Wrirtten by: Andrea Fry
The Meadows, Primary Therapist
Valentine’s Day is a perfect opportunity for people with a tendency to define their self-worth through relationships to confront and to lean into their fears by practicing good self-care. Recognize: “Hey, I’m freaking out and this tells me I still have work to do around relationships.” Realize you might be placing too much value on finding happiness outside yourself.
If we need someone else to give our lives meaning, we run the risk of accepting some pretty bad behavior from others. We’re going to convince ourselves that being in a relationship is more important than having a healthy relationship with ourselves. As a result, our ability to set limits on unacceptable behavior may be compromised.
It’s important to recognize that fantasy is intentionally employed by retailers to market and promote Valentine’s Day. Advertisements and store windows are intended to fuel the fantasy frenzy. Even if we do have a loving partner, we may have unrealistic expectations. That’s why it’s so important to toss out the fantasy piece.
Are you expecting a diamond ring like the one in the Tiffany ad? Do you expect a major shift in your relationship because it’s February 14th? Are you set on your partner making reservations at the most expensive restaurant in town? Setting yourself up for disappointment can spoil an otherwise lovely evening whether or not you’re with a partner. Putting too much pressure on yourself and your partner can tarnish special moments any time of year.
If being without a partner this Valentine’s Day is getting you down, ask yourself what next steps you can take in the way of self-care. What does that wounded and abandoned part of you need to feel whole? What do you need from someone else? Consider filling that void yourself. Do you want to be nurtured? Treat yourself to a massage or buy yourself some pretty flowers. Are you craving attention? Become aware of your thoughts and pull out your affirmations. Say them aloud. Keep a journal or go to a sacred place to meditate. Connect with any aspect of Valentine’s Day that can help you move forward with your self-care. Think about the kind of relationship you want – and deserve!
We tend to attract people at similar levels to where we are at any given stage in our lives. If you’re in high-intensity, drama mode, you’re likely to attract the same. If you’re constantly jealous because your partner doesn’t give you round-the-clock attention, you’re probably going to be in fight mode more often than not. Partners who stay in volatile relationships obviously have their own issues because healthy people don’t tolerate constant bickering. When you’re healthy, you’re likely to attract the same.
Valentine’s Day can be about spending time with friends; engaging in creative endeavors; or it can be a time of introspection to figure out the kind of person you want as a partner. It can also be about paying tribute to the most important relationship you’ll ever have – the relationship with yourself!
The Meadows is an industry leader and the most trusted name in treating trauma and addiction through its inpatient and workshop programs. The Meadows helps change lives through the Meadows Model, 12-step practices, and the holistic healing of mind, body, and spirit.
To learn more about The Meadows, visit us here or call (800) 244-4949.
The Meadows Alumni Association is pleased to host an alumni workshop in Houston, Texas, for alumni on August 28, 2012, from 7:00 to 8:30pm. Lori Fiester, LCSW, BRI II, will lead the discussion on “Self Esteem.” It will be held at The Council on Alcohol and Drugs and no registration is required to attend.
Fiester graduated from the University of Texas at El Paso with a Bachelor’s in Social Work. She completed her graduate program at the University of Houston, earning a Master’s in Social Work. Fiester is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Board Registered Interventionist. She has specialized training in Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing(EMDR) and Post Induction Therapy (PIT), to name a few. Her practice in Houston consists of individuals, families, and couples.
The Meadows Wickenburg is an industry leader in treating trauma and addiction through its inpatient and workshop programs. To learn more about The Meadows’ work with trauma and addiction contact an intake coordinator at (866) 856-1279 or visit www.themeadows.com.
For over 35 years, The Meadows has been a leading trauma and addiction treatment center. In that time, they have helped more than 20,000 patients in one of their three inpatient centers and 25,000 attendees in national workshops. The Meadows world-class team of Senior Fellows, Psychiatrists, Therapists and Counselors treat the symptoms of addiction and the underlying issues that cause lifelong patterns of self-destructive behavior. The Meadows, with 24 hour nursing and on-site physicians and psychiatrists, is a Level 1 psychiatric hospital that is accredited by the Joint Commission.
