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!

084 Personal Growth: What Are Triggers?

SHOW NOTES:

Disclaimer:  Today’s topic is sensitive in nature.  We will be discussing topics that may be difficult for some listeners, such as trauma, death, and things that elicit very emotional responses. Listen at your discretion. 

Trigger is a buzzword these days.  It seems to be a part of this decade’s zeitgeist. Being “triggered” is a notion popularized by today’s media and culture.

From a clinical standpoint, triggers are a serious consideration. For someone suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, grief, etc. the word trigger is not a trite term. 

Today, therapists Vincent and Laura Ketchie of Relationship Helpers examine triggers.  What are they?  Where do they come from?  What should we do with them?

Things we see, things we hear, things we touch, even the day of the year can be a trigger for some of us. These can ingrain and store certain memories in the body, bringing us back to how we felt during a traumatic situation of the past.  We can have emotions from the past in the present moment due to triggers. 

A trigger is something that pushes the “rewind” button in your body—transporting you back to a different time.  You begin to feel what you felt during that time, your body feels as if it is back in that time.  You experience that same emotion and physical feeling or maybe you zone out. 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is seen often in someone who has experienced a trauma and they have had difficulty coping with that trauma.  They may experience nightmares and hyper-vigilance (looking for threats constantly, frequently concerned about their safety). Those suffering from PTSD may struggle with functioning at work and/or home. 

They may experience nightmares and hyper-vigilance (looking for threats constantly, frequently concerned about their safety).
They may experience nightmares and hyper-vigilance (looking for threats constantly, frequently concerned about their safety).

An example could be a combat veteran who has lost a friend in uniform. He may struggle with the sudden sounds of fireworks or watching a movie, or something that reminds them of the person they lost.  Whatever the trigger, his body and mind is sent back to that moment where he lost his friend. His mind and body are responding as if he is back at that traumatic situation. 

A Post Traumatic Stress Disorder diagnosis can occur over countless types of traumas.  It is not specific to combat. People with PTSD often have anxiety attacks. Some have panic attacks. Be sure to check out our episode on how to tell the difference between an anxiety and panic attack.

Laura feels there are varying degrees of response to stimuli. She shares her experience with PTSD, finding that being in the presence of a very direct trigger could elicit a strong PTSD response. She mentions, however that there could be lesser triggers. Rather than having a full-on panic attack, a sufferer may have milder responses. 

There are many layers to the situation of a trauma. There are many things in your environment, at the time. Some things that may have not seemed to be all that significant during the trauma could still be a trigger. In essence, there could be some very direct triggers that causes extreme responses, but there could be some more subtle ones that cause a response as well. 

Obvious things such as the sight of blood or the sounds of gasping for air could be pretty direct, but others such as the air temperature or the lighting could be more subtle triggers. Triggers can be subtle or obvious.

If you are having difficulty understanding why you are having some mild anxiety symptoms, it may be helpful to identify any subtle triggers that you may have. 

Acknowledging these triggers is important because your trigger-response behavior may be affecting your relationships now.  You may be irritable, standoffish, blowing up with your spouse. You could be hesitant about things without knowing why. 

Anniversary Triggers

For some that struggle with triggers, they may not know today’s date, yet are still triggered by the anniversary of a trauma on that date. This person’s body and mind still transports them to that time, even without direct awareness of the day. 

Grief is often associated with anniversary triggers. The date of someone’s death or the date of a breakup are both examples of possible anniversary triggers. 

Holidays and birthdays can be very natural triggers. Sometimes we get triggered days before the anniversary. He or she may become irritable days before the anniversary.  They may seem depressed, leading up to that day.  Or, they may experience depression and irritability at any time or frequently. 

It is important to be aware of your triggers, but also to give yourself grace. Don’t put too much on your schedule around an anniversary. You need to know how you best cope. You may need to schedule some fun activities around an anniversary to get you through that time. Don’t overcommit yourself or put too much stress on yourself if you know this is going to be a difficult time. 

Visual Triggers

T.V. and movies can be very triggering for some people.
T.V. and movies can be very triggering for some people.

When someone experiences trauma, usually the most concrete things are visual. We are very visual people. 

