Trust

How to Embrace the Change That is Before You

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Come gather ’round people

Wherever you roam

And admit that the waters

Around you have grown

And accept it that soon

You’ll be drenched to the bone

If your time to you is worth savin’

And you better start swimmin’

Or you’ll sink like a stone

For the times they are a-changin’

—Bob Dylan

Dylan’s reflection visits every day. Times are changing. Wisps of nostalgia and recollection of times past do not slow the Change Train. I just watched my home team lose in the first round to the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Phoenix Suns used to beat up on the Timberwolves year after year. But, no more. I used to be able to run twice a day every day of the week without struggle. But, no more. Father Time has influenced my capacity to bounce back and keep going. I enjoyed close to 30 years working with Psychological Counseling Services in Scottsdale, Arizona. It’s been three years since it all ended. The times have changed. 

And so it is for you too! What worked yesterday is not what works today. People say that raising children today is a lot different than 20 years ago. They say that the family unit is more under attack now than before. Perhaps, but it just underscores that times change. The world economy, society, and culture simply keep evolving. Nostalgia is nice but it doesn’t prepare for the present moment.  We learn by reflecting on the past but we bring forth what lessons we have gained and let go of the past. This is what it means to embrace the change that is before you. 

Nothing remains the same.

Here are some considerations regarding managing the change that is before you today:

1. With success or failure, adjust your attitude to be hungry and curious about the change that tomorrow’s challenge will bring. In his book, The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck likens the journey through life to traveling through the desert. He said many people, desperate to quench their thirst, rejoice and celebrate when arriving at the first oasis in the desert. In fact, they are so happy that they decide to build an encampment and live there for the rest of their lives. He writes most people never adjust their sites to venture through the entire desert. There is nothing immoral or wrong about choosing to become an oasis-dweller. However, the flow of life brings the need for evaluation and change. What worked yesterday is unlikely to be as effective today. Some people say well I have been doing what I do for quite some time, why make significant change now. Recovery success lulls an addict to sleep. It will do the same to you with whatever pursuits are important to you. Yesterday is a word that reflects on the historical past. In order to thrive you must be willing to adjust to tomorrow’s change. I am not suggesting immediate wholesale change but I am suggesting always tweaking the edges and challenging the center toward becoming the best version of who you are. You don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater but you will need new refreshing bathwater for tomorrow. When you have miserably failed it is not difficult to yearn for something more. When you know much past success, that is when change is difficult to embrace. Evaluate the times around you. It might be business, recovery, or your significant relationship. The passing of time is the shadow of change. If your attitude does not include a desire to embrace new pathways, you will not be hungry or curious to adapt to what is needed in your recovery or your business tomorrow.

2. Come to terms with your limits: I am aware that there is an emphasis on reaching beyond your limits. In many applications to life I agree. Another important consideration is that when you know your limits well you can pivot and focus on doing something very different which you failed at before. Some people think that “no limits” means you just beat your head against the same wall time and again. After you take medication for your headache, consider the term limit as a metaphor. When you know your shortcomings you can access the brilliance that lies deep within you. your limits are only a suggestion to do something different that can be resourced deeper within you. You can go as deep within as you choose. You are less likely to be open to creative change as long as you only focus on the limit that you think you should be able to overcome. Why not work with it and go deep? Active acceptance of what is opens your heart to the creative genius—your brilliance that is limitless within.

3. Lean into the experiences that life brings you to: If you fail in your pursuits and cannot comprehend what the results of your efforts are trying to tell you, don’t be too quick to run to the next application for the possibility of success. Even if you are cornered by great financial pressure to figure out how to get some dough right now,  take time to sit with your failure—all your feelings, your thoughts and process what brought you to this point. Be real! Sift and sort for meaningfulness in the presence of your daily experience (recovery, business, or both). Counterintuitively, leaning into your experience of struggle, emotional pain, loss, and failure will help you move forward. Allowing dust to settle helps to establish a clear pathway. Life’s purpose in time and space is revealed through your willingness to be vulnerable.

