3/13/2019 0 Comments
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), millennials experience more stress and are less able to manage it than any other generation. In fact, more than half of millennials report that they have laid awake at night over the past month due to stress.
It's not surprising that millennials are more stressed than older Americans. The APA reports that 12% of millennials have a diagnosed anxiety disorder — almost twice the percentage of their boomer counterparts. Non-clinically, the BDA Morneau Shepell white paper found that 30% of working millennials have general anxiety, while a 2014 American College Health Association (ACHA) realized that 60% of college students live with anxiety.
Not only does anxiety harm our wellbeing, but it affects our productivity. The ACHA assessment found that the top two tolls on students' academic performance were stress and anxiety. Two-thirds of millennials interviewed by BDA report that declining work performance to be related to anxiety.
Sources of millennial anxiety may include a difficult job market and student debt as well as psychological causes, such as ambition addiction, career crisis and choice-overload. Even our day-to-day behaviors can create anxiety. Here are eight common habits that cause stress and compromise our potential.
Bad Sleep Habits
Poor sleep may be the most prevalent contributor to anxiety. A study by UC Berkeley found that lack of sleep "may play a key role in ramping up the brain regions that contribute to excessive worrying." Common causes of poor sleep include going to bed at inconsistent times, not making sleep a priority, and spending time on the phone or laptop right before bed.
Mental health professionals suggest that you form a long, boring nighttime routine that is technology free, and that you keep a journal by your bed to write down thoughts that keep you awake. Exercise during the day is also helpful to tire your body.
Eating regularly not only regulates your metabolism and insulin levels but also our mental stability. “Waiting too long to eat or missing out on breakfast may lead to unsteady blood sugar levels, which can cause anxiety-like sensations, including shakiness, dizziness, confusion, and difficulty speaking. Dehydration has a similar effect. Because food and water are biological needs, anxiety naturally follows hunger and thirst.
It's important to eat meals regularly. Try to keep things like granola bars or nuts in your desk drawer. Bring a water bottle to work and sip it throughout the day. Have a glass of water right upon waking and right before you go to bed.
Drinking coffee makes us more alert and, in many cases, helps us perform better on short-term tasks. However, it can also make people jittery, irritable and nervous, especially if they’re already predisposed to anxiety. Sensitivity to caffeine is, in fact, heightened in people with panic disorder and social phobia, and caffeine can provoke panic attacks in some individuals. Caffeine is also diuretic, which can cause dehydration—an anxiety trigger established above.
Try to wean off coffee by switching to just one cup a day, decaf or black tea. If you feel more calm and in control after a couple weeks without it, commit to quitting it altogether.
America’s surge of anxiety symptoms parallels our increasingly sedentary lifestyles. But, until a recent review by BMC Public Health, it wasn't clear whether the two were actually linked. After lengthy process, researchers found that the risk of anxiety risk increases as sedentary behavior increases—and, specifically, sitting time spikes one’s likelihood of experiencing anxiety.
If you work at a desk all day, you’re not doomed. Get up and walk around every ninety minutes. Offset your sitting time with regular exercise, which halves your risk of anxiety and depression.
A 2014 study by Baylor University found that American students spend an average of nine hours a day on their phone. Of course, technology vastly improves our lives in so many ways. But too much of it makes us anxious. Screen-based entertainment increases central nervous system arousal, which can amplify anxiety. Social media is similarly associated with low moods and depression.
Next time you’re waiting or have nothing to do, leave your phone in your pocket or purse. Stop utilizing it as a means of alleviating boredom and instead use it consciously as needed for its useful functions.
Always being "on the clock"
According to data from FORBES’ @Work State of Mind Project, millennials become anxious and irritated when work intrudes on their personal lives. But our bad work-life balance is our own choosing. BDA’s assessment explains, “Millennials do not believe that productivity should be measured by the number of hours worked at the office, but by the output of the work performed. They view work as a ‘thing’ and not a ‘place.’” Even after we leave the office, we’re still at work.
We can still be ambitious, work long hours and impress our bosses without sacrificing psychological health and personal boundaries. Schedule a defined, consistent time at night to stop working. When time’s up, mark that task complete and go take care of yourself.
Netflix and Chill
You may think snuggling up on the couch and watching a movie will help you unwind, but research disproves this trend. In one study, participants felt more depressed and anxious after watching just two hours of TV than those who didn’t. Another study found that those with anxiety and depression spend significantly more time on the computer and watching television. While resting reduces anxiety short-term, research reveals that its effect is short lived, particularly compared with exercise.
Try to do anything but watch TV when you’re done with work. Go on a walk, grab drinks, knit, work, draw, write, sit in your room and look at the wall, call your mom, actually cook dinner, build something, play a sport.
Hanging Out with Anxious People
Maybe you feel like you’ve found someone you can vent to who understands you, but studies show that ruminating on anxiety often makes it worse. Furthermore, participating in “intergroup anxiety” increases one’s anxious behaviors.
