Emotionally Immature Parents

In Lindsay C. Gibson‘s 2015 book Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents, four types of difficult parents are identified:

▪ The emotional parent instills feelings of instability and anxiety
▪ The driven parent stays busy trying to perfect everything and everyone
▪ The passive parent avoids dealing with anything upsetting
▪ The rejecting parent is withdrawn, dismissive, and derogatory

These parents create a childhood atmosphere of emotional neglect. In a family headed by distant or self-absorbed parents, the most sensitive and perceptive child often takes on the family role of attending to other people’s problems and needs. These children prematurely adopt adult sensibilities that can inhibit their natural childhood spontaneity. They also experience emotional loneliness and secretly feel unworthy of asking for attention. As adults, they continue to neglect the needs and instincts of the true self. They feel guiltily obliged to pay close attention to others, but find little coming back to them. This leads to psychological exhaustion because they end up doing most of the emotional work in their relationships.

Below are some signs of emotional immaturity:

When things go wrong, it is always someone else’s fault. One of the easiest ways to spot emotional immaturity is finger pointing. People who are emotionally immature rarely assume accountability for problems in their lives. It is always everyone else’s fault. They refuse to see things from someone else’s point of view or own up to their role in things.

Emotionally immature people are highly sensitive to things done to them, but are blind to the things they do to others. More than likely, they often feel persecuted by any behavior they deem as unfair or insensitive. Unfortunately, their perceptions are often skewed and inaccurate.

Emotionally immature people are victims. They refuse to see how their poor choices often lead to consequences. As victims, they will often greatly distort reality, omitting certain things that happened or take words out of context. They often seek drama because drama allows them to reinforce their victim role and to seek revenge over things that did not play out as they had hoped.

Relationships are often short lived. For the emotionally immature, it is challenging to maintain relationships of any substance. Compromise is almost impossible for the emotionally immature. They will cut off ties with people who will not give into them all of the time. Or, people will distance themselves from the emotionally immature, as they quickly become overwhelmed with their unreasonable demands.

As you can see, emotionally immature parents can create various types of dysfunction in relationships both when we are children and as we move toward adulthood. While emotionally immature parents can cause us to feel a variety of emotions such as neglect, blame and guilt it’s important for you to discover ways to heal from the pain and confusion caused by your childhood.

By freeing yourself from your parents’ emotional immaturity, you can recover your true nature, control how you react to them, and avoid disappointment. You’ll also learn how to create positive, new relationships so you can build a better life. If we can help you on this journey, please feel free to reach out and contact us.

 

 

Questions to Ask Before Starting Couples Counseling

Couples counseling. Marriage therapy

Couples counseling can be the most rewarding and yet most challenging thing two partners can agree to engage in. Unfortunately, the decision to seek couples counseling often comes at a point of crisis when one, or both, partners feel that they have reached a point where they are questioning their commitment to the relationship and to each other.

While couples counseling can certainly be beneficial in times of difficulty, it tends to work best when couples find themselves at a point where they feel they need a deeper connection, or better methods of communicating with each other.

In either instance, if couples counseling is to be successful, it’s important to ask yourselves the following questions prior to reaching out to a therapist for help with the issues and problems you are struggling with.

1. What Are Your Expectations of Counseling?
Ask your partner what he or she expects from couples counseling. If your partner goes into counseling with the same hopes of saving the relationship that you do, then there is a good chance you can benefit from couples counseling.

2. What Are the Reasons You Want to Work Things Out?
Ask your partner what their reasons and motivations are for making the relationship work. If the responses center around love and commitment, the chances are you can work together to rebuild the relationship. If their response has to do with staying together for the children or the amount of bills you share, you may need to reevaluate the relationship.

3. Are There Any Past Conflicts We Should Resolve?
It’s hard to move forward if there are unresolved conflicts. Not only will the past keep coming up in future arguments, it’s hard to get close to someone if you are still angry about something they did whether it be a few dats ago, or even over the course of months or years. Find out if there are any unresolved issues and unspoken resentments that need to be addressed in counseling.

