Emotionally Trapped in Relationship

“I can’t endure you, I can’t change you, and I can’t leave you.” This is the first sentence of the article written by Randi Gunther entitled “Emotionally Trapped.”  Featured in Psychology Today, Gunther writes about the emotional entrapment that can often occur in relationships, describing it as such:

“The partners who feels controlled within them often describe their partners as seemingly two different people, one whose qualities they still are attracted to and one who hurts them without apparent remorse. Torn between these two behavioral extremes, they feel sought after and desired in some moments and discarded or derided in others. They want to, and need to escape from the invalidating and erasing behaviors, but cannot let go of those that make them feel desirable.”

She goes on to describe the nine most common reasons that one may stay in a relationship of emotional entrapment. Three that stood out include:

  • “You are with a partner who is an addict. Your experience of your partner as two people is real. One may act significantly differently when using or when sober. You may feel seduced by his or her sincere promises to quit, only to watch another relapse. Your entrapment is the belief your partner’s sober side will triumph over time.”
  • “You are a love addict. Are you a person who is in love with love and will pay most any price to experience it, even if the cost is painfully high? If you fall into that category, you may be willing to endure any discomfort as long as the love part of your relationship remains intact.”
  • “You believe you are trying to save your partner. Are you in a relationship with someone who tells you he or she has never felt loved and you will be the one who rectifies this terrible situation? Some people truly believe that, if they just love deeply and long enough, they will be the one who can make the difference where all others have failed. Their partner has just “not met the right person who can make him or her whole.”

Beginning to understand the reason we may stay in a relationship of emotional entrapment is the first step in moving towards leaving it. Convincing yourself that the relationship ‘stands a chance,’ unfortunately keeps you trapped.

To read the full article (it is worth the time!): https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/rediscovering-love/202002/emotionally-trapped

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A Lesson About the Pace of Life

I saw this story on a colleague’s facebook page and wished to share it.

The rich industrialist was horrified to find the fisherman lying beside his boat, smoking a pipe.

“Why aren’t you out fishing?” asked the industrialist.

“Because I have caught enough fish for the day.”

“Why don’t you catch some more?”

“What would I do with them?”

“You could earn more money. Then you could have a motor fitted to your boat to go into deeper waters and catch more fish. Then you would have enough money to buy more nylon nets. These would bring you more fish and more money. Soon you would have enough money to own two boats…maybe even a fleet of boats. Then you would be a rich man like me.”

“What would I do then?”

“Then you could sit back and enjoy life.”

“What do you think I am doing right now?” – Author Unknown

We can often get caught up in the ‘more’ when sometimes what we need is the ‘less.’ Slowing it down, spending quality time together, balancing the pace, simplifying, feeling grounded, settled.

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The Stages of Change; Post 5

We are now at the Maintenance Stage of the Transtheoretical Model of Change (Prochaska and DiClemente). Characteristics of the maintenance stage include:

  • We are more likely to have formed new habits/behaviour patterns that create for us the ability to stick to our goals.
  • What we had implemented in the action stage is still playing a part, but we may not be as zealous in frequency. (Exercise is a good example.)
  • Our confidence has increased. We feel a sense of accomplishment and continue to relish the positive changes to our physical/emotional health.

It is important to mention relapse, as it is a common reaction to change and in this model, is most likely to occur in either the contemplation, preparation or action stage. Sometimes we may encounter a stressful event and we quickly go back to the old habit (think of smoking or emotional eating); other times, we may lose our confidence, or feel set back by the difficulty and hard work of what lies ahead.

When we reach the maintenance stage, we have reduced our chances of relapse; however, it can still occur. Tips to reduce the probability of relapse include:

  • Being mindful of temptations and having a plan to deal with them. This includes knowing what your associations are to the old habit and being active to maintain healthier choices.
  • Building your self-efficacy. This might be through positive affirmations, or helping others to achieve a similar goal.
  • Not shaming yourself for a relapse, but leaning into examining what led to it. This will give you the opportunity to ‘right the ship’ so to speak.
  • Be aware of new barriers. Sometimes we can be faced with an obstacle that will challenge our resolve. Being aware of the stress that it might be taking on us, can lead us to creating a plan that does not include going back to our old ways.

