A Shitty Life or a Wonderful Life?

The first draft of anything is shit

The first draft of anything is shit.” ― Ernest Hemingway

I think this truth can be applied to our life, and often to our relationships, as well.

The first stab at anything is nothing more than that.

A stab in the dark. A first attempt.

We act on instinct, repeating what we’ve learned.

Unconsciously living out the scripts and messages we’ve picked up from others, and have stored in our brain.

But perhaps it is time to start over again.

To start in an informed, and a more deliberate, way.

this is the beginning

And as you think of starting over, you can chart out a course that’s a lot more consistent with the way you want to live. (Bearing in mind, we don’t control everything … And, certainly, we don’t control everyone.)

Below are some questions to help you figure what you want from life and, what you might need to change:

1. What does a healthy and meaningful relationship look like to me? (Try to be as specific as possible.)

2. If I was living my best possible life, how would I look to an outside observer? (Happy, relaxed, contented, confident etc.)

3. How would I be feeling?

4. What kinds of things would I be doing?

5. How would I describe my life right now? How close is it, to the way I want to live?

6. How would I describe my relationships right now? How similar are they to what I really want?

7. What am I happy with; what would I like to keep?

8. What am I unhappy with; what would I like to change?

9. What am I putting up with in myself that is stopping me from living my best life? How can I change that? Am I prepared to do what is needed to change things?

10. What am I putting up with in others, that is stopping me from living my best life? What can I do to change that?

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.

No Man is an Island

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Today I heard a radio interview with the Canadian son of two Russian spies. His citizenship had been revoked (although he was born in Canada) when his parents were tried and found guilty of their crimes. But now after years of fighting through the courts, he’s been able to regain his identity, and his Canadian passport had been restored.

Can you even imagine what this person has gone through?

At the age of 16, the FBI turned up unannounced at a birthday event and arrested his parents on the spot. (They were resident of the US at the time.) Of course, you assume there has been some mistake. You are sure that the agents have got it wrong; or, perhaps, they’ve arrived at the wrong address.

But after being deported to an unknown land (Russia), to an unfamiliar family, and a language you don’t know, then you start to realize that it must be true.

But how do you wrap your head around this? For months – or even years – you are in a state of shock.

It has clearly been disorientating for this young man. He had thought he always knew who his parents were, and he thought he was leading a pretty standard life. Not true … Not true at all ….

And his identity has changed: he’s the son of spy. And the label he’s been given has affected all of life. He’s been viewed in certain ways because of what his parents did, and he now has to live with the effects of this.

There are parallels here with those who’ve been betrayed …

You’re just going about life, in the way you always did. You are making normal plans, like the world around you does. Then your normal is destroyed, and there’s carnage everywhere. You’re a victim of events, and your life’s forever changed.

When we choose to join our lives we become more vulnerable for the choices others make will affect our life as well. And the impact that this has doesn’t just affect us now. It reverberates through life, and affects our future too.

When Paths Diverge

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Today we learned that two of our friends had separated, and intended to divorce. The second set of friends in the Christmas season.

None of these people expected this to happen when they tied the knot many years ago.

But life rarely gives us what we expect.

And I think that makes it especially hard.

There’s no script for the future as the map has been destroyed. It’s like being in limbo, immersed in hurt and pain.

But we humans are resilient, and that engenders hope. Who knows what will happen once the trauma’s been worked through, and they find the strength and courage to re-create their lives.

“Splendid Isolation is for Planets, not People.”

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One of the things about a sex addiction is it’s generally an isolating, taboo topic. And that makes it very hard to talk about.

So where can you turn when you’re in a state of shock, or you’re hit by a tsunami of intense, unwanted feelings?

How about your family? For some that might be helpful. But maybe you are hesitant to say too much to them. After all, you have to see them every Christmas or Thanksgiving. And if they’re in “the know” they’ll remember this forever. And chances are they’ll never feel the same about your spouse.

Well, what about your friends? That is complicated too. They’re bound to have opinions and might tell you what to do. And often they’ll expect you to adhere to their suggestions. Yet often they don’t understand, or truly empathize.

