TWO-DAY COUPLE INTENSIVE by Joan E. Childs, LCSW

Joan E. Childs conducts a 2-day Couple Intensive.
For details call: (954)568-1004
Image provided by
https://www.sketchport.com/drawing/229016/the-argument

 

Hi everyone.  I have some good news!

Sometime during the latter part of August, I will be offering, for the first time, a two day Group Intensive for Couples. This will be two full days of deep connecting, communicating and sharing your full presence with one another. I am taking no more than four couples for this event so that each couple will have the chance to receive personalized attention, as well as to learn from the work of the other couples present.

The work is based on Encounter-Centered Couples Therapy, a modality designed by Hedy Schleifer, LMFT,who has been my mentor and teacher.  I am truly excited to offer this special program to those couples who are ready for change. Inclusive in this workshop will be Inner Child Work, NLP, hypnosis, psycho-education and processing,

First come, first serve. The cost of the two- day workshop is $900.00 per couple.  This will provide couples with an opportunity to heal their relational space, promote communication and realign their relationship for a deeper and more meaningful connection.

Please contact my office to register and for further information.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Joan

(954) 568-1004

 

Joan E . Childs shares a personal story of loss and connection to Liza Long

I read the blog written by Liza Long with heartfelt sympathy and interest.   I too am a mother recovering from the loss of a daughter who suffered from mental illness.  No, she was not a murderer, a criminal or an evil person.  She was a loving devoted daughter, sister, friend and clinical therapist holding both an LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) and Ph.D. in psychology.  She loved life, her work, her patients, her family and her friends.   She was sick and suffered from Bipolar I Disorder for ten years before she leaped to her death on July 2, 1998.  She was thirty-four years old.

Pam fought her illness tenaciously.  To her, they were demons brought to her by a demonic force she referred to as the devil.  They took up residence in her mind, and as the years progressed they slowly devoured her mind, her spirit and her life.  Pam did not choose to jump; the demons pushed her out the window.

Mental illness takes many forms and many diagnoses, most of which take a skilled psychiatrist to determine, as many mental disorders have co-morbidity, (symptoms that resemble another diagnosis’, such as schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder.)  It takes the time to obtain a differential diagnosis.  Until a diagnosis is made, a treatment plan cannot be implemented, not unlike any other illness.

Pam was the eldest of my five children.  She never revealed any symptoms of mental illness until she had her first break when she was twenty-four years old.  By this time, she was half way through her doctorate, working at the John Bradshaw Center in Hollywood, California as a therapist and was considered to be a “wizard” therapist.  The center was an in-patient treatment facility for recovering addicts and mood disorders caused primarily from abuse, neglect, and/or abandonment during their childhood.  Pam was a leading therapist, running groups and seeing the patients in individual sessions.  Her work was heralded by the staff, the patients, and John Bradshaw.

The illness insidiously crept in upon her slowly, steadfastly and with a force that ripped away all reason and rationality while it wove a delusionary system that was unshakable.  As the years passed, Pam was no longer the same vivacious, charming, charismatic young woman that made everyone who knew her fall in love with her.  As the invasion of this illness progressed, all that was before was no more.  Instead, only a shell of a woman who had seemingly lost her mind and spirit remained as my daughter.  Her soul passed before her body.

In my book, WHY DID SHE JUMP: My Daughter’s Battle with Bipolar Disorder that was just released on June 16, 2014, I describe how this illness became her cancer; resistant to all treatment as her belief system prevented her from taking the medicine prescribed.  However, when she did, she turned into a zombie, unable to function and barely get out of bed.  In her twisted mind, she concluded that the medications were agents of the devil and managed to avoid taking them.  As a result, her illness gained strength and her mind lost contact with reality.  Oh, there were lucid moments, but the prevailing theme was insanity by the loss of reality.  The examples will be revealed in the book as well as the torture we, her family were all subjected to.  The worst of it was that there was no place for her to get the treatment she needed.

I wrote a letter to Oprah that became the preface to my book.  I described the trials and tribulations in depth, blaming the health system in our country as one of the leading causes of her death, claiming that my daughter was unable to obtain treatment that could have easily saved her life.    I urged Oprah to do a program on this issue stating that this was not just my child, but everyone’s child who has been stricken with this hideous disease.  I copied it to Hillary Clinton, our congresswoman Elaine Bloom at that time, Senators Bob Graham and Connie Mack.  None responded.  The Miami Herald published my letter, thanks to Sue Reisinger who felt a need to share this tragedy with her readers.

This was sixteen years ago.  Now we are facing a nation who has the worst record for healing our mentally ill citizens.  We had to wait for one tragedy after another to occur for people to start screaming about guns and the atrocities committed on innocent people, worst of all little children as well as the atrocious care of the mentally ill.  My beautiful daughter fell through the cracks because there was no facility that she could be given proper treatment.  How many lives to we have to lose before we get it?  What price do we have to pay to have our voices heard?  My daughter was not rich, nor was she poor.  She worked for a living, was raised in a home with a father who is a physician and a mother, a clinical social worker.  Yet with the vast network of friends and colleagues, we both had, we were rendered helpless, powerless and finally hopeless in securing the help she needed.

I don’t own a gun and no nothing about them.  Frankly, I would be terrified to have one in my home.  I live alone and cannot imagine ever using one, fearing that my life would be more at risk having one in my hand, than not.  Perhaps I am gullible, but owning a gun does not make me feel safe.  In fact, I would feel more vulnerable because the gunman would most probably be a better marksman than I.  Guns are only part of the problem.  We need to change our culture and cultivate more loving, caring and sensitive communities exhibiting kindheartedness to our fellow man.  We must provide a safe environment where our loved ones stricken with mental illness can go to get help.  Psychotropic drugs and therapy do help, but in order to maintain treatment, patients have to be in a long term treatment center as opposed to being admitted for 24-48 hours in a psychiatric ward In some hospital only to be released within a day or two, which by the way, makes them worse.

My story is not just about my loss, sorrow, grief and despair.  It is the story of our country, which loses thousands of loved ones every year either by suicide or homicide because they were not cared for in an environment that could support their healing.  It’s time for a real change; change in our health system, change in our gun laws, and most of all change in our culture.

