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Self-control Requires Practice

Self-control Requires Practice

So many people hit their young-adult years believing control is all about saying yes to those things they were previously denied.  I think it takes us a bit longer to figure out that often the best way to exhibit our control is by choosing to say no to those same things.  I guess you could call this the difference between control and self-control.  So often we think control is about finally making sure we get what we want.  Self-control, however, is more about making sure we get what we need.

Self-control is not easy to come by, requiring the long view over instant gratification and initially appearing harsh, unpleasant, and virtually impossible to employ.  It requires practice, patience, and perseverance.  Self-control presupposes an intimate knowledge of self, knowing what is and is not good and appropriate for you.  It’s the anomaly of the person who is able to put down work and go home at the end of the day, saying no to the urge to stay another hour (when you consistently find yourself – once again – being the last one in the office to lock up).

Self-control in Scripture is interesting and sometimes amusing.  Here are some examples from the Old Testament that talk about what happens when you have self-control and what happens when you don’t:

Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city. (Prov: 16:32)

The warrior says yes to the battle while the patient man says wait.  Being able to control your temper can be more of a triumph than engaging in the battle.

Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.  (Prov. 25:28)

Self-control is a valuable defense against all kinds of problems.  If you lack it, you leave yourself wide open and vulnerable.

A food gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.  (Prov. 29:11)

Giving full vent to anger or any excessity rarely produces the fruit you expect or projects you in a positive light.  Anger may get you what you want, but it robs you of what you need, especially in relationships.

The New Testament is certainly not silent where self-control is involved.  It is listed as one of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.  Its value is recognized and affirmed in 1 Thessalonians 5:6 and 8.  Leaders in the church are to be self-controlled (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8; 2:5).  Self-control is valued across the age spectrum (Titus 2:2, 6).  Each person is instructed to exercise self-control (1 Peter 1:13; 4:7; 5:8).

it is obvious that self-control is a virtue and a value.  It can also, sadly, be in short supply in life.  You know it is good.  You want to be able to exercise control over self.  None of us want to admit we aren’t able to control ourselves.  So how do you develop a better grasp of saying no?  The answer, of course, lies within each person.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE, and author of 38 books. The Center creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others. If you or a loved one is struggling with past abuse, The Center is here to help. Our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

 

Abuse and Parental Authority

Abuse and Parental Authority

Marnie was scared.  She couldn’t believe how mad she’d gotten at the kids just now.  She felt like a stranger, watching herself unleash on them over something stupid.  She’d told herself to stop, that they were just kids, but she hadn’t been able to.  The words and the anger just kept pouring out.  Thank God, she hadn’t hit any of them, though at one point she’d really wanted to.  That’s when she’d felt herself snap out of it.  Dear God, how could she even have thought to do such a thing?

Marnie had looked down at those two terrified little faces and, suddenly, saw herself looking back.  She knew what that felt like.  What was wrong with her?  How had she ever let herself get so out of control?  Dear God, Marnie thought, what if it happens again and I can’t stop?  Who am I?  Who have I become?

As you consider the effect of childhood abuse on your relationship with others, I ask those of you who are parents, or who have access to authority over children, to give thought to how those relationships may be affected.  Do you find yourself doing or saying things you swore you would never do or say when you grew up?  Or do you find yourself giving in to childish requests and behaviors to say no, all to avoid a confrontation?  Do you find yourself trying to be a “nice” parent more than a “good” parent?

If the parenting model you grew up with was fundamentally flawed, you may be at a loss to determine what is normal and what is not, what is helpful and what is harmful.  You may go to the opposite extreme to avoid any semblance of harsh behavior.  You may be terrified of becoming a monster yourself.  You may gain satisfaction from finally being the one in charge.  I implore you not to shy away from examining your own beliefs and behaviors about raising children, especially when it comes to discipline.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE, and author of 37 books. The Center creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others. If you or a loved one is struggling with past abuse, The Center is here to help. Our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

Perfectionism and Self-Esteem

Perfectionism and Self-Esteem

Perfectionists walk an incredibly narrow road. There can be no deviation from the prescribed path, no sidetracks, and certainly no missteps. There can be no slowing or stopping for others, who are expected to keep up and keep straight, regardless. Perfectionists understand the road is going to be difficult and take great pride in navigating it successfully. They must be constantly on guard for any obstacle in the path, any breath of wind that might knock them off their course. Vigilance and an ongoing state of alertness are key.

With perfectionism, there is no standing down, no acceptable periods of relaxation. Perfectionism is, therefore, both exhausting and unattainable. Addiction can creep in and promise a form of momentary relief from the unrelenting anxiety of trying to be perfect. Addiction can also promise to numb those times when the reality of the unattainable becomes overwhelmingly hard to bear. Addiction promises you can spend a few hours looking away from the shame, blame, and guilt nipping at your heels unless you are perfect. Addiction promises to shield you temporarily from the fear that you are, sadly and tragically, like everyone else—flawed, imperfect, unworthy.

Self-Esteem

Angela felt she didn’t deserve to be happy. After more probing, I discovered she never had. Any success she’d experienced had been a sort of “cheat,” she said. If people really knew who she was or how much work she’d put into it or any number of factors, they would know she didn’t deserve success and it would be taken away. How could anything she did be worthy when she wasn’t worthy herself?

