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Getting Unstuck

SHOW NOTES:

We’ve made it!  Today’s episode marks the 100th episode of Relationship Helpers and we’re so glad you’ve dropped by— whether it’s your first time listening or the 100th! 

Our goal is to offer helpful marriage, parenting and mental health tips through what we’ve learned as therapists.  Be sure to check out our other episodes as we are taking a break after this episode. We will continue to have our podcast/blog library open for you.

Get Unstuck

Our decision to take a break after 100 consecutive weeks has influenced today’s topic:  getting unstuck.  Recently, we read the book “Late Bloomers” by Rich Karlgaard. It changed the way we look at how we spend our time and how we view our futures. 

If you’re feeling like a muddy wheel caught in a slippery rut, read (listen) on!  Have you felt like you have been “living a label?” Have you felt defined by a test score from decades ago? Are you missing a framed piece of paper from your wall? Or do you regret getting the degree that you did get? 

Maybe we’ve been looking at our priorities wrong.  Maybe our culture has created “rules” of what we are expected to do with our lives that really aren’t necessary.

Assembly Line Education? 

At the turn of the 20th century, mass production was so effective that education began to use the assembly line mentality.

Late Bloomers” is a fascinating read.  In it you learn that our educational system has basically been “mechanized” through the influence of Henry Ford’s mass production concept of the assembly line. The IQ test, created by Lewis Terman, was intended to measure a person’s aptitude at the present moment and was actually used for placement in the military. Whereas these days an IQ test score can be wrongly used to ascertain a person’s long-term aptitude. 

Children hear a bell and they enter the work room (I mean classroom.) A student is given a test score and it is supposed to speak to that child’s abilities. 

School was basically “industrialized” in the twentieth century and test scores were a means to determine where someone should go in life. Notice how far we’ve come from the original intent. 

Laura’s Disappointing IQ Test

Laura tells about her experience in middle school not measuring up.  She desperately wanted to be a part of the AG program.  She remembers vividly how the students in the program talked about the AG class and the creative activities that they participated in. She wanted to be a part of that. Her teacher recommended that she be tested for the program. 

Laura had a bad experience taking an IQ test with a psychologist in middle school.

Hello, IQ test!  More like, “Hello, some strange psychologist man” who asks Laura to perform random tasks and asks odd questions.  From the moment she walked into the small, library conference room a lump permanently lodged in her throat as she fought back tears to complete the test. Needless to say, it didn’t go well. If anything, the test should have been a measure of anxiety, if nothing else. 

She didn’t make the cut. Fortunately, she was involved in other pursuits that influenced her for a lifetime and she’s able to see how these activities influenced her to become the therapist she is today.  Music, writing, and theater have been a part of her learning experience and she sees how all of these have informed her work as a therapist.

That’s exactly how Rich Karlgaard, the author of “Late Bloomers” looks at his life. He puttered through the academic system yet he developed his interests in running through school.  He was actually admitted into Stanford University after he ran a race in junior college.  Due to a calculating error, he was admitted to an Ivy League school; his admittance wasn’t based on his efforts, but a mistake. 

The Wunderkind 

Early placement has become ridiculous. Demands on the ability to read have gone from early elementary students to now preschoolers having these skills. Some parents are seeking to get a leg up for their children by putting them on waiting lists for elite preschools long before their kids are of age.

Bill Gates had a near perfect SAT score.

A premium has been placed on raising the next Bill Gates.  Bill Gates was what is called a “wunderkind.”  As a teen he scored next to perfect on his SAT.  He attended an Ivy League school, created Microsoft and is a multi-billionaire. Unfortunately, our “system” has been calibrated to pump out Wunderkinds.  Considering the fact that he is in the extreme minority, this means our systems fails to foster individualism and the unique abilities that each person possesses. 

Children are made to conform into a system that rewards high-level performance and often ignores their distinctive qualities.  If they do not get the grade or the IQ score they do not fit into the system of high achievement. 

How The Mighty Have Fallen

Rich Karlgaard describes two wunderkinds who shot to academic and career success:  Jonah Lehrer and Elizabeth Holmes. Lehrer was a best-selling author and Holmes was headed towards being a leader in medical diagnostic testing. Both enjoyed years of praise and success. Both crumbled under the pressure of maintaining the facade of the wunderkind.  They were frauds. 

An expert on Bob Dylan discovered while reading Lehrer’s book on creativity that he was misquoting Bob Dylan which caused a cascade effect, nullifying all of Lehrer’s other books.

Holmes is now awaiting a criminal trial after her company Theranos, a company that purported it could use a drop of blood to run hundreds of lab tests, was discovered to be making a false claim. 