FAIR FIGHTING RULES by Joan E. Childs

 

Joan E. Childs presents FAIR FIGHTING RULES! Check out www.joanechilds.com Image provided by https://pixabay.com

Everyone knows that there is no intimacy without conflict; unless of course, you agree never to disagree. Then, you don’t have a healthy relationship; you have codependency. In healthy relationships, neither party subjugates their feelings to please the other. Conflicts need to be externalized and resolved. Couples need to have rules to argue by. Here are ten fair fighting rules that I learned from John Bradshaw that can be seen in his book: BRADSHAW: ON

THE FAMILY: BE ASSERTIVE
Learn how to ask for what you need and express your feelings. Unless your partner hears from you what you are feeling and/or experiencing, he can never read your mind. It is important to express your truth even if it means hurting your loved one or making him angry. It takes courage to confront someone you love, but if you don’t, nothing gets accomplished and your resentment grows, hurting both you and the relationship. If your dude can’t handle your feelings, perhaps you don’t belong with him or you need to be in couples therapy to help work them through with a professional counselor.

STAY PRESENT AND IN THE NOW
It is important to hear what your partner is saying and for him to be willing to hear you.
Going back in history and collecting data to make your point of what is happening now, is not as effective as being specific about what just occurred. If today’s problem is a re-occurring theme that you let swept under the carpet for fear of his response, then perhaps you can give him an account of several instances when this occurred, but from now on, stay in the moment with current issues. Collecting stamps and storing them up, often causes you to blow your top and come out acting like a shrew.

AVOID LECTURING
Nothing turns a dude off more than having you lecture him and force advice down his throat. Lecturing is a sure way for him to check out. It will surely remind him of his mother or father, depending who did the lecturing when he was being scolded as a child. Use the CHANGE MODEL I wrote about in my other article or that you heard in the recent video.
Remember lecturing is an invitation for a fight.

AVOID JUDGMENT
Guess what? Judgment is another sure way to invite a fight. Whenever you throw judgments around, it will spin right back to you. Judgments and criticism can be interpreted as shame, creating further distance between you. Remember to stay in the I (CHANGE MODEL). Use self-responsible statements.

HONESTY AND ACCURACY
Nothing works better than being honest. Changing the facts to massage your point, exaggerating to make a point, or stretching the story only creates a stronger defense from the other side. Remember, the brain does three things with information and perception: it distorts information, it deletes information and it generalizes. It is very important to be as accurate and honest as you can. Three people can see an accident and all three can report it differently. This is because we all wear different filters when we perceive. Try hard to be rigorously honest. It’s your best bet.

DON’T ARGUE ABOUT DETAILS
Another sure way to lose his interest is to detail him to death. Dudes want the bottom line. Just make it brief and to the point. If he needs more information, he will ask for it. If you repeat the same things over and over, add insignificant details to magnify the case, you will lose your dude to something that interests him more. Sometimes less is more!

DON’T ASSIGN BLAME
When you make him at fault, he will find a reason to make you at fault. If you use the CHANGE MODEL, you will avoid blaming. Remember, it’s not a blame game. Unless he abuses you, ignores you, or is MIA, don’t blame. If he does any of the ones mentioned in the above sentence, leave him!

USE ACTIVE LISTENING
This is a biggy! It’s real easy to unload a ton of shit on him; it’s harder to listen. And listen with a third ear. That takes practice. Most chics want to jump in and battle with their tongues. If you learn to listen, you may be surprised. Your dude may something you might have missed by jumping to conclusions or making assumptions. Good listening is at least 50% of communication. Sometimes it’s not what you say, it’s what you hear.

FIGHT ABOUT ONE THING AT A TIME
Many people have the bad habit of leashing out a laundry list when they argue. Remember, the goal is to stay with one thing at a time. If you present him with a list of character defects and instances that occurred last year, or maybe 5 or 10 years ago, he will either become defensive or check out. Many chics carry a gunnysack with them when they fight and stack up evidence that includes every infraction that occurred in their entire relationship. This is never foddered for resolution.
HANG IN THERE. GO FOR A SOLUTION RATHER THAN BEING RIGHT.
There’s an old expression: Would you rather be right or happy? Staying in there battling it out with effective fair fighting tools will be your best ticket to intimacy. Sure you will have differences. Who doesn’t? But, communication begins with discussion; not sex. Sex will not resolve your issues. Sex can be more exciting after the fight, but only with resolution. Many couples use sex as a distraction to the discussion; NOT A RESOLUTION. Use your tools to fight fair, and your sex life will improve!

If you still have difficulty resolving a conflict, you might want to consider setting up a session with a couple’s counselor. I have spent many years working with couples and I am thrilled to say that I use a technology designed by Hedy Schleifer called Encounter-centered Couples Therapy. I am a graduate of her three-year Master Class and have applied this methodology to hundreds of couples who have learned new ways to communicate and resolve issues that have played over and over in their relationships. I invite you to contact me if you want to learn how to “cross the bridge” to your partner’s world and re-connect to create a healthy, mature and sacred relational space.

Just contact me through this website and I will be happy to set up an appointment for you and your partner.
For further information, visit my couple’s therapy page on my website to learn more about healing your relationship.

RELATIONSHIPS: LOSING YOURSELF TO ANOTHER by Joan E. Childs

the_kiss_-_gustav_klimt_-_google_cultural_institute-1

Joan E. Childs shares her interpretation of “The Kiss by Klimt” and blogs “Losing yourself to another” Remember that a kiss is just a kiss… Image provided by The KISS by Klimt https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/40/The_Kiss_-_Gustav_Klimt_-_Google_Cultural_Institute.jpg

 

RELATIONSHIPS are full of conundrums.  The challenges that relationships face can be difficult without tools and resources that can promote and sustain a healthy, adult relationship.  It takes two “grown up” people with a mature understanding of their partner’s world to be able to resolve issues that arise during the course of their relationship.  It takes a willingness to extend oneself to nurture the other.  This takes two evolved individuals willing to stretch their emotional muscles for the sake of loving and respecting one another.  More than that, it takes a commitment to honor and protect the relationship as your most precious investment.

