a relationship, commitment is a choice we make every single day, over and over again.
choose it when we’re tired and overworked and stressed.
choose it no matter what attractive person crosses our path.
choose it every time our partner makes a bid
and we put down our book, or look away from the TV, or up from our phone to acknowledge their importance in our life.
we make our relationship a priority by showing that it’s a priority, we build trust and demonstrate our loyalty.
The “old stuff”—the things we carry from the past—cycles through our lives, in and out. We hold it in glimpses of childhood, images and emotions that are sometimes disconnected from one another. We carry mud puddles and faces, toys, bedrooms, yards. We hold memories of clouds, angles of sunlight on the side of a shed. Our bodies maintain postures of humiliationsand accomplishments. They hold our sadness and fear, our anger, trust, and hope.
Living within our adaptations, we take what we are given biologically and survive childhood by ignoring the parts of ourselves that remain unreflected. We may discard the bits that trigger caregivers, and we may take their instantaneous bodily reactions to us as representation of the entire world and build our expectations and strategies around these.
After childhood, as we begin to explore and adapt to any number of new systems, we may start to recognize the arbitrary nature of systems themselves. This realization may lead us to to gradually and naturally gravitate toward reconnection with the parts of self we previously left behind. With this transition often comes a mix of acceptance and grief.
Our templates of childhood experience may lend form to our expectations in relationships, to our style of attachment. These experiences may be preverbal, and we may lack the concrete language to articulate them, even to ourselves. But when intimacy reaches a threshold, a certain temperature, they often rise up within us, perhaps presenting as fear or anger, as an automated reaction that occurs without awareness and is typically witnessed only in hindsight, when the body has calmed.
MEETING AS WE’VE BEEN MET FOR GENERATIONSWhen our needs are met by caregivers and by ourselves, reliably and consistently, throughout childhood, this pattern of connection is likely to continue throughout generations. Secure attachment can be understood to mean that we know how to be, with self and with other.
The two extremes (anxious/avoidant) of insecure attachment can occur when caregivers do not know how to meet particular behaviors or emotions. Perhaps nobody modeled these skills for them, or perhaps they experienced trauma that affected their ability to meet our needs. Whatever the cause, when our early interactions are affected by this inability to have our needs met, we may begin to separate from parts of self and lose the connection to “other” as well as self.
When a person with limited tolerance for internal sensation becomes a parent, a specific set of “containment” skills is often passed to the next generation. In other words, children learn how best to avoid the discomfort of being with self or other. On one level, this is purely adaptive and may even be beneficial, based on what has been experienced. On another level, this training to protect the self from internal sensation can become a tunnel through which children learn to navigate the world, and it may perpetuate a pattern.
The parent is not the only teacher. Children learn from siblings, from relatives, through accidents, through the very unpredictability of life. In those homes where a child fails to define a sense of self or aspects of self are lost, an alternate cycle—a pattern of disconnection—can continue through generations, leading to extreme reactions and polarization. This insecure attachment may be avoidant or anxious, an internalized sense of rigidity or chaos, “too much” or “not enough.”
INTEGRATION THROUGH DIFFERENTIATIONBoth within and without, we must define the pieces before building the puzzle. First we separate, identify, and name. We move apart to differentiate, to identify present changes since the previous separation. Then we come together. We join to experiment, to share what we have learned, to teach one another about ourselves, to teach others how to treat us, or to teach parts of self how to meet other parts. When our early interactions are affected by an inability to have our needs met, we may begin to separate from parts of self and lose the connection to “other” as well as self.
One major challenge here is the underlying “wish” of either extreme that someone else will come, to save or redeem us, bring us worth, nurture or define us. This wish is often born of a hoped-for childhood experience that did not happen. To take ownership of our own lives, we must grieve this wish.
Ownership often happens at a gradual pace. “If they are not coming, what must I do now?” Often ownership coincides with a relationship or takes place in a created community. There may be an underlying acceptance in the letting go, an acceptance that accompanies a recognized appreciation for what actually is: “In this moment, even without resolution of the ‘old stuff,’ I’m ok. I can grieve for those times when I was not ok. I am learning what my caregivers did not know at the time. My needs are met. My body is calm.”
THE UNDERLYING ANIMAL: FIGHT OR FLIGHT IN CHILD REARINGWhen our emotion or behavior as a child triggers a fight response from parents, we lose agency and may feel invaded at a core level. This is a building block of avoidant attachment. We may carry an internalized ongoing feeling of being controlled, emotionally rejected, unheard. We may feel as if our needs don’t matter, that we are losing self. Thus, we may decide to give nothing more, to close down.
These extreme responses serve to represent our individual positioning in a global pattern of basic human responses--fight, flight, or freeze—and illustrate the ways this pattern propagates, continuing from one generation to the next.