Seeing the wunderkinds comeuppance does not help us “Late Bloomers.”  It only serves as a cautionary tale of pressuring young people into the upper echelon of academic and career success. 

Getting “Unstuck”

What does help the “late bloomer?”  Karlgaard calls it being “repotted.”  Like a plant that is not thriving in its current state, a late bloomer needs change.  This could mean a move, a change of your social circle, and/or a career change. The environment you are in may very well not be conducive to you using the gifts God gifted you. 

Take careful consideration of the values of the people around you.  Are you being influenced by others to be what you should not be?  Do the people you spend time with have a “pecking order?” Are you staying stuck as some low man on the totem pole because you are afraid to upset the system? Do your friends minimize your abilities or work? Has your current situation become your comfort zone?

Our default is our comfort zone.  Sometimes people stay in relationships not because they are meaningful, healthy ventures, but because they don’t want to have to try something that could make them grow.  Growth means change and being intentional—that’s not easy.

Expertise In One Area?

Our culture has rewarded being “super-focused” on an area of expertise, this is how Bill Gates became so influential in the wunderkind phenomena. For most people, this is not practical or realistic. For some people, a career path looks more like a zig-zagging path where obstacles and dead-ends causes the person to find new outlets and paths.  It is not an arrow-straight path from university to career success.  

Don’t discount the passions you had as a child. Laura finds through working with her therapy clients that many people pooh-pooh the interests they had as a child once they grow up. The things that fascinated you then may very well hold a key into the gifts you were born with.  You may need to broaden your concept of how you can use your gifts.  

For instance, you may have been a pretty good artist as a child.  That does not necessarily mean that you should be an illustrator or fine artist.  It could mean, however, that you have a great eye for color and design and could be wonderful at any number of careers involving the elements of design—these could very well fall outside of the limiting scope of fine art. Architecture, interior decorating, teaching art, store window display staging, cosmetology, clothing design, furniture making, prosthetics, culinary arts, the list could go for miles.  The point is this, don’t let someone pigeon hole you, especially you!

What Your Sex Life Says About Your Marriage – Part #2

SHOW NOTES:

We hope you are enjoying our two-part series on married sex.  Last week we took a look at types of love, intimacy and sex.  This week we look at how being a selfish lover may actually HELP your marriage!  Before you shake your head and say we’ve lost our minds, read/listen on!

Healthy Balance of Selfishness and Unselfishness

Do you like for your partner to climax when you’re having sex?  If so, a certain degree of “selfishness” on their part has to happen!  What?!?

Let us explain. The Bible says to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) and “husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies” (Ephesians 5:28) You are actually loving your spouse by knowing and getting yourself to the point of orgasm during sex. 

Let’s look at it a different way: if you are ALL about pleasing your partner while denying yourself the chance to orgasm, you are not going to please them.  Your partner wants you to have an orgasm—that’s part of the beautiful process of sex.  If you continually deny yourself orgasm, you are denying your partner the chance to be a part of YOUR orgasm. 

In “A Celebration of Sex,”  Dr. Doug Rosenau calls this “righteous selfishness.”  It’s a kind of paradox.  In order to ultimately fulfill your spouse’s utmost sexual desires, you have to seek out some responsibility for your orgasm while you are having sex with your partner. 

To put it another way:  healthy selfishness is having an orgasm.  Unhealthy selfishness is being unwilling to empathize with the other person’s needs and desires. Healthy unselfishness is pleasuring your spouse.  Unhealthy unselfishness is playing the sexual martyr or being passive-aggressive. 

According to Dr. Doug Rosenau in his book “A Celebration of Sex”, a healthy self-concept is important. Having a positive view of yourself and your partner enhances sex. 

That means ladies, your man may want to be with you more when you stop asking “does my butt look big in these jeans?”  It’s self-defeating.  He sees you as beautiful and wants to be with you.   

6 Character Traits of a Fantastic Lover

What makes married sex great?

1. Playfulness – includes excitement, curiosity, eagerness, & spontaneity “You cannot work at creating better lovemaking – you and your mate have to play at it.” Doug Roseneau

2. Love – you must love yourself and love your mate. Accept yourself and your mate – strengths of your appearance as well as “flaws”.

3. Knowledge – become a student of your mate and yourself. Technical knowledge of sexuality.

4. Honesty – “dishonesty destroys trust, allows boredom, and creates confusion & hostility.” Doug Roseneau

Examples: 1. Husband who lacks sexual skills but can’t admit to himself – says to himself “She says sex isn’t very fun, but she reaches a climax most of the time.” 2. Wife who plays manipulative sexual games – she says to herself “If he forgets our anniversary again, he won’t get sex for a month.”