Angela grew up in a household where nothing she did was right. When she brought home good grades, it was assumed the teacher hadn’t applied the proper standards or she’d gotten away with something. Good things were suspect, but bad things were expected because of who she was. She knew who she was—the one who would “never amount to anything.” She was the one who would “never be like [her] sister.” The one who couldn’t “do anything right to save [her] life,” even though she always tried.

Angela was deeply ashamed of her addiction; part of her was also incredibly angry. She was angry because being trapped in the addiction proved she was weak and everything that had been said about her was true. All her life, Angela kept trying to “make up” for the mistakes she’d made, and the addiction kept putting her further and further behind. She’d never catch up, and with the weight of the addiction added in, catching up seemed to take more energy than she had. She’d been foolish to think she could ever do or be anything other than a failure. “What good is today,” she’d asked, “if I can’t have tomorrow?”

Angela’s addiction subverted the positive roles of shame, blame, and guilt and used them to convince her she wasn’t worth a positive tomorrow. She was especially susceptible to this tactic, since shame, blame, and guilt had always been used as weapons against her while she was growing up. Addiction strips away self-esteem. This can be particularly damaging when you started out with little or none in the first place, as Angela did.

For years, I’ve been speaking out against the tremendous damage done, especially to children, through the tactics of emotional abuse. My book Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse has been a pivotal resource in this effort for more than twenty years.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 37 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.

Who Are You Without Your Addiction?

Who Are You Without Your Addiction?

Once you give up on the idea of a future where your addiction is “manageable,” you must contemplate a future without the addiction in any form. The question then becomes, “Who am I without this?” The addiction has been such an integral part of your life that you have difficulty imagining what life could be, who you could be, without it.

This point was brought home to me last year. I was working with a woman who was trying to overcome a prescription drug addiction. Amy was in the phase of recovery where she was ready to accept the negatives of her addiction but fearful of what life would mean without it. During this time, she got a card from an old friend. She said they’d drifted apart because they no longer lived in the same state. Their correspondences, Amy told me, were usually a yearly holiday missive giving a personal and family update. The midyear card came as a surprise and contained a picture of the two of them that was more than thirty years old. Amy showed me the candid shot of a group of teenagers and asked if I could pick her out.

As I struggled to avoid embarrassment by choosing the wrong person, Amy said it was a picture of her church youth group getting ready to take off for a day hike. When I didn’t pick her out right away, she gratefully let me off the hook and pointed herself out. She lamented how far she’d come from that young, smiling teenage girl. “I can’t remember who I was,” Amy said, “and if I give this up, I can’t imagine who I’ll be.”

I believe this question of who you’ll be without your addiction is a common one. Addiction has the power to co-opt the person you are and change you into someone different, altering your thoughts, actions, and behaviors. The person you were becomes a faded, distant memory. You may look in a mirror and feel unsure of who you were, ashamed of who you are, and fearful of becoming anyone else.

I think people are fearful of giving up an addiction because they believe they will be in pain without it. I’ve heard this sentiment expressed in different ways, though rarely will they use the word pain. Instead, they say without their addiction, they will be frustrated or bored, anxious or afraid. They tell me the addiction, whatever it is, helps them overcome being depressed or angry. In the deepest throes of my overworking, my pain might have carried the name unsuccessful or failure.

Are you struggling with addictive behaviors and feeling depressed?  Do you feel that your life is not in your control? The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help. Contact us today at 1-888-771-5166 and speak with a confidential specialist.  Begin the healing process and have confidence that there is hope, and that joy is attainable.

Do You Struggle With Dependency Issues in Relationships?

Do You Struggle With Dependency Issues in Relationships?

Karen quickly ran up the back stairs, anxious to avoid Sarah.  Sarah asked incessantly about Mark and how the relationship was going and what they were doing and where they were headed.  At first, Karen was happy to share, to revel in her relationship with Mark along Sarah, who seems as excited as Karen was.  But now things weren’t going to well.

Mark was becoming increasingly distant.  The things he used to like he didn’t seem to like as much anymore.  Just this past week, he’d actually gotten upset that she’d made him dinner on Tuesday, saying he’d told her he’d be watching the game with his brother that night.  He accused her of always doing that — not paying attention to what he told her and planning her own activities.  All the work she had put into dinner didn’t seem to matter to him; he had gone to watch the game with his brother, even though she’d offered to bring the meal to his house.  The thought of Mark doing things and having fun without her was unsettling.  She wanted to do everything with him and desperately wanted him to feel the same way.  Why didn’t he?

Every human relationship has ups and downs because people do not stay on an even keel at all times.  That is impossible.  However, in relationship dependency, as in other types of addictions, the ups and downs of life become artificially steep.  In substance abuse, the effect of the substance on the limbic system and dopamine production creates drug-enhanced highs and system-suppressed lows.  With relationship dependency, the stability of the relationship is compromised by the person’s dependency traits.

Instability in the relationship becomes as assured as the house winning in a gambling addiction.  The dependent person sets up conditions for pleasure that are impossible to maintain, guaranteeing failure and the distress that accompanies those failures.

If you struggle with dependency issues in relationships, you may jump to dire conclusions when a relationship hits a rough patch.  A forgotten activity becomes a metaphoric slap in the face.  An offhand comment becomes the prelude to a breakup.  A trivial difference of opinion becomes proof the person is preparing to leave.  Just as you determine the conditions that create pleasure, you also determine the conditions that constitute disaster.

When disaster seems imminent and assured, your behaviors may escalate and you may feel yourself spinning out of control.  You may find yourself losing the relationship and returning to emotional and even physical pain.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 37 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.