“Every woman extends backward into her mother and forward into her daughter.” Carl Jung
Archive for November, 2007
An awful lot of people say things like, “That’s ok ….what you did….its alright. I forgive you.” Think about it. How often do you hear someone profusely apologizing, and the other person saying “No, that’s ok! Don’t worry about it!” The injured party is actually trying to make the person who hurt them feel better! Actually, most of the time, its not alright. It could be something as trivial as someone stepping on your toe – that’s not alright. It hurts! Or someone accidentally spilling coffee on your white shirt. That’s not alright. It burns AND ruins your clothing.
It is not ok to hurt someone intentionally or otherwise. (Bear with me please, I will get to my definition of forgiveness in a minute.) This becomes an important concept in my work with couples. Or adult children of alcoholic/abusive/fill-in-the blanks damaging parents. I do believe forgiveness is neccessary in a wounded relationship in order for any healing and growth to take place . But to say or mean it as I’ve described it actually minimizes the painful behavior by implying, in essence, that it wasn’t that bad (when it was). It also minimizes the very person doing the forgiving.
A better concept, I think, is this: When hurtful behavior has occurred, an emotional debt is owed. Just ask anyone you know who has gone for months, years, resentful of wrongdoing by a loved one. They’ll tell you how much they are owed. They will also tell you how impossible it would be for the person who hurt them to pay them back. And they are right. By now the emotional debt is probably higher than the gross national debt. Forgiveness in my mind is being willing to write off that debt and start over. When you say “I forgive you” its about wiping the slate clean, accepting the apology and remorse of the person as they are now, having renwewed faith in the person, and moving forward. It means you’ve processed the hurt, felt the emotions, and started healing. These words should not be said prematurely in an anxious attempt to make things better because to do so will make things worse.
I was just surfing for something to grab me to read, and realized that the avatar is a very important factor in whether I click on the post or not. I’m wondering if its the same for others?
….and you can make one…just one phone call….the most important phone call of your rapidly ending life. Who will you call, and what will you say that you never said until now?
Hidden, though she wants to be found.
Silent, though she wants to scream.
Choking on her own fear and
blind to the hand held out to her.
I have so many clients who come to me with histories of abuse, tragedy or loss. They are usually in my office for something else: problems with the kids, finding or keeping a partner in life, depression, etc. The list goes on and on for what we shrinks call “the presenting problem”. When a careful assessment uncovers the sorrow underneath, the silent sorrow that drives the current problem, they very often shrug it off. Therapist empathy falls upon a stone wall.
“I don’t want to feel sorry for myself,” they say. And let me tell you, they really mean it that they don’t want to feel sorry for themselves. And I don’t blame them. The words have such a negative connotation. That connotation has been imposed on all of us by our fast moving culture that wants people to “get over it”. And so such words as “feeling sorry for herself” evoke the image of a person who wants to wallow in misery. No one wants to be that person, in their own eyes or in the eyes of others. So walls are built to hide the feelings. Sometimes even from yourself.
But wallowing is one thing. Working to get through it is something else again. You have to get through whatever is behind the wall if you want your present life to improve. Here’s the thing: you have to feel it to get through it. It is ok to have compassion for yourself and what you went through. Compassion is a feeling of sympathy along with the desire or yearning to alleviate the suffering of another. It is ok to extend the same compassion to yourself that you would to a loved one who went through the same thing. You need to have compassion for yourself in order to allow yourself to feel the feelings and walk through, and beyond, the pain.
That’s not wallowing. That’s doing something about it.
This link is offered for anyone who has lupus and would like to be able to explain the fatigue aspect of it in a non-medical way. It is also offered for anyone who would like to understand how someone so ill could look so…normal! (or why someone who looks so normal when they come to your house for dinner does not get up to help you with anything!)(http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/the_spoon_theory/
I don’t think so. Not significant coincidences, anyway. I consulted www.dictionary.com for their definition of the word. One general consensus that has always resonated for me is that it is a sequence of events which, although accidental, seem as if they are arranged or planned. If I were writing the dictionary, me being me, I’d say they feel as if they are arranged or planned or meant to happen. So I’m not talking about a random thought of an aquaintance you once knew who meant nothing to your life and, soon after, you happen to run into that person. And they still mean nothing to your life. That may be a coincidence but its boring, right? There is no feeling of significance about it.
