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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.

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.

Ten Questions to Ask About Childhood Abuse

Ten Questions to Ask About Childhood Abuse

Resilient as children are, childhood abuse, in its various forms, can decimate a child’s sense of self.  Below are ten questions to consider when processing the struggles associated with childhood abuse.

  1. How would you feel about yourself if you grew up under the weight of unrealistic expectations from others?
  2. Would you get used to being a target for anger, rage, and hostility and think you deserved it?  Or would you last out at any hint of a repeat of such injustice?
  3. If you were constantly told you were to blame for what was wrong in the world, would you come to believe it?
  4. Would the humiliations you suffered cause you to think less of yourself?
  5. If your thoughts, actions, and opinions were always marginalized, would you assume you had nothing of value to contribute?
  6. If you spent vast amounts of time alone, isolated from peers or activities, would other people and social situations make you feel uncomfortable, unequipped, and nervous?
  7. If you were routinely yelled at, sworn at, insulted, and mocked, what would you learn about how one person speaks to another?
  8. If you grew up in a world where you were made to feel unsafe, threatened, and afraid, how easy would it be for you to relax as an adult?
  9. Would you trust the promises other people make if your experience growing up was that promises were spoken of but never delivered on?
  10. How would you think about others if the important people in your childhood sexually exploited you or physically harmed you or neglected your needs?

Childhood abuse has the very real capacity to damage a person’s sense of self.  A damaged sense of self creates complications in a person’s relationships with others.

If you have suffered from childhood abuse, you may need to work on the relationship with yourself before being ready to work on a relationship with anyone else.  The next person, or the next relationship, or the next marriage, is not going to “save” you.  First, you must work on liking who you are and feeling confident in being your best self.

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.

 

What Does Forgiveness Mean to You?

What Does Forgiveness Mean to You?

Evil, destructive people must be scrupulously avoided.  Everyone else, including yourself, requires a lot of forgiveness.  You cannot punish your abuser by withholding forgiveness.  On the contrary, you can repudiate your abuser and supersede the abuse by intentionally choosing to live a different type of life, with positive responses.

Of all the ways we can respond to each other, you can choose love, mercy, and forgiveness.  These will first enrich your life, then bless the lives of others.

Think about what forgiveness means to you:

  1. Does forgiveness mean letting someone off the hook?
  2. It has been said that forgiving is also forgetting.  Do you believe that’s a good definition?  Is so, why?  It not, why not?
  3. Is it difficult for you to grant someone forgiveness if he or she doesn’t ask for it first?
  4. Do you think forgiveness involves an element of risk?  If so, what is the risk?
  5. How many times should you be expected to forgive someone?
  6. Are there some people you should not be expected to forgive?
  7. Do you feel forgiven by God?

With negative, destructive examples in your past, it is imperative that you constantly align yourself with God’s overwhelmingly positive presence in your present and future.  He will be your source of healing, forgiveness, and strength to rise above what was done to you by the sin of others.

Even more, it is his divine desire to heal your broken heart and rebuild your damaged spirit.  Make your relationship with him the primary relationship in your life.  Do this, and your ability to love yourself and others will multiply in the bounty of his love for you.

Please take some time to think about and answer the questions below.  They aren’t necessarily meant to draw you into a conclusion, but are meant to stimulate thought:

  1. How would you describe your present relationship with God?
  2. Are you satisfied with your present relationship with God?
  3. Do you feel comfortable praying to God by yourself?  When you pray to God, do you feel close to him?
  4. Do you pray because you want to talk to God or because you feel obligated to?
  5. Does the thought of prayer make you fearful, uncomfortable, awkward, or apprehensive?
  6. Do you spend time regularly reading God’s Word?  Do you generally understand what you read?
  7. Do you read the bible out of a sense of obligation or duty?
  8. Have you ever felt God speak to you through what you read?  If so, in what way?
  9. Are you a member of a faith community?  If so, what do you gain from being a member?
  10. If you are not a member of a faith community, what reasons have you given for not joining?

As you consider your responses to these questions, here is a prayer from which to draw strength.

God, with your love to strengthen me, I can truly look at and understand how I have been hurt.  Bind my wounds.  Rebuild who you created me to be.  Help me trust you.  Help me to forgive myself and others.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 35 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.

 

Healing Emotional Abuse Through Self-Commitment

Healing Emotional Abuse Through Self-Commitment

The effects of emotional abuse on your sense of self are significant. Yet often these effects are not linked to the emotional abuse you have suffered. Because this connection has not been made, you may find yourself suffering from one or several of these effects without really understanding why.

Here is a list of effects of emotional abuse:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Lack of self-confidence
  • Transfer of needs
  • Acting out sexually
  • Loneliness
  • Failure syndrome
  • Perfectionism
  • Unrealistic guilt
  • Crisis oriented
  • Unresolved anger and resentments

Go over these effects and honestly evaluate if and how they are present in your own life. Which ones are most debilitating to you today? As you look at these, are there some you’ve been able to overcome? God is not happy with the list above. He never intended that list to overshadow your life. Instead, he has another list he wants for you. It is found in Galatians 5:22-23:

  • Love
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Goodness
  • Faithfulness
  • Gentleness
  • Self-Control

Take time to explain how your life will be different with God’s list guiding your life and thoughts. Using God’s list, write down at least one way to counter each of the effects of emotional abuse.

Realistically, what will it take for you to begin to substitute the characteristics from God’s list for the negative consequences of your emotional abuse? What is the first step you need to take? Be sure to make note of any negative patterns you are not ready to give up. Identify why, and work to implement more positive patterns.

Countering the lies of emotional abuse with the truth about our true nature and value as individuals is important. For help in doing that, read over the following statements of commitment. Meditate on them and visualize the positive difference living out these commitments will make in your life.

  1. To believe in my true value.
  2. To reject the lies of emotional victimization.
  3. To pray that God’s love would increase in my life.
  4. To learn more about my true self, not my abused self.

One of the most important commitments you can make to yourself is to substitute the negative effects of emotional abuse with positive, affirming characteristics. I cannot think of a better list to strive for than the fruit of the Spirit talked about in Galatians 5:22-23. May these be yours more and more each day.