Coping Statements for Anxiety

feel what you need to feel

When you’ve experienced betrayal you’re on constant high alert. And it’s easy to be triggered, and be swamped by anxious feelings.

This is likely to be heightened when the country is in lock down. You feel like a trapped rabbit who has few, if any, options.

But one thing you can try – apart from focusing on breathing – is working on your thinking when it’s faulty or irrational.

For example, when you start to feel distressed it might be helpful if you say:

  1. I’m going to be OK. Sometimes feelings are irrational. I’ve coped with them before, and I can cope with them again.
  2. Anxiety feels awful bad but it isn’t dangerous. I know the symptoms are intense – but there’s nothing wrong with me.
  3. Feelings come and go. This is only temporary. If I sit it out and wait, then the feelings will subside.
  4. This image in my head isn’t really accurate. I need to change my thinking so it’s healthy and more balanced. For example _____________.
  5. Feeling anxious is a habit – and a habit I can break. I can interrupt my thinking, so I don’t just spiral downwards.
  6.  The world’s not going to end – even though it feels disastrous.
  7. Don’t think about the future. Take it one step at a time.
  8. Don’t listen to your feelings. You are stronger than you feel.

Perhaps It Isn’t Over Until It’s Over

do not give your past the power

In Thinking, Fast and Slow Daniel Kahneman explains how our view of our life, and our close relationships, is determined by something called the Peak End Rule.

That is, the way we end up feeling about people, and our life, is not some kind of average of the moments we have lived, or the times that we have shared, or experienced with them.

You know … the most memorable vacations, then the boring humdrum times, securing that fab job, falling deeply in love, the birth of all our kids, losing someone we had loved … or, perhaps, separating if we learn we’ve been betrayed.

If we add all these together, you have an average life. Right?

Wrong.

It seems our overall rating of how our life has been, and the way we rate our partner and the years we’ve spent with them – is not simply an average of these moments and these years.

And, no, the good times and the bad times don’t cancel themselves out.

In summary, The Peak-End Rule reveals that final ratings will be based on an average of just two distinct experiences. These are:

  1. The worst or the most positive experience we’ve had, and
  2. The intensity of pain, or the pleasure we feel at the end of an event, or a relationship.

You see this principle at work all the time in sports.

For example, where a game is turned around when a player scores a goal – and we thought all hope had gone, and the team were going to lose. But now we’re super happy and the game’s a huge success.

You can see this principle at work in your own life, too.

For example, cast your mind back thorough the years and review the time you’ve spent with your partner or your spouse (or with someone else you’ve loved).

Do you look back on those years and then balance out events? Or did something major happen so other memories are erased, or are deleted, or rewritten in light of this event?

But maybe there’s good news …

Because our life is one long story, we may still all have the chance to take hold of the pen and decide what happens next. We could script a better ending, one that’s meaningful and good. This is not the final chapter. You still have time to write.

If Love Hurts, Let It Go

this is your decision

If love hurts, let it go.” You must have heard that statement a million times, or more.

And maybe they are right; but maybe they are wrong, as well.

It’s a major life decision, and a highly complex one. So take some time to process what you really want, and need.

And if he’s lied to you before, then you might reasonably think his words cannot be trusted, and it’s better if you go.

But love is complicated; and the roots can go down deep. And sometimes we decide that what we want most is to stay – despite the fact it’s scary, for the future is unclear.

So why might a partner decide to stay?

1. Most of us are shocked when we first learn about our spouse because we felt we had a great relationship with them. We were genuinely happy, and enjoyed their company. And if it wasn’t for this news, then we would never choose to go.

Something to ask yourself here is: If your spouse or partner changed, and all this stuff was in the past, and they were now trustworthy, and they never strayed again – would you actually still want to be with them?

How would you feel if they permanently changed, but they were now with someone else as you had gone your separate ways? 

2. Sometimes a straying partner compartmentalizes life, and they genuinely love us, despite the things they do. For example, it’s been shown that an addiction – including sex addiction – is a common way of coping with anxiety and stress. Also, it can offer some relief when we are feeling bored with life, or when we feel a failure, or we have low self-esteem. Here, sex is a distraction. It is just a fantasy. It isn’t about love. To them, ‘this isn’t their real life’. But when the truth comes out, and they cannot deny the facts, the shame is overwhelming, and they don’t want you to leave.

Something to ask yourself here is: If your partner recognizes they have underlying needs, and they’ve developed an addiction to distract themselves from these …  and their willing to get counselling and address these different needs, can you believe they’ll do that? Do you really think they’ll change?     

3. Your partner may never have attached properly. We form attachments to our parents in the first few years of life, and that bond becomes a template for attaching to our spouse. So, if your partner was avoidant and has learned to put up walls, was uncomfortable with closeness, and with being vulnerable, then sex for him may not have been relational at all. Instead, it’s likely he engaged in something known as ‘sealed off sex’ – where sex is a release, and is detached from genuine love.