Try to seek out people who level your mood. After you hang out with someone, check in with yourself and ask if you feel stable and well—or if you're hyped up and on edge. It’s easy to spend less time with certain people once you’ve decided they’re not great for your health.
If the annoyance, pain and performance impairment of day-to-day anxiety isn’t enough to quit these bad habits, maybe this is: According to Harvard Medical School, anxiety is implicated in heart disease, migraines, chronic respiratory disorders and gastrointestinal conditions.
Despite your youth, chronic anxiety is not sustainable. By switching out these daily practices, you can improve your mood and your life one habit at a time.
In my practice, when I meet with someone in their 20s it’s rare that they won't mention “anxiety” as the reason that they're coming in to see me. The topic of "anxiety" is normal, every day conversation for these young people — which is scary, but it's the reality of our current culture. With social media breeding comparison on overdrive, being overloaded with information, and attempting to keep up with the Jones', it’s no wonder we’re all feeling a bit… anxious.
From sleep issues to stresses about jobs, anxiety is an unpleasant thing to deal with, but the good news is that there are absolutely things that can help. Continue reading for the major causes of millennial anxiety and ways around each type.
FOMO, meaning "Fear of Missing Out," began as some fun lingo but it is increasingly becoming associated with some serious anxiety that can be anything but fun.
Simply opening your Facebook and Instagram feed can immediately cause feelings of FOMO to rise to the surface. Whether you're wishing that you are on that fancy trip your friends are on or bummed that you missed a party that you weren't invited to, FOMO is real.
How to deal with FOMO:
Try to get to the root of your FOMO. Categorize the times when you feel it the hardest. If it surrounds travel, set goals and start saving for your next trip or book a weekend get away. Do you experience FOMO because you believe that you don't have many friends? Become proactive and sign up for a community sports league or volunteer with an organization whose mission you align with.
It's important to take note of what your FOMO is telling you and make changes around whatever area you're missing out on. It's also a good idea to log off of social media for a bit.
Not Prioritizing Sleep
Even though more senior generations like to assume that the millennial generation is lazy, it's actually true that the younger set is, on the whole, very hard working. Young adults have lived a life that is 24/7. This often means staying up until 1 a.m. to hit a deadline or texting every person back before being able to put the phone down.
The constant priority for everything that is happening in life takes a toll on sleep. This is not good.
How to prioritize sleep
If you notice that you're not getting seven to nine hours of sleep per night, it's important to make a change. Start to say no to events or working late if it's getting in the way of rest.
Creating a nighttime routine is a great idea to help you wind down. Put your phone on airplane mode, take a warm bath, drink herbal tea and get into bed with an analog book at least nine hours before your alarm goes off.
Being the next Big Boss
Career anxiety may be the biggest source of anxiety for people in their 20s. While pushing to be the next break out star is great, it also leaves you feeling less than if we're not successful at starting our own business or rising to the top immediately. And of course there's the anxiety that presents itself when you don't know what you want to do with your life. Individuals in their 20s were born into a constant rat race that pushes people to be the best or more inventive than the rest. The internal and external pressure to have things figured out right out of college is exhausting.
How to deal
If you're feeling a lull in motivation but like your job, it's probably time that you take a break. Use your vacation (or sick...) days and take a break from the cubical for a few days. Even if all it means is that you get to catch up on your doctor's appointments and chores around the apartment. The time away from the desk will reboot your energy.
If you're anxious about what to pursue, take some time to attend a workshop or conference that you're interested in. Put yourself around inspiring people to gain more information and get things brewing.
Grab a cup of coffee with someone you respect and pick their brain. The act of talking to friends who feel this pressure can also help because you will realize that you're not alone.
Not knowing how to relax
We’re so anxious, the thought of relaxation even stresses us out. But this is really about how we’re relaxing, and that’s usually through binge watching, which research shows actually can have the opposite effect. Watching TV and spending hours scrolling through social feeds might be to blame.
How to relax
Force yourself to truly take a break - even if that means you become a little bored. Think back to the times when you've felt the most relaxed and go back to that place.
Find the practices that truly leave you feeling relaxed and renewed and incorporate them into your weekly routine. Maybe you'll even take the step to turn off your phone for one day a week and block out any new information from clouding your head. It's uncomfortable at the start, but you'll feel your anxiety decrease within a few hours
Hitting Milestones by a Certain Age
Many 20-somethings need to feel like they've reached a certain level of success by a certain age. If that age is reached and our careers or personal life still seems “mediocre,” cue the anxiety.
This is likely due to the fact that while times are changing and people are doing things later in life, millenials were brought up by a generation much different. The parents of 20-somethings got married young and they didn’t go back to school, and that’s likely weighing in on where you're *supposed* to be — or where you thought you'd be by age 30 as a kid.
How to deal
Instead of setting up your life to reach specific milestones by certain ages, let life take the course it was meant to take on its own. That idea is way easier said than done, but be careful to settle for a job or a partner all because you're turning 30 next year and you have to have those things before then. Set goals for things you can control, but really try not to attach an age to the goal. Do what feels right for you—no matter what your friends or parents have done.
