Ordinary People

I was in Kananaskis Park one year around the time of the big G8 Summit and there were huge preparations to welcome the superstars. I was in Denver when the pope visited – 5 helicopters for the religious superstar.

They didn’t have to clear customs like ordinary people, they were special.

I don’t exactly get that kind of treatment. In fact I’m not sure the border patrol holds me in high regard. It all started that day when I was coming back from the states… and what I thought I said was, “I was a speaker at a youth camp helping to bring teenagers to higher levels of social and emotional responsibility”.

That’s what I said, I was sure I said… but apparently they heard me say –“there is a body in the trunk”. I did not get to fly home in five helicopters, nor did I warrant a free pass through customs. I did warrant, however, an uncomfortable hour with a border guard who had his way with me but didn’t buy me dinner first. I am not a superstar. By most accounts I am not even a major player in any arena.

We are told everyday that we are just ordinary folk. You feel that way when you stand like cattle in the line at the coffee shop, or wait in line at Cosco behind that woman who insists on exact change and takes forever to get it. Even the ugly people on television are better looking than I am. They are hardly ordinary.

You probably never met Duke Harris. When I met him he was a teenager already dying, I just didn’t know that at the time. He was quiet, almost reclusive, around me. What I did not know was that he was a mighty warrior, a life bringer. In his own quiet way he continually went out of his comfort zone with his friends. He was more concerned about their welfare then his own. He was the one with cancer but you would never know it.

I remember the day I met his parents. Duke just stood behind them and beamed. He was proud of the love he knew, and he gave it away constantly in the face of insurmountable odds. Courage, right to the end. And then some.

I remember timidly strolling outside to tell Duke’s friends that he was dying. I will never forget the commitment those friends had, the raw love and compassion they felt.

The incredible thing about Duke was that he was painfully shy. He was not beautiful, with his balding head burned by radiation. Nor was he a gifted communicator. All Duke had was his quiet passion, commitment, and sacrificial love. People were drawn to him, though he never spoke to a crowd or published a line.

He was just a kid who passed way before his time. There were no crowds to cheer when he came by, no press to cover his sickness. No one read about his exploits in Variety.

When Duke died all he left was an enduring legacy, eventually a foundation in his honor, and dozens, even hundreds of people whose lives were indelibly changed by that one ordinary life. 

I’m ok with being ordinary, I guess.

Living With A Perfectionist… Good Luck!

English: perfectionist measuring and cutting grass

Perfectionists spend most of their time dreading the next potential failure, and successes are met with a feeling of temporary relief, rather than with a feeling of satisfaction in having done a thing well. Self-esteemdoes not build from feelings of relief, or the temporary reprieve of having succeeded at something. Lacking a deep and consistent source of self-esteem, failures hit especially hard for perfectionists, and may lead to long bouts of depression and withdrawal in some individuals.

Further, perfectionist individuals are often hypersensitive to perceived rejection or possible evidence of failure, and there is a fundamental rigidity in the relentless stance of bracing for failure. Unfortunately, when an individual is caught up in the bondage of perfectionist striving, that person is likely to be less interested in developing a healthy, mutually satisfying marriage and more interested in chasing the elusive rabbit in his or her own head.

Along these lines, partners of perfectionist individuals often comment on their partner’s emotional unavailability. It is very hard for a perfectionist to share his or her internal experience with a partner. Perfectionists often feel that they must always be strong and in control of their emotions. A perfectionist may avoid talking about personal fears, inadequacies, insecurities, and disappointments with others, even with those with whom they are closest. Naturally, this greatly limits emotional intimacy in a marriage.

Perfectionist individuals can also be fiercely competitive, even with their partners. Feelings of inadequacy may set the stage for downward social comparison within their own homes (“at least I’m more successful than my wife is”). Celebrating the victories of a spouse may be especially hard if such success threatens a perfectionist partner’s sense of being “the more competent partner” in the relationship.

The exhaustion that comes from striving to be perfect can also lead a perfectionistic individual to give up in the face of obstacles. Related to this, I’ve worked with a number of patients who classify themselves as perfectionists. At the same time, pictures they’ve shown me of their home environments sometimes look like the homes of hoarders.  At first, it may seem puzzling that a person who lives in squalor could identify him or herself as a “perfectionist.” However, if a driving factor in an individual’s psyche is the thought, “it I can’t do it perfectly, I don’t even want to do it at all,” then the living conditions of such perfectionists makes sense.

Perfectionism and Marriage, for Equals 

A marriage of equals is hard to create when one (or both) partner(s) are perfectionists. A marriage of equals is a partnership between two people who see each other as true equals. Not only must they be true equals, but both must be open to influencing each other continuously in order to become perfect for, and irreplaceable to, each other.

As I have argued in my book (www.marriageforequals.com), the way to partner with a soul mate is not to arrive as the perfect match for each other, but to become this over time. The key is how you will shape each other in the marriage as your life together unfolds.  Mutual growth towards this end requires each partner to express a full range of emotions, including feelings associated with a sense of personal vulnerability.

Giving and receiving feedback about the impact we have on each other calls for unconditional self-esteem that does not over-depend on others’ evaluations of us. The self-esteem we derive from living a life consistent with our deepest values gives us the emotional freedom to learn and grow without fearing the shame of rejection. Striving for perfection leaves us empty and unstable, foundering like ships without anchors in a turbulent ocean.

What if you are a Perfectionist? 

Perfectionism can be treated in therapy. Some of the same treatments that work for individuals with obsessive compulsive personality features have equal potency in the treatment of perfectionism. Any treatment that works requires you to initially tolerate significant anxiety and ultimately befriend the awareness of personal imperfection.

When perfectionism has been conquered, healthy self-esteem can flower, and when it does, you are much more likely to attract someone with the potential and desire to work at becoming the perfect partner for you (as opposed to the perfect human being).

via Psychology Today

Casual Friday – Taking a Shower

I was in the shower. Stop. Don’t try to visualize this or it may scar you.

I was in the shower.

For 30+ years I had been struggling with feeling like a loser. I have come to realize that many of us struggle with self-esteem issues, but as I reflect, it seems apparent now that I had a very jaded view of myself and was prone to believe I was an outsider in society. As a hyperactive child I was constantly being belittled by adults. In high school I did not develop physically like other teenage boys. Skinny, I still had fat deposits instead of pectorals. As an adult I chose to enter a career designed and maintained by pseudo-introverts, politically correct personality types. Believing I could never fit in, that my temperament was somehow ‘flawed’ it became easy to act like a rebel, an outsider. I took pride in the fact that I was different, controversial, an opinionated and unbending ass at times.

So I was in the shower…

Every now and then there is a moment of clarity not induced by Percocets or Cheetos – an epiphany that stays with a person. Some people have them in church, others at a retreat, or in nature, or at a moving play – I had my life changing event while soaping areas you don’t want to know about. While there is a certain romance in believing that I suddenly realized something, that I had an epiphany, the facts would determine otherwise. The moments of reflection in those wet moments were born out of a lifetime of insecurity and reflection.