We have examined the 5 stages of change: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance. It is an interesting way to understand the way change occurs (not necessarily linear) and we can apply this understanding not only to ourselves but to those in our lives as well.

By looking at the value in each stage, we can become an active participant in changing a habit we realize is no longer serving us.

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The Stages of Change; Post 4

In the fourth stage of the Transtheoretical Model of Change (Prochaska & DiClemente), we move to Action. The characteristics of the action stage include:

  • Tangible, observable behaviour changes. The people around us can see changes and will often comment on them; further encouraging us to keep on track.
  • We have moved from wanting the change to learning what we needed to do to create the change, to actually taking the steps to feel the change.
  • Feeling the change is an important step in the action stage, as we also tend to experience roadblocks and even relapses in this stage.
  • The action stage requires rewards along the way. When we build in rewards, it helps to safeguard us against full relapse.

It is important to note that we often equate behaviour change only with action. While putting our plan into place is an imperative piece of reaching maintenance, the transtheoretical model of change sees the action stage as one of the five stages. In order to reach our goal, we need to go through the pre-contemplation, contemplation and preparation stages as well as the action stage.

Tomorrow’s post will feature the 5th step, the Maintenance Stage.

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The Stages of Change; Post 3

Moving right along in our series about the Transtheoretical Model of Change (Prochaska & DiClemente), today we look at Stage 3 which is Preparation. The preparation stage of change has moved to some form of action:

  • Small changes are seen in the preparation stage and we will most likely move to full action in about a month’s time.
  • During this phase, we will seek out the information we need in order to make the change happen; examples include: speaking to our doctor, booking an appointment with a therapist, joining an exercise program, signing up for a program, etc.
  • We form our plan of action which can include researching obstacles and how to deal with them, putting our support people in place, and coming up with alternative behaviours that are healthier.
  • We also gear ourselves up for success by putting things into place that will help us to stay motivated; that might include joining a support group or downloading an app that helps keep us on track.

The preparation stage tend to be a motivating time for people as it is the ‘information gathering stage;’ the more informed we tend to be, the more we feel ready to move into full action, the fourth stage in the model of change and our focus for tomorrow’s post.

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The Stages of Change; Post 2

Yesterday’s blog post featured the beginning of a series on the Transtheoretical Model of Change by Prochaska DiClemente. We started with the pre-contemplation stage; today’s post features the Contemplation Stage.

In the contemplation stage, we have shifted inward to begin thinking about the possibility of change. The characteristics of contemplation include:

  • Understanding that perhaps there are consequences to our actions; that we are potentially either hurting someone else or ourselves (or both) with our behaviour choices.
  • We start to weigh the pros and cons of changing something. Typically, during this stage, the pros and cons tend to be more equal than one sided.
  • In this stage, we tend to feel ambivalent. There is some pull towards changing, but we know it is going to take some resolve and hard work.
  • We may also feel afraid, or feel some loss because “the habit has been a part of my life for so long. How will I cope without it? Will I be able to form new patterns/behaviours?”

It is important to note that although the contemplation stage generally lasts about 6 months before you move into the preparation stage, this is often the stage that people can get stuck into for a long time. Think of smoking as an example; it often takes years for people to quit, as they get stuck in the contemplation stage; knowing that it is hurting themselves (they are no longer in denial of that), but struggling to move forward from it.

In order to shift from contemplation to preparation, it is important to spend time reflecting on what is holding you back. This allows us to start to tease out how we may get through those road blocks to get to some structural change.

In tomorrow’s post, we will look at the preparation stage.

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The Stages of Change; Post 1

In the 1970’s, James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente developed what is known as the Transtheoretical Model of Change. Sounds big, but it is really a way of understanding how people can change a behaviour or habit and the stages required in order for the change to become structural.

It is a integrative model that looks at how a person’s behavioural, psychological, and social factors play a part in that process. We will begin a series of posts that look at each stage, including how relapse plays a part in the process of change.

The five stages are called Pre-contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action and Maintenance. Today we will look at the Pre-contemplation Stage.