I’m talking more about how Carl Jung, the famous psychiatrist, once described it, “Coincidence, if traced far enough back, becomes inevitable.” I don’t think he was talking about boring.
So think about a major coincidence in your life and tell me, if you will…what was it?
How would you like to be living with a disease that attacks your own cells and organs? Things like your skin, heart, lungs, brain, joints and kidneys? How would you like to be living with a disease in which your own body has turned on you and may eventually kill you? That would be lupus. You’ve probably heard of it, but do you know, exactly, what it is? An amazing amount of people don’t, considering it’s high incidence in our population.
The Lupus Foundation of America estimates that more than 16,000 Americans develop this disease each year, and 90% of them are women ages 15 – 45. Lupus is a non-contagious, autoimmune disease. Normally the body’s immune system makes proteins called antibodies, to protect the bgody against viruses, bacteria, and otehr foreign materials. These foreign materials are called anitgens. With Lupus, the immune system cannot tell the difference between foreign substances and its own cells and tissues. So the immune system then makes antibodies directed against itself. These antibodies – acalled “auto-antibodies” cause inflammation, pain and damage in various parts of the body.
Do you want to know how it feels to have lupus? Today I offer you an essay link written by Christine Miserandino, a young mother with lupus : My Secret Is Safe With Me: what I wish people knew about me. It is from the But You Don’t Look Sick website.
Well, I’m here to tell you that’s not going to happen. Though it’s amazing how many people expect mindreading in a relationship. Particularly women. See, we women think we can read our partner’s minds, and can’t understand why its not reciprocated.
The good news is, obviously, that no one can read anyone’s mind. That’s not communicating, that’s very wishful, and not very helpful, thinking.
Example of woman thinking she’s mindreading: Husband is watching tv. Gorgeous, sexy female appears on screen. Wife mistakenly mindreads,aloud: “You’re thinking about how much prettier she is than me, aren’t you? You’re thinking you’d really like to have sex with her, admit it! If you COULD have one time out on our commitment, you’d be with her, wouldn’t you?”
Now, the poor guy was really wondering if tonight is a green light with his wife but now he doesn’t go for it because he is too busy denying her accusations. She gets mad at him for “lying” to her, and now he doesn’t dare come on to her because he’s already insulted her (he has no clue why) when really she wants him to mindread that she wants him to come on to her….. but has chosen a less than effective way of communicating this to him…
Better would be: Honey, I feel so insecure when I see those gorgeous women on tv. Do you still want me like you used to? I guarantee you’ll both get what you want with this straightforward approach!
Example of male mindreading: The man gets into bed and, figuring the bed is a mating mat even though he’s been advised hundreds of time to the contrary, mindreads that she really wants him tonight and is just too shy to come right out and say it (see above). He jumps her bones and either gets shoved off or she plays dead through the whole thing (admit it, women: for spite).
Better: subtle communication works best here. Offer a back rub, or a foot rub, and very slowly work your way to the desired destination. Give her some time to enjoy the relaxation and get in the mood. Minimal communication would be: does that feel good? Telling her why you love her or her specific physical attributes communicates that you still think she’s hot.
Don’t expect her to mindread how sexy you think she is. We never get tired of hearing it.
What do you like about yourself? Are you proud of yourself? If these questions make you feel uncomfortable, or you cannot answer them, chances are that you have a problem with self esteem. Why is that? Why do so many of us basically dislike ourselves? Why are we embarrassed to “esteem” ourselves?