It is easy to believe that events are born in a vacuum, that they just “happen”. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book “Outliers”, argues that vacuums rarely happen. Bill Gates didn’t just come up with the Microsoft phenomenon by himself, overnight. He was the product of a myriad of circumstances that converged to produce a great idea. In his words, “Superstar lawyers and math whizzes and software entrepreneurs appear at first blush to lie outside ordinary experience. But they don’t. They are products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy. Their success is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky – but all critical to making them who they are. The outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all.” (Gladwell, 2008)

That day in the shower I realized that I had spent my whole life feeling bad about who I was. I had ample evidence to support my feelings of inadequacy and the experiences of life only served to confirm that I did not measure up. But in that moment it came to me “all of a sudden” that I was supremely tired of being hard on myself. Yes I may be a marginal personality,  but surely this was not wholly a bad thing. What if it was ok to like myself, in spite of glaring faults and shortcomings. I had spent years feeling inadequate and seeking to change myself (with only limited success), but with what result? In spite of countless hours and attempts to change my fundamental self I still remained largely the same person – extroverted, opinionated… marginal.

That day I decided I would no longer fight to become something I could not be. No longer would I apologize for what I could not change and berate myself because I was not like other, more seemingly stable, people. I was done.

I wish I could say I have never had occasion to feel bad about who I am again, but alas some battles continue to be lost and won for some time. I do know, however, that I was fundamentally changed that day. Like all of us I have had my fair share of insecurities and feelings of worthlessness. I have many people who can and have lined up to tell me what kind of disappointment I have been. It is easy to believe them… but not today.

You Aren’t As Good As You Think You Are

My wife is ‘frigid’.


I have known many men who accuse their wife of being frigid, of not wanting sex. Conversely, I have spoken to women who have stated that their man has no idea what women’s needs are, that plop into bed at midnight, and even though they have virtually ignored their partner all day cannot understand why the woman is not immediately “into it”. They have told me that their man doesn’t realize that sexual intimacy is a very invasive, emotionally complex experience, and that women have different needs then men when it comes to sex.

Unfortunately, the majority of women I talk to over thirty years of age think that they have an obligation to have sex with their husband because he is frustrated and apparently needs her to fulfill his physiological need. Many male partners are also whiny, make passing remarks about their unfulfilled needs, and tend to emotionally blackmail their partners until they give in.

Sadly these women often report that they rarely engage in meaningful sexual intimacy; that the whole episode is over in minutes, and their needs are rarely, if ever, met. It is nothing short of astounding how many women, who have been with their partner for years and decades, have resigned themselves to a ritual that no longer carries much meaning.

What is the problem? Are these women simply frigid? Or is something else going on?

psychologist Asiphe Ndlela ties lack of sexual interest to a woman’s relationship with her partner. Ndlela says men need a place for having sex, women need a purpose.

“Female sexuality is complex. At its core is a need for closeness and intimacy. Women also have physical needs. When there is an emotional or physical problem, they can have sexual problems.”

She says a lack of interest in sex can also be triggered by family problems, illness or death, financial or job worries, in-law problems, childcare responsibilities, managing a career and children, previous or current physical and/or emotional abuse, past history of sexual abuse, fatigue and depression.

Men don’t usually struggle with such issues where sex is involved. If you show up naked we’re usually good to go. Men are microwaves. Just turn us on and we are heated up and ready to go. Women are more like slow cookers. They often take some time to warm up but tend to keep things quite hot once they do. I read an article by one therapist this week who insisted that men should never engage in sexual romance with their female partner unless they are willing to spend forty minutes to help their partner enjoy themselves. That is amazing advice. Men also need to realize that for women there is a stronger emotional component and issues such as stress, work, relationships and problems can have an effect on her libido.

Men, take the time to find out how your wife is doing before you suggest romance. Make sure you are available to talk and connect. Become a student of your wife’s needs and pleasures. If you really want to find out how to make your wife happy why not ask her? You might be very glad you did!

Guest Blogger – I’m a Sex Addict. I’m Also a Pastor.

Wednesdays I host a guest blogger – professionals, clients, friends, strangers; stories of success and failure, people who are suffering, some who are opinionated, all of whom are a work in progress. These are struggles about real life issues. If you are interested in telling your story email me at info@scott-williams.ca.

“Is that all? Is there anything else?”

“Uh huh…Is that all? Is there anything else?”

That’s pretty much all I heard for three hours as I recited the list of all the people I hated, all the fears I had, the long list of my sexual misconducts, and the ways I had harmed pretty much everyone I had ever met. Before that day, I had never told anyone most of the things on that list.

I’m a sex addict. I’m also a minister. That’s why this article is anonymous. Think what you like about that combination, I didn’t choose either one of those identities. One’s a wound, the other’s a gift. One is who I am, the other is who I’m called to be.

I can’t remember the first time I was exposed to porn. It was ever-present in my family, but never truly visible, never openly talked about. It was one of those things that adults could joke about in their indirect way, but an innocently curious kid could never get a straight answer about. I was just someone to laugh at and tell, “Wait until you’re older.”

When I got caught trying to find out what all the jokes were about, I was mildly rebuked and whatever I was trying to look at was taken away. It became a warped kind of game: find a magazine, sneak it someplace private and try to understand what it was all about, then get caught and teased for being so “curious”. It turned into an adrenaline-based obsession with the mysteries of sex.

Consequently, women have always stirred a mixture of shame and wonder in me that I still can’t really understand. My early exposure to porn added a sexualized “twist” to every interaction I have with a member of the female gender. I have always felt that I needed to both hide and apologize for that “twist”, even before I went into the ministry.

All through High School and Bible College I knew I had to “get it under control”. Of course I knew it was incompatible with my faith and my calling – I’m not stupid, nor am I without a conscience. So I went to work: Self-control. Cold showers. “Eyes on the face”. Bible reading. Accountability groups. Tear-filled confessions to girlfriends. On again/off again relationships. “Purity commitments.”

By some miracle, I got married, and hoped things would get better. What a joke. A real person with her own baggage was no match for my infinite curiosity/shame cycle. Despite what most people think about porn, it wasn’t that her appearance couldn’t measure up to the images. It was that her appetite could never match my curiosity, my need to know, and my longings to try and explore and experiment. I didn’t think she was a doll or some plaything, I just didn’t really know ANYTHING (and yes, I still feel that way after a more than two decades of marriage).

So there I was, preaching God’s Word every week, daily helping people with their problems. Surfing porn every chance I got, trying to quit every time I surfed. Hypocrite. Guilty. Dirty. Shameful. The more guilt I heaped on myself, the worse I felt. The worse I felt, the more I needed something to make myself feel better. This led to increasingly greater compulsions to surf, leading to more guilt. A wretched, solitary cycle with no end in sight.
And then, out of the blue, a miracle happened. Someone in my church asked me to do a “Fifth Step” with him. I had no idea what that was, so I asked my friend Scott. He explained it to me – told me what to do, how to not react, what to say at the end. So, I booked some time at a monastery. This guy and I went into a room and he started talking.