It has been said by Lori Gordon (PAIRS) that “ love is a feeling; marriage is a contract, but a relationship is work!” The essential ingredient of a good relationship is to have two healthy, mature partners that are committed to moving the relationship forward.  If one partner depends on the other to feel whole, the relationship is doomed.

In many relationships one partner can lose their identity without consciousness.  They give up who they are to satisfy the needs of the other.  They don’t feel whole without the other, so they hook themselves emotionally to their partner and lose their authenticity in the process.  They become whatever they feel will keep their partner happy.  This NEVER works!  It becomes a parasitic, pathological relationship.

Intimacy cannot exist without autonomy.   Two halves have never made a whole. Multiply ½ x ½ and you will get ¼.  Each partner must feel independent in order to have healthy interdependence.  Each must be a whole individual to maintain a healthy relationship.  The chief cause of losing oneself is low self- esteem.  The patterns that develop in a relationship are codependent and eventually cause irreparable damage.

It has been said by the great philosopher, Martin Buber that we are wired for connection.  When we dis-connect, we face a crisis.  When one loses their self to please another, disconnect is the result.  No one can be responsible for another all the time.  Each individual must take responsibility for themselves.  Without a positive sense of self, a relationship cannot flourish.

We know that 90% of what is happening in the now is dragged in from the past.  Only 10% has to do with the present.  The chronic arguing about the way she irons his shirts has very little to do about the shirts.  It’s more about his past and the way the shirts trigger what is unresolved from his family of origin.  The past is always present until it is extinguished through self- exploration, self-examination, recognition, acknowledgment and most important, owning it!  Until this is accomplished, partners will be fighting over the same things “until death do us part.”  To extinguish the shadows of the past, we must first embrace them.  Therapy is essential.  No one can do it themselves.  Not unlike casting your own broken arm or doing brain surgery on yourself, people need a trained therapist to work through the issues they carried from the past into the present.  Their history will color the present and be unloaded on an innocent partner who does not deserve it.

Almost 60% of all marriages end in divorce.  The reason: read the above paragraph once more.  We unconsciously choose a partner that will bring us our worst nightmare in order that we learn what we need to know.  We usually end up firing them for the very reason we hired them; that being to clean up the past so that the relational space between them is no longer polluted.  (Hedy Schleifer, Encounter Centered Couples Therapy).

There are many modalities that are very successful in achieving the desired outcome goals.  The object is to find an approach and therapist that works for you.  Often experiential couple’s therapy can heal the wounds of each partner.  Sometimes individual psychotherapy is the answer.  Most important, is being open to the unacceptable behaviors that keep us stuck.  It’s not the adult in us that is holding us back.  It’s the little wounded child that is driving the bus and pushing us tenaciously to discover who we are and who we want to become.  The goal in life is to be free from the past and the shame that binds us so we can make choices that work.  The discovery of our authentic selves will release us to become the person we were meant to be.  Our essence is our path to a healthy relationship not just to another, but to discover ourselves as well.

Discover what is keeping you stuck.  Learn to acknowledge the pain you have repressed.  Share your feelings with a trained counselor who can help you reclaim your essence and authenticity.  Only then will you never lose yourself to another!

“Conversations with my Dog, Motik” by Joan E. Childs

Motik

Motik, (a Hebrew word meaning “sweetie”), my 10 year old Pekingese”Conversations with my Dog” by Joan E. Childs

 

Motik, (a Hebrew word meaning “sweetie”), my 10-year-old Pekingese, recently ruptured a disc for the second time in four years.  After a week of going to my regular vet with an inconclusive diagnosis, he advised us to take him to a specialist who could ascertain a diagnosis and treat him properly.  On Christmas Eve day, 2011, my daughter and I rushed him to a neuro-surgeon some 20 miles away from our home to learn that he had to have surgery.  Within a week we brought him home and after a quick recovery, he had since been well. On July 2, 2016, it was another trip to the neurosurgeon; another $3500.00 MRI but this time a different neurosurgeon as well as a different disc.  After learning the rupture was considered to be “moderate”, the decision was made to treat Motik conservatively.  This required medical boarding at the cost of $55.00 per day.  He needed meds and cage rest for a minimum of one month.  I was about to board a flight the day after I had taken him to the hospital.  I was picking up a cruise ship and deliberated whether I should make the trip to Amsterdam with my daughter for 20 days or stay at home while Motik was hospitalized.

The doctor assured me that he would be taken care of and by the time I returned, he would be ready for discharge to convalesce at home.

“Even if you stay at home, you will not be able to help him or see him while he is under treatment.” Dr. Frank said.  Dr. Frank was a young, well-spoken, and compassionate man. His professionalism and manner convinced me that I could trust his advice, although he was careful to say it was a “personal decision.”

I heeded his advice and left for Amsterdam.  The staff was remarkably caring and emailed me twice daily as to his condition.

Twenty days later I returned to a dog that was ready to return home.  I paid the bill that now was an additional $1100.00.  But, seeing him well, took the sting away from my pocket and put a smile on my face.  My little man was coming home.  I was overjoyed when I put him on my lap while Monica, my daughter, drove home those 20 miles.

“The worst is over”, I said, feeling greatly relieved that he would return to his old happy self.

His recovery lasted only one week.  I heard the familiar, ominous “yelp” after we returned from our nightly walk as he entered the front door.  That “yelp” drove a knife into my heart.  I was not prepared to go through this again.  Two days passed without a drop of water or food.  I knew we were in trouble.  It was a Saturday afternoon and I was in a dilemma.  Should I bring him back to the neurosurgeon, or to my regular vet’s office?

My choice was made to get him taken care of as quickly as possible so I drove him with my daughter to my local vet.  As luck would have it, he was away so I saw a vet unknown to me.  I explained what had happened including his history and my concern.  She was very pleasant and reassured me that they could keep him, hydrate him and give him the proper care that was needed.  The cost for the overnight medical boarding would be $148.00.  I had no choice that eve, but called the neurosurgeon’s hospital and was told that their medical boarding fees were $250.00 per night. It was a no-brainer, so I decided to have him stay the night as he needed emergency care that they could provide.