Why would someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger risk everything to have sexual affairs?
I do not know Mr. Schwarzenegger, but I do know that many people are addicted not only to sexual acting-out, but also to the intensity, risk, and adrenaline high that come from "living on the edge." For some addicts, the secrets - and the sense of getting away with bad behavior - are the best part of the high, whether perpetrated on a partner, friend, workplace, family, or "the system."
Sexually compulsive individuals often feel shame at the core of their being. This shame comes from messages they received in their formative years about who they were as people. Often these messages were overt, but more often they were covert. As kids, they lived with expectations... to be the best, save the family, support a parent's emotional needs, make us proud. Such dynamics leave children feeling resentful, as they must perform in order to get attention and feel valuable. They are stripped of their authenticity by demands to meet others' needs and expectations.
This gives children the message that there must be something wrong with them. They come to believe, "I must prove myself in order to have value and worth. I must perform. I must provide. I must bring home trophies, be the leader of the class, be the most popular. No longer is it okay to be just good enough. I must excel; otherwise, I will disappoint. And if I disappoint, I will be emotionally abandoned."
Meeting such goals results in externalized self-esteem. No matter how hard the child tries, it is never enough. There are always more goals and more things to prove - never-ending expectations to meet someone else's needs. These children tend to grow up to be perfectionist overachievers. They are often smart, efficient, successful leaders. They are excellent problem-solvers and winners in the external aspects of their lives. They have financial success, respect, nice families, and loyal circles of friends. They are physically fit and attractive. They tend to be extroverted, fun-loving people who seem to have the world wrapped around a finger.
Yet, over and over again, we see it in the news: the governor, sports figure, movie/television star, preacher, CEO, even the President taking risks, leading secret lives. Each time it happens, we sit back in awe. How could this be? Why would he risk it all?
It doesn't make sense without an understanding of the deep-seated dynamics lying under the external success. Resentment fuels all addictions. In some individuals, resentments fester like an infection, a toxic poison infiltrating all aspects of the addict's life. The only place he feels in control is within his secret life. The rest of life is a seamless yet meaningless existence lived on mind-numbing autopilot. He takes the risks, lives on the edge, has the affair, cheats on his partner, and lies to the camera. He chases the lies until the curtain is pulled back and the truth exposed; in the light of stark reality, the lies are unbelievable even to him. Two worlds collide in what often feels like a death - or what we in the addiction world call "a bottom." The carefully constructed life crumbles.
This is when recovery is possible. The addict comes to a point where the addiction is no longer worth it; he is exhausted and disgusted, and he wants out. At this point, the addict can reach out for help.
Not only does the addict hit bottom, but the family does as well. Maria Shriver, Schwarzenegger's wife of 25 years, also has been in the press. Like all partners, the family system is profoundly devastated. The betrayal leaves spouses and children feeling overwhelmed and lost. The good news is that there is help and support for them as well.
In her book, Maurita Corcoran (recently featured on Dr. Drew Pinsky's show) talks about her 14-year marriage to a sex addict. Learning of others' experiences helps to normalize a partner's experience, as can literature addressing these issues, and 12 Step meetings for partners of sex addicts provide safe places to share common experiences.
Because families and partners who heal together are more likely to survive intact, The Meadows offers a week-long workshop specifically for partners of sex addicts. The workshop clarifies the sexual addiction cycle and provides a place for partners to get answers and express their anger and grief.
Sexual addiction is unique in that it affects people at the core of their being. Sexuality is tied to one's identity, affecting one's sense of safety and trust. When this trust is broken, one's entire world can shatter, leaving shock and dismay. It is important that partners have a place to reach out and feel validated and heard - a place where they, too, can heal.
Shine the Light on What You Want to Grow
'Tis the season for manicured lawns, sprouting gardens and lush flowering trees. The beauty and color of all this new growth is a reminder to shine the light on what you want to grow. The flowers and fruits represent a job well done. In our world, however, it's easy to focus on what we do not want or what we do not have. These are weeds. Weeds grow in our gardens and proliferate without much attention or care. Even the owners of beautiful lawns can be consumed obsessively by removing weeds, insects, and debris and lose sight of the beauty already present.