4. Do you Feel You Can Communicate With Me?
One of the most important aspects of any relationship is communication. If you can’t talk to one another comfortably, you will never be able to work through future problems. Counseling can help you to find new ways to improve communication with one another without judging or getting angry.

5. Do You Feel Accepted?
Find out if your partner feels loved and accepted by you. It’s important to have support, and even more important to gain acceptance from those you love. If your partner is feeling unappreciated, you need to work on finding ways to show your appreciation for them and your relationship.

6. How Do You See the Future?
Question your partner about how he or she views the future. Are you included in their vision, or is your partner more concerned with separate hopes and dreams? If you are still a part of the future, your partner hasn’t completely let go of the relationship.

7. Have We Tried Everything?
If you have made it to couples counseling, chances are you have just started to work on your relationship. One of the most important couples counseling questions you can ask your partner is “have we tried everything?” Focus on the reasons why you fell in love in the first place and discuss ways you feel you both can work toward getting that feeling back.

8. Are We Both Willing to Change In Order to Make Improvements?
Both of you have to be willing to work at the relationship in order to make it work. Before you make the commitment to begin couples counseling it’s important to ask your partner whether he or she is willing to put forth every effort to make things better, as long as you are prepared to do the same.

If you both feel you are ready to move forward and make the commitment to try counseling and begin working on improving your relationship, please reach out and call or email us today to set up an appointment. We are also happy to answer any questions you may have prior to the first session. We can be reached during normal business hours by phone at 913.353.4660. You may also email our office directly at: marriageandfamilytherapycenter@gmail.com.

Anxiety and Relationships

Anxiety and relationships are a tricky combination.  When you already struggle to keep your emotions and fears in check, allowing yourself to be emotionally entangled with and vulnerable to another person can be confusing, overwhelming, and challenging.

Anxious people tend to require a great deal of reassurance, which can be draining to their partners, only adding to the stress of the situation. Those who are able to recognize their irrational or anxious behavior end up blaming themselves for acting out the same patterns over and over again and feeling helpless to stop it.

The National Institute of Mental Health reports that up to 18 percent of adults in the United States live with an anxiety disorder, with up to 23 percent of those cases being classified as “severe.” This makes it one of the most common and treatable mental illnesses, and yet, it’s still misunderstood and stigmatized. 

Anxiety can create states that are so intolerable that we are compelled to take actions that are impulsive and misguided. In relationships, this could mean some sort of acting out that is destructive, quickly jumping to conclusions, or making decisions that will not bring desired results. If you find that your anxiety makes you impulsive in relationships, it can be important to slow down, be still, and think through anything you are doing. If it is simply just to relieve anxiety, try and find a better solution that won’t result in increased problems and stress.

Dealing with anxiety and panic is tiring, even if you are not the one experiencing it. Constantly having to assess whether your partner is comfortable and functioning takes a lot of energy. The basics of adequate sleep, good nutrition, exercise, and pleasurable activities–both with and without your partner–will help you ride the waves of anxiety and panic with your partner (and actually, those suggestions will work for your partner as well!)

Although anxiety can impact a relationship in many different ways, the important thing to remember is that anxiety is a treatable disorder. Treatment often consists of a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and medication. Oftentimes, couples therapy will be a component of treatment so that each partner can work to support each other as they work through the process of better understanding, and recognizing, the impact anxiety has on their relationship.

Anxiety and Relationships

If you, or your partner, struggle with a level of anxiety that is having a negative impact on your relationship, please call us – we can help. 

The Key to Finding Happiness

What is happiness? When asked to define the term, people emphasize different aspects of this elusive state. Some people see happiness as primarily contentment—the inner peace and joy that come from deep satisfaction with one’s surroundings, relationships with others, accomplishments, and oneself. Still others view happiness mainly as pleasurable engagement with their personal environment—having a career and hobbies that are engaging, meaningful, rewarding, and exciting. These differences, of course, are merely differences in emphasis. Most people would probably agree that each of these views, in some respects, captures the essence of happiness.

