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Forgiveness- A Helpful and Healing Skill

Many of us have heard the phrase, “Failing to forgive is like taking rat poison and expecting the other person to die.” While we may recognize how damaging unforgiveness is to our own hearts, we do not often make the effort to actually forgive. Why? We may not be ready. There may be safety issues going on that need to be addressed first. We may not truly know how to forgive.

Forgiveness is not always as easy as “1, 2, 3,” but here are some very helpful steps from our “Ready for Love” material* to get on the road to forgiveness and healing:

1) Recognize the need to forgive (or be forgiven).

  • Notice ongoing feelings of resentment or anger.
  • Recognize an action as offensive.

2) Create safety.

  • This involves physical safety, psychological safety, and relational safety.
  • Seek help if you recognize that you do not feel safe. This may include a third party, a cooling-off period, or even physical separation.

3) Fire the attorney in your head.

  • Choose to stop “pleading your case” to yourself so that you can let go of defensiveness and blaming.

4) Talk about what happened.

  • Talk about the event.
  • Talk about your thoughts, feelings, concerns, and desires (what was it like for you?).
  • Receive empathy.
  • Try to see the situation from the others’ perspective.

5) Choose to say, “I’m sorry,” or “I forgive you.”

  • Be deliberate about making the choice to speak those words.
  • Take responsibility for choices you made, then and now.
  • Find or create a support network (friends, family, or faith community).
  • Release negative feelings and move on.

6) Choose to act in loving ways.

  • Stop reminding the offender of the hurt.
  • If the other person is not safe to be around, act in loving ways towards yourself or others not involved.
  • Use a pleasant voice.
  • Seek the good of the other.

Contemporary research shows that forgiveness occurs when people commit to owning and expressing feelings, choose to forgive, and commit to actions of love.  Forgiveness and healing can take TIME, and it can be a process of forgiving and then choosing to continue to forgive. It does not necessarily mean forgetting. It does not mean agreement. It is a choice to let go of the poison.

If you know of situation in which you need help forgiving someone or finding forgiveness, contact our counselors who would love to help you.

 

*Ready for Love is written by Bernard Gurney, Jr., PhD and Mary Ortwein, MS, LMFT. Ready for Love is part of the Relationship Enhancement (r) Series used by IDEALS therapists.

Marriage Like Mayonnaise? Sure!

     Marriage is actually a lot like mayonnaise.  To make mayonnaise, one begins with oil and acid- two substances that don’t naturally mix.  Marriage is similar. It is often the core differences, what one sees in their partner that they don’t see in themselves, that first attracts them to each other and later causes them distress. Regardless of how hard one tries, oil and acid just won’t stay together until just one egg yoke is added.  One egg yoke contains lecithin, a molecule that has one end that can bond with oil and one end that can bond with an acid.
     Now to make mayonnaise, you can’t just break an egg into the oil and acid mix and “shake it like you just don’t care.” You have to whip the egg yoke with part of the acid and then very slowly, even drop by drop, begin to mix in the oil to form an emulsion. Slowly, two things that don’t go together form something stable and all together different from what ether could have done alone.  Yet, the oil and acid haven’t disappeared, haven’t stopped being who they are.  Instead, the lecithin has enabled the two to be suspended together on a microscopic level.
     Being married and living out that commitment is similar. Slowly mixed through the agitations of life, the two become one. What is the “egg yoke” that can make this alchemy possible?  We believe it is a combination of empathy and communication skills.  If your marriage seems to be more like acid and oil not mixing, our counselors would love to help bring some of the emulsifying skills to help support you as you continue to seek a unique, deep relationship.
-Geoff Whiteman, staff therapist

Children and Divorce- A Major Adjustment

We’ve seen the statistics- almost 50% of marriages in America end in divorce. Sometimes divorce is needed for safety reasons, sometimes couples may not know how to communicate to work through differences, and sometimes there may be other issues. No matter the cause, children are affected. There is much evidence pointing to the potential difficulty that divorce can post for children.  Children who experience their parents’ divorce have increased risk of the following:

  • Physical issues such as asthma and headaches
  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Speech problems
  • Developmental issues
  • Dropping out of school
  • Leaving home early
  • Fewer skills and
  • Lower future pay.

Children who experience their parents’ divorce are 4x more likely to have relational issues with friends and peers than children whose parents stayed together. Even years later, children of divorce have shown a tendency toward being more unhappy, lonely, insecure, and anxious.

It is important to remember that these are statistics- likelihood, risk, and potential. Not all children who experience a family divorce will experience these negative effects…but many do. We want to partner with you and your family to help lessen the likelihood that they will have more difficulty.  IDEALS counselors have resources that can be helpful for couples who want to work to develop their relationship (and therefore help parents not divorce) or for children who may need help adjusting to the major life change of divorce. We work to strengthen the parent-child bond and help a child work through emotional issues. Contact us for more information about how we can be of service to you and your family.

What Safe People Do

We want to be in healthy relationships that help us be ourselves and grow. Sometimes, while we may want to be in relationships that are respectful, supportive, fair and trustworthy, we do not always know interpersonal characteristics to look for.  Here are a few things that people who are more likely to have healthy relationships or “Safe People” do.