Vincent describes a story about our professor, Dr. David Ludwig.  He shared that he had difficulty with a very specific shade of blue cloth.  One day he was sitting in the choir loft during a church meeting. The choir was wearing blue robes.  On this particular day his father, the pastor, was being criticized by someone in the congregation. They were threatening to let him go from the church. Dr. Ludwig was embarrassed. He continued to look down and to the right, staring at his robe.  Now he finds himself feeling that sense of shame sometimes if he looks down and to the right at something blue. He had made an association of shame with that color. 

T.V. and movies can be very triggering for some people. The visual paired with audio can be very stimulating and stir up emotions, sending someone back to a traumatic situation. 

Physical Triggers

Sometimes we don’t consider how physical touch can set us off. The body keeps memory of things that have happened to it.  Someone who may have been held down by the shoulder by an attacker may have difficulty being touched on the shoulder later. 

Some people struggle with having their personal space impeded or struggle with being cornered because of a past trauma. They may have difficulty handling a situation with a person with a poor sense of personal boundaries. Being crammed in an elevator may be hard. Standing in line at a theme park or being crowded may cause this person to have feelings like they did when they were abused or attacked. 

Air temperature, lighting, voice tone, body language, environment, and more can all be contributing triggers. 
Air temperature, lighting, voice tone, body language, environment, and more can all be contributing triggers.

Getting your haircut, going to the dentist and/or doctor, having a massage all could be difficult because of the close proximity of another person who is touching you. 

Some people don’t realize that a physical reaction to being touched could be connected to a trauma. Triggers are not a cut-and-dry, black or white thing. For instance, a rape victim is not going to be only triggered by sex. Air temperature, lighting, voice tone, body language, environment, and more can all be contributing triggers. 

Having a very broad understanding of triggers is important because each person’s experience of trauma is different.  No two people or traumas are alike. We can’t say that this person’s trauma is that person’s trauma or that this person’s reason for having PTSD is that person’s reasons for having or not having PTSD. It’s a very individual experience. 

Verbal Triggers

Sometimes what is said or not said can be a trigger.  Tone of voice can be a trigger. A certain language or dialect could be triggering. 

If someone has been assaulted and their assailant had a deep voice they could be triggered by the sounds of deep voices. It could be the kind of words their attacker said. T.V. and movies could be difficult to watch because of these types of triggers. Songs could be difficult to hear. 

Triggers and Grooming

Grooming is the process that a pedophile uses to establish a trusting connection with a child. (Be sure to check out our interview with Tracy Lamperti on How to Protect Your Child From Pedophiles to learn more about preventing child molestation). The pedophile may have used certain tactics to make the child more comfortable with him or her.  These could become triggers later. 

People who have been molested as children may struggle with figures of authority because their trust in authority has been broken. 

Miscellaneous Triggers

Cologne, perfume, laundry detergent smells may all be triggering for some people. The sense of taste can be triggering. 

Certain textures and tastes can be disturbing for some people (especially those who have experienced childhood sexual traumas.) 

Conclusion

We’ve never really walked in another person’s shoes.  It is good to broaden your understanding of trauma and its affects on people.  Being aware of triggers and how they impact people is very helpful in improving your relationships with others. 

If you have suffered from trauma, being in the here-and-now and having an awareness of your triggers is helpful in coping with day-to-day activities. 

Out of hurt we have a tendency to shut out others. Acting out of hurt can shut us out from being able to support others and have relationships with others. Sometimes hurt people make the assumption that they are the only ones who have hurt this bad and that no one can understand. Regardless of whether someone near you has experienced the hurt you’ve experienced, there are people that want to support you. 

If you have a “difficult” person in your life, they have probably experienced trauma. Being caring and empathetic will take you much further in trying to be in relationship with that person than being defensive and dismissive.  

Have patience with people and with yourself. Be aware of what’s going on and ask God to help you to step back and gain understanding.

083 Personal Growth: Is Self-Care Selfish?

SHOW NOTES

Self-care seems to be buzz words these days.  Many industries have devoted themselves to the idea of self-care. But is self-care selfish? With our culture becoming more and more me-focused have we gotten too focused on self and less on others?  What really is self-care?

We have to be very careful in how we answer this question. As therapists it would be irresponsible not to.  In some Christian circles the concept of self-care is frowned upon. Again, we have to be careful.  Yes, we are told to deny ourselves and take up our crosses daily, but how we deny ourselves is an important discussion.