Surveys show that we are less happy now than we were 30 years ago despite being twice as affluent. And statistics reveal that happiness declines from childhood and reaches an all time low at the age of about 38 before gradually rising again. Apparently, those over the age of 60 are the happiest.

Other studies show that money can buy happiness – when used for the benefit of others.  Generosity, gratitude, compassion, and service all seem to be positively correlated with a deep, lasting wellbeing.

Donating your time instead of your money will also cause you to feel more connected to the organization you’re helping out. This in turn will boost otherwise elusive feelings of contentment and balance that so many of us seek. In other words, if you’re looking to get happy, stop staying late at work just because you think you see something shiny at the top of the ladder: Go out and donate your time to an organization that matters to you.

Although wealth and material possessions are nice to have, the notion of flow suggests that neither are prerequisites for a happy and fulfilling life. Flow is considered a pleasurable experience, and it typically occurs when people are engaged in challenging activities that require skills and knowledge they know they possess. For example, people would be more likely report flow experiences in relation to their interests or hobbies. Finding an activity that you are truly enthusiastic about, something so absorbing that doing it is reward itself (whether it be playing tennis, building something with your own hands, writing a children’s book, or learning how to throw pottery) is perhaps the real key.

When you consider these suggestions, you quickly realize that seeking happiness isn’t selfish.   We are individuals with individual needs and individual wants who must have physical/mental room to provide movement to grow and learn new things about the world and ourselves.  Life is filled with the need for contact and understanding as well as growth and change. When we are authentic, happy and fulfilled individuals, we are far better for the people around us and for our community at large. We are better parents, better partners, better bosses, co-workers and friends.

Happiness in life

It’s not always easy to take action, it can be scary and hard and difficult. But if you don’t take action you’ll be missing out on moments of personal growth. Including many moments, people and experiences that can bring you a lot of happiness.

Grief and a Loss – How to Cope

Grief is a natural response to losing someone or something that’s important to you. You may feel a variety of emotions, like sadness or loneliness. And you might experience it for a number of different reasons. Perhaps a loved one has died, a relationship ended, or you lost your job. Other life changes, like chronic illness or a move to a new home, can also lead to grief.

Grieving is a highly individual experience; there’s no right or wrong way to grieve. How you grieve depends on many factors, including your personality and coping style, your life experience, your faith, and how significant the loss was to you.

Inevitably, the grieving process takes time. Healing happens gradually; it can’t be forced or hurried—and there is no “normal” timetable for grieving. Some people start to feel better in weeks or months. For others, the grieving process is measured in years. Whatever your grief experience, it’s important to be patient with yourself and allow the process to naturally unfold.

While loss affects people in different ways, many of us experience the following symptoms when we’re grieving. Just remember that almost anything that you experience in the early stages of grief is normal—including feeling like you’re going crazy, feeling like you’re in a bad dream, or questioning your religious or spiritual beliefs.

Shock and disbelief – Right after a loss, it can be hard to accept what happened. You may feel numb, have trouble believing that the loss really happened, or even deny the truth. If someone you love has died, you may keep expecting them to show up, even though you know they’re gone.

Sadness – Profound sadness is probably the most universally experienced symptom of grief. You may have feelings of emptiness, despair, yearning, or deep loneliness. You may also cry a lot or feel emotionally unstable.

Guilt – You may regret or feel guilty about things you did or didn’t say or do. You may also feel guilty about certain feelings (e.g. feeling relieved when the person died after a long, difficult illness). After a death, you may even feel guilty for not doing something to prevent the death, even if there was nothing more you could have done.

Anger – Even if the loss was nobody’s fault, you may feel angry and resentful. If you lost a loved one, you may be angry with yourself, God, the doctors, or even the person who died for abandoning you. You may feel the need to blame someone for the injustice that was done to you.

Fear – A significant loss can trigger a host of worries and fears. You may feel anxious, helpless, or insecure. You may even have panic attacks. The death of a loved one can trigger fears about your own mortality, of facing life without that person, or the responsibilities you now face alone.