Something to ask yourself here is: If your partner recognizes he was not attached to you (because of things that happened with his parents, as a child) … but now he longs for closeness and to form a healthy bond, do you believe he’s able to be vulnerable and real?

4. You have built a life together. You have memories you have shared. You may have raised a family. Your whole past is intertwined. And though betrayal’s awful, and the pain’s unbearable, perhaps your life together is defined by more than this.

Something to consider when you’re thinking about this is: It’s hard to come to terms with what your partner’s done to you. Betrayal’s a deep wound. The pain and scars are slow to heal.

Yet – it’s one part of your story; there are other chapters, too. Yes, you could walk away now – or rewrite how things will end.

It must be your decision. You will know what’s best for you. There’s no one right solution. You’re completely free to choose.

Quote of the Day

I learned not to trust

Claire’s married to her sweetheart. They had met when they were students. They dated for eight years before they chose to tie the knot. Then they built a life together full of love and happy memories. A marriage made in heaven; all their friends were envious.

But then a few weird payments, and some unexpected voicemails, revealed another life – a life she knew nothing about. A life of deep dark secrets, of addiction and betrayal. Was this the man she’d married? Claire was unconsolable.

We’re primed to love our partners, to believe that they’re safe people. Our instinct is to trust them; to accept they’re as they seem. We shouldn’t have to doubt them, or to wonder if they’re lying. Society can’t function if we question everything.

Yet some of us have learned that it is harmful to be trusting. We’ve learned to stop believing those we love are truly safe. We’ve learned we must be careful; and we can’t take things for granted. We need to pay attention. Anyone can be deceived.

What, You Too? I Thought I Was The Only One

friendship is born

I usually find statistics a bit of a turn-off. They just feel too impersonal and detached to me. But I read these figures[1] in a blog recently and I felt they really captured how betrayal impacts us.

In summary, the statistics reveal that:

  • 75% of betrayed partners feel indescribable fear – This is a sudden gripping fear in the pit of your stomach; being overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety; being wakened by night terrors, or adrenalin rushes, and being hit by thoughts or images that seem to come from nowhere. This is frequently a symptom of PTSD.
  • 85% of partners have feelings of being helpless – They don’t feel they’re in control, or they can change their situation. Bad things are going to happen, no matter what they do. They feel they have no power, that their life and destiny are in the hands of others, and especially their partner’s. This may appear illogical or foolish to onlookers; but it debilitates the partner and it kills their will to fight.   Why do we feel so helpless? You’ve been lied to and deceived, and told to doubt our intuitions (gaslighting). We know can’t do anything to make our spouse be faithful. And even if looks as if they really want to change, we know it might not last – so we could be at risk again.
  • 62% of betrayed partners relive the traumatic memory of what their partner has done – This is disturbing and distressing, and it resurrects the pain – for you’re transported back in time to when you first learned of betrayal. You experience the same horror, the same shock and disbelief, the physical reactions and, perhaps, dissociation. You also feel abandoned and utterly alone.

The research also indicates that many of the spouses will experience these symptoms for years – not weeks or months. They are unwanted reactions that are common to most partners. They don’t mean you are crazy – they mean you’re traumatized.

So welcome to the club. Take a seat. We understand.

[1] These statistics can be found in addorecovery.com

 

A Case of Tarnished Haloes

there is no greater trauma

In Canada, people are reeling from the news that one of her most loved and respected citizens has also been guilty of sexual abuse. Jean Vanier was the founder of L’Arche International, the son of a highly esteemed governor general, and honoured with the highest awards in this land.

And nobody is doubting he did tremendous good. He invested his time in enhancing the lives of people who were born with serious disabilities. He provided a safe place where these people could feel loved. A home where they belonged, and experienced dignity.

But today the accolades are being hastily replaced by disbelieving comments like the following:

It’s so shocking when a person you believed in does these things. I never would have thought it. There were no apparent signs. It shakes your understanding of what people are like.”

This behaviour is so awful.  I can’t start to imagine how much these women suffered, and what they have gone through – especially when everyone was praising Vanier.”

This is a particularly hard as it’s betrayal by a friend.”

News like this calls into question the way you see the world. You don’t know who to trust. You don’t know who you can believe.”

Of course, we’re talking of abuse here, not betrayal by a spouse. Even so, there are some parallels that aren’t lost on us. For instance, both situations raise some painful questions like:

1. How do reconcile these very different sides … that someone who does great things also leads a double life?

2. Are all failings equal, or are some things worse than others?

3. Is it ever right to cover up a person’s shameful acts, simply because they are sexual in nature? Why is there pressure to keep these things a secret?

4. How can we determine who is trustworthy and safe, when betrayers are such experts at deceiving us?

I don’t have any answers – just some personal thoughts and views. But I’d really love to hear what any readers have to say.

Quote of the Day

remember who you were when

If you’re feeling battle weary

If you feel you can’t go on

If you feel your heart is breaking

And your few reserves are gone

Close your eyes

Forget the future

Let the pressure dissipate

All that matters is this moment

You’ve survived

And you are strong.