Before answering this question, we must first define self-esteem. Self esteem comes from the inside out. It means that a woman is not dependent upon anyone else to make her feel good about herself, because she already knows she’s fine just the way she is. She is confident and aware of her strengths and abilities. She wants to share them with others.
This does not mean she is conceited. She is also aware of areas needing work and growth. But that’s ok, because she knows she’s not perfect, and she doesn’t have to be. No one is. She understands that we all have our strengths and weaknesses.
Self-esteem is a core identity issue, essential to personal validation and our ability to experience joy. Once achieved, it comes from the inside out. But it is assaulted or stunted from the outside in. A woman with low self-esteem does not feel good about herself because she has absorbed negative messages about women from the culture and/or relationships.
The reign of youth, beauty and thinness in our society dooms every woman to eventual failure. Women’s magazines, starting with the teenage market, program them to focus all their efforts on their appearance. Many girls learn, by age 12, to drop formerly enjoyable activities in favor of the beauty treadmill leading to nowhere. They become fanatical about diets. They munch, like rabbits, on leaves without salad dressing, jog in ice storms, and swear they love it! Ads abound for cosmetic surgery, enticing us to “repair” our aging bodies, as if the natural process of aging were an accident or a disease. Yet with all this effort, they still never feel like they are good enough.
How can they? Anorexic magazine models are airbrushed to perfection. “Beautiful” movie stars are whipped into perfect shape by personal trainers, and use surgery to create an unnatural cultural ideal. But youth cannot last. It is not meant to. If women buy into this image of beauty, then the best an older woman can strive for is looking “good for her age” or worse yet, “well preserved”. Mummies are well preserved. Mummies are also dead.
Abusive experiences join with cultural messages to assault female self esteem. Abuse is pervasive and cuts across all socioeconomic lines. It invariably sends the message that the victim is worthless. Many, many women have told me that verbal abuse has hurt them far more than any physical act. As one woman put it, “his words scarred my soul”. Women whose abuse started as children have the most fragile sense of identity and self worth.
Poor self esteem often results in depression and anxiety. Physical health suffers as well. Many times, women with this problem don’t go for regular checkups, exercise, or take personal days because they really don’t think they’re worth the time.
Relationships are impacted as well. Their needs are not met by their partner because they feel like they don’t deserve to have them met, or are uncomfortable asking. Their relationships with children can suffer if they are unable to discipline effectively, set limits, or demand the respect they deserve. Worse yet, low self-esteem passes from mother to daughter.The mother is modeling what a woman is. She is also modeling, for her sons, what a wife is.
In the workplace, women with low self-esteem tend to be self-deprecating, to minimize their accomplishments, or let others take credit for their work. They never move up. Finally, with friends, they are unable to say no. They end up doing favors they don’t want to do, or have any time for. They end up going where they don’t want to go, with people they don’t want to go with! A woman with low self-esteem has no control over her life. But that can change. These women can get help and emotional healing.
It is criticial to remember that no one deserves to be abused. If something bad has happened to you, it does not mean there is something wrong with you. The responsibility for the abuse lies with the person who chooses to hurt you. If you are presently being abused, you must put yours and your children’s safefy first. If you think you are in danger, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. You can choose your own identity. You can discard the popular cultural image and replace it with something real. As I read someplace once, “We are bound by our fate only as long as we accept the values that determine it.”
Nobody is perfect, but everyone is worthwhile. Believe in yourself.
What Is Normal Sexuality in Marriage?
Everyone wonders about this. Do our friends “do it” more often than we do? Does anyone else have this problem where one partner has high desire, and the other one has little to none? We must be really weird. Everyone wants sex, don’t they?
The answer is no. Not really. More than 40 million Americans feel stuck in low-sex or no sex marriages. Research studies tell us that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 7 men reported little to no sexual desire. Sometime in a marriage more than 50% of couples experience one or both partners with little to no sexual desire.
Desire problems are the most frequent complaint of couples entering sex therapy. They are also often the unspoken complaint of couples entering relationship therapy.