Most importantly, take care of yourself! No matter the type of anxiety, there's usually one thing in common: we all need to step away from our phones and tune into ourselves instead. Move slower, create real human communication, take breaks, journal, meditate, go to therapy. Do what you need to do to feel good personally.
For a while now, science has shown that anxious people tend to to be more intelligent. Now we are finding that there is a link between anxiety and being more creative. In my work with artists, I find that many of them feel anxiety even if the symptoms vary from one person to another. It's not uncommon to learn that creative people, like artists, musicians, dancers, and writers live with mental health challenges like anxiety.
Painter Vincent van Gogh suffered throughout his life, as he explained in a letter to his brother: “I am unable to describe exactly what is the matter with me. Now and then there are horrible fits of anxiety, apparently without cause, or otherwise a feeling of emptiness and fatigue in the head … at times I have attacks of melancholy and of atrocious remorse.”
Artist Edvard Munch, painter of the famous painting "The Scream" suffered from anxiety and hallucinations throughout his life. In fact, that painting came to him as a vision while he was trembling with anxiety. He wrote in his diary: “My fear of life is necessary to me, as is my illness. They are indistinguishable from me, and their destruction would destroy my art.”
Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia said that music is “something that escapes between frenzies, between anxiety attacks.” It's known that some artist capitalize on their neurotic view of the world to fuel their creative ambitions. I imagine you know some people in your own life who fit the description of an anxious artist. Or maybe you're channeling your own anxiety into artwork.
Throughout history, social scientists have supposed that there may be a link between anxiety and creativity. For a long time this hypothesis was based upon anecdotal evidence alone, but today there is a growing body of research that suggests there actually is a link between creativity and mental illness.
What the science tells us
One of the first key studies, which found that creative people had an unusually high number of mood disorders, reviewed individuals in creative fields such as literature and the arts. Researchers in Sweden’s Karolinska Institute followed more than one million Swedes and their relatives using a registry of psychiatric patients. The patients demonstrated conditions such as anxiety, depression, or schizophrenia. The study revealed that people working in creative fields, including dancers, photographers and authors, were eight percent more likely to live with bipolar disorder. Writers alone were 121 percent more likely to suffer from the condition. Researchers also found that people in creative positions were more likely to have relatives with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, which shows that there may be a genetic trigger for both creativity and mental illness.
In 1987, Dr. Nancy Andreason from the University of Iowa found that a sample of creative writers had significantly higher levels of bipolar disorder than a control group. Andreason also noted that a writers' first-degree relatives, meaning their parents, siblings, or child, were more likely to suffer from mental illness. In 1994 a study looked at 60 female writers' mental health. The results of that study revealed that writers had a significantly higher rate of depression, mania, panic attacks, or generalized anxiety as compared to the study's control group. A 2004 survey by psychologist Erika Lauronen found that of 13 published studies, all but one supported a connection between mental illness and creativity.
More recently, in 2015, a study that was published in the journal of Natural Neuroscience found that genetic factors that raise the risk of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are found more often amongst people who are in creative professions. Creative people were, on average, 25 percent more likely to carry the gene than less creative professionals like farmers, manual laborers, and salespeople. The scientists point out that to be creative, people need to think differently, and this may be genetic.
Imagination is the main reason for the connection between anxiety and creativity is imagination. The difference lies in the fact that the same brain that conjures up inventive artwork can also get stuck in repetitive thoughts and unpleasant worries. These individuals use their imagination to visualize something before it happens, whether it's their artwork or an issue (real or otherwise) that scares them and causes them concern and panic. People with both traits tend to overthink and over-analyze nearly everything, this can increase anxiety. However, dwelling on one's fears may be the root of creativity and problem solving. A double-edged sword, right?
There are still some people who question the direct link between anxiety and creativity. The research does tend to be limited because it is difficult to define what "creativity" is and replicate it for study. People will argue that while a correlation may exist between these two traits, one does not necessarily cause the other. For sure, there are plenty of people who are creative who don't battle anxiety or other mental health issues.
What does this mean for you, a creative person?
So, what should you do if you're an anxious creative type? Of course it's always a good idea to get professional help from a therapist who can work with you to evaluate what is actually going on and formulate a plan of action...and then walk with you through that plan. Once we learn what is actually going on, we can begin to gain tools and start using the imagination in a helpful way to minimize anxiety. It turns out that some artists are able to channel their anxiety in the right places to their benefit. Creativity comes from expression, and some of the most powerful forms of expression result from our struggle.
Here are some ways to transform anxiety into creativity.
1. Identify what you are feeling.
Name the feelings: You’re scared. You’re anxious. You have creative anxiety. Ask yourself what is behind the feelings: You’re afraid of failing. You’re afraid of succeeding. You’re afraid of producing terrible work. Then, make a list of all the things that might be standing in your way, creating the feelings. When you name your feelings and what is holding you back, they become easier to face. Getting them outside of your head and onto paper makes them tangible. When they are outside of you it is possible to see how you might deal with them and how they are not as big as the internal feeling makes them out to be.