On my way home I received a call from the neurosurgeon who told me that they would be willing to board him for the previous fee of $55.00 per night, so the following morning I picked up my disheveled, frightened little man, and once again, with my daughter drove down to South Miami, but not before I was handed an invoice for $367.00 in charges for the previous night.

It gets better.  The neurosurgeon told me that they would try once more.

“Three strikes and you’re out.  The next relapse would mean surgery.”  The look on his face was sympathetic.  He said they would try once more and see if they could resolve the issue medically.  I drove home with Monica in a state of despair, however, hopeful.  Another week and another $700.00 including hospital boarding and meds had been successful.

The following day I applied for an equity loan from BB&T as they were offering a rate of 2.4% for the first years and 3.5% adjustable thereafter.  The vacation, plus the time away, combined with the medical costs exceeded my budget for animal care.  I had another dog and cat at home, and this event was over the top.  However, I had no options.  This was my baby and I could not let him suffer or euthanize him.  I was told that if I cage rested him for another 4 weeks, chances were that he would be good for another 5-6 years.

My neighbor, Adele, a saint, angel and blessing provided me with a crate large enough to house Motik with his food and water. She came daily to assist with his home boarding along with sharing a glass of wine.   I had been given strict, militant instructions not to take him out except for a 5-minute walk 3-4 times a day.  This was to be the biggest challenge of my life.

Motik accustomed to a 20-minute walk 3-4 times a day had to adapt to a 5-minute walk.  Although he had no problem urinating 5 times in 5 minutes, he was not used to pooping in less than 20.  The staff was adamant about the time, so wherever we were in 5-7 minutes of our walk, I had to pick him up and carry him home, up the stairs and place gently back in his crate.

For the first week, he did nothing but cry and scream.

“Get me out of here!  NOW!” were the unspoken words in dog demands.  Over and over, hour after hour he relentlessly shouted those phrases in barks, howls, screams and dog cursing.   I thought I was going to lose my mind, so occasionally I let him enjoy a 10-15 minute rest on the bedroom carpet where I lied down with him so he would not need to stretch his neck to look up at me or jump.

My conversations began.

“Motik, this is not a punishment” I would say.  “I need to keep you confined so you will get better and we can go back to getting you the way you were before.”  He listened intently but became sad each time he had to go back into his crate, which to me, was a prison.  We both cried for the first week.  I don’t know who cried more; him or me.

I marked off the 28 days on the calendar as each day passed.  I shortened my work schedule so I could be at home with him as much as possible.  It seemed as though Minnie, my one-year-old Shih Tzu and my 2 and a half-year-old Hemmingway cat understood our precarious situation and never interfered with his recovery.  They stayed downstairs and Motik, upstairs in his crate.

As the sixth morning approached and I awoke exhausted, drained from the undivided attention I had to give him including his six meds, five of which were in pill pockets and one by syringe, I dreaded getting up to start the day and routine.  I awakened bleary-eyed and anxious.  This would be another rough day I thought.

I opened the crate to a very sad face, with a look of eagerness to get the hell out of there.  I picked him up, tucking him under my left arm to go down to the landing and switching arms as the railing changed sides. Once down in the living room, I placed him outside in the lanai to put on his harness and leash so as not to have him even go down the one step from the foyer to the lanai.

It was steaming hot even before the sun came over my house on the preserve where I live.  We began our five-minute walk followed by the carry back to the house.  I placed him once again back in his confined space and went to take care of getting Hemmingway and Minnie their breakfast followed by Minnie’s walk.  When I returned, I expected the same shrilling sounds that had become familiar over the last five days, but instead, much to my chagrin, there was no sound.

I prepared his breakfast, disguising the meds in the pill pockets, but he refused to eat.  I left the food in the crate for the hour and a half as prescribed by the staff, and when I returned, all the food was still there.  Disappointed, I took it away but managed to hand feed him the pill pockets with the meds.  I was aware that for the last few hours, he had not made a sound.  I was at first concerned, but when I went up to visit, he was relaxed, tucked in his bed fast asleep.

As the day progressed, he remained quiet and settled.  I began to realize that I had trained him to be a spoiled, demanding, little prince who always had his way.  By following the advice of the doctor and staff I had re-trained him to know that I was the boss!

It’s not over yet, but we are on our way to full recovery!  I told him that if he stays quiet and behaves the way he is supposed to, I would take him for his usual and customary 20-minute walk again and give him the hugs we both miss so much.

Another 24 days to go before it’s over.  I have to keep strong, with tough love to get my little man back to wellness.  So many lessons learned by both of us.  Sometimes we must be tough to show our love, even when they don’t understand the reasons.  (This applies to kids too!)

I don’t know who suffered worse: Motik or me.  Wellness takes patience, consistency, and discipline.  I had to work hard to keep walking the line, but I tried to convince myself that it will be worth it.

A note to my readers:  I had five children in eight years.  I was divorced when the eldest was 11 years old and the youngest, just 3.  I don’t remember a time that I suffered as much during the years I was a single mom with five kids as these past few weeks trying to heal Motik.  I’m sure there were, however, time heals all wounds, so hopefully, time will do the same again.

Stay tuned to hear more as the days pass forward.

THE ART OF AUTHENTICITY – JOAN E. CHILDS

town-sign-924570_960_720The Art of Being Authentic
The Art of Being Me
The Art of Loving Yourself
Part 1

