Sunday, February 26, 2012

The 7 Most Important things to know about Emotional/Mental Abuse

There are many marriages in our community, even in our Christian community, that are wrought with emotional and mental abuse. Physical abuse can, manytimes, be seen in bruises or scars. But mental/emotional abuse can be hidden so well that the signs are much harder to discern.

I am sharing this list of 7 key things to understand about mental/emotional abuse because in my short time of counseling in Spartanburg, SC, I am seeing an increase in emotional abuse cases. Look over this list this. If you even think you are in a relationship or marriage and are experiencing these things, then please get help. Go to a trusted friend and share, call a counselor and begin to uncover the pain, pray and ask God to help you find the resources to begin dealing with the effects and consequences of emotional/mental abuse.

1. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” It sounds almost true but it is not completely true. Sticks and stones can hurt and break bones and words won’t leave any measurable physical damage, but words have the incredible power to cause progressive, long-term harm. Never underestimate the power of words. It is this power that words carry that make our communication in marriage and family of special importance.

Being told you are “stupid,” “ugly,” or “worthless” is never acceptable. The first time you hear it, it hurts, naturally. In time you “may get used to” hearing it from a partner. That’s when you start to internalize and believe it. When that happens you are doing the other person’s work of putting yourself down for them. This is why your feelings of self-worth suffer increasingly over time. Abusive words may sound like anger from the offender but it is important to note that when used consistently over and over, anger turns into harm. It is never acceptable to be put down consistently by a parent, spouse, partner, or friend.

2. You are always told that it’s your fault. Somehow, whatever happens, however it starts, the ultimate blame is always yours. Notice that we are talking ultimate blame here. The blaming partner will always tell you that their behavior was caused by what you said or did and the blaming partner somehow never seems to take responsibility for their actions or behaviors. In fact, their argument runs along the lines that you can’t possibly blame them for anything, because if you hadn’t said what you said, or done what you did it would never have happened. This kind of behavior is very indicative of an emotional abuser.

3. The more you are abused, the more inclined you are to believe your abusive partner than you are to believe yourself. Have you ever reeled with a sense of hurt and injustice, or seethed with anger at the way you’ve been treated? Have you found yourself asking: “Is it reasonable to feel like this?” “Am I misinterpreting things?” “Have I got it wrong?”

If this is you, what it means is that you have become so brainwashed you’ve stopped trusting in your own judgment. Your mind keeps throwing up the observations and questions because, deep down, you know that what is happening is utterly wrong. But right now you can’t feel the strength of your own convictions. This is a classic symptom of being abused. You may be able to recognize the abuse but don’t seem to be able to do anything about it.

4. You are so frustrated that you cannot seem to get your partner to acknowledge your feelings. Maybe you have tried to communicate how you feel to them but it always gets deflected back to you. Have you ever felt desperate to make your partner hear what you are saying and apologize for the hurtful things they’ve said? Have you ever felt that only they can heal the pain they’ve caused?

When a partner constantly denies or refuses to listen to your feelings, that is, unquestionably, a sign of mental abuse. After a while you give up trying to “be heard” and stuff the feelings of hurt deep inside the self. Repressed feelings of rejection and pain turn into self destructive behaviors, risk taking, and a hardened heart. You need to be heard, to be listened to, to be affirmed in your struggle and pain.

5. Your partner blows hot and cold. She can be very loving but is often highly critical of you. She may tell you how much she loves you, yet she is short on care or consideration towards you. In fact, some of the time, maybe even a lot of the time, she treats you as if you were someone she truly dislikes.

You do everything you can to make him happy, but it’s never good enough. You’re more like the pet dog in the relationship than you are the equal partner. Your constant efforts to get his attention and please him meet with limited success. Sometimes he’ll be charmed, often he’s dismissive.

If you find yourself puzzled about how your partner can treat you that way, it is because you are trying to live in a love-based relationship, when in reality you are living in a control-based relationship. The mental abuser struggles with his/her own feelings of worthlessness and uses the relationship to create a feeling of personal power, at his/her partner’s expense.