2. Consider why you're doing this (creating) in the first place.
My guess is that you didn't start creating things because you felt that you should. People do lots of things because they feel like they should, but they don't become writers, painters, sculptors, and dancers because they should. That doesn't happen because there is a lot of risk involved in creating. There's not much security in being an artist, so no wonder why it scares you. No wonder you experience anxiety. You're going to make something no one's ever made before. A brand new thing. That's inherently risky. And what's more, it's something that goes straight to the core of who you are. Creating art reveals your deepest self and it's going to be reaching out to the deepest self of others. That's also risky. But isn't that why you do it? The things that scare you are precisely the things that compel you to make art in the first place. They scare you because you need them, they are a big deal, and there's no certainty that you will be successful. But that is what makes the whole process valuable. You don't have to make art. You're not doing it because you should. You're doing it because you want to. Keep that in mind the next time you are afraid to get to work. You started this because you want to.
3. Lower your expectations of yourself.
Stop being so hard on yourself. Creators want so much to make something good, useful, and beautiful. Artists have grand visions and they want to make those visions come to life. They strive for it to come to fruition and wonder why what they produce never matches up to the dream in their head. There is often a disconnect between what you want to be able to do and what you can do. You have to become okay with your limits. It's also important to become comfortable with failure. We learn through failure, so it's okay to produce crap sometimes. The only thing that matters is the making.
4. Remember what it felt like to make art as a kid.
Remember when you drew monsters with crayons as a little kid? Wasn't that great? Wasn't it the best feeling in the world? Hold on to that feeling. Call upon it every time you sit down to work. Be a kid artist.
5. Calm yourself before beginning.
If you don't already have a daily mindfulness practice, I suggest developing one. Yoga, breathing exercises, and body scans can be helpful to help you remain grounded and focused as you begin your work.
As both an artist and therapist I know the importance of sacred spaces. Both my studio and my consultation room are spaces that are worthy of respect, devotion and reverence. The process of painting and therapy for me is a time to develop personal intimacy and depth, to find myself and learn about who I am and was created to be.
It was when I first experienced painting in a sacred context that I was completely shocked by how much energy I had to express and how good it felt to not know what was going to move through me. I had people in my life who saw this in me and encouraged me to keep painting. I kept painting.
This year, as I continue to develop my offerings as a therapist and artist, I will be hosting intuitive painting workshops. These workshops will be a way to introduce participants to creating a sacred space, to find freedom and to begin the process of learning who they are through the use of our hearts, minds, hand and materials.
Here is some of what you can expect when you participate in one of these workshops:
There are so many ways to paint, write, dance. But over the years I have learned that sacred space is essential to all my work as an artist and therapist. If you'd like to explore yourself in a different way, I invite you to give one of these workshops a try. It might just be what your creative spirit has been waiting for.
Fill out the form below to receive information about when and where these workshops will take place.
Both the fear of failure and the enormity of what’s possible can cause creative anxiety.
I have been a professional artist for more than a decade and have been creating art for longer than that, but there are still times when I want to run screaming from my studio at top speed — as if my paintings are standing there with pitch forks waiting to come after me.
Sometimes the simple action of entering my space and staring at my materials is enough to cause my stomach to jump with anxiety. This experience is a strange mix of excitement and immense fear.
Whether “bad” or “good,” creative anxiety triggers stalling, procrastinating, pizza gnawing and Ben and Jerry diving...and oh yeah, binge watching whatever series is being talked about on social.
Over many years of teaching, coaching and counseling university art students and professional artists individually, I have gathered a great deal of experience working through this creative anxiety and want to help more people do the same. This year, I am developing some seminars and workshops dedicated to the pursuit of pushing through creative blocks and anxiety, turning the symptoms into strengths.
Anxiety can be broken down into 'good' and 'bad' anxiety.
Because I prefer to end on a good note, let's take a look at the bad first. Here's some bad news: the brain is wired for negativity. Crap. This means that about 60% of the time, we see the glass as half-empty and look for confirmation that we suck. When we are in this mindset we don’t focus on the evidence that we are, in fact, fundamentally okay and super capable of changing the world.
Because I'm a therapist I like to turn words into acronyms and ideas into images so that we can remember them more easily when we're overwhelmed. An acronym that I like for the word 'fear' is "False Evidence Appearing Real." Fear follows me into the studio and harasses me with questions like:
What if I can’t come up with any good ideas?
What if I waste these expensive materials on something that goes nowhere?
What if I spend hours and hours on this thing and nobody wants to show or buy it?
What if I’m just being ridiculous thinking I’m going to sell this piece for thousands of dollars? Like, real dollars?
How can I outdo myself this time?
Why did I buy so many shades of white paint, anyway?
Even now, fear is right behind him, demanding my attention. It is relentless with its criticism and disapproval. That's the job of fear. The negative voice of fear is a part of the brain—hidden deep in back of our skull...literally (the amygdala) that's wired for survival, the part that senses danger and tells us to fight, flee or freeze. But at the end of the day, is a blank canvas really as dangerous as a charging animal? Definitely not.