The poet says, “What I am is me, for that I came.” To go to your death, never knowing who you are, is the greatest tragedy of tragedies.
Not being an art aficionado, however recognizing the basic elements of art with all the great artists, is to see a reflection of who they are in the works they produce. In fact they have no choice. It’s a compulsion for their true selves to be expressed in their work. If denied their authenticity, they clearly could not produce the greatness that we are all fortunate to share throughout the centuries. I recall in the movie, FRIDA, when Frida asks Diego Rivera if she was as talented as he. Diego replied, “You Frida, are even a better artist than me. I paint of what I see on the outside. You paint what you see on the inside.”
Not unlike great artists, great musicians, writers and the like, we who may not be artists as such, are artists in our own being. We must be ourselves, mainly because everyone else is already taken. What do I mean by that? We need to reflect what is within us; who we are, how we feel, our perceptions, our visions and our I am-ness.
It was Socrates who said, “A life unexamined is not a life worth living.”
So much of our lives have been lived in what I call survival roles, the adapted self. The adapted self, suffocated much of our authentic self. This is a gradual, insidious progression over time due to assignments and expectations of our family, teachers, social norms and mores, cultivating a need to adapt in order to matter and in some cases, to survive.
Somewhere within each of us lies the essence of our being. Without it, nothing really matters and nothing really works. Relationships suffer if we are not in our essence. Our work suffers, our families suffer, our mental and physical well-being is compromised. Relationships become “the killing fields” when our relational space becomes polluted. That space is where we live and our children play. It doesn’t improve unless we clean up the space. We can’t clean up the space unless we are in our essence. When two people are in their true essence, time is eternal, says, Martin Buber. When we don’t know what to do, what to say, how to be, we feel awkward, uneasy and uncomfortable in our own skin. We would rather be what others may want or expect us to be rather than reveal our true selves, fearing we will be rejected or shamed. This is a learned behavior. We weren’t born like this even if our nature is to be introverted or shy. This is a survival self; an adapted self, a false self; not our authentic self. To really be free; to know our soulful content, to know our purpose in life, not to be defined by what we do, but rather, who we are; that is our true self; who we truly are.
I grew up in the last age of innocence, the fifties, in Miami Beach a city that practiced apartheid, but we didn’t know it. We did not even know the word. There were colored and white fountains, colored and white bathrooms. The “colored”, later to be referred as black, were not even allowed onto Miami Beach without a pass after 5:00 PM. Sign on the public buses stated, “Colored to the back”. We never even knew that was wrong. It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s that I developed a social conscience. We lived in a bubble. Miami Beach was a special place; the 50’s a unique time. We thought we were going to marry, have children and live happily ever after. When reality struck, we were in shock. I suppose it was the assassination of John Kennedy that ended the age of innocence, followed by a raging, reckless war that woke us up to a new reality. The world had changed and has not stopped since, gaining momentum as the years pass.
I grew up in a time that as kids, we listened to our parents. We were more fearful of our fathers than the principal. We were free to skate in a park on Friday nights, never concerned about being mugged, raped or shot. Guns didn’t exist in my world. Drugs didn’t exist. Pot was a cooking utensil. Coke was a soda. Girls didn’t sleep with boys until they were married and if they did, they risked their reputation. Thing weren’t perfect. We had our share of dysfunction as most families, to a greater or lesser extent. Yet, those were the happiest times of our lives. We went from the age of Victorianism to the sexual revolution followed by the New Age, which morphed into the “Me Generation” that grew into a culture of addiction. The values we grew up with were replaced with narcissistic, self- serving, ego-driven, materialistic “stuff”. With that exchange, we grew into multi-generational addicts that was driven by our lost selves. Now replaced with technology, our authentic selves are being supplanted by computers, I pads, cell phones, and other robotic creatures that are destroying our humanness, and our I amness. We need to pull ourselves out of this mess, out of this black hole and find a way to be present to our inner self, to our partners, our children and our friends. God help us if we lose ourselves to technology. What a world this will be!
Next blog: PART II – OUR NEEDS

FLYING SOLO – JOAN E. CHILDS

osprey-bird-in-flight_flying soloALONE AGAIN…….NATURALLY
Just got dumped? Filed for divorce? Your fiancé got cold feet and cancelled the wedding? Ex-wife wants to reconcile? Found out your honey had another on the side? No good guys/gals in sight? Don’t worry! Being solo for a while might be a refreshing surprise; that is, if you know what to do.
Staying sane and single can be a challenge, but can offer some pleasant surprises. Here are 7 tips to make the ride a pleasant journey.
#1 Begin to think of you first. Start making plans that include activities that you love to do. Sign up for a ski class, tennis class, yoga class, dance class, Spanish class, computer class, etc. Choose anything that you have wanted to do but your relationship swallowed up your time and didn’t allow for personal stuff to take center stage.
#2 Think vacation! Travel alone on a single’s cruise or a Club Med, or ask a friend or family member to get away for a few days. Sometimes, just a change of pace and scenery, can be liberating and help your healing.
#3 Take some time to discover you. Spend some nights alone and find that waking in the morning without a bed partner can be tolerable; perhaps even pleasant. For sure you won’t die! Try using meditation, say positive affirmations to yourself, (i.e.: I am a worthy person; I deserve happiness and joy; I am complete and lovable.) Take baths, pump iron, stretch, work out, read a book and watch old movies to entertain yourself. Gals its cheaper and more satisfying than spending time choosing an outfit, primping, applying make-up, and wearing shoes that kill your feet and your pocketbook. Guys, think of all the money you’ll save while taking time out to know yourself and going out with yourself. Go ahead: Veg out, chill out, zone out and have a good cry. It cleanses the soul! Journaling is a wonderful way to discharge your feelings and sharing time with good friends who are supportive and listen well is the best. It’s a great way to know who your real friends are. If you get challenged critically, judged or stone-walled, move on to new friends or a therapist who can provide an opportunity for personal growth and development. This break-up just might turn out to be a blessing in disguise. You may not see it now, but in time, as you look back you will realize that it was for the best. One of my favorite sayings, is “If God doesn’t open the door, stop banging on it! What’s behind was not meant for you!”
#4. Exercise! It worked for Forest Gump and it will work for you. Bike, run, walk, work out, swim or participate in a sport. Exercising is like exorcising. Revving up those endomorphins is a great release to rid you of bad feelings. Masturbation is not a bad idea either! You’ll meet a better class of people!
#5. Spend some quality time with your girlfriends. In the end, you’ll discover they matter the most anyway. Boyfriends come and go; husbands do the same; kids grow up and start their own lives, but girlfriends are forever. Furthermore, no one understands a chick’s pain better than another chick. Maybe you’ll have to pay for your own dinner, but the nurturing, empathy, understanding, support and friendship is well worth it. Dudes simply don’t have the programming in their brains to do what your girlfriends can do. A champion fight or basketball game will take precedent over a“let’s talk” every time.
#6. Pamper yourself. Get a massage; change your hair color or style, sign up for a spa day, relax! Nothing works like treating yourself like a princess.
#7 Check out some dating sites. See what’s out on the market. Most therapists would agree that spending alone time for a while is the best medicine, but nothing works better for enhancing self esteem than finding a dude who thinks you’re gorgeous and wants to get into yours pants. Remember, you are vulnerable, so you don’t want to put all your emotional eggs in a new basket, but it sure feels good to know that there’s a dude with a hard on just waiting for a response from you. One word of advice: Don’t let hot sex replace a good solid healthy adult relationship. Too often women make the mistake of confusing sex with love once they go between the sheets. If you have this problem, be aware. Chicks tend to project what they want to see on a dude when it’s not really who they are. So beware!
In reality, there really is no quick fix to get over a broken heart. Time, talking out your feelings, and having faith that things happen the way they are meant to be, are your best resources. Learning to let go, forgiving your dude and most of all, forgiving yourself for anything you might blame yourself for. Never look back with regrets. Shit happens, we go on to something that may be better than what we lost and we hold our heads high with dignity and the knowledge that we are too good to feel this bad!
When I went through a heartfelt break-up, it was my inner adult voice that I kept hearing. She spoke to me like a Wise Old Women residing in my soul. I know this archetypal energy exists in all of us. It was she who told me to write. So writing became my release, my nocturnal companion. It was writing that nurtured my wounds and discharged my pain. When my last lover chose to close the door to what I thought would be my last chance at love, I took to writing to a book. Still in process, it gives me a vehicle to let go and accept what I thought would be impossible.
Whether you write, paint, play an instrument, sing, dance or act, find your bliss, use it and I promise it will bring you the relief and transformation you yearn for. Trust that you have all the resources within you. Just look inside and give yourself permission to use what you already have. We already know what we don’t know that we already knew!