And talking.

And talking.

I listened, nodded and said, “Is that all, do you have anything else you need to tell me?” And at the end, I looked him in the eyes and say, “Now that you’ve confessed all these things with God and one other person, you are forgiven.”

I’ll never forget the change that came over that man. You had to be there to believe it. It was as if light entered his body and shone out his face. Tears of gold streamed down into his goatee. This tough old drunk jumped up, grabbed me in a death-hug and sobbed for what felt like an hour. Then he turned around and walked out the door.

Alone in the room, standing in shock at what had just happened, the thought came to me, “I wonder who I could ask to do that for me?” I couldn’t think of anybody good, so I asked Scott. (Actually, that’s kind of the truth – I didn’t want to do this with ANYONE. But I picked Scott as the best option I had.) We went for a drive, and he did the same thing to me that he told me to do to that other guy. He listened and asked, “Is there anything else?” Even though I knew what he was doing, I found myself telling him everything. All the stuff I was embarrassed about. Things I was ashamed of. Things I was ashamed of being ashamed of. Everything I could remember came out on that drive.

Greatest gift ever. Suddenly I knew I wasn’t alone. Suddenly I wasn’t the only one who ever struggled. I wasn’t a hypocrite anymore, because someone else knew the whole story, the real me. Someone saw that confused, curious little boy that just couldn’t get any answers. Someone heard all my scary, stupid, shameful shit and didn’t run away screaming. Or laughing. I think that’s what I was most afraid of, now that I think about it – having my depravity laughed at. Having my sickness being pointed at as being small and weak and pathetic. My first step five dignified my sin as being bad enough to need confession, but not bad enough to need condemnation. And then it washed it all away.

Notice I said my FIRST step five. Much as I’d like to say that was the key to a miraculous transformation, and that lust and shame are no longer a part of my life, that’s not the case. There’s no magic bullet for me. Almost fifteen years after that day, and multiple times through the 12 Steps, I still struggle. I still bring a sexual “twist” into every interaction with a woman. And I still feel a twinge of shame & a desire to apologize for it. My marriage is still “interesting”. I carry an extra load every day in addition to the “normal” load of a pastor trying to honor God and love His people. It’s hard enough being a pastor – doing it as a sex addict amps up the challenge even more.
But – something did change on that day. I know I’m not the worst. I’m not the weirdest. I’m not pathetic, and I’m not alone. I’m a legit member of the human race; strengths, struggles and all. I have hope that I can be both a sex addict and a pastor. I’m finding a way to act out my calling without acting out my disease.

And once I knew that ONE person could know me as I truly am, it gave me the courage to show that same person to others. One at a time, God has given me the ability and privilege to tell my story to several people in my life so that every day, someone I see knows who I am and what I’m dealing with.
I am a pastor. I am a sex addict. I am loved. And one day at a time, I can be free. Greatest gift ever. Thank God. Thanks Scott.

Stop (s)mothering Your Man


(This article is part one of a three-part series on communication between the sexes. Part two will address the man’s need to hear what is being said and actually listen. Part three will introduce an approach to meaningful dialogue)

What triggers you? Triggers are those comments, or statements, or criticisms, or even events, which can ‘get to us’. They are our buttons, the things that set up off.

I have a trigger as well.

Maybe it was because, growing up, I was ridiculed by relatives. Perhaps it has something to do with my lifelong struggle with insecurity and feelings of ‘not measuring up’. Whatever the reason, I have a very hard time when I feel like someone is condescending, or talking to me like I am a child.

I had coffee some time ago with a group of women. Inevitably the conversation came around to relationships. Some were single, others married or with someone. As we bantered it became apparent that most of the women at that table were unhappy with their men.  They were lazy, unmotivated, and would never help out around the house unless asked. The men couldn’t seem to do anything right and needed to be constantly corrected or critiqued in order to complete any task correctly. And the problem was not just at home. It seemed their men had problems at work, could not be counted on to finish projects, and generally acted like idiots. What was wrong with men, the women asked?

I knew most of the women at that table and had observed them talking with their husbands during disagreements or while in counseling. They felt it was necessary to berate him, talk in a condescending tone, and speak like they had to mother him. I asked one of the ladies if she thought it was appropriate to talk to her husband like this and immediately she turned into the wounded little girl. what else could she do? She said she had tried everything but he wouldn’t change. So I asked her, “Do you talk to him with that condescending, mothering tone?”

In retrospect I should probably not have made such a comment at a table with seven women. I was barraged with criticism, with consternation.

I found it interesting that they did not understand the damage they do to the male psyche when they talk to their man like he was a child. They somehow believed, much to my chagrin, that this tone of voice and attitude would accomplish the desired end they were going for. They were clueless about how men think and relate and had no idea how to fix the problem.

In my relationship course we address how crucial it is to speak so that the other person will understand. Without going into too great detail at this juncture consider this:

1. Mothering and condescending gives the impression you think you are better than he is. Men are incredibly sensitive about their masculinity and we have spent a great deal of our lives comparing our ability to take care of ourselves to other men. When you talk down to a guy they hear that you think you are superior and they are useless. This strikes at the heart of every guy. You are not superior. Men are not stupid. They are simply different. Which brings me to the second point.

2. If you put me down for how I do something I am liable to never volunteer to do anything ever again. Men complain to me that they feel that they can never do anything to their wives satisfaction. They feel belittled and it causes men to resent their women. To a world that grew up thinking “If you want something done right you need to do it yourself” we need to realize that our way is not superior. Some women become used to talking to the person they love most in the world as if he was a little boy, but he isn’t. He is a grown man who needs his woman to believe in him, to build him up, to be a cheerleader who doesn’t constantly put him down. He is your equal.

3. If you are putting your partner down, no matter what sex you are or how incompetent or ridiculous your partner seems, you need to practice SHUTTING UP. Nothing is ever truly gained by criticizing your partner. We are all different and your way is not the only way. You got with this person because you thought they were amazing. The only way that people change is through insight and encouragement. Putting your partner down only builds walls which eventually lead to bitterness and emotional divorce (more about emotional divorce next week).

I am conscious that for some who read this article it raises more questions than it answers. You may be frustrated that your man never seems to understand your needs. You may be a man who wonders if his wife will ever stop ‘nagging’ him. If you have relationship problems there is no way you will find all your answers in a few lines on a blog. Talk to someone who can help you. Make an appointment with a counselor even if your spouse will not come. You cannot change someone else but you can work on you. And that, in the end, may be the best move of all.


The Lies We Tell Ourselves – ‘Everything Happens For A Reason’

How It Shakes Out – All this suffering is part of a cosmic divine plan.

Why I Hate It –  For some reason almost everyone seems to believe this bizarre statement. We say to hurting families at funerals that this must be part of a bigger plan. This cliche is often used when someone gets a terminal illness or when bad things happen to good people.

Please stop. It isn’t helping.