4. Trust the process of transformation. If you could just have a blueprint that shows you where you are and reminds you that on the other side of your struggle and trouble, it will all look like this! But, transformation in life does not work this way. You must know that you cannot know what is happening in the moment of your transformation. It doesn’t occur in an instant. Like the rising sun, it happens in its time!  It is impossible to see what is emerging in your life when opportunities, health, and people are taken from your life. It is hard to believe in transformation when the feeling of deprivation is in every corner of your life. Transformation brings you to a place where you cannot go back. You can no more go back and create what you hoped for than you can wear the same pair of blue jeans when you were in junior high! Those experiences have been scoured from your life.

When you do embrace the change that is real in your life, you will be given the invitation and the power to welcome the experience of something new that will transform the limits that you thought were insurmountable in your past endeavors. It is from the place of embracing change that the transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau was inspired to write “I have learned this at least by my experience: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours”.

Embrace the change that is before you and experience the transformation that is to be a part of your destiny. 

Ten Components That Cultivate Cherish in the Presence of Relational Betrayal

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Cherish is a dynamic in relationship life that adds richness and protects the integrity of love between two people. Cherish promotes protecting and caring for something or someone in a very loving way. You hear about athletes who cherish an old coach who has long since retired. The athlete now cherishes the memories and lessons learned. Memories of old mentors who have passed away are cherished by all of us. Cherish means that we hold something or someone dear to our hearts. Historians cherish the Gettysburg Address, the Declaration of Independence, and other valued historic documents. Olympic athletes cherish the opportunity to participate with great hope for success. The word cherish represents magic that adds meaningfulness to romantic relationships. It is an important characteristic and life dynamic.

Cherish can be drained from the experience of life. Disappointment can stop the flow of cherish in a promising job when you are overlooked. Selfish living can kill the cherish that exists in a community. Abandonment and neglect can choke the cherish from the dynamic of any relationship. Yet, nothing destroys cherish in a relationship like betrayal. 

Gone is the protection and the care for the integrity of love in a relationship. Past memories of cherish are now sullied with deceit and lies. Meaningfulness in a betrayed relationship is demolished with chaos and confusion from gaslighting. Hope is destroyed with dupe and double cross.

Relational betrayal is a societal travesty. The basics of how men learn to treat women begin with role-modeling in the home between mother and father. When dad treats mom as if she were a utility (responsible for all the domestic duties and for providing good sex) then it carries forward in the lives of the boys into adulthood. The seed for sexual objectification are planted in the minds of children by the way dad objectifies mom and how mom colludes with being a utility. 

Objectification eradicates cherish. When one partner betrays another, objectification is the culprit that permeates the thoughts and behavior of the betrayer. The grass seems greener somewhere else. 

When betrayal is exposed through disclosure, the betrayer most often will want to fix the problem with an apology and move on. Yet, broken hearts don’t heal this way. It becomes a feeble attempt to restore cherish in the relationship.

At the moment of disclosure, both partners are unable to move forward toward rebuilding trust with a simple apology. Trauma ignites a systems failure. Unpacking broken trust and gaslighting truth requires a detailed healing process. Honesty moving forward from disclosure about every behavior is necessary. It is important for the partner to experience this reality from the betrayer.

When both parties in a relationship ignore this understanding the efforts made by the betrayer to fix the problem will most likely be unsuccessful. A betrayed partner can heal when their experience is validated and their truth is respected and supported. Those who betray must offer this support toward healing. Betrayers who rigorously commit to honesty in all aspects of life in recovery create a healing environment toward rebuilding trust with their wounded partner. Working with an experienced therapist who has been trained in working with betrayal can be helpful. Partners who attend a self-help group for betrayed partners will steady their journey toward healing. Addicts who try to avoid their partner’s pain will slow the healing process in relational recovery.

