Know The Lyrics

I was listening to the radio when the song ‘Every Breath You Take’ by The Police came on.  Of course I sang along with the radio because it’s such a catchy song.  As I was singing, I actually began to pay attention to the words and freaked out a little. Just in case you don’t remember, here are the words:

“Every breath you take; every move you make; every bond you break, every step you take I’ll be watching you.”

A little stalker-ish right? So I researched the lyrics to check my hypothesis and I indeed was right. Sting did not mean for this song to be a love song frequently played at weddings. He actually wrote this song after separating from his wife and it is about a possessive lover! Yikes!

Of course it is meant to be sinister. Who would perceive it otherwise? Well I did, along with many others judging from how many times this is played on love song stations and in weddings. Just goes to show how we sometimes fail to distinguish healthy from unhealthy. The words are the same, the tune in the same, but our perception is based on observation, awareness and insight.

If it’s hard for us to recognize healthy versus unhealthy song lyrics, then it’s probably extremely difficult to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy relationships, especially when those relationships are family relationships or friendships.

So what makes a healthy relationship? Lots of things including good communication, mutual respect, trust, and honesty.  You are in a healthy relationship if that relationship brings about more joy and happiness than tension and sadness.  If that statement doesn’t ring true in one of your relationships then it is unhealthy.

Signs of an unhealthy relationship:

  • You often put yourself on the back burner for someone else.  You neglect your dreams, passions or even just basic self-care for the sake of another.
  • You feel forced to be or act differently.
  • Your relationship causes you to have low self-esteem.
  • You are not free to express your true thoughts and feelings without fear of repercussions; you find yourself walking on eggshells.
  • You build walls of defensiveness to protect yourself.
  • You are discouraged from growing other relationships with friends or family.
  • You do not trust the person you are in relationship with.
  • You experience abuse – verbal, physical, mental or emotional abuse.

Seek help for your relationship when:

  • You know you need help but you are embarrassed or fearful to ask for help.
  • You are unhappy in the relationship and you are having difficulty getting out.
  • You realize you are staying in the relationship because of fear of being alone or because of guilt.
  • You consistently find yourself in unhealthy relationships.

The key to a healthy relationship is to stop singing along with the music just because you are familiar with the words. Pay close attention to the words; assess your relationships often. Stop and listen, listen to your gut. Are you happy? Are you safe? Are you free? If the answer is no, then seek help and change your tune.

Vital Facts About Bullying

In the previous article we discussed known risk factors that characterize both individuals who become victims and aggressors who become bullies. In addition to these risk factors researchers have been successful at garnering a number of vital statistics that demonstrate the prevalence of bullying, who is being bullied and how those individuals are effected, as well as common methods used, including the use of emerging technologies. The statistics presented here are not meant to overwhelm but to inform and provide the opportunity to create a dialogue with family and friends based on real data. The more we can educate ourselves about bullying the better prepared we will be to spot it when it occurs and to take the right steps to ensure that it is stopped.

Overall Statistics

  • Over 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year.
  • Approximately 160,000 teens skip school every day because of bullying.
  • 17% of American students report being bullied 2 to 3 times a month or more within a school semester.
  • 1 in 4 teachers see nothing wrong with bullying and will only intervene 4% of the time.
  • By age 14 less than 30% of boys and 40% of girls will talk to their peers about bullying.
  • Over 67% of students believe that schools respond poorly to bullying, with a high percentage of students believing that adult help is infrequent and ineffective.
  • 71% of students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their school.
  • 90% of 4th through 8th graders report being victims of bullying.
  • 1 in 10 students drop out of school because of repeated bullying.
  • As boys age they are less and less likely to feel sympathy for victims of bullying. In fact they are more likely to add to the problem than solve it.
  • Physical bullying increases in elementary school, peaks in middle school and declines in high school. Verbal abuse, on the other hand, remains constant.

Source: 11 Facts about Bullying

https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-bullying

Cyber Bullying Statistics 

  • Depending on the age group, up to 43% of students have been bullied while online. 1 in 4 have had it happen more than once.
  • 35% of kids have been threatened online. Nearly 1 in 5 have had it happen more than once.
  • 21% of kids have received mean or threatening e-mail or other messages.
  • 58% of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online. More than 4 out of 10 say it has happened more than once.
  • 53% of kids admit having said something mean or hurtful to another person online. More than 1 in 3 have done it more than once.
  • 58% have not told their parents or an adult about something mean or hurtful that happened to them online.

