Conscious Uncoupling: How to End a Relationship with Grace and Respect

conscious uncouplingAs a psychotherapist for about 7 years now, I’ve had the profound privilege of helping many couples move from conflict, anger, and pain and toward deeper, more conscious intimacy. But it doesn’t always go this way.

 

Indeed, sometimes couples realize in the course of our work together that their relationship, for whatever reason, needs to end. Many partners view the end of the relationship as a personal failure, blaming themselves. Others wallow in anger and resentment, sometimes lashing out in destructive ways.

 

Tragically, in these instances the circumstances that bring about the end of the relationship can have the power to redefine a couple’s entire story together. This is especially true with cases of sex addiction, porn addiction, infidelity, or some other form of intimate betrayal. Partners carry with them the pain, loss, heartache, and anger about the relationship long after it ends and can even carry it over into their next one.

 

It doesn’t have to be this way. There’s another path. That’s where Conscious Uncoupling, a method pioneered by psychotherapist Katherine Woodward Thomas, comes in.

Healing Shame with Self-Compassion and Connection (Part 2 of 2)

healing shame with self-compassionRecently, I’ve been wrestling with a business decision. I was unclear about what to do and decided to ask some trusted colleagues about their thoughts. So yesterday, I hopped on a phone call and talked for a few minutes about my quandary. I wasn’t ready for what happened next.

 

Because of the nature of the decision and my history with similar decisions, I felt very vulnerable. And to my colleagues, it seemed clear that my fears and “not enough-ness” was showing up in my waffling.

 

And suddenly, there is was. A big, fat helping of shame with a side of inadequacy.

 

It was like a sucker punch. I admire my colleagues and looked up to them, and suddenly I felt so small. I felt so foolish. So silly. So exposed.

Understanding Addiction, Part 1: The Disease Model

understanding addiction“Why? Why do I keep doing this?” I get this question a lot, especially from new clients who are struggling to comprehend why they keep engaging in an addictive behavior they don’t want to keep doing. They struggle in understanding addiction.

 

I get it. I’ve been there. I wondered the same for a long time. I couldn’t understand why I continued to drink when I felt as ashamed about it as I did. Eventually, I came to understand why I started to drink and why I continued to need to drink.

 

Eventually, I came to understand that I drank to alleviate my own shame and anxieties. Understanding what alcohol was doing for me helped me learn to be more authentic and manage my feelings differently. When I didn’t need alcohol anymore, I spontaneously stopped when I got tired of how much it was taking from me.

 

Maybe you’re trying to understand your drinking, gambling, sexual behaviors, or other addictive behaviors. Really, you’re asking about what you don’t understand about yourself. That’s where looking at a few models of understanding addiction can help.

Contact with the Affair Partner After an Affair Ends

contact with affair partnerShould he have any contact with the affair partner now that the affair is over? Shouldn’t she cut her affair partner out of his life and stop talking to him altogether? How can I get him to stop talking to her?

 

After an affair, the couple is in crisis. They’re struggling to adapt to their new reality now that the affair has been exposed.

 

The hurt partner is reeling from this world-shattering news. She’s often traumatized and angry, while also struggling with the desire to scour phone records, check his phone, and other responses intended to help her feel safe after a massive betrayal.

 

The partner participating in the affair is often remorseful and desperate to save the relationship.

 

In instances like this, it’s a matter of course that the affair is over, that contact with the affair partner will not continue, and that both partners are all in the save the relationship.

 

But this is not always the case.

Treating Sex Addiction with Harm Reduction Psychotherapy

treating sex addictionThis week, I received the exciting news that I’ll be participating in a panel discussion about sex addiction, approaches to treatment, and how best to help clients needing support with these issues. I’ll be talking about treating sex addiction with harm reduction psychotherapy.

 

The conversation will take place at the conference for the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals in Phoenix in May. It’s going to be a great chance for mental health professionals on the front lines of out-of-control sexual behavior treatment to compare treatment options and philosophies.

 

Normally I don’t post too much about developments in the field of addiction, though I did give an update about sex addiction receiving a diagnosis last summer.

 

But this panel is so important and exciting because it’s evidence of a growing number of voices in the addiction field who think a bit differently about how to help those struggling with addictive behaviors, including sexual behaviors.