Physical symptoms – We often think of grief as a strictly emotional process, but grief often involves physical problems, including fatigue, nausea, lowered immunity, weight loss or weight gain, aches and pains, and insomnia.

Sometimes the feelings of grief linger and it becomes difficult to move past your feelings of sadness. Distinguishing between grief and clinical depression isn’t always easy as they share many symptoms, but there are ways to tell the difference. Remember, grief can be a roller coaster. It involves a wide variety of emotions and a mix of good and bad days. Even when you’re in the middle of the grieving process, you will still have moments of pleasure or happiness. With depression, on the other hand, the feelings of emptiness and despair are constant.

Other symptoms that suggest depression, not just grief, include:

Intense, pervasive sense of guilt
Thoughts of suicide or a preoccupation with dying
Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
Inability to function at work, home, and/or school

If you find that you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it might be time to reach out for help from a professional therapist or grief support group. Here are some national resources, but you might also search for resources that are available in your area.

 
Compassionate Friends – National, self-help organization for those grieving the loss of a child. Includes a Chapter Locator for finding support in the U.S. and International Support for finding help in other countries. (The Compassionate Friends)

 

GriefNet.org – Online support community for people dealing with grief, death, and major loss, with over fifty monitored support groups for both kids and adults. (GriefNet.org)

What Makes A Happy Life?

The pursuit of happiness is often stressed as a goal that many people should strive to achieve in their lifetime. While happiness has been the focus of several research studies and hundreds of books, there are two other important factors that appear to also relate to the topic happiness- purpose and meaning. While general happiness may be the focus of our efforts, without two of our most central motivations in life, purpose and meaning, happiness may often feel unobtainable, or even empty.

Nearly a quarter of Americans feel neutral or do not have a strong sense of what makes their lives meaningful. Research has shown that having purpose and meaning in life increases overall well-being and life satisfaction, improves mental and physical health, enhances resiliency, enhances self-esteem, and decreases the chances of depression.

 

In a study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, Jennifer Aaker of Stanford Graduate School of Business, along with colleagues, found answers about life in how people spend their time and what experiences they cultivate.

 

The researchers surveyed 397 people over a month-long period, examining whether people thought their lives had purpose and were meaningful or happy, as well as their choices, beliefs and values. They found five key differences between meaningfulness, purpose and happiness:

 

Getting what you want and need: While satisfying desires was a reliable source of happiness, it had nothing to do with a sense of meaning or purpose. For example, healthy people are happier than sick people, but the lives of sick people do not lack meaning or purpose.

Past, present and future: Happiness is about the present, and meaning and purpose are about linking the past, present and future. When people spend time thinking about the future or past, the more meaningful, and less happy, their lives become. On the other hand, if people think about the here and now, they are happier.

Social life: Connections to other people are important both for an added sense of purpose and deeper meaning and happiness. But the nature of those relationships is how they differ. Deep relationships – such as family – increase meaning and purpose, while spending time with friends may increase happiness but had little effect on meaning or purpose. Time with loved ones involves hashing out problems or challenges, while time with friends may simply foster good feelings without much responsibility.

Struggles and stresses: Highly meaningful lives encounter lots of negative events and issues, which can result in unhappiness. Raising children can be joyful but it is also connected to high stress – thus meaningfulness and purpose– and not always happiness. While the lack of stress may make one happier – like when people retire and no longer have the pressure of work demands – meaningfulness drops.

Self and personal identity: If happiness is about getting what you want, then meaningfulness is about expressing and defining yourself. A life of meaning is more deeply tied to a valued sense of self and one’s purpose in the larger context of life and community.

 

Leading a meaningful and purpose driven life is not beyond reach, but it does take effort. When you set the intention to find and live your life’s unique purpose, you will begin to find that your life truly is full of great meaning and ultimately that will lead to a deep sense of happiness. The key is to not focus on the end result, but to build and savor moments and experiences that add to your overall sense of purpose and meaning.

What is the Difference Between an Anxiety and a Panic Attack?