Alternately, when a parent pulls away or flinches in the presence of something we perceive as our core self, we may internalize this flight response and continue to abandon ourselves throughout life, believing that some part of us is hideous and must remain hidden. This belief—and the subsequent creation of patterns of internal polarization that only serve amplify that part within us and make it more obvious—characterize what is known as anxious attachment.
With the high prevalence of extreme attachment styles on a cultural and global scale, it may be of great importance to begin exploring our own reactions. At a foundational level, awareness and attunement to our own natural biological responses can potentially affect generations.
August 18, 2016 • By Jeremy McAllister, MA, LPC, GoodTherapy.org Topic Expert Contributor
Therapists often recognize that some clients will find healing once they “let go.” Letting go means different things for different clients. For some, it may mean letting go of an abusive relationship or an addiction. For others, it may mean letting go of past wounds and scars from childhood trauma. Yet, there is another subtle vice that can grip clients too. This vice that must be let go of effects their life but they may not realize just how much. It is the vice of perfectionism. Letting go of perfectionism can be just as challenging as letting go of other issues in life. The first step in helping clients let go of perfectionism is helping them see how detrimental it is.
Clients may have a false impression that being a perfectionist is ok because they are just doing things the very best possible. However, there is a slight distinction between doing your best and being a perfectionist. Perfectionists go beyond doing just their best. They are never quite satisfied with themselves or the job they’ve done. If they perceive they’ve failed in any area, then it creates inner pain and turmoil. They can’t let it go. Therapists should encourage clients to do their best but to let go of the results.
So, what happens when perfectionists do not achieve their goals? It can get quite uncomfortable for them and those around them. For one thing, they feel driven to achieve perfection, which leads to a lot of stress. On top of that, they engage in negative self-talk. For example, if they are attempting to complete a project, they deal with a continual inner critic that beats them down every step of the way telling them it’s not good enough or it will never be good enough. This unbearable load of negativity often leads perfectionists to procrastinate. The fear of failure paralyzes them so they put off doing things instead of just letting go. Of course, this always makes them feel worse because they don’t accomplish their goal. It becomes a vicious cycle of negative thoughts, procrastination, and perceived failure.
The reason letting go is so critical for the perfectionist is because perfectionism is all about control. The person wants to control how things turn out and make everything perfect. This can result in a toxic environment around the person. Co-workers, spouses, children, and friends may discover that it’s difficult having a smooth relationship with the perfectionist. Because they lack control in their own lives, they tend to exert it over others instead. In other words, since they can’t control their own imperfections, they attempt to control other people as a means to maintain some control in life. They also can be quite demanding in their expectations from others. This becomes more evident the higher up the ladder they are.
What can be done to begin the journey of healing for the perfectionist? Therapists can help lead perfectionists in finding the joy that comes with letting go of unrealistic expectations of themselves and others. As clients face their fear of failure and truly let go of themselves and their perfectionism, they will find peace. One of the wonderful things they and those around them discover is that while they become easier, less harsh and critical on themselves, they will also be more compassionate and generous towards others. When they let go of perfectionism, it allows them to feel free to make mistakes and to allow others that same privilege.
As therapists guide clients to let go of perfectionism, it brings relief to the client and their loved ones. For more information about therapy techniques contact us today.
3 - 5% of all Americans can be classified as addicted to sex. That's 9 to 16 Million people
The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health
- 64% of 13-24 -year-olds intentionally watch pornography at least once a week.
- By the time children become teens and young adults, 62 % of them will have received a sext (sexually explicit image via text)
- 41% of them will have sent one
- the average age of initial involvement in prostitution for girls is estimated between 14-18 years of age
Stringer, Jay. Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing (Kindle Locations 370-375). NavPress. Kindle Edition.
- Porn use will nearly double the probability of a couple’s getting divorced.
- Approximately 35 percent of all Internet downloads are porn related.
- Porn sites receive more monthly traffic than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined.
- Porn is a $ 97 billion industry, with as much as $ 12 billion of that coming from the US.
- About 57 percent of our pastors and 64 percent of our youth pastors struggle or have struggled with pornography.
Stringer, Jay. Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing (Kindle Locations 376-384). NavPress. Kindle Edition.
Jeff Stull DMin PhD
Dr. Jeff Stull is an Individual, Marriage and Family Counselor who enjoys assisting his clients in developing creative alternatives to everyday life, love and work challenges. As a Licensed Professional Counselor and Mental Health Counselor he has specialized trainings in Relationship Repair, Abuse Recovery, Adolescents, and Mindfulness. He holds certifications including Professional Counseling Supervision, Clinical Sexology, Professional Christian Counseling and Accelerated Resolution Therapy(ART). He serves his clients in Alpharetta, Cumming and Dahlonega, Georgia and all over the world via Skype.