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Ten Questions to Ask About Your Virtual Relationships

Ironically, the very thing we turn to for increased connectivity with others is proving to be the biggest disconnection point in our lives.  Not only are we distracting ourselves from face-to-face interactions, but the virtual relationships we’re prioritizing are often lacking in the most important connection point of all–the intimacy of in-person warmth and sincerity.

To detect the presence or extent of your virtual void, ask yourself the following ten questions:

  1. How am I connecting with others online?
  2. What is the content of that connection?
  3. Would I be willing for my spouse or members of my family to view all of my online activities and content?
  4. What emotional needs are being met through these online relationships?
  5. How would I feel if I were unable to connect online for a day, a week, or even a month?
  6. How many non-family relationships do I maintain?
  7. Of those relationships, how many do I keep strictly online, meaning I don’t talk or visit but only connect online?
  8. Are there any online relationships or activities that pose a threat or provide competition to my in-person relationships?
  9. Am I willing, within the next week, to modify, limit, or sever any online relationship or activity that poses such a threat?
  10. If I’m not willing, what is holding me back?  Be specific.

As difficult as it may be to face your answers to these questions, do not underestimate the power of these truths to naturally lend themselves to your transformation.  Simply observing and accepting your behavior as it exists now will naturally inspire you to make more informed, and healthier, decisions in the future.

Do not be afraid to examine your virtual relationships and reevaluate the role they’re playing in your life.  Through an honest assessment, you can come to better understand why you are seeking online connection.  And if there are barriers you need help overcoming, do not hesitate to seek professional help.

If someone you know is suffering from technology addiction, depression, or anxiety, remember that there is HOPE.  There are professionals ready to help.  For more information about treatment call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today. The Center • A Place of HOPE.  The Center was recently ranked as a Top 10 facility in the country for the treatment of depression, and our team is standing by to help you and your loved ones.

 

 

 

Examining Your Anxiety

It may seem that our current, crazy, stressful lives produce a bumper crop of anxieties, concerns, and worries.  Because we think our present circumstances are unique, we use them as an explanation and, frankly, as an excuse.  We use them as an excuse to justify hopelessness, for staying stuck.  Life today is just so hard.  This is just who I am.  I’ve tried everything and nothing seems to work.  No one can really help.  What I go through is just too weird; no one can really understand. 

Anxieties speak a language of absolutes.  A possibility is a certainty.  What could, will.  What might, will.  But if anxieties speak a language of absolutes, it is not a universal language.  Some words are not translatable.  Anxiety does not have a word for peace.  It does not have a word for relief.  It does not have a word for rest.  It is a language of negativity, of hopelessness, of despair.  It is a language of defeat.  Anxieties force us to surrender before the true battle is even engaged.

There is an axiom: know your enemy.  I’d like you to anthropomorphize your anxiety, your phobia, your panic attack and think about it as something other than yourself.  This is a way for you to examine your anxieties and their consequences through an imaginary buffer.  Put them outside of yourself and give yourself permission to examine them without triggering them.

Anxiety disorders have an anatomy.  They have shared traits and unique features.  What I’d like you to do now is get to know yours.  As much as you’re able, think of it in the third person.  Use “it” instead of “I.”

  • What are the physical characteristics of anxiety?  What does it do to you?
  • How often does it happen?
  • What do you do to help yourself feel better?  Does anything help?
  • Does anything make it worse?
  • How long does it usually last?
  • Have you ever talked with someone about it?  If so, who and why?  If not, why not?
  • How long have you been hoping it would just go away?
  • Do you really believe you’ll ever be able to get over it?

Hebrews 11:1 says that “faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see” (NLT). Anxiety is a perversion of faith.  Anxiety is the confidence that what we hope against will actually happen; it gives us assurance that what we can’t yet see will be bad.  Hebrews 11 is a chapter replete with the victories of faith.  Anxiety doesn’t produce any victories; it only accomplishes defeat.  This is not the life God has planned for you.  The life you’re living now is not the one he wants you to live.

The faith life God intends for you is not the perverse life of anxiety.  He does not want you to take your capacity for faith and distort it into a belief in the least possible or the worst imaginable.  He does not want you to sacrifice your life on the altar of anxiety, giving up more and more year after year, hoping to appease anxiety’s appetite.