6. You feel as if you are constantly walking on eggshells. There is a real degree of fear in the relationship. You have come to dread his outbursts, the hurtful things that he will find to say to you.

Fear is not part of a loving relationship, but it is a vital part of a mentally abusive relationship. It enables the abuser to maintain control over you. This feeling of walking on eggshells is almost a “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” feeling. As soft and caring and sensitive as you may try to communicate your feelings, the “eggshells” still break and crackle under your feet, meaning that no matter how much everyone in the family tries to be understanding and careful of what he/she says, the abuser continues to rant, rage, outburst, and cut down. No amount of what you do or don’t do seems to help the situation.

7. You can heal. Mentally abusive relationships cause enormous emotional damage to the loving partner who tries, against all odds, to hold the relationship together and, ultimately, can’t do it, because her partner is working against her. Sticks and stones do break bones, but words can maim in deepening ways.

Whether you are currently in a mentally abusive relationship, have left one recently, or years later are still struggling with the anxieties and low self-worth and lack of confidence caused by mental abuse, it is never too late to heal.

Mental abuse recovery is a gradual process. Low self-worth and limiting beliefs about what kind of future the abuse sufferer can ever hope for are the blocks that can stop persons from moving on. But they are blocks that you can clear very effectively. Just as language was once used to harm you, you can now learn how language can heal you. You can overcome past mental abuse and keep yourself safe from it in the future. You can also learn to feel strong, believe in yourself and create the life and the relationships you truly want.

Glance over the seven things once more before leaving this article. If you or someone you know is experiencing the painful effects of being mentally and/or emotionally abused, then find an encouraging way to get help. Go to your pastor, close friend, or seek out a counseling professional to find your way back to you again.

Grace and Peace,

Dr. Trey

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Man’s Guide to Understanding Women!

Women! So hard to understand at times, so uniquely different than men! If only women were more like men: predictable, moved by what they see, more logical and less emotionally focused, more into fixing what is on the surface rather than dealing with complex issues down inside; if only women were more like men…….

We men need a guide, some clues, or some helpful secrets to help navigate this world where we think we are somehow in control but in reality are struggling to operate as a team! I have sought out and interviewed a number of capable and insightful women for this article in hopes of bringing together some of those mysterious secrets to help husbands and men understand better the wife, family member, friend, or daughter.

A guide to help men understand women:

1) Women love to talk. Women need to talk. Talking is their way of connecting with others.

2) Women love to be told that they are loved! A better way to say it is this: You cannot tell your wife, daughter, family member, or friend “I love you” too often. It goes back to that need to be connected to another. Men give flowers and gifts to their wives to help substitute for what they feel inadequate to say, yet my wife has confirmed to me that she would trade the flowers and any material gift for more verbal and physical exchanges of “I love you.” Use those three words more often. Become comfortable again with “I love you.”

3) When having disputes in the marriage/relationship, women may need more than 1 discussion to resolve the issue or process the information. Men can say we’re done and walk away. Women need more than that – issues/problems are much deeper to them than we may think.

4) Women are very hard on themselves, in general. They need encouragement on a regular basis because they can multitask very well and tend to take on too much. As husbands/men, we tend to expect that they can handle everything they take on. They yearn for our words of encouragement.

5) Wives dream of husbands that do tasks without being asked. Wives want their husbands to use that great initiative they brag about at work, at home.

6) Women want you to say “How can I help” rather than “How can I fix this/that.”

7) Women are very sensitive. They may give the appearance that they are tough but that is only part of the picture. Women are sensitive and easily hurt by others. Husbands/men: be careful what you say and do. It matters how you say it and how you do it.

8) Women compare themselves to others, in general. Sometimes, because of those comparisons – drama can be created.  One secret men need to realize is that women are comfortable with some amount of drama/conflict amongst friends, coworkers, and family.  Because women tend to be multilayered, they often enjoy talking and evaluating the complexity of relationships between those around them.

9) The more a woman loves someone, the higher the other person’s value becomes. More love equals higher value. I know, it doesn’t seem logical but it is how women think. It works for them.

