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How Can Parents Deal with a Teenager’s Broken Heart?

How Can Parents Deal with a Teenager’s Broken Heart?

As parents, we need to fight against the illusion that everything is always fine with our teenagers.  Teens often hide their pain behind the “Fine” sign — which is another way of saying “Keep out of my life.”  

Parents can have difficulty believing their teenager is undergoing some of the most painful experiences they’ll have in life, while that teenager lives in their house, eats their food, and sleeps under their roof.  How can pain be happening in a place with Internet access, food on the table, and clothes in the closet?  

Here are some tips for dealing with a teenager that has a broken heart:

Pay Attention – Parents can have difficulty realizing their teenager has an emotional need.  What parents must pay attention to is when their teenager’s behavior changes.  

  • Your kid who’s never been much of a talker emotionally vanishes for days or weeks.  
  • Your kid who’s a drama queen about everything flatlines emotionally for an extended period of time.  

If things like this start to happen, pay attention.  Check in with your teen and ask how things are going.  If they don’t reply, acknowledge that they don’t want to talk and don’t push them.  Instead, leave them an open invitation to talk.

Check Yourself – If your teen experiences a broken heart over a known event, such as a relationship breakup or a divorce, a death, or a best friend moving across the country, keep track of how your teenager is navigating those waters.  It is possible the event that’s upset your teen has also upset you.  If you’re experiencing a broken heart as well because of what’s happened, seek out help for yourself.  The last thing an emotionally wobbly teenager needs is for you to start leaning on him or her for your own support.  Both of you are bound to fall.  

Avoid Judgement – Avoid judging what hurts your teenager.  When a teen is in pain, it doesn’t help to hear you consider the reason to be stupid or meaningless or, worse, childish.  Pain can be universal; everyone who hits their finger with a hammer will yelp.  Pain is also personal; what injuries one person may have shrugged off, another person might feel more deeply.  Even though you shrug off your teen’s pain, your teen still hurts.  

I encourage you to get to know your teenager, to get beyond your irritation at their behavior, and to pay attention to what that behavior tells you about your teen.  There seems to be an inverse reaction common among teens — the more they hurt, the more they hide.  But pain cannot stay hidden indefinitely.  Pain will come out.  As a parent, you need to watch for signs of pain coming out.  

  • Watch for changes in behavior over an extended period of time.  A couple of days of isolation are probably pretty normal for teens, but not a couple of weeks.  The more significant the shift in behavior, the more you need to pay attention.
  • Don’t expect an immediate response.  The first time you ask your teen how they’re doing and he or she says “Fine,” don’t stop there if you suspect things are not fine.  Let your teen know you’re concerned and specifically why.  
  • Communicate your willingness to talk about anything at any time.  Then, be prepared to follow it up, even if your teen unloads more than you want to know two hours past your bedtime on a weeknight.  

I can’t emphasize enough the pain teenagers hold in.  They get hurt in so many ways that fly under their parents’ radar.  Sometimes that pain translates into depression, eating disorders, anxiety, or substance abuse — behaviors that push the familial panic button and clearly signal something is very wrong.

But sometimes that pain is less obvious and the signals that something is wrong get drowned out by the sounds of everyday life.  Slowly, quietly, that pain translates into a loss of optimism, a cynicism about life, the gradual strangulation of dreams, and a loss of hope for the future.  

Is adolescence supposed to be a time of up-and-down moods and volatile emotions?  Yes, but pay attention if your teen spends too much time in the pits.  If he or she just doesn’t seem to be rebounding or continually refuses to talk about what’s going on, consider obtaining the help of a counselor.  School counselors can be of tremendous benefit, but realize your teen may need to see a professional counselor outside of school.  If your teen had a broken leg, you’d seek professional help.  Since you’d get help for a broken leg, why wouldn’t you get help for a broken heart?  

 

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 36 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.

 

How Often Do You Express Vented Anger?

How Often Do You Express Vented Anger?

Vented anger, because of its “out there” nature, can be much easier to identify.  However, many people still attempt to diffuse it by calling it other names.

I’d like you to take a look at the following list of words and mark any you identify as part of your anger repertoire.  Be honest and bold.  If you have a loved one or close friend, consider asking him or her to look over the list and discuss it with you.  Other people are a good barometer of what you aren’t able to recognize in yourself.

  • Disappointed
  • Bitter
  • Resentful
  • Critical
  • Controlling
  • Hostile
  • Mean
  • Sarcastic
  • Frustrated
  • Insecure
  • Victimized
  • Destructive
  • Anxious
  • Irritable
  • Impatient
  • Blaming
  • Manipulative
  • Selfish
  • Prideful

All of these can be ways of expressing anger.  Look over your list and answer the following questions.