So how do we get our nervous system to know the difference between bad fear and good fear?
When I start to feel creative fear, I become overwhelmed and want to run. But then I remember that this is MY art! The thing that I love to do, the thing that's kept me up at all hours of the night...so why don't I want to start creating?
As a therapist, I can assure you that this is normal. I tell my clients that this on a regular basis. Creative Anxiety is the whole deal. It's your life energy, showing you what is possible.
I get that my amygdala is my brain’s mechanism for signaling danger and that there is a vast difference between a charging tiger and a blank canvas. So, why does a pile of acrylics scare me out of the room and into the comforting arms of my couch ...especially when I enjoy the creative process so much?
Here are some strategies I’ve developed to deal with the kind of creative anxiety that stops you. When your fear starts pushing in, I suggest the following:
Greet your fear like an old friend.
It's normal to feel fear and apprehension when you're staring a blank canvas or page and hoping for magic to happen. Resisting anxiety takes more energy than accepting and working with it.
It may sound stupid, but give your fear a name. Let's say it's name is Henry. Tell Henry: "I hear you. Come on in, but sit over there and bet quiet. I have work to do and if it doesn't come out right the first time, I'll fix it later."
Procrastinate with purpose.
Procrastination is just anxiety with a bad reputation. We procrastinate to create space between decisions. When you feel the need to run away, give yourself permission to run. But put a time limit on your procrastination so that you don't fall into a deep hole of web surfing...or as I like to call it: "researching."
Two minutes of sitting down and deep breathing can really help your productivity. All of my favorite art books are in my studio so I can turn procrastination breaks in to inspiration breaks. Sometimes opening the books can be a breath of fresh air, but keep it to a minimum so that you don't become stuck.
Spend only 20 minutes on deciding your next step.
It's easy to make excuses for not moving ahead. Practicing this rule helps work out your "creative risk muscle" and makes taking risks easier over time.
Work on multiple projects at once.
I find that working on many pieces in a kind of round-robin style accomplishes a few things. It keeps me productive when I get stuck on a piece or want to postpone a decision (20-minute rule), and it focuses me on the process rather than the product.
Working on multiple things at once alleviates any one thing of all the responsibility to be "good."
It's a commonly held belief that fear keeps us from taking risks.
Fear of rejection, fear of failing, mediocrity, disappointment keeps us in a holding pattern. But there's another fear that is at play. It is a silent, hidden fear that you may have never recognized in yourself. The next time you feel fear pushing you away from your creative work, think about this: you are running from your own potential and success. I know that it sounds nuts, but we are more afraid of our own success than of our failure.
When you become afraid of your own potential, excited by the possibilities in front of you, knowing that you're about to make something that never before existed - here's what I suggest:
Breathe and acknowledge what is new.
Take a deep breath and create some space for yourself. Enjoy moving the materials and try to stay present.
Prioritize your next moves.
Ask yourself what about the process you find more exciting. When you decide, attack that part first. Continue to consider your own interest in the process in order to keep prioritizing the next step.
Stay open to detours.
As you move through your process, you'll find your exploration birthing new questions and ideas, and often the pile of "trash" that is accumulating on the side of your work table may be even more fascinating than the project that it is coming from. Take the "trash" seriously and observe that creativity is a living thing. Stay open to changing your route of exploration as your interests develop and direct you. Let your instincts drive your next moves.
Listen to your intuition!
Your intuition has a lot to tell you. Learn to trust it. It can be scary to take creative risks but they are ALWAYS worth it. Taking risks is what it takes to honor your gifts. Whatever comes of this, realize that this is one of the best problems you can ever have. The fact that you are struggling with fear means that there is something beautiful waiting to be born from you. Now it's just a matter of taking action.
5/4/2018 0 Comments
Infidelity is the most common type of betrayal that our society focuses on, but really, it's the subtle, unnoticed betrayals that truly ruin relationships. Check this out -When partners do not choose each other day after day, trust and commitment erode away.
Partners might be aware of this disloyalty to each other, but dismiss it because it’s “not as bad as an affair.” This kind of thinking is false. Anything that violates a committed relationship’s contract of mutual trust, respect, and protection can be cataclysmal.
Betrayals are founded on two building blocks: deception (not revealing your true needs to avoid conflict) and a yearning for emotional connection from outside the relationship.
Below, I've listed three betrayals that ruin relationships. It's only by purposefully confronting and taking responsibility for them that couples are able to reestablish their trust in each other.
It’s very easy for platonic friends to bond in the trenches of work, day after day. Sometimes we call this person a “work wife” or “work husband.” Even friendships made at the gym or local coffee shop can threaten the bond at home. These nonsexual relationships can lead to both parties sharing intimate details about each other’s lives. That sharing within a friendship doesn’t make it a betrayal. What makes it a betrayal is this: if your partner would be upset by the things you’ve shared or would be uncomfortable watching the interaction.