Instead of trusting in the catastrophe of today and the terror of tomorrow, God asks you to trust in him.  As you continue to to examine your anxiety and what effect it’s had on your life, I ask you to transfer as much trust as you can from anxiety to God.  You’ve trusted in your anxiety’s capacity to cause you grief, fear, and stress.  Take a part of that trust and turn it over to God.  Trust him to be with you through this journey, to know the face of your fear, to be strong enough to help you overcome it and loving enough to deeply desire to help you.

If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, or fear in your life, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help.  For more information, call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

 

The Road to Happiness

In this world of difficulty and doubt, of struggles and hardships, of compromises and second choices, of injustice and affliction, each person comes to a crossroads in life.  There are two roads with signposts on each that say, “Way to Happiness.”

On the one hand is the road championed by the world, which promises much and delivers little.  This road is taken by the vast array of people who are tricked into believing the billboards along the way.  Those inducements, even in your own internal dialogue, for taking this road can be compelling because of all their glitzy promises.  Instead of happiness, though, this road can lead to depression, anxiety, and addition.

There is another choice, another road.  However, this road can appear less attractive when compared with the first.  Because of this, it is a road less traveled.  This is the road of faith, which uses a cross for a talisman.  It does not say, “Take this road to avoid your pain.”  It says, “Take this road because of your pain.”  The one road promises you’ll be in control.  The other says you must give it up.  The one appears all about pleasure.  The other appears all about sacrifice.  In the heat of the moment, it can be hard to make the right choice.

In other words, you’ve come to a fork in the road — two paths promising to lead you to your desired destination.  However, the one you choose may not be the most popular, but it may lead you to true happiness.

Taking the road less traveled will make all the difference.  The world’s road eventually leads to a literal end.  God’s road leads to eternity.  Because it can be so difficult to choose the road less traveled, here are just a few things to remember as you stand at the crossroads each day:

  • Happiness is not a response to life that comes from the inside of a person, not from outside circumstances.
  • Happiness is a gift from God, based upon His goodness and mercy apart from circumstances.
  • Depression isn’t something you live with; it’s something you get help for.
  • Worry and anxiety are a learned response to life that can be acknowledged, understood, and overcome.
  • Addictions both mask and amplify the pain; they never heal it.
  • What you tell yourself becomes who you are, so be careful what you say.
  • Relationships are meant to support you, not drag you down.
  • Taking care of your body helps you take care of your heart, soul, and mind.
  • Stop trying to control your own life, and start trusting in God to get you where you need to go.
  • An attitude of optimism is a choice.
  • Each day presents you with a new opportunity to be happy.
  • Sometimes the clearest lesson you receive today is confirmation of where you don’t want to go tomorrow.
  • Don’t wait on others to hand you happiness; take hold of it yourself.
  • Don’t let anything get in the way of what you need.  Ask, expect, and act.

As you embrace a new way of thinking, living, and responding, may you recognize that there is hope.  Optimism can lead you down the path to happiness and joy, and it can overpower the strongholds of depression and anxiety.

If you or a loved one is struggling with depression, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help.  The Center was voted in the top 10 facilities for the treatment of the depression in the United States.  For more information, call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

Are You Experiencing Burnout and Exhaustion?

Perhaps you are a single mother who’s working full time.  Your kids are with a babysitter or in day care all day.  You feel angry, bitter, guilty.  Or maybe you’re a pastor or youth worker in a church.  You spend every single hour serving God, loving people, and making a difference in the lives of others.  Yet your own marriage is a disaster.  You’ve lost the art of communication with your spouse.  Passion is only a word in the dictionary.  You’re ready to call it quits.

Perhaps you’ve gained thirty pounds over the last year, and you’ve finally admitted that food is your only true friend.  You may have a problem with drinking, or are afflicted with a sexual addiction, or find yourself emotionally or physically abusing others.  Whatever your challenge may be, it has you in a nice grip from which you can see no escape. One thing for sure: You are exhausted.  Each day is another twenty-four hours of pain and struggle.  You scream inside but no one can hear you.

When our lives start to sputter and we forget to follow our dreams, we tend to become stagnant.  We stop thinking, caring, observing, and reaching out to others.  This is usually subtle, but it’s the first critical stage of coming distractions.  Because of this stagnation and cessation of emotional growth, we stop giving our bodies and minds the proper stimuli they need.