  1. What do you tell yourself when you feel this way?
  2. Does your thought life escalate or deescalate your feelings?
  3. How do you feel after you express these feelings?
  4. How do you feel about yourself?
  5. How do you feel about anyone else involved?
  6. How do you feel physically?
  7. How long does it take you to get over the feelings?
  8. Do you “replay” the event and the feelings inside your head?
  9. Are you ashamed of how you reacted?
  10. Are you remorseful over how you reacted?
  11. If you could get rid of one of these reactions, which one would it be and why?

Be aware of your anger levels over the next several weeks.  Write down, if you’re able, what you feel and any reasons you determine for feeling that way.  Note any out-of-line or extreme reactions or feelings.  Be sure to write these down for more examination, thought, and prayer.

Above all, remember you have an active partner in this process.  Just as God said to Cain, he says to you: “Why are you angry?  Why is your face downcast?” (Gen.4:6).  There is a why to all of this, a why that can be determined and brought out into the light.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a anger issues, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call 1-888-771-5166 today and a specialist will answer any questions you might have.

Emotional Abuse:  The Illusionist

Emotional Abuse: The Illusionist

“Bill is such a great guy!” Carly smiled and made some sort of neutral comment. It did absolutely no good to dispute the evidence of Bill’s obvious charm. He was engaging, witty, energetic, and charismatic. People liked him. She knew the feeling.

When Carly first met Bill, she was overwhelmed by his outgoing nature. His gestures were larger than life, outlandish even. But to a young woman being courted, he seemed the walking incarnation of romance. She was being wooed. What Carly didn’t realize was that while she was being wooed by Bill, she and everyone else were being fooled. Bill’s grand gestured and protestations of care and love were for general audiences only. In the intimacy of the private viewing area called home, Bill turned out to be someone quite different.

At first, Carly just put up with Bill’s moodiness, nastiness, and withdrawing into himself. She figured he would snap out of it. It didn’t take her long to learn that Bill’s negative private behavior could turn in an instant if someone cam over to the apartment. Finally, she mentioned to Bill her concern over the way he treated her at home as opposed to the way he treated her in front of others.

Bill’s reaction was astonishment. He acted as if he had no idea what she was talking about. Every incident she brought up was countered with a rush of excuses, reasons and outright denials as Bill fought to maintain the illusion of himself as the compassionate lover, the life of the party, the perfect soul mate. It struck Carly that Bill needed her only as long as she continued to mirror the reflection of himself he so needed to see.

Illusionists are generally highly intelligent, charismatic people who thrive on being seen well by others. As long as there is an audience, they are “on.” Because it takes a great deal of energy to be “on,” their “off” persona may be the exact opposite. In public they are witty and humorous; in private they are sarcastic and cutting. In public they are deferential and attentive; in private they are hostile and distant. In public they are happy and easygoing; in private they are sullen and angry.

Being in a relationship with an illusionist can cause you to doubt your own judgment. Because illusionists are generally highly intelligent, they are able to convince you, even in the face of contrary evidence, that the concerns you have are invalid.

If there is a problem, you are always portrayed as the source. Feigning confusion, they appear shocked that you find their behavior unusual. If you ask other people, people who have seen only the carefully constructed illusion, you may not get validation of your concerns. Instead, you may hear a reiteration of how wonderful the illusionist is. Highly persuasive, the illusionist is very adept at creating and maintaining a positive image.

What is most important to illusionists is the maintenance of the illusion of who they are. You are valuable to them only when you are helping them to maintain this illusion. You become a danger to them if you question the illusion they have created. Because the illusion is more important to them than you are, the truth is never acknowledged. Your reality of events and circumstances is consistently denied, downplayed, explained away, rejected. This is a pernicious form of emotional abuse in that it causes the abused to second-guess his or her own assessment of the relationship. As such, many will stay in the relationship for an extended period of time until their ability to help their abuser maintain the illusion demands too great an emotional toll.

At this point, the abused person will lean but with his or her sense of self seriously tattered. After all, how could anyone leave such a great person? Because others have not seen through this illusion, the abused person who leaves can appear to be in the wrong. Not only does the abused lose the relationship, be he or she may lose any friends made during the relationship.

If you or a loved one is struggling with emotional, sexual or physical abuse, or body image or other dependency issues, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call 1-888-771-5166 today and a specialist will answer any questions you might have.

Fear of Abandonment: Its Role in Relationships

Fear of Abandonment: Its Role in Relationships

Andrea was in turmoil. Everything between them had been going so well and now this – Ryan couldn’t go out Thursday because he was supposedly visiting an out-of-town friend. Frantic, she tried to think back over the past few weeks, which was hard when her mind was in such a panic.