5. Creative Romance – surprise gifts, foot & leg massages, verbal demonstrativeness, mutual showers, dinners with candlelight, soft glances

6. Discipline – keep a time sacredly reserved for sex

-Go to bed at the same time

-Teach children to respect a locked door

-Agree to schedule lovemaking so many times per week

Out of the sex, I mean “six” character traits, knowledge is key.  Taking  (Insert Your Spouse’s Name Here) 101, will go far in your relationship. 

Study your spouse.  Creative romance may not mean gifts or candlelight.  Because you know your spouse, you may know that hiking the Appalachian Trail would be a greater turn on.  Because you know your spouse you may seek spontaneous sex instead of scheduled sex because she likes surprises, or vice versa. Knowledge is key.  

Resource:  A Celebration of Sex by Dr. Doug Roseneau

What Your Sex Life Says About Your Marriage

SHOW NOTES:

Thank you for listening to Relationship Helpers!  Today’s episode may be an eye-opener for many of you on the subject of sex in marriage. Sex experts tend to focus on what’s wrong about sex in marriage, without offering much in what is right. 

Of course we’ll take a look at problems with sex, but more importantly we’re going to look at what makes it the soul-stirring wonderful experience God intended to be.  

How We Learn About Sex Informs Our Sex Lives

People learn about sex in many different ways.  HOW we learn about it shapes how we see ourselves as well as how we view sex.  Many people are introduced to the topic of sex when a parent talks to them about it.  When a parent has an age-appropriate discussion about sex it makes that child have a strong foundation on which their sexual knowledge is built.  A parent that approaches sex with a lot of nerves or shame can unwittingly negatively impact their child’s view of sex. 

If a parent does not take on the role of educator then children learn from their peers and the media, leaving the child to other people’s opinions and misinformation.

The most heartbreaking way children are introduced to sex is through sexual abuse. Sexual abuse often influences the survivor to carry shame and negative coping mechanisms where sex is concerned.

Types of Love Needed

How someone is introduced to sex matters.  It’s the lens through which a person looks at intimate love. The Greeks defined eight different types of love. Today, we will look at three:

Agape – unconditional love and commitment; act of will

Philos – brotherly love, companionship; enhanced by time spent together

Eros – passion, excitement; no defensive walls with erotic & romantic feelings

Agape love requires intentionality. It’s the kind of love that makes you stay with your spouse when you are having a really hard time even liking them right now. It is the “for richer and poorer” and “in sickness and in health” kind of love.

Philos love is what makes marriage like a friendship. It’s about making time for one another, whether that’s through leisure activities or through making efforts to just talk to one another.

Eros love gets some people in trouble. They are seeking out the “high” that comes with the passion and excitement of eros love. Eros love depends, to a degree, on biology and chemistry. For sex addicts and people with unhealthy relationships it can be what keeps them caught in a cycle of seeking out sexual pleasure above all else. 

When in a healthy marriage, Eros love is at its greatest.  It’s God giving the green light to sexual bliss. 

Progression of Intimacy

Chatting – Emotional Sharing – Sex

In a culture of one night stands or “test-driving the car before buying it,” much of the pure sexual excitement that comes with married sex is lost.  When a relationship in the context of marriage follows the progression of chatting, to emotional sharing, to sex it helps to develop a spiritual bond. Sex seems empty when you don’t “know” the other person.

In the Bible often “knowing” is a euphemism for sexual relations.  Isn’t that what sex should be?  You can be physically intimate with someone without having an emotional or spiritual bond.  But is that all you want out of a relationship?

God’s gift of sex offers much more bonding than what physical intimacy only can supply. 

3 Kinds of Sex

1. Secure Sex – emotionally attuned and vulnerable

2. Detached Avoidant Sex – splits off emotion and purely focuses on physical, performance, and novelty

3. Ambivalent Protesting – anxiously seeking affirmation of worth, value, afraid of abandonment, clingy, and demanding

We are biologically wired for reproduction and attachment. When a couple struggles sexually, there is often an attachment issue.

Healthy attachment is what is considered “secure sex.” Each spouse is open to one another. Each person strives to understand the other better and allows themselves to be emotionally vulnerable to the other person.

Detached Avoidant Sex makes sex more of a performance. It may be flashy, but there’s probably no depth. It is purely physical.  Many times this type of sex results from people who have sexual addictions or sexual abuse histories.  For those addicted, there has been a hyper-focus on reaching climax, which often leaves their partner feeling left out of the process, frustrated, and unloved. For a person struggling with a sexual abuse history, detachment may be a way to dissociate from the hurt that rape or molestation has brought in the past. 