THE CATASTROPHIC COST OF CODEPENDENCY – Joan Childs, LCSW

 

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DEFINING TERMS

Codependency has been around since time memoriam. In the early 19th century Rabbi Mendel was quoted saying, “If I am because I am I, and you are you because you are you, then I am I and you are you. But, if I am I because you are you, and you are you because I am I, then I am not I and you are not you”. ~ R’Mendel of Kotzk. (Buber, 2002)

We finally gave it a name sometime back in the 80’s when Melodie Beattie wrote a book called Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself (Beattie, 1986) Since then others have attempted to define it (Morgan, 1991). The syndrome was originally coined and named when she was working at Hanley Hazelton with recovering addicts and alcoholics. She identified the significant others to the addicts as co-dependent, implying that the addict was addicted to a substance, but the significant other was addicted to the addict. Hence the concept now had an official title.

A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

The birth of “codependency” traveled many roads since that time. It became infiltrated into the psyche of individuals who did not feel whole without another. Many people could not connect to themself. They needed another to survive and were now the recipients of receiving the title of being “codependent”. As the years passed, the word became part of our everyday vernacular. We would hear things like, “She is so codependent”, or” they are so codependent on each other. They don’t know where one ends and the other begins.” It seems that eventually everyone was codependent to a greater or lesser degree. It’s the greater degree that defines the syndrome. Everyone needs someone. What we know about neuro-biology is that the brain is the only organ in the body that needs another brain to be regulated. (Tatkin, Stan PsyD.MFT Wired for Love (2011) New Harbinger Publishing Co.) Martin Buber, the famous Jewish philosopher tells us that we are hard wired for connection; that when we disconnect, we go into crisis.

DEPENDENCY IN OUR CULTURE

Our culture has marinated the concept of codependency with songs like, I can’t live, if living is without you, or I’m a little lamb who’s lost in the woods and needs someone to watch over me, or you’re nobody till somebody loves you! I am sure if you reflect on the lyrics of these songs whether you lived in the 50’s or grew up in the 80’s, you will be able to think of several songs that imply the need to have someone in your life to fulfill your needs and make you whole.
Movies like Sleepless in Seattle, Pretty Woman, Jerry Mcquire (Arch, 1993; Lawton, 1990;Crowe, 1996) and so many of the Disney Princess stories we grew up on like Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty , and especially Ariel from The little Mermaid, who changes her species to be with a human (Peralta, 1950; Grimm, 1937;Penner, 1959; Andersen, 1937 ). These stories all reinforce the old belief that “someday my prince will come” and we will live “happily ever after”, implying that we just need to meet the right man who will become our prince, save us and secure our happiness.