Joe first learns of his wife’s sexless affair when they hosted a Christmas party. Kate has never mentioned Chris, the new manager of her department. At the party, Chris seems to know about Emily’s entire life. He even brought their son Jake a the newest version of his favorite game.
Joe looks at Kate with a shocked expression. Her uncomfortable look sinks his heart. When he approaches her after the party, Kate argues about her friendship with Chris. She tells Joe it’s “nothing” because they are “just friends.” Kate then turns against Joe and defends Chris. She accuses her husband of being irrational and jealous and tells him it’s those reasons that he didn’t know about Chris in the first place. Joe feels there is nothing irrational about his jealousy. Whether he admits it or not, his wife is cheating. The evidence lies in her secrecy.
5 signs your partner’s friendship is not an innocent friendship:
Couples don’t feel supported when one partner walks the fence of the relationship. They don’t feel like their partner has their best interests at heart, that they have their back. When this happens, it’s not uncommon for the betrayed partner to blame a trigger as the real problem, when it’s actually the lack of commitment.
As Camille reflects on her first marriage, she knows she began to feel betrayed when her husband stalled on starting a family. At first she thought he was anxious about becoming a father, but in couples therapy it became clear that he was hesitant to deepen his commitment to her.
Like an anxious lover, she clung onto him with desperation, terrified of losing her marriage until she realized she never really had one to begin with. Sometimes a partner may pressure the other to marry or move in, believing that taking the next logical step will deepen their connection, but it’s difficult for a marriage to succeed if it is built on a vow to create a strong bond rather than the result of one. The shallowness of the bond will eventually leak through the connection.
Steps to create unconditional love: When couples ignore or dismiss talking about difficult issues, they are left with a shallow commitment. By using conflict as a catalyst for closeness, couples can intentionally use problems as an opportunity to discuss their goals, fears, and dreams. Couples that unconditionally love each other live by the motto, "baby, when you hurt, the world stops and I listen."
Emotional withdrawal can be something big, like choosing a work meeting over a family funeral, or it can be as small as turning away when your partner needs emotional support.
A committed relationship requires both partners to be there for each other through the earth-shaking traumas and everyday annoyances. That means celebrating joys and successes with your partner, too.
Everybody has different ways of expressing themselves. In a committed relationship, it is the responsibility of both partners to uncover and disclose these preferences to understand what the other requires to feel loved, protected, and supported. Think of The Five Love Languages. In his research lab, Dr. John Gottman discovered that happy couples turned toward each other 86% of the time, while unhappy couples turned towards each other only 33% of the time. That means unhappy couples withdraw 67% of the time! Emotional withdrawal sets in when someone's bids for closeness are ignored.
Solution: To improve your emotional connection, focus on rebuilding and updating your Love Maps, cultivating a culture of admiration and fondness, and turning towards bids more often.
Do any of the items listed above feel familiar or make you feel uneasy? If so, you may be facing a betrayal. Maybe it’s as serious as finding discomforting text messages between your partner and someone else. This list is not about who is right or wrong. Like sexual affairs, these betrayals can be overcome if you recognize the problem and repair the relationship together.
What feelings were denied you as a child?
Did your parents or caregivers say:
Hendrix acknowledges that the rules of emotional expression differ between men and women. Early on, we realize that what’s “allowed” for boys and what’s “allowed” for girls is clear.
Hendrix recognizes that, for boys, emotional expression or the expression of empathy is perceived as weakness or fear. Girls, on the other hand, are encouraged toward these tender exchanges.
Males learn to cut off their own emotional experiences, which, in turn, impacts their ability to express themselves clearly and to develop empathy for their partners. The cutoff that I refer to here often looks like withdrawal, leaving the more emotionally expressive partner to chase after the distant one. These interactions create a negative withdraw-pursue cycle in the relationship.
In my work with both heterosexual and same-sex couples, I have seen these patterns play out repeatedly. Men and women repress their feelings based on a host of unique factors. Factors that influence emotional repression can be traced back to early childhood. These can include influential personalities in the individual's family of origin, cultural and religious background, definitions of masculinity and femininity, trauma, the political climate, and more.
Some of my most meaningful work with a person occurs when they learn how to undo their own emotional repression. Here are some of the steps we take to help them emotionally evolve.
1. Learn Emotional Language
When repressed enough, partners lose their ability to retrieve the language or emotions. Evidence of this may include responses such as “I don’t know” or “I can’t describe it” when a person is asked how they feel. In therapy, we start small, reviewing the six most basic human emotions: anger, sadness, fear, joy, love, and surprise. But knowing the feelings is not always enough to name them and experience them in the moment.
2. Work from the Outside In
We register our feelings in our bodies. We typically feel our emotions in our throats, behind our eyes, in our torsos (including back and chest), in our bellies, and sometimes in our legs, arms, hands, and feet. When you learn the sensations of the body you are then able to connect your experience to the learned emotional language. Heat in your cheeks might connect to anger, a lump in your throat might indicate sadness, loss of breath may connect to surprise, and butterflies in the belly or ice-cold palms may mean fear. Practice noticing your reactions to conversations and experiences, pay attention to your body, and begin to make the connections for yourself.
