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Teaching Teenagers About Forgiveness

Teaching Teenagers About Forgiveness

Why is it that as we age we lose so much flexibility?  I don’t just mean physical flexibility; I mean emotional flexibility.  The older we get, the harder it becomes to bend and stretch and forgive.  As teens go through their transitions and time of adolescence, they need to hang on to their ability to forgive, and adults need to rediscover it.  Otherwise, both are left in the black-and-white world of one-strike-and-you’re-out.  

The grinding and scraping and grating of adolescence require the healing balm of forgiveness in order to regain relational realignment.  And you’re going to need to go first. It is imperative for you to model asking for, receiving, and giving forgiveness. I’m not sure, from a relational point of view, if there is anything more important for you to teach your teenager as an adult skill.  Because we live messy lives, and we want to live those lives together with other people, forgiveness is a must.  

How do you ask for forgiveness?  When you clearly mess up, do you admit it?  Do you try to pretend it didn’t happen by not saying anything?  Do you try to even the scales by bringing up other issues? Do you try to buy forgiveness as a way to avoid asking for it?  These are the sorts of lessons you’re teaching your children about forgiveness as you sit at home, as you walk along the road, as you lie down, and as you get up.  They may not be the lessons you want to teach, but they’re the ones that are speaking out loud and clear to your teenager.  

As adults, it can be difficult to admit when you have failed at something.  It’s frustrating and we are very human. Do you sometimes just walk away after you’ve hurt someone, desperately deciding the other person will just have to let it slide and not bring it up?  Or possibly you try to minimize how bad it was by revising what you meant or said in your mind.  

If you haven’t been demonstrating to your teenager the positive power of forgiveness, you’ve been dropping the ball on one of the most fundamental spiritual concepts (with the first being love).  If your child didn’t figure it out before hitting puberty, he or she is probably very clued in now about your shortcomings as a person and as a parent. They are, after all, on constant display. By this behavior, you have demonstrated the need for forgiveness but not how to accomplish it.  That’s only part of the lesson.  

By asking for someone’s forgiveness, you transfer power.  That’s why I think it’s easier to say, “I’m sorry,” than it is to ask, “Can you forgive me?”  When you ask, “Can you forgive me?” you have to listen and wait for the answer, which could be “not now” or even “no.”  

When dealing with teens, it’s important for you to ask the question.  They need to understand the power they have over a hurtful situation. They need to learn that what they think about what’s happening to them matters.  They need to learn they have the last say. Having that last say gives the hurt person back the control he or she lost through the injury.  

It is tempting to try to make excuses, to mitigate the injury when you’ve hurt another person.  But it is so important that you avoid this temptation. Sometimes, your words or behaviors hurt someone else without conscious intent.  It’s still important to understand the other perspective and express remorse over the unintended pain.  

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE in Edmonds, Washington, voted a top ten facility for the treatment of depression in the United States. Dr. Jantz pioneered Whole Person Care in the 1980’s and is a world-renowned expert on eating disorders, depression, anxiety, technology addiction, and abuse. He is a leading voice and innovator in Mental Health utilizing a variety of therapies including nutrition, sleep therapy, spiritual counseling, and advanced DBT techniques. Dr. Jantz is a best-selling author of 39 books and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN.

Determine Your Intentional Response to Depression

Determine Your Intentional Response to Depression

What do we do when life feels like it’s piling on top of us? In depression, we bury our optimism, hope, and joy and react with anger, fear, or guilt, allowing overwhelming circumstances to knock us flat. Emotional depression can become an automatic reaction to life’s trials. Reactions are automatic, but responses need not be. Depression does not have to be automatic.

Even if we may immediately react negatively, we can learn to intentionally reassert positive emotions. This may not be our first reaction, but our first reaction doesn’t need to be our only response. Albert Einstein once said, “You can’t solve a problem on the same level that it was created. You have to rise above it to the next level.” Our reactions are on one level, but we can learn to take our responses to the next level.  

The next level above automatic reaction is intentional response. You need to be intentional in your response to life and its circumstances. You need to deliberately recognize, promote, and sustain optimism, hope, and joy. In the midst of depression, the thought of sustaining even a modicum of positive feelings may appear overwhelming, a burden too heavy to bear. But aren’t you already carrying around the weight of emotional baggage? Think how much energy it takes to carry around anger, fear, and guilt. When you begin to put those emotions down, you will find strength for optimism, hope, and joy.