Laura Explains This Cultural Concept To Vincent

At the onset of today’s episode, Laura explains to Vincent that a large portion of the self-care industry seems to be geared towards women.  Vincent assumed that self-care was more along the lines of good hygiene.  It is a bit funny to hear the difference between what a man considers self-care and how a woman views it. After helping Vincent see that self-care goes beyond taking a daily bath, Laura engages him in discussion on activities that women and men find entertaining. 

We delineate the difference between selfish behavior and self-care by using Vincent’s example of what many men find fun:  sitting in a deer stand for hours on end.  Laura asks “are you doing it to the neglect of your family or are you doing it because you need to refuel?”  Vincent prefers to use the words “leisure” or “fun time” over “self-care.”  Laura feels that self-care is not just fun.  (She gives the example of waxing.) 

Dangers of Too Much Self-Care

Laura has seen the impact of women self-medicating with what started as an occasional glass of wine to wind down in the evening to drinking that has increased over time. It started out as a mindless activity that has gotten out of control. AND it is a slippery slope that is becoming more socially acceptable.

On the face of it, I (Laura) understand why some Christians denounce the concept of self-care.  If it is taking you away from time spent better with God or serving others, then, yes, self-care could be thought of selfish.

However, having worked with troubled individuals for years, I (Laura) think(s)  that a message of self-care being selfish is unhelpful. This message could be particularly harmful to those struggling with codependency.

Codependents have a tendency to live in the extremes.  They often feel responsible for others’ feelings.  They can’t be happy unless others are happy. 

Harmfulness Of Putting Self-Care Down

Here’s why telling people self-care is selfish could be harmful:  For the struggling codependent, they are so unhealthily focused on others that given the message that self-care is selfish just reinforces an already negative belief they have:  I don’t need to take care of myself. 

I’m caring for others better by not spending time on myself. This lack of self-care ends up hurting others in the process. 

Legalism is also common in codependency.  Seeing self-care as selfish can be a result of a harsh view of reality. Having worked with codependency we see so many people operating out of dry wells that will end up needing others’ care because they are not taking care of themselves.

The irony is that the mindset is often “I can’t do this for me right now because I’ve got to take care of so-and-so” and yet the codependent wears herself out and the very person that she was trying to care for will end up having to care for her. 

Codependents often struggle because they have put themselves in a position above God.  In their attempts at trying to make others happy, they get in God’s way. They often find their worth and value from being responsible for others’ happiness.

Meanwhile, it does not occur to them that they are getting in God’s way.  Many times, it takes a Christian therapist, pastor, family member or close friend to point this out to them, however sometimes codependents figure this out on their own.

The Best Self-Care

Some of the best self-care is time spent with God.  Drawing upon His strength will give you what you need.  Reading His word and learning about Him will help you through your day. 

If not, you run the risk of trying to do things out of your own strength and self-reliance.  This also means you may be serving others out of guilt, not out of a Christlike position. Be care not to fall into the trap of defining yourself by what you do.

If we’re serving others but doing it from the wrong motivation, it builds our ego. You could feel very guilty and blame yourself often AND your ego could be quite large and prideful. 

Gender Roles and Self-Care

Vincent has noticed an imbalance of work between the genders.  He describes how in the 1950s there was a very traditional view of man’s work and woman’s work and how that has changed since. Women have seemed to take on more work overall, still trying to do the homemaking and work full-time jobs.  Meanwhile, many men still feel that their wives should do most of the homemaking along with their jobs. In effect, many women are burnt out.

One common issue is that many families have divided tasks to indoors for the women and outdoors for the men.  This is problematic because usually indoor tasks are a daily activity whereas outdoor ones usually are not. Add children to the mix as well as the assumption that the woman will be doing the brunt of the childcare, and then you have an even greater imbalance. 

With more stay-at-home mothers taking on “work-at-home” jobs and businesses, it even furthers the amount of work women have taken on. Men, however, have had less variation in their roles.  There are some stay-at-home dads and work-from-home dads, but for the most part women’s roles have developed more variations.

Communication issues in marriages often arise out of assumptions.  It is very common to see a couple struggling over household work and duties, especially when they have not clearly communicated who is going to do what. Operating off of assumptions causes a lot of friction in relationships. 

Vincent mentions how the traditional household of the 1950s may have not necessarily been right, but that it was clear.  These days many couples are not clear on what is expected of one another. 

Mindless Activity

With the amount of work we are taking on, what are we doing to ourselves? Often, we find ourselves with a window of time between when the kids go to bed and when we do. 