 

I thought I’d briefly compare the traditional approach and the harm reduction approach as I consider my remarks for the panel. I’m very much thinking out loud here as I continue to evolve and grow, so I invite you to be a part of the dialogue in the comments below.

Healing Shame (Part 1 of 2)

healing shameShame. Shame is pervasive these days, as are our attempts to banish shame from our existence. We try desperately to rid ourselves of shame and will sometimes to anything for a moment’s respite from that awful, heavy feeling.

 

Just for a moment, consider what comes up for you when you read this word.

 

Maybe you’re concerned about someone you love. Maybe you’re curious about your own shame and what to do about it. Maybe you’re even now trying to put out of your mind what you tell yourself when you feel shame so you can read this post.

 

If so, you’re not alone. Shame sucks. I would know; it’s a part of my story too. And I often get asked about how shame can be healed. It’s a good question, and one I’ve never quite felt I can answer fully in sessions.

 

While healing is never easy, finding your way out of shame is possible. Before we dive into that topic, though, we need to understand what shame is and how it affects us.

What to Do When Therapy Gets Hard

when therapy gets hardSo you’ve started therapy, and it’s actually going pretty well. Maybe you’ve been going for just a couple of months or a few years. You’re working well with your therapist feel you’re making good progress. The counseling seems to be helping. Things are humming along.

 

Then, whether gradually over time or all of the sudden, there’s a shift. Life gets really hard. Almost unbearable. And so does therapy.

 

Wait a minute. Weren’t things supposed to get better? Why now is the terde hitting the ventilateur?

 

It’s important to understand that I’m speaking in generalities here, and painting with broad strokes.

 

But often there’s a really good reason why therapy gets hard. It means you’re doing the work. Here’s what I mean.

Addiction and the Impact of Trauma

addiction impact of traumaIf you’ve read other blog posts I’ve written, you’ve probably learned by now that I think that people use substance and sexual behaviors in problematic ways because use these addictive behaviors often solve emotional problems. They help people feel better, or, as is often the case, to feel less.

 

For instance, problematic addictive behaviors can give people a break from their relentless, shame-driven inner critic. They can help chronically depressed people feel more expansive and alive. They can help people detach from feelings that are too painful to experience. The list goes on and on.

 

People use substances and sexual behaviors such as pornography and masturbation to address whatever personal vulnerabilities they have when nothing else seems to work. Often, they’ve learned through early direct exposure or modeling that porn, substances, or another addictive behavior can help.

 

But what causes these personal vulnerabilities in the first place (and we’ve all got issues, OK?)? Trauma.

What I Learned About Our Need for Connection from My Son’s Meltdown

need for connection

This is not my son. My son is much cuter. #sayseveryfatherever

My three-year-old had an epic meltdown yesterday. “Game of Thrones” season 8 epic. The huge battle scene in the “Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King” epic. Metalllica’s Black Album epic. And for that matter, the Beatles’ White Album epic.

 

The morning started off well, actually. Our family has been a bit stressed as we’re getting back into the groove of things after the holidays, as so many of us are. The Missus started school again this week and left very early yesterday for school. We had all enjoyed spending more time together during her holiday break from her studies, especially my son.

 

Saying goodbye to her when she leaves in the morning has sometimes been very hard for my son, so I was a little surprised yesterday when there were no tears at her departure. “Goodbye!” he said, smiling and continuing to play. She kissed him goodbye, then me, and wished us both a good day.

Get to Know Your Shadow for a Better Year in 2019

get to know your shadowSomeone recently recommended to me a book called Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche by Robert A. Johnson. He was an author and a Jungian psychoanalyst (more on what that means in a second). I’d heard of his works when I was in high school. Unfortunately, he died this past September, which made the recommendation a timely way to remember him.

 

It’s a primer on the unconscious mind, or what Carl Jung called the “shadow.” But what is the shadow? Each of us have a part of ourselves that we don’t know about, that’s outside of our awareness, and yet is very much a part of our being. Knowing about this part of ourselves is so important because the shadow has ways of showing up in ways that, well, we least expect.

 

Not so sure? Studies indicate that the unconscious mind influences an astounding 90% to 95% of our actions and behaviors. But how? And how can you bring your shadow into the light so that you can have a more fulfilling, meaningful New Year?