I remember that day like it was yesterday. A friend and I were called to Kevin’s house, no one had heard from him for days. As we entered his house I knew what had happened, I could smell it. Death has its own fragrance. We found Kevin sitting alone, in front of his television, dead from an overdose called ‘speedballing‘. Another wasted life.

I spoke at his funeral a few days later. I remember too well my half-baked attempt to make sense of something that should never have been. I will also never forget the lady who came to me after the funeral and accused me of “putting a negative spin” on the situation. She concluded with, “I know this will change a lot of lives and you should have spoken of that.”

I host a group for people who have lost loved ones and are struggling to cope. They are broken and confused, damaged goods. Inevitably in the group someone will share how, at the funeral of their child, an aunt or a well-meaning pastor came to them and said, “I guess God needed another child in heaven.”

The God they believe in must be a bastard. Apparently they believe that God needed another pre-adolescent to fill the roles so he killed yours. In counseling we call this a ‘cognitive distortion’. We also call it asinine.

Only slightly less damaging is the statement, ‘everything happens for a reason’. People who believe this think it is a very loose translation of a bible verse, “all things work together for good”. It’s not, and any decent theologian will tell you the bible verse does not mean that everything works to promote what you think is good.

Daniel Wallace explains – You’ve heard it thousands of times: “Don’t worry; everything will work out just fine.” It’s the eternal optimism that is born not in the crucible of reality but in the wishful thinking of the American dream, of Hollywood make-believe, or of a nave Pollyanna outlook. All of us know it isn’t completely true—we know of children who were cut down by cancer or drunk drivers, of drug addicts who came from good homes, of family men who lost their jobs, of soldiers who returned from battle with one less limb. We know of countless tragedies and needless suffering, yet we repeat the myth to our children without blinking an eye: “Don’t worry; everything will work out just fine.”

The fact remains that most people in my part of the globe still believe this to be an important truth. The painful truth is, however, that the grieving widow given this advice often wonders how such a tragedy could possibly be a good thing. As a result many who suffer wonder if this situation is somehow the will of God, or it is because they are not spiritual enough. They become confused, hurt, and often shunted in their grieving process.

This phase is indeed problematic on several levels. The speaker gives the impression that they believe that he or she has some inside track to the motivation of God or Karma or whatever mystical unseen hand is in control of our universe. They are saying that there is a power that decided that there was a good reason to inflict their newborn with cancer or have a woman raped. There must be some reason why some sixty million people perished in World War 2 including millions upon millions of innocents. Apparently we are supposed to learn a lesson which required 2.5% of the world’s population to die and over 6 million Jews, 2.5 million Poles and countless others to be murdered.

And given the existence of this holy force, which acts on our behalf, who am I to question why a child was molested or my friend Duke died of lung cancer at nineteen.

Even if you cannot see the fairy tale ending then your pain was part of a greater plan that helped someone else, surely? Don’t be upset that you were paralyzed by a drunk driver, think about the lesson you’ve taught others about drinking and driving!

As a person of faith I am not suggesting that all pain and suffering is pointless, or that nothing good can come out of a good situation, but the belief that everything happens for a reason is not only untrue, it is also a naive and potentially damaging way to look at life. Kevin’s death was a tragedy and I realize more and more that it is not necessary to rationalize or justify. Stuff happens. Bad things do happen to good people. Sometimes the rich do get richer and the poor do get poorer. Sometimes life isn’t fair (another lie we want to believe). Sometimes addicts die, in spite of our best efforts. I no longer blame God for things I cannot accept without a fairytale ending.

It’s only when we open our eyes and accept life on life’s terms that healing and hope begins. Pretending we are not angry, or frustrated, or confused, only keeps us sick and makes us bitter. No more lies.

Overexposed and Under-Prepared: The Effects of Early Exposure to Sexual Content

Adult Content .. Penn St officials head to cou...From Psychology Today:

“Children as young as 8 and 9 are coming across sexually explicit material on the Internet and in other media. Although research is just beginning to assess the potential damage, there is reason to believe that early exposure to sexual content may have the following undesirable effects:

Early Sex. Research has long established that teens who watch movies or listen to music that glamorizes drinking, drug use or violence tend to engage in those behaviors themselves. A 2012 study shows that movies influence teens’ sexual attitudes and behaviors as well. The study, published in Psychological Science, found that the more teens were exposed to sexual content in movies, the earlier they started having sex and the likelier they were to have casual, unprotected sex.

In another study, boys who were exposed to sexually explicit media were three times more likely to engage in oral sex and intercourse two years after exposure than non-exposed boys. Young girls exposed to sexual content in the media were twice as likely to engage in oral sex and one and a half times more likely to have intercourse. Research also shows that teens who listened to music with degrading sexual references were more likely to have sex than those who had less exposure.

High-Risk Sex. The earlier a child is exposed to sexual content and begins having sex, the likelier they are to engage in high-risk sex. Research shows that children who have sex by age 13 are more likely to have multiple sexual partners, engage in frequent intercourse, have unprotected sex and use drugs or alcohol before sex. In a study by researcher Dr. Jennings Bryant, more than 66 percent of boys and 40 percent of girls reported wanting to try some of the sexual behaviors they saw in the media (and by high school, many had done so), which increases the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

Sex, Love and Relationship Addictions. Not every child who is exposed to sexual content will struggle with a mental health disorder, but research shows that early exposure to pornography is a risk factor for sex addictions and other intimacy disorders. In one study of 932 sex addicts, 90 percent of men and 77 percent of women reported that pornography was a factor in their addiction. With the widespread availability of explicit material on the Internet, these problems are becoming more prevalent and are surfacing at younger ages.

Sexual Violence. According to some studies, early exposure (by age 14) to pornography and other explicit material may increase the risk of a child becoming a victim of sexual violence or acting out sexually against another child. For some people, habitual use of pornography may prompt a desire for more violent or deviant material, including depictions of rape, torture or humiliation. If people seek to act out what they see, they may be more likely to commit sexual assault, rape or child molestation.

Preserving Our Children’s Youth

Early exposure to sexual content in the media may have a profound impact on children’s values, attitudes and behaviors toward sex and relationships.”

Is ADHD Crap?

English: Symptoms of ADHD described by the lit...Interesting article from Psychology Today questioning whether or not ADHD is a scientifically verifiable diagnosis or simply a social constuct.

“The main point of my article was that there is no scientific evidence that ADHD is a real biological disorder. Medical scientists have not isolated a biological cause for ADHD, nor is there a laboratory test for it. ADHD is a social construction by a committee of psychiatrists who author the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Many of the authors of the DSM-4 (56% to be exact) have financial ties to pharmaceutical companies who stand to profit greatly from medicating children.”    As I point out in another Psychology Today blog, ADHD: The Emperor’s New Diagnosis,”…the moniker ADHD merely describes a cluster of externally observed symptoms: the child often fidgets, makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, often loses his pencils, has difficulty waiting his turn, blurts out answers in class, and so forth. This is like defining diabetes as excessive urination, frequent thirst, lack of energy, and having sweet-smelling urine. Of course doctors do not define diabetes by these observable symptoms because diabetes has a well understood biological cause. Diabetes is a metabolic disorder of the pancreas being unable to produce sufficient insulin. But ADHD…[is] defined only by externally observable symptoms.”