Negative emotions may be part of your personal landscape. If that is the case, you’ll need to intentionally seek out and rediscover optimism, hope, and joy. Optimism, hope, and joy are responses that come from within you and are not necessarily derived from your outside circumstances. Regardless of the circumstances, you determine to remain optimistic; you decide to have hope; you derive joy.

When you are depressed, you live pulled to one side of the emotional spectrum—the negative side. Your emotional responses are so overrepresented by anger, fear, and guilt that you have lost the ability to absorb and experience optimism, hope, and joy. Without joy, there is no hope. Without hope, there is no optimism.

Intentionally choosing how to respond to life is not a trivial matter; this attitude can save your life. We will not always have control over our circumstances, but we can determine to hold on to optimism, hope, and joy—to recognize them, promote them, and sustain them. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with depression, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  The Center was recently voted one of the Top Ten Facilities in the United States for the Treatment of Depression.  Break free and achieve peace. Call The Center at 1-888-771-5166, or fill out this form to connect with a specialist.

Rediscovering Childhood Through Your Adult Eyes

Rediscovering Childhood Through Your Adult Eyes

When you were growing up, you may have been told over and over, in a variety of ways, that you weren’t good enough, smart enough fast enough, thin enough, or just plain not enough of anything to please your parents.  In order to numb this crushing sense of failure and the guilt that inspired, you began to control your anger by controlling your own body–how it was maturing and what you weighed. By concentrating on food, you learned how to temporarily drive out all painful thoughts.  

Anger, fear, guilt, and shame may now be the only emotions you allow yourself to feel.  These may be the only ones you’re comfortable with because you don’t feel worthy of the others.  You don’t permit yourself joy because you have too much to feel guilty about. You don’t laugh because there isn’t any room in your heart for delight.  

The roots of your dysfunctional relationship with food go deep into your past.  You need to allow that past to come to the surface so that you can look back at the experiences of your childhood, now that you are an adult, and begin to put your life into perspective.  As a child, you couldn’t understand what was happening to you. As an adult, you must. Only then can your healing go forward.  

As you look to rediscover your childhood through adult eyes, below are questions and statements for you to answer. 

  1. In my family, the thing I feared the most growing up was ______. 
  2. My parents disapproved of me when I ______. 
  3. These are the things that my parents put the most emphasis on when I was growing up: ______.
  4. My mother’s definition of success is ______.
  5. My father’s definition of success is ______.
  6. To be successful for me means to be ______.
  7. I turned to my physical appearance as a way to gain acceptance because I couldn’t ______.
  8. I feel guilty over being abandoned for the following reasons:  ______.
  9. When I was growing up, I thought the following things were wrong with me:  ______.
  10. Even today my parents still want to talk about the following things: ______. 

It’s important that who you now go back and connect with the child you were, to help that child understand what happened.  You must give that child the comfort you never received and provide that child with a sense of your protection. That child still remains inside of you.  Until you can give it what it needs, your inner child will thwart the journey toward healing. The child inside is pleading with you not to abandon it on your way to health.  

If you have a doll or stuffed animal, especially one from your childhood, get it.  If you don’t, you might want to consider buying one that you’ve seen as an adult and wished you could have had as a child.  

Hold that doll or stuffed animal.  Hug it close. Give it all the comfort and love you never received.  Tell your doll all the words of affirmation and acceptance you so desperately wanted to hear while you were growing up.  Hold your doll and tell yourself (as if it were you as a child) that it wasn’t your fault. Remind your doll that you’re here now, and you’re not going to leave.  

Keep your doll near to remind you of the child within.  For right now, funnel your feelings through the doll. Later, you’ll be able to see it for what it is — a doll — and learn to give those feelings of love and comfort directly to yourself.  

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE in Edmonds, Washington, voted a top ten facility for the treatment of depression in the United States. Dr. Jantz pioneered Whole Person Care in the 1980’s and is a world-renowned expert on eating disorders, depression, anxiety, technology addiction, and abuse. He is a leading voice and innovator in Mental Health utilizing a variety of therapies including nutrition, sleep therapy, spiritual counseling, and advanced DBT techniques. Dr. Jantz is a best-selling author of 37 books and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN.