Marriage counseling can be particularly involved when a sexually abused wife is married to a man with a sexual addiction.  The husband may orgasm quickly and she can be so triggered that she never reaches orgasm.  He is left unsatisfied because she did not climax. She is left further traumatized, wondering why she can’t achieve orgasm with her husband and maybe even angry that he does not consider her feelings about it.

Ambivalent Protesting Sex is when sex becomes a means for achieving value.  This is often seen in people who are clingy or demanding.  Fear of abandonment fuels their sexual choices.

Obviously, secure sex is what we should hope to achieve, but how does it come to be?  Tune in next week for ways to improve your sex life! 

Resources: 

A Celebration of Sex by Dr. Doug Rosenau

Face to Face Seven Keys to a Secure Marriage by Dr. Jesse Gill

Teens & Devices

SHOW NOTES:

Welcome to Relationship Helpers!  We’re so glad you’ve taken the time to listen to us today!  You’re catching us towards the end of our podcast, as we are about to take a break. 

Today’s episode marks our 97th episode. When we hit 100, we’re going to take a break from the weekly podcasts, but be sure to check our website as we will continue to update it with great information.

Technology’s Pros & Cons

Over forty years ago, it would not be uncommon for Vincent’s parents to tell him to step away from the tv screen claiming  “It’s going to hurt your eyes!”  Oh, how times have changed!  

These days kids and adults alike are transfixed by a mobile screen device that is used to avoid talking in the waiting room or while waiting in the check out aisle.  It’s used in bumper to bumper traffic as an escape and it’s a substitute for having a real, face-to-face conversation.  When you don’t want to “people” you can go on Facebook.

Technology has its benefits, but also its pitfalls. Sometimes its use can be an unintentional mindless activity that makes us feel productive, but in the long run, what are we doing to ourselves?

Brain Development & Devices

Did you know that your personality—so much of who you are as a person— is centered just behind your forehead.  The prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain just behind your forehead, is responsible for decision-making, executive functioning, empathy and impulse control.

Did you know that device usage is shrinking our prefrontal cortexes by about 10 to 20 percent?!?  That’s a scary thought. No wonder so many parents bring their kids to our therapy practice wanting to know why their child suffers from attention issues, the inability to empathize with others, poor decision-making skills and social anxiety.

We highly recommend reading “The Digital Invasion” by Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd to get a stronger grasp of technology’s impact on children and what we can do about it.

We are a nation with children that have “digital dementia.” Neuroscientist Manfred Spitzer coined this term upon learning that because we are becoming overly reliant on technology, our brains our losing cognitive functioning.  

When we receive a “like” or a “follow” on social media, it hits the pleasure center of our brain like a drug.  Recently we had a senior in high school conduct an informal study among his friends.  He asked each one how often they check their phones.  The highest number was two hundred and forty five times in one day.  The lowest, sixty-nine.  The average:  147.18 times.  

Obviously this isn’t a formal study, but we know that teens are using smartphones prolifically. Imagine having two hundred and forty-five “hits” similar to a drug hit? We’re not talking about something lethal like heroin or cocaine, BUT the chemicals in our brains are not something to mess around with.  They alter how we experience the world around us. 

How Can I “Parent” This?

In our work as therapists, we often have parents tell us that their children “do so much better” when they do not have devices. For many of you listening to this, you may be thinking it’s too late.  What can you do now?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics children under the age of two should have no exposure to devices or tv.  Those between two and five should only have one hour of quality tv programming that you watch with them.  If you have a child above the age of six, you should set a consistent amount of time that your child uses media. Take into account how much sleep they should be getting, along with physical and social activities. Device usage should not take the place of these activities.

If you have a teen that has had unlimited technology usage, you may be struggling with what to do about it now, especially if you’re seeing concerning behaviors.

How Do I Know If My Child is Using Too Much Technology?

Be aware that two hours of social media usage contributes to anxiety and unhappiness among teenagers. Signs that your child is suffering from too much exposure to social media and technology include: 

  1. Grades dropping
  2. Careless work
  3. Difficulty having conversations with others
  4. Anxiety surrounding routines
  5. Isolation
  6. “Phubbing” (choosing to look at phones instead of the people around them)
  7. Relationship issues surrounding device usage. 

How Do I Get Us Back On Track?

Some teens are looking at screens eleven hours per day. Some are on-screen more a day than they sleep. This degree of exposure also limits the amount of face-to-face conversations they have with the people that are important to them, most importantly family.