Silence The Inner Voice That’s Stressing You Out

From Psychology Today

Millions of people struggle with unhealthy levels of stress. Stress isn’t just destructive to our mental health but to our physical health as well. It weakens our immune systems and contributes to heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, and other illnesses.  These facts are important, but reading about  them, or even relaying them,  admittedly makes me feel a little, well… stressed. Too often reflecting on our stress just makes us feel worse. So rather than scare you straight when it comes to stress, I thought I would offer a real solution to those nagging (at times terrorizing) thoughts that lead to stress.

The mere mention of the word stress is enough to make our heads spin with thoughts of to-do lists, meetings, schedules, social calendars, kids, work, money. Whatever the trigger mechanism is, it’s always there to distract us from any potential sense of calm. When we allow our negative thoughts to take over, we spend precious energy handling the symptoms of stress instead of solving the problem or dealing with what’s really making us feel such pressure or worry.

These negative thoughts tell us when to worry and what to worry about, but never do they offer us a real solution to our problems. If we were to challenge these negative thoughts, we would soon realize that not only is this destructive thought process amplifying our stress levels but it is actually causing us much of our anxiety in the first place.

For example, many of us feel concern when we have more things we need to do or want to do than we believe we can get done. Very often, however, we are placing too much pressure on ourselves and setting our expectations too high. In effect we are setting ourselves up, and literally scheduling ourselves out, to get stressed. When we set our standards too high, we often set ourselves up to later become a target for our critical inner voice. We start to have self-critical thoughts like: What is wrong with you? You never give 100 percent to anything. Can’t you just get one thing right? You’re such a failure!

Even when times are tough or the pressure being placed on us is external, we can seek out an inner sense of calm by quieting those inner voices that exacerbate the problem. This is not meant to undermine the fact we all have real concerns about our lives. We all struggle at some point with our careers, our families and our futures. Every one of us has concerns at one time or another about keeping a job, falling in love or raising our kids. However, what we actually feel about these things is usually never as bad as what our critical inner voice is telling us to feel about these things.

For example, when we lose a job, we may have thoughts like: What are you going to do now? You can’t do anything. How humiliating!

When we go through a break up with a partner, we may hear voices such as: See? No one could ever love you. You’re going to wind up alone.

Even an event as simple as forgetting to mail a letter can get our self-attacks going: You’re so irresponsible. How are you ever going to get anything done?

These thoughts impair us in our actions and lead us to feel demoralized and even more stressed out.  We can interrupt this cycle by becoming more aware of the thoughts that are propelling our feelings of worry. For example, a friend of mine noticed she was waking up in a bad mood every morning. Feeling overwhelmed and rushed, her morning mood was slowly infiltrating her whole day. Snapping at people, overdosing on caffeine and rubbing her head to the point of almost literally tearing her hair out, she knew something had to change.

To understand her 7 a.m. stress, I suggested my friend write down all the thoughts she was having before she went to bed. When my friend did this, she noticed her head was full of vicious self-attacks. Her negative thoughts surfaced every night when she finally took a rest from pushing herself through her day. My friend recounted her thoughts to me: What did you actually accomplish today? You’re no closer to your goals then you were yesterday. Everyone hates you. You snap at everybody. Are you even doing a good job? What’s so important about what you do anyway. You never make time for anyone. You’re so selfish. You’d better work harder tomorrow.

When my friend told me her attacks, I was appalled. “No wonder you’ve been feeling under pressure in the morning. You’re tearing yourself apart right before you go to bed.” As soon as my friend realized this pattern, she started to feel compassion for herself and noticed herself feeling relieved of her morning anxiety.

To fully rid oneself of the critical inner voice, one must not only identify the negative thoughts but stand up to them. Putting our voices in the second person can help us make this initial separation. Try to write down your critical thoughts, first as “I” statements, then as “you” statements. If you have thoughts of feeling stupid, write down “You are so stupid.” Next, stand up to this internal enemy by writing down responses to your critical thoughts with the more realistic perspective of a compassionate friend. For example, you could write, “I am not stupid. Anyone can make a mistake. I have a lot of areas in which I am intelligent and confident.” The intention here is not to build yourself up, but to gain a more realistic view of yourself.

Finally, think about what the actions are that could counter your critical inner voices. When my friend had an attack that she was snapping at people, it didn’t help that she was acting on her self-critical thoughts by getting moody and lashing out at co-workers. Avoid actions that will lead you to feel worse. If eating three slices of pizza relieves you after a stressful day only to leave you later stressing over your weight, it’s best not to use that behavior as a coping mechanism. Remember the critical inner voice is tricky and can sound soothing or friendly as it lures you into self-destructive behaviors. Have that second glass of wine. Just stay home and relax on your own. Later on that voice will punish you with thoughts like: There you go having another drink. You can’t stick to anything. What a loner. You’ll never meet anyone.

The voice can also tell us that we are being victimized. When we have thoughts like, Why is everyone walking all over you? No one else does anything around here, we put ourselves in a powerless position and blame others for the pressure we’ve put ourselves under.

Dealing with stress means taking our own side without feeling like a victim. It means empowering ourselves against our inner critic and not allowing that critic to dictate our lifestyle. That critic will put up a fuss when we act against it and cause us anxiety over the changes we make in our lives. However, the more we persevere and the longer these negative voices in our heads are quieted, the better able we are to live in the moment without worrying about the past or the future. We can then deal with everything in our lives one moment, one step, one deep breath and one thought at a time.

Casual Friday – Lessons From Life

Beck - "Loser"I really like redheads. That has little to do with this blog but I thought you should know.

Many years ago, while in grade eight, I briefly dated a redhead named Lynn. She dumped me after a three weeks, telling me that God told her to break up with me. Even God doesn’t want you to date me. That was many years ago and to this day we remain great friends.

Lynn loves to travel. She and her husband Phil have been all over the world, but they love Israel the most. Don’t ask me why; I prefer the Caribbean anytime but that’s her deal, so mazel tov. Once when they were in the holy land someone offered her husband ten camels for her. I don’t know a great deal about camels but even I understand that this must be a hefty price. If you talk to Lynn she will, from time to time, remind you that she is a ‘ten-camel woman’. And why not, she has proof.

Most of us are not ten-camel people. We watch television and see beautiful people running down beaches and kissing under the moonlight, and down deep we are convinved that we don’t measure up. We are ugly people. We are the losers. We don’t have big boats or businesses, we don’t look good in a Speedo, we aren’t great singers or dancers or poets. We are only regular people with too much cellulite and not enough collagen.