Relationship Dependency: Retraining Your Brain

Relationship Dependency: Retraining Your Brain

When an emotional imperative becomes a physical compulsion, the desire to find relief can be overwhelming.  In relationship dependency, the brain in the present has been trained to respond to certain conditions by the past.  Because of ingrained dependency traits and past experiences, you have written your own list of what creates pleasure for you and what creates distress.  

At first, your mind was in charge, but over the years your body has become highly influential.  You find yourself in the backseat of your own life and responses. You have trained your body how to respond, and now it’s reacting in the way it’s been trained, even if you want to feel something different.  

Retrain your Brain. Change is Not Impossible

The silver lining in this scenario is that you can retrain your body to react in a different way.  Because we are conscious, thinking creatures and not merely reactive, instinctive creatures, we have the ability to change the way we think and feel.  

Change is not impossible.  People with phobias of spiders or airplanes or bridges have been taught how to experience and enjoy normal life without terror.  People with phobias can learn to grow out of them.

Relationship dependency is really of phobia of being alone.  We have seen many people over our decades of counseling learn to push through their fears.  We have been privileged to watch as they embraced the essential value of their own self-worth.  On this solid, personal foundation, they have restored and entered into relationships with something precious to give — not acts of subservience or demands of control, but the gift of a healthy self who understands, experiences, and gives love.

Understanding How To Change

If you have an idea that you cannot change because your brain has been altered, this is your dependency talking.  Refuse to listen. Understanding the factors – emotional and physical – that contribute to certain behaviors, either with a single relationship or within a relational revolving door, is important.  Because you may have trained your brain to react in a predetermined way, you can retrain your brain to respond differently. If retraining a brain was impossible, there would be no recovering alcoholics, drug addicts, gamblers, or shoppers.  

When working with someone who is fearful of heights, that person needs help understanding that climbing the stairs, or riding in an elevator, will not result in injury or death.  They must understand the flawed nature of their own internal dialogue. The outcomes they tell themselves are inevitable are not true. Once they recognize how much control they have over their feelings of pleasure and distress, their brain can be retrained.  

In the same way, you can understand that your internal dialogue, which predicts disaster if you are not in a relationship or if you are alone, is not true.  You can take control by climbing back into the driver’s seat of your life and redirecting your brain to respond differently, to create a new template for what is pleasurable and what is frightening, inside and outside of a relationship.  

 

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE. For over 30 years, The Center has treated thousands with eating disorders and other mental health issues. Recognized as a Top 10 Center for the Treatment of Depression, The Center utilizes the whole person approach to care. Dr. Jantz is a leading voice and innovator in mental health utilizing a variety of therapies including nutrition, sleep therapy, spiritual counseling, and advanced DBT techniques. Dr. Jantz is a best-selling author of 39 books and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN.

Understanding Disordered Eating

Understanding Disordered Eating

You understand anorexia and bulimia. But what about “disordered eating”? Yes, it’s an unhealthy relationship with food, but do you recognize the signs in a friend or loved one? Disordered eating may never be diagnosed as a full fledged eating disorder.

But to the person who lives with it, they live with ongoing internal struggle and pain. When food ceases to be nutrition and fuel for the body, it warps into something else. Whether it is an eating disorder, or disordered eating, the individual suffers.

Do you recognize these common characteristics of someone who lives with disordered eating?

Engaging in Battle

This person engages in an unceasing battle over what she eats. She struggles every day, at every meal, with every mouthful. There can be constant guilt about what has actually been eaten. Every meal is entered into reluctantly, with no real expectation of victory. Because she so rarely wins, she worries about food, weight, and mealtimes all the time. While she thinks the battle is with food, the real conflict lies within herself, and not on the plate.

The Defense of Dieting

If a diet has existed, this person has tried it. In fact, this person seems to always be on a diet. The only problem is that this person never really loses any weight. If fact, they likely have gained a few pounds each year. How is that possible? Their diet actually consists of following only the enjoyable parts of the diet.POH while also incorporating a consistent reward system.