10) No woman desires to be a second class person/follower in a marriage/relationship but aspires to be a partner in a partnership. Don’t pull the scripture passage about being submissive. It doesn’t mean what you think it means. Love and respect your wife as an equal partner!

11) It is important for a wife to feel secure in the marriage: financial security, relational security, spiritual security. An example of this would mean that the family finances are secured and managed together. Don’t just tell your wife/partner to trust your judgment that the money is being managed – show her and let her be a part of it. Another example would mean that the marriage is built upon trust and keeping that trust connection secure means talking/connecting on a regular basis together: TALKING, not just watching tv together. Security is an action not just a description. Security is mutual investment not just independent decision.

12) Women need to emote. Don’t be afraid of their tears. When women cry, please do not attempt to “fix” them. Be patient, understanding, and fully present. If you are patient and hang with them after they cry, then you will be more respected and prove yourself a real man!

13) Know your wife’s love language. More than likely it is different from yours. When you can love her with her love language it helps show her true leadership and love. She then will want to seek out your love language and love you accordingly. For more information see the book, “The Five Love Languages,” by Gary Chapman.

So there you go guys. A small glimpse into the complexities of being a woman. Certainly NOT the full story but a good start. Hopefully some of these insights can help you connect in more meaningful ways in your relationship.

Grace and Peace,

Dr. Trey

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Miscommunication in communication!

As many of you may already know, good communication is one of the key elements in a happy marriage and functional family system. Good communication is not just a necessity in families. It is vital that good communication take place at work, in your church, and within relationships. Never assume that the other person(s) understand unless it comes directly from you. Below is a rather lengthy but funny example of the need for good face to face communication.
As I understand, the following came from a reprint from an exchange within a London Hotel that was printed in the London Sunday Times, though I have been unable to confirm that. It was sent to me via email by a friend years ago and I have kept a copy of it to share here.

What to do with Hotel Soap?
The following letters are taken from an actual incident between a London Hotel and one of its guests. The Hotel ended up submitting the letters to the London Sunday Times.

Dear Maid,
Please do not leave any more of those little bars of soap in my bathroom since I have brought my own bath-sized Dial. Please remove the six unopened little bars from the shelf under the medicine chest and another three in the shower soap dish. They are in my way.

Thank you,
S. Berman

Dear Room 635,
I am not your regular maid. She will be back tomorrow, Thursday, from her day off. I took the 3 hotel soaps out of the shower soap dish as you requested. The 6 bars on your shelf I took out of your way and put on top of your Kleenex dispenser in case you should change your mind. This leaves only 3 bars I left today of which my instruction from the management is to leave 3 soaps daily. I hope this is satisfactory.

Kathy, Relief Maid

Dear Maid- I hope you are my regular maid,
Apparently Kathy did not tell you about my note to her concerning the little bars of soap. When I got back to my room this evening I found you had added 3 little Camays to the shelf under my medicine cabinet. I am going to be here in the hotel for 2 weeks and have brought my own bath-sized Dial so I won’t need those 6 little  Camays which are on the shelf. They are in my way when shaving, brushing teeth, etc. Please remove them.

S. Berman.
Dear Mr. Berman,
My day off was last Wednesday so the relief maid left 3 hotel soaps which we are instructed by the management to do. I took the 6 soaps which were in your way on the shelf and put them in the soap dish where your Dial was. I put the Dial in the medicine cabinet for your convenience. I didn’t remove the 3 complimentary soaps which are always placed inside the medicine cabinet for all new check-ins and which you did not object to when you checked in last Monday. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.
Your regular maid,

Dear Mr. Berman,
The assistant manager, Mr. Kensedder, informed me this morning that you called him last evening and said you were unhappy with your maid service. I have assigned a new girl to your room. I hope you will accept my apologies for any past inconvenience. If you have any further complaints please contact me so I can give it my personal attention. Call extension 1108 between 8am and 5pm. Thank you.

