relationships

Accountability

More and more it appears we exist in a society where people prefer to blame, deflect, and avoid rather than be accountable. Addicts living within their disease are masterful at blame, deflection, and avoidance—it is part of the behavioral makeup of the addict and part of the reason so many in the helping professions dislike working with this population group. I think that part of the disdain comes from the structure of the counseling relationship which is often predicated upon accountability and insight and the addict does not play “good patient” thus the “expectations” within the clinician are not met. Part of the reason I enjoy working with addicts is because of these traits; albeit that many of the stories become similar over the years there is always that one addict that has a new twist on blame, deflection, or avoidance and their story is intriguing in its presentation. I have learned many a lesson from working with addicts– one of which is that perception truly is reality. Addicts live in these “lies” for so long that they often come to believe it as truth, so the work begins around changing perceptual lenses. I “expect” the addict to display these traits and thus the process is normalized through this dance rather than frustrating. It is through their blame, deflection, and avoidance that the truth can be sought and accountability specific to their world can be brought forward. I become more concerned with the addict that accepts accountability right from the outset as this is atypical and may be an indicator of someone who is not fully committed to the process–it becomes his or her form of avoidance in a paradoxical manner.

True accountability comes when the addict understands and accepts that their disorder was not caused by family, work, friends, traumas, relationships, losses, religious denominations, etc. These factors influence, accelerate, and exasperate an addiction, but they do not as a stand-alone cause an addiction. Substance dependence for many is created from a genetic predisposition to addiction with psychological, social/environmental/developmental, and spiritual issues. There is a vast body of research related to the genetic predisposing factors related to substance disorders and most in the field are in agreement that addiction is a bio-psycho-social-spiritual disorder; meaning that these pieces need to come together in a manner whereby addiction is the result. It is important to note that a genetic predisposition alone is not a life-script for dependency. I have met many individuals that have come from families where addiction was rampant but that they themselves did not develop dependence—the reason…all of the other areas did not line up. They have a familial history for addiction yet they were raised in healthy environments, developed good peer relations, and held a strong spiritual grounding that when combined kept them from a life of addiction.

So accountability is a process of seeing where the addict played a role in this process; this is not to say that it is only because of poor decision making that one becomes addicted and that addicts are characterlogically flawed people (as this is simply untrue of most). What I am saying is that the addict needs to perceptually refocus the lenses so they can see their part in the process as this is the only part they can change and if they take this action, they begin to alter the behavioral aspects to this disease.

A good example of this perceptual reality is that many addicts hold the belief that everyone in the world uses substances–maybe not the same way that they do, but nonetheless everyone uses. Until they see that this is untrue, they cannot believe that abstinence is even possible.

TODAY HAS STARTED-HAVE A GREAT ONE!

Today’s Marriages

We will begin this week looking at marriage—the history, some of the current realities, and the components needed to have the best chance at marriage being successful. Marriage is a term that goes well beyond the space that we have here for a full commentary; as such, we will be looking at a very small and culturally influenced perspective on this area.

From a historical perspective I have always found it interesting that when marriage first initiated as an institution the life expectancy levels were somewhere in the area of 35 years old—so the “till death do you part” really wasn’t likely to be a long time! Albeit that people were married at younger ages, it still was not likely to be a 60-year union. I bring this up as it relates to commitment (the topic addressed last week). Even a bad marriage could be tolerated for these lengths of time—however, with today’s current life expectancy rates, a bad marriage would be akin to a prison sentence if issues are not resolvable; all the more reason to select well, keep working on it, and understand the appropriate concepts of negotiation and acceptable compromise.

The place where we start with marriage is where we left off last week—commitment. Last week four premises were offered up in relation to what commitment is… It is an action behavior based upon solid cognitive choice making, it understands that emotion is ever changing and ever evolving, it stands steady in difficult times and evaluates along the way, and it does not institute impulsively.

Where the first roadblock presents with respect to marriage is in the area of maturation and development; in today’s environment of lengthy life spans, unfortunately many young people are not fully cognizant to the understanding of what this commitment really means. Since the 60’s I believe we have lived in a world that is much more selfishly focused, things are more disposable, and youth mature at a slower rate due to our attentions to the developmental phase of adolescence. These combinations and others have contributed significantly to an escalating divorce rate. Where people would have struggled and potentially worked through difficult times as a part of their relationship many today throw in the towel and look to start over believing next time it will be better—even though second marriages have a higher divorce rate than first marriages. These comments are based upon the belief that we are talking about reasonably equitable dysfunctional relationships not those where pervasive abuse is a feature. Where patterns of abuse exist, I can fully comprehend the rationale for separation/divorce. What I am referring to above is your garden-variety dysfunctional relationship that through some meaningful work could be agreeable to alteration and thus functionality and health; however, people are walking out before they even explore an option for resolution because “it’s too much work”, “I don’t love them”, “my life is no fun anymore”, and on and on infinitum. What these comments amount to is that this is solely about self (what am I getting out of being here), commitment is too much work (I did not know this would be work), and it is easy to dispose of this and just start new (ask the vast majority of divorcees and you will find it was not that easy and neither is beginning anew).

Where many of these issues initiate is based upon maturation; many young people do not understand or comprehend terms like life-long, commitment, and retention. This is not a statement of blame but a means of understanding why we have come to this place in the world of relationships. Until someone has lived a little, we cannot fully comprehend the above three terms. Next time we will explore the various features of a successful marriage— what are the key foundational pieces for a marriage to thrive?

TODAY HAS STARTED—HAVE A GREAT ONE!

Friendships

There are a number of key features that contribute to well managed stress living. In previous blogs, I have identified some of these activities however to reiterate here is a reminder list of some good stress management practices

• Proper sleep and appetite schedules
• Adequate weekly exercise
• Appropriate medical and mental health check-ups
• Spiritual connectedness
• Use of stress reduction exercises
• Lifestyle balance activities
• and today’s blog—Healthy Friendships

Healthy friendships are not easy to find, take time in their development, require meaningful attention, and produce some of the most wonderful rewards.

In my psychotherapeutic work, one of the key questions that I ask all patients during the assessment phase is “Do you have someone that you are able to talk to about anything and everything within your world”? A significant number of people do not have this type of resource at their disposal. There are those who place their spouse in this position (which is not necessarily a bad thing, however having another person outside of our primary relationships is still valuable). In addition, there are those who have many people who each have small pieces to the puzzle but no one with all the knowledge (this is often a trust issue).

So why have someone who you can talk to about anything and everything? Being able to talk about ANYTHING shows the ability for non-judgmental discussions around all that is “life”. Being able to talk about EVERYTHING shows trust and acceptance. More often than not females are better at this task than males. Females are socialized for this type of behavior while males are often discouraged to enter this type of relationship with another male. One area for concern is that this lack of connectedness can cause a significant issue with males if their respective spouse dies before they do. They can be left both alone and very lonely whereas females have a higher likelihood of having people that they can still reach out to in the world.

Additionally to trust, acceptance, and a non-judgmental environment is the benefit of having a place to vent or a sounding board in life. This is where stress reduction can take place in a healthy friendship—it is a place to empty. It is a place where one can be supported and cared for, and it is a place of reciprocity where one can feel the benefit of helping another.

Next, we will explore how to develop healthy friendships and what to look for in negative friendships.

TODAY HAS STARTED—HAVE A GREAT ONE!

Developing Healthy Friendships

Today we will look at what comprises a Healthy Friendship. These are based upon a number of key features that differentiate them from someone who is an Acquaintance. Albeit that having acquaintances is important; as an acquaintance fills some of the following roles

• socialization without risk or significant effort: either individual or larger group
• exposures an individual to a wide range of interests, views, and beliefs
• provides knowledge on multiple topics that may otherwise not be explored

The main thing that is missing in an acquaintance is the meeting of deeper psychological needs for trust, acceptance, love, and non-judgmental evaluation.

Here are a few characteristics to a Healthy Friendship…

  • shared interests and flexibility for individual pursuits of external interests
  • equitable levels of openness
  • supportive and non-judgmental
  • you are a priority to each other with respect to time commitments
  • you see each other’s as equals: no one person is elevated over the other
  • there is no control over the other person (overt or covert)
  • there is an equitable level of appropriate self-disclosure and open communication
  • it is a safe place to be emotionally expressive
  • selflessness; doing things for others that carry a real cost (time, money, risk) to yourself
  • there is forgiveness and acceptance
  • there are genuine non-sexual expressions of love and caring
  • there is a desire to assist in the growth and development of the other (where possible)

As you can see these are characteristics that require time, effort, investment, and most of all trust. Building friendships takes years. Most people that are in a healthy intimate relationship only have time for a couple of “friends” in their life due to the commitments that accompany a healthy friendship. There are vast rewards that come from these investments from a psychological and health perspective—one of which is stress reduction as mentioned earlier.

Explore your world; how many “friends” do you have, do you need to build additional friendships and if so who might be a person that could fill that position, do you have too many friendships that are taking away from your partner or family relationships? Answers to these questions can produce balance.

TODAY HAS STARTED—HAVE A GREAT ONE!

Friendships – Negative Characteristics

Like any relationship, Friendships can go sideways too.

Not everyone is well versed in the behaviors associated with a Healthy Friendship and when this happens, it is important to seek a corrective solution or dissolve the friendship. Negative friendships will drain every ounce of your energy and good will—thus eliminating all of the benefits and reasons for having the friendship in the first place.

Some of the people that cross our paths are not meant to be lifelong friends. As the saying states—, “Some will come across your path for a reason, a season, or a lifetime”. Where negative characteristics present, be cautious about moving forward and put appropriate boundaries in place to minimize the detrimental impacts.

Listed below are some of the more common “Negative Friendship” characteristics…

guilt: is used to influence behavior or have needs met
covert manipulation: is an under-current to gain control and when caught denied
selfishness: is either not doing things for the other or only doing those things that really are not a “cost” (financial or other) to you
possessiveness: attempts at isolating the other person to ensure you have them to yourself
crossing of boundaries: is emotional, sexual, or physical (through direct request or action taking)
control: is the action of one person typically “getting their way” the majority of the time
oppression: there is a desire to keep the person where they are at so they do not leave or gain equality

Healthy friendships take time to develop and these should be approached with an open heart and a cautious spirit. Friendships are built upon appropriate and elevating levels of risks.

TODAY HAS STARTED—HAVE A GREAT ONE!

Bullying

We often think of bullying as something that occurs in the playground, at school, or amongst our children.  Bullying is a form of abuse involving a repetition of power-enforcing acts used to create an imbalance of power and control.  It is used to intimidate or dominate and get what one wants through power and coercion.  These behaviors may manifest in verbal, physical, or emotional aggression.  Each of these forms of aggression can occur in various types of environments from the schoolyard, to the workplace, to cell phones and the cyber world.

Bullying can be obvious through physical means, or very subtle through emotional manipulations.  Regardless of the method, it can have very devastating impacts to an individual.  Such impacts can include, but are not limited to physical injuries, depressed moods, suicide attempts, drug use, decline in academic performance, and stunted social development. 

Bullying is not only a significant problem for our children.  The reality is, it is prevalent in our adulthood, and has even come so much of an issue in the workplace that laws have been passed.  In 2002, the province of Quebec instated the “Psychological Harassment at Work Act.”

This Act provides that: “Every employee has a right to a work environment free from psychological harassment. Employers must take reasonable action to prevent psychological harassment and, whenever they become aware of such behavior, to put a stop to it”. For further information regarding specific and detailed information, please refer to the “Commission des normes du travail Quebec” site.

Bullying and psychological harassment in general occurs when an individual or group of individuals uses persistent and unreasonable behavior against a peer, a coworker, or subordinate.  More specifically psychological harassment as defined by the Quebec Act can entail sexual harassment and harassment based on “race, color, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, civil status, age except as prohibited by law, religion, political convictions, language, ethnic or national origin, social condition, handicap or the use of a means to palliate this handicap” (Section 10 of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms). 

The bully, the victim, and witnesses are all parties involved in the psychological harassment dynamic, independent of the environment in which bullying occurs in, the method of bullying, and the ages of those involved.  The parties may be individuals or a group of people; may extend across a hierarchy of an organization or team, or involve people outside of an organization.  The witnesses of bullying play an important role in exacerbating or halting this behavior.  Witnesses can either contribute to the fear of the victim, or empower the victim by speaking out and/or supporting the victim.

In the Calgary area, we are blessed to have an author and educator in the area of bullying—Ms. Lynn Dove. Lynn is currently on her final book of a trilogy that has been met with high regard and positive response across age groups. The books are primarily written for teens experiencing teen issues however, parents will equally benefit from having a read. For further information on Lynn’s books please connect to http://www.shootthewounded.org/ For further information on bullying in general, you can go to http://bullying.org/

For further information on organizational bullying, please contact S.A.E. Psychological Consulting Ltd. directly.