Here are ten suggestions to consider around healing betrayal in a relationship and restoring cherish:

1. Accelerate your own commitment to your own healing. Whether you are an addict or a partner stay in your own lane. An addict must focus on doing everything possible to heal themselves, getting clear about why they cheated, with a commitment to radical interventions to prevent betrayal behavior in the future. Many betrayers get lost in finger-pointing, doing whatever their partner wants them to do, while avoiding what is necessary for their healing. So, take your eyes off your injured partner and concentrate on restoring your values.

2. Practice telling on yourself. To heal betrayed trust, each person in the relationship must understand that they will not be perfect in recovery. Mistakes will be made by both parties. It doesn’t mean that addictive relapse is automatic or inevitable but it does mean that both parties are human and backsliding on commitments made will exist along the journey toward healing. It will be important to tell on yourself and commit to making amends. Any time you hurt your partner, make amends. It all begins when you tell on yourself. Avoid being defensive or explaining your behavior and actions. You do not need to clarify your intentions. Simply acknowledge and admit that your partner is hurting. Tell on yourself when you have done something that hurts the other person. 

3. Practice not making assumptions. Making assumptions involves human error. You cannot know what you don’t know. Insecurity and shame accelerate the temptation to make assumptions. You can assume that your partner only sees you as disgusting. You can build an entire system of sabotage behaviors based on false assumptions you make about what your partner thinks of you. Intervene by stopping to check things out with an honest inquiry. Don’t bait your partner with hurtful behavior to repeat your false assumptions.

4. Don’t personalize your partner’s behavior. Your partner’s response to healing is not about you. This may be hard to wrap your arms around but true nonetheless. Their behavior is about them and their pain. You may have hurt your partner with betrayal action, but, your partner will only heal when they are guided to embrace their pain and walk down that path toward healing. If you are the one who has betrayed, you will need to establish internal boundaries that help you detach from your partner’s healing. It’s not about you. What is about you is offering support and validation to your partner for your betrayal behavior. If the partner who has been betrayed becomes verbally, physically, and/or emotionally abusive, external boundaries will need to be established. Boundaries must have consequences to provide care for the person setting them, not to punish the other party. The strategy for healing is not that you become a pin cushion for your partner’s pain.

5. Stop saying you’re sorry and validate. Sorry is a hollow word around betrayal behavior. So stop! Validation is about supporting your partner in pain with agreement and affirmation. “You are right, I was selfish, inconsiderate, and insensitive!” “I didn’t think of you and you have every right to be angry and hurt!” “I know you are hurting. How can I best support you right now?” These are compassionate and caring examples of validation that will require you to anchor yourself in the powerful adult that you are and can operate from in your relationship.

6. Stop looking for a pat on the back from your partner as you work hard to maintain sobriety. If you are an addict, providing sobriety is a ground-zero expectation. Your partner did not commit to you thinking fidelity would be an added benefit. It’s assumed that you would preserve faithfulness. When you break your partner’s heart you cannot expect them to be your cheerleader. Your 12-step community and others must provide support at this level. 

7. Know your partner’s love language and zero in on that behavior. Focus on being sensitive to what your betrayed partner needs from you. Making promises and giving your partner what you would want for comfort usually is not healing. However, when you focus on what is considerate and caring from their perspective, it can create emotional pain relief and soothing support.

8. Ask for permission to express love to your partner in non-sexual ways. Taking the initiative to do nice things for your partner without first asking is often seen as inconsiderate when healing betrayal and building cherish. Doing what you think your partner needs without checking in with him or her is another way of taking up too much space. Asking for permission and framing it as “Would this be helpful to you” is a way of practicing dignity and respect that ultimately leads to healing.

9. Pay attention to codependent responses while navigating through relational betrayal. Understandably, you want to please your hurting partner while both of you attempt to heal from betrayal behavior. However, when the primary motivation to do recovery is to satisfy your partner, it seldom works for the long haul. It is not sustainable. Sometimes the partner who was betrayed by an addict’s behavior wants to determine the particulars of an addict’s behavioral contract for sober living. This seldom works well. Oftentimes an addict will codependently abandon his or her truth in order to appease their betrayed partner. When this happens an addict often loses his or her way in recovery which ultimately leads to a relapse. Both addict and partner must cultivate healthy self-assertion regarding wants, needs, and expectations in the relationship. When this is not done a shallow recovery life is pockmarked with unhealthy codependent response. 