In our sex saturated culture, this particular difficulty has a stigma. It’s ok to admit to having a drug problem or mood disorder. But a sexual problem? No way! We’re all supposed to be sexual superstars in our intimate relationships, aren’t we?
Actually, sexual anxieties, inhibitions, and problems are the norm. We’re afraid of not doing it “right”, like in movies and books. “Right” would be intercourse, with both parties craving each other all the time and having simultaneous orgasms every time they’re intimate.
Wrong! Healthy sexuality means giving and receiving touch that is pleasurable. It is not goal oriented, but process oriented. (The journey, not the destination.) It allows both partners to enjoy pleasure. It varies. Sometimes one or both has an orgasm. Sometimes not. And that’s ok. What’s not ok is not caring about yours or your partner’s needs.
There are many possible reasons for a discrepancy in desire between partners. The first is biological. As I mentioned in the statistics above, more than twice as many women than men have problems with sexual desire. This is because after the infatuation phase of the relationship, when hormones are running rampant, things settle down to natural biological rhythms. And biologically speaking, whoever has the most testosterone usually has the most desire.
Hmmm…. I wonder which gender that is!
Other reasons relevant to both genders are performance anxiety, emotional pain in the relationship, coerced intimacy, sex used as a bartering tool, lack of time, lack of energy, and fear of intimacy to name a few. These can be helped with an understanding therapist.
What you should do: first get complete medical exams to rule out any type of disease or medication causing the problem.
What you can do: see a relationship expert or sex therapist who can help you experience the pleasure and joy of intimate connection. You deserve no less.
My husband gave me the perfect opportunity to practice what I preach. I’m taking a two day seminar in NYC which he drove me to yesterday. He’s a nice guy that way. He loves to do things for me. This morning he had other plans for the day, but had still planned on dropping me off again this morning and getting back on time to pick me up at 5:30. No problem, I said. I can drive myself in. He of course jumped on this because what a pain in the neck to have to cut his day short, right?
Here’s where the therapist had to walk the talk. I asked him to just write down the directions for me. That’s all I asked. Write down the directions. He got all cranky about that and frankly, I didn’t like his tone while he wrote them down and read them out loud to me. I could have called him out on this. I could have gotten reactive. But I stopped myself and thought, I wonder what’s going on for him that he’s acting this way?
Since this man is the love of my life, I’d say I know him pretty well. I realized very quickly that he was angry because he felt bad that he wasn’t driving me in again. He worries about me when I drive into the city. I might get lost, or hurt or something. He was angry because he wanted to be protective…. because he loves me. And also because he feels like its his job, 24/7. Again, that’s just the kind of guy he is.
So instead of challenging him per my impulse, I went over and gave him a big hug. I told him what I’d realized and asked if I was right. Boy was I! He laughed a LOT, delighted that I know him so well (we all love to be known, don’t we?). So a potential fight ended up in laughter and a hug.
The only thing is, I hope I don’t get lost.
I see this so much in my office- couples wanting to re-hash a week old argument and wanting me to judge who’s right. Detail by detail they correct each other, exactly who said what, who did what first, as if each admitted detail is a score toward the finish line.
But nobody really gets anywhere because there are no winners in an argument between partners. If there’s a winner that means there’s a loser, which means the winner loses too. Losers don’t like winners very much.
Relationships are not about opponents or gladiators. They’re about loving your lover.
When you love you give the gifts of empathy and the benefit of the doubt. You understand that your partner is probably feeling hurt beneath the anger. You try to understand and ask for help in understanding because you want to make it better.
When you are loved you receive the gifts of empathy and the benefit of the doubt. You feel understood and appreciate the empathy and efforts of your partner.
The more you are given, the more you receive. The more you receive, the more you want to give.
It becomes a lot easier than the win thing.
Couples have an identity and therefore defining moments, just as individuals do. A defining moment with my husband of 20 years took me, recently, totally by surprise. I was going through the blues about the loss of my youth and youthful appearance. (Even therapists get the blues.) He said, ” Well I think you’re still beautiful. More now than before. Because when I look at you I see all of you … how you looked when I first met you, and how you looked over the passing years, and how you look now…like layer upon layer….all of you as one…” I fell in love with him all over again in that moment, and I believe it had to happen in order for our relationship to deepen to where we are now.
“I was driving back to my old apartment one afternoon and I had lived one block away from a church. That day I was stopped as a funeral procession exited. I waited and watched the cars go by, trying to see the kinds of people who were a part of this. However, the procession never stopped. I saw every kind of person imaginable.
I was probably there for a good seven minutes and I started to get a chill down my spine at the length of this procession. I felt this surge through me and I had a “defining moment.” I wanted that to be me! Not to pass on, but to have known and touched that many people in my life.
Ever since then I have had this drive to want to help people and I am making the time to have that happen. I’m becoming more social and more outgoing. I do volunteer work and donate to charities I believe in. I know the names of my neighbors. And I want this to increase as my life continues. I want to be an outstanding member of my community. I want to change things.
So at my eulogy? I don’t think it matters so much what they say, but how the people who are there remember how I personally affected them.”
“It’s taken some time but I think I’ve finally decided what was the first defining moment in my life. When I was little, every summer my family would rent a house at the beach. One morning when my father, sister and I were headed onto the beach, the sun was so hot it made the sand too hot for me to step on. I told my dad and sister this but unfortunately they didn’t think the sand was hot so they kept walking towards the water. I was stuck. I wanted to swim but did not want the hot sand to burn my feet. I stood on the deck for a few minutes trying to think of what to do. I finally figured out that I could slide my feet through the sand so they would not have to touch the top part of the sand that was so hot from the sun beating on it. This is my first defining moment because it was the first time in my life I had to figure out how to handle a situation without anyone else’s help. While it seems like a silly childhood memory, when faced with challenges in my life I often remember this moment and it helps me think of how to face the challenge without ‘burning my feet’. ” Written by Cheryl in a previous comment.
Its a nasty little creature but it does have a good purpose. Assuming you’re not a sociopath you know what it feels like. We all do. Who hasn’t done something wrong in this life and felt awful about it? We’re supposed to feel bad when we do something bad…. The healthy feeling of guilt prods us into making amends. For example, you’ve had a lousy week at work and realize you’ve been very cranky to your Person ( I happen to like this word much better than “significant other”. Its shorter and …well…more personal.) So when you realize this, and feel appropriately guilty, you apologize. Hopefully you have a healthy enough relationship that your Person accepts the apology and you’re both done with feeling offended and feeling guilty. And you move on.
But there’s another kind of guilt where the guilt creature turns into a monster that rules your life…not the kind that prods you to make amends, but the kind that takes over your life and relationships. A logical, cognitive solution that helps some of my clients, and maybe will help you, is this:
Imagine yourself in a court of law, where your guilt must be proven so that appropriate punishment, or amends, can be decided. You’re the defendant representing yourself because no honest attorney worth their salt would represent you in this case.
Judge Judy, who has moved up to a higher court in her career (no I’ve never watched her in my entire life and I don’t feel guilty lying about this either) : Ok, so its the State vs. You. What exactly is the crime we’re trying?
You (possibly stuttering at this point!): Uh, not a crime…..I just feel really guilty….
Judge Judy: Where’s your lawyer?
You: I couldn’t find one to defend me.
Judge Judy: Well why not? That tells me already that no one even thought you had a case.
You: Well….my therapist told me to come.
Judge Judy, rubbing her eyes: Oh my dear God, why do therapists always send their clients to me? Do I look like a therapist???? What crime does your therapist think you commited?
You: Well….nothing…that’s why she told me to come here.
Judge Judy: Fine. So she wants me to do her work?
You: Well, actually I think she wants me to do the work….
Judge Judy with a flamboyant sigh : Ok, lets get on with this. What crime do you think you committed?