This window of time is used many times for very unintentional activities.  This is where self-care can become problematic (see Laura’s discussion of alcoholism above.) On-line shopping, gaming, overeating, and social media all become mindless activities that create debt, emotional and/or physical problems. 

Why Are We So Busy?

Is it time to re-examine your goals in life?  Do expect to make a certain dollar amount or acquire certain status symbols? 

Laura feels that Western culture promotes excess. If you have a job, you over-work. If you’re a mother you are a soccer mom, a Pinterest mom, you do, you do, you do. If your kids are in sports they are on travel teams and play four games a weekend, not counting the practices and games during the week. Some parents count this as “leisure time” for themselves, when it really contributes more to the hamster wheel effect running ourselves ragged. 

Physical exhaustion can lead to poor decisions.  One such decision is eating.  Exhaustion can mask itself as hunger.   

Did You Do Your Homework?

As couples counselors, we give homework to our clients. Vincent describes how difficult it is for many couples to complete his homework assignment of four thirty-minute conversations per week. 

Overwhelmingly the excuse for not completing the homework is that they do not have the “downtime” to do it. 

God & Self-Care

If we view our bodies as temples, we have to care for them to be able to go out and serve.  Caring for our literal bodies helps us to be the hands and feet of Christ. 

Spending time with God allows us to be fueled by the Holy Spirit and not motivated by false guilt. 

God created us to be relational.  He desires relationship with us.  He wants to be our source of strength. He wants us to put our dependence in Him. We can do this through prayer and time spent reading the Bible.  He also gave us a wonderful creation to admire Him through. 

God also desires in us to have relationships with others.  We can incorporate this into our self-care routine.  Enjoying the company of positive people can go a long way. 

Self-care could mean watching a beautiful sunset and saying, “Wow!  Thank you God for allowing me to see that.  Your creation is beautiful.” 

Self-care could be going on a hike and marveling at how peaceful and still God’s handiwork can be. 

Self-care can be soaking in a tub, taking care of a world-worn body whose feet have walked far to carry the good news. 

Self-care can help us to appreciate.  It can prepare us to go out into the world refreshed for the next day of witnessing. 

Anything done to the extreme is unhealthy. Striking a balance is key. 

What can you do this week to take care of yourself?

080 Personal Growth: A Better New Year’s Resolution – Peacemaking

SHOW NOTES

Today we challenge your view of what makes a person a peacemaker. We’re not talking about the person that avoids conflict or doesn’t “rock the boat”.  We are talking about the person who RESOLVES conflict through healthy communication and interactions. 

"A Better New Year's Resolution" is an 8 part series where therapists Vincent & Laura discuss character traits that help your relationships.
“A Better New Year’s Resolution” is an 8 part series where therapists Vincent & Laura discuss character traits that help your relationships.

Each week for the last several weeks we have focused on making “A Better New Year’s Resolution.” Instead of making diet and fitness goals, we are looking to improve our character.  Each episode is about developing a character trait. This week’s episode is about becoming a peacemaker. 

Being a peacemaker is not an easy thing. This person does not stir up fights. They have a lot of courage. 

1.) Not the person who is passive & doesn’t rock the boat.

This is someone who addresses conflict. They are very thoughtful. When they speak, they are intentional. Ravi Zacharias, a leader in apologetics, met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to do some peace talks.

He had the opportunity to meet with an Israeli leader and a Palestinian leader. Both of the leaders had lost children to terrorism and fighting that had occurred due to the conflicts. 

He aligned with the both of them by saying, “It must be difficult to lose a child. You have sacrificed your child. What pain you must be going through.”  In doing so, he showed them that he was trying to understand them both.

In the middle of this discussion, he presented the Gospel.  He talked about God the father and how He sacrificed His son. He was able to use this opportunity to present the Gospel.

Most people would cower in a situation where they are between two warring foes, not Ravi Zacharias.  He was able to communicate THROUGH the pain that both fathers were feeling. It takes a lot of courage. Be sure to check out our BRAVE episode if you’d like some extra help on mustering up your courage.

2.) They work to find a solution which means compromise or setting healthy boundaries.

We are marriage therapists, we often see couples stuck in their ways.  Once they have been stuck for a while, hearts begin to harden.

Areas such as household duties and parenting are common problem areas for hardened hearts to develop.  An “I’m right, you’re wrong attitude” begins to emerge and they begin to operate out of that as a default mode. 