Royal Soucy was a neighbour of mine. He was like a tree trunk with teeth. Royal was a professional body builder who had won several prestigious competitions including “Mr. Saskatchewan” a few times. I would tease Royal that with a name like “Royal Soucy” he had to be tough. But I would not tease him too much. I was afraid he would eat me if I made him too mad. Royal was a cop. Royal was French. There are legends around Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan about the policeman who would break up bar brawls single-handedly. The day I moved in to the neighbourhood we were unloading and I saw our neighbor on his roof shingling. Let me describe this for you; he looked like a Muscle Magazine cover. He was massive. Huge. Totally cut and only wearing shorts, sweating like some Greek god roofing his villa. Then my wife said, “I have a great idea. Why don’t you go help that guy with his roof. You could take off your shirt and get a good tan and get to know him.” So naive… Samson and Captain Chicken Wings, doing the roof together.

Growing up I was never a person who was quick to take his shirt off. Some people are blessed with pectoral genetics, I never was. Now that I’m in my forties it’s a little easier being the slim guy in the midst of a group of men struggling with weight, but growing up I was embarrassed.

I don’t like losing my hair. It’s a stupid vanity thing, but I can’t seem to get over it. It’s a constant reminder that I don’t look like I’d like to, that at this point I probably won’t be a model. Yes, I tell myself, that’s the only reason I’m not a model.

We used to have a rat named Mr. Bigglesworth. People thought he was disgusting. We loved him. Rats are smarter than most animals and we could let him out and he would pretend to pounce me, sleep on my chest, play a rat version of catch. On the downside, he had no bowel control so that whole running around thing rarely ended well. People would comment how he was almost cute, except for his long ugly tail. I would remind them that this wasn’t Mr. B’s fault, we all have parts we are not proud of.

It is one thing to squint in the mirror. It’s another thing altogether when that shame reaches deeper into our hearts. Ruined self-esteem, poor self-image, feelings of worthlessness. Shame is a huge thing. The more I look into it the more I am coming to realize that it can be one of the most destructive issues in our lives. Most of us carry around a backpack of failures, mistakes, and missed opportunities. We wear labels that we cannot seem to shake – fat, divorced, whore, loser, stupid, bald, old, pathetic, poor, alone, ugly, fag…

Shame is the experience of feeling defective at the core of your being. We feel guilty about our mistakes. Shame is the experience of feeling that you as a person ARE A MISTAKE.

With shame there is no way of making amends or correcting the wrong. Because the wrong is you. I have been insecure about myself most of my life but like many of you I am tired of feeling inadequate. I’m done apologizing for being an extrovert, or ADHD, or opinionated. I no longer am willing to try to fit in at the expense of my self-esteem. I tell clients that the opposite of poor self-esteem is not good self-esteem, it’s self acceptance. Accepting ourselves with all our warts and wrinkles and issues. Learning to love ourselves in spite of the things about ourselves we don’t like, not because of the things we do.

That’s a hell of a goal, isn’t it?

Dealing With Your Addiction: Why A 12 Step Program May Not Be Enough

Telling people who have been in recovery that the 12 Steps many not work is akin to making a racial slur. People who have been helped by the 12 Steps are very militant, they have the Big Book virtually memorized, and are dedicated to going to several meetings per week for the rest of their life.

I have no problem with that, if it works. But more times than we are willing to admit it’s just not enough.

According to AA, 33 percent of the 8,000 North American members it surveyed had remained sober for over 10 years. Twelve percent were sober for 5 to 10 years; 24 percent were sober 1 to 5 years; and 31 percent were sober for less than a year.

The study didn’t disclose how long each person interviewed had been working the rooms to achieve sobriety. It also revealed little about the percentage of people who attended AA, relapsed, and left the program. A 1990 summary of five different membership surveys (from 1977 through 1989) reported that 81 percent of alcoholics who engaged in the program stopped attending within a year. And only 5% of the AA attendees surveyed had been attending meetings for more than a year.

As a counselor who works part-time at an addictions centre I can testify that for many people just getting to a meeting, admitting you’re powerless, and becoming accountable, is a very good though not necessarily efficacious solution to your addiction issues.

What 12 Step groups do not do is as important to understand as what they do. 12 Step programs do not allege that they are good at counseling. They are, in point of fact, very up front about their “one alcoholic (addict) helping another alcohol (addict)” stance.

What is often missing for those who struggle is the ‘why’ question. Many substance abusers are self medicating their hurts, fears, boredom, mental issue, or past abuse. They felt they were unable to cope with the pain and drinking or drugging provided a way for things to feel better. Consequently some people also do that with online chatting, or pornography, or masturbation, or even World Of Warcraft. 12 Step Groups cannot help you come to understand your historic and ongoing love affair with serotonin, dopamine, or GABA.

In counseling many people come to realize that stopping substance abuse is only the first part of the solution. Once they remove the medicating effects of that crutch the lingering effects of trauma, hurt, or mental illness begins to thrust its way back to the surface. They may have dealt with the symptom of their problem (substance abuse) without realizing that the actual reason for self medicating has not been addressed. They don’t really have a drinking problem as much as they have a trauma issue, for example.

It doesn’t take a psychiatrist to realize that if I quit drinking but do not address the important questions behind the substance abuse I may be a ticking time bomb of pain, seeking other and potentially more destructive coping mechanisms.

If you have been dealing with an addiction issue perhaps it is time to ask yourself the ‘why’ question. You might find that underneath that need to use is an issue that you have been trying to ignore or medicate for years, that will not simply go away with time. If you know you need help, or are unsure but wonder if the problem is deeper than you thought, talk to someone who can help.

Talk to a counselor that doesn’t suck.

Guest Blogger Wednesday: When Chronic Pain Steals Your Life

Wednesdays I host a guest blogger – professionals, clients, friends, strangers; stories of success and failure, people who are suffering, some who are opinionated, all of whom are a work in progress. These are struggles about real life issues. If you are interested in telling your story email me at info@scott-williams.ca.

Here’s one that maybe you can relate to:

When Scott asked me to do a guest blog he sent me the following message over Facebook: “you should guest blog about how your life got screwed by your medical problems.” Far from being the most offensive thing he’s ever said, I think it’s still apparent that the average person would probably have worded it more politely. Scott is not the average person. Neither am I. To know me is to understand that if what you say is intentionally horrible I will probably laugh at it, especially if I know you. If you’ve ever heard of “dead baby” jokes you’ll understand my humor.

That sense of humor sometimes quite literally keeps me going.

I’ll preface my medical story by saying that by no means do I believe that mine is more horrible than others. I know that I’m damn lucky compared to most people on this Earth.

In my glory days I was active and spontaneous and embarrassingly unembarrassable. In what I think was the summer of ’07 I was visiting someone when, at dinner, I suddenly got a muscle cramp in my leg. It was the worst pain that I’ve ever felt and I’ve broken both of my arms. I recovered quickly, but never forgot that moment and I’ve feared that pain ever since.

A few months later I was walking home from work when a twitch and a strange sensation went down that same leg. I thought for sure that it was happening again and panicked, but the cramp never came. Since then the twitching and strange sensation has coupled with aching, tingling and weakness in both legs and it’s never gone away.