Was there something she had said that he’d taken wrong? Any odd looks or cross words? She should have known things were going too well. There was always something that caused things to fall apart. She could pretend nothing was wrong, but what if something was wrong? Andrea couldn’t think of anything else to try.

A nondependent person would have no problem thinking of what else Andrea could try. She could try accepting Ryan’s explanation, wish him a fun time with his friend, and find something else to do on Thursday. But if you have dependent personality traits, this simple approach isn’t so simple. When you’re dependent, you can become consumed with a constant fear of losing relationships. Any glitch, any stray from the fantasized norm of the relationship becomes a great cause for concern, fear, and consuming rumination.

One of the consequences of dependency is that you can take an ordinary occurrence, like a last-minute change in plans, as proof of disaster. An old friend coming into town, having to work late, or even the onset of a cold can be viewed with the utmost suspicion. If there is a truth to be found, you fear it lies with you being abandoned, again.

Abandonment in relationships is an overarching theme in dependency. Because people have a tendency to see what they look for, if you’re looking for examples of abandonment, you will find examples of abandonment. Once you find those examples, you go into fix-it mode, recommitting to do everything “perfectly” in order to hold on to the relationship. Or you panic and exit the relationship prematurely to avoid further pain. You may even react with anger and blame, trying to guilt the other person into apologizing.

While the first option may not register with the other person immediately, the second and third options will often appear to come out of left field. The other person may be baffled why you would leave the relationship over something so trivial. And if you act in anger over something so trivial, the other person may react with similar hostility, leading to the end of the relationship. If the relationship ends this way, the only thing that is validates if your fear of abandonment.

Our team at The Center • A Place of HOPE specializes in uncovering the layers of relationship dependency that may have accumulated over time. We specialize in whole person care—in understanding the full dimensions of an individual, and the life script that brought them to where they are today. Each person that comes to The Center • A Place of HOPE is unique, which means that their recovery journey will be equally unique. We are ready to help you on this journey to uncover your true, healthy, happy self. If you are ready to take the first step on this journey, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak with a recovery specialist today.

How Do You Begin the Process of Relationship Recovery?

How Do You Begin the Process of Relationship Recovery?

The way to start relationship recovery is to take a step of faith. The late Corrie ten Boom is credited with saying, “Faith is like radar that sees through the fog.” Living a life enmeshed in the throes of dependency can be like living in a relational fog. The fears and behaviors of dependency obscure the truth about all of your relationships – with self, others, and God.

The quotation from Corrie ten Boom is especially appropriate for the journey of recovery because, you’ll note, she does not say that faith removes the fog. Rather, she says that faith acts like radar that sees through the fog. Entrenched patterns of thought, and the actions of those compel, will not dissipate overnight. Recovery is a journey whose destination, but not path, is fog-free.

As you make the journey to your fog-free destination, you will struggle with fog. However, the hope is that you are now more aware the fog exists, more aware of where much of the fog comes from, and have reached the realization that, with faith, you can find your way through.

Below are ten questions you can answer that will serve as a road map to better understanding relationship dependency. The truthful, open, and transparent answers you give can also serve as a road map for others you may be working with on your relationship dependency issues, whether a friend, a pastor, or a therapist.

  1. What are your most significant past relationships, along with the most significant relationships now?
  1. Do you find yourself focusing your attention and effort on solving other people’s problems?
  1. If something goes wrong in your life, do you feel personally responsible?
  1. Do you try hard to fulfill the expectations other people have of you, and do you feel like a failure if you aren’t able to meet those expectations?
  1. If someone expresses an opinion that differs from yours, how do you react?
  1. How do you feel when you’re alone?
  1. Do you ever remember a time in your life when you felt abandoned?
  1. What characteristics do you look for in a relationship?
  1. When you suspect a relationship may be ending, what do you do to keep it going?
  1. If a relationship ends, how long does it take for you to enter into another relationship?

Take time to recognize some personal patterns of dependency and how these patterns can negatively affect your relationships. The fog of dependency may take some time to be lifted, but hopefully you’re aware the fog exists—a fog that obscures your view of what positive relationships can be.

Our team at The Center • A Place of HOPE specializes in uncovering the layers of relationship dependency that may have accumulated over time. We specialize in whole person care—in understanding the full dimensions of an individual, and the life script that brought them to where they are today. Each person that comes to The Center • A Place of HOPE is unique, which means that their recovery journey will be equally unique. We are ready to help you on this journey to uncover your true, healthy, happy self. If you are ready to take the first step on this journey, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak with a recovery specialist today.