10. Subconsciously, don’t make your partner your parent while recovering from destructive betrayal behavior. When betrayal is uncovered in a relationship, it is easy for the betrayed partner to put the betrayer in the basement of the relationship. Shame accelerates negative images and messages about the betrayer. This frequently triggers old pattern behaviors that resemble trying to gain approval from a parent early in life. A partner cannot be the other’s parent. Pleasing your partner from this framework of thought and behavior will never restore healthy intimacy. Recovery may trigger awareness that unresolved family-of-origin issues need to be addressed. When this is true, address it so that you can anchor healing that fosters equal loving care for yourself and your hurting partner.

Rebuilding cherish in the appalling presence of infidelity and betrayal is a difficult undertaking. These ten suggestions are among many that can help make a healing difference as you navigate the treacherous waters of mending betrayal behavior.

Talkin’ Trash

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“Here I am – Do You See Me.”

 —KW

Blown by the wind without notice

Others just like me become my blanket

Gathered in a desolate corner

Invisible until we become so many

Scorned with disgust from others

Would someone please rid me of this filth?

There’s a trash can—put me there

Make me out of sight

Make me invisible like the night

But you can’t, cause I’m here just like you

I’m the reality of  your imagination

I’m dog shit

People shit

The wrappers of dreams to make me disappear

Straws for smack and blow to get you to forget

But here I am—

You can’t forget me, you must do something about me

I’m the writer who paints your park benches

Your trains, your overpass bridges

Got stuff you don’t get in carts on permanent loan

Sleep in places that scare the hell out of you and me too

Others just like me—in the heat and cold, moan and groan

Wash away the crust 

I’m just like you

Broken family, broken dreams

Close your eyes and listen 

It’s all the same—so it seems

Just talkin’ trash

Just talkin’ trash

No one wants to be invisible or forgotten. Being unwanted and uncared for is worse than being hungry with nothing to eat. When people are objectified their essential self is invisibilized.  People objectify others as sexual body parts to be pursued and conquered or as sources to achieve power, fame, or fortune.  People who are takers and not givers reduce relationships to what’s in it for me.  Solutions to social dilemmas require a giver mentality. Objectification is about taking. It’s about wanting what you want when you want it.  It’s about going through the world seeing only what you want to experience and ignoring the suffering that challenges others.

From Martin Buber’s book, I and Thou, it can be emphasized that when you engage others and the world around you as an “it” you organize and manipulate the world only as you want to see it.  Human suffering, social dilemmas, and environmental challenges become obstacles to ignore while material and relational pleasures become objectified. An “it” mentality is a pathway to becoming alienated from the world around you as it is. Buber wrote, “To look away from the world or to stare at it, does not help a man to reach God; but he who sees the world in Him stands in His presence.” There is a sense of spiritual connection that occurs when what you see and experience in the world around you connects with what is in you. It becomes a source for “thou” relationships which holds great respect for others problems and challenges in life.

Everyone needs a safe and trusting community to be seen. Here, vulnerability and trust are serendipitously expressed through our grief, joy, and challenge. I don’t know anyone who exemplifies this truth more than Sally, a client I once had. 

Sally had every reason to isolate and avoid the community when she first came to see me in my office. Emotionally, she was fragmented. She suffered horrendous physical, ritual, and sexual abuse from her parents who were involved in a cult. Her parents solicited her to other members of the family and cult. She experienced everything that would make a family unsafe. She fled from this frightful gruesome family to a life on the streets. 

While learning plenty of street savvy, she also learned to stuff her sorrows and the sadism she’d experienced throughout her childhood with a cocktail of addictions. When she initially sought professional counsel, she experienced more abuse and betrayal from those who were supposed to be healing and safe. She learned to deaden herself to the world at large and to disconnect from the community. Eventually, she decided to attend our intensive outpatient program, which involves sixty-five hours of therapy in 8 days. 