You: Well, not a crime, exactly….I just feel guilty about….everything….
Judge Judy: Could you give me an example?
You: Well, my son is unhappy a lot…actually he’s depressed…so I feel guilty all the time for being a terrible mother.
Judge Judy with confusion on her face: How old is your son?
Judge Judy (sighing and with even more confusion on her face) : Ok…so….what exactly is the crime that I should convict you of?
You: Well, I didn’t say I committed a crime.
Judge Judy: But you did say you feel guilty. Guilt by definition indicates wrongdoing of some kind. What did you do wrong?
You: Well….I’m not exactly sure….but I must have done something wrong to be feeling so guilty. If I’d been a good mother maybe he would’ve turned out happier.
Judge Judy: Did you take algebra in school? From what I’m hearing, a + b is not equal to c here.
You: Excuse me?
Judge Judy: You have not convinced me with any logic at all that you are guilty of anything. Feelings do not necessarily imply cause and effect. What has your son chosen to do about his depression? Does he see a therapist? Is he on medication?
Judge Judy: Why not?
You: He just….won’t….he flatly refuses.
Judge Judy: Are you supportive? Do you love him?
You: Of course!
Judge Judy: So what are you guilty of? (She raises her hand in the air, to stop any possible interruption). And please don’t tell me about his childhood stuff. That’s your stuff you’re consumed with here, not his. He’s a man now and its his choice how to deal , or not deal with, the effects of his childhood. Did you do the best that you knew how when you raised him? Have you apologized for any serious mistakes you made?
You: Yes! But if I could, I’d go back and do things differently now….
Judge Judy: Wouldn’t we all…thus the old saying “if I knew then what I know now”….But you have not convinced me of any crime worth the guilt you’re carrying on our back like a boulder. What was your crime? What should I convict you of?
You: I could’ve been a better mother.
Judge Judy: I cannot convict you of youth and imperfection. Would you convict a mother of that?
Judge Judy: Then what are you guilty of?
Judge Judy: Whose responsibility is it for your son to get help? Can you pick him up and carry him into a therapist’s office? Can he still fit into a car seat? How big is he?
You: Too big (and now the light dawns…)
You grab Judge Judy’s gavel and slam it yourself. Case dismissed.
So think about it…if you will….and tell me….of what crime have you convicted yourself?
I just read this news story and can’t help but think of what a defining moment it was for each of these poor people when they got their organ transplant and with it the AIDS virus. I picture the individuals and their families initially filled with hope when the patient’s name came up on the recipient list. I see a falsely positive (intentional irony here) new defining moment for all involved: meaning a future, or at least a longer one. Then instead they are informed of the virus and the moment is defined entirely differently.
How would you like to have yourself described in your eulogy? What do you want people to remember that you did? (An authentic eulogy, not the kind that’s so generic you know the officiant pulled it out of a drawer because no one could think of anything nice to say!) I do not lay claim to the originality of this question. We therapist folks often use it to get people thinking. Because when you think about the answers to these questions, you begin to define yourself as you’d like to be. And it becomes possible to begin new defining moments as you redefine yourself.
Who has time to think these days? Who has time for introspection? One reader, spingshiny writes “in these days of chaotic living, I seldom get the time to reflect on how I would define myself! I simply dont know. I would like to believe certain things about myself but are those qualities and attitudes the real me? I dont know.”
So think about it, if you will, and tell me….what would you like to believe about yourself?
We have so many roles, personally, professionally, relationally. Do we define ourselves by some of these, a combination of these, or something else at our core?
Think about it…if you will…and tell me what you think.
I have NO time to write, rushing out for the evening, husband giving me the countdown: “15 MINUTES TILL WE HAVE TO LEAVE!” now, all of a sudden I just got the “5 MINUTES I’LL GO WARM UP THE CAR!” but my fingers itch, no COMMAND me to jot something down in my blog before a day passes and I’ve missed an entry. (This after less than a week since I started this thing.)
I am a blogger.