Source: The Issue of Bullying: Cyber Bullying Statistics http://www.stompoutbullying.org/index.php/information-and-resources/about-bullying-and-cyberbullying/issue-bullying/

 Many Forms of Bullying

Of those bullied:

  • 19% are made fun of, called names, or insulted
  • 16% are subject of rumors
  • 9% are pushed, shoved, tripped, or are spit on
  • 6% are threatened with harm
  • 5% are excluded from activities
  • 4% are forced to do things they didn’t want to do
  • 3% Had property destroyed

Who Is Being Bullied?

  • 25% of males and 20% of females said they had been either bullied, bullied others, or both 2-3 times a month or more.
  • Males & females experience similar rates of verbal bullying, threats, damage to property
  • Males are more likely to experience physical bullying.
  • Females are more likely to experience bullying through rumor-spreading and exclusion.
  • Boys are typically bullied by boys, while girls are bullied by both boys and girls.

What Is the Impact of Bullying?

Kids who are bulled are more likely to have:

  • Depressive symptoms
  • Headaches, backaches, and stomach pain
  • Sleep problems, poor appetite, as well as bed-wetting
  • Harmed themselves
  • High levels of suicidal thoughts
  • Attempted suicide
  • Decreased academic achievement—GPA and standardized test scores—and school participation. They are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school.
  • A very small number of bullied children might retaliate through extremely violent measures. In 12 of 15 school shooting cases in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being bullied.

Kids Who Bully Others

Kids who bully others can also engage in violent and other risky behaviors into adulthood and are more likely to:

  • Abuse alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults
  • Get into fights, vandalize property, and drop out of school
  • Engage in early sexual activity
  • Have criminal convictions and traffic citations as adults
  • Be abusive toward their romantic partners, spouses, or children as adults

Kids Keep Silent about Bullying

  • As children age, the percentage of those who do not report bullying climbs: 18% of 3rd graders do not report which increases to 47% of 11th
  • Those who are silent do so for reasons such as the negative messages they previously received about tattling and snitching, concern about retaliation, and lack of confidence in adults’ actions.
  • 90% of 3rd – 5th grade students said they felt sorry for students who are bullied, but sympathy often does not translate into action.

Source: bullying—what you need to know http://www.stopbullying.gov/images/what-you-need-to-know-infographic.jpg

Source: Effects of bullying

http://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/effects/index.html

CONSIDER

If you or someone you know has experienced bullying or if you are currently being bullied, talk with someone you trust and ask for help. There is no shame in asking for help, and you should continue to ask until you get the help you need. By opening up to someone you trust, you avoid the isolation that comes with being unsure, and you create the opportunity to receive guidance from those who can ultimately help.

Stay tuned for… What You Can Do about Bullying

Psst…….Is it just me or is marriage REALLY HARD????

(Spoiler: It’s not just me)

Do you ever feel like you are the only one out there that is having issues in your marriage? We can all look to other couples and say, “So and so has the PERFECT marriage! They are always happy in front of others and they never have anything negative to say about their marriage when just us girls or guys get together”. We all know that marriage can be hard for others, but…..what does it mean when it turns out that is true for us? Does it mean that we are failing? Does it mean that we married the wrong person? Does it mean that we are the problem? Does it mean we should call it quits? While of course there is no black and white answer to any of those questions, the reality is that we ALL experience hardships in our marriages.