Intentionally Spend Off Devices

Make it a point to put your own phone down. Put away your laptops.  Turn off the tv.  Model “screen-free time.”  Make yourself available to chat with your child.  Plan activities such as bowling, hiking, any kind of FUN activity that you can do together as a family.  Help them to want to spend time AWAY from their screens.  

Set Limits

Don’t allow social media usage among children under the thirteen year old requirement. Have limits for each person in the family. Educate yourself on the different apps out there—be aware that many apps are deceptive and are not what they appear to be.  (Consider how some may look like a calendar app on the home screen but they are actually a deceptive app meant to hide unwanted behaviors.) 

Encourage Your Kids To Be Social

Help your kids learn to be social by engaging them.  Have them order their own food at restaurants.  Make them order pizza delivery.  Have them schedule appointments on the phone. Don’t shield them from these tasks.  They learn how to do these things on your watch.  If you do it for them, they will be forced to try to learn how to do it as adults, or worse, they avoid doing them all together.

Dinner Time

Make family dinner time a priority.  This time is specified as ‘device free.”  

Show Discipline Yourself

Model healthy device habits yourself.  You can’t preach limiting social media or device usage without doing it yourself.  Turn off your devices and turn your attention on your children.  Have meaningful conversation.  

The rapid-fire social media environment lends itself to very little depth.  We’re constantly jumping to the next best thing.  It doesn’t allow room for having deep, meaningful experiences.  We’ve let gaming become how we do life, jumping from the next thing to the next.  As parents, we have to make the change. 

Resources:  The Center For Digital Wellness

The Digital Invasion  by Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd

096 Parenting: Teens & Vaping

SHOW NOTES:

Welcome to Relationship Helpers!  We’re so glad you’ve joined us for our 96th episode today.  We are winding down our podcast as we approach our 100th episode!  Today we discuss teen vaping.  Parents all over the country are having to play a massive game of catch-up with this new trend.  It’s not one that parents had to deal with when they were teens.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams declared teen vaping an epidemic. According to a survey from University of Michigan, eleven percent of high school seniors, eight percent of tenth graders and three and a half percent of eight graders report vaping with nicotine in a one month period. 

Vaping devices and liquids can be sold to anyone over the age of eighteen.  Anyone under the age of twenty-seven is expected to provide identification to purchase them.

What’s In a Name?

Vaping devices are known as vape pens, juuls, pod mods, tanks, electronic nicotine delivery devices, e-hookahs and e-cigarettes. Vape liquids are called e-juice e-liquid, cartridges, pods, or oil. Vaping devices can deliver nicotine, marijuana or flavored chemicals.  Think how jelly beans have hundreds of crazy flavors, so is true for vaping liquids.  

Is Vaping Safe?

The rationale behind vaping is that it is safer than cigarette smoking and is a means to quit smoking, yet there is no research to support this mentality. There are ninety three harmful or potentially harmful chemicals found in cigarettes, as determined by the FDA. Vape liquids have fewer chemicals, but still contain the drug nicotine.

Have We Forgotten The Harm of Nicotine?

Nicotine is a highly addictive drug.  Research confirms it is toxic to developing fetuses. It is harmful to brain development in children up to the age of twenty. Memory and attention processing can be negatively impacted by nicotine usage. 

Surgeon General Adams states that the most reported reason teens vape is because of the flavors in them. Many teens do not realize that they are inhaling a drug when they vape. The amount of nicotine found in an entire pack of cigarettes is loaded into a single “juulpod.” 

Parents:  Let’s Talk About Vaping

Parents need to educate themselves about vaping.  We live in a fast-forward culture where things our teens experience did not exist during our own teen years.  Rather than choosing to avoid learning about it, educate yourself.

One of the key elements to a healthy relationship with your teen is learning how to communicate with them. If you want your child to ask you questions and for them to talk to you, you have to make yourself approachable.  This means being intentional.  Choose to put away your technological devices and have time where you can talk, face-to-face.  Help them feel heard.  Empathize. Put yourself in their shoes. DO THIS EVERY DAY.  Don’t be reactive and make the only times you talk to them when you are punishing them. 

Find teachable moments.  If you are watching tv together and someone is vaping, ask them about it.  If it is mentioned in a song while you are listening to the radio, see what they think about it.  These are non-intrusive ways to create dialogue.

We hope you’ve learned something new today and will incorporate it into your parenting.  Be sure to check out our other parenting episodes!

Resources: 

“The Vape Debate:  What You Need to Know.”  

“Monitoring The Future Survey:  High School and Youth Trends.”  

“Your Teen is Underestimating the Health Risks of Vaping.”