Sometimes even pet peeves can grow into a hardened heart. Your heart hardens onto these opinions and it becomes extremely difficult to compromise. 

It is painful to break these ideals. A peacemaker is able to adjust. They are flexible.

3.) They have empathy.

A peacemaker wants what is best for all involved.  They are able to see how others think and feel.

Being a peacemaker is not being passive, however.  A peacemaker is not someone who just keeps peace by postponing conflict.

Postponing conflict is like putting anger in a pressure cooker.  Being passive is like participating in building a bomb. Vincent calls it being an “emotional bomb-builder.”

Weeks, months, years pass and the anger errupts, and it is much worse than it needed to be if had been acknowledged in the first place. If you need some pointers on addressing the “elephant in the room” be sure to check out our episode where we interview Jill Martin

4.) They resolve conflict.

Resolving conflict requires several different components. 

Atmosphere

A peacemaker is able to gauge the atmosphere and to set the atmosphere. They can set the tone, or help to set the tone.  They know when to address a problem. 

To help you learn how to gauge the atmosphere, pay attention to your five senses. For instance, if everyone is cramped into a hot, crowded car, it’s not best to try to bring up a problem.

Also beware of distractions. If someone is hungry, it is loud, the tv is on, the kids can hear, etc. it’s not a good time to try to bring up a contentious issue. A peacemaker makes or finds an appropriate atmophere. 

Focus on the Problem Not the Person

A peacemaker is able to extract the problem from the persons involved. They do not identify the other person as the problem. They do not personalize the situation. 

Be Honest & Direct While Using Tact

A peacemaker may plan out what they are about to say—scripting it.  Organizing your thoughts is helpful to make things come out in a healthy way. 

Try sandwiching it.  Use positives before getting to the actual issue.  Do things to align yourself with the other person.  Being able to empathize, using feeling words, goes a long way.

Examples may include “That must have really hurt when…” or “You must have felt really frustrated when…” Another important comment to make is “I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me.”

An example of using the “sandwich technique” would be:  “I really appreciated it when you helped Tommy with his science project, but it upset me when you told mom what I told you about the problems my wife and I are having. When I told you this in confidence, it really upset me.  I didn’t want mom to know.  It hurt my trust. I value our relationship.  I want it to be healthy.  I needed to address this with you so I wouldn’t hold resentment towards you. I would want you to tell me if I’ve done something to hurt you, as well.” Notice how the peacemaker ends on a positive note. 

In conflict, you need to show the other person that you understand them. Don’t tell them, “I understand.”  SHOW them you understand.  This means using emotion words, for example:   “it must have hurt to…”

This helps you to connect to the other person. It deepens the communication and connection. They will know that you understand them. It helps the peacemaker come up with a concrete plan.  You’re able to work towards boundaries. 

Peacemaking is not a one time deal.  It is a process of forgiving and leaving the door open for more dialogue in the future. It may mean expressing a boundary, such as “next time you bring up the problem, I’ll say ‘I don’t want to hear that…it’s not appropriate.’” Be clear and concise, and follow through. 

Conclusion

Being a peacemaker is not a common quality. We hope that you have found today’s episode helpful in working on conflict resolution in your relationships so that you can become a healthy peacemaker! 

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9

079 Personal Growth: A Better New Year’s Resolution – Genuineness

SHOW NOTES

"A Better New Year's Resolution" is an 8 part series where therapists Vincent & Laura discuss character traits that help your relationships.
“A Better New Year’s Resolution” is an 8 part series where therapists Vincent & Laura discuss character traits that help your relationships.

Do you feel like you are wearing a mask?  In today’s episode, the hosts of Relationship Helpers, therapists Vincent and Laura Ketchie discuss peeling off the mask to reveal the genuine you. 

Before a child reaches the age of two, you see a person who is the least likely to lie.  Of course as the toddler years emerge, lying starts.  But prior to this stage in human development, what you see is what you get. 

At some point, however, we begin to lie.  Usually it starts with little “white lies” to get what we want. Disingenuous behavior eventually gets us in trouble as children, as later it does adults.  It creates conflict in our relationships because of a lack of honesty or forthrightness.  When we are not genuine in our relationships, we end up in constant struggle. 

How to Become More Genuine

1.) People can’t mind-read you

If you are not assertive (direct, clear) with others, it becomes a guessing game. It’s a timeless experience, a couple wants to order takeout, but they play the “I don’t know what I want…” game.

