Rest vs. Unhealthy Escape

Despite the vast uniqueness of every human being, there are many universal truths about mankind that I have had the opportunity to witness firsthand through my profession as a counselor. One example: people of all backgrounds, genders, and ages seem to share a set of emotional needs such as acceptance, affection, and security. Another example: there are age-old adages that, while prescribed with the best of intentions, our experiences teach us are completely bogus. Oh no, mom and dad, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can hurt the mess out of me.”

Recently, a recurring theme is popping up in more and more of my sessions and, in full- disclosure, in my own life. It is a universal truth that we all recognize at different times. For some of us, this truth is observed when we commit to a life of sobriety. For others, it is acknowledged when they step into the heart of their college career and have six ridiculously specific classes that each sound more difficult than the one before (any other survivors of “Normative Ethical Subjectivism” out there?). For myself, this truth wasn’t known until I began a career of extreme emotional demand. Regardless of when it happens, we each reach a point when we tangibly realize that we need to learn how to rest well.

True rest looks different for every person. The more clients I see and the more I learn to care for myself well, the more aware I become of the stark difference between rest and “unhealthy escape.” Rest empowers us. It enables us to regain our energy, our strength, our confidence, and even our sanity so that we may approach the responsibilities of tomorrow with our full potential. In contrast, “unhealthy escape” provides us with an immediate gratification that, while for a time may bring us happiness, control, or numbness, ultimately brings us to tomorrow feeling less prepared, less capable, and less hopeful.

For some, true rest is found in the company of others. For others, it is found in restorative solitude. For some, it involves physical activity. For others, it involves being still. If you find yourself feeling like you are merely “surviving” life, like the things you used to find joy in seem burdensome, like your soul never truly “catches its breath”, a healthy dose of rest may, at the very least, be a partial remedy.

Much of finding your healthy rest comes in the form of trial and error. As you look back on your times of leisure, ask yourself some questions like the following:

• Did I walk away from that environment feeling recharged?

• Did that activity leave me feeling empowered or ashamed?

• Did my interaction with that group of people leave me feeling alive or depleted?

• Do I feel more or less prepared to take on tomorrow?

We need rest. We may feel superhuman, but we need rest to thrive. Give yourself the permission to take time out of the craziness of life and explore what true rest looks like for you. Taking time to rest can actually be one of the most productive things you do all day.


Giving up or Letting Go?

A hurting mother recently said to me, “I have no hope that my son will ever stop doing drugs.  I feel so defeated and tired of this fight.  I give up.”  When I saw the mom a couple of months later, she looked brighter and seemed less burdened.  She told me that she and her husband had started going to Families Anonymous where they met other parents dealing with the same issues with their children.  She told me that she had learned the difference between giving up and letting go.

Surrendering and letting go are very common concepts in the field of addiction and mental health.  Time and time again, addicts and alcoholics tell their story of me finally surrendering and fighting to control their disease, when true miracles occurred in their lives; some instantly and others over time.

I have been asked by clients to help them understand the difference.  I decided to turn to some experts, my Wednesday Women’s Group, to get their feedback the amazing women in this group are recovering from addiction/alcoholism.  Some struggle with other underlying emotional issues such as depression and anxiety.  They have varying degrees of sobriety.  Some have been struggling for this disease for 20 years.  Most are mothers with children ages 2 weeks to 40 years of age.  Here are some of their comments:

“Giving up is darkness, Letting go is light.”

“Letting go /surrendering involves a connection to God.  Giving up doesn’t.”

“Giving up is your will.  Surrender/letting go is God’s will.”

“Letting go involves being okay with the result.”

“There is hope in letting go.  Giving up implies hopelessness.”

“It is releasing as opposed to dropping something of someone”.

“I had to give up before I could let go.  I think I had to walk through the darkness of giving up to get to the light of letting go.  You should not stop in the dark.”

And from The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie:

“Letting go doesn’t mean we don’t care. Letting go doesn’t mean we shut down. Letting go means we stop trying to force outcomes and make people behave. It means we give up resistance to the way things are, for the moment. It means we stop trying to do the impossible–controlling that which we cannot–and instead, focus on what is possible–which usually means taking care of ourselves. And we do this in gentleness, kindness, and love, as much as possible.”

For more information on our Women’s Support Group, contact Pam Newton at 214-284-4080 or [email protected].


Why Your Relationships are Shallow

Through my work in individual and marital therapy, I frequently hear many similar complaints from different patients. These complaints include feeling lonely, unexpected bursts of anger, bouts of unexplained sadness, and a general feeling of disconnect. These bothersome feelings puzzle my patients and often leave them drained and frustrated. Sometimes, they understand that their lives are out of balance, but don’t understand exactly how or why. Normally, one or more of the following four idols are present and help cause a relational disorientation or blurriness. These idols cause a shallowness in life. While you might believe that you maintain deep, healthy relationships, I challenge you to read on and reevaluate the way you have structured your life. Have the following idols limited your capacity to truly know others and be known by others?

1. Social Media. NEWS FLASH: 99% of your Facebook and Twitter friends…aren’t really your friends. And don’t believe for a second that Facebook actually helps grow those so called friendships. Looking at someone’s Facebook timeline is like watching a highlight reel of their life. The bad parts are omitted and the good parts are amplified. When’s the last time you saw a status that read, “Acted like a selfish jerk today. Ignored the kids and yelled violently at our family dog. LOL.”

Healthy, face to face interaction with others fulfills a deep need in us-the need to be known and know others. This is doing life with others. By failing to do life with others and allowing them to see all your insecurities and fears, you deprive yourself of something life giving…something deep and sacred. Your highlight reels may entertain and amuse others, but your blooper reels connect and bond you to others.

2. Work. There is nothing more heart wrenching than seeing a man retire, reflect back on his life, and realize that rather than love, support and strengthen those around him, he spent his life slaving away at a career that left him alone to die by himself. His sons and daughters resent him and only visit him sparingly. I’ve seen the dread in men’s eyes as they realize there are few people on the face of the planet who would care if they were rotting in a casket or not. Amassing wealth and power provide many with identity and security, but eventually leave them broken, alone, and hurting.

No one tries to end up this way. It begins by working hard to support a family. Eventually, it turns into disengaging at home by the faint glow of an ipad, ignoring a family that was once treasured. Later nights at the office and working on the weekends follow. It ends by waking up one day and realizing that the career you put so many hours into stole something from you that you can never get back. With terror, you realize the love and companionship you now want most is gone…wasted away…never to return…

3. Your spouse. There are 2 prevailing themes in every romantic Hollywood movie: 1) Love is a feeling. 2) Loving someone will somehow magically and drastically transform your life, your loneliness, and your brokenness. Both are blatant “Bachelor-esque” lies and both create heavy, illusory expectations that couples are crushed by. Just look at our US divorce rate.

Love is a choice…a decision we choose to make day in and day out. It has little to do with a passionate, dramatic kiss in the pouring rain or a magical moment where two soul mates lock eyes and “fall” in love. Finding meaning and contentment has nothing to do with your spouse. That aching need to feel fully accepted and loved will never be filled by your partner. And, the harder you try to place your partner in that role, the more they will resent you and be crushed by the weight of being your “everything.” Jerry Maguire was wrong. You don’t complete me….

4. Your children. While you may never say your child is your god, your actions scream it out loud. When your date nights stop and your weekends are jam packed with sports, recitals, and performances…you send the message to your kids, “You are more important than your mom or dad, and I would rather keep you entertained than develop my own friendships or marriage.”

You do your children a massive disservice by leading them to believe that they are the center of the universe…because no one else outside of your family thinks they are! Children who think they are the center of your world will have trouble forming friendships, yielding to authority, holding a job, and even adapting to marriage. Your children will unsuccessfully spend their entire lives searching for people who think they are as incredibly amazing as you told them they were. They may turn to unhealthy, codependent relationships or live unsatisfied lives full of continual disappointment from never being loved the way they “deserve” to be loved.

Not only does this parenting style alienate your children, but it alienates your spouse. A daughter once asked her wise father, “Daddy, if you were in a raft and me and mommy were drowning, who would you save?” The wise father instantly replied, “Honey, not only would I swim and save your mother first, but I would make sure she was completely dry and comfy before I came back for you.”