When we are in the pre-contemplation stage of change, we tend to be in denial that change needs to happen. We may inherently know that our behaviour isn’t good for us because either society or our loved ones are telling us that, but we tend to justify our behaviours or deny any negative effects. The characteristics of the pre-contemplation stage include:

  • We are either under-informed as to how the behaviour is harmful to us, or we selectively choose what we wish to pay attention to (in other words, we have blinders on.)
  • Perhaps we have tried to change in the past and were unsuccessful, leading us to settle back into denial.
  • Other people will view you as resistant, unmotivated, and unwilling to get help (which let’s face it, we kind of are if we are in the pre-contemplative stage!)
  •  It is still considered a stage of change, because the seeds have been sown. Typically, to be able to move to the contemplation stage, we need to shift inward, to be able to be introspective as to how this behaviour is potentially hurting us. We need to buy into moving towards some type of action.

It is important to note that although the stages are linear in terms of how we move towards change, they are often achieved more as a figure eight; we touch into stages, only to settle back into other ones, we can experience relapses; however, ultimately we can reach a maintenance stage where the change has now moved to being structural.

Tomorrow’s post will be about the contemplation stage of change.

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An Owl or a Lark?

We all know about the importance of sleep; approximately 70% of us will have what is called a normal sleep pattern based on our internal clock, known as our circadian rhythm.

There are times however, when our circadian rhythm works at a different pace and we can either have a delayed sleep phase, in which we are falling asleep 3 or 4 hours delayed (night owl) or an advanced sleep phase, which is characteristic of waking up 3 or 4 hours earlier than the norm (morning lark.)

Sleep Habits, is a website that features many articles on sleep. Paul Jordan, author of “Morningness Eveningness Questionnaire – Are you a Night Owl or a Morning Lark?” has this to say about the importance of knowing your sleep pattern:

“Knowing whether you’re a night owl, morning lark or neither can be worked towards your advantage. Night owls are more productive during the night, where as morning larks are more productive during the morning. By scheduling high intensity tasks at your peak times you can effectively get more done. If you have flexible work commitments you may find it useful to either shift your sleep timing forwards or backwards to best take advantage of your most productive times.” 

Knowing where we land in terms of our own typical sleep pattern can allow us to make adjustments; allowing us to optimize our best sleep and as a consequence, feel refreshed and productive.

If you would like to take the quiz, follow the link: https://sleephabits.net/morningness-eveningness-questionnaire

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Signs of Self-Acceptance

Acceptance is what I consider to be the most powerful factor in feeling safe and secure. When we feel accepted by the people who love us, it gives us the freedom to seek a content and satisfying life. But what about self-acceptance? How important is that element in feeling secure?

The unconditional connections we build with others helps to sustain us; we are always better served when we have a strong, supportive circle. But self-acceptance is also key in creating a purposeful life for ourselves, as it becomes an important factor in our foundation. Here are some signs of self-acceptance:

  • You can be comfortable alone. This doesn’t necessarily mean alone and single (although it can!), but it also means that you can tolerate periods of being alone. Your spouse in on a work trip, there are evenings when everyone is out of the house and you have some time to yourself, you have to travel alone to meet your friend, etc. When you are comfortable alone, you look forward to this time – you don’t dread it.
  • You can self-validate. When we are able to validate and make our own feelings and needs important, we have moved to self-acceptance, as we don’t need someone to do it for us. It is still nice when others do of course, but we are also our best cheerleader.
  • Your internal voice is balanced and sensical. In other words, you are not constantly criticizing yourself, but instead have the ability to give yourself praise and compliments and/or recognize and learn from your mistakes.
  •  You can make decisions. When we have the confidence to make decisions (even knowing they might not be the right ones), we have accepted both our strengths and our weaknesses.
  • You feel at peace. When we feel settled and grounded within ourselves, we better navigate stormy seas.

Self-acceptance is an important element in being able to be true to ourselves; when we lead with authenticity, we tend to have secure outcomes and feel an overall satisfaction with the direction of our life.

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Another Day

I especially like this poem written by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

He said, “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety. Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in. Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“He who is rich owns the day.” I love this line in the poem as it reminds us that we can take each day as it comes but with intention. We can build our day to include the things that bring us meaning, that slow us down, that bring us joy. Our richness comes from experience and not from things. And at the end of the day, we must release our worries to the best of our ability; to take some deep breaths, feel grateful for our blessings, hold ourselves dear and allow the hope of a new day to reassure us that all will be okay.

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