3. Verbalize the Feeling
Once you tune into the sensation and connect it to the relevant feeling word, you can verbalize the feeling by sharing with your partner. You can say, for example, “I’m aware that I have butterflies in my stomach and that I feel scared,” or, “I can feel my heart pounding right now; I know I’m angry and I need time to cool off.” Being able to verbalize your feelings gives you and your partner a chance to communicate about what’s fueling them and why they may be uncomfortable.
When you complete all three steps, you've begun to overcome emotional repression. You’re no longer detaching from your feelings. You’re no longer denying yourself the right to speak up about your experience. You’re allowing others to know you more deeply.
Of course, there are other feelings words, such as disappointment, loss, confusion, bewilderment, hope, excitement, and others. But for anyone who has a lifetime of emotional repression, the six most basic human emotions often capture enough to name the feeling adequately. As you become more habitual in sensing, naming, and verbalizing your emotions, consider expanding your emotional language to describe how you feel.
For those of you on the receiving end, check in with yourselves. Make sure you want what is offered. Anger, sadness, and fear are generally harder to receive than love, joy, and surprise. Sometimes, people tell me they want their partners to express themselves more fully, but when they do, the receivers struggle to take in what their partners say.
Healthy emotional communication requires everyone to be both a giver and a receiver. Reciprocation of emotional expression provides the best environment for intimacy between people to grow. If you are struggling with this, either individually or as a couple consider making an appointment with me or another qualified therapist.
Hendrix, H. (2008). Getting the love you want: A guide for couples. New York, NY: Holt Paperbacks.
GoodTherapy.com: How to Overcome Emotional Repression in Your Relationship
Relationships can bring up all kinds of unexpected obstacles, and therapy can be a helpful tool to navigate them. But what if there's no significant conflict at play? I get asked this very question pretty frequently as a therapist who works with many young couples who are just starting their journey together. My answer to them is that you don't have to go to couples therapy just because you're in an argument. You can go to couples therapy to make your relationship with partner better—which is actually a pretty sufficient and healthy enough reason to begin in the first place.
It doesn't matter if you've been together for one week or five years, you learn new aspects of your partner's personality all the time. It's not like you enter a relationship and have your partner fill out a personality questionnaire (or do you?) so you know as much as possible about them right off the bat. No, you figure it out along the way.
There are ways to understand your partner better that don't entail a personality quiz (although sitting down together to learn your Myers Briggs or Enneagram types could be a fun date, but I'm a dork so what do I know?). Couples therapy is one way to do that. I can hear you now: "We never fight. Why would we go to therapy together?" Well, couples therapy isn't just for couples who are on the brink of breaking up. It can actually be a beneficial tool to know your partner better in many aspects of your relationship. Couples therapy can help you learn about those little quirks a little bit faster, and in a setting that allows you both the space to air your thoughts in a safe manner.
By attending therapy when you're not in a fight or experiencing a crisis you can improve the quality of your relationship and deepen your empathy and understanding, and to communicate in a clearer and healthier way.
When you come to therapy before your ship starts to sink, we can more quickly work to gain heightened sensitivity to each person's feelings and needs, boundaries and vulnerabilities. Couples therapy increases knowledge and understanding of yourself and your partner, which helps both of you be kinder to themselves and each other. And that helps each person know and express their needs, communicate more skillfully, and be more attuned to the feelings and needs of their partner.
And guess what? All of these practices are useful for any couple at any stage in their relationship.
You and your partner don't need to be at each other's throats to reap the benefits of couples therapy. And in fact, getting comfortable with communicating honestly now might save you from an emergency session with a couples' therapist down the road.
We've all experienced being hurt by someone we love. It's inevitable. Even when two people have a connected, secure and healthy relationship, they will end up hurting one another at some point. We're human. That's just the way it is. When couples come to see me for therapy, it's often due to an experience or pattern of experiences that caused one or both of the partners to feel hurt. The couple decides to come to therapy because they are having a difficult time resolving this hurt. They need some help in order to feel safe with each other again.
When working with couples, I want to understand the nature and significance of the hurt before moving toward resolution. How bad is it? How deep is the impact? First, we must understand the two levels of hurt: relational hurts and attachment injuries.
Relational Hurts (Hurt Feelings)
Couples who are secure in their relationship can usually navigate relational hurts on their own. Some examples of relational hurts might be forgotten anniversaries, reactive insults, or blow-up fights that sneak into relationships. For couples who feel they can depend and rely on each other in times of need, relational hurts are pretty simple to navigate. Attuned couples do this by sharing their hurt feelings with each other, hearing and empathizing with the hurt of their partner, and they provide comfort and reassurance. Partners can then move forward in the relationship with trust, security, and safety despite the hurtful experience. This is a natural and expected experience for healthy relationships.