What Safe People Do

Safe people are concerned about “we,” not just “I.”

  • It’s not all about them, what they want, how they want it, and where they want to go in life (or just today). They show genuine concern for others and their relationships.

Safe people have empathy.

  • Empathy is the ability and willingness to imagine, “What is life like for this other person.” Safe people consider others’ perspectives with compassion, even if they don’t agree.

Safe people encourage freedom.

  • They will respect you when you say “no.”
  • They will stay connected and will not try to guilt you when you set a boundary.
  • They support that you have interests, hobbies, family and friends separate from them.  They have their own life, too!
  • Safe people may feel jealous at times, but they are willing to talk about those feelings with respect.

Safe people are a positive influence on you, not a negative one.

  • They encourage you to be more trustworthy, honest, loving, fair, and respectful.

Safe people help you feel more connected than isolated.

  • Safe relationships allow for connection and openness.  You may ask yourself, “Do I feel connected with them or more lonely?  Are they willing to be open and vulnerable with me or are they closed-off?”

Safe people use open communication rather than manipulation, flattery, or gossip to communicate with others.

  • When there is a want, need, or disagreement, safe people address the matter with honesty, respect, and patience.  They are willing to lovingly speak to you and listen when you speak to them.

(Adapted from Safe People, Cloud & Townsend, 1995).

 

Are you in relationships with safe people?  Are you a safe person yourself?  No one is perfectly “safe” all of the time.  There are some situations that are more difficult to be a “safe person” in than others.  If you are in a relationship that is not as safe as it could be or if you there are some “safe” characteristics that you do not see in yourself, there is hope!  Becoming a more safe person is a skill that the most people can learn!  Counselors at IDEALS can help you develop these skills. We use Relationship Enhancement (RE), a method that has 40 years of research that demonstrate its effectiveness, even when there are serious problems.  Contact us to schedule an appointment.

Divorce: Helping Kids Through Transition

Any kind of change or transition is hard…be it moving from one place to another, addition of a new family member, death of a family member/friend, separation, divorce or remarriage. Some transitions can be positive for people while others may leave a long-lasting negative impact on a person, especially a child. Going through something like divorce is never easy for an adult or for a child, but it can be particularly difficult for a child. Even though every child may deal with such a transition as divorce differently, there are implications to a child witnessing their parents go their separate ways. No matter what the reason might be for divorce, it means that the child would be facing multiple stressors. How a child deals with such stressors depends upon his/her age, gender and where they are developmentally.  It becomes crucial for the parents to be able to help and prepare children for what is in store for them as they go through this process together.

Milne (2004) in her article “Impact of Divorce on Children” writes, no matter what age the children might be, their world is shaken.

  • There are some universal worries that they may experience, like grieving over the “loss” of one or both the parents after divorce and remarriage, feelings of abandonment…that no one loves me; children or adolescents might start internalizing the problem, feeling that it’s all their fault and might feel helpless and powerless.
  • Some ways in which the impact of separation or divorce may manifest itself in children of different age levels [may include a wide range from] sleep difficulties to acting out behaviors like throwing temper tantrums to substance or alcohol use and abuse and can even escalate to violence towards self or others.
  • Some other manifestation of the impact might include school problems (academics or conduct), anxiety, nervous or regressive behavior like bed-wetting or being overly attached to comfort items like blankets or stuff toys.

Here are some things that can be kept in mind when helping children understand the situation and help cope.

Pre-Divorce:

  • It can be helpful for parents to sit together with their children and break the news.
    This meeting should not be just about breaking the news but listening to their children as well and empathizing with them
  • The parents might have more than one meeting to help children process their thoughts and feelings and voice their concerns about the situation.
  • This is also a good opportunity for parents to assure children that all their needs would be met despite the divorce happening and that they would still love them and care for them.
  • It is very important for parents to stay away from giving false hopes to their children.

During Divorce Process:

  • Remember that not only they are emotionally and psychologically fragile but the children are also going through a rough phase seeing their parents part way.
  • It is crucial at this time for parents to be mindful of how they react to their partners in front of their kids.
  • Arguing in front of the kids is a big “no-no,” and parents need be on guard about what they say about their spouse in front of their kids.
  • Try to be consistent with parenting, even with changes in living situations.
  • Seek outside help and support (other family members, friends and people in the church or community, professional help) for oneself and one’s children.

Post-Divorce:

  • Set up regular visitations.
  • Do not interrogate the child about their visit to their ex-spouse’s house.
  • Do not make children confidants against the previous spouse.

Divorce is a tough and taxing process. Many parents get so stuck in the “here and now” that they fail to realize the long-term implication of their decision on their children. It is helpful for the parent/s to have a professional (a counselor or a pastor) along their side who can walk with them through this process, educating them not only about the implications but also giving them some practical skills and tools to help their children through this painful transition. A professional can also help parents and children adjust to a new life in the most caring and loving way they can.

At IDEALS for Families and Communities, you will find trained professionals who are more than willing to walk with you through this journey and help you find ways to help yourself and your children cope with the challenges that this “transition” brings in one’s life.

-Arpita Eusebius, Staff Therapist


Milne, D. (2004). Impact of Divorce on Children. Retrieved from http://extension.missouri.edu/extensioninfonet/article.asp?id=2150