Fear, feelings of guilt, animosity, an unforgiving spirit, loneliness, frustration, or a Lone Ranger mentality can siphon off our energy, potential, and zest for life.  Left unresolved, these attitudes develop a life of their own, creating stress that over time can lead to emotional exhaustion.  Thoreau once said that most people “live lives of quiet desperation.”  They look good on the outside but internally they are a seething mass of pain and fear, walking a tightrope of emotional instability, hoping against hope that no one removes the safety net, because they know they are heading for a fall.  Until this quiet desperation is dealt with, the exhaustion will remain, and there will be little hope for inner healing.

What do we do when life seems hopeless or out of control?  We move into areas we think will help: more work, more alcohol, more obsessive/compulsive activity, more entertainment, more frantic escape from reality.  But it’s always more and more of the wrong thing.  Instead of helping us regain control of our lives, it produces an internal environment that evolves into burnout.  We feel an uncontrollable sense of disease, but because we’re on a vicious cycle of unproductive activity, we keep doing the same unproductive activity over and over.  When our burnout and stress builds to a level at which we cannot endure pain any longer, we cross the line to physical and mental exhaustion.

Before long we forget who we are and what we’re about.  We start to decompose.  We no longer feel special.  We wonder if God has even taken away our giftedness.  We look into the mirror, and we don’t like what is looking back at us.  We no longer see a beautiful creature, designed in the image of a loving God.  Instead, we look through bewildered eyes and see only what is wrong.

We forget that joy comes from within, never from external sources.  We fail to remember that spiritual emptiness produces impotence.  And because we have selective amnesia of what is truly good, loving, and kind, we become displaced persons, every bit as confused and alone as hapless refugees who stumble onto a foreign shore.

If you are struggling to find joy in your life, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help. Our team is skilled at navigating issues surrounding addiction, depression, stress and anxiety.  For more information, call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

Physical Motion and Depression

No matter what you call it, physical motion is vital to a healthy life.  It is also effective in relieving depression.  The British Journal of Sports Medicine reported that walking thirty minutes each day alleviated symptoms of depression more quickly than many pharmaceutical antidepressants. [i]

Many of you may have difficulty imagining exercise as part of your life.  You may have visions of gigantic weight lifters or slender long-distance runners and conclude you were never meant to be an athlete.  Healthy movement is not defined merely by athletic competition.  Rather, it is starting from wherever you are and gradually adding more motion.  Keep in mind for the following principles:

  • Start Slow – By starting slow, you give your body a chance to catch up to your mental decision to begin moving more.
  • Pick Your Motion – Try walking, low-impact aerobics, swimming, or modifying a favorite activity, such as golf (choosing to walk part of the way instead of riding in the cart).
  • Maintain Consistency – Physical motion needs to become a life choice.  It’s not about the next few weeks, or the next few months, or the next few years.  It’s about establishing a routine, a ritual if you will, of being good to yourself through movement.
  • Find A Friend – If you find motivating yourself to exercise a challenge, ask someone to join you.  Personal interaction, as well as physical movement, is of tremendous value.  You may soon find that you are going farther and doing more than you ever imagined, because you are concentrating more on the other person than on the exercise.
  • Be Prepared For Aches – While it is important to start out slow, you don’t want to stay so slow that you’re not accomplishing anything physically.  Ideally, you want to be able to work into an exercise routine that will produce a light sweat.  Sweat is one of the main ways the body detoxifies itself.
  • Watch Out For Pain – While aches are to be tolerated, be aware of any pain.  Pain is the body’s signal that something is wrong.  If it has been a while since you’ve engaged in any physical activity, consider going to your primary care physician and obtaining a physical examination.  Ask his or her guidance in planning the type, duration, and frequency of exercise.

To learn more about how nutritional support and hydration can impact depression, visit our previous blog post.

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the 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.

[i] F. Dimeo, M. Bauer, I. Varahram, G. Proest, and U. Halter, “Benefits from Aerobic Exercise in Patients with Major Depression: A Pilot Study,” British Journal of Sports Medicine 35 (April 2001): 114 – 117.

Can Nutritional Support and Hydration Help with Depression?

As mentioned in our previous blog on healthy eating, I have been able to identify five lifestyle choices you can make that will dramatically improve your health.  Below, let’s discuss #2 and #3, nutritional support and proper hydration.