The other spouse makes a suggestion and the one spouse says, “Well, I don’t want that.”  And round and round the conversation goes, taking up time and leaving them both hungry. It’s like a dance; dancing around the point: getting the food. 

This behavior leaves the spouse who asked the question frustrated. It sets a bad tone.  

If you want to improve the health of your relationship, it’s important to remember not to frustrate your loved one by being passive and indirect.  Expecting someone to read your mind is detrimental to your relationship. 

2.) Be honest with yourself

Not only do we need to be honest with others, we need to be honest with ourselves. We need to have an awareness of our strengths and weaknesses. If you recognize that you are passive, be proactive about changing that behavior.

Remember that your passivity will frustrate your loved ones unless you do something about it. This means seeking out opportunities to step outside of your comfort zone. 

When you take the risk of putting yourself in opportunities where you could fail, you grow. Some people may look back on their lackluster sports attempts and feel negatively.  Rather than choosing to focus on how poorly you performed, consider other takeaways. 

For instance, if you have two left feet, you may consider how you were as a team mate. Look at the strengths you had. Maybe you would have been a better strategist, coach, cheerleader or supporter?

In Proverbs we are told that it is wise to accept correction—that a fool hates correction.   Study the correction you have received.  Look at how you have received the correction.  You may need to take an honest look at how you perceive yourself. 

3.) Don’t be aggressive 

Don’t confuse being genuine with “telling people like it is.”  Aggressive people often think that they are genuine. Although they are speaking “their truth” they are bulldozing the relationship.  It’s not helpful. 

Being genuine means you have an awareness of others being equals—seeing each person on an equal playing field.  You are valuing their needs and wants but at the same time you are able to express your needs and wants. 

4.) When people ask you about yourself, you tell them.

This also means that when someone asks you “how are you?” you are able to say something other than “fine.”  Fine many times is a blanket statement.  Think of the word fine this way—Feelings Inside Not Expressed.

Next time someone asks, try being honest. You don’t have to dump on them, but you can be honest. If life has been difficult, say things haven’t been easy lately. 

5.) Be honest & direct in a calm, relaxed manner – Speak the Truth in Love

We’ve just talked about when things aren’t okay and how we tend to not let people know that.  On the other hand, sometimes we don’t let people know it when things are going well. 

Is there some sort of excitement you’re not sharing with others?  If so, you could lift someone’s mood.  Not sharing your good news may be robbing others of an opportunity to be happy (and happy for you.)

One of the biggest obstacles to being genuine is a fear of conflict. Some people are passive and generally are people-pleasers.  Yet others are aggressive, and believe that they are telling their truth when in fact that are doing it in unhelpful manner. 

The Bible asserts that we should “speak the truth in love,” meaning that we do not avoid being truthful (passive), BUT that when we do confront someone that we do it with love (assertive).  

Assertiveness Versus Aggressiveness

Please do not confuse assertive with aggressive.  Assertiveness is done with regard to everyone having value.  Aggressiveness says, “I’m going to speak my truth how ever I can and no matter how it hurts others.” Speaking truth without love is judgmental. 

An example would be a husband and wife are riding home.  The husband is driving but his driving makes his wife nervous.  She could say, “Are you trying to get us killed?!?” Which would be aggressive and probably create a fight.

OR she could say, “I appreciate that you’re driving tonight. Could you slow down some?  It’s making me nervous. I appreciate that you’re driving, you do have better night vision.”  In the second example, compliments are being used to soften the criticism. 

What the Bible Says…

In Ephesians 4: 22-24 Paul says, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Here we have Paul telling us to be the people God created us to be, our genuine selves! He wants to be who He made us to be and for our character and actions to match this persona.

A person who does this appears consistent. They are a person of their word. When they tell you their opinion or talk about their feelings, you know they are being truthful because they have a history of being consistent.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 4: 25, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” A genuine person promotes the unity of the body of Christ. 

This means that they are able to create calmness and peace amongst others with their assertiveness.  They are good, healthy communicators who visibly acknowledge the value of others. 

Conclusion

We hope that you feel encouraged to be a more genuine person.  When more people do, there is less conflict and misunderstandings.

Be sure to checkout our other episodes in this series “A Better New Year’s Resolution”, where we describe more ways to help you to build character!