MEN AND WOMEN
The truth is that codependency features both men and women in real life who play out those Disney roles very well. There are men who seek out damsels in distress in order to feel self worth and there are women who always seem to need rescuing. They invariably find each other. It is true that “people need people” as Barbra Streisand belts out, however when it becomes excessive and you lose yourself in another, then it is defined as pathology.
It has been discovered when working with addicts that after the behavior was modified, the disease of the disease emerged: codependency. It seemed that every recovering addict exhibited codependent behaviors that were acted out and covered up with some sort of addiction. The basis of this disease was childhood neglect, abandonment or abuse. Somewhere in the family of origin there was a disconnect, thus a crisis that led many to self medicate. This was accomplished either by choosing a substance, behavior or person as their drug of choice. Many were cross-addicted.
Once uncovered and discovered, recovery was possible. Growing up in dysfunctional families where a child could not have his/her feelings, or there were “no talk” rules and family secrets, children were rendered powerless over the behaviors and control of their parents. The child had to adapt in order to survive. In the process of adaptation, the child creates a false self or an “adapted self” to survive. When this occurs, the authentic self-retreats and a survival mode is installed. The child becomes hyper-vigilant because there is little or no predictability in the family dynamics. Living in a state of hyper-vigilance causes further separation from the true self. As the child continues to grow and develop he/she seeks pleasure as a way of avoiding the chronic state of tension and fear that so often accompanies this state. The longer this goes on, the more separation from the true self occurs. This is systemic so everyone in the family has to adapt to live in the system. It’s a system that creates “crazy making” and ensures codependency!
As the child grows into maturation, the false self matures along leaving the authentic self further behind creating the expression, “the lost or wounded child.” This separation between the two selves creates turmoil, stress and an intra-personal disconnect. One literally loses oneself. Human beings forge towards pleasure and retreat from pain. By the time the child is grown he/she needs to find ways to manage these negative feelings. That’s when addiction is born.
Addiction is a way of managing feelings. The drug of choice can be different in each individual. Some will use a substance to manage their feelings; others gambling, sex, love, eating disorders, work, shopping, excessive exercise and so on. The content is irrelevant. It’s the structure that matters. Whatever the drug of choice, addiction is addiction. It’s simply something you can’t stop! In more psychological terminology, addiction is a pathological relationship with a substance, behavior or person that has mood altering effects and life threatening consequences.
THE COST
So what’s the cost of codependency? It’s not only substances that kill. Codependency may be a killer too. When you make choices out of a need to please or not to rock the boat, you may be putting your own life at risk, both emotionally and physically. The price of nice can be the demise of one’s own life. One of the best illustrations I can offer you is what happened to me when I put other’s wishes and interests before my own, so not to disappoint them. I’ll present a case study depicting how it nearly cost a life.
A CASE STUDY: LOST AT SEA
This story takes place in Cancun when Joan was not yet forty years old. Her husband, George an architect was designing a property for a developer. The developer was an experienced diver who had previously been an oceanographer. Neither she nor her husband had ever dived. They traveled to Cancun frequently and were invited to dive with both the developer and his partner. Joan suggested to take diving instructions and become certified before venturing into the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico where Frederick, the developer would often go diving.
Upon completing the certification, the couple joined the others on dives. On one particular day when the men wanted to go out, Joan assessed the weather and water and saw that the conditions were everything they were taught not to go diving in. The swells were too high, the water was murky and the wind was rapidly rising. When Joan refused to join them, she was shamed and judged for “spoiling their good time”. “Don’t be a party pooper, Frederick said in a disparaging tone. “Come on, it will be fine”, said the partner, Miguel although admittedly anxious about the conditions as well. “Don’t worry. They know what they’re doing.” George said with confidence. So as not to displease them and be the “good girl”, Joan subjugated her own feelings and will, and capitulated to their wishes, intuitively knowing that she was making a poor choice, but reluctantly followed along with them.
The water was too choppy to jump backwards off the boat as was usual and customary, so they went down an anchor line. Joan was last to go down the line and by the time she found her way down, she could not see anything except the flippers on Miguel. Her husband George and Frederick were nowhere in sight. So her only option was to follow the flippers on Miguel’s feet. After about half an hour, unable to see anything of interest, she signaled to Miguel to surface. When they rose to the top there was no sound or sight of the boat. They were in twelve feet swells struggling to spit out the water that rushed into their mouths. Miguel swiftly handed Joan the end of his spear so they would not get separated. They doggie paddled for more than an hour until she began to feel weak.
Joan knew she was in trouble so she suggested that they dive to the bottom together, where they had learned from the diving instructor that the first foot of water from the bottom of the ocean floor had no current. Miguel tried to convince her that they would be found, but she knew differently. They had been in a current that brought them from where they first began, close to four or five miles out to sea. They were now literally between Cancun and Isle Mujeres. She could see the coast of Cancun. Learning that they should never dive without a buddy, she chose to drop her diving gear except for her goggles, BC (buoyancy compensator), snorkel and her flippers. She began swimming diagonally as had been taught by her diving instructor in case of such an incident, back to Cancun, leaving Miguel behind as was his choice.
Joan swam exchanging positions from back to front for five and one half hours while encountering a school of barracuda, some lemon sharks and a few stingrays until the boat, making its last round to search for them, finally picked her up. She was exhausted, fearful but mostly enraged that she allowed herself to join them on this dangerous expedition against her own better judgment. She had given up her own sense and sensibilities to accommodate and please the others. This was a hard lesson for her to learn, but one that she has never forgotten. It became transformational in her behavior. Hard lessons are often necessary for change to occur.
Yes, they found Miguel; only God knows how. Codependency can be catastrophic. Codependency can kill!

 

Come On Baby, Light My Fire!

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The proverbial question that keeps popping up is “How can I keep the passion in my relationship? The answer is simple: You can’t. Love changes as time moves on, so relax. That doesn’t mean that love has ended. It only means that it has entered a new phase. Love can actually grow in other ways that produce the chemical called Oxytocin, instead of that original Dopamine high that took your breath away in the beginning of your relationship. Oxytocin can provide the warm fuzzies and the feelings of caring that come after the honeymoon stage. This is the stage where “after the lovin’” happens. If understood and appreciated, your relationship can take on new feelings that are very satisfying.

There’s a dip that occurs in all long term relationships because we were tricked by nature. Nature meant for us to make more of us, so when we no longer need babies, the fire that once prompted that outcome, tends to diminish over time. So we need to trick ourselves into other ways of keeping the passion. Creating romance by using your imagination, fantasies and communication can foster those old feelings.

What we know is that relationships grow and evolve as we do. Too often people can grow apart. It’s the second stage of the relationship that becomes the most vulnerable, sometime after the honeymoon is over. This is the time when the boundaries bounce back up and each person has to learn how to negotiate the differences. This is the time that most divorces occur. It’s not too unlike the second stage of development in life: “the terrible twos.” The idea is to grow together, closer and stronger. You may have many partners, husbands and wives in the same relationship as time moves on; each better and more mature than the one before. Relationships tend to deepen in intimacy as time passes; not too unlike wine. Time can either create richer, more fulfilling, and meaningful relationships if the time spent with one another, nourishes the soul of each other, or it can become fermented and spoiled over time if it is left unattended. It is our responsibility to see that we nurture and tend to our relationship as one would a vineyard or a garden. We need to learn the language of our partner, see him/her with a new set of warm eyes beneath their survival self. Underneath each of our survival selves lives the authentic self and when two people are in their essence, time is eternal. Only then are we able to see the other for who they really are and what they really need and want.