Eating healthy is a wonderful beginning, but overcoming depression will require the additional nutritional step of supplementation.  There are four categories of supplements important to good health in general, and also in overcoming depression specifically:

  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Amino acids
  • Essential fatty acids

Deficiencies in these substances have been clinically shown to produce symptoms of depression.  There are specific tests that can determine what your levels of various nutrients are.   These can be ordered through a certified nutritionist, registered dietitian, or physician.  Naturopathic physicians can be an excellent source of help because these doctors are specially trained to integrate nutritional strategies into wellness.

In addition to nutritional support, we must consider proper hydration.  Most people don’t drink enough water.  Experts disagree on what constitutes enough, but most of them agree, we’re not drinking as much water as we should.  Rather than try to nail down “enough” to a specific amount of water for every person, I tend to have people check their own bodies for adequate hydration.  How do you do that?  Check your urine.  If your urine is routinely dark yellow, you’re not drinking enough.  Your body is well hydrated when your urine is a light yellow or even clear.

I recommend keeping a BPA-free water bottle with you at all times.  If you find water boring, you can flavor your water with pieces of fruit.  Find the way you like you water best and keep at it, increasing your consumption by eight ounces at a time until your body says you’re getting enough.

A word of caution, however, is needed:  it is possible to drink too much water and dilute important nutrients in the body, like potassium.  If in doubt, check with your primary care physician about the range of hydration right for you.

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the 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.

Healthy Eating and Depression

While the number of potential factors in physical depression is large, the good news is a small number of positive changes can bring about enormous benefit.

Over the years, I have been able to identify five lifestyle choices you can make that will dramatically improve your health.  They are not complicated and are based on age-old common sense.  Let’s first begin with health eating.

Healthy eating means choosing as many whole, unprocessed foods as possible:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Dairy products (eggs, milk, butter, cream, cheese)
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes (beans)
  • Lean meats, fish, poultry
  • Nuts
  • Oils

Eating healthy is not only what and where you eat but also how you eat, so keep the following in mind as you make whole-food choices:

  • Don’t eat too much.  Stop eating before you actually feel full.  Intentionally start out with smaller portions and wait a few minutes before deciding if you need more.
  • Eat a variety of whole foods. Healthy eating is not limited eating; rather, it is intentional eating that encompasses a medley of choices.  Remember, produce is more than just apples and lettuce.  Many times our choices are dictated by what we are used to, what we grew up with.  Be adventurous and try different whole foods.
  • Choose a healthy ratio of food.  Eat more fruits and vegetables than breads.  Eat more breads than dairy products.  Eat more dairy products than meat and poultry.  Eat more meat and poultry than sugars and fats.  Choose healthy fats, such as those rich in omega-3s, and avoid trans fatty acids saturated fats.

Depressive thinking is tied to reactive thinking.  Eating patterns can also be reactive.  Just as recognizing, promoting, and sustaining optimism, hope, and joy are intentional choices, so is eating healthy.  One supports the other. It is empowering to know that you can choose everything you put in your mouth.  In overcoming depression, you want to make each bite count.

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the 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.

Part 2: Intellectual Integrity and Depression Recovery

Just because you think you know something, doesn’t mean that something is true.  That something could be flat-out false.  That something could be partially true but lacking in full context.

In order to recovery from depression, you need to strive for intellectual integrity.  Integrity can be defined as adhering to a code of ethics, and that certainly is a good thing; but the integrity I mean here is a bit different.  Intellectual integrity is like structural integrity.  When something has structural integrity, there are no gaps or weaknesses to create instability.  When you believe something that isn’t the truth or is only partially true, you leave yourself open to gaps and weaknesses that undermine intellectual integrity.

One of the keys to overcoming depression is to honestly and realistically evaluate your life and determine whether what you think you know is really the truth.  As much as possible, develop a plan to accept those things that are unchangeable and a plan to change those that you can.

Please recognize, you may be reluctant to do this for fear that it will make you even more depressed.  Remaining tied to false truths and half-truths may seem more comforting that living life in the glare of intellectual honesty.  If you feel that way, aren’t you tired of living your life while feeling like a spectator instead of an active participant with the power to choose your own course?  Unless you take intentional action, chances are that circumstances won’t force a change to the positive.

It’s time to take control and look at where you are in your life.  It’s time to actively and intentionally participate in the course of your life, shoring up your intellectual integrity by understanding and accepting the truth of who you are.