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We all become anxious or nervous from time to time–when preparing for an important meeting with a boss, speaking in front of a large group, or going through a challenging life transition. For some people, overwhelming thoughts and behaviors become so frequent and forceful that they begin to overtake their lives.

So, how do you tell if your everyday anxiety has crossed the line or maybe even developed into a panic disorder? The differences between panic and anxiety are best described in terms of the intense symptoms and length of time the predominant symptoms occur.

Panic Attack

A Panic attack typically doesn’t come in reaction to a stressor. It’s unprovoked and unpredictable. And during a panic attack the individual is seized with terror, fear, or apprehension. They may feel that they’re going to die, or lose control or have a heart attack. These symptoms usually occur “out of the blue,” peak within 10 minutes and then subside.

 
During a panic attack, the symptoms are sudden and extremely intense. They have a host of physical symptoms which may include chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea. And in addition to these terrifying panic attacks, people start worrying about having the next one. Additionally, some attacks may last longer or may occur in succession, making it difficult to determine when one attack ends and another begins.

There’s also a lot of what’s called anticipatory anxiety. So, following an attack, it is not unusual to feel stressed, worried, out-of-sorts, or “keyed up” the remainder of the day.

 
Anxiety Attack

While some of the symptoms of an anxiety arrack are similar to many of the symptoms associated with panic attacks, they are generally less intense. During an anxiety attack, people may feel fearful, apprehensive, may feel their heart racing or feel short of breath, but it’s very short lived, and when the stressor goes away, so does the anxiety attack. Anxiety is highly correlated to excessive worry. Another important distinction is that, unlike a panic attack, the symptoms of anxiety may be persistent and very long-lasting — days, weeks or even months.

Treatment

Anxiety and panic disorder treatment may involve therapy or medication or a combination of both. Lifestyle modifications such as avoidance of alcohol, nicotine or caffeine, being aware of anxiety levels to avoid panic attacks, proper control of feelings and relaxation techniques ( breathing, meditation, Yoga) will help to cope up with anxiety and mild panic attacks whereas severe recurrent episodes will be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy with or without drugs like anti-depressants or Benzodiazepines.

 
The good news is that with time and patience, up to 90 percent of people who obtain proper care from a mental health professional will recover and live full and productive lives.

The Benefits of Meditation

The practice of meditation has been around for thousands of years. Recent studies show meditation and mindfulness can have a positive impact on stress, anxiety, focus, creativity and even relationships.

 

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The psychological benefits of meditation are wide ranging: heightened creativity, decreased stress and anxiety, decreased irritability, improved memory and even increased happiness and emotional stability. Regular meditation can also help you to be a better problem solver, with a more focused mind, leading to greater overall productivity. In addition, psychologically speaking, meditation can increase awareness, while making self-actualization more probable, help with mood swings, boost confidence, increase self-acceptance & empathy.

Investigators from the Benson-Henry Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital found that practicing meditation causes what is called the “relaxation response,” the opposite of the “fight-or-flight” response—what happens to our bodies when we get stressed. Their studies showed that the relaxation response alleviates anxiety and also has positive effects on heart rate, blood pressure, and brain activity.

Perhaps one of the most fascinating studies published on meditation is one from several years ago — but one that is good to keep in mind if you’re interested in mental health and brain plasticity. The study, led by Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), found that meditating for only 8 weeks actually significantly changed the brain’s grey matter — a major part of the central nervous system that is associated with processing information, as well as providing nutrients and energy to neurons. This is why, the authors believe, that meditation has shown evidence in improving memory, empathy, sense of self, and stress relief.

Another recent study examining the health benefits of positive thinking found that mindfulness exercises like meditation or yoga actually changed the length of telomeres in breast cancer patients — which works to prevent chromosomes from declining. And in the past, researchers have found that people who practiced meditation actually had different brain structures than people who didn’t.

As you can see, when you meditate you build up your psychological resilience, giving you greater and greater ability to weather mental and emotional storms as they pass through, with the effects compounding and enabling you to calmly pass through ever greater issues.

