning.
Build love maps- This step is the foundational step of building a friendship and knowing each other well. Love maps means that you are able to know what is going on in the others world, their likes, dislikes who their friends are, and more. This may sound very basic but some couples that I see cannot name their partners favorite movie, music, or two coworkers that they share space with. You may laugh, but it is a harsh reality. You do not want to feel like strangers in the same home. Thus, this is the first step in dating to get to know someone. Many times in marriage the spouses feel like they no longer need to try or get to know their spouse as they grown and find themselves in the proverbial roommate situation. This encompasses way more than love maps. However, being aware of the other person is essential in stopping the drift.
Share fondness and admiration- Once you get to know the person the natural next step is to begin enjoying things together. You also affirm one another and are in tune to one another’s emotions and emotional needs. In a healthy relationship there should be a 5:1 ration to positive to negative interactions with one another. Conflict is inevitable but the positive should always far outweigh the negative.
Turn towards instead of away. Dr. John Gottman states that everyone has “bids for attention”. Theses bids can be conscious or unconscious but are attempts to draw others around you into your inner world. For example, if I stub my toe I can exclaim, “Ouch!” Which would be my bid for attention, is left to be accepted or rejected? My husband can accept my bid by turning to me and asking, “Are you okay?” or he can reject it by saying nothing and not acknowledging what has happened.
The positive perspective. Whenever you are a part of your significant others world and you feel that you can trust them it is easier to think and respond more positively in conflict. You view your relationship more positively and
Manage conflict these three steps come directly from Dr. John Gottman: “Accept your partners’ influence, dialogue about problems. Practice self-soothing”
Make life dreams come true. This step is possible when you are able to support one another’s dreams, goals, and aspirations. I have seen a multitude of couples who do not believe in the other partner’s dreams, lack support, and feel alone in the relationship. Whenever you are able to support each other you are more able to create a shared meaning in your life and
Create shared meaning. Whenever you get to the roof of the house is when it is easier to pull your lives together through roles, rituals, and goals. The objectives and goals in the relationship line up and are not competing, threatening, or rejected. The couple is able to establish meaning that was never present before. A new chapter in the relationship can begin because communication, conflict resolution, and the alignment of being in a committed relationship where trust has been established. You have a higher sense of purpose and meaning in the relationship because of the pillars of trust and commitment solidifying hope for the future. It becomes easier to let down the guard let the person in and whole heartedly create meaning because there is trust in the future of the relationship.
When looking at the sound relationship house you can go back and forth in between levels. Once you have reached the top of the sound relationship house that does not mean that perfection has been reached. The process of maintaining a sound relationship house will take practice and engagement. You may believe you have arrived, but the levels are fluid and need repetition. Continually make it a point to have rituals of connection and prioritize the relationship. There is never a “stopping point”. When you have created a sound marital house you will be able to better cope with stress, issues as they arise, manage conflict, and dialogue about perpetual issues. When you believe and feel you are on the same page it is easier to resolve conflict and the air feels lighter between you.
The sound relationship house is helpful for couples who engage in arguments frequently, have perpetual issues, poor communication skills, infidelity, parenting and money issues, or one or both partners have emotionally withdrawn. The sound relationship house is helpful in giving you the practical tools to flow through the levels. If you are a visual learner, the house gives a great picture, goals, and a direction in which to go. The sound relationship house helps you to gauge where you are at and gives hope for the future. If you are needing marital or relationship help feel free to set up an appointment with me today by going online or giving me a call (918)970-0095.