You could join a self-help group. That is not a bad suggestion. At least these other people have gone through what you’ve gone through. And though it might feel awkward sharing with a group of strangers, you might find you’ll feel better for opening up to them.

Of course, it’s very likely that you’re talking to a counsellor. That’s helpful and supportive, for they meet you where you are. A counsellor won’t judge you. They expect there to be dark times … But they are paid to be there, and it’s often scheduled help.

And, so, it can be lonely when you’re carrying this burden. It feels like a life sentence. A heavy load to bear. But please know there are others – even if it’s word press bloggers – who understand your trauma, and genuinely care.

Please reach out for support. You’re not meant to feel alone.

Note: The title is a quote by Sue Johnson, from the book Love Sense.

But the Times They are A-Changing

You dont find the happy life. You make it..PNG

60 years of marriage and never a cross word, and never a serious argument. We never went to bed without making up. We always sorted out our little differences. And any differences were, really, insignificant.”

So said my Dad when he and my mom were celebrating their ruby anniversary.

Now I grew up in that very same home, and my recollections differ somewhat from my Dad’s. But, to be completely honest, their marriage is inspiring. It would be hard to find a couple who have loved so honestly. So, I’ll allow my dad to have his select memories.

But, still, it leaves me wondering how many young adults will be able to look back and say they, also, knew true love. Is it still possible to be so faithful to another, and to always love that person, and treat them with respect? I’d really like to think that the answer is yes.

But today we all have cell phones, and we have the internet … and I fear that this has altered and changed relationships. But maybe that’s not true, and there’s room for idealism. Perhaps there is no need for that dash of cynicism.

So for my daughters, and the daughters of my friends and relatives, here is what I still wish, and hope, for you:

I hope that you will marry, or partner, with someone who will always be faithful – in every way – to you.

I hope that you’ll find someone who cares about your heart, and chooses not to hurt you, or damage, or betray you.

I hope that you’ll both choose to admit if you feel tempted – because you have resolved to keep the promises you made.

I hope you won’t have secrets that hurt and separate – but you will choose to value and practice openness.

I hope that you’ll feel cared for, protected, safe and loved.

And I hope that you can say that your partner was your friend, a lover who was loyal and caring to the end.

 

“And They All Lived Happily Ever After”

to love a person is to see all their magic.PNG

One of the things I like about “The Buried Giant”, a novel by Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro, is it explores married love across a couple’s lifetime. So it’s not about romance, or the early dizzy years. Its subject is a love that has been tested in the fire. A love that has survived some really serious hurts and trials.

One of the interesting features of the book is a mist that envelopes and permeates the world. This is both frightening and comforting. Essentially, the mist hints at buried memories, and the need to forget, and the decision to forget (for otherwise relationships could not survive.) You see this in the fear that the characters display when they sense that the mist is beginning to rise, and they start to worry about what they might learn.

Indeed, as the story progresses, we learn of the betrayal that is part of the narrative of Beatrice and Axl, the two main characters in the book. Nevertheless, they have managed to renew and rebuild their love; and on the journey that the novel mainly focuses upon, they display a tenderness that is somewhat enviable.

At the end of their journey, and the end of the book, when they’ve reached the river, and the final crossing point, each is questioned individually about their love. The questions they are asked leave the other wondering, “Has our live been sufficient; have we loved enough?”

I would venture to say that there’s no couple on this earth who’ve loved perfectly and who don’t carry buried wounds. We have all known betrayals – and some of these are serious. But maybe this enables us to build a stronger love. A love that is informed. A love that’s deep and genuine. A love that can forgive, and can accept forgiveness, too.

And maybe this is actually a truer kind of love.

 

Sexual Betrayal and the Trauma Vortex

remembers

Does the term trauma vortex mean anything to you?