  • If you have developed a pattern of tying self-worth to activity, you may find it difficult to let go of some of the things you are doing.
  • If you have developed a pattern of believing in your own incompetence, taking on new activities may frighten you with a potential for failure.
  • If you have developed a pattern of being afraid of making mistakes, an honest appraisal of why you are engaging in an activity may be uncomfortable, because of needed changes it might reveal.

In order to continue taking stock of your life, you will need to press on.  Don’t let any initial hesitation stop you from being honest with yourself.

Your perspective on life is based upon what you “know.”  These “truths” are often forged in childhood.  If what you “know” is framed in negativity, your perceptions and expectations may also be negative.  Another way to think of this “knowledge” is as a filter through which you view your life.  Some people who seem perennially happy are said to view life through rose-colored glasses. Their filter is weighted on the side of the positive.  In depression, life is viewed through gray-colored glasses.  Life appears negative, oppressive, and filled with shadows.

One of the main areas that may need to be changed in order to overcome depression is what you “know” about life:

  • If you “know” that life consistently treats you unfairly, then the inevitable ups and downs of life are filtered through that perception.  If you “know” that life is supposed to always be smooth sailing, the inevitable ups and downs can cause great anxiety.  Down times are not put into a proper perspective, because you don’t consider them to be legitimate.  Down times are supposed to happen to other people but not you.  If you’re unprepared to deal with these down times, confusion, frustration, and depression can result.
  • If you “know” that you don’t really deserve to be happy, you will filter the events of your life to make sure you aren’t.  Good things will be met with suspicion, and bad things will be accepted as inevitable.
  • If you “know” that the only way for you to be safe is to be in control, you will have a heightened sense of anxiety over life events.  Since people are rarely in total control over their environment and never in control of other people, this “knowledge” leaves a persistent, nagging feeling of insecurity.  This perpetual sense of unease can lead to anxiety and depression.

Life does not always flow smoothly.  Circumstances can alter the most carefully constructed life.  Traumatic events will be part of each of our lives.  That we cannot change.  What we can change, however, is our response to those traumatic events.  If the fundamental foundation for what we know about life is based on negativity, we will have little support when bad things happen.

But we can use intellectual integrity to identify and replace the false and incomplete truths we’ve been basing our lives on.  We can replace those false and incomplete truths with a more complete understanding of ourselves, our expectations, and just what the world is truly able to offer.

Making changes in your life requires a certain level of optimism.  If you find it difficult to be optimistic, consider working with a caring professional or counselor.  Oftentimes, when the process of evaluating your life activities is done with the help of others, their vantage point offers perspectives you hadn’t considered.  Borrow their optimism, hope, and joy, until you are able to generate those refreshing, renewing feelings on your own.

If you are struggling with depression, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call us at 1-888-771-5166 to speak confidentially with a specialist.

Part 1: Intellectual Integrity and Depression Recovery

Consider a single trip to the grocery store.  On your list today is a new toothbrush, soda, sandwich bags, ground meat, milk, bread, eggs, and tissues.  Pretty standard.  Should be an easy trip, right?

  • There are 15 types of toothbrushes, all different colors, from extra soft to extra firm.  Which is the right one?
  • Regular or diet or caffeine-free soda — and which brand?
  • Sandwich bags come in 50 or 150 or 300, fold-top, single or double zipper-top.
  • Ground meat is available as extra lean, lean, or regular, in varying package sizes.
  • Milk can be whole, 2 percent, non-fat, skim, fat-free, enriched, in regular, soy or almond.
  • Bread in plain white or honey wheat or 7-gran or 12-grain or multigrain all in different brands.
  • Seven types of eggs – organic and how many do you need?
  • Tissues come in small square boxes or medium boxes or large rectangular ones.  They could be scented or non-scented, colored or not, with lotion or not, in 100-count or 200-count boxes.

Then when you’ve overcome all of those choices and make your way to the checkout, do you choose the regular line, express line, or the self-checkout line?  Paper or plastic or both?  Cash, credit, or debit?  Any coupons?  Cash back?  Need any help out?  Groceries in the front seat or trunk?

We live in a complex world that has the capacity not only to trigger our emotions but also to inundate our minds.  The more we feel compelled to do, the more energy our lives require.  A hurried, fast-paced life is draining.  Bit by bit, detail by detail, the sheer weight of our lives can wear us down, leaving us feeling inadequate and devastated.