Elaine Carmen

Dear Mrs. Carmen,
It is impossible to contact you by phone since I leave the hotel for business at 7:45am and don’t get back before 5:30pm. That’s the reason I called Mr. Kensedder last night. You were already off duty. I only asked Mr. Kensedder if he could do anything about those little bars of soap. The new maid you assigned me must have thought I was a new check-in today, since she left another 3 bars of hotel soap in my medicine cabinet along with her regular delivery of 3 bars on the bathroom shelf. In just 5 days here I have accumulated 24 little bars of soap. Why are you doing this to me?

S. Berman

Dear Mr. Berman,
Your maid, Kathy, has been instructed to stop delivering soap to your room and remove the extra soaps. If I can be of further assistance, please call extension 1108 between 8am and 5pm. Thank you.

Elaine Carmen,

Dear Mr. Kensedder,
My bath-sized Dial is missing. Every bar of soap was taken from my room including my own bath-sized Dial. I came in late last night and had to call the bellhop to bring me 4 little Cashmere Bouquets.

S. Berman

Dear Mr. Berman,
I have informed our housekeeper, Elaine Carmen, of your soap problem. I cannot understand why there was no soap in your room since our maids are instructed to leave 3 bars of soap each time they service a room. The situation will be rectified immediately. Please accept my apologies for the inconvenience.

Martin L. Kensedder
Assistant Manager

Dear Mrs. Carmen,
Who the heck left 54 little bars of Camay in my room? I came in last night and found 54 little bars of soap. I don’t want 54 little bars of Camay. I want my one darn bar of bath-sized Dial. Do you realize I have 54 bars of soap in here? All I want is my bath-sized Dial. Please give me back my bath-sized Dial.

S. Berman.

Dear Mr. Berman,
You complained of too much soap in your room so I had them removed. Then you complained to Mr. Kensedder that all your soap was missing so I personally returned them. The 24 Camays which had been taken and the 3 Camays you are supposed to receive daily. I don’t know anything about the 4 Cashmere Bouquets. Obviously your maid, Kathy, did not know I had returned your soaps so she also brought 24 Camays plus the 3 daily Camays.
I don’t know where you got the idea that this hotel issues bath-sized Dial. I was able to locate some bath-sized Ivory which I left in your room.

Elaine Carmen

Dear Mrs. Carmen,
Just a short note to bring you up-to-date on my latest soap inventory. As of today I possess:
On the shelf under the medicine cabinet- 10 Camays in 4 stacks of 4 and 1 stack of 2.
On the Kleenex dispenser- 11 Camays in 2 stacks of 4 and 1 stack of 3.
On the bedroom dresser- 1 stack of 3 Cashmere Bouquets, 1 stack of 4 hotel sized Ivorys, 
and 8 Camays in 2 stacks of 4.
In the medicine cabinet- 14 Camays in 3 stacks of 4 and 1 stack of 2.
In the shower soap dish – 6 Camays, very moist.
On the northeast corner of the tub – 1 Cashmere Bouquet, slightly used.
On the northwest corner of the tub – 6 Camays in 2 stacks of 3.

Please ask Kathy when she services my room to make sure the stacks are neatly piled and dusted. Also, please advise her that stacks of more than 4 have a tendency to tip. May I suggest that my bedroom window sill is not in use and will make an excellent spot for future soap deliveries. One more item, I have purchased another bar of bath-sized Dial which I am keeping in the hotel vault to avoid further misunderstandings.

S. Berman

This is a great and funny example of how our well intentioned communications can totally misrepresent what we are saying unless we have face-to-face clearly explained communications. Internet communications, text messages, and emails are unable to accurately convey emotions, eye contact, body language, and a true sense of understanding. I advise people not to have deep conversations over email or text messaging. Those two mediums just cannot translate what we really mean nor what we are trying to say.

One way to help manage our own communication is to be as in control of it as possible. In marriages and relationships, take the time/effort to explain in detail how you feel and to take the energy needed to convey what you want to convey. Spouses and friends will let unsaid feelings speak for them. Let your words be clear and you feelings well understood.

Do you understand?


Dr. Trey Kuhne