If you would like to have some assistance as you begin the practice of meditation, the following apps might prove helpful to get you started:

Calm
Simply Being
Stop, Breathe and Think

After the Affair – What Happens Now?

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It’s a staggering statistic: more than 50% of all spouses are victims of infidelity, which means that one spouse in more than half of all marriages will suffer the greatest marital pain possible at some time during their lifetimes.

Affairs usually begin with an attraction to someone you know fairly well, someone you spend time with each week — your friends or co-workers. Contrary to what you may think, adultery is not merely about sex. In fact, sex is often a bonus to the affair. People cheat for varying reasons, but the most common reasons- probably the vast majority of reasons people have an affair is for emotional connectedness, the feeling of being wanted, needed, understood, important, and heard. They are feelings that are deeply lacking in the current relationship, which cause the cheater to obtain them elsewhere. The unloved and misunderstood wife, or the controlled and endlessly criticized husband- two very common stereotypes that are vulnerable to straying. To those on the receiving end however, adultery is a selfish betrayal of trust that brings with it devastating consequences.

 
Whether a marriage survives an affair depends on how healthy the marriage was to begin with, how long the affair lasted and the manner in which it was discovered. Research has shown that the couples who have a real chance of making it are the ones who are committed because they really want to be with each other, not because of the kids or because they feel obligated.

The first step is to talk about what happened. It’s important to ask and get an answer to any and all questions. More and more marriage experts agree that couples heal better after an affair if the adulterous spouse supplies all of the information requested by his or her betrayed partner. In one study of 1,083 betrayed husbands and wives, those whose spouses were the most honest felt better emotionally and reconciled more completely, reports affairs expert Peggy Vaughan, author of The Monogamy Myth: A Personal Handbook for Recovering from Affairs, who developed the international Beyond Affairs Network. “I’ve talked with plenty of people who say with pride that they never talked about the affair,” she says. “That’s not healing. You need to reach the point where you can talk about it without pain. If you never, ever discuss it, you cannot recover.

Understand also that although you must turn towards one another to heal if you want to be together, not turn away – you are each dealing with VERY different emotional experiences. While you each need to look within to your authentic desires and longings in your new world – you are likely feeling very different constellations of emotion, grief and pain. Betrayal can be felt as a deep trauma. Shame and guilt can feel paralyzing.

 
Here are some tips for navigating the flood of emotions that both of you may be dealing with:

1. Give yourself permission to feel. Don’t fight the emotions that you experience, try to identify them, understand them and respect that they are normal.

2. Make room in your mind for feelings. Sometimes people are so busy with day-to-day activities that they really don’t have a chance to reflect on where they are emotionally. It’s good from time to time to clear your head of clutter: physical exercise, prayer or meditation or a simple walk in the woods can help.

3. Don’t dwell. If you continue to get stuck, then something as simple as journaling or talking to a friend can help. If the negativity is unshakable, then it may be time to get professional help.

4. Just as was mentioned earlier, it’s important to talk to your spouse – you may not be able to move forward until you can have meaningful discussions together about what you are going through. If your connection grows after the affair, you may feel comfortable speaking up. If the relationship is still tenuous though, you should not give up on having a heart-to-heart. The best way to get started is to tell your spouse that you want to talk about how you feel, but you only want him or her to listen.

Strong emotions are your mind’s way of letting you know that something outside of the ordinary is happening. You wish the affair had never happened in the first place, but understanding, accepting and processing your feelings will bring you closer to healing. It’s also important to process these feelings with a neutral third party and that’s where counseling can help. Infidelity is not something that occurs in a vacuum. Therapy address the issues already in the marriage that led up to the affair.

By the time infidelity occurs, there are many deep issues that have already been present for some time, and in order for healing to come, these issues must be addressed. Adultery is the culmination of a long trail of unresolved underlying issues; and while it is a serious problem in a relationship, it is not the root problem. Nor does it have to be the end of the relationship. If the couple wants to work through the hurt and betrayal, counseling focuses on communication skills, rebuilding trust, and developing goals for the future to direct the couple providing hope for the future and restored love and intimacy in the marriage.