The pace of life can be daunting, threatening to overwhelm even the resilient.  Keeping your emotional balance from jumping from task to task, demand to demand, can be acrobatic even for the resilient.  But what happens when you take a stressful life full of tasks and demands and add onto that a belief system that “knows” you’re not good enough, that “knows” you don’t deserve to be happy?  Or what happens when you take that stressful life and add onto it a belief system that says happiness can only be found when you’re in total control?

In order to recover from depression, understanding the role of emotions is vital, but you must also understand the role of the intellect, of the mind.  Recognizing what you feel is one step in the recovery process, but another step is recognizing what you know — what you believe to be true — because what you “know” may not, in fact, be the truth.

Let’s look at the example of a half-empty glass.  The truth is, yes, the glass is half empty, but is that all there is to it?  If the glass is half empty, isn’t it also half full?  The truth of a half empty glass is that the glass is also half full.  Those people who see a half empty glass actually see an empty glass because, to them, the glass should always be full to the brim.  If the glass is not brimming, then that glass is unsatisfactory; it will always contain emptiness and loss.

No one’s glass is ever truly filled all of the time.  Life simply doesn’t operate that way.  instead, the truth is even a half empty glass has fullness.  Those who are depressed don’t see half empty, they see completely empty.  Some will rage because the glass never seems to be full.  Others will despair because they are convinced they aren’t worthy of even a half empty glass.  Others will quietly accept the fact that the glass will never be full for them.  They look at the glass and see what isn’t there instead of what is.  They focus on the lack of what is absent instead of the presence of what is there.

To learn more about intellectual integrity, and how it assists in depression recovery, read Part 2 of this article.

If you are struggling with depression, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call us at 1-888-771-5166 to speak confidentially with a specialist.

The Effects of Emotional Abuse

Andrea couldn’t stand to be alone; she just didn’t know it.  At home by herself, usually at night, she would panic — heart racing, hyperventilating, sure she was having a heart attack.  The attacks would come upon her suddenly, in the middle of watching television or after cleaning up the kitchen.  Terrified, she tried to calm herself, but when that proved futile, the fear would accelerate as she convinced herself something was physically wrong.

After her third visit to the emergency room in as many weeks, a hospital caseworker suggested that her health difficulties might better be addressed by a therapist than a physician.  Andrea had never considered counseling before — it seemed to intrusive and personal — but she was desperate, unable to hold her debilitating fear at bay.

Even though desperate, Andrea arrived at The Center • A Place of HOPE guarded, wary, and on edge.  She just wanted something, anything, to stop the panic attacks.  She insisted that the only reason she had come in was because the hospital suggested it.  What she wanted was medication.  What she got was the truth about herself.

Andrea came to realize that because of emotional abuse she had endured as a child, she never felt truly comfortable with herself.  Instead, she derived her sense of self from other people.  Andrea strove to please those around her and to do the best job possible.  She was a perfectionist when it came to her job.  She was at her best in the midst of a busy, bustling office with a high level of demands.  When Andrea had something to do, she knew who she was.

Growing up, being busy meant being away from home, and that meant she was out of range of an unhappy, bitter mother and a demanding, capricious father.  If you weren’t busy, you were noticed.  If things were quiet, there was no place to hide.

Living in a household where an emotional attack was always a real possibility, Andrea grew up never feeling safe or being totally able to relax.  As long as people were surrounding her and things were going on, Andrea was able to divert her growing anxiety and panic into tasks and activity.  It was at home, in the quiet, that panic took the upper hand.  In order to heal, Andrea needed to learn to relax and be herself — something she had never had the luxury of doing while growing up and something she had never given herself permission to do as an adult.  Andrea needed to learn to like who she was, even with nobody else in the room.

Any kind of abuse, emotional abuse included, is an attack on a person’s sense of self.  It demeans and controls that person through words or actions, devaluing that person and ultimately elevating the abuser.  If you have suffered abuse in your past or are suffering in the present, it is not something to be ignored, denied, accepted, or perpetuated.  The damage it does to your sense of self is pervasive and destructive.

Over the course of my years of working with the abused and abusers, I have found several distinct negative effects to the sense of self associated with 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

Depending on your situation, you may find that one or more of these effects is true in your own life.  You may have been aware of these effects without understanding why they exist in your life.

If you are struggling with emotional abuse, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call us at 1-888-771-5166 to speak confidentially with a specialist.