I can often tell when a hurt falls into the category of a relational hurt. In our sessions, couples may share feelings of sadness, anger, hurt, and pain in response to an experience. But when I ask them if they feel their partner loves and cares for them, they can quickly answer “yes.” For them, even though the hurt happened, it hasn’t significantly changed the way they view each other or the relationship.
Attachment injuries are trickier. These injuries require a lot more care, consideration, and guidance, sometimes from a couples counselor.
When couples are trying to respond to attachment injuries as if they are merely a relational hurt, they can stay stuck. Without recognizing the significance and impact of the injury, they can go down a long road of frustration and more hurt. An injured partner can feel even more hurt that the other person is not responding in ways that provide healing. The hurt deepens, becomes more complex, and can create great distress in the relationship.
Dr. Sue Johnson defines an attachment injury as “a feeling of betrayal or abandonment during a critical time of need.” When an attachment injury happens, a partner may view their relationship as changed or they may view their partner in a different way. An affair is a good example of an attachment injury. Infidelity often causes a partner to view a previously safe relationship as unsafe. While they used to view their partner as trustworthy, they now wonder, “Can I ever trust this person again?”
There are also more subtle attachment injuries. One example to consider is that of a wife, grieving the loss of her mother, crying in her bedroom. The wife observes her husband walk by on his phone, consumed in a work call. He sees her in tears but, because he was so focused on his work, he never returns to check on her. In that moment, the wife decides she is not important to him and she must go through this pain alone. In that moment, everything changes in how she views the relationship and how she views her husband. She was in need and he wasn’t there.
There are three ways to determine if a hurt is an attachment injury. First, partners report they have apologized, but their hurt partner keeps bringing up the hurtful experience. In addition, the hurt partner may report feeling as though they relive the hurtful experience when they think or talk about it. They can still feel the pain, almost as if it just happened. Finally, couples report a significant, defining shift in the relationship felt by one or both partners that can be traced back to a specific time or incident. If any of these things are happening in your relationship, there may be an attachment injury.
If you believe you are dealing with an attachment injury in your relationship, here are some helpful things to think about:
GoodTherapy.com: Relational Hurt or Attachment Injury? How to Tell the Difference.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a metaphor depicting the end of times in the New Testament. They describe conquest, war, hunger, and death respectively. Dr. Gottman uses this metaphor to describe communication styles that can predict the end of a relationship.
The first horseman of the apocalypse is criticism. Criticizing your partner is different than offering a critique or voicing a complaint. The latter two are about specific issues, whereas the former is an ad hominem attack. Criticism attacks your partner at their core. When you criticize, you're actually working to dismantle his or her whole being.
The second horseman is contempt. When we communicate in this state, we are truly mean. W treat others with disrespect, mocking them with sarcasm, ridicule, name-calling, mimicking, and/or body language such as eye-rolling. The target of contempt is made to feel despised and worthless.
“You’re ‘tired?’ Cry me a river. I’ve been with the kids all day, running around like mad to keep this house going and all you do when you come home from work is flop down on that sofa like a child and play those idiotic computer games. I don’t have time to deal with another kid – try to be more pathetic…”
In his research, Dr. Gottman found that couples that are contemptuous of each other are more likely to suffer from infectious illness (colds, the flu, etc.) than others, as their immune systems weaken! Contempt is fueled by long-simmering negative thoughts about the partner—which come to a head in the perpetrator attacking the accused from a position of relative superiority. Contempt is the single greatest predictor of divorce according to Dr. Gottman’s work. It must be eliminated.
The third horseman is defensiveness. We’ve all been defensive. This horseman is nearly omnipresent when relationships are on shaky ground. When we feel accused unjustly, we search for excuses so that our partner will back off. Unfortunately, this strategy is almost never successful. Our excuses just tell our partner that we don’t take them seriously, trying to get them to buy something that they don’t believe, that we are blowing them off.
Although it is perfectly understandable for the male to defend himself in the example given above, this approach doesn’t have the desired effect. The attacking spouse does not back down or apologize. This is because defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner.
The fourth horseman is stonewalling. Stonewalling occurs when the listener withdraws from the interaction. In other words, stonewalling is when one person shuts down and closes himself/herself off from the other. It is a lack of responsiveness to your partner and the interaction between the two of you. Rather than confronting the issues (which tend to accumulate!) with our partner, we make evasive maneuvers such as tuning out, turning away, acting busy, or engaging in obsessive behaviors. It takes time for the negativity created by the first three horsemen to become overwhelming enough that stonewalling becomes an understandable “out,” but when it does, it frequently becomes a habit.
Pay close attention the next time you find yourself engaged in a difficult conversation with your partner, a friend, or even with your children. See if you can spot any of The Four Horsemen, and try to observe their effects on the people involved.
Being able to identify The Four Horsemen in your conflict discussions is a necessary first step to eliminating them, but this knowledge is not enough. To drive away destructive communication patterns, you must replace them with healthy, productive ones. Take the first step to discovering healthy, productive methods of communication and patterns of interaction by starting couples counseling today.
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