Paying Dearly in the Chance for Love

Paying Dearly in the Chance for Love

I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Laura Brown’s keynote address at a clinical conference last week. As a therapist who specializes in trauma work, she shared some of the amazing insights from her book, Not the Price of Admission: Healthy Relationships After Childhood Trauma. The price of admission. Just sit with that one for a minute. Those whose stories have included the Otherness of adolescent peer rejection and humiliation due to our body shape or size, our gender behaviors, our social awkwardness, or whatever other features marked us as the kid who was different often are willing pay a very high price to be loved…or in the absence of love, to relieve our experience as completely touch-deprived. How much have we given of our physical and emotional health, our dreams, our very identities so that we might participate in relationships that offered us little? Some of us didn’t believe that love could be ours so we accepted sex. Sometimes, we did things with our sexual bodies that were significantly beyond what we wanted or were comfortable doing because we believed we must. Some of us sacrificed major financial resources to a relationship. We may have worked extra hours,...

A Parent’s Guide for Understanding and Responding to School Bullying

A Parent’s Guide for Understanding and Responding to School Bullying

As our nation’s children return to school, what sits with me is a need to talk frankly about the impact that school bullying, exclusion, humiliation, and other actions have on child development. The kids who are different, outcasts, Other bear the legacy of social pain. This doesn’t have to be the case, and parents’ awareness about the impact of bullying and how to recognize and respond to it can prevent problems from developing later in life. For many adults, being cast as Other during childhood had a long-lasting impact on our social development, with legacies of never feeling good enough still reflected in our self-esteem and the beliefs we hold about who we are and what we deserve in relationships. We came to believe that we were “less than” during pivotal moments as the only child who was Black/gay/poor/non-Protestant in our school, because we were very fat or very short, or because we learned to read and write differently from other children. Sometimes we were highly sensitive or introverted children, and therefore easy to target. We were the kids who were conspicuously different, and the people around us never let us forget it. Indeed, our stories of Otherness are many....

The Enabler That Was: An Exercise in Rewriting Our Stories

The Enabler That Was: An Exercise in Rewriting Our Stories

We’ve enabled them from taking responsibility for choices, rescued them from the choices they made, and buffered them when these choices should have had consequences. Our skillset may come complete with talents like putting a drunk person to bed without breaking more hearts or furniture; ducking words or objects with the grace of a dancer; or making excuses to others and ourselves (especially ourselves) about how their outrageous conduct is really a sign of love. Tired of this being your story? In The Enabler That Was, I’ll introduce a rescripting exercise for bringing these stories to an end and teach you to create a new story for yourself. Chances are, life as an enabler began for you as a method to manage friction in your early life. As I often say, humans are extremely flexible in responding to even terrible environmental conditions. People survive abuse, neglect, peer violence, all sorts of things. Enabling was our method for adapting to problems that people brought us by doing whatever we could to stabilize things. Maybe we learned to distract a violent family by being the clown; or perhaps we were the problem solver for a caregiver who had limited coping abilities....

Toxic People: Why We’re Drawn to Them, How to Avoid Them

Toxic People: Why We’re Drawn to Them, How to Avoid Them

Like fresh, hot donuts that we know are bad for us, the irresistible allure of toxic people overwhelms our senses and draws us in, rendering us powerless to resist. Unlike donuts, which rapidly leave our lives once the sugar spike, bloat, and guilt are gone; toxic people bring a variety of problems which may remain with us for years after these individuals have physically exited our space. Why are we drawn to them in the first place, and how can we resist? Read on to understand how toxic people have functioned in your live. Let’s begin by exploring the notion of toxicity as it exists in relationships. Many of us grew up in families where we had unmet needs. No, I’m not parent bashing, although children who were abused or neglected certainly understand a thing or two about toxic moms and dads. Even in families where love existed, the competing priorities of other family members, work, and other life circumstances kept our caregivers busy. Maybe they were attentive for a time, but life changed when a new baby, a new spouse, or other commitment came into the picture. Sometimes, this was a chronic pattern, and they doted on us...

Knowing When and Why to Toss Out Your Yearbook

Knowing When and Why to Toss Out Your Yearbook

I’ve never advocated for wholesale destruction of memorabilia. In fact, I advise people against tossing photos and artifacts immediately following a divorce or other major relationship rupture. “Put it away for now,” I say, trusting that as the hurt subsides, judgement will settle in and a better decision will be made down the road. After all, these things tell a story about us too. When the story that’s told represents a long-past chapter that wasn’t happy and that doesn’t deserve to be relived, as is the case with many of our yearbooks, making a decision to toss or edit them can be empowering. My yearbooks are those life artifacts that have been with me ever since my mother cleaned out the bedroom closet I’d occupied in her house as a teenager. They’ve moved with me from city to city, finding their way to a closet bookshelf during my more organized periods, or remaining in a cardboard box during the years when I was less so. I’ve pulled them out occasionally, seen the smiling or brooding faces in headshots, the group photos of various teams and organizations, and the candids of kids I barely remember engaged in various activities. Peppered...