This metaphor describes the swirling whirlpool of emotions, reactions, thoughts and instincts that a trauma stirs in us. It’s where sensations, pictures, sounds or some painful memories are triggered unexpectedly, and take us back in time[1]:

Trauma is like a magnet or a black hole sucking us in. Memories of trauma are not like normal memories of something that happened in another time and place, but instead we feel like we are currently in that other time and place. When triggered, our feelings are very powerful and pull us further and further into … a trauma vortex (a whirling mass that draws things towards its centre).[2]

And when an individual’s feels they’re being sucked into this hole:

  1. They are subjected to an onslaught of disturbing thoughts and pictures related to the trauma, or distressing incident.
  2. They feel they’re being pulled into obsessively reviewing, or ruminating over, the traumatic incident.
  3. It’s likely they’ll be struggling with despair and emptiness, abandonment, rejection and a sense of hopelessness.
  4. At the same time, they feel worthless, and battle guilt and shame.
  5. Life feels unpredictable – which makes them insecure
  6. The symptoms that assault them make them feel they’re going crazy.

So how can we help someone who’s in this anguished state? Some possible suggestions might include the following:

– Divert the person’s attention away from painful memories. This can be achieved by:

(a) Helping to ground them in the present. That is, asking them what they can see in their immediate environment (such as a plant, or the sun shining outside the window); or hear (such as a phone ringing); or smell (such as strong coffee, or dinner cooking, or freshly cut grass); or feel (such as the rough fabric on the sofa, the smoothness of a glass they are holding); or taste (such as tea they are sipping, or the gum they are chewing).

(b) Taking the person off to a safe place in their mind (for example, through the use of guided imagery).

– Choosing different channels to process an experience so they’re not focused on feelings or distressing images. For example, if the person is fixated on the way they feel emotionally, you could ask him or her to describe the way they’re feeling physically. This will likely help to lessen their emotional response.

– Suggesting they try to distract themselves by doing something different. This moves the focus away from the traumatic memory[3].

Leaving something, even momentarily, will help decrease its pull on you. Imagine if you stepped out of a movie theatre just as the film was becoming really scary. How different would it be if you left the movie ten times rather than sat through the whole thing spellbound? This is true with internal experiences as well. Give yourself breaks. Oscillate attention.”

In time, these trauma symptoms will generally subside. So hold onto the hope that, one day, your life will change.

 

[2] Cori, J.L. (2009). Healing from trauma: A survivor’s guide to understanding your symptoms and reclaiming your life. Boston, MA: Da Capo Lifelong Books.

[3] Cori, J.L. (2009). Healing from trauma: A survivor’s guide to understanding your symptoms and reclaiming your life. Boston, MA: Da Capo Lifelong Books.

The Problem with Little White Lies

 

tell me lies.PNGI once heard the story of a guy whose wife divorced him after he lied to her about putting out the trash. He said he had when he hadn’t – and that was enough to tip the scales.

Over the top? Maybe. I suspect a lot of people would see it that way. But you might feel differently if you’ve been betrayed. Why is that the case?

If you’ve been betrayed then you’ve been deceived. And that betrayal was a serious breach of trust. It’s also very hard to recover from.

If you are the betrayer then you’re likely to think: “I never deceived you about anything else. It was only about sex. And you can understand why. I was afraid to be honest. I was afraid that I would lose you. That’s why I didn’t have the courage to tell you earlier.”

Yes, it makes sense on some level, and perhaps we understand it. But that doesn’t change the effect that lying’s had on us. And if you chose to lie about the really big, important things I don’t feel I can trust you with anything at all.

Rational and reasonable, wouldn’t you agree?

That’s why you must be honest, and absolutely honest. Even when it seems either ludicrous or petty.

The sex therapist, Rob Weiss, puts it this way[1]:

Relationship trust is not automatically rebuilt just because you stopped cheating, nor is it rebuilt because you managed to stay stopped for a certain amount of time. Instead, relationship trust is regained through … being rigorously honest about pretty much everything, all the time, from now on … With rigorous honesty you tell the truth and you tell it sooner. You keep your spouse in the loop about absolutely everything: spending, trips to the gym, gifts for the kinds, issues at work, needing to fertilize the lawn, and, on yeah, interactions she might not approve of. If your spouse would want to know, then you tell her. Period.”

So, after betrayal you can’t peddle in white lies. If you do, then prepare for the relationship to end.

[1] Weiss, R. (2017). Out of the dog house: A step-by-step relationship-saving guide for men caught cheating. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc.