by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghAugust 4, 2020 bowens system theory, triangulation, what is triangulation0 comments
The Bowen Center for the Study of the Family. (2020, August 3). Theory. The Bowen Center for the Study of the Family. https://thebowencenter.org/
You may have heard the latest celebrity gossip regarding Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s relationship drama. If not, let me catch you up to speed – Jada openly admitted to having an ‘entanglement’ with a much younger man without Will’s consent or knowledge. This abruptly caused a firestorm across the internet with questions and jokes about ‘entanglements’ and what this all really means. Underlying this drama is an important lesson about relationships and specifically, ‘triangulation’ within relationships. An ‘entanglement’ is a form of ‘triangulation’. Triangulation occurs in a relationship when something or someone disrupts the flow of communication or emotions between the couple. Triangulation could be a manipulation tactic by one person in the relationship, but quite often triangulation happens when a relationship is struggling and without people even realizing it is happening or that they are facilitating it. In Will and Jada’s case, her ‘entanglement’ with a third person may have served to evoke strong emotions or bring previous relationship issues to the surface, forcing communication. However, it certainly doesn’t take an affair or an ‘entanglement’ for triangulation to occur.
What is triangulation? Originally, the concept of triangulation came out of Bowen’s Systems Theory which is a theoretical model used by some therapists to understand and explain family dynamics. In families, triangulation occurs when one or both members of a couple pull a child in to be the third point in the triangle. In this scenario, the child absorbs some of the stress of the relationship or acts as a communication device between the couple. This can occur in relationships where the parents are still together, but struggling in the marriage, or when the parents are separated but do not take the necessary steps to communicate while continuing to co-parent. At any rate, triangulation within a family system puts the child in an extremely difficult position.
More recently people have noticed another kind of triangulation within their relationships. Within the context of family and marriage therapy, we see many forms of triangulation, even where the third point isn’t a person at all, but rather technology, and most often a cell phone. Quite often, one or both members of a couple may avoid in-person, direct communication about difficult or sensitive topics and instead rely on technology to do the communicating. For example, one member of the couple may post or interact on social media to passively communicate with their partner. One or both members of a couple may utilize their cell phones as either a conscious or an unconscious distraction device. Or, one or both members of the couple may seek comfort from their cell phone rather than their partner, avoid intimacy to be on their cell phone, or just generally not be emotionally available because they’re on their device instead of present in the relationship. Some studies have shown that just the mere presence of a mobile device, even when it isn’t being used, can detract from face-to-face interactions. Effective communication is essential for a positive relationship and while triangulation doesn’t signify the end of a relationship, it is likely to lead to significant problems.
By: Lauren Aikin-Smith
Audrey Juhasz & Kay Bradford (2016) Mobile Phone Use in Romantic Relationships, Marriage & Family Review, 52:8, 707-721, DOI: 10.1080/01494929.2016.1157123
The Bowen Center for the Study of the Family. (2020, August 3). Theory. The Bowen Center for the Study of the Family. https://thebowencenter.org/
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 11, 2020 corona virus and shared custody, family counseling during corona virus0 comments
Tips for Co-Parenting during Quarantine Coronavirus
It is always important for parents to be on the same page when it comes to their children, perhaps it is even more important that parents take the time create an atmosphere of predictability and consistency in shared custody and co-parenting family dynamics. The family counseling community has seen many examples of damaging dynamics from families during quarantine COVID times. From parents who are unable to agree on whether their children will be able to see in person health care providers, to parents who attempt to withhold visitations under the guise of COVID, it is the children who stand in the middle to lose much needed contact with their loving parents and caregivers. Here are some child therapist and family counseling verified tips to help you and your child’s other parent get on the same page. Remember, it is pretty likely that you and your former partner share the goal of helping your children adapt during these difficult times.
The courts have not waived parents’ rights to visitations due to COVID. That means your normal custody arrangement remains in full effect during this period, even if you have concerns over how your child’s other parent is enacting social distancing or who they are coming into contact with while they are having their visits, you still have a legal obligation to uphold the legal arrangement. Of course, if you feel that their other parent or family members are behaving in a dangerous way you should speak to your legal counsel but in most every instance the courts have not interfered with custody arrangements over COVID family concerns.
What is really best for the kids. The impact of this virus is even more difficult for small children as they do not have the rationale to understand the purpose of limitations on their behavior. This makes it even more important that we follow up as caretakers with consistency in the rest of the routine. Routine has an effect of soothing fear and anxiety, seeing the same family members and important people in kids lives are a big part of what makes their life feel predictable and manageable.
Parents will need to communicate, with each other! There are a lot of instances of parents using others as a ‘go between.’ From asking young children to relay messages to asking receptionists, and therapists, teachers and doctors to tell their former partner what is happening with their child, this is not a good idea. First, it is outside of the role of any child or provider/professional person to manage the communication between you are your child’s other parent. If you feel unable to manage basic communication with your child’s other parent for any reason, you should enter co-parenting family counseling immediately.
Remember that there are things outside of your control. COVID is a massive reminder that there are so many things outside of our control, while we should always act in our own and our loved ones best interest, there are still so many variables that we can not influence. Your child’s other parent may be to some degree, one of those situations that makes your feel helpless. We know that in the face helplessness and uncertainty most people feel a large measure of anxiety. Acknowledge your anxiety and spending some time assessing whether it is rational or irrational. You will likely need to have a moderate degree of flexibility in allowing your children to have a slightly different experience in their other parents home versus your own. These personality differences may have led to the demise of your relationship with your former partner and they will likely make co-parenting with them tricky but not impossible. Try to start with the points where your agree, maybe as simple as ‘we both love the kids.’
With COVID, there are a few categories of people and they are reacting to Corona differently. Some of concerned for their health and the health of others and are closely monitoring the CDC guidelines for managing COVID. Others are concerned about their loss of freedom and autonomy. Others are concerned about the financial impact of COVID closures. All of these are perspectives that come from a place of caring about the well-being of our society and others albeit in different ways. If your child’s other parent has a perspective very different from your own, you should attempt to find some compassion for them and really hone in to be sure that any concerns you have for your children to assess that they are well founded concerns and rational. One of the most important things that you can do for your children right now is to care for your own stress and manage it effectively so that you can be the best version of yourself during the challenges that we are all facing.
Check out the link by World Health Organization for tips on parenting during quarantine!
When individuals experience trauma or toxic stress it is not uncommon to need therapeutic support and guidance. Samantha Ricci, MS, LPC is passionate about helping to create a safe and effective space for individuals to explore emotions and traumatic/ stressful experiences. To help her clients, who include children, adults, couples, and families who are experiencing emotional or relationship distress. Samantha’s therapeutic approach is devoted to help her clients create healthy perceptions of themselves, to strengthen their relationships, to promote balanced and strong attachments, full and rich emotional bonds. Samantha is trained to help you experience change, through these systematic and evidence based strategies her clients reports that their innate capacity for trust, empathy, and compassion emerges to greater joy. Samantha’s area of clinical expertise include helping her clients recover from Stress/Anxiety, Mood Disorders, Adjustment disorders, Trauma focused care, Attachment disorders, Child Therapy, and Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy.
Samantha’s clinical focus is on treatment that utilizes an attachment informed lens and trauma focused care with children, adults, couples, and families. Specifically, Samantha is rostered in Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP) is an empirically-supported treatment model which is scientifically shown to enhance the emotional health of young children from infancy through seven years old. CPP is a unique and specific relationship-based therapy in which the clinician collaboratively engages in play and treatment with the child and caregivers. CPP positively impacts children’s behavioral and mental health outcomes while promoting protective factors and strengths, such as stable, warm relationships with parents and caregivers.
Samantha’s educational background includes a Master of Science in Counseling Psychology and a graduate Certificate in Infant Mental Health from Chatham University, Pittsburgh, PA. She has a Dual Degree, Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation and Human Services as well as Communication Science and Disorders from The Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA. In addition to Samanthas work with Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh, she also works with UPMC in their Mathilda Theiss center where she specializes in pediatric and family counseling. In her free time, Samantha enjoys exploring new restaurants in the city of Pittsburgh, traveling, spending time with family and friends, and being a dog mom to her well loved frenchie/pug, Luna. Samantha also has a fervent passion for Pittsburgh and local sports and enthusiastically spends her Saturdays watching Penn State Football games with her fiance.Learn More
by Stephanie McCrackenJune 3, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, marriage counseling, Uncategorized0 comments
Dishes and Dustpans, Couples Therapy in the 21st Century
Sweeping, chopping, dusting, mopping. It sure does take an obscene number of passes with the Swiffer to maintain gleamingly clean floors, not to mention streak free stainless steel and mirrored surfaces! Churning out all of that elbow grease but to be honest, how much time does one have left to maintain a vague notion of assembly on the home front? Considerations become compounded when we note that most families utilize some form of a two person income. Divide that amongst X number of young ones and suddenly you are welcome to an insurmountable heap of work and the typical affair of most Middle American families, in case you haven’t already encountered this nuance of cohabitation, division of household duties is an increasingly common source of marital strife. I assure you that more squabbles are provoked by who does the majority of toiling and bills than issues such as extra marital affairs or other relationship traumas. Division of labor is the kind of long standing issue which if not properly mediated, can and will chip away at the bond.
Lately have you been noticing that you’re feeling like some frazzled version of Cinderella or a haggard snow white minus all of those helpful dwarfs? Maybe your mate is beginning to remind you of that slovenly beast or some other godless tyrannical archetype? While such fairy tales speak to the deepest reaches of our consciousness because they are relatable, however when your life and relationship is out of balance these polarized versions of identity may feel even more relatable. Relationship erosion occurs with each member of the relationship becoming polarized on opposing ends of the spectrum.
When it comes to domestic chores in many homes there may be the expectation that the female gender take care of the cleaning and cooking. Superficially, perhaps even the woman herself having watched her mother and grandmother sew and cook and care for the sick and in her eagerness to live up to these ideals she goes beyond her own capacity gritting her teeth, smiling yet feels suffocated by the weight of responsibly. Growing children or not, piling heaps of dishes in the sink, those near and dear not quick to offer help in distributing an equality to household work, in homes such as this the sentiment for the domestic caretakers may be over worked and undervalued. Or perhaps you are a part of a family where both lovers do chip in and do their fair share of dishes and laundry it may not be without some ambivalence. For instance one gentleman who I know is easily able to incur the expenses of weekly made service in the family home, yet felt intensely confused about whether this was as ok as his wife was a stay at home mom, he was left wondering if this detracted from her worth as a caretaker. Still others who performing manual labor by their own toil, may wonder “Should I do these kinds of chores?” “I didn’t do them as a child and my mother is infuriated by my wife’s suggestion that I should lift a finger to pick up a mop or wipe a countertop!” The wealthy, the just scraping by, and indeed same sex marriages must contend with the distribution of household labors, gay and lesbian couples assign the role of which partner will do which tasks when it comes to cleaning, cooking, tending the yard, mending the broken cabinet handle and on and on. The problem comes into effect when the opportunity for productive conversations is not taken and one of the partners is unwelcomingly thrown into role of caretaking for all of the home, the mounting efforts may be taken for granted and the laboring partner feels that their values are not noted or received with gratitude.
Still another curveball is when inevitable change occurs, perhaps one of the spouses enters the workforce and is suddenly less willing to maintain the same level of responsibility which will be a time of renegotiating terms within the home. The opportunity is within the risk, these are all such productive considerations for the ever evolving family unit. As a psychotherapist however even when it comes to such tangible responsibilities the issue is seldom the issue, quaking under the veneer of dishes and dustpans are vast and bold themes of division of power, respect, communication, and even the unwelcome embodiment of bold archetypes, like some matronly version of Cinderella.
There is no one sized response which will or abolish these issues for the marriage or couple, the welcomed news is that by duly and mindfully approaching such sensitive topics more fair and logical distribution of domestic duties can be achieved. Even more importantly, a growing understanding of the self and opportunity to redefine the relationship is possible but only when taking the risk to assess both your and your partner’s deepest intimate selves. If you are too often gauging that mounting resentment within yourself for the unnoticed or barely noticed efforts which dominate your to-do list each day, perhaps feeling that familiar sensation of sadness or frustration maybe it’s time to try something different such as Couples Psychotherapy or Marriage Counseling.
In good health,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233
by Stephanie McCrackenMarch 24, 2014 counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy, Uncategorized0 comments
At long last spring is finally before us, warming sun beams serve as a reminder that winters darkness is ebbing, unfolding to a new time of the year. Before we can finish with a blink of an eye the landscape will be blushing a cool green, the growth of all that only a month ago, was cloaked in hardened winter, a stern remembrance of the branches and twigs formerly befallen with the chilled stagnation of ice and snow. Even the icebergs which were suffocating the rivers and ponds eternal flow have graciously thawed just as do our hearts, mind, beingness—that is if we remain afloat in the process of growing. With springs return we may feel lighter, more content, responding to greater amounts sunlight and warmth, with each day we move further from the Vernal Equinox our knowingness is assured, spring is here. Motivation energizes the spirit which wants to follow the pristine example of the landscape by becoming something even greater, brighter, and more beautiful, on the inside. Some of us create grand plans to dig out our dust pans and mops, rearrange the furniture, switch out our fall and winter wardrobe for the pastels of the season, go all out and do a round of spring cleaning. Like our mothers or fathers and their grandparents before them making use of this special transition to arrange our world into a cleaner and more comfortable environment in preparation for springs blossoming. Perhaps you turn to the instructional mechanisms of Feng shui or some other method to order your environment. Yet the outside, well that has always been the easiest part to wield ones growing sense of mastery, if you really want to challenge your springs cleaning efforts this year, you may want to assess the mechanisms which sustain your internal world by utilizing psychotherapy. All of those thoughts, emotions turned behaviors, reaching their roots as far back as you can recall into the very earliest memories that thought can conjure. I beg you to ask, in what areas do you aim to grow this spring?
This winter has beckoned me to consider the effects of ferocity and holding on far too long. What are some things which you are holding within, exuding to the external? Is there a pattern which you use to shape your interactions with others, can you see it, are you ready to examine this tender area or is it still more safe and familiar to linger in blaming and projections of fears and anxiety? Is there a relationship which you should fix or let go in order to best serve your growth? If you’re imaging that the answer is “yes” then consider a step further, what lessons does this negative interaction hold for you and about you? When you scrape the dust from the long ago blurry mirror and examine your very own image, perhaps you notice a stark face returning your gaze, but what do you really see my friend? Who hides in your shadows?
The earth makes its revolution, revolving 1 time in every 24 hours, our planet is ever in orbit, a seasonal change impending, we feel it, and we must consider how should we change too? Nature is an insistent instructor forever whispering her lessons of change. It is very sad to see those who are ever seeking to remain the same, not recognizing the stages and changes in life, in a solemn and straight trajectory they insist that yesterday should indicate the forecast for tomorrow—yet the best leaders and most well adapted humans accept and thrive through change, allowing it to shape and mold their actions and using it as fuel for their becoming. Ones best course of action through time of change is to examine and then create ones intentions, a typical effort within counseling and therapy. Allow change to unfold by clearing out mental and physical space for spring’s shiny new growth to blossom. Use your mental broom to push stagnant thoughts and behaviors back into the muddy earth and replace them with those which sustain the tender budding life, the new growth, both within and without. Bloom Bright and Blossom Beauty!
In Loving Encouragement,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa
15233 Suite 100
by Stephanie McCrackenJanuary 21, 2014 counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychotherapy, Uncategorized0 comments
It’s the time of the year for chills up and down the back, and not the kind that are associated with pleasure unless of course you are polar bear, seal pup, or avid skier! All of us here in the blustery northern hemisphere are struggling to maintain some semblance of energy and optimism yet we may find ourselves faltering with the realities of cabin fevers’ stillness upon us. In fact, according to a mental health organization in the UK this is quantifiably the most depressing portion of the year. The formula calculates: weather=W, debt=d, time since Christmas=T, time since failing our new year’s resolutions=Q, low motivational levels=M and the feeling of a need to take action=Na. The date usually falls within the second or third week of January highlighting the worst of the winter blues.
Arctic air, decreased sunlight , wind advisories and slightly lower energy levels all work together to compel a human version of hibernation. Sometimes so much stillness induces feelings of boredom and restlessness known as cabin fever and other all too familiar notions such as the winter blues, a very mild form of depression. A subtle difference in energy can be expected but if you are experiencing a more dramatic and sudden change in mood or energy, beyond what is normal or even a mild change for an extended period of time, you should talk with a mental health or medical professional. For those of us who have had it with sluggishness and staring at the same four walls please enjoy the enclosed suggestions which are sure to offer some reprieve to the winter doldrums. Before sharing some tips, I will ask you a reflective question; what can be learned from the quiet and stillness which is upon us? There is indeed something balanced in the calm of the winters freeze, all of life seems to slow and with the quiet one may even be able to discern the hushed sound of each of the individual snowflakes falling. What wisdom are you able to obtain in this year’s winter reflection?
Enjoy the freeze my friends and here are some of my favorite ways to keep your mind, body, and spirit warm and well during this year’s frost!
*Eating seasonable local vegetables will vitalize your body. There is wisdom in syncing up with the earths offerings such as beets, root vegetables, cabbages, coniferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower are all a bit higher in sugar which will give you a boost of natural energy that your body is likely craving!
*Don’t like veggies? I bet you like ice cream—there are multiple creative options to enjoy the snow, just stay away from the yellow kind! Find yourself a pristine patch of freshly fallen flakes and follow the link for recipes including more obvious treats such as snow cones, ice cream, and even pancakes! These are also great activities to enjoy with the kids! http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/food/index.ssf/2014/01/try_these_snow-based_recipes.html
*If you can’t beat them, join them! Merge with the cool air by taking advantage of outdoor activities such as skiing, snow-tubing, and ice skating. With the proper cold weather apparel you will welcome some time outside of the home!
*I have written about sun gazing before and it is indeed a highly effective mood and energy booster, with the wind and cold air advisories you still may be able to take advantage of some solar meditation through a window. If that isn’t possible or for an alternate exercise, try to meditate upon a candle flame, breathing fully and with your wide-eyed gazing upon its mini solar radiance spindling about.
*My own favorite cold weather activity is hot yoga which allows me to bask as though I reside in the tropics! If you are less than athletic, take advantage of a sauna, many of the local gyms and spas feature them and will typically allow you to purchase a day pass.
*Unleash your inner nerd by utilizing boric acid to create of rainbow burning pine cones for the fireplace or even light bulbs made of snow! Follow the link for instruction. http://www.dvice.com/2013-1-29/14-geeky-and-unusual-winter-activities-fun-cold
*With all of this time indoors be sure your furnaces filter is changed the recommended 3-6months. Your lungs will thank you and also keep in mind that you still need extra hydration! The heated air tends to be very drying and your body will require much more water than you typically consume.
If you have a favorite cold weather activity or suggestion, please feel free to share!
Sending warm wishes for health and wellness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
1010 Western Ave
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
“A New Year, A New You!” and many other such positive affirmations are floating about the cool air, sentiments which promote longed for change during this momentous time of the year. This is indeed a very appropriate time for consideration and setting action to goals with no task being too great or too small for one’s devotion! Following are some tips and suggestions which I have compiled throughout the year and I offer them to you in an earnest hope that you all may enjoy the contentment and good health to which you aspire.
Enjoy Sex, Wine, and Rock&Roll! A unit or two of alcohol enjoyed in good company and without the prohibitive factor of having to operate a motor vehicle or heavy machinery is one of many in the myriad of great ways to unwind from time to time! Most of us work hard and if you want to drink a little, why then you very well should! While you are at it, make sure to enjoy some time blissfully frolicking in the abundant pleasures of your physical and sensual body, to be performed safely, and consensually at all times! Music, well that should need no greater explanation—the pleasure we are able to feel from hearing a favorite melody or band may very well be evidence of the divine’s love for humanity!
Everything in moderation including moderation! Rigidity exerts deleterious effects upon the spirit, make room in your life for some indulgence! Want a second piece of pie or to sleep in an extra hour-we must allow ourselves the occasional enjoyment of such niceties!
Take a multi-vitamin! Many of you may have been hearing this since you were very small but more and more scientific evidence is mounting to suggest that in some instances anxiety, depression, and even symptoms similar to schizophrenia can be invoked from the long term effects of being vitamin and mineral deficient! A vitamin is a simple fix which offers infinite protection to your whole physical and ultimately emotional system!
Eat well, rest well, be well! Yes, and yes again! Fruits, veggies and plenty of rest are the corner stones of a strong physical self. With these factors alone you will be well on your way to the best version of you! If you are mentally or physically having a hard time resting, examine this closely and seek to lay to rest that which is preventing you from rest!
Cultivate greater love for yourself! Whether you are in love with what you see when you close your eyes and look inside or when replaying the life and web of relationships that center you or even when simply looking in the mirror. Work on respecting yourself inside and outside! It is important to engage in positive dialogue with yourself and to keep in mind that we will most always be striving for some hallmark beyond the present but it is essential to remain aware and poised in the infinite now!
Lay the past to rest! It is indeed a time to put to rest all that it is no longer serving us, what will best serve you by remaining but a memory for contemplation as we forge the New Year 2014? Allow your heart, intuition, and logic to guide you towards your personal answer to this wizened question and then enjoy the lightness and freedom which comes from the necessary shedding of the old skin. Traveling towards the future untethered from burdens is certainly an act which will serve all of your tomorrows!
Open yourself to new experiences! Step fearlessly into the unknown, nothing stays the same forever and the more that we make room in our lives for the new, the greater our potential for transformation. Whether you are one who revels in novelty or feebly attempts to maintain the familiar it is always invigorating to see or feel something new!
Seek your inner opposite! It is in fact an ever evolving, life-long process to know yourself. I will still encourage you to undergo inner examination and then look for what hidden characteristics remain unexpressed by your current manner of being. We often find our best balance by merging in such a way!
Fall passionately in love! Life becomes simply sensational when we uncover room for passion, whether that is in the form of an idea, theory, project or a person, the thrill of exhilarated and focused attention will be the feeling which sets your sails in full motion adding meaning and bliss to your life!
Choose compassion over being right So many relationships suffer because our egos become gridlocked in the pattern of trying to be correct instead of being understanding and loving towards our partners and loved ones! Keep this in mind and always remember it is our kindness and care which nurtures those that surround us!
Nurture the buds and blossoms- The buds and blossoms are the yearnings of light and intention in your spirit as well as a relationship to the natural universe. The earth and greater universe support and sustain all animal life and we are always benefited by admiring and relating to it!
A wish for a happy healthy and well balanced new year to all of you out there in cyberspace!
Stephanie McCracken MS, LPC, NBCC
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233
by Stephanie McCrackenOctober 23, 2013 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, Uncategorized0 comments
The pattern of mounting resentment is sometimes evidenced in romantic love. As a psychotherapist offering marriage counseling I see couples approaching the proverbial office with a mile high and well-worn list of “crimes,” the accumulated wrongs etched in the heart and mind perpetrated by the accused, their wife/husband/girlfriend/ boyfriend/partner. The end result is two confused, hurt, and angry lovers, each defensively pointing a hostile finger at the other. What all of the old and played out arguments rarely touch upon is the vulnerability, the intense need and longing that each partner has covered up out of complete terror. According to some relationship theorists such as Dr. Sue Johnson, the terror strikes upon some of the basic and human fears that many healthy and unhealthy couples carry very deep within them, and mostly they mimic the very same needs of an infant and the way that the small baby communicates with their caregiver. Most of them sound something like this “Will you come when I cry out?” “Do I matter?” “Is it safe and stable to show my love with you?” Reflect for a moment on the difference between an infant that is picked up and nurtured when it cries versus the one who is left to bemoan itself when it is upset. One learns that its needs matter, will be attended to and the other works itself into an even greater frenzy before quieting out of complete exhaustion. It is true that most adult romantic love, often mimics these very basic and fundamental efforts to gain the love and attention of our hearts caregivers. It takes practice, and often times even professional interventions to hear the layers that exist under the arguments about who will do the dishes and take out the trash, the electric bill and groceries, which family we will spend Christmas with, who is initiating and receptive to sexual contact.
The couple enters treatment terrified that they will not receive the love for which their misled attempts are begging. After so much time in the vicious and bleak stalemate, their hopeless perpetual deadlock, both parts of the couple sigh, and enter the therapist’s office wanting to know why they spend more of their time fighting than loving. If this sounds like you, a couple’s therapist may make a vast improvement upon the quality of your relationship.
Following, you will find some key points for deescalating those hot topics and some basics leads to communicate more effectively with your partner. Hostile words may wage wars, angry verbiage may even win some battles but it is kind speech that will heave the proverbial mountain from the blocked impasse. Empathetically spoken syllables will turn a foe into a friend.
- When speaking with your partner it will best serve you and the relationship if you are able to control strong feelings and to talk in a calm and constructive manner. In other words if you are extremely angry, sad, hurt, be aware of your strong feeling state and momentarily consider what this is contributing to your words. Some speakers speak kind words but in a tone, speed or decibel which comes off as angry, beware of that. Your tone, words, and speed of speech should all communicate the same thing. It may help to momentarily close your eyes, and take in a few extended inhales in an effort to find your center. By interacting from your inner source of wisdom you increase the likelihood that you will move beyond those points which have kept your relationship stuck.
- Consider some of the words and phrases which litter those stilted efforts of communication. Below are some of the common phrases that we hear uttered in the midst of arguments along with alternative phrases which may create new possibilities for empathetic expression between you and your partner. When you keep in mind that human interaction is somewhat similar to the “choose your own adventure novels” that you may have enjoyed reading as a child. Each variance in the verbal exchange is an opportunity to move the conversation in a new direction.
OLD COMMUNCATION NEW COMMUNCATION
“You always do (insert XYZ)” —— It seems that I am noticing a pattern, I wonder what that is all about?
“You never do (XYZ)”—- I really wish that we could spend more time doing___________.
“I am so sick of (XYZ)”—– I really wish that we could start doing things like____________.
- Genuinely attempt to hear something different! When your partner is replying, be receptive to what they are saying and really take the time to hear them! Sometimes these hot topics put love on a battlefield and voices raise, tempers flare as each person struggles to be heard. The old game is to fling your next arrow at your opponent while they are finishing their words. Instead, try to hear them, think for a moment about what fear your partner may be communicating under his or her words, and try to repeat your partner’s statement back to them in your own words. It can be a monumental moment of change when a person feels that you took the time to hear them.
It is empowering to consider that there is a range of opportunity to experience positive hope with varying emotional reactions and verbal responses which are elicited by taking a less threatening stance in communication. It is true that it is challenging to alter responses and reactions when you are navigating a hot topic. It is also true that some individuals are more challenged than others when making the effort to stay calm. Either because you are becoming highly angry or withdrawing, I recommend that if it is proving to be highly difficult for you to keep your cool in conversation, you may benefit from professional input. Coping mechanisms to deescalate ourselves when feeling particularly hyper-aroused are learned skills that can be acquired. Also, it is certainly worth mentioning that any pattern of very strong reaction is likely our emotive spirits method of indicating a very important message to our thinking. Attempt a deeper look, try to focus past the growing frustration with your former inability to resolve those points which have you and your partner stuck. It is my belief that no matter how deadlocked the pattern of communication may be in your relationship, it is never too late to make positive changes in the right direction towards the warm and loving bond that you deeply long to achieve!
Love Happiness and Health,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Ave Pittsburgh Pa 15233
Today’s article is devoted to a serious issue, domestic violence. With more and more abused partners seeking refuge within shelters and therapy offices, one would imagine that there would exist a cultural and personal awareness of abuse that could protect survivors before violence reaches extremes. However, the lines that exist when violence and abuse pervade the sanctum of a relationship are often fuzzy. This is made even more complex by the fact that we as a society are so quick to blame the victim. You have heard it said before, “why doesn’t he/she just leave?” The reasons that some stay anchored in an abusive relationship are aplenty, some examples include, they are afraid, they may want to stay for their children or family, they may remember times when the relationship was healthy, the survivor may not have access to financial resources, their self esteem and mental health may have eroded from years of suffering because the survivor is receiving strong messages from their abusers that they are to blame for what is happening! It is hard for many to understand how the survivor could be blamed for what is happening. For example after a violent attack, the attacker may ‘gaslight’ the target by denying that anything even happened, saying things like “I didn’t touch you!” “Why are you upset? You’re being dramatic! If you hadn’t gotten out of line this wouldn’t have happened.” Other times the victim may fight back against the perpetrators grabbing, pulling, shoving, barricading, slapping, choking, and then the fault lines become even more hazy, as the victim feels guilty for having struck another and begins to truly internalize the fact that this is all his or her fault.
The hopeful message of this humble essay is that as a psychological and humanitarian community we provide opportunity for intervention before the violence has a chance to escalate to the newspaper headlines or obituaries. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2000 1297 women were killed by a romantic partner and 440 men by a partner. How do these men and women slip through the cracks, how do they avoid the potential help that could ally within co-workers, friends or family? Often individuals in violent situations are alienated with limited social supports. Simultaneously, the abuser may be clever in where he or she places the marks so that the attacks are not as immediately visible. Also, the victim will be an expert at covering up any hints of bruises or contusions because they love the person who is abusing them and don’t want to see their partner end up in trouble nor do they want to burden anyone with the knowledge that something is amiss in what may appear to be their picture perfect life.
Statistically, there is a relationship between domestic violence and the suffering from other mental health diagnoses such as a depressive disorder, self-esteem issues, and these can sometimes be further complicated by the presence of drug or alcohol abuse. Whether the violence causes such problems or people with these dispositions are more likely to enter abusive relationships is an entirely different topic, this writer simply notes that there is a relationship. How can we help someone who we think may be experiencing Domestic Violence to prevent death and further destruction from occurring?
1) Educate our young and old on the signs and symptoms of abusive relationships. The earlier that people learn to see a relationship for what it is the more likely that they will leave.
2)Remain vigilant of anyone that you think may exhibit signs of violent or abusive behavior.
3) Keep the lines of communication open for those you fear have entered an abusive relationships, keep in mind that the friend may have not been in touch in a while because of their abuser.
4) If someone you know is in an abusive relationship do not push them to leave, this may only alienate them further. Do your best to express to that person that you are there for them as a friend and that you respect their will and choices.
Some of the signs of abuse
~An uncontrollable temper
~Tells their partner how to dress
~Tells their partner that they are worthless, that they will never find another mate again
~Easily becomes jealous and possessive
~Forces or insists upon sex
~Destroys belongings such as clothes, electronics, or automobile
~Threatens suicide if their partner tries to leave
~Touches, grabs, restrains, or chokes, pushes, solicits any physical touch after hearing ‘no.’
~Diminishes their partners will to make important choices
~Restricts his or her partners ability to leave him or her
~Shows up at their partners home, work, school, families house/ etc against your wishes
~Constantly checks up on their partner
~Insists on controlling the money, car, or other resources *Financial abuse is a separate kind of abuse which often co-occurs with physical and emotional violence. I.e.
~Stealing from their partner/ taking their money
~Restricting partner to an allowance
~Sabotaging their partners job
Remember abuse is confusing, after years of having ones feelings minimized, it may feel strange or dramatic to label what is happening as abuse, abuse is insidious and nobody should be touched or belittled, abuse starts out small before ending as the kinds of violence that we all have heard about on the news. Often abusive relationships have periods of time where everything seems perfectly fine, but if a person has touched you in a violent way once they are quite likely to do it again. Violence is by definition when someone restricts your ability to move about freely and independently as a human by chocking, pushing, grabbing, pulling, smacking, slapping, punching, hair pulling, it is violent for anyone to touch you when you have asked them not to! Often an abuser will physically assault their target until they become passive, the right to walk, roam, and be is your legal and physical right. Abusers are masters at making excuses for unthinkable acts. They will stop at nothing to blame you for their violence that they were only trying to help you, even trying to convince the target that it didn’t happen. They will classically promise the target that it will never happen again. The abuser will be his or her most charming after an attack, the honeymoon period is a soothing time for the target. This makes it very difficult to leave the abuser because the abused person usually wants to believe that this painful behavior is finally over and when the abuser is doing and saying all of the “right things” and ‘love-bombing’ their target, it is very hard to leave.
The cycle of violence in domestic abuse
- Abuse – The abusive partner lashes out with aggressive, belittling, or violent behavior. The abuse is a power play designed to show the target “who is boss.”
- Guilt – After abusing the target, the abuser partner feels fearful not guilt over what he’s or she’s done. He’s or she is more worried about the possibility of being caught and facing consequences for his or her abusive behavior.
- Excuses – The abuser rationalizes what he or she has done. The person may come up with a string of excuses or blame you for the abusive behavior—anything to avoid taking responsibility.
- “Normal” behavior – The abuser does everything he or she can to regain control and keep the victim in the relationship. She or he may act as if nothing has happened, or may turn on the charm. This peaceful honeymoon phase may give the victim hope that the abuser has really changed this time.
- Fantasy and planning – In characterological violence, the abuser begins to fantasize about abusing their target again. Or they spend a lot of time thinking about what they imagine the target has done wrong and how he or she will make you see what you did. Then the abuser makes a plan for turning the fantasy of abuse into reality. In situational violence, generally the abuser has less of a plan and explodes in the moment, both kinds of violence are equally dangerous.
- Set-up – Your abuser sets you up and puts his plan in motion, creating a situation where he can justify abusing you.
Some relationships are not as they seem! Awareness is the first step towards a healthier you, a more empowered family and society, if you or someone you know is suffering from the abuse it’s never too late or too early to make a change. For other resources please visit:
Or for 24 Hour emergency service
The Womens Shelter Hotline
(877) 338-8255 (toll free number)
In health and Wellness,
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh and Monroeville
Therapy, Marriage Counseling, and Family Counseling in Western Pennsylvania
830 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
4108 Monroeville BLVD Monroeville PA 15146