Marriage IS hard, as is life. There is no perfect marriage, as there is no perfect human. We are constantly changing and evolving and as we do so, we are asking the person we are sharing our lives with to come along for the ride and change and evolve with us!! That is NOT a simple process nor is it a simple request of our partner! This request comes with MANY expectations and fantasies of what “should” happen and unfortunately unrealistic expectations often land us in a place of hurt, anger, and resentment. So if it is true that life AND marriage are hard, that we are not perfect, and that we as humans all suffer from setting unrealistic expectations….why don’t we talk more openly about how hard marriage can be? Admitting that marriage is hard does NOT mean that you are not happily married. Admitting you both have things you would like to work on does NOT mean that you do not have a solid foundation. Admitting you are in counseling to seek guidance on how to improve your marriage DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE FAILING!!!! I would counter those explanations with an alternative idea that perhaps it means that you are willing and motivated to claim a stronger, more connected state of being which takes strength, courage, and honesty! So the next time you find yourself beating up on yourself and your marriage because it feels so hard and you feel you cannot communicate this to others, please try to remember a few things:

  • Take it easy on yourself and your marriage. You are not perfect nor is your marriage, and it just frankly wasn’t designed to be that way. Having problems (as we all do!) may create an opportunity for you and your partner to grow.
  • Try not to compare your marriage to others. As grandmother use to say, “We all have dirty laundry, and I don’t want yours and you don’t want mine”. Even though others may appear to have it better than you or claim their marriage to be “better than ever”, that does not mean they are without problems and it does not mean that because you do have problem that you are failing. We are all very reluctant to admit when marriage is hard, perhaps due to the fairytales we all grew up believing or perhaps because we aren’t quite sure what it means when it is hard.
  • Manage your expectations. Because we all did grow up watching the fairytales where marriages end up “happily ever after”, we often have expectations that are not realistic of ourselves and our partners. It can be helpful to identify what expectations you have and look at whether or not these are realistic or just based on some unrealistic “should”, “ought” or “must” that someone somewhere said was what defined marriage and happiness. We can then start to differentiate between fantasy and reality, which can help us to not set ourselves or our partners up for failure.
  • Seek guidance from a trusted source BEFORE you feel you have no alternatives. Asking for help does not mean you have failed. It means you have the courage, strength, and honesty to admit you are not perfect nor is your marriage BUT you would like to learn ways to improve. Too often we wait until we feel like giving up to ask for help. While help certainly can be rendered at this point, why not start BEFORE that so we don’t feel our goal is so far away? Renowned marriage researcher John M. Gottman claims that the average couple entering marriage counseling has experienced marital difficulties for over six years. Experiencing serious problems for an extended period of time without seeking guidance can mean you unintentionally incur and inflict many unnecessary traumas on each other and the marriage. Why not avoid this damage to yourself and your partner? You, your partner, and your marriage are worth it! If we could shift the concept of “marriage counseling” from asking for a life raft to asking for ways to enhance our love and commitment, wouldn’t that make it easier to ask for help?

Types of Bullying

In March we discussed the definition of bullying. Now, let’s look at the various types and what each involves.

Physical bullying is the most obvious form of intimidation and involves intentionally or deliberately hurting a person’s body or taking/destroying one’s possessions. Physical bullying includes:

+ Hitting/kicking/biting/pinching/hair pulling

+ Spitting

+ Tripping/pushing

+ Taking or breaking someone’s things

+ Making mean or rude hand gestures

Additionally, this form of bullying can involve making threats to do physical harm if the bully’s demands (ex: giving up your money, other valuables, etc.) are not met. 

Verbal bullying, which often accompanies physical behavior, is someone saying or writing inappropriate things about another person. Verbal bullying includes:

+ Persistent teasing, taunting, name-calling

+ Inappropriate sexual comments

+ Spreading rumors

+ Threatening to cause harm

Social bullying, sometimes referred to as relational bullying, involves emotional intimidation where the bully intentionally aims to hurt someone’s reputation or relationships by:

+ Deliberately excluding someone from a group activity such as a party or school outing

+ Telling others not to be friends with someone

+ Spreading rumors about someone

+ Embarrassing someone in public

Racist Bullying involves making racial slurs, spray painting graffiti, mocking the victim’s cultural customs, and making offensive gestures. 

Sexual Bullying is unwanted sexual advances in the form of physical contact, abusive comments, gestures, actions, or attention that is intended to hurt, offend, or intimidate another person. Sexual bullying focuses on things like a person’s appearance, body parts, sexual orientation, or sexual activity.

Cyberbullying – with the proliferation of electronic devices cyberbullying allows a person to target, torment, threaten, harass, humiliate, or embarrass another through the of posting personal information, pictures or videos. What differentiates this form of bullying from other types is the far-reaching and instantaneous impact it can have due to the various electronic platforms that are shared by all people: social media sites, email, chat rooms, instant messaging and texting. To a great extent cyberbullying is also persistent (24/7) because the information is live and remains continually accessible to all. Additionally, the offender is readily able to continue this form of bullying since it takes seconds to post offensive information online.

CONSIDER

If any of the information above is resonating with you because it seems a friend or family member is experiencing some of the same behaviors, talk with someone you trust and ask for help. Sometimes we don’t have it in our ability to fix the situation for one reason or another or, perhaps, we may be unsure that bullying is actually taking place. Either way, by opening up to someone we know, we can avoid the isolation that comes from being unsure. Moreover, creating a dialogue also creates awareness and provides the opportunity to receive guidance from individuals who can ultimately help.

Sources:

Types of Bullying: http://www.stopbullying.gov/what-is-bullying/definition/index.html

Forms of Bullying: http://www.stompoutbullying.org/index.php/information-and-resources/about-bullying-and-cyberbullying/forms-bullying/

Cyberbullying: http://kidshealth.org/teen/school_jobs/bullying/cyberbullying.html?tracking=T_RelatedArticle

Stay tuned for… When bullying escalates and becomes a criminal offense

Bullying: An Introduction

Is it my imagination or does it seem like there is a surge in reported incidents of bullying? I was led to this question because the topic of bullying appears to be frequently covered by the news media and reports can range from children bullying out on the playground to teens and young adults engaging in targeted harassment carried out online. In fact, a quick Google search for 2015 news articles related to bullying among children, adolescents, and teenagers netted several thousand results. Additionally, my brief search returned another somber finding: a recent meta-study now indicates a connection between bullying and suicide. As I began reviewing page after page of results, questions began flooding my mind: Who is this happening to? What are the warning signs? Where does bullying mostly take place? Why is this still happening, and how can we prevent it?

Bullying pic

“Will I ever be… (accepted, liked, left alone)?”

I’m sure the same questions race through the minds of others after reading a news article or watching a TV report about the latest bullying incident. In an instant the desire to protect our loved ones wells up in us and simultaneously we feel compassion and want to help end these tragedies. Yet, we are all so busy and life seems to have a way of redirecting our thoughts back to our most immediate and pressing needs. Also, based on the number of Internet search results alone, it would take tons of time to sort through and dissect all of the information that is available and, understandably so, most of us are currently too tapped out for that kind of time commitment.

Thus, it is my goal to provide you with helpful facts you can quickly read and readily use. Since this topic has many pathways of information, I will try to pair it down to what is most relevant and will include links in case you want to read further.

Therefore, to begin we must understand what bullying is and be able to distinctly identify the nature of the behavior.

Definition:  Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.

In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include:

+ An Imbalance of Power: Individuals who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.

+ Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.

Bullying includes actions such as:

+ Making threats

+ Spreading rumors

+ Attacking someone physically or verbally

+ Excluding someone from a group on purpose

CONSIDER

If any of the information above is resonating with you because it seems a friend or family member is experiencing some of the same behaviors, talk with someone you trust and ask for help. Sometimes we don’t have it in our ability to fix the situation for one reason or another or, perhaps, we may be unsure that bullying is actually taking place. Either way, by opening up to someone we know, we can avoid the isolation that comes from being unsure. Moreover, creating a dialogue also creates awareness and provides the opportunity to receive guidance from individuals and resources that can ultimately help.

Source: “What is Bullying?” http://www.stopbullying.gov/what-is-bullying/definition/index.html

Stay tuned for… Types of Bullying

Life Lessons from my Lab (George) #4: I Love You No Matter What

George inside the back door when I get home.
George inside the back door when I get home.

As I turn the key to unlock our back door, I can’t help but laugh. Through the glass, I watch as George springs into the air awkwardly. I use the word awkward because my VERY large yellow lab does not look anything like a dog when he jumps to greet me after a long day at the office. Instead, he resembles a cat. Let me see if I can describe a snapshot of him in mid air. He takes off of all four paws at the same time. When he reaches maximum altitude his back is dramatically arched and his toes are pointed like a weird ballerina dog… Do dogs point their toes?!? I digress. He does not touch the back door. He does not put his paws on the glass. He leaps into the air over and over again, reaching the same height each time, a good 3 feet off the ground. At the top of his bounce he has a grin on his face and his tongue hangs out of his mouth. Okay, tell me that’s not AWKWARD!

The interesting thing is, though I can expect George’s excited reaction when I come home, it still makes me smile every day. Yes, he is a dog, but George accepts me no matter what I do. Even when I neglect to walk him in the morning, or even when I get home later than expected, George’s reaction does not change. This got me thinking about human relationships: relationships with ourselves, relationships with others, and the ways we allow our judgments to interfere with the potential for deeper connection. Ask yourself the following questions, and it might shed some light on the ways you may be hindered in your relationships.

Do you value yourself based on what you do or based on who you are?

Are you hard on yourself when you make mistakes? Are you hard on others when they make mistakes?

Do you consider yourself to be a human-doing? Or a human-being?

Does your acceptance of others change based on what they do or do not do?

Do you withhold love and kindness from those close to you when they mess up?

Do you withhold love and kindness from yourself when you mess up?

Do friends/family/loved ones show you their imperfections? What about your reactions makes you a safe or unsafe person to open up to?

What if we were all able to see one anther honestly, for who we truly are?- loveable, imperfect people in need of grace.

Attention Men: The Dangers of Pornography

When a couple comes to my office because the husband is (or promised to stop) viewing pornography, it is usually the wife who has been so hurt that she insists that they seek help. The husband usually comes in contrite, embarrassed, feeling shameful, or even defensive of his choice to view it (“All guys do it.”). I know that I am stereotyping here, because viewing pornography is not only a male issue, but statistically speaking it is much more common in men than women. Therefore, I will be speaking directly to males here. If your situation is different, and it is the woman who is viewing pornography, please know that these same truths still apply.

After many years of dealing with these situations I have come to several conclusions, but the bottom line is that viewing pornography will have disastrous implications on a couple’s sex life.

I want to begin my listing of the ways that viewing porn is hurtful by stating my overall premise:  Pornographic content is pure fantasy and totally unreal. Most of the men reading this will view that statement as obvious and would probably tell me that, because they know it is unrealistic, it doesn’t create any problems for them. That is the first problem: denial and self-deception.

Here are the real ways that viewing porn hurts your sex life.

1. It hurts your wife. Looking at pictures of someone else does not lead her to desire you more. I have so many painful, tearful, angry, quotes from wives that I would like to share here, but I won’t because I want to focus on how it hurts you sexually as a man. (Maybe I’ll write another piece on the ways it hurts wives and relationships.) For now, the fact that it does hurt them needs to inform your decision. I have heard many a woman painfully say that her husband’s viewing of porn, after he knows how hurtful it is to her and their relationship, means to her that he discounts, devalues, and ignores her feelings. The conclusion they reach is that “I am not important to him!”

2. It leads to false beliefs. At a conscious or unconscious level, the following beliefs or fears become true for you.

The sexual performance of the male actors becomes the measure for your own performance. “If he can do it that long, that well, that way, then I should be able to also.” There is also the possible belief that creeps in that “I would be able to if I had a wife that looked like that woman.” If you take those ideas into your sex life, you will miss the point completely about yourself and the necessity of a trusting, loving relationship for creating the atmosphere for healthy sexual intimacy.

Another hurtful factor is that the physical endowment of the actors becomes the standard of measurement for your own equipment. It isn’t only bigger, but it seems to function better and longer, too. It is important to understand that many men of all ages sometimes, or regularly, have difficulty getting or staying aroused. The porn stars certainly don’t seem to have this issue, at least during “that” take of the video or picture. This idea puts a lot of pressure on men, and it increases anxiety if they fear arousal issues. The anxiety then creates the almost certainty of difficulty. Men don’t tell each other about the times that it occurs for them, and that it especially happens during times of stress.

Come on now, you know this is what you think. You know intellectually that the actors, male and female, are chosen for their very specific, atypical physical properties. Unconsciously, they become standards to which you, or your wife, can’t measure up.  That has a very negative impact on your view of yourself as a real man, and you wonder if you or your wife can view you as “enough” in terms of size or performance.

3. It contributes to unrealistic expectations. Viewing pornography can also lead men to mistakenly believe that everyone, men and women, are always wanting and are always ready to have fantastic sex. It sure appears that way in porn. But the operative word here is “appear”. In the real world, surveys as well as clients, indicate that the frequency with which people have sex varies extremely. I am often asked the question, “what is the average frequency that couples have sex per week?” That question is irrelevant! Some people have sex annually, and some have sex three times a day. The only thing that is relevant is that people have sex as often as they both prefer. That is the only number that is important. When we compare ourselves to some “norm”, we miss the point. The norm is what we decide that we prefer for us.

4. It leads to misunderstanding. There can also develop a view about women that they “should enjoy” walking around stark naked and fully comfortable without any clothes. Men, if you think that, you are clueless about the epidemic of body image issues and eating disorders that many, if not most, women battle. There really are women who do enjoy that, and in my profession they are usually referred to as “exhibitionists”. The statistic on those women run somewhere around 2%.

In the real world women do have concerns that don’t seem to be a part of  fantasy women’s thinking. Real women consider things like relationships, their own sexual preferences and satisfaction, health issues (STD’s), and preventing pregnancy. At least they do if they are mature and emotionally healthy. Expecting your wife to think and feel differently will hurt your sex life right after it has hurt your relationship with her.

5. It limits intimacy. You will painfully and sadly limit the pleasure that is possible in your sex life if you don’t spend time (around 30 minutes) enjoying each other’s bodies in pleasurable but non-sexual ways before your begin using your genitals. Learn how to touch her, massage her, kiss her how and where she enjoys, or anything else you know she desires.  What is most important is that it sends the message to her that you care deeply about her, her pleasure, and that you are focused on her, not just getting what you selfishly want. Because women value the sensual, loving, and lengthy lead time before intercourse, they rarely enjoy the kind of sex you watch in porn.

Want a better sex life? Then spend at least half your time in bed not using what’s between your legs. “Pornography ignores whole-body sensuality,” says sex therapist Dennis Sugrue. “That’s a big reason why porn-style sex isn’t satisfying. That’s also a big reason why so many women hate it.”

If you think you might have a problem with pornography or are worried about your sexual intimacy, you might want to consult a therapist.

I Hate Valentine’s Day!

By Jerry Duncan, M Div, LMFT and Jill Early, M Ed, LPC-Intern

When the 14th starts looming over the mid-February horizon, MANY people who are not in the mythical, perfectly loving, and romantic relationship start thinking something like:  “Oh no, another Valentine’s Day SEASON!  It’s like Christmas… they start advertising at Halloween about the perfect gifts and how wonderful the SEASON is going to be.  I’ll be glad when it’s over!”

This group of people often feel the pain and/or sadness of not being in a “special” relationship for any of the reasons that are a real part of life… breakup, divorce, death, thinking they are unlovable or unwanted, etc.  Like most people, they have accepted the myth as truth that it SHOULD be a super special day.  However, day 45 of the calendar year is just like days 44 and 46, in terms of relationship.

There are at least three things on which to focus that have the potential for being helpful if Valentine’s day creates these kinds of feelings.

  • Honestly evaluate what our role might be in not being in one of the so-called SPECIAL relationships, learn from that evaluation, and make a plan for how to change ourselves in the next 364 days so that we can experience what we might prefer.
  • Accept and rejoice that we are not faced daily with the challenge and effort required to create and maintain a healthy relationship that might slightly resemble the mythical one which is the focus of Valentine’s Day.
  • Focus on the other significant relationships we have and challenge ourselves to give THEM the experience of knowing how they are important, loved, adored, valued, and cherished by at least one person, us.  How wonderful it might feel to anticipate the day knowing that we were going to offer those SPECIAL feelings for someone else to fully experience and enjoy.  How wonderful it might feel to go to bed (yes, alone) that night with the feeling it would give us knowing what we had done for someone else that day.  Focusing outward on what we can extend to others can be even more rewarding than focusing on what we lack.