Soaking in the fear that at any time I was about to have a rematch with the worst pain of my life, and living with the aforementioned symptoms for four and a half years without a diagnosis (not even a hint), I developed a nasty little anxiety problem with tendencies toward agoraphobia and hypochondria. But not knowing what was wrong was the worst part. The more anxiety I got, the more I obsessed over what I might have. Was I dying? Was I delusional?

After my legs went, so went my belief in God, followed by who, at the time, I thought was the love of my life. Disabled, alone and feeling very defeated I moved home. If Scott dares have me back after this then perhaps I’ll tell about leaving my religion.

Suffice it to say, I lost a lot of friends. I not only pushed them away, but I also felt unable physically to be with them. Very few have remained. I became inactive. In my own eyes I became useless. For two or so years I fell into a depression. One night I went outside to cry so as to not wake my family. I sat there and decided that jumping off of a bridge would be the best way to go. The next day, due to some fluke of hormones or sunlight, I was feeling better, stronger. I went for a walk to try to keep my legs strong (which is often physically painful). I told myself then that I was going to university. If I could not make use of my body then I would make use of my mind. I acknowledged that if I failed in this that I would likely end up looking over the railing of a bridge getting ready to use my defective legs for one last jump. University would not be easy, it would indeed be painful, and with my anxiety it would also be scary, but I considered it my only option.

I started school the following winter. My main interests are psychology and philosophy and without conceit I can tell you, I’m damn good. Maybe it’s my passion for the subjects, or the threat of death, but I’ve been very motivated to succeed. For four consecutive semesters I dealt with the anxiety of leaving my house, speaking to strangers, taking a bus to school, wearing out my legs causing pain, cramps and twitching on top of the usual stress of school itself. By the end of the fourth I had beaten that anxiety nearly to dust. I no longer needed the Xanax that my doctor had prescribed. I was studying like a dead baby (because I had no life!) and I was getting ready for my next set of final exams. Two days before the first one something new happened. I don’t know how it works with others that suffer from anxiety, but to me something new was terrifying. Suddenly and for seemingly no reason I felt swelling in my throat. Of course I knew that this was the end. I’d be dead any minute, choking to death. That was not my ideal way to go. My anxiety shot through the roof and although my throat never closed up (I was never in any real danger of that happening) I just knew that it was about to happen at any second.

The swelling never went away. I got 60% on my final exam in Philosophy 100, my favourite class. I’d been getting above 90% until then. My anxiety was back with a vengeance, stronger than ever before. Before I had leg pain to worry about. Now I had nausea and choking and cancer and a million other mysteries to fear.

Ironically the problem with my legs was diagnosed soon after – Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. All I ever wanted was a diagnosis. But now that I have one, I can’t enjoy it. Life’s funny like that. It’s been five months since then. There was a point about a month ago when I went in to my doctor to get the results of two separate tests. These would tell me whether the problem in my throat was hypothyroidism or thyroid cancer. I was almost praying for hypothyroidism, but even if it was cancer, at least then I would know. I got what I perceived to be the worst news possible. Both tests came back negative. I was back to the beginning, the not knowing, the fear, the helplessness and hopelessness. Depression started coming back. I dropped my classes for this Fall semester. I could barely leave my room never mind go to school. It was obvious that I needed help. So, I’ve started seeing a psychologist (one that doesn’t suck). She’s taught me some meditation, encouraged me to exercise, and taught me how to argue with myself, tell myself that I’m being irrational when I obsess over my health.

I still don’t know what’s wrong with my throat. I don’t know what the future holds. I’m not particularly hopeful about it either. But I’m also not hopeless. Who knows? There’s still a chance for me. I can beat this anxiety crap. I’ve nearly done it once before, and now I’ve got backup. And as long as I have the ability to laugh at the absurdity of my own horror, I’ll be able to hold on.

Coming tomorrow: Dealing With Your Addiction: Why A 12 Step Program May Not Be Enough

The State Of Faith In Canada

from Out of Ur:

A new study published in Canada shows the same trends evident in U.S. churches are no less real in hockey country. The report titled “Hemorrhaging Faith” (I can already imagine the solution-based conference and book: “Clotting Faith”), is featured in the latest issues of Canada’s Faith Today magazine.

Some of the findings include:

-Only 1/3rd of young adults in Canada who attended church weekly as a child still attend as adults.
-Among those who no longer attend church, 1/2 have also abandoned belief in Christianity.
-There are four primary barriers that prevent young adults from engaging the church: Hypocrisy, judgement, exclusivity, and failure.

Beating Anxiety And Depression Is Possible, But It May Be More Work Than You Are Prepared To Do

Anxiety and depression are plaguing 21st Century culture. It’s an epidemic.

We have never had better medications to provide relief, never had better therapies available. Health care, thorough physicians, EAP programs for free counseling, nurses, and other professionals has never been as accessible.There is no world war, most of us do not have a terminal illness. Employment is at an all time low. So what is the problem? Is there any hope?

Day after day people tell me in counseling that they have been dealing with anxiety and depression for years, even decades. They have been on antidepressants literally for generations. They believe that they have a biological issue, some sort of genetic flaw, though no one can identify when or how they were tested to confirm the neurochemical prognosis. Many people, at least in my part of the world have seen a psychiatrist who, after ten or twenty minutes, has diagnosed them (without any evidence-based analysis) as having a depressive or anxiety disorder. I have asked these individual what tests were run, what scale was used; did you even fill out a Burns Depression Questionnaire, or a PHQ-9, or a HAM-A/D, a GAD-7? Anything? Did you share the story of your past few years, describe the emotional and psychological stressors?

Twenty minutes every month and a prescription for an antidepressant, a benzodiazepine, and a sleeping medication. Many, many of my patients have been taking these same medications for a decade or more and have no idea if they do anything substantive.

The hard truth is that taking medication for a generalized anxiety or depressive disorder is only a small part of the solution (though perhaps necessary); and by themselves do little to address the important questions. Dealing with anxiety and depression requires actually dealing with the key causes, issues and effects, and takes a tremendous amount of learning, transition, and vigilance.

I tell patients that the tools they need to address these issues are incredibly simple to learn and very very difficult to master. This requires a level of humility and dedication most people are not willing to give. If you have a major issue with anxiety or depression it is going to take major work. But with the right tools, a counselor that doesn’t suck, and a dedication to do ‘whatever it takes’, you can experience significant change in just a few months.

But you need the right tools. If you go to a counselor and they tell you that you need to begin by changing your lifestyle (like the doctor who tells you to fight depression by going for a long walk every morning) then fire that therapist. Real change begins with changing your mind, not your activities or emotions. A counselor who knows what they are doing will challenge you to deal with your thoughts, show you how to practice taking back control of your impulses, and help you learn to address your dysfunctional coping skills and cognitive distortions.

With depression, for example, if you could go for a long walk every morning you probably wouldn’t be talking to your doctor. A person who is seriously depressed is usually unable to find the energy or motivation to open the curtains, let alone go for long hikes. So once again you are a failure, only further entrenching your despondency. A good counselor will help you find hope, not set you up for more failure.