When she began her plunge experience, there was no trust, only desperation. However, as the days unfolded, her barriers began to come down. Maybe it was the intensity of one session after another beginning at 7:00 a.m. and continuing until 8:30 p.m. It could have been the many different approaches that her relentless counselors used. Whatever it was, she reached a watershed point where she decided to open her heart to the possibility of healing. As she progressed throughout the week, she decided that this would be her last attempt to find hope. She decided that she would do whatever it took to get healthy.

As she became committed to healing herself, she committed to integrating her fragmented inner self. She embraced the emotional pain that dominated her life, rather than medicate it with addiction. She resolved to attend 12-Step meetings to address her compulsive behaviors. Though dominated with fear and full of anxiety, slowly she shifted and allowed her 12-Step community to become a touchstone and signpost for reality in her recovery. Sharing her brokenness in the community provided relational safety for Sally. 

When there is relational safety in the community, anything and everything can be explored and sifted and sorted through. Pain becomes the fellowship’s touchstone and signpost indicating an imbalance in life. The community provides a sound studio to listen to pain’s message. Common shared brokenness is its draw, not common likeness or interest. Becoming emotionally naked by sharing our deepest feelings and secrets is commonplace and expected. It’s a space where we can fit in and be accepted as we are. It is a sanctuary in which to learn how we can wear our own skin well. It’s a space to accept our own acceptance while staring at imperfection. It is a place to grow ourselves into adult maturity and discover inner brilliance. 

Today, after many years of recovery and therapy, Sally has carved out a commitment to a 12-step community based on a shared brokenness that has proven supportive and sustaining. Today, though she continues to work out her emotional brokenness, she has become an inspiration to those who work with her professionally. She has become a leader in her field of expertise. Her husband and children continue to benefit from her resilience and commitment to her healing journey. 

Recently, she told me her recovery life has rendered her 1,000 percent improved. She echoed that without a community to share her deepest feelings of brokenness, in concert with therapeutic intervention, her road to recovery would have led to a dead end. 

There are thousands of Sally’s in the world around you including the homeless. My wife Eileen and I have chosen to live in a neighborhood where homeless people live all around us. Each morning we walk our dog through our neighborhood streets. We pick up trash and dog poop with our sanitary gloves as we make our way. Along the canal that we walk there is graffiti painted on park benches and backyard walls. There is trash all around including dog and human feces. At first, it was disgusting. Over time, I have learned that the trash has a voice that represents the many unfortunate ones. The trash is their voice to tell me and you that  “I am here. Don’t forget me. Please see me!” 

Do you know someone you would describe as forgotten? When you drive to work, worship, or play, do you notice the street people in your community? Not knowing what to do with misfortune, many look away from the homeless, choosing to deal with discomfort by distancing themselves from it. What about the person at the grocery store who shuffles by with a blank stare on his face? Do you think of him as invisible? 

Today every piece of trash I pick up, I hear the voices of so many on the streets and elsewhere saying please treat me as a “Thou.” Just talkin’ trash!

Tire Tracks

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Alex had been cheating on Alice from day one. Secretly, he hired strippers at his bachelor party and never made it through his honeymoon without cheating with someone he met at the pool of the resort where he and Alice stayed during the week after the wedding. It didn’t stop. He slept with Alice’s best friend, hired hookers when on the road for his work, and was hooked on porn over the years.

Alice caught him looking at porn on his phone late one night and suspicioned there was more but was afraid to confront him. Then, one evening Alex’s phone rang and Alice picked it up thinking it was their daughter needing to be picked up from volleyball. But it wasn’t. It was a strange female voice who asked for Alex. When the person recognized that it was not Alex she hung up. Triggered with suspicion, Alice checked his texts and phone messages. She discovered a ton of graphic sexting texts between Alex and a woman named Lisa. She checked the phone number and figured there were over 75 phone calls to this one woman’s number. She called the number on Alex’s phone and the same voice of woman answered the call and Alice hung up without saying a word. She burst into tears because she knew what she had been dreading for quite some time. 