So many relationships are unconsciously created as a result of unfinished business with our source relationships; our mothers and fathers. So, unwittingly we search out partners whom we actually hire for the job to attempt to resolve our unresolved childhood issues. They are usually the perfect match. So the patterns learned from childhood get re-enacted with what we think is our “soul mate”, only to discover that the “soul mate” is really a replica of the parent we had the most difficulty with. Unless we have a professional who understands the theory of recapitulation, (repeating the past) and has tools to help couples work through their “stuck” places, there is little or no hope to move the relationship forward to a mature level of intimacy and healthy relational space. It’s the relational space that we live in. It’s the same space that our children play in. So we have an obligation as partners to help clean up that space to make it safe and once again sacred. When this is accomplished, the dopamine levels rise again, but with a new landscape of pleasure that’s better than before. This is when passion transcends into relational maturity. It doesn’t get better than this!

Follow me along with this concept of transforming your relationship from dysfunctional to loving and lasting. I will present seven true stories over the next seven weeks that will give you an opportunity to visit real people with real problems and be a part of their personal recovery and self-actualized relationships.

Oh Where, Oh Where Did My Sexy Self Go? Maggie’s Story

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MAGGIE’S STORY
Maggie: I thought I was going to go crazy. I hated Michael; I hated his voice; I hated his walk; I hated his smell and I hated the way he chewed his food. Everything Michael did was repulsive to me and sex was the last thing I wanted. Worst of all, we were married, had 2 teenagers and had an upside down mortgage. Michael lost his job soon after the recession started and that’s when I lost interest in sex. He was earning a good living as a manager of a major department store. We both thought he had job security since over the years he had moved up in the company to an executive position. The company paid for our health insurance, provided a 401K and gave us a 3 week paid vacation. In addition to his yearly salary, we enjoyed the bonus he received every year as the store’s earning increased yearly and Michael took home a nice chunk of change. The money was appropriated for a vacation, some of it for house improvements and new clothes for the boys. Within seven months Michael lost his job, his bonus that we had already appropriated for our yearly family vacation and we were about to lose all our health benefits. Two years ago we took out a home equity loan to begin the addition onto the house and this year we were building a swimming pool. All our hopes, wishes and dreams were shattered due to the economic crisis. We were the victims of something we never saw coming. My job was still intact. I was a teacher; however, in order to compensate for Michael’s loss of income, I had to take a second job teaching Pilates three evenings a week at a fitness center. Michael became depressed and his depression infiltrated our relationship. It felt like a malignancy that was gripping us. I became angry and my anger exacerbated his depression and impacted our marriage. We were a mess!
My best friend, Phyllis, a therapist, coached me into counseling. She suggested someone she thought could be helpful and who would understand my feelings. Phyllis felt a professional was exactly what I needed and she couldn’t counsel me due to our friendship. Thank God for girlfriends! I made an appointment and, with more reluctance than hope, I went to my first session. I didn’t know what to expect. The problem seemed so obvious to me that paying money for professional help was irrational and not necessary. Anyone with half a brain could figure out why I was so angry. Not so. Being clueless to the therapeutic process, I thought after he heard my lamenting over our economic crisis, he would say something like, “Save your money, use it to pay down your credit card debt and as soon as Michael finds a job, you will be back to normal.” It was nothing like that. That was the furthest thing from what he presented to me.
Sam, my therapist asked me some questions about myself, my parents, siblings, school, etc. I suppose that’s what they all do on the first session; gather information. Then towards the end of that session he asked what I wanted to achieve from the therapy. “To get my sexy self back in this marriage and feel good about Michael”, I responded without hesitation.
“Good. That’s a positive goal. It’s going to take some time and patience, but, in the end, the results will be worth it.”
In the second session, Sam explored some more of my history. When he asked about the relationship between my parents and how they resolved conflicts, I went back to the same old movie. I heard my mother’s hostile words charging across to my father who stayed silent until he could no longer bear her shrills. Although I had forgotten most of the content, I couldn’t forget her face squinting up revealing her scowl lines between her eyes and ropes emerging from her neck. In that moment I disappeared and morphed into a little girl feeling helpless and scared. I never really understood why she was angry, except that seemed to be her general state as I gazed back thru my rear view mirror in my mind.
“My mother was always angry”, I said in almost a whisper. “ Dad had lost his job. I don’t remember why. It was something about a merger, now that I’m thinking about it. I remember he was out of work for a long time after the company he worked for merged with a company that bought them out. My father had been with them since before I was born. Then without warning, his job was gone, probably replaced by the new company’s staff. “ I went silent for a few moments. I stared into the past. Sam said nothing. He just looked at me as if there was a moment of insight between us. Then I remembered my grandmother, (my mother’s mother) telling me how bad it was when she was married. They went through the Great Depression and had to stand in long lines just to buy bread. She told me stories about the depression that made me feel so sorry for them and so scared that it might happen again. I felt like the movie in my head was giving me hints as to why I was so bitter towards Michael. My unconscious fear had become my rage. It all came to a crashing epiphany. I had carried that nightmare for two generations holding on to both my mother’s and my grandmother’s history shrouded in fear, anger and despair. When Michael lost his job, it triggered my fear and all my family’s history was brought into my present relationship. Michael was the recipient of the collective unconscious of my mother and my grandmother’s history. That was just the beginning of my treatment. Now he had to help me heal those wounds of childhood.
Sam used many different techniques in treatment that allowed me to confront my history and how I felt when I was little and too helpless and innocent to fully understand what was going on. I was only a container for the feelings I heard expressed. Sam had to somehow desensitize my past to liberate my present. His tools were designed more for experiential work by going into my feelings, leaving the cognitive stuff for later. He used methods that were foreign to my friends who had been in therapy. He called it experiential psychotherapy. I didn’t care what he called it, only that it helped me.
In a few months I noticed my behavior changing towards Michael and I felt the tension leaving my body like a ghost. The knot that was living inside my gut left with it. I felt that I had broken the ties with my past and could be free to live my own life. When I looked at Michael, I saw the man I married; not my father or grandfather who so vehemently disappointed my mother and grandmother. I became un-enmeshed from my history. I could now be more patient and supportive to Michael while he was going though this rough patch.
With the therapy and giving back the shame to the people who gave it to me, I learned to accept my situation and trust that Michael would work again, and our family would be OK. I learned that life can sometimes throw some curve balls. So, we have to be ready when they come flying out of left field. But, you can’t get to second base if you have one foot on first.