Depressed people can get better. Every day I teach people the tools they need to find hope. The problem is that not everyone is prepared for the relentless battle that is necessary to drag your emotions and garbage, kicking and screaming, back into your control. You will have to fight your own dysfunctional thinking and learn to get control of your mind, battle your obsessions, say no to your desires, and question your own beliefs. This is a great deal of work and pain but the reward is sanity, hope, and a shot at a happy life.

I love what Tony Campolo once said, “As children we were taught to pray the prayer, ‘If I should die before I wake’. Most of us should be praying, ‘If I should wake before I die’.” Many of us have been walking around most of our lives half asleep, half alive. Isn’t it time we woke up? Anxiety is not a terminal illness. Panic attacks can be beaten. Depressed people find hope.

Don’t give up, you’re worth it.

Lowering Your Expectations

Do you want to be happy in life and with your relationships? Lower your expectations!

Most of us grow up believing we are going to be rich, or famous, or at least happy. It seems, however, that the real world rarely lives up to our expectations.

Jerry Seinfeld (character)I love how Jerry Seinfeld sums up the problem with the real world: “The bad thing about television is that everybody you see on television is doing something better than what you’re doing. Did you ever see anybody on TV like just sliding off the front of the sofa with potato chip crumbs on their face? Some people have a little too much fun on television: the soda commercial people – where do they summon this enthusiasm? Have you seen them? 

“We have soda, we have soda, we have soda”, jumping, laughing, flying through the air – it’s a can of soda. Have you ever been standing there and you’re watching TV and you’re drinking the exact same product that they’re advertising right there on TV, and it’s like, you know, they’re spiking volleyballs, jetskiing, girls in bikinis and I’m standing there – “Maybe I’m putting too much ice in mine?”

Though many people in the addictions field don’t speak about boredom and the real world, it remains one of the main reasons recovering addicts relapse. They have lived in a world of adventure and the real world moves very slow. In short, it’s boring. The typical day used to start with cravings and emotionalism, they would spend time looking for a means to buy drugs, go to the deal, do the deal, take the drugs, zone out for a period of time, come down, clean up, and go to bed. Compare that to the heroine addict who goes on a Methadone program. He or she gets up, goes to the pharmacy, gets a Dixie cup of methadone, drinks it… now what? It’s 8:30 in the morning and your schedule is done.

Believe what you want about substance use, it does fill up your day. Most recovering addicts complain that ‘normie land’ is boring, slow, and generally a let-down.

Let’s be honest, they are right. The real world is not like it is on television. Your job, no matter what that is, is usually a series of days you will probably not remember. That new car is exciting for a week or two then it’ just a car. Even relationships get stale after a while.

I’m trying to lower my expectations.

I was ADHD before it was cool. The world seemed to move at a snail’s pace. Even now, as a full grown adult I find most days are just… ok. It is tempting to become despondent and self-medicate, or give up, or get bitter. It is also tempting to feel that life is unfair, that things haven’t turned out the way they were supposed to in my childhood fairytale. I can rail and cry and take all the Cipralex I want, things may not turn into Game Of Thrones. There may be no more dragons to slay or maidens to rescue and somehow, some way, I need to learn to be ok with that.

I have come to believe that, at least for me, maturity and wisdom has something to do with learning to be content in spite of my outside world. I have seen firsthand how, when I lower the emotional impact of my expectations of my partner, my children, my work, and my world, that I am able to be more at peace. I am trying to get to that point in my marriage, for example, where I have no expectations of my wife. If she shows up I’m happy. She is crazy enough to love me and want to share life with me so what else can I ask? I’m not there yet but I have noticed that, as I endeavor to change my way of thinking, it is making a difference in my life.

Cognitive Therapy teaches us to realize that changing our mind may be better than trying to change our actions. If we can do this then our actions become more authentic and flow out of who we are, not how we feel. Change your mind and your ass will follow. As I begin to shift my focus from my unreasonable demands, as I learn to take care of myself before pushing my agenda on others, as I take the time to develop an attitude of gratitude and as Covey said, “Seek first to understand and then to be understood”; than slowly my world begins to change.

“Life is a journey not a destination”, they say. It is never too late to transform your life, if you are willing to put in the work.

Research has shown that couples who argue more than twenty percent of the time are probably not going to survive.

10 Tips to Help Avoid Ugly Arguments
If done correctly a fight can be a pathway to growth and problem solving

Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D.

Every couple argues. Some of them do it overtly by yelling at each other while others do it covertly by avoiding contact and conversation. Whatever the method, the result is the same – hurt feelings and disenchantment. Here are my tips to help you argue constructively. If done correctly arguing can be a pathway to growth and problem solving.

  1. Understand that anger itself is not destructive. There is a vast difference between anger and rage. When someone is angry they need to state their feelings, they don’t break things or relationships – that is ragefull behavior.
  2. Talk about your feelings before you get angry. When you or your partner can approach the situation as it happens and deal with it in a safe way, it may not get to the point of being an argument. Sometimes things just need to be verbalized and most arguments can be avoided if your partner understands how you feel.
  3. Don’t raise your voice. It’s amazing how issues of hurt feelings or differences can be resolved with a whisper. I counsel couples who are yellers to only communicate with a whisper and it greatly reduces the anger factor in their relationships.
  4. Don’t threaten your relationship. And don’t take every argument as a threat to your relationship. This type of emotional blackmail puts the other partner in a panic/flight or flight mode. While you’re telling them you want to leave, they may be making plans to find a roommate. In addition, they may be so devastated by the thought of losing their family they can go into a deep depression and be unable to give you what it is you need.
  5. Don’t stockpile. This is where you bring up issues from the past to use as a hammer against whatever problem your partner has asked for help with. Deal with their issue first and if you really have unresolved feelings from past problems talk about them at another time.
  6. Don’t avoid your anger. If you stuff your feelings long enough you will explode and say or do things that you will regret. Anger does not diminish love, you can be angry with those you love. In fact the ones we love hurt us the most because we love them the most.
  7. Create a process for resolving problems without anger. Start by each of you taking five minutes to state your feelings, then take a twenty minute break to think about things and come back to the table for another ten minutes to discuss how you think you can best deal with the problem. Also, know that it’s okay if the problem doesn’t get solved right away.
  8. Abuse is NEVER allowed. This includes verbal abuse, any type of violence including slamming doors, breaking plates or hitting. If your arguments escalate to this level you need to leave the house. If one partner ever hits another a police report needs to be made and an appointment with a therapist is mandatory.
  9. Don’t engage. Remember that negative attention is still attention. If your partner tries to goad you into an argument, simply don’t go there. Some people actually like to argue because it gives them a temporary feeling of power and gratification. Avoid being sucked into their need for attention.
  10. Listen to your body. When you are angry your body releases chemicals that may cause you to react in ways that can be destructive to you, your partner and your relationship. Learn to understand your feelings and how the process of anger effects you physically and emotionally.

Research has shown that couples who argue more than twenty percent of the time are probably not going to survive. Hopefully these tips will help you get your arguments under control and reduce the level of energy in those arguments. If not, and if you want to keep your relationship, you need to find a qualified couple’s therapist.