She confronted Alex about the call but he denied and lied about anything inappropriate. She stayed with it and laid out the enormity of detail that she uncovered and finally, after hours of adamantly denying and gaslighting Alice, Alex broke down and admitted that he had been having an affair with a woman named Lisa who worked at his company. He piecemealed his history of sexual misbehavior. It wasn’t till a month and a half later when through intensive therapy and an extensive sexual history polygraph that Alice learned that Alex was never faithful to her throughout their ten years of marriage. 

She determined that the only way she would remain in the marriage would be that he move out, go to inpatient treatment recommended by his therapist, and do whatever they recommended.

This is a common story for therapists who work with compulsive sexual betrayal. The stories vary and some relationships are able to heal betrayal brokenness while many are not. Addictive behavior is often concealed in deceit and secrets. In time, compulsive infidelity is discovered by partners and other family members. It is always traumatic for everybody.

Healing around betrayal is difficult and dicey.  The trauma that is incurred impacts both the betrayer and the betrayed. The hurt is multifaceted. 

Therapists treating broken trust have a number of considerations to assess when administering treatment. There are established guidelines for counselor support. However, while there are similarities that are common to all partner betrayal, no two betrayal responses are the same. Couples whose relationships have been riddled with compulsive infidelity with long-term dishonesty have a number of considerations to assess.

1. The compulsive betrayer must prioritize the following in order for healing to be effective: Cut off all contact with the affair partner immediately. This includes text, email, phone calls, and face-to-face visits. If the affair partner is in a working relationship with the compulsive betrayer, contact must be only about business with a commitment to gate all nonverbal energy communication. Preferred accountability about this dynamic would be with a recovering person who also is working a program. The betrayer must prioritize stopping the runaway train going down the track of their entrenched compulsive sexual behavior that has been in existence for a long period of time. Individual treatment is an absolute must. Promises to stop fade away all too frequently for the one who refuses treatment intervention. 

2. The partner must engage treatment for damage created by the betrayal. All too frequently the partner refuses treatment favoring that their betraying partner be the “identified patient”. It is familiar to hear “I am not the one who struggles with lying and infidelity. Focus on the betrayer. They are the culprit. This is like getting run over by a big mack truck and laying on the side of the road with tire tracks across your back. The paramedics are called and when they arrive they tend to the driver, put them in the ambulance, and whisk them to the emergency room for treatment, leaving the victim who was run over lying on the side of the road. It makes no sense. Betrayal breaks the heart and the spirit of every victimized partner. Induced trauma requires long-term partner treatment for recovery. Codependent responses are always triggered by underlying trauma. It must be treated and will not heal without it. 

3. The 3-legged stool approach. I prefer the 3-legged therapeutic approach. Every stool must have solid legs in order for the stool to be stable to safely sit. I find it most helpful that when treating betrayal trauma that each party in the relationship do individual therapy and that the couple also engage therapy as a couple, ideally with three different therapist involved (one for each of the 2 individuals and one for the couple together). I have experienced good success when it is done concomitantly.  There are exclusions when situations are exempt to this approach. That said a three-pronged approach has proven most helpful in healing. 

4. Triage priorities in treatment. Betrayal is chaotic and crisis is not uniform and predictable. Careful consideration and guidance is needed in treating the betrayer, the betrayed partner, family, friends, and extended community depending upon the roles people have in those communities. Both partners will need to embrace their wise-minded adult within, and if this is absent carefully accept the guidance from an experienced counselor to triage treatment based on your specific and unique needs. 

Destructive behavior, broken hearts, and tire tracks across the back caused by betrayal can heal. However, it is a long journey that insists that both partners embrace the healing journey. One or the other being the “identified patient” will impact prognosis for healing and will stymy healing. Addict betrayal is not only about relational infidelity. Addicts betray their own values and the trust of those around them who are counting on them to work a program for healing.  It is crucial that the entire family treat the addictive behavior from a family systems perspective. Each family member will need to address the impact of trauma that warps perspective and undermines trust.