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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 Haunts You From The Past?

What Haunts You From The Past?

What do you think would happen if you revisited some of the old ghost towns that haunt your memories?  What if you revisited the house where you grew up and were taught you weren’t a capable person?  Maybe it’s the school where you were taunted and teased and picked last.  Or maybe it’s a person and not a place — a person who withheld approval and affection, though you did everything you could to earn them.

Sometimes the life we live causes stress and sometimes the life we lived causes stress. Each of us is a product of our past. If that past is full of ghosts, that past will haunt the present. To determine if memories of your past are creating stress in your present, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What negative memories seem to haunt me?  Which events and the pain they caused are still vivid, as though they just happened?
  2. What words or voices from the past are still ringing in my mind today?
  3. If you find that past pain still has power over you today, you need to begin moving out of your past and into the present.  Start moving out of your ghost towns by reminding yourself those days are over.  You may have had no power to stop them negatively affecting your past, but you do have the power to keep them from negatively affecting your present.  Even more, God has the power to redeem those negative events and turn them into good.

Think about the good things of the present and be thankful for them. Think about each of your abilities and gifts and how each has played a part in making you the unique person you are. You will have to make a daily decision to dismiss the hurtful memories of the past and concentrate on the positive things of today, until the past no longer controls your thoughts.

The choice is yours. It will require some risk and demand a deeper trust of yourself and of God, but that will only enhance your growth. In the end, all you will lose are your ghosts of the past. What you will gain is an opportunity to regain control of your life.

We all have the capacity to become what we were meant—created—to be. Our ghosts haunt us and keep us fearful. God means for us, through his power, to break free from the past. Do you believe God has the power and desire to do that for you? Can you say, like the apostle Paul, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13–14)?

If you or a loved one is struggling with hurtful memories from the past, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help.  Our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues, and bringing healing to the whole family. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

 

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.