Much is the same in the gardens of our self-esteem and closest relationships. We often tend more to what is not done, or what does not measure up...the weeds...then nurturing what we want to grow.
To "shine the light on what you want to grow" you must first make a shift to identifying what you do want. Often we focus on goals not met, disappointments, and shortcomings. People compare themselves to others and come up with a laundry list of what they do not have or have not done. To focus where to direct the sunlight of your attention you must first identify what you have done, what you enjoy to do, what brings you pride, pleasure, or personal excitement. Then shine the light on areas of your life where you are already doing this. Next brainstorm where you can do more of this. An example, Sherry, a 47 year-old mother of 3, resents her competitive desk job because she always longed for a more creative career. First, she can innumerate the areas of her career that do give her pride, pleasure and excitement. Next she can identify ways she can or has been creative in this position and brainstorm ways to do more of this. Lastly by keeping track of the frequency she is able to exercise her creative muscles she is relieved to discover her creative self is not lost and has truly been there all along. A flower hidden under overgrowing weeds.
The same philosophy can be used in interpersonal relationships. With our spouses and partners, weeds creep up in the form of what is missing or what is irritating. Relationships once brimming with flowers of pride and excitement for nurturing one another's interests become a breeding ground for weeds in the form of critical comments, resentments, and unsolved problems. To rejuvenate the limp limbs of once vibrant foliage you must shine the light on what you want to grow. Replace comments like "You always put your work ahead of me" (weed) with "I love it when you make reservations at our favorite place, that's very thoughtful." (flower). The shift to focus on the positive creates improvements two-fold. For one it helps the observer to see the positives already present and weigh them more accurately in relationship to the unsightly negative weeds that are likely quite small compared to what really is going on. On the other side, by shining the light on what you want more of you are helping your partner get a sense they can do something right, what they do is meaningful to you, and you help reinforce them to do more of this in the future. Growing more gorgeous flowers. Exponentially.
Likewise parents can use this same rule of thumb with their children. Although parents mean to nurture and grow the lovely flowers of their children's spirit and interests its easy to be distracted by the weeds of day-to-day cohabitation. Parents may say "Why do you always leave your bag on the ground?" or "You two fight more than any other siblings in the whole world." These are weeds. Parents can begin to see the growth of these negatives in place of all other wonderful qualities and behaviors their children demonstrate. Identify what you want your children to do and bite your tongue when you are compelled to make a comment that is sarcastic or negative to your child. Replace comments like "You two never get a long," with "I saw you give your sister your favorite toy without a fight and I really admired that." By punctuating what you want to see your child to do you are giving high quality TLC to a delicate flower rather than causing an infestation of weeds to exacerbate and spread. Your attention is the most valuable nutrient to your child's behavior. By focusing on what you want to see you rather than what you do not want you are helping teach your child appropriate behavior for your household, what expectations are meaningful to you, and valuable life skills for appropriate interactions with others. Most importantly, they will learn that focusing on giving positive feedback to others is a more effective method of interaction and problem solving than resorting to yelling, threats, and temper tantrums. What flower is more important to grow than that?
"Shine the light on what you want to grow" is a wrap from 2007 Oregon Social Learning Center/Implementation Science International, Inc.
Carrie Krawiec, LMFT is a marriage and family therapist at Birmingham Maple Clinic in Troy, MI. Carrie is also executive director of the Michigan Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.
Free Lecture Series - New York City, April 12, 2011
Kim Leatherdale, LPC, ART-BC, NCC will be speaking at The Meadows NY Free Lecture on April 12, 2011 at 7pm. The lecture will be held at The Church of St. Paul the Apostle at 405 West 59th Street, NY, NY. (Cross streets of 59th & 9th Ave). In this lecture, the speaker will show you how working your self esteem and boundaries gives you a road map to the center, and how using this road map will improve both your recovery and relationships. Please contact East Coast Marketing Representative, Judy Smith, at 1-866-633-5533 for more information. No registration required. Hope to see you there!