Adhere to the diet all week? Enjoy a reward of a favorite cookie – okay cookies – on Friday after work. Cheated a couple of times during the week? Encourage yourself to do better next week with a motivational bowl of ice cream on Sunday night. For this person, it’s about what they think, not what they do. And this person thinks they are on a diet, with the expectation that some day he or she will actually lose weight.

Balancing The Scales

Eating isn’t about food or nutrition for this person. For them, it’s a numbers game. Most meals are about counting calories, a means to an end. It is a constant balancing act. One day she will starve herself, so the next day she can eat what she wants. On Monday, she gets an invitation to go to a chick flick with her girlfriends on Friday. And she loves buttered popcorn and chocolate covered raisins.

Starting Monday night, it is lettuce with a squeeze of lime and a few carrot sticks. Same for Tuesday, and Wednesday. She doesn’t eat it because she believes it healthier. It is a means to save up the calories that she will need Friday night at the cinema. And this behavior goes on and on. Eating is a way of keeping score, of tallying up “good” and “bad” behavior. As long as she can tally up more points on the good side, she can continue with the bad behavior. And that’s really the whole point.

The Casual Restrictor

Twelve hours of no food is simply the price to pay for a frothy caramel double mocha. This person convinces themselves that in order to enjoy special foods or treats, an appropriate number of fasting is required. A chocolate sundae may require a full day of restricting. A handful of potato chips, maybe just lunch.

The Scale Balancer eats what they don’t want in order to eat what they do. The Casual Restrictor doesn’t even bother. She just goes without as pittance for what has been eater, or restricts in preparation for an anticipated treat.

Safety First

This person has no real awareness how small their list of acceptable foods is. It’s because it is hidden amidst all the other food they get for their family. For this person, food isn’t about nutrition, calories or weight. It is about fear.

Eating the unknown produces severe anxiety. Anything in the past that has proven unsafe–in actuality or perception–is unthinkable.She only eats what she believes is safe. This provides relief.

The Obsessive Organic

Not only does this person obsess about eating organic, they need to convert everyone around them. Only knowing something is organic can prevent unwanted pesticides. Grilling the waiter about the contents of each course is required to ensure purity of food. Watching online videos to learn more about organic food is a required ritual.

Only by focusing so much on food does it begin to bring relief. Food is not enjoyed or thought of as nutrition. It is a potential source of evil that must be strictly evaluated and screened to ensure its safety…and to provide relief.  

The Ritual Eater

Food can be a battle for many. To cope, some people create very rigid rules regarding their meals. Where can she eat, when and even how can food be consumed. A truce with food is never easy and must be tightly managed. This can manifest in taking an inordinate amount of time to prepare a simple meal. This person may require different foods be served on different plates and not touch each other. Portions may need to be cut is a precise way, or prepared to exact requirements. If not, the meal may need to be started over, or perhaps halted if a process or procedure was done incorrectly.

By following the rules, this person feels safe about their food. In reality, they need to control this aspect of their life so they can feel safe in general.

Feast or Famine

During the two weeks the in-laws visit, this eater is the epitome of health. Leafy greens, lean meats and no sugary drinks are the rule. When the in-laws leave, she reverts to eating her comfort food. She rallies for big occasions–family gatherings, opening day at the pool, the fundraising gala. But most other times, her eating is haphazard and undisciplined. Food is a battle that becomes harder and harder to win. If she is successful, her mood is bright. If she is not (as she more often is), she and those around her struggle. For her, it is feast or famine. And if she loses a battle, her relationship with food can become open warfare.

Sound Familiar?

Do any of these disordered eating scenarios sound familiar? These are not anorexics, bulimics, or binge eaters. But their struggle can last a lifetime, and eat away at their self-worth and honesty with food. Each of these scenarios are treatable with professional disordered eating care. If you or a loved one struggle with scenarios similar to these, speak with a licensed eating disorder specialist. They can help you return to balance, honesty with your food, and enjoyment with nutrition.

 

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE. For over 30 years, The Center has treated thousands with eating disorders and other mental health issues. Recognized as a Top 10 Center for the Treatment of Depression, The Center utilizes the whole person approach to care. Dr. Jantz is a leading voice and innovator in mental health utilizing a variety of therapies including nutrition, sleep therapy, spiritual counseling, and advanced DBT techniques. Dr. Jantz is a best-selling author of 39 books and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN.