Thursday, March 26, 2009

Relationship Cancer

Understanding the psychological dynamics of domestic violence

By C. Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Life Coach

Her cries for help in the middle of the night startled us awake and when we turned on the lights and let our neighbor inside, the red welts on her arms and face shocked us even more. “How could he do this to you?” My mother asked, and all she could sob out was “He didn’t mean to do it, please don’t call the police.”

That was my first exposure to domestic violence almost 35 years ago yet I can still vividly remember the look of terror in her eyes after being beat up by her husband, (who was so out of control that he had actually pulled out a weapon to use against her). She ran for her life, but an hour later as the police were handcuffing him for transport to the jail, she was begging them to leave him alone so she could take care of him. It was a long night for everyone, but the next day it was like nothing had ever happened, because it was never discussed again. Nothing ever changed at that house for years until a sudden divorce ended the marriage and they just went their separate ways.

It baffled my teenage mind back then that someone would treat the woman they had promised to love like a punching bag; yet now it breaks my heart even more to know how common it is for someone to be abused, yet often feel too afraid to call out for help; so the violence continues behind closed doors in every part of our community while the victims suffer alone in silence.

Every House a Safe House
Slowly think about the word “home” in your mind. Does it stir up feelings of peace, safety, belonging, comfort and love? Or does that seem like an impossible concept because life at your house is more about panic than peace?

Domestic violence shelters are often referred to as ‘safe houses’ because they are hidden away from the general public to allow the victims of abuse to be in a protected environment away from any violence or threat of abuse to heal. I’m glad there are safe houses to help wounded people rebuild their lives; however, I believe God’s design for the family was to see every house as a safe house where people could connect to each other heart to heart and soul to soul.

Sadly many people try to avoid thinking about how common domestic violence is because once their eyes are opened to the harsh reality of this abusive behavior they see the urgent need to do something to stop it. Here are some startling statistics to show you how big this problem really is. As you read through these very sad numbers I hope it will prepare you to take positive action to make sure your house is always the safest place for your family and to be better equipped to reach out and support the people you care about most.

Domestic violence can vary in frequency and severity. It occurs on a continuum, ranging from one hit that may or may not impact the victim to chronic, severe battering. Repeated abuse is also known as battering.
~American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a serious, preventable public health problem affecting more than 32 million Americans, that is more than 10% of the U.S. population which results in nearly 2 million injuries and 1,300 deaths nationwide every year. (Centers for Disease Control)

85% of domestic violence is directed toward women. (National Crime Victimization Survey)

31% of American women report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives. (Commonwealth Fund Survey of Women’s Health)

30% of Americans say they know a woman who has been physically abused by her husband or boyfriend in the past year. (Family Violence Prevention Fund)

On average, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in this country every day. (Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data)
Eighty percent of women who are stalked by former husbands are physically assaulted by that partner and 30 percent are sexually assaulted by that partner. (Center for Policy Research; ‘Stalking in America’).

More than 1 million women and 371,000 men are stalked by intimate partners each year. (Tjaden & Thoennes, National Violence Against Women Survey, Department of Justice)
Previous literature suggests that women who have separated from their abusive partners often remain at risk of violence (Campbell et al. 2003; Fleury, Sullivan and Bybee 2000).
Between 4% and 8% of pregnant women are abused at least once during the pregnancy (Maternal and Child Health Journal)

Pregnant and recently pregnant women are more likely to be victims of homicide than to die of any other cause and evidence exists that a significant proportion of all female homicide victims are killed by their intimate partners. (Journal of the American Medical Association)
Approximately one in five female high school students reports being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner. (Journal of the American Medical Association)
Forty percent of girls age 14 to 17 reported knowing someone their age who has been hit or beaten by a boyfriend. (Children Now/Kaiser Permanente poll)
In a national survey of more than 6,000 American families, 50 percent of the men who frequently assaulted their wives also frequently abused their children. (Physical Violence in American Families; Strauss, Gelles and Smith)
Studies suggest that between 3.3 -10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually. (Carlson, Bonnie E., ‘Children's observations of interpersonal violence.’ Report of the Twenty-Third Ross Roundtable. Ross Laboratories).
Domestic violence can and does happen to people of all ages, races, and socioeconomic and educational backgrounds. Without help, abuse will continue and could worsen. Though there are no typical victims of domestic violence, abusive relationships do share similar characteristics. In all cases, the abuser aims to exert power and control over his partner. Many resources are available to help you understand your options and to support you. No one deserves to be abused. ~ Mayo Clinic

Relationship Cancer Kills
Did you sense the despair and hopelessness reflected in those statistics? I sure did and that’s why I really want you to understand what to do to find freedom from the silent and shameful secrets of abuse that ruins the home life of millions of people in our country. I view the abusive behavior of domestic violence as a form of deadly cancer in the relationship, and relationship cancer kills!

We plead with people to pay attention to the early warning signs and symptoms of cancer, which often can save their physical life. In the same way if we take positive action to deal directly with this manipulative and mean behavior we might save our relationship from being destroyed.

Think of it this way; a girl and guy meet, then fall in love, get engaged, and a few months later make promises to love each other forever during a wedding ceremony in front of God and their closest friends and family members. And then an astounding number, (almost one third), of these couples begin to slide into the process of moving from caring for each other to one person trying to control the other and calling it ‘love’ when in fact love had nothing to do with it.

Abuse is about power and control not about anger
This next section is to help you or someone you love to understand what to do to break out of the destructive cycle of domestic violence and abusive behavior. Many people want to believe that it’s just a little too much anger, or they try to excuse the behavior as being something cultural or generational because their family of origin is just ‘louder’ than other families.

So how can you tell if it’s abuse? Here are some key indicators to consider as you begin to study this important subject that will allow you to protect yourself, your kids or to more effectively reach out to others you may know who are really struggling in this area.

Eight primary types of Domestic Violence and Spouse Abuse:

1) Physical- (scratching; pushing; shoving; kicking, spitting, throwing, grabbing; biting; choking; shaking; slapping; punching; burning, restraining, hitting walls, breaking or throwing things)

2) Sexual- (forcing a person to engage in a sexual act against their will through intimidation, restraint or physical violence. Includes being forced to watch or participate in perverse sexual behaviors)

3) Verbal- (using words to shock or attack by twisting conversations into power struggles that the abuser must ‘win’ at all costs to prove that they are ‘right’. Extreme use of moody silence, criticism, sarcasm, guilt trips, deception or continual questioning and harassment. Using street slang, cursing, put-downs, insults or shouting to beat down the other person through forceful language and threatening tones of voice to utterly destroy their self worth, dignity and self-respect through verbal intimidation and aggression)

4) Emotional- (playing ‘head games’, or otherwise attempting to make the other person feel ‘crazy’ or bad about themselves through blame shifting everything onto the victim; continual attacks against their self worth with feelings of guilt, or shame about themselves, their past mistakes or family secrets)

5) Financial- (taking away access to family income or taking paychecks away to limit the ability to function financially, includes stealing money or secretive spying on spending or driving patterns in an effort to manipulate every area of daily life that involves spending to ‘trap’ the victim into staying by eliminating any opportunity to travel to friends or family who might help)

6) Isolation- (continual attempts to prevent any access to healthy peers, parents, friends, neighbors or coworkers, often uses ‘jealously’ as the motivator, but the real motivation is to block out any other person who might support the victim in facing their fears to break out of the addictive cycle by seeking help to change. Common to see ‘tracking’ behavior through GPS on cell phones or mileage on the odometer of the car to insure complete obedience and compliance)

7) Bullying- (threatening or intimidating with harsh words, hateful gestures, or hostile aggression toward the victim or toward their children, friends or family in order to manipulate the situation to get what they want when they want it. They set the rules as to what everyone in the house must do in order to keep the bully happy at all times. Treats everyone and everything as a possession to do with as they want)

8) Terrorist- (open aggression, rage, hostility, assault, breaking things, open use of weapons, regular threats of serious injury or painful death to victim, children or pets if they don’t get their way. Stalking behavior fits in this aspect of domestic violence since the goal of the stalker is to create a feeling of intense fear, trauma and terror)

Tracking the toughest form of Relationship Cancer to fight
Now let’s consider one of the most common forms of abuse that creates a subtle relationship cancer inside of many marriage and family relationships, especially those who identify with the teachings of the Christian church and would classify religion and spiritual values to be highly important to them.

The category is emotional abuse, and I suspect that many of the people who utilize this form of aggressive and manipulative behavior don’t completely realize how totally devastating their words and feelings are that go along with this highly destructive and toughest form of abuse to tackle because it’s so hard for the violator to realize just how mean and hateful this form of abusive behavior really can be.

The extensive checklist below shows one of the most tolerated parts and still least understood forms of domestic violence dumped out on millions of victims and then minimized or justified away by the abuser who often misquotes the scripture that a wife is to submit to her husband, like a slave to a master, which is nothing even close to what God’s Word teaches about the Christian home being a place of incredible love and intimacy, and never of critical hostility or cold-hearted insensitivity.

It was written by my friend June Hunt, a Christian Counselor who is an author and founder of Hope for the Heart, a non-profit educational organization offering comprehensive resources from a biblical perspective. Think about your relationship, or someone you know as you answer the following indicators of this massive, but silent killer of marital closeness and intimate connection.

Emotional Abuse Indicators and Warning Signs
While all forms of mistreatment are emotionally abusive, certain behaviors can be overtly labeled as “emotional abuse.” An emotionally abusive behavior will fit into one of two categories: passive or aggressive.

Passive emotional abuse is characterized by:
— Withholding emotional support
— Withholding important information
— Withholding money and access to the checkbook
— Not giving appropriate attention or compliments
— Not listening or responding
— Not taking a fair share of responsibility
— Not respecting your rights, opinions or feelings
— Sulking and brooding
— Using the “silent treatment”
— Choosing to be irritable
— Manipulating the children
— Neglecting important family gatherings
— Failing to return home at a reasonable time
— Refusing to help with children or housework
— Refusing help to overcome an addiction (drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling)
— Refusing to express true feelings
— Refusing to leave when asked
— Keeping weapons in order to frighten you

Aggressive emotional abuse is characterized by:
— Isolating you from family and friends
— Not allowing you to have any part in major decisions
— Rushing your decision-making through intimidation
— Intimidating looks or body language
— Blocking the doorway when arguing
— Hiding car keys as a means of control
— Breaking promises or not keeping agreements
— Making threatening gestures
— Driving recklessly to instill fear
— Excessive jealousy and suspicion
— Prohibiting sleep
— Damaging treasured items
— Excessive anger
— Continually checking up on you
— Interfering with your work
— Monitoring your phone calls
— Making unwanted calls or visits
__ Following or stalking you

If you found this check-list helpful, I encourage you to check out the extensive Biblical Counseling Key June Hunt wrote on this subject, called “Verbal & Emotional Abuse” or “Wife Abuse,” You will find it listed with almost 100 other Biblical Counseling Keys and counseling audio podcasts at her homepage

What next? Take bold action to break the cycle!
Domestic violence is wrong and any form of abusive behavior that goes along with it is equally wrong. If you have seen sign or symptoms in the indicators above, don’t panic, begin to face it and build a stronger and better life. However, let me be quick to say that if you are in a dangerous situation, please let the people around you help out.

There are hotlines, counselors, pastors, friends, extended family, police officers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, family law judges and most importantly, survivors. These are people who were able to break out of the abusive cycle with new boundaries and supports and have regained their strength so they often will be your best source of encouragement to help you onto a new journey of healing and peace. But only if you let them by reaching out and asking for it.

If you are really afraid to do anything about the abuse and violence in your home, let me encourage you with these words- “You could be the next strong survivor beginning right now, if you have reached a point to say ‘enough!’ ‘This is it and I’m never going to allow some fearful things to block the best things that God wants for my life!’”

I believe that you read this far because you are ready for a change so I’ll look forward to hearing your story in the days ahead; about how you, or perhaps you and some friends came together to take positive action to make your house a safe one. Several times a year I’ll hear back from someone who took that next step to reach out to the safe people who were able to help them cross over to a new level of living without the fear of abuse and it changed their lives forever. God’s desire for you and your closest relationships is peace, comfort, contentment, security and connection. When you open up your eyes to look beyond the fear of abuse- you’ll be able to see that the freedom of a better life is available to you too. Isn’t that the very good news of the message the angels sang on the night Christ was born, “Peace on earth- Goodwill to men!”

It is my prayer that you begin to live out that true message of Christmas right now as you begin to experience the new light of freedom more than living in the shadows and darkness of your old fears. You are worth so much more than your fears have led you to believe and you don’t have to stay stuck in the relationship cancer of abuse for one more second because this is your time to come alive by making some bold decisions to move forward to a better place by God’s grace. This is your time to change. Know that you are not alone on that journey and that there are safe people to help.

If you or someone you know is frightened about something in your relationship, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or logging onto

References for more in-depth study & analysis on Domestic Violence:
(American Bar Association) -

(American College of Emergency Physicians) -

(American Academy of Family Physicians) -

(Checklist for Leaving an Abuser)-

(Domestic Violence Hurts the Whole Family, Healthy Roads Media - Multi-language site) -

(Domestic Violence Special Events- Family Violence Prevention Fund)-

(Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women)-

(Know Your Rights on Domestic Violence, American Bar Association - Links to PDF)

(Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) -

(National Center for Injury Prevention and Control)-
Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint.
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About the author- C. Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Life Coach and Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Surviving Major Life Crisis

10 insights to guide you through stressful events with greater strength

by: C. Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Life Coach

Life is harder than ever it seems, yet not everyone seems to be completely overwhelmed because of it. Why do some people face major life transitions like financial stress, death, divorce, health problems, job loss, or business problems with a hopeful attitude of rebuilding and recovery while others just want to hide in fear? Everyone will face times of major life crisis, but not everyone will know how to respond to move beyond the challenge today to build confidence tomorrow. Here are ten things about crisis that will help guide you through the process of managing stressful situations to come out stronger on the other side.

1) Crisis events are more common than you thinkEvery time you watch the evening news you are hearing about someone in crisis, but it doesn't really affect you as much because you probably don't know them. Accidents, fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, terrorist attacks, bank robberies, child abuse, sex scandals, corporate fraud, crime, corporate downsizing and on and on the list goes. It's like the only thing you ever hear about on the news is the bad news! Thankfully, these terrible events don't happen to all of us at the same time, which is why some people can hear about it and not really be affected. Their life is insulated from crisis at that moment, so they don't really think about it much, however, stressful events happen all the time and at some point will affect you as well. If your life is going well, be grateful as you count your blessings. If it's falling apart, know that it's part of life and won't go on forever, so hang on as you keep reading about more ways to deal with life crisis.

2) Crisis affects people of all ages and stages of lifeThere is an old saying that cancer doesn't care where you live, which is another way of saying that disease affects the rich and poor, young and old. Crisis is like that too because it's a common part of every stage of life, but impacts us differently at each stage. Not having a date for the prom can feel like a crisis to a high school student, while being fired from a job may seem like the end of the world to a man in the middle years of life. The level of stress and trauma is based on a lot of factors, including age, gender, personality, educational level, family connection, network of friends, emotional health, physical energy and spiritual maturity. The more life experiences you have gone through, the more likely you will view a major event with a hopeful perspective about the outcome instead of gloom and doom. Life is about growing and crisis events can often force us to change faster than we wanted to, yet with a positive end result if we learn to see it as a predictable part of the lifecycle. This is the process of moving from 'Why me?' to 'why not me?' and is a sign that you are growing beyond the simplistic view of the world as you want it to gain a greater awareness to see more of the real world with the real difficulties that people are forced to deal with every day.

3) There are no easy answers for traumatic events"I know how you feel," is one of the worst things that you could ever say to another human being. That is unless you really have walked in their shoes through the same type of life crisis. Everyone who hears about the challenge that you are facing will want to make it better in one way or another, but often there are no quick solutions or instant pop-psychology advice available. Sometimes bad things happen to good people and there just isn't anything to say to make it better, so don't even try to help with words. Rather, help with your presence, or just help with a meal, or arrange for childcare while an exhausted Mom gets a night off, or line up some gift certificates to help out, or pitch in to help pay for a needed car repair, or just remember to pray for someone you know in crisis. While you may not have any real answers, you may have some encouraging words of hope to someone feeling very scared and alone. Better to say, 'hang in there and I'm here to help if I can," than to retreat in silence and do nothing because you aren't sure of what to say. Take action to do something positive to get through the day right now instead of spending massive amounts of time and energy trying to figure out the answer to some of the questions that likely could never be answered anyway. Knowing that you have closed the door to all of the 'what ifs' will allow your mind to open up other doors of options and possibilities, even in the most challenging of situations.

4) Crisis events reveal your biggest fears and deepest beliefsThousands of years ago the Psalmist wrote, "God is a very present help in times of trouble," and that's more true today than ever. Critical incidents will instantly reveal more about you than you ever thought possible. What you believe about life, money, love, family, honesty, courage, hope, faith and a whole lot more will come out when everything that you thought that you believed in is suddenly shaken. Know that a crisis may take you straight to the very thing that you fear the most, which will be hard, but ultimately good because you don't have any choice but to face it and get through it the best way you can. None of this is easy, but the character and maturity you develop while struggling to just get through the day will last for years. It is helpful to journal out those fears and spend some time writing down what you believe during times like this because the insights you generate about your own identity can help you get through future events faster and stronger than you ever imagined. This is the process of removing fear to replace it with a deeper faith.

5) Some very good people may give you some very bad adviceThe Biblical story of Job tells of a man who loses everything. Kids, money, power, career, big house, company, employees, marital connection to his wife and every single material possession. His health was destroyed and as he scraped his skin to lance the boils the only thing he could hear was the bad advice and judgmental questioning of his three friends. While it is good that they can to be with him during his time of crisis, their efforts at 'helping' seemed to turn toward putting more pressure on Job than actually making his life any more bearable. When helping people through a time of crisis I often remind them of the first rule in a crisis, which is 'don't make a bad situation worse.' No matter what you are facing today, keep in mind that while someone has it worse than you, there are a truck load of people who don't even have a clue! If someone gives you bad advice because they have been blessed to not have experienced the level of pain and suffering that you have, cut them some slack because of their naive view of life, or try to avoid them. In a crisis you don't have time or energy to try to change someone who doesn't understand painful trauma, so sometimes it really would be preferable to just try to avoid that person. Better to seek out others who have walked on the same road of grief that you are on so that you can learn from their insights instead of feeling misunderstood by the lectures of those who haven't been tested in those areas of character development. At some point there is a time to move on to learn the lesson that Job did so long ago. God is always faithful, even when your closest friends let you down.

6) Major world events like terrorism or natural disasters can magnify the stress and pressure you are already facingWhatever you are going through is intensified by other factors, like terrorism or a community wide disaster. If your marriage is breaking up while you are trying to deal with finding ice or gasoline to run a generator it will feel overwhelming all the time. We can only deal with a certain amount of stress and pressure from crisis events, no matter where they are coming from. If you are totally focused on tuning in to see if the London terrorists are being brought to justice while trying to care for your aged parents who are facing huge financial challenges, you will run out of emotional energy to cope really, really fast. Better to just pray for those people in London and then turn all of your energy toward dealing with what's on your plate right here and right now. Unless you have to watch the video footage from other world events for your job, turn the TV off to turn toward reducing the amount of painful issues on your plate for today. You will make it through seasons of crisis a lot better if you remove any outside source that you don't have to deal with today. This includes things like being overwhelmed by future events like funding your three year old daughters college tuition or if you will keep your job until the next Presidential election. You must manage your emotional energy wisely today by not worrying about things too far down the road during a time of crisis. Stabilize the crisis today so that you can see clearly to deal with the future events when you are at a stronger and more focused place.

7) Strength, confidence and character come on the other side of life crisis Someone once said that hard times will make you bitter or they will make you better and that is especially true during seasons of trials and discouragement. We know that the difficult challenges can make us prone to anxiety, depression, fears, doubts, resentfulness, hatefulness and bitterness. What we fail to think about is that those very same crisis events can push us to stretch and grow into a more disciplined and focused human being. Here's an insight though, it's either one or the other. It's been my experience that people either allow the circumstances of life to shape them into stronger people, or they spend their life whining about how unfair life is to them. Hey, a lot of the good things in life are dramatically affected by how you look at it. Some people view being fired from a job that they really didn't like as a blessing, while others may think that it spells out financial ruin and bankruptcy. Learn to see crisis events for what they are-an event. They are not usually the end of life, however they may spell out the beginning of a major change, which will greatly impact life. It's sort of like sweating in the gym while exercising your body to achieve a healthier result. The painful process of pushing your body with weights and aerobic gradually activity brings a better result. St. James said it this way, "The testing of your faith builds patience and maturity." To have deep inner faith and personal power you have to press on through the trials of life, instead of just avoiding them or asking others to sort it all out for you. No one can take action to get confidence for you, but you! Get up as you can and move forward so that you can make positive growth in the days ahead.

8) The greater the crisis, the greater you need others to get through itYou can get through a bad hair day alone, but you can't get through a loved one's cancer treatments without major levels of support. We need others to make it through life and that is particularly true during crisis events. The bigger the challenge you are facing, the more supports, coping skills and healthy behaviors are required to move through it. Obviously this issue takes every positive resource that you can find, while avoiding the negatives. So begin to seek out the counselors, pastors, social workers, psychologists, physicians, nurses, attorneys, law enforcement, chiropractors or support groups that will be needed to challenge the process and bring about change. In many regions of the country there are hotline telephone numbers linked to community resource agencies that offer all kinds of help and guidance, much of which is free. (In central Florida where I live it's accessed by dialing '211' from any telephone, which links to a live operator who has a listing of thousands of people and places to address every issue from Adoption to Alzheimer's. Another great resource on managing crisis events is through the writings of June Hunt at ). You and I need others and would likely go out of our way to help others if the roles were reversed, so don't be afraid to ask for help if you find yourself in the position to need it. Letting other people help you can unlock a whole new world of service and insight into how others are dealing and coping to grow to a stronger place on the other side of crisis.

9) Stressful or traumatic events don't go on foreverSomeone once said that the often quoted phrase, 'things come to pass' would be better stated as, 'things come to pass, but they don't come to stay.' Keeping your focus on getting through the day and moving past the past to move toward a better place ahead is essential if you want to get to a better place after a life crisis. There are seasons in life and they are constantly changing, even when we don't realize it. Consider an event like a college student moving out of their parents home to their first apartment. If that young person is prepared for the road ahead, this will be one of their most exciting and fulfilling times. If they aren't, then they may find every excuse to avoid dealing the logical progression of reality that will force them to grow up anyway, or over-invest in pushing their Mom to build the nest bigger to keep them from feeling the stress of changing roles, (letting go of their mommy to gain her back as a mentor). Change is hard on everyone, but change is the most common part of life, so when you hear someone tell you that the present trends will continue and that the sky is actually going to fall one day, please ignore them. Nothing lasts forever, including times of life crisis. If you are in a time of testing and trial, know that it won't go on forever, nor will the calmness of those who haven't had a real crisis event in their entire life. To that person I say 'buckle up' because it may be that God will one day take them to some steep places to show that what they said they believed is really true. Oh yes and to show a better way to view maintaining balance in life when you don't have to stay in control of everything that you really couldn't control anyway.

10) Crisis events prove true the promises of GodFor well over twenty years I've been honored to work as a counselor with wonderful people who often were at the hardest part of their life because of major crisis or painful trauma. The bad news is that they had been knocked down and thrown off course from the life that they wanted by various critical incidents and crisis events. Someone told me once that 'there is no testimony with out a test' and I believe that is true because I believe that God allows every thing to happen for a reason. However, the good news is that they were able to get through it and became stronger in the process of moving through the crisis, instead of running away from it. I've seen it thousands of times, regular people facing horrible circumstances became more balanced and focused in every area of life because of it. The crisis was hard, but in the process of just getting through the day they discovered more about what they believed and how much better life could be than they ever before could have imagined. Life takes on a new meaning when what you believe has gone through the fire, because something in the fire burns away the impurities and the wastefulness to plainly reveal what matters most. I've watched people who didn't believe in anything spiritual become filled with a sense of direction and purpose to make a positive difference in the world with God's help. The crisis revealed what they could be, as well as what would have to change to grow to a new level of success. The hard lessons that come from crisis have long lasting and life-changing results. I've seen people change in more ways than you could imagine because of having a season of carrying the crucible of a crisis. Things like daddy's who were too busy to spend five minutes playing catch with a child become 'father of the year' candidates after an emergency room experience. Mother's who were obsessed with shopping become budget-minded financial managers while rebuilding their life after their husband died. Men who loved their careers more than they ever would love a wife become softened and surrendered to view that woman as the most important person in their world. Women who placed their children above all else become insightful and aware of their own insecurities and need for control to release those kids to become who they were supposed to be, instead of being stuck in the shadows of their mother's expectations. Young people who moved from meaningless relationships and empty jobs to connected friendships and purpose-driven careers.

People give up spending money on drugs, gambling, pornography or alcohol to let go of the addictions and grab hold of a stable life with careful financial management leading them to be free from debt forever. I've seen miracles through crisis situations so many times that I can tell you that prayer is real and essential to experience peace during the stormy trials of life. I know that God's promises to comfort, protect, guide, cover and bless his children are real. I know it because of what I've seen in walking through crisis with people from every culture, every age group and every background. They got better as they prayerfully moved toward truth and allowed others to help them get back on track to a better quality of life in spite of the difficulties of their painful past.

They got better and I'm glad, yet I have one last question, "so how about you?" When is it your turn to have a better quality of life in spite of difficulty? My hope is that you will turn the corner right now to boldly move in a new direction away from the stress and pressure to move toward the strength and purpose that only comes because of a life-changing word...Crisis.

Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint.

"Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group eNews, (Copyright 2004-2009), Subscribe to this valuable weekly counseling and coaching resource at or call 407-647-7005"

About the author- C. Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Life Coach and Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. He is a member of the National Speakers Association and partners with media, major corporations and non-profit organizations to make a positive difference in our culture.

Reaching Kids in Time

How powerful afterschool activities build young leaders

By: C. Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Life Coach

There is a lot of talk these days about cutting back on budgets and eliminating afterschool activities for kids. Cutting out sports, music, drama and journalism to send students home early, often to an empty house, is a bad plan for countless reasons. Greater temptations, peer pressure, gangs and just an overall sense of disconnection and loneliness for these latch key kids. Yet the greatest risk of eliminating afterschool programs is the tremendous loss of character and leadership development from being part of a team or sharing in activities that stretch their thinking and creativity.

If you don’t think afterschool activities are a big deal, then let me challenge your thinking about the future. Picture it this way. Have you ever had a little experience that impacted you in a big way? Like the little things that build up and create immediate frustration, and maybe even ruin an otherwise good day. Traffic, your cell phone drops reception in the middle of an important call, the cleaners don’t get your power suit cleaned in time for a key meeting or you race to get the phone and discover it’s a computer trying to sell you something. Little pressures can build up and become major problems faster than you realize.

Kids grow up fast
Little kids grow up faster than we realize too. If we can help them find their creative ‘fit’ they will grow strong and avoid a lot of the temptations that come from feeling bored. It’s easy to take for granted that kids will grow up automatically well balanced, mature and be ready to lead when someone older is ready to retire. That is just not so. Nothing about parenting is easy, and families have more pressure than ever... and so do their kids. Since much of what we will live out in life we learned during our early childhood experiences it’s essential to make those as positive as possible. Childhood activities will shape a majority of our core values, so it’s essential to build these experiences into the lives of our kids or grandkids. Child psychologist James C. Dobson says it this way. “Values are not taught to children, they are caught by children.” Kids are continually learning by watching the adults around them.

Think about it- somewhere in a world of toy cars, video games and American Girl dolls is a future president, pastor, doctor, banker, teacher, sheriff or dentist. Before you get too scared about the future of these kids during this era of cutting out afterschool programs, I want to share some good news. I saw it in my home town of Orlando on a series of billboards that show the childhood photos of famous people who were positively influenced by the afterschool activities of the Boy’s & Girls Club

Touring afterschool options
I had a chance to tour several of these clubs with the director of our regional Boys & Girls Clubs. I learned these clubs aren’t just about positive afterschool activities, they are about ‘farming.’ Yes, I said farming. Because these dedicated programs plant good ideas into children, to build stronger character and ultimately a stronger community. I even had the chance to walk through the actual Boys Club I was a member of in Orlando almost 35 years ago, (when I was a member back then it was “no girls allowed.”) It was encouraging to see so many positive programs. A computer lab, competition swimming pool, craft rooms, after-school academic programs, and on and on. I was impressed. I saw programs that offered hope and a strong belief system. Instead of ignoring the needs of families under pressure, the Boys & Girls Clubs provides a well-structured place to grow into a balanced person and future leader.

From the President to superstar athletes, the Boy’s & Girls Club helps prepare thousands of young people for a better future every year. The important issues of youth development are laid out in a step-by-step way to help children across the bridge of life into adulthood. Their mission is to: “Help all youth, with special concern for those from disadvantaged circumstances, to develop the qualities needed to become responsible citizens and leaders”. The clubs are a “The positive place for kids.” I heard it put a bit more directly once from a local pastor years ago who said, “You need to reach into your community and help kids every time you have a chance now, or not get upset in a few years when they come to steal your car.”

Maybe your family is already a member of the local YMCA, or perhaps your kids go to an afterschool church character training program, or maybe they are plugged into a home school with access to incredible hands-on learning experiences. If your son or daughter is already involved in great afterschool sports or activities- wonderful! They are on track. However, if you know of a tired single mom who needs some support, why not tell her about the Boys & Girls Club or even better why not map out a year’s worth of personal development for a child you know? Providing a scholarship for a child at one of their 32 central Florida locations is better than buying one more super-charged monster video game. Besides, who wants another child growing up into a monster without values, (our world has enough of those already).

Key strategy to find a great resource for you kids
Here are some details about the Boys & Girls Club or you can visit to check out their programs for kids. If you are picking out an afterschool program other than the Boys & Girls Club, then consider using their great outline of 5 key areas to select a well-rounded way to build strength into your kids. Their Five Core Program Areas are:

1) Character & Leadership Development - Empower youth to become more global citizens who support and influence their Club and community, sustain meaningful relationships with others, develop a positive self-image and good character and respect their own and others’ cultural identities.

2) Education & Career Development - Enable youth to become proficient in basic educational disciplines, set goals, explore careers, prepare for employment and embrace technology to achieve success in a career.

3) Health & Life Skills - Develop young people’s capacity to engage in positive behaviors that nurture their own well-being, set personal goals and live successfully as self-sufficient adults.
4) The Arts - Encourage youth to develop their creativity and culture awareness through knowledge and appreciation of the visual arts, crafts, performing arts and creative writing.

5) Sports, Fitness & Recreation - Programs develop fitness, positive use of leisure time, skills for stress management, appreciation for the environment and social skills.

Remember, pay attention to small details today because they become big things later. And it’s more true in childhood development than in anything else. Little things done well in parenting today always leads a child into a better future, which is like giving yourself a gift for a more secure tomorrow.

Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint.
"Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2009), To receive this valuable weekly resource subscribe at or call 407-647-7005"

About the author- Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Life Coach and Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. He is a professional member of the National Speakers Association and partners with media, major corporations and non-profit organizations to make a positive difference in our culture.

The Formula for Failure and Success

by Master Coach Jim Rohn

Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. We do not fail overnight. Failure is the inevitable result of an accumulation of poor thinking and poor choices. To put it more simply, failure is nothing more than a few errors in judgment repeated every day.

Now why would someone make an error in judgment and then be so foolish as to repeat it every day? The answer is because he or she does not think that it matters.

On their own, our daily acts do not seem that important. A minor oversight, a poor decision, or a wasted hour generally doesn't result in an instant and measurable impact. More often than not, we escape from any immediate consequences of our deeds.

If we have not bothered to read a single book in the past ninety days, this lack of discipline does not seem to have any immediate impact on our lives. And since nothing drastic happened to us after the first ninety days, we repeat this error in judgment for another ninety days, and on and on it goes. Why? Because it doesn't seem to matter. And herein lies the great danger. Far worse than not reading the books is not even realizing that it matters!

Those who eat too many of the wrong foods are contributing to a future health problem, but the joy of the moment overshadows the consequence of the future. It does not seem to matter. Those who smoke too much or drink too much go on making these poor choices year after year after year... because it doesn't seem to matter. But the pain and regret of these errors in judgment have only been delayed for a future time. Consequences are seldom instant; instead, they accumulate until the inevitable day of reckoning finally arrives and the price must be paid for our poor choices - choices that didn't seem to matter.

Failure's most dangerous attribute is its subtlety. In the short term those little errors don't seem to make any difference. We do not seem to be failing. In fact, sometimes these accumulated errors in judgment occur throughout a period of great joy and prosperity in our lives. Since nothing terrible happens to us, since there are no instant consequences to capture our attention, we simply drift from one day to the next, repeating the errors, thinking the wrong thoughts, listening to the wrong voices and making the wrong choices. The sky did not fall in on us yesterday; therefore the act was probably harmless. Since it seemed to have no measurable consequence, it is probably safe to repeat.

But we must become better educated than that!
If at the end of the day when we made our first error in judgment the sky had fallen in on us, we undoubtedly would have taken immediate steps to ensure that the act would never be repeated again. Like the child who places his hand on a hot burner despite his parents' warnings, we would have had an instantaneous experience accompanying our error in judgment.

Unfortunately, failure does not shout out its warnings as our parents once did. This is why it is imperative to refine our philosophy in order to be able to make better choices. With a powerful, personal philosophy guiding our every step, we become more aware of our errors in judgment and more aware that each error really does matter.

Now here is the great news. Just like the formula for failure, the formula for success is easy to follow: It's a few simple disciplines practiced every day.

Now here is an interesting question worth pondering: How can we change the errors in the formula for failure into the disciplines required in the formula for success? The answer is by making the future an important part of our current philosophy.

Both success and failure involve future consequences, namely the inevitable rewards or unavoidable regrets resulting from past activities. If this is true, why don't more people take time to ponder the future? The answer is simple: They are so caught up in the current moment that it doesn't seem to matter. The problems and the rewards of today are so absorbing to some human beings that they never pause long enough to think about tomorrow.

But what if we did develop a new discipline to take just a few minutes every day to look a little further down the road? We would then be able to foresee the impending consequences of our current conduct. Armed with that valuable information, we would be able to take the necessary action to change our errors into new success-oriented disciplines. In other words, by disciplining ourselves to see the future in advance, we would be able to change our thinking, amend our errors and develop new habits to replace the old.

One of the exciting things about the formula for success - a few simple disciplines practiced every day - is that the results are almost immediate. As we voluntarily change daily errors into daily disciplines, we experience positive results in a very short period of time. When we change our diet, our health improves noticeably in just a few weeks. When we start exercising, we feel a new vitality almost immediately. When we begin reading, we experience a growing awareness and a new level of self-confidence. Whatever new discipline we begin to practice daily will produce exciting results that will drive us to become even better at developing new disciplines.

The real magic of new disciplines is that they will cause us to amend our thinking. If we were to start today to read the books, keep a journal, attend the classes, listen more and observe more, then today would be the first day of a new life leading to a better future. If we were to start today to try harder, and in every way make a conscious and consistent effort to change subtle and deadly errors into constructive and rewarding disciplines, we would never again settle for a life of existence – not once we have tasted the fruits of a life of substance!

Reproduced with permission from Jim Rohn's Weekly E-zine. To subscribe, go to All contents Copyright © except where indicated otherwise. All rights reserved worldwide.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mean Girls

Understanding the psychological issues behind Mother/Daughter Conflict

By: Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Life Coach

Moms & daughters.
Why is it that sometimes they can’t stand to be apart- and other times they can’t stand each other? One of the most complex, challenging, confusing as well as rewarding and meaningful relationships in life can be found between mothers and their daughters. This psychological tension could occur early as early as childhood or be delayed until the teen years, and in extreme cases create problems for decades. At its worst, the friction and fights generated by these conflicts can destroy a relationship for good and even ripple into serious damage that could break a family apart.

Understanding what is causing the conflict in a home is the beginning of solving the problem. When a young woman is engaged in a battle with her mother over power and control their home can become a war-zone.

The five most common conflict styles that surface during the journey from girl to young woman are listed below. Once you identify the traits that seem to describe the tension in your home, skip down to use the parenting strategies as well as what to do to directly cope with conflict and bring peace back to your home.

1) KIA- Know it all'sMethod: Showing disrespect through continual arguments to degrade and discredit their mother as an authority on anything, especially being a parent.
(Boss)Mood: Bossy, harsh, critical, aloof and continual verbal conflict. (Mood worsens as Mom attempts to confront her behavior).Message: "I'm in control of my life, you can't tell me what to do- so don't even try. Wake up and smell the coffee Mom- you’re an idiot."Motivation: (Arrogance from self-Authority)

2) Drama QueensMethod: Dressing like a fully "grown up" woman with sophistication on the outside; while underneath acting like a spoiled little girl with self-serving behavior. (Princess)Mood: Changes instantly with no predictability. Weepy and screaming one minute, then brooding or giggly the next. Loud with continual demands for more!Message: "I want to look like I just stepped out of a clothing catalog, but really I’m scared to death inside. Watch out! Next mood swing- two minutes!"Motivation: (Approval through Adult Acting)

3) Tough ChicksMethod: Attacking mom with aggression and meanness, this pushes her away, but also continually punishes mom as the one closest person in her life.(Bully)
Mood: Dark, evil, hateful, spiteful, bitter or extreme. Use of gutter talk and lifestyle are common ways to add to the hurt directed to Mom. This often includes the lifestyle of “sex, drugs and rock n’ roll”, Gothic, or whatever will tick their mom's off the most.Message: "Get the *#*&%* out of my way you sorry *#%&*. I hate you, I hate you, I hate you! Please don't ever leave me!"Motivation: (Attacking to prove Acceptance)

4) Lost Girls
Method: Driven for acceptance, particularly from young men, while over reaching for relationship with mom. (Note- this behavior is often tied to the absent father syndrome that occurs in homes where the dad leaves after divorce, or is gone all the time at work).
(Lonely & Longing)
Mood: Nice, naughty, needy or seductive, passive-aggressive, codependent, compliant, fearful, clingy, chameleon in all settings, but never the real person inside because she doesn’t know who she really is.
Message: "I'll do whatever a guy wants me to do or be whoever he wants me to be, as long as he doesn't let go!"
Motivation: (Acceptance from Anyone who cares)

5) Good GirlsMethod: Dodging mom with busy activity and lots of "yes ma'am" talk but never letting mom get close enough to see what’s really going on.
(Yes Mom…)Mood: Distant, casual, deception, socially acceptable- perhaps even friendly at times- but you are never allowed inside to see the heart. Or the hurt she hides.Message: "I'll play by the rules to keep the peace, but cannot wait to get out of this house and be away from you b-----!"Motivation: (Avoidance through Activity)

► Frequently asked questions about mother/daughter conflict:When do these mother/daughter conflicts show up and when are they the hardest to deal with?
The patterns can be identified in late childhood, around age 7-8, but are definitely the worst at age 15-16 when things can become completely chaotic and out of control. Sadly as an older teen, dangerous and impulsive choices can occur that result in permanent damage or death, like some of the tragic car accidents you hear about in the news when a teen girl breaks all the rules of safe driving and it seriously injures her or even sometimes may cost her life.

Is it possible to have more than one of these mother/daughter conflict styles going at the same time?

Sadly, yes and the more conflict dynamics going at the same time, the harder it is to stabilize and treat to bring stability back to the home.

Why do daughters do these terrible things to their Mom?

Lots of factors seem to complicate and influence this hurtful behavior from daughters to their mothers; however the biggest issues are listed below.

- Negative peer pressure from other girls and especially from the influence of older guys who seem to have unusual power over impressionable girls who are younger.

- Experimentation with drugs, alcohol or other forms of substance abuse, which can cause a child to act totally differently toward family members. Remember, parental denial is a subconscious reaction to prevent the parent from feeling the pain of discovery, but research shows that teens are actually into substances 6 times more often than their parents believe. Secrets, lies, cover-ups and sudden changes in behavior are warning signs of dangerous behavior changes that may require immediate attention.

- Cultural and society pressure to be "perfectly" beautiful or thin, and the often dramatic shift in a girls behavior because of the secretive life that comes from Anorexia, Bulimia or compulsive overeating disorders.

- Media pressures to act like a thirty year old female in charge of her life and new found sexuality instead of a teenaged girl. (for instance, television shows like “Sex and the City”, “Friends”, and many "chick flick" films portray this message as well, which is easily misinterpreted by teens who are confused as to how a responsible adult woman would carry herself to be seen as a strong woman, and not a sexually needy one who can’t be satisfied or happy unless she is in a relationship with a beautiful man).

- The need to feel in control of one's life as part of discovering one's identity in adolescence. This is normal, but really complicated in broken, blended or dysfunctional families where the girl doesn't feel connected, or feels lost and unattached to her family.
Can Mom's make a difficult situation like the ones you have described worse and not even know it?
Mom's are often the closest human connection to a teen, who is trying to figure out how to be an adult. The girl part of her wants to take control of her future by experimenting with new feelings and attitudes, which is a normal and healthy emotion in young women on the journey to adulthood. However, if a Mom steps in with a parenting style that feels "smothering" to the teen, Rebellion is worsened if a Mom isn't tuned into her daughter’s changes and reacts with the appropriate parenting style. This is seriously complicated when a dad is absent; either through divorce, workaholism or addiction to sports or TV; as well as the number of other children that Mom may be parenting or number of other jobs she works!
Can’t do it alone!

Mom's have an IMPOSSIBLE job! I believe that God never designed for a mom to parent alone, so if the dad isn't involved, one of the first steps is to actively try and draw in a girls father to then reach out to protect and guide his daughter. Mom's can never replace a dad, nor should they try. That's why it’s so important for girls to see healthy role models and have access to other safe adults, especially a trusted woman like a relative, teacher or coach during these years when it may be really difficult sometimes to connect to their own Mom.
So what can we do to begin to rebuild and restore mothers and daughters?

Take positive action now to address the issues that you may have identified in this special report. Don't wait another minute to reach out to rebuild or repair this lifelong relationship. It will add great value to your life, and may be life-saving for your daughter!

► Mother/Daughter Conflict Strategy:To connect a daughter into healthy family relationships and guide her to become a strong young woman, she needs to receive the five elements of becoming a confident young woman. These are the areas for both mothers and fathers to focus on giving to their daughter in her journey to become successful as an adult.

1) Acceptance-
From the people closest to her, no matter what she may have said or done in the past. There are always consequences for behavior, which can always be connected to the unconditional love from her family. This is a perfect time to show God’s love to a wounded girl that may be more open to her parents faith and values than ever before.

2) Approval-
This generation of young women face incredible levels of insecurity- which is often why they act so ‘put together’. Yet in spite of all of her teen insecurities, imperfections, fears and failures, which she feels like she is drowning in more often than you might realize, she needs your approval that you are glad she is your daughter and that you want a better relationship.

3) Affection-
Gentle, tender, kindness and love from safe people in her family and life. She needs healthy touch during these years more than ever! And if she doesn’t feel the safe connection from her family, it leaves her wide open to the destructive temptations offered to a young woman looking for ‘love’ in all the wrong places.

4) Authority-
A young woman has to give up control of her life and new found freedoms to accept being responsible and accountable to the leading of her parents, mentors, coaches and teachers as safe places of guidance, love and support.

5) Accountable-
Teen daughters must follow the logical consequences of their actions with responsible attitudes to develop strength and character.
Remember, whatever steps you take to build a better relationship with your daughter is worth it for now and forever! No matter how mean she might appear to be today, don’t lose sight of the importance of keeping a connected relationship at home, and if that seems impossible, then know there are dozens of people available to help your daughter move from the stress of being a mean girl to becoming a young woman who makes meaningful choices out of her God given strength.

Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint.

"Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group eNews, (Copyright 2004-2009), Subscribe to this valuable weekly counseling and coaching resource at or call 407-647-7005"

About the author- Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Life Coach and Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. He is a member of the National Speakers Association and partners with media, major corporations and non-profit organizations to make a positive difference in our culture.

Friday, March 06, 2009

LeftHanded Soldiers

by Gary Eby, Author, Coach & Motivational Speaker

Lefthanded Soldiers is dedicated to all of those who have been wounded in life ... whether physically, emotionally, spiritually, or financially and yet, against all odds, have risen from the devastation to become a champion!

There are few things in life that move me like seeing someone overcome adversity. I believe that there are great men and women from all walks of life, who, because of some "event’ or series of events, have pretty much given up. Somewhere between brokenness and bitterness many have laid down their proverbial swords and surrendered.

They've been wounded. Lefthanded Soldiers teaches us that when we are wounded … when our "right arms" have been hurt … that we can become Lefthanded Soldiers rather than allowing our circumstances to condemn us to a life of "what-ifs."

How many great leaders are no longer leading? What will our society suffer because the leadership we need is somewhere hurting rather than rallying the troops? What great sickness is raging because the doctors and nurses who can make a difference are in need of healing themselves? How many great sermons will not be preached because an overworked and underpaid Pastor had a "humpty-dumpty’ fall and is allowing condemnation to keep him out of service?

Great public servants, teachers, volunteers, entrepreneurs, and politicians, all over the world are waiting ... waiting for someone to care enough to put their arms around them and say ... "Let's get back into the battle of life again! We need you!"
I believe that great leaders can inspire the "wounded warriors’ among us that they can "engage’ in life again and they can be winners!

In the real world … most of the time ... it's the size of your mess that determines the size of your message. It may not be pleasant to hear, but, the size of your testimony is due, in large part, to the size of your test.

Where would Abe Lincoln have been without the Civil War? Where would John Kennedy have been without the Cuban Missile Crisis? David needed Goliath to become King. You cannot wear a victor's crown without having fought a few battles! You can't sing before you talk. You can't run before you walk. You can't have a message until you've had a mess … and you can't have a testimony until you've had a test! Let's look at these lyrics to a song that I wrote.
The victor's crown only goes to those who've been in war. Eagles can't stay in their nest if they want to soar. Sitting on the sidelines you'll never be your best. You can't have a testimony ‘till you've had a test.

God won't send thirsty people to an empty well.Heavens cup sure is sweeter once you've tasted hell.There's no wine until the grape has gone through the press.You can't have a testimony 'till you've had a test.

Out of this understanding "Lefthanded Soldiers" was born. I want to teach you ... to teach others that "Change is a door that can only be opened from the inside!"
The willingness to change can be inspired by others but change itself is a personal choice. It is "Choice" not "Chance" that determines your destiny.
Lefthanded Soldiers is a call for the wounded to "get back into the battle of life!’"
Lefthanded Soldiers is a call for leaders to build an army of renewed, revived warriors. Let's teach them that they can make a decision to "engage" in life again.
Let's teach them that they can make a difference in the world. They can be "Lefthanded Soldiers!"

Reproduced with permission from Your Achievement Ezine. To subscribe, go to All contents Copyright © except where indicated otherwise. All rights reserved worldwide.

Lost in a Sea of Stress

Surviving 8 Common types of loss to feel strong again

By Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Life Coach

“Lost at sea”. Words you often hear in a coastal state like Florida, but words you never want to hear because it means another sad ending to what should have just been a fun day enjoying the ocean. Sometimes there are heroic rescues at sea when the US Coast Guard can find those who have become stranded at sea, but sometimes they call off the search and scared family members know that they may never see those loved ones again.

Maybe you feel like that right now; just drifting and lost in a sea of stress. Perhaps it is financial loss, maybe job stress, or marriage and family conflicts that come at you like a tsunami of stress. Whatever the stress I want you to know that it won’t get better by itself. In fact stress tends to get worse until there is a crisis that forces you to seek help to just come and rescue you from all the pressure. If you feel this way you are not alone. A Harris research survey found that 1 in 5 people feel overloaded with stress every single day!

Little waves of Stress build up from lots of loss
Major stress often starts out small, like gentle waves at the beach, which is why we don’t think about it much until it’s an out of control flood of problems. When life comes at you like a powerful wind, those gentle little waves of stress become huge and cause you to sink. If these daily life problems came at you one at a time you could handle it, but when they are bunched together in clusters and seem to be coming at you from a dozen different directions at once it feels like more than anyone could handle… that’s when you know you are on stress overload and possibly drowning in a sea of stress.

Face it, daily stress affects every area of our lives and to some degree affects everybody, but not always in the same way. According to the Harris Poll cited earlier, 75% of people said they felt some to lots of stress, while 23% experienced lots of stress every day. Their research covered the 14 most common daily pressures that are believed to cause stress overload, like finances to being worried about health to feeling disconnected and lonely in relationships. And the stress from sudden and unexpected loss, (like losing a job or house or being diagnosed with a major illness), is the biggest pressure of all and it affects our ability to cope at every level. In fact, Dr. Cary Cooper, a professor at Lancaster University in Great Britain, described it this way, “Stress as a health issue is probably the Black Plague of the 21st century.”

Stress in one area can affect all areas of life
Unresolved stress can lead to burnout because the pressures and problems that can build up in one area of life tend to spill over into all other areas of life. Which means that not dealing with stress and pressure in one area of life will eventually have a negative impact on the other areas of life like energy level, relationships, health, sleep, career, money, schedules, daily life or even harm our emotional and sense of spiritual well-being.

Stress compounds the amount of internal psychological pressure that we have to deal with, whether we like it our not. That’s why we tend to avoid it, which only makes it worse because unresolved daily life stress can lead to an explosive level of panic and tension or if we choose to deal with it, these same pressures can be quickly solved to bring you to a position of greater peace and strength inside.

Before we look at the most common types of stress, let’s examine the most common type of loss that make any stress or pressure harder to manage.

8 Most Common Types of Stressful Loss

1) Duty- Loss of job or role from corporate down-sizing or empty nest syndrome

2) Debt- Financial insecurity or fears, feelings of failure over financial instability

3) Discipline- Loss of self control in body-care, addictive or secret life issues, includes angry rage & impulse control issues

4) Dreams- to give up on hopes, plans, goals and the desire for more in life

5) Drive- Loss of motivation and drive from apathetic feelings of ‘Who cares’
6) Divorce- loss of marriage, family and other relationships

7) Descendants- of children or grandchildren from broken families, which includes distant, broken or dysfunctional relationships

8) Death- to lose those close to you from disease, accidents, violence or age

Which type of loss are you facing today? And more importantly, what are you doing to manage those losses, so that they don’t overwhelm you like a massive stressful wave that hits when you least expect it? Remember, any form of loss creates a cumulative form of stress and pressure. If enough losses build up, you will feel overloaded, and eventually feel ‘lost at sea’ with no hope of rescue. Stress researcher, David Posen, MD, describes the problem this way, “The problem causing stress is the rate of change in the modern world. You almost have no time to adjust to one change before the next one comes along.” Think of it as a process that looks like this flow chart:

Life causes Change
Change is Stressful
Stress creates Loss
Loss leads to Grief or Growth

We grow the strongest as we tackle issues to move forward through the stress and pressure to face our fears and go to an even deeper level of insight and maturity. So, if your goal in life is to try and do everything possible to avoid stress and pressure then in some ways your goal is short-sighted, because it is going to leave you weaker and more immature than others who face the stress with God’s help to grow stronger and become more of the person they were designed to be. Stress and pressure are a part of life for everyone. Facing it straight up to grow stronger is a choice, and it’s a choice that you and I can make every time a wave of stress comes our way.

Stress comes from feeling out of control
Here’s a foundational insight about moving beyond the normal changes of life to overcome stress and avoid burnout- you have more control than you think. You really do have a great deal more power to change than you could ever imagine. The Bible teaches a timeless principal about managing stress when it says, to “Count it all joy when trials and challenges come along,” (James 1:2). This is because the trials and challenges force us to deal with our character issues by growing and changing. A great deal of the pressures and problems in our lives is based on our perspective about those issues. Do you see those pressures and problems as something terrible that will only break you down and leave you weaker or as a positive pressure that will blast away insecurities and fears to push you toward reaching your potential?

Stress affects everyone from the cradle to the grave, which is good news for some and not so good news for others. The not so good news is only that there isn’t a place on this planet where you won’t have to deal with stress because it will never go away…it’s just part of life. If you see this as bad news, please balance it with the very good news that it’s a perfectly normal part of growing through every stage of life. Yes, I said perfectly normal because everyone has to deal with stress if they want to grow strong. It just feels overwhelming when there is too much in too short a period of time, and with the rapid pace of life these days, we are all prone to carry too much stress inside.

Stress warning symptoms
How can you tell if you are on stress ‘overload’ instead of just having a bad day? Take a minute to check off any of the following stress symptoms you have felt on a regular basis over the last month or so. The more symptoms you are experiencing in your physical, behavioral, emotional, relational or spiritual life, the greater the likelihood that you are being overwhelmed with stress leading to burnout or exhaustion, instead of growing stronger on the other side of stress. (Remember, some of these symptoms may indicate serious health problems and should be checked out by your medical doctor or by a qualified healthcare professional).

__ Loss of Energy __ Sleep loss or Insomnia
__ Fatigue __ Listless or in a mental ‘fog’
__ Dry Mouth __ Ulcers
__ Headaches __ Migraines
__ Smoking __ Rapid/shallow breathing
__ No Appetite __ Alcohol or drug abuse to cope
__ Caffeine dependence __ Inability to rest
__ Over-eating __ High blood pressure
__ Hyper-tension __ I.B.S./Colitis
__ “Nervous energy” __ Tightness in chest or heart palpitations
__ Chronically sick __ Accelerated heart rate
__ Decreased libido __ Chronic joint pain
__ No time to relax __ Unkempt physical appearance
__ Chronic back pain __ Nightmares or night terrors
__ Restlessness __ Cries easily or can’t cry at all
__ Increased health worries __ Muscle tension (neck/shoulders/jaw)
__ Skin disorders __ Fainting or feeling like you will faint
__ Abdominal pain __ Sweating or really cold hands/feet
__ Nausea or diarrhea __ Increased cold or flu symptoms

__ Difficulty concentrating __ Uneasiness or nervousness
__ Defensive __ Easily angered
__ Withdrawal from others __ Criticism or Sarcasm
__ Holding problems inside __ TV addiction-Soaps, Sports, Sitcoms
__ Self-consciousness __ Anxiety or panic
__ Apathy __ Avoidance of emotions (esp. fear)
__ Financial worries __ Living in the past or future
__ Short temper __ “Clinging” or dependent behavior
__ No sense of humor __ Not sharing burdens with others
__ Feeling hopeless __ Over-committed or life is out of balance
__ Feeling helpless __ Life seems out of control
__ Trouble making decisions __ Feelings of failure
__ Forgetfulness __ “Type A” driven personality
__ Impatience __ Elevated shame or guilt
__ Unresolved loss or grief __ State of alarm
__ Tension __ Depression or overwhelming sadness
__ Irritability __ Apprehension or confusion
__ Overwhelmed __ Impulsive Decisions
__ Perfectionism __ Diminished productivity
__ Restlessness __ Easily distracted

__ Avoiding spiritual needs __ Loss of faith
__ No time to pray __ Increased doubts
__ Inner turmoil __ Spiritual aloneness
__ No peace or contentment __ Spiritual emptiness
__ No day of rest __ Tremendous anger at God
__ Unresolved past guilt __ Lack of inner peace
__ God seems a “million miles away” __ Believing that everyone is a hypocrite

The more warning indicators that are identified in a single category or across multiple categories, the more that person may be in a stress ‘overload’ situation. However, if only a few of these stress-related symptoms are present, then don’t worry about it. Life stress is common, so if only one or two symptoms are present, it is not usually a cause for alarm, but it is a sign that you are alive!

Moving from Stress to Strength
Once you have identified the primary factors that are fueling your stress, then it’s time to take positive action to change. Some situations are so complex that you can’t work out of it by yourself, but you can take action to move in the right direction. Do this by talking openly about what’s causing your pressure with others. Even if you feel like you can’t talk to anyone about your problems, you can pray about it, or write down your thoughts in a journal. Remember, no one can solve all their problems alone so don’t be afraid to reach out to the people around you who can help, like pastors, doctors, counselors or call a hotline, (you can call the number 211 in many cities to be connected to social service agencies that are available to help with many daily life stressors). You can always do something positive to face the stress and pressure in your life, but you have to decide to take action now before the pressure increases and things get worse.

Here are a number of proactive steps you can take every day to build your personal energy level with the use of stress coping strategies. The more positive actions you take, the faster you will move from stress to strength as you implement the skills necessary to make your life work better.

__ Sleep (7-9 hours) __ Balanced diet
__ Regular meals __ Deep breathing
__ Regular exercise __ Tense/relax muscles
__ Hugs/affection __ Regular daily routines
__ Massage __ Plenty of water
__ Medical checkups or physicals __ Medication (prescribed by your MD)
__ Quiet times of rest or naps __ Get out into the sunshine
__ Brisk walking __ Organize time and schedule
__ Learn to use a planner __ Regular bedtime
__ Allow extra time to do things __ Simplify your lifestyle
__ Get rid of clutter __ Delegate or delete low priority events
__ Learn to organize tasks __ Leave earlier to avoid traffic jams

__ Personal planning time __ Positive relationships
__ Build positive esteem __ Share your burdens
__ Support groups __ Counseling
__ Deal directly with problems __ Talk openly about anger
__ Honestly face fears __ Laugh and have fun
__ Relax with family/friends __ Reading
__ Learn to say “No” __ Short term goals
__ Hobbies/activities __ Take on new challenges
__ Learn something new __ Leave work at work
__ Do good for others __ Victory list of achievements
__ Pace yourself __ Control spending with a budget
__ Journaling __ Manage your moods

__ Bible Study __ Apply biblical principles to life
__ Prayer __ Church socials or recreational events
__ Meditation __ Regular worship in a house of faith
__ Inspirational music __ Join a supportive church group
__ Memorize scripture __ Observe a day of rest
__ Spiritual landmarks __ Keep priorities balanced
__ Inspirational books __ Realize God loves you
__ “Re-create” Spiritual energy __ Listen to inspirational messages
__ Express more gratitude __ Experience quiet times with God
__ Spiritual concert events __ Spiritual workshops or classes
__ Forgive to really live __ Practice acts of random kindness

Here’s another way to look at it. Many people stay stuck in the sea of stress and never feel in control of their life. They are like the left side of this list of common stress reactions. Others make the choice to ask for help and take bold action to make positive chances, and they are like the list on the right. As you read through them, identify which side describes you.

Stressful Loss creates one of two emotional reactions:
Bitter or Better ?
Critical or Creative ?
Procrastinate or Purposeful ?
Resentful or Resourceful?
Run-away or Resolve ?
Give up or Grow up?

I love the attitude of singer Gloria Gaynor, when she was asked how she had survived so many set-backs in her life and career. Listen to the wisdom of her words. “I have survived because after long years of loneliness, and insecurity, and lack of self-esteem, I learned to hand all of my burdens over to the Lord, and now I survive in His strength. “ She had found a spiritual source of strength that was bigger than the Coast Guard, she had found her safe place in the storm.

This leads to a wonderful stress management principle I learned many years ago. D=D. It stands for Deity = Direction, and means that your source of spiritual power from God sets the pace of your direction in life. You may have heard Psalms 23, which is referred to as the ‘shepherds psalm’ which starts out with those classic words, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want.’ If you haven’t read it in a while, pick up a copy of the Bible and check it out since you will find great comfort and peace in having a rock solid sense of spiritual direction in the middle of your stressful storm.

Finally, remember the old saying, that “Things come to pass – not stay”. No matter what problems you are facing today, they will eventually pass. If you are on the right road, moving in the right direction, you will get the right results. It is my hope that you will begin right now to build positive stress coping skills into your daily life and routines so that you can spend your time and energy really living life instead of feeling beat up by it.

You can’t control the fact that stress comes into your life, but you can control how you manage it and how you will respond to the pressures and problems that daily life throws your way. With fear and dread or by facing it head on with discipline and determination. One path leads to exhaustion and the other to being better equipped as a person of greater character and strength. It’s time to choose a path- choose wisely and your life and health will be better or choose poorly and live in quiet desperation. I challenge you to let today be your time to take bold action to live better as you move past your stress to live at a new level